Take back control!
Updated: Nov 3
The importance of teaching Geography and History using the KS1 & KS2 National Curriculum.
‘Take back control’ is a phrase that was banded about regularly during the Brexit referendum. Whether you agree with it on a National scale or not, it seems a very appropriate phrase for the foundation subject teachers!
The first statutory National Curriculum was introduced by the Education Reform Act 1988 by Kenneth Baker. Its purpose is to:
provide pupils with an introduction to the core knowledge that they need to be educated citizens. It aims to: “embody rigour and high standards and create coherence in what is taught in schools to ensure that all children are taught the essential knowledge in the key subject disciplines.
When it states fractions are essential knowledge in maths and phonics are essential knowledge in English that is what teachers teach and children know that is what they are learning.
But for some reason with History and Geography many schools have felt it necessary to change what it states (or indeed ignore the National Curriculum completely) and turn the subject discipline into a collection of the perceived best bits, (that is the bits I know and am comfortable teaching) with little progression nor sequencing of learning.
If the curriculum statutory guidance states: Study the Achievements of the Earliest Civilisations ……. Ancient Egyptians, how do topics like Walk like an Egyptian meet the National Curriculum. How does a topic called ‘Meet the Flintstones’ reflect the Changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age? These changes are not trivial, but major achievements of mankind. They are exciting not to say mind-blowing, but need respect and understanding, not being related to cartoons whose anachronisms might lead to false knowledge (dinosaurs had died out some 60 million years before the evolution of mankind for example).
Similarly, with geography, A small region in a contrasting non-European country somehow gets named African Adventure and focuses on African drummers. African drummers are fantastic, but they are not in any way geographical skills, nor part of the Geography National Curriculum.
We came across a school that was committed to ‘doing’ Australia. There were topics on its physical geography, the Great Barrier Reef, Aboriginal People. These are worthy topics but not strictly part of the National Curriculum. Once you are NC compliant, then you can teach such topics as part of the School Curriculum.
All of these titles are very well meaning and can be seen as a hook to entice children into a topic but they can often confuse the issue and water down the real subject discipline as is outlined in the statutory guidance. Subjects need to be respected. Subjects give coherence to a body of knowledge, with distinctive aims. Subjects have their own coherence. Pupils make more connections across the curriculum as a whole when subjects are thoroughly taught and carefully linked. Each subject has its own context with its own unique sets of questions. That is why Geography and History topics should have their own subject title worthy of the discipline.
Even more worryingly Ofsted (Dec 2020) reported:
“Leaders of primary schools were considering what learning had been missed in English and mathematics and were making curriculum adaptations. But this was often not the case for the foundation subjects, such as history or music. Very few schools reported using any systematic assessments to identify learning losses in foundation subjects. Some schools had no firm plans for modifying or re sequencing the content of foundation subjects, no systematic approach to identifying key components required for future learning and no plans to make sure that these were taught. When prioritising the foundation curriculum content to cover, some primary schools had decided to focus on skills, rather than on knowledge. For example, some 14 schools said that they were teaching historical enquiry skills or mapping skills in place of some new historical or geographical content. Some schools had not fully considered the impact of this method on pupils’ knowledge and understanding. Occasionally, the responsibility for adjusting the curriculum was left to the class teacher.” (Source: COVID-19 thematic series: October briefing November 2020)
Key words in this statement would seem to be systematic, re-sequencing, knowledge and content - these should be the words that help teachers take control of their foundation subjects and re-plan to help the children gain sufficient skills and knowledge to move onto their next phase with a title that gives justice to the subject discipline.
All of our KS1 & KS2 products and resources have been written to comply with the National Curriculum. We’d love to help you take back control of your geography and history foundation subjects. Simply drop us an email and we’ll arrange a suitable time to chat through your current provision.