Aim: To inspire students to think and learn independently, to raise the profile of History, to raise pupil attainment and to encourage collaboration between departments and with outside organisations.
Background: Students were too reliant on teacher input in lessons rather than engaging in independent learning, especially at Key Stage 5. The project aimed to build on the department’s existing work with co-operative learning structures, particularly using Kagan principles, to foster enquiry and independence.
Year 1: Kagan structures were successfully implemented in History to increase pupils’ confidence in contributing to class discussions. However, time constraints made it difficult to introduce extracurricular activities, so it was decided to work within the curriculum. A new KS3 curriculum was planned, based entirely around enquiries, which required pupils to hone their research and argument skills. The curriculum was made more controversial and structured debates were introduced that had pupils still debating the issues as they left the classroom.
Year 2: Debate was promoted outside lessons in a cross-curricular initiative with the English faculty. Two students entered, and one went on to win, the Historical Association’s national Great Debate competition. Students participated in the Wirral Youth Parliament and were highly commended by members of the Council. Political issues were further debated through links with the Government and Politics department, and a whole-school mock general election was held to coincide with the real thing, with hustings further enhancing pupils’ public speaking skills.
Year 3: The enquiry-led curriculum was developed further and a spirit of debate was embedded into KS3 classes. A one-off Year 9 enquiry lesson on Jack the Ripper was delivered to Year 9 as they were making their GCSE choices, preceding the largest uptake of GCSE History for 8 years. New resources were developed to enhance exam performance by encouraging debate and linking between topics.
A student spoke to MPs in Parliament on the subject of ‘Magna Carta and the Suffragettes’ on International Women’s Day following her debate training in the Great Debate competition. In collaboration with the Anne Frank Trust, pupils were trained to guide their peers and parents around an exhibition on Anne Frank’s life. Some went on to become ambassadors for the Trust, delivering Anne Frank’s story to local primary schools and helping to run workshops. This helped to raise the profile of History while also encouraging pupils to share the fruits of their skills in enquiry and public speaking.
Evidence: GCSE uptake, student achievements, collaboration with outside organisations.
Impact: Visible successes, such as the competition win, were widely shared and celebrated in school and uptake of History as a GCSE option increased greatly (30% higher in 2016 than in 2015). Collaboration with the Anne Frank Trust has proved highly empowering for pupils who had lacked confidence and has strengthened links with parents and the wider community.
Reflections: Although there is no direct evidence that results have been enhanced, we are delighted with the overall impact on school life and the raised profile of History within the school. Challenges came from the overwhelming demands of a changing curriculum, but the project successfully evolved so that extra-curricular achievement fed into the curriculum rather than adding to it.
Contact: Sarah Hannam, firstname.lastname@example.org