“Don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”
An extract from Michelle Obama’s speech to school pupils in London in 2010
History is seen as a vital subject within the curriculum at St. Anthony’s. As well as teaching pupils about the past, it gives them the opportunity to develop empathy and to think critically about human affairs.
Pupils are encouraged to reflect upon the past and to see how past events still affect society today. They are encouraged to think about the contributions of previous generations to their own well being. Empathy is stressed and pupils are shown the necessity of looking at situations from the viewpoints of those people who were involved at the time. They are encouraged to explore the past in practical ways.
History cannot be understood or studied effectively without a range of skills. Knowledge must be accompanied by understanding. The teaching of History involves the teaching of knowledge, skills and understanding. For example, in the early years, this will involve developing a concept of the past, chronological awareness, an understanding of the idea of generations, sequencing and the creation of time lines. In later years, this will involve , for example, connecting ideas or understanding how history can be seen as a construct.
As they grow older, pupils are encouraged to see history as a construct. That is to say, they are taught to see the differences between ‘the past’ and ‘History’. History is not static. It changes with new discoveries of evidence and new ideas about the past. Pupils are encouraged to think about this and are given examples of how our interpretations of the past have changed. When appropriate, they are encouraged to think about how our views of the past reflect our present society.
History should be taught in a way that encourages pupils to actively engage with ideas and to form opinions which are based on clear evidence. Wherever possible, pupils should be given the opportunity to look at both primary and secondary evidence. They should be shown how and why our views of a period have developed.
History should be presented as a subject which involves real people. The subject should not be reduced to abstraction and where possible a topic should include reference to and reflection on the lives of people of that particular time, their beliefs, custom, material situation etc. The focus of much History is perforce on leaders and the political elite. This should not be exclusive.
History should help pupils to think about the differences between their lives and the lives of people from other generations. It should help them to place their lives in a context. It should afford opportunities to think imaginatively about other people as well as logically and in a structured ‘historical’ fashion.
History should be taught using a variety of techniques, which serve to emphasise the intellectual challenge and the excitement of the subject. Use of source material, pictures, ICT, films, visits to sites of historical interest are all encouraged. It is our believe that lessons should involve discussion and active participation by pupils. Lessons should present intellectual challenges. The subject must be taught with intellectual rigour, stretching the able and making appropriate demands on all.
Written work is set and marked throughout the school. Pupils are taught to channel their ideas and to structure their work. They are given opportunities to work in a variety of ways. As they progress through the school, the course becomes more demanding and there is a need for more formal teaching of the Common Entrance syllabus. At present, pupils in Year 7 and 8 are prepared for the Making of the United Kingdom, 1500-1750 section. The pupils are shown that History is a creative discipline, involving logical thinking, deduction, analysis and scrutiny of evidence, the evaluation of competing theories and the use of imagination. The notion of evidence is expanded as pupils move through the school and they are shown how we can ‘learn history’ from all aspects of human endeavour, for example buildings, artefacts, literature, poetry.