3.1 Rationale

Ensuring a broad, comparable and coherent course of study

Our specification is designed to ensure a broad, comparable and coherent student experience, with each paper constructed around distinct principles which are carried through to assessment.

Breadth

The specification ensures a substantial study of history as its structure embeds the requirement to study history across three eras, three time scales and three geographical contexts and incorporates each of the five specified elements. Breadth is thereby assured.

Comparability

Our assessments are broken into two papers:

  • Paper 1: Understanding the modern world
  • Paper 2: Shaping the nation

Paper 1: Understanding the modern world helps students to understand key developments and events in modern world history.

Paper 2: Shaping the nation enables students to understand key developments and events in the history of Britain.

The specification offers choice of content and flexible pathways to allow teachers to design a curriculum that is relevant to students, engages them and stimulates their interest in history, whilst maintaining high levels of comparability.

Comparability is achieved through common design principles for the content of options within each element together with consistent approaches to assessment of options within each element.

Coherence

The specification supports the achievement of the subject aims and outcomes as outlined within the GCSE subject content defined by the Department of Education (DfE). It allows the construction of a KS4 curriculum that not only has integrity in its own right, but also sits within a coherent curriculum linking Key Stage 3 to AS and A-level.

Both papers are equally weighted, ensuring that students receive a balanced and coherent course of study which enables them to develop and extend their knowledge and understanding of specified key events, periods and societies in both a British and wider world context, exposing them to the wide diversity of human experience.

Each paper is divided into two sections.

Paper 1: Understanding the modern world

  • Section A: Period studies
  • Section B: Wider world depth studies

Paper 2: Shaping the nation

  • Section A: Thematic studies
  • Section B: British depth studies with the historic environment

Each section is worth 25% of the overall course of study, equating to approximately 30 hours teaching time per section, ensuring that the elements are reasonably balanced.

There are a variety of ways in which the specification gives teachers the opportunity to make a coherent course of study which engages and enriches students’ experience of studying history. Regardless of options studied, students will develop a secure understanding of chronology, knowledge and understanding of history on different scales and contexts, apply historical concepts and processes and engage with the nature of evidence and interpretation. In each pathway, students will engage with a variety of perspectives, such as political, social and economic, and investigate the contributions of key individuals and groups. In this way students will be able to draw parallels and make links between the distinct areas of study.

Each element is based around design principles which encourage students, through assessment, to develop the same skills assigned to each element and they will broaden and deepen their historical knowledge. One design principle is that each paper tests the full range of assessment objectives. Another design principle is that both sections of both papers target three different assessment objectives. In this way a balanced approach to knowledge and skills acquisition throughout the course of study is promoted.

The prescribed elements can be taught in any order, allowing the specification to be delivered in a way that enables a school to put it into operation effectively and maximise the potential for continuity and coherence with KS3 and progression to A-level.

While the prescribed elements can be taught in any order, one way teachers can achieve coherence would be to teach the British content together and then follow with the modern world content or teach the modern world first and then British. Alternatively, teachers may wish to follow on from their Key Stage 3 curriculum.

A possible course of study for the British content which would promote understanding of chronology and help put key events and developments in a wider perspective would be to start teaching the thematic unit and then pause at the right chronological moment to focus on the depth study (understanding the historic environment) and then return to the thematic study.

The modern world content can be taught in any order. It may follow directly on from the Key Stage 3 curriculum. Teachers could choose to focus on the domestic history of one country and then teach one of the conflict and tension options or in the reverse order depending on what is most suitable for their students and department.

3.1.1 Paper 1: Understanding the modern world

Section A: Period studies

There are four modern world period studies to choose from.

Each period study has a focus of one country over a period of around 50 years. The period studies are national in their focus, allowing students to study the domestic history of a country and its people in a period of change. They are all based on an unfolding narrative of two substantial and related developments and offer students the opportunity to study the impact these developments had on people. Students will gain a coherent understanding of these developments and their impact on people through a variety of perspectives: political, social and cultural, economic, the role of ideas and the contribution of individuals and groups.

The assessment will enable students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. Students will also apply their knowledge and understanding to second order concepts such as causation, consequence and change. Students will also evaluate interpretations.

Section B: Wider world depth studies

There are five modern European/wider world depth studies to choose from.

Each depth study investigates international conflict. Students will be able to deepen their understanding of the modern world. In each study, the conflict studied requires a focus on a complex historical situation and interplay of different aspects within it. Students will gain a coherent understanding of how and why conflict occurred and why it proved difficult to resolve the immediate issues which resulted from it. As part of the study the role of key individuals and groups is considered as well as how they were affected by and influenced international relations.

The assessment will enable students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in relation to second order historical concepts such as causation and consequence. There will be an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to create structured analytical narrative accounts of key events. They will also be able to demonstrate their ability to understand, analyse and evaluate a range of sources.

3.1.2 Paper 2: Shaping the nation

This paper helps students understand the history of Britain and key events, people and developments which have shaped the nation. This paper covers the requirement to study a minimum of 40% British history. Students will have the opportunity to see how ideas and events in the wider world have affected Britain and shaped the course of the nation’s history, but the focus of the paper is British.

Section A: Thematic studies

There are three thematic studies to choose from.

All three give students a coherent understanding of change and continuity across a long sweep of history and each cover all three specified eras. Although each option has a distinct focus, they all illuminate social, political and economic change and the part played by various factors in shaping the history of Britain.

The assessment will enable students to develop their ability to apply second order concepts such as similarity, difference, change, continuity and significance to their knowledge and understanding of key features and characteristics of the period. There will also be an opportunity for them to demonstrate their ability to analyse and evaluate critically and constructively contemporary source material.

Section B: British depth studies

There are four British depth studies to choose from.

The depth studies are either from the Medieval or Early Modern era. They focus on a particular time and people from that time who shaped the nation. Students will build a coherent understanding of the complexity of society and the interplay of different aspects within it.

The historic environment is embedded within the depth studies. This approach promotes coherent understanding of the relationship between the historic environment and the historical events and developments contained in the depth study. Students will be able to make connections and evaluate how specified sites have shaped or have been shaped by the historical events and developments of the time.The historic environment to be studied is identified by AQA (as detailed in Paper 2: Shaping the nation).

The assessment will give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to apply second order concepts such as causation, change and consequence to their knowledge and understanding. Students will also analyse and evaluate interpretations to make their own historical claims.