History

History Curriculum Rationale 2021/2022 

At Bridgelea we know that learning is a change to long-term memory.  Our aims are to ensure that our students experience a wide breadth of study and have, by the end of each key stage, long-term memory of an ambitious body of procedural and semantic knowledge. 

At Bridgelea we want our children to love and understand history to a deeper level. We want them to have no limits to what their ambitions are and grow up wanting to be archivists, museum curators, archaeologists or research analysts. The history curriculum has been carefully designed so that our children develop their historical capital. We want our children to remember their history lessons in our school, to cherish these memories and embrace the opportunities they are presented with!  

Curriculum Intent 

At Bridgelea we want our children to know more, do more and remember more. Thinking is the process that precipitates such a change, a process involving our working memory. Many of the children at Bridgelea present with working memory deficits, as part of their SEMH, and it is crucial that we understand how this impacts children’s learning and how our curriculum and its implementation can limit the impact of these difficulties. Many of our children also have attention and concentration difficulties which can be a further barrier to effective learning.  

In History we know that our children need additional opportunities to repeat the content as many times as necessary to deepen their understanding of historical concepts by the end of each milepost. As a school we have adopted some of the Chris Quigley Essential Curriculum resources to support this. 

Cognitive science tells us that working memory is limited and that cognitive load is too high ifchildren are rushed through content. This limits the acquisition of long-term memory. Cognitive science also tells us that in order for children to become creative thinkers, or have a greater depth of understanding, they must first master the basics, which takes time.  

Foundations can’t be rushed, but in securing them, children will establish an excellent basis for progressing beyond basics towards greater depth. At Bridgelea children join at different points in their primary years, having experienced different curriculums in their previous schools. Ensuring that these foundations are secure can be a challenge. Resources from the Essential Curriculum support teachers to assess where children are in their understanding of history and to use this as the basis for their teaching. 

When designing the school’s curriculum, we know that repetition of skills is also important beyond fundamental foundations so that pupils: 

  • retain knowledge
  • gain a gradual, growing understanding of key concepts over time, rather than in a fixed block of time
  • re-visit the same knowledge, deepening understanding each time, through carefully planned activities that advance their understanding.

History key concepts, which we expect the children to develop, have been reviewed and shared with all stakeholders. These threshold concepts underpin all work in history and form a focal point for display areas and provide a common subject specific vocabulary for staff and pupils. This is linked to National Curriculum. 

  • know and understand the history of these islands as a coherent, chronological narrative, from the earliest times to the present day: how people’s lives have shaped this nation and how Britain has influenced and been influenced by the wider world 
  • know and understand significant aspects of the history of the wider world: the nature of ancient civilisations; the expansion and dissolution of empires; characteristic features of past non-European societies; achievements and follies of mankind 
  • gain and deploy a historically grounded understanding of abstract terms such as ‘empire’, ‘civilisation’, ‘parliament’ and ‘peasantry’ 
  • understand historical concepts such as continuity and change, cause and consequence, similarity, difference and significance, and use them to make connections, draw contrasts, analyse trends, frame historically-valid questions and create their own structured accounts, including written narratives and analyses 
  • understand the methods of historical enquiry, including how evidence is used rigorously to make historical claims, and discern how and why contrasting arguments and interpretations of the past have been constructed 

Staff are expected to teach 1 hour of history each week (approximately 6 hours per topic). Threshold concepts tie together the subject topics into meaningful schema. The same concepts are explored in a wide breadth of topics. Through this ‘forwards-and-backwards engineering’ of the curriculum, students return to the same concepts over and over, and gradually build understanding of them. 

To support our children to use and apply their understanding of history, we make connections between history and other subject areas, creating a connected learning experience.This cultural capital gives our students the vital background knowledge required to be informed and thoughtful members of our community who understand and believe in British values. 

Our curriculum distinguishes between subject topics and threshold concepts (Understand Chronology, Interpret the Past, Build an Overview, Communicate Historically). Subject topics ( eg, Anglo Saxons, WWII) are the specific aspects of subjects that are studied.  

For each of the threshold concepts, three milestones (each of which includes the procedural and semantic knowledge students need to understand the threshold concepts) provide a progression model.  

Knowledge categories (eg, food and farming, beliefs) in each subject give students a way of expressing their understanding of the threshold concepts. 

Knowledge webs help students to relate each topic to previously studied topics and to form strong, meaningful schema.  

Curriculum Implementation 

Our curriculum design is based on evidence from cognitive science; three main principles underpin it: 

  • Learning is most effective with spaced repetition.
  • Interleaving helps students to discriminate between topics and aids long-term retention.
  • Retrieval of previously learned content is frequent and regular, which increases both storage and retrieval strength. 

 In addition to the three principles, we also understand that learning is invisible in the short term and that sustained mastery takes time.  Our content is subject specific. We make intra-curricular links to strengthen schema.  

Within each milepost, children gradually progress in their procedural fluency and semantic strength through three cognitive domains: basic, advancing and deep. The goal for children is to display deepening understanding at the advancing stage of understanding by the end of each milestone and for the most able to have a greater depth of understanding at the deep stage. 

At Bridgelea we believe in the fundamental foundations of our history curriculum, and understand that it is important not to rush through content and to ensure that children have a strong basic understanding of each key concept. This is even more important given our children's SEND needs. Withing each milepost children will meet each concept multiple times to secure fundamental foundations. As their understanding deepens, they apply these foundations in order to reach the expected standard for that Key Stage. Teachers are developing the use of PoP (Proof of Progress) tasks to help them assess secure understanding of the fundamental foundations of History. 

History and Metacognition 

As a school we are currently working towards a ‘Thinking School’ accreditation. We are working hard to embed a whole school approach, resulting in a common language and framework, which enables children to talk explicitly about thinking and to understand there are different kinds of thinking. In History we use the’ Thinking Frames’ to help children to organise their thinking. Teachers are trained to use the Thinking Frames to support children to create increasingly sophisticated mental models to scaffold fundamental foundations. Thinking Frames are also used to support children to apply their understanding of History as their learning becomes deeper.

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