Curriculum Leadership

2. Understanding the requirements of the National Curriculum

History specialists are fortunate in that the requirements of the history national curriculum have changed less since its introduction than is the case with most other subjects. A QCA folder has been produced which provides a detailed strategy for meeting these requirements which many schools use. However mechanical adoption of its lesson plans and objectives seems to lead to rather unexciting history.

Assessment

The levels of attainment set out in the Curriculum 2000 document are necessarily the starting point for evaluating the success of childrens' learning in history since they form the basis of recording and reporting individual childrens' achievement. The levels are linked to the five key skills and not to the remembering of fact. It follows that the children must be set tasks which require the exercise of these skills and curriculum leaders must be able to show colleagues how to mark them accordingly. Though intended for secondary teachers the NCC document 'Assessing Childrens' Work at KS3' provides a good indication of how this can be done.

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Content and continuity

Leaving skills aside, the original history national curriculum was a compromise between the 'world view' becoming increasingly fashionable in the 1970's and a more old-fashioned concentration on the history of the British Isles. It tried to offer variety within a fixed set of objectives by allowing teachers to choose which non-European civilisation they wanted to do at KS2. There were also Bruneresque notions of the 'spiral curriculum' in the repetition of certain periods at KS2 and 3 (for example, the Tudors and Britain in the 1930's). An important section detailed ways of bringing the subject alive through visits and resources.

Essentially this structure remains intact, although it is becoming looser and OFSTED reports seldom comment on the state of childrens' knowledge, concentrating more upon the way in which they are taught. However, the history specialist needs to know what he or she thinks the children need to know and to see this question in terms of their whole education, not just the key stages with which the specialist is concerned. It is, for example, questionable whether a child should leave school without having studied prehistory. A co-ordinator might make the deliberate decision to include content not specified in the National Curriculum precisely for this reason.

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Progression

A useful way of tackling this issue is to devise a 'can do' chart for history. Under chronology for example, a Year 1 child might be expected to tell the time, know the days of the week and be able to put the events of a simple story in their correct order. An able Year 6 child might be expected to be fully conversant with the words we use to describe the passing of time over long periods and be able to place the major periods of history within such a structure. The aim of course is to move the child from one stage to the next. As in many other subjects this consists of knowing what the child already knows and explaining how the next stage relates to it. If a boy or girl has learned to write confidently about the Tudors by comparing Tudor houses and clothes with those of the present day, he or she can be encouraged is to distinguish changes within the Tudor period, the main incentive being his or her awareness that they are getting closer to the truth.

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