Our fundamental aims in the History Department are twofold; firstly 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; at present there are 88 pupils in the 5th form History cohort and 96 in the 4th form. Following from this, we expect about 30 pupils a year to study the subject beyond IGCSE.
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.
History is a literary subject and in an increasingly non-literary world it is our responsibility to get the pupils away from the video and into a book. Good factual knowledge and understanding of the past can only come from wide reading. Extended writing is another fundamental skill that has to be maintained. We, along with English and others, must keep the essay alive and this we try to do. 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, that is to say we look 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.
From the Fourth Year the requirements of the IGCSE examination system take over and naturally it is our aim to achieve the best possible results for our candidates. We feel we have had notable success obtaining good results for both strong and weak candidates, as well as keeping up a good record of entries to Oxford and Cambridge. We attract good numbers into the Sixth Form and quite a high proportion of these wish to go on to read History at University. To see pupils develop a love for the subject equal to our own is a gratifying reward.