Teaching History in the UK

History – Key Stage 1 (primary, ages 6-7)

Statutory content
People’s lives and lifestyles. Important people from recent and distant past, in Britain or beyond. Listen and respond to stories, use information to ask and answer questions. Learn that the past is different to the present.

The guidelines above give infant school teachers a lot of flexibility in the way they introduce the idea of history. The focus is on the past within living memory, but with perhaps a single project on people or events from the more distant past.  Study of the Anglo-Saxon world is probably not appropriate at this stage.

History – Key Stage 2 (primary, ages 8-11)

Statutory content

Important people, places and events from recent / distant past. Change and continuity locally, in Britain and abroad. Use different sources to explore past, using dates and historical vocabulary. Different interpretations. Political, economic, technological/scientific, social, religious, cultural or aesthetic perspectives.

Knowledge, skills and understanding:

1a  place people or events into correct time-periods
1b use dating and historical vocabulary, eg ‘ancient’, ‘modern’, ‘BC’, ‘AD’, ‘decade’.
2a ideas, beliefs, attitudes of people in past societies
2b social, religious, cultural, ethnic diversity of past societies, in Britain or elsewhere
2c  Identify and describe reasons for events / situations / changes and their results
2d make and describe links between aspects of different periods studied
3 be aware of different possible interpretations, and consider why
4a use sources, eg documents, printed texts, pictures/photos, CD-ROMS, databases, music,
artefacts, historic buildings and sites, museum visits
4b ask / answer questions, select and record relevant information
5a recall, select, organise information
5b use dates and historical vocabulary to describe the period studied
5c communicate knowledge and understanding in various ways (eg drawing, writing, ICT)
6 local history study, 3 British History Studies, a European history study and a world history study
7  local history study shows how an area has changed over a long time, or by one event/individual
8a British history studies:  1. Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings
2  Britain and the wider world in Tudor Times
3 Victorian Britain or Britain since 1930
8b These periods could be in a British rather than English context, and in a European and world context
9   British History 1: ‘Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings’ topic focuses on an overview of how British society was  shaped  by the movement and settlement of different peoples before 1066, and on an in-depth study of how British society was affected by the settlement of one of these peoples.
10 British History 2: significant events and individuals in the Tudor period
11a British History 3: significant events, individuals, changes in work and transport in the Victorian period
11b British History 3 (alternative) : Impact of the Second World War, or of social / technological changes since 1930
12  European History: study of Ancient Greek civilization and its legacy
13  World History: choose one from: Ancient Egypt, Sumer, Assyrian Empire, Indus Valley, Maya, Benin or Aztecs
We should remember that history is taught in primary schools by non-specialists.

During the four years of KS2 (years 3 to 6),  history teaching  is based on SIX studies, ie a local history project, three British history projects, a European history project and a World History project. If each of the projects is equally weighted, ‘Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings’ should take two-thirds of a year, or 26 weeks. The Anglo-Saxon component should  be one third of this, or 8-9 weeks. This is further divided into the ‘overview’  and the in-depth study – if chosen in preference to Romans or Vikings. Assuming a couple of hours a week devoted to history, this suggests 8 – 9 hours on an Anglo-Saxon overview, and 8 – 9 hours on an in-depth study of the Anglo-Saxons.

OVERVIEW – possible sub-topics

  • Where the English came from, why and what did they find?
  • Anglo-saxons and Britons: the legend of king Arthur
  • *The coming of Christianity
  • Many kingdoms
  • Unification: Offa, Alfred
  • The coming of the Vikings
  • Money, towns, government, trade
  • The achievement of the Anglo-Saxons
  • The end of Anglo-Saxon England
  • etc

IN-DEPTH STUDY: possible areas for Anglo-Saxon related projects

  • 1066
  • Everyday life in an Anglo-Saxon village
  • The coming of Christianity
  • The changing language
  • Crafts and skills
  • Warfare
  • The English and the Vikings
  • The Sutton Hoo discovery
  • Bede
  • Alfred the Great
  • etc

We should aim ultimately to have resources on the website on each of these topics. Shire-reeves may wish to consider for inclusion possible topics in an Anglo-Saxon context which would fit the ‘local history’ study.

History – Key Stage 3 (secondary, ages 12-14)

A  summary of the knowledge, skills and understanding requirements for this Key Stage is not included. The secondary school history curriculum in KS3 includes THREE British history studies, a European study and a world history study.
1. Britain 1066 – 1500 this includes Hastings 1066 and the Norman conquest
2. Britain 1500 – 1750
3. Britain 1750 – 1900
4. Europe before 1914.   This could include Europe at the time of Charlemagne
5. World study before 1900
6. World Study after 1900

If the studies are equally weighted, then each one is spread over 20 weeks. There is scope in KS3 for an Anglo-Saxon input at the very beginning of the first British history study. Given that there are 12 topics within this study, slightly less than two weeks, or 3 to 4 hours of teaching, is available for 1066 and all that. Charlemagne is suggested as a possible focus for the European study.

History – Key Stage 4 (secondary, ages 15-16)

This concentrates on British and European history in the c20, with some aspects of the USA in the 20’s and 30’s

History – Key Stage 5 (secondary, ages 17-18)

The AS course (usually completed in the lower 6th form) consists of two units, in which depth of knowledge is the focus.

Teachers choose to do either:

A unit on British History (F961) and a unit on European and world Enquiries (F964)
A unit on European and World history (F962) and a unit on British history Enquiries (F963)
F961 has two lists of options, A and B. Option B is concerned with Modern British history 1783 – 1994. Option A deals with Medieval and early Modern Britain 1035 – 1642. Among the five possible units students can study, only the first is concerned with the Anglo-Saxon period: From Anglo-Saxon England to Norman England 1035 – 1087’. The syllabus suggests that the key issues here are Edward the  Confessor’s kingship, the role of the Godwins, the Succession Crisis, the Battle of Hastings, resistance to William after 1066, and changes in government and administration during William’s reign.

Assuming 5 hours of study a week over 30 weeks, some 75 hours could be devoted to this topic, with approximately 12 hours for each of the 6 ‘key issues’. All of the other units focus on the period after 1066. The course is examined by way of 90m terminal essays.

The A2 course (usually completed in the upper 6th form) consists of two further units, in which breadth of knowledge is the focus.

Teachers do:

A unit on Historical Interpretations and Investigations (F965) examined through  2  2000w coursework essays.
A unit on Historical Themes (F966)    externally examined.
F965 offers no fewer than 22 topics. Two are relevance to the Gesithas, namely Alfred the Great 871 – 899’ and possibly  ‘the Age of Charlemagne  768-814’ For ‘Alfred’, the syllabus suggests that the focus should be his achievements and reputation, while the key issues  are: his role in the Danish Wars, the revival in learning, the success of his government, and whether he deserves the title ‘Great’. For ‘Charlemagne’, the focus should be his aims, his achievement and his religious commitment, while the key issues are the reasons for and effectiveness of his conquests, the importance of the coronation in 800, the ‘Carolingian Renaissance’, and whether he deserves his great reputation.

Again, some 75 hours of study will be devoted to a topic, with approximately 18 hours to each of the 4 issues mentioned.

There are no Anglo-Saxon topics in unit F966

In summary, educational resources on the Anglo-Saxon period should be aimed mainly at ages 8-11, but there is scope for some higher level resources to help teachers aiming to concentrate on the early medieval period in 6th form studies.

Ultimately, we should also aim to assist teachers and students of the Anglo-Saxon period at University level.