Historical past in excellent major colleges 

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primary school children writing in workbooks

Tim Jenner HMI, Ofsted’s topic lead for historical past, talks in regards to the findings from our historical past topic inspections.  

Historical past is important to a wealthy and broad major training. It helps pupils to make sense of the current in addition to the previous, and to understand the complexity and variety of human societies and improvement.  

Between January and March 2020, we inspected the standard of historical past training in 24 major colleges with an impressive judgement. We spoke to leaders and lecturers in regards to the historical past curriculum, visited classes, checked out pupils’ work and spoke to pupils. 

In all of the colleges we visited, pupils loved studying in regards to the previous. It was nice to see the breadth of the historical past curriculum throughout these collegeswith pupils finding out a variety of matters from the historical past of Britain and the broader world. In virtually all of the colleges, the nationwide curriculum was used as the premise for what pupils had been taught.  

Constructing blocks of progress

We noticed some wonderful examples of colleges that had rigorously thought-about the constructing blocks of progress in history, figuring out information that was important to pupils’ understanding of recent materials. A number of colleges paid numerous consideration to build up pupils’ information of substantive ideas, comparable to empire, tax, commerce and invasion. They’re essential elements of pupils’ comprehension of recent materials as a result of they’re summary conceptsand subsequently tough to understand, however are additionally used very generally in historical past. In numerous colleges, we had been impressed by the vary and safety of pupils information of a few of these ideas. Colleges secured these by utilizing appropriately difficult vocabulary in classes, explicitly instructing these ideas, utilizing them recurrently in context and, typically, by assessing pupils’ information of recognized ideas. 

In some colleges, we had been additionally impressed with pupils’ chronological information. That is pupils’ information of broad developments and historic durations, and their ‘psychological timeline’ of the previous. This information helps pupils to put their studying in context each in historical past and throughout different topics. In numerous colleges, this information was recurrently revisited and assessed, and pupils had been securing historic information as coherent narratives. Inspectors had been happy to listen to pupils confidently discussing broader developments throughout the durations that they had studied, and drawing on safe and well-organised information of occasions and durations. 

Assist for pupils with particular academic wants and/or disabilities (SEND) was a power in all the colleges we visited. All of those colleges balanced their ambition for all pupils to entry the complete historical past curriculum with a clear understanding of the wants of their pupils. Pupils had been given cautious particular person and/or group assist to safe the information they wanted to proceed to entry content material in historical past.  

Primary school children writing in books

Areas for enchancment

There have been areas of weak point in among the colleges visited. Pupil information was much less safe in these colleges the place leaders and lecturers had not recognized the information that was most vital for pupils to be taught and bear in mind. Usually, these colleges didn’t assess pupils’ information of the historical past content material that they had discovered and subsequently weren’t ready to make sure that all pupils had been making progress of their information of historical pastIn a few of these colleges, not sufficient precedence was given to pupils constructing their historic information. Inspectors noticed some lesson actions that weren’t well-designed to safe pupils’ information. These included anachronistic writing duties, comparable to writing a newspaper report on the Viking invasions of England, and actions that distracted from the historical past content material pupils wanted to be taught. 

We additionally noticed usually weaker apply within the instructing of disciplinary information. That is information of how historians examine the previous and assemble accounts. In most colleges, pupils information on this space was not safe. We noticed loads of instructing that inspired misconceptions in regards to the self-discipline of historical past. Usually, this was as a result of pupils had been requested to make complicated historic judgements with out sufficient information to assist these. In different instances, the best way historians analyse the previous was misrepresented. For instance, pupils had been taught to label sources as both ‘dependable’ or ‘unreliable’ utilizing simplistic standards 

In many faculties, historic ideas were poorly understood. Training typically centered on pupils making their personal judgements about significance, reasonably than studying about how others have attributed significance to matters or occasions. Equally, pupils had been inspired to ‘give you their very own interpretations’ in regards to the previous with out sufficient information to do so efficientlyreasonably than studying about how and why historians assemble totally different interpretations of the previous.  

Trainer topic information appeared to be an vital issue within the high quality of training on this space, but additionally throughout historical past on the wholeSchools that had assist from subject-specialists – whether or not from faculty employees, a multi-academy belief or native authority, or via topic associations – typically had higher-quality plans in place. 


These inspections had been carried out below part 8 of the Schooling Act 2005 and in accordance with Ofsted’s printed procedures for a no formal designation inspection of colleges. The inspections had been carried out to allow Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector to raised perceive the standard of training in particular topics supplied by excellent major colleges. Twenty-four historical past inspections had been carried out between November 2019 and March 2020.  

As these inspections solely seemed into one topic, inspectors weren’t anticipated to guage or infer the standard of training within the faculty. It’s because the education inspection framework methodology requires a minimal of three topics to be reviewed with the intention to draw out systemic options. This was not the aim of those inspections. 

Colleges inspected 

The complete element of the findings of every inspection are printed on Ofsted’s experiences web site. 

Balksbury Toddler Faculty, Andover 

Barnfield Main Faculty, Edgware 

Callis Grange Nursery and Toddler Faculty, Broadstairs 

Coit Main Faculty, Sheffield 

Gillespie Main Faculty, London 

Greenfield CofE VC Decrease Faculty, Greenfield 

Hampton Hargate Main Faculty, Peterborough 

Histon and Impington Junior Faculty, Histon 

Horndean Toddler Faculty, Horndean 

Kempston Rural Main Faculty, Kempston 

Mayflower Academy, Plymouth 

Milford-on-Sea Church of England Main Faculty, Lymington 

Rodmersham Faculty, Sittingbourne 

Seaton Main Faculty, Seaton 

Shoreditch Park Main Faculty, London  

St Aidan’s Voluntary Managed Main Faculty, London 

St Clement Danes CofE Main Faculty, London 

St Francis Church of England Main Faculty, Eastleigh 

St John’s Church of England Main Faculty, Maidstone 

St Joseph’s Catholic Main and Nursery Faculty, Burnham-on-Sea 

St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Main Faculty, London 

St Thomas’ Church of England Toddler Faculty, Newberry 

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