History Curriculum Rationale
The substantive content for the West Malling history curriculum is:
- ambitiously broad in scope (meeting, and often exceeding, the demands of the National Curriculum; for example, ensuring children have an overview of the ancient civilisations of the world, together with the growth of Islamic civilisations and the multiculturalism of Cordoba);
- meticulous in rigour (responsive to up-to-date scholarship and findings; for example, the extensive work on Cradles of Civilisation, the Maya and the ancient Mesopotamians will be scrupulously worded to ensure that claims are worded cautiously, with due regard for what scholars can be certain about and what remains informed conjecture and imaginative reconstruction from the relics and records the past leaves behind);
- highly coherent (intricate links have been built within and across subjects so that nothing sits in isolation, but rather is supported and enriched both horizontally and vertically; for example, pupils will be able to relate ancient stories to each other, across civilisations, such as Beowulf and the epic of Gilgamesh, understanding common features of stories that reflect and shape the various civilisations and their evolving beliefs about how to solve problems and how to live together justly and peacefully);
- carefully sequenced (so that pupils’ ability will have been served by the repeated and explicit focus on key knowledge).
Knowledge is highly ‘sticky’. The cumulative effect of being secure in rich stories and a profound ‘sense of period’ is that pupils’ curiosity is on fire. Their hunger for yet more knowledge, as relationships, connections and relationships multiply, soon grows very naturally.
Every time pupils are reminded how historians are making us view the past differently or foregrounding the voices of the disadvantaged, oppressed or marginalised, both teachers and pupils are inspired and spurred to new curiosity for unearthing hidden voices.
The disciplinary aspect of the subject directly fosters the critical and creative aspects of learning, and these are strengthened by the distinctive demands of the subject. Pupils must learn how to build or judge an historical argument from evidence and understand why these matter for themselves and others. In doing these things, pupils are being introduced to the subject of history as a long tradition of enquiry, argument and debate.
More specifically, this results in the constant practice of various history-specific skills, each of which interacts with some aspect of disciplinary knowledge.
In studying history as a discipline, pupils will:
- use the concepts of continuity and change, cause and consequence, similarity, difference and significance, in order to make connections, draw contrasts, analyse trends, frame historically-valid questions and create their own structured accounts, including written narratives and analyses;
- practise the methods of historical enquiry, understand how evidence is used rigorously to make historical claims, and discern how and why contrasting arguments and interpretations of the past have been constructed.