At Smarden, we believe that History should be a complex problem solving process involving many-faceted elements, rather than an information disseminating process. History is about seeing relationships, making associations, categorisation, distinguishing relevant information, and relating existing new information to existing information, spotting how different parts of a topic relate to one another. In line with our pedagogical model, we believe that teaching should adopt an enquiry based approach with open ended questions posed to encourage higher order thinking. Thus, we aim for pupils to be explaining the past, using evidence available, rather than just describing it.
The first key dimension of history at Smarden is that of creating a framework of knowledge and understanding into which pupils can place new information. This applies particularly to chronological understanding. We believe that cementing this chronological understanding by the end of Key Stage two will set pupils up for Secondary education.
Thus, the history curriculum at Smarden has been designed to ensure that children study the full range of topics as specified in the National Curriculum. Children need to gain the knowledge by an in-depth study of each of these particular areas of historical enquiry.
The second key dimension of history at Smarden is to promote higher order historical skills, for example skills such as understanding of source materials and the complexity of historical perspective. Pupils need to make their own meaning. They need to work things out for themselves and think about how they did it. Pupils need to know that the story of the past is told differently. They need to grasp that history is created from the evidence that remains. Sometimes this evidence is fragmentary or contradictory so we have to weight it and test it for reliability. Historians have to find ways of making sense of this incomplete picture. They also have to make judgments about the accuracy of evidence from the past. If children are to make sense of their own world where social media regularly tells different stories about the same events, using different evidence and for different audiences, they need practice at handling these contradictions. They need to know which questions to ask. If they are taught history well they will be given the necessary training to be open-minded and respectful of evidence in later life.
The curriculum sets out to be coherent and make sense. The sequence of topics has been designed to allow progression of both knowledge and skills, for example, it makes sense for the Stone Age to Iron age topic to come before the Romans so teachers can build a sense of narrative and save time by not having to revisit the Celts. The thematic post 1066 topic has been chosen for Year 6 because it prepares children for KS3 learning. The long-term thematic studies are placed in the upper key stage because they require pupils to make links and to look back, making connections with earlier studies. The same is true of the topics which place a strong emphasis on legacy. Topics such as Ancient Greece are taught in Y5 or 6, thus enabling pupils to see how the Greeks had influenced, for example Tudor theatres, Roman and Victorian buildings, the modern Olympics.
Because of the split year groups, we use local history studies or facets of all the appropriate British history units to ensure that children can study similar themes but not repeat what they have already learned.