Our fundamental aims in the History Department are twofold: first, to generate an interest in the subject, and secondly to transmit some knowledge of the past to those we teach that is both interesting in itself and, hopefully, of value to the pupils in helping them understand the world around them.
It is important that pupils realise there were people here before them and that these people, though similar to us in many ways, were also remarkably different. It is also important that they understand how our society evolved and why we are what we are now.
We believe that the story of the past is an interesting one and one well worth studying.
History is a popular and highly valued subject at King Edwards. All pupils study History in their first three years and over half of these will take the subject on to IGCSE. Following this, we expect about 30 pupils a year to study the subject at A Level.
The department’s attitude towards the teaching of History is based upon two principles:
1. The firm and passionately held belief that great events in themselves deserve to be studied and that this can, and should, be a cause of huge enjoyment and intellectual satisfaction to those who engage in this activity. Our hope as teachers is both to enthuse pupils during their school days and also to foster a lifelong love of the subject.
2. The clear and absolute certainty that the study of the past can help to develop vital skills of analysis and communication that will stand our pupils in good stead whatever they might do with their lives in the future.
The most important skills we wish to cultivate are the development of a good memory and the ability to read widely, consider different opinions and write clearly and convincingly. A good memory is the most fundamental skill to develop – collectively and individually our sense of our own identity is bound up with memory. Extended writing is another fundamental skill that has to be maintained. That said, we do not want chroniclers; we want our pupils critically to assess the past and develop their own views on which explanations seem most convincing. In this way they develop their own critical faculties and an ability to argue logically.
In the Lower School we shadow Key Stage Three of the National Curriculum, looking at our island story from 1066 to the twentieth century. However, we are not too prescriptive about the syllabus – what interests the teacher and what works in the classroom must be the criteria for inclusion.
In the Upper School, pupils study the twentieth century world and in the Sixth Form, British, American and European history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with some pupils also having the opportunity to study some medieval and early modern periods.