Aim: To create a History Society to enable students to develop a deeper and broader engagement with History.
Background: The school’s Art department had succeeding in fostering an ethos where students saw themselves as ‘artists’, willing to immerse themselves in the subject both in and out of lessons. There was a desire to develop this ethos in the History department, to build pupils’ ‘cultural capital’ and encourage more to pursue History at A Level and university in a school where there was not a deep tradition of going on to further study.
Year 1: The History Society was established, and ran a variety of films, historical discussions, events and lectures. Approximately 10% of the Sixth Form attended at least one event, including several who didn’t study History, and activities were well publicised via Twitter, posters and governors’ reports. Questionnaires and a focus group were used to inform the following year.
Year 2: The Society ran a theatre trip and activities that focused on university preparation. Despite efforts to broaden its reach, membership was almost exclusively from Year 13. Plans to expand into Key Stage 4 were not fulfilled. Student questionnaires explained why pupil involvement was lower than hoped.
Year 3: The society met intermittently, and events like the theatre trip were still organised. To try and build a sustainable group for the future, an event aimed at Year 10-11 pupils was planned with the hope that involvement in extracurricular History could be continued into A Level. A lecture on black history was planned through links with another PTI Schools Programme member, and the event was well attended by around 30 Year 10-11 students. These formed the basis for a black history group that would undertake a research project in the following year. The views of current and former pupils, who were in most cases now at university, on extracurricular history provision were taken.
Evidence: Focus group discussions, questionnaires, destination data for school leavers, pupil results.
Impact: Although less successful in its third year, the History Society has established itself as part of the school’s extracurricular provision. Feedback from pupils, including those now at university, has been very positive in terms of their understanding and perceptions of History. Some commented that the Society provided a first experience of an academic university society, and that they have developed negotiating and debating skills. The profile of the subject has been raised through involvement of other staff in History lectures and through links with other schools.
Reflections: Extracurricular societies flourish better when there is a whole-school approach that values learning outside the curriculum. Barriers to participation were a feeling that there wasn’t time to participate due to work pressures, and the lack of a tradition of engagement in History activities lower down in the school. Getting students involved in leadership positions in a society is crucial to ensuring its vibrancy and sustainability.
Contact: Tim Wright, firstname.lastname@example.org