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The Nuances of KS2 Subject Content

As children enter Year 3 the scope and breadth of what is studied expands massively from singular people, events, etc., to entire periods of history spanning hundreds and/or thousands of years. It is important that the following page is viewed as building on the nuances of KS1 history page as it is designed to do so. In 2014, Jamie Byrom wrote a document on progression in history for the Historical Association: “We need to look at the preambles at the start of each key stage in the 2014 National Curriculum to see a summary of the cumulative effect of the teaching across the key stage. As the sentence that follows each of those preambles makes clear, planning must always have an eye on longer-term learning and the part that knowledge building plays in this.” When planning a school’s curriculum, teachers and leaders must always consider what am I building on and towards?

The Processes Paragraph

Pupils should continue to develop a chronologically secure knowledge and understanding of British, local and world history, establishing clear narratives within and across the periods they study.

History has the word story in it for a reason… in KS2, this is identified as a key aspect of the historical discipline to be understood. In this case, children should have a clear sense of the overall narratives of history that span British history at differing scales then selected periods of world history. This focuses on how periods of history sit alongside one another and those societies, civilisations, etc,. who interacted with one another for differing reasons.

Then, ‘zoom in’ to consider more detailed narratives of the periods studied to provide children with a sense of time, place, and period. This helps children to understand the realities of life in each period. Without this, developing coherence within and across periods of history is a much harder prospect.

They should note connections, contrasts and trends over time and develop the appropriate use of historical terms.

When thinking about the narratives of history that children have been taught, time should be spent on making connections. This helps children to see history as more than just isolated episodes but rather a series of ‘stories’ with common features and/ or turning points which change the nature of life for some or most people. In addition, children should be introduced to ambitious vocabulary so they can describe their learning (think of how we teach aspects of phonics, grammar, and maths… it should be ambitious across the curriculum).

They should regularly address and sometimes devise historically valid questions about change, cause, similarity and difference, and significance.

The process of historical enquiry is driven by questions and the quest to answer them purposefully. In Key Stage 2, these questions should be rooted in the 2nd order concepts. The process may involve a single lesson or across a longer series. When addressing the questions, it should involve the processes outlined below.

They should construct informed responses that involve thoughtful selection and organisation of relevant historical information.

When answering questions, the children should not just make a claim. The children must be taught how historians and those studying history support their claims with the ‘best’ evidence and then add a layer of interpretation. It is not merely a case of children recounting everything they know – more evidence does not necessarily make a better answer!

They should understand how our knowledge of the past is constructed from a range of sources.

Across the key stage children need to build their understanding as to the differing roles of historians, archaeologists and others involved in the study of the past. They should also begin to focus on how knowledge and understanding is built by studying a range of source material to have a more detailed understanding.

In planning to ensure the progression described above through teaching the British, local and world history outlined below, teachers should combine overview and depth studies to help pupils understand both the long arc of development and the complexity of specific aspects of the content.

In history children are not taught isolated snapshots because this skews their understanding. Teaching must enable children to understand the broader features of life during the chosen periods for different groups alongside carefully selected depth studies which focus attention on a particularly important event, development, etc., which preserved or fundamentally shifted the way of life for the people at the time.

Episodes of History

In Key Stage 2, they need to be taught that the scope of their studies increases from single people, events or small-scale changes over a limited timeframe. Whilst not explicitly stated in the curriculum children must be taught that history is ‘grouped’ into different periods of time. The key statement from the processes paragraph to consider is children should “develop a chronologically secure knowledge and understanding of British, local and world history, establishing clear narratives within and across the periods they study”. The children are taught the narrative of British history from the earliest visits to Britain in the palaeolithic through to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. KS3 builds on this to ensure children who are taught the National Curriculum gain a coherent sense of the story of Britain. Beyond this narrative, children encounter at least two more units with either a local emphasis, post-1066 or both. Importantly, the precise narrative of each unit is left to individual schools to decide. This includes the number of lessons, the nature of the content, etc.

World history is also taught but should not be described as a coherent narrative because this is inaccurate… the world is not a singular entity and each society, civilisation, group, etc., has their own particular narrative arc. Therefore, they are episodes of a wider history which may interact with British history but are taught because of their own merit.

Schools may choose to exceed this specification and teach more than one example from each objective or even something not listed at all… remember thought, more content alone does not make a better curriculum!

Narrative of British History:

  • changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age
  • the Roman Empire and its impact on Britain
  • Britain’s settlement by Anglo-Saxons and Scots
  • the Viking and Anglo-Saxon struggle for the Kingdom of England to the time of Edward the Confessor

Additional British History

  • a local history study
  • a study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066

World History

  • the achievements of the earliest civilizations – an overview of where and when the first civilizations appeared and a depth study of one of the following: Ancient Sumer; The Indus Valley; Ancient Egypt; The Shang Dynasty of Ancient China
  • Ancient Greece – a study of Greek life and achievements and their influence on the western world
  • a non-European society that provides contrasts with British history – one study chosen from: early Islamic civilization, including a study of Baghdad c. AD 900; Mayan civilization c. AD 900; Benin (West Africa) c. AD 900-1300.