International Symposium on History
The history curriculum in primary schools
in England: opportunities and challenges.
Professor Penelope Harnett, University
of the West of England, Bristol. UK.
[email protected]
Stages of schooling
Key Stage 1
Year 1 5-6 years
Year 2 6-7years
Key Stage 2
Year 3 7-8 years
Year 4 8-9 years
Year 5 9-10 years
Year 6 10-11 years
Key Stage 3
Year 7 11-12 years
Year 8 12-13 years
Year 9 13-14 years
Key Stage 4
Year 10 14-15 years
Year 11 15-16 years
History Programmes of Study include:
• Specific historical knowledge for each Key Stage
• Key historical concepts and skills such as:
Asking and answering questions from a range of sources of information (
artefacts, photographs, paintings, maps, documents, buildings etc).
Developing awareness of change and continuity; causes and consequences
Developing a chronological framework of the past:
Representations and interpretations of the past
Key Stage 1 ( 5-7 years)
I played in my play pen
I was in my pushchair at
the zoo
Personal timelines
• Developing important
Before/ after
Sharing memories
Sharing memories
Learning about the past beyond
living memory.
Contents page...
Time to get up
Working at school
Going home
Time for bed
Index and blurb
Marjorie’s box
Marjorie’s box
• Do you think it is a boy or a girl?
• Is it just a girl because it has pretty things? (Drawing conclusions
from the information and justifying a conclusion)
• Oh look, it has a diary – I wonder if it has a name inside? ( Raising
a historical question to promote further historical enquiry)
• What do you think she did? ( Another historical question to promote
further enquiries)
• Maybe she worked in a shop – isn’t that one of the jobs that people
used to do? ( Speculative language – use of the word maybe. Draws
on existing historical knowledge to support an hypothesis)
Marjorie’s box
Do you think that she was famous?
Look at these gloves, do you think that she would mind if we tried them on?
( Awareness that working with a ‘real’ person’s objects and empathy with
the owner of the objects)
Oh – they’re really lovely – be careful though! ( Care taken in handling
historical objects)
Look here is an old book, it has a name in ... I can’t read this – the writing is
really old but it begins with the letter M. Miss can you help me read this
Name? Marjorie – the suitcase belongs to Marjorie but who was she? (
Draw conclusions about the name of the owner from historical sources –
raises further historical questions)
Great events; Remembrance Day ; the
Great Fire of London; Olympic Games
Significant individuals Guy Fawkes, Brunel
• Mary Seacole, bru
Significant individuals –
Florence Nightingale
• Opportunities for teaching about a greater
range of significant people including:
Scientists, artists, inventors, explorers and
Ibn Battatu
• Who was Ibn Battatu and when
did he live?
• What were the most important
events in his life?
• What was society like at the
time when he lived?
• What sources of information
are useful to learning about Ibn
• How should we remember Ibn
Battatu and why?
The importance of play based
activities in the early years
• It is a very old toy. It is
made from straw. It is not
cuddly. It belonged to
Miss Paddock’s dad. It
used to have fur. It has
holes. It has one eye.
• (Label in classroom
Key Stage 2 history
British History up to 1066
Changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the
Iron Age
The Roman Empire and its impact on Britain
Britain’s settlement by the Anglo-Saxons and
The Viking and Anglo-Saxon struggle for the
Kingdom of England to the time of Edward the
A local history study
A study of an aspect or theme in British history
that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge
beyond 1066
The achievements of the earliest civilisations an overview with an in-depth study
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 to contrast with British
society – one of
Early Islamic civilisation, including a study of
Baghdad c. CE 900
Mayan civilisation c. CE 900
Benin ( West Africa) c. CE 900-1300
Local studies – central Bristol –
now and then.
Central Bristol in 1866
Key issues at Key Stage 2
• Developing a connected narrative of the past
• Knowing about key events in British history
Key Issues at Key Stage 2
• Role of history in a multi- cultural society –
finding one’s own story in the narrative
Key issues at Key Stage 2
• Emphasis on early histories before 1066
Key issues at Key Stage 2
• Primary teachers’ history subject
knowledge – not history specialists.
Key principles for learning
history; the importance of talk
• What are opportunities are there for a variety of talk in
the classroom – disputational, exploratory and
• How are children organised so that they can share ideas
and draw conclusions from their historical investigations?
• Is the classroom context supportive for children to
express their ideas and feel that their ideas are valued?
• June 5th
Personal timelines
Playing at school

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