History is a compulsory subject on the Westfield Curriculum for the first three years in Senior House. Thereafter it is an 'option' to be chosen as a GCSE subject and later as an AS and A-Level subject.
In Upper Three, Lower Four and Upper Four, we seek to encourage a narrative and chronological awareness of the last 1000 years of history, beginning with the Norman Conquest in Year 7, the Renaissance, Reformation and the Tudors in Year 8 and the Industrial Revolution and the First World War in Year 9. The topics are introduced using a variety of teaching strategies including role play, debating and thinking skills. The girls undertake formal examinations at the end of each year and are also informally assessed through class performance, written assignments and short tests during the academic year. After three years of history, pupils are aware of the major events that have shaped the world we live in, understand the relevance of History to their modern lives, and have gained historical skills such as analysis, evaluation and empathy.
As a Department we believe strongly in the importance of bringing History alive for the girls through visits to places of historical interest. History is a subject which does not merely exist on the page or in the classroom but all around us too and providing pupils with the opportunity to experience the past around them is one of the best ways of making it fun and relevant. It also helps to lay the foundations for life long interest. In addition, field work provides practice in research and recording techniques different from those normally encountered in the classroom and widens the range of learning experiences we offer. By developing this is the lower school we aim to give the girls a good base on which to build on should they opt for History at GCSE.
At the moment we offer the following field trips: 1. In Upper Three girls go to Alnwick Castle in the Spring term. This visit ties in with their work on castles and medieval life covered in class. The visit helps to inform the girls for a project based on ‘Life in a Castle’. A prize is awarded by the department for the best project in each class. 2. In Lower Four, the girls will visit the Royal Armouries in Leeds. This visit will complement studies on the English Civil War. 3. In Upper Four the girls spend a half day at Woodhorn colliery in the Autumn term. This year the girls will visit the ‘Terrible Trenches’ exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, London in the Spring Term. 4. In Lower Five, girls visit Belsay Hall to gather evidence for their controlled assessment on local history. In class their site observations are synthesised with documentary and pictorial sources as well as information about local and national historical developments to provide a thorough understanding of the site. 5. Both Upper Five and Lower Five girls will be studying GCSE Medicine Through Time and will visit the Thackeray Medical Museum in Leeds in the Spring Term. 6. Due to changes in the A level specification, a coursework visit to Dublin is planned for October 2009. 7. We also undertake joint Departmental visits. Since 2007, this has included a joint History and German visit to Berlin and more recently in February 2009, the History and English department took 25 girls to the First World War Battlefields of Northern France and Belgium.
THE GCSE COURSE
For GCSE, we follow the OCR Schools History Project syllabus which concentrates not only on the learning and recall of facts but also on the development of a range of skills and the critical use of historical evidence. The general aims of the course are:
- To develop knowledge and understanding of selected periods, societies and aspects of history.
- To develop an awareness of how the past has been represented and interpreted.
- To actively engage in the process of historical enquiry.
- To organise and communicate historical knowledge and understanding and reach substantiated judgements.
- To realise that historical knowledge helps to understand the present and provides a basis for the further study of history.
These aims are reflected in the different elements of the course. These are:
- Study in Development - Medicine through Time and Study in Depth - Germany, 1919-1945.
- Historical Source Investigation. Developments in British Medicine, 1200-1945.
- History Around Us. Local study of Belsay Hall.
There are two examinations and one controlled assessment. This is broken down as follows:
Paper One: Medicine through Time and Germany, 1919-1945.
2 hours and worth 45% of the total GCSE marks.
Paper Two: Developments in British Medicine, 1200-1945
1hour 30 minutes and worth 30% of the total GCSE marks.
Local study of Belsay Hall. This is a controlled assessment of 2000 words. It is internally assessed and makes up 25% of the total GCSE marks.
Ideally after two further years of history, pupils will have well developed powers of analysis, a close acquaintance with the past and an excellent (A* - C) grade at GCSE in the subject.
THE AS AND A2 LEVEL COURSES
The two year course offered in the Sixth Form leads to an A2 Qualification. The department follows the Edexcel syllabus. Since September 2008, the course at Westfield has been very different to the previous course with an emphasis on modern European, Irish, American and British History. The course is made up of four modules (two taken in each year) and is designed to develop and test different historical skills and periods.
In Lower Sixth, the following topics are studied:
- Pursuing Life and Liberty: Equality in the USA, 1945-1968 and Ideology, conflict and retreat: The USA in Asia, 1950-1973. This unit is examined in January.
- Britain, c1860-1930: The Changing position of women and the suffrage question. This unit is examined in June.
The course of study for Upper Sixth beginning in September 2009 will consist of a Unit on Germany 1900-1945 and a Historical Enquiry on Ireland.
Students taking AS and A2 History are expected to read and make detailed notes on a wide range of material, and to undertake extended writing assignments that will either be structured writing or essays. They will be expected to carry out independent reading and research and to participate actively in class discussion. They will also be expected to examine and evaluate relevant historical documents.
The study of history in the Sixth Form offers the girls the opportunity to develop their skills of analysis and exposition. Since Sixth Form history involves evaluation of evidence and opinion and a high degree of literacy, it makes an ideal prelude to many courses or careers including Law, journalism, the civil service, administration or the social services, quite apart from more directly related areas such as teaching or museum and archive work.
History can be taken by any girl entering the Sixth Form and there is no requirement to have studied the subject at GCSE level. A good grade in English or one of the other humanities would be desirable but not essential. History is to be strongly recommended in any combination with other subjects.
History is a popular subject at Westfield and we achieved a 100% pass rate at GCSE, AS and A2 in summer 2009. The higher grades are show in the table below:
GCSE 79% Grade A* to C
AS Level 89% Grade A to C
A Level 75% Grade A
This year, three girls who studied History at A level and gained A grades in the summer examinations are going to university to continue studying History.