'A generation which ignores history has no past and no future' - Robert Heinlein
History is a very popular subject at St Mary’s. Our rigorous approach produces excellent examination results. This dynamic department aims to make History inspiring, challenging and meaningful. We stretch high fliers while enthusing and encouraging all our students. We encourage girls applying to read History to complete an Extended Project Qualification in Sixth Form. We aim to widen the experience of classroom teaching through visits to historical sites such as the UIV trip to the Battlefields of World War One and MIV trip to The Black Country Living Museum as well as teaching about local heroes such as I.K.Brunel. Further afield, the History Department has participated in a trip to China with the Modern Foreign Languages Department in 2016 and we are looking forward to a trip to Russia in February 2017 for GCSE and A Level students. We use active approaches such as drama, role play and we are leading the incorporation of IT as part of our delivery of this subject.
The Fourth Form
In the Fourth Form we cover a variety of topics and periods to ensure the girls have a good understanding of British and International History before they choose their GCSE options in UIV.
In LIV we study the Medieval period, from 1066 to 1400. In these lessons the girls learn about change and continuity, chronology and significance in a very exciting period, through topics including the Battle of Hastings and the role of Kings such as Henry II and John. The girls also learn about the impact of social History, such as the role of the church in people’s lives, the impact of the Black Death and the Peasants’ Revolt.
In MIV we continue chronologically on from LIV by studying the impact of the Tudors and the break with the Church of Rome. In both LIV and MIV we use the opportunity to study original sources in order for the girls to learn analytical and evaluative skills. The girls also continue to learn about the changing nature of Kingship, from Henry VIII to Charles I and the English Civil War. The girls finish the year by learning about the impact of the Industrial Revolution and have the opportunity to research and complete a group project on a topic on this period.
Finally in UIV the girls have a modern and international focus for their studies. We start off learning about the causes and consequences of the First World War, which is supported by a trip to the Battlefields in Northern France and Belgium each October for all UIV girls. The interwar years are considered and the failures of the Treaty of Versailles considered in learning about the rise of Hitler and the path to World War Two. The final topic is considering the experiences of African Americans in the 20th Century and the impact of the Civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
A large proportion of the girls at school do IGCSE History. At St Mary’s we follow the EDEXCEL IGCSE course which offers an excellent foundation for any future study whilst providing a basis for understanding the modern world. They sit two examinations at the end of UV.
We started the new EdexceI GCSE course in 2017 which has the numeric grading system, having found the previous one very suitable. In LV girls will study Germany 1918-1945, the Russian Revolution 1905-1924 and the start of the Cold War 1943-1972. We then finish our study of the Cold war and learn about China 1900-1989 in UV.
Our results are always very good at GCSE and we have an excellent take-up at A Level.
History is a popular choice at A Level, where we use the AQA exam board. Many girls who take Advanced Level History obtain an A grade. In LVI we will be studying two topics: historical interpretations of Russia 1855-1917, and a depth study paper on Religious Conflict and the Reformation in England 1529-1547.
The Russia course begins with the nature of Russia in 1855 with the autocratic rule of the Tsars coming into conflict with the rising political groups, demanding reform; we will consider the nature of the changes that so called 'reforming' Tsar Alexander II brings to Russia, only to be assassinated by those he was trying to help, by the reactionary rule of his son Alexander III and the ultimate failure of the Romanov dynasty through the abdication of Nicholas II in 1917. In the Reformation course we will cover exciting academic debates on Henry VIII's break with Rome; the importance of the royal divorce and Wolsey's' failure to achieve it, the role of the Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell, the impact of the grassroots reform movements, the dissolution of the monasteries and the nature of the opposition to the Reformation.
The new A Level in History has given us the chance to stretch the topics and the skills of our girls in completing an NEA (Non Examined Assessment- coursework) on their chosen topic. In the summer, LVI will pick between studying Imperial Spain 1479-1598 or Crisis in the Middle East: The Arab-Israeli Conflict 1914-2004. They are taught an overview course in the Summer Term and are then given the opportunity to research further into their topic, completing the final essay of approximately 3,500 words by March of UVI.
In UVI we will cover the years 1917-1964 in Russia and the USSR as well as the English Reformation 1547-1570. In the Russia course we will see how Lenin changes Russia into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to the backdrop of Civil War and famine. We will carry on with the study of the nature of leadership with the rise of Stalin and his totalitarian rule, and finally the reforming zeal of Khrushchev with his attempts to humanise the Soviet system. Continuing with the Reformation paper will allow a study of not only the Protestant boy King Edward VI but also allow an exploration of the new historical evaluations of Catholic Mary I. Finally, the key role of Elizabeth I and her pragmatic approach will be considered in ensuring religious stability and the establishment of the Church of England. The final summer examination will cover the whole period studied in both years of the course.
Mrs Samantha Handy (Head of History and Politics)