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The history curriculum at St James' aims to give a solid foundation and broad overview of some of the most important periods in local and British history.  We aim for it to inspire our pupils curiosity about the past and to develop their understanding of key events. Learning about the past will also help our students to understand history in a wider context, learn how it affects them personally and why it is important to be aware of, and preserve, the history of others.

Children will begin to ask perceptive questions, develop critical thinking, collect evidence, and form their own judgements based on perspectives.


We are very fortunate to live in a Georgian town, with a rich mining and shipping history. Our children are able to access first - hand experiences of what life was like in our local area and have visitors come into school offering insight into how the town has changed and adapted over the years.


Through the teaching of history, we endeavour to teach pupils to begin to understand social diversity, changes and developments over time, and how these impact the pupils themselves and others, which is vital to helping children become tolerant and understanding citizens in society today.


We teach our pupils to ‘think like a historian’ by examining artefacts and sources from the time. We encourage them to begin to think critically about what we might be able to learn from the evidence.

There are two key aspects to learning: 

Substantive knowledge - this is the subject knowledge and vocabulary used to learn about the past.

Disciplinary knowledge  this is the use of that knowledge and how children construct understanding through historical claims, arguments and accounts. We call it ‘thinking like a historian.’ The features of thinking historically may involve:

  • Historical Significance: The importance assigned to a particular aspect of the past such as events or sites.
  • Continuity and change: Aspects of the past that have remained the same over a period of time or have changed over time.
  • Cause and effect: 'Cause' refers to the range of reasons for an historical event or development and 'effect' to the range of subsequent outcomes or results.
  • Historical enquiry: The process of developing knowledge and understanding by posing questions about the past, and applying skills associated with locating, analysing, evaluating and using sources as evidence to develop an informed argument or interpretation.
  • Historical Evidence and Interpretations: The information contained within a source that tends to support an historical argument or provides information for a specific historical inquiry. A way of understanding and explaining what has happened in the past. The discipline of History acknowledges that there is often more than one view of what has happened in the past.
  • Similarity and Difference: Helping pupils understand beyond stereotypical assumptions about people in the past and to recognise and analyse the diversity of past experience.


The teaching of History at St James’

What do we teach?

The Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum supports children’s understanding of History through the planning and teaching of ‘Understanding the World’. This aspect is about how children find out about past and present events in their own lives, their families and other people they know.

In our history curriculum children are encouraged to develop a sense of change over time and are given opportunities to differentiate between past and present by observing routines throughout the day, growing plants, observing the passing of seasons and time and looking at photographs of their life and of others.  Practitioners encourage investigative behaviour and raise questions such as, What do you think?', Tell me more about?', 'What will happen if..?', ‘What else could we try?', ‘What could it be used for?' and ‘How might it work?'

Use of language relating to time is used in daily routines and conversations with children  for example, yesterday', old', past', now' and then'.


In Key Stage One History is taught in half termly blocks and cross-curricular links made to other subjects where appropriate. 

The sequence in KS1 focuses on young children developing a sense of time, place and change. As we have mixed age classes, children are taught history on a 2-year rolling programme. Children study changes within living memory through the unit “How have Toys and Technology changed over time? This enables them to develop an understanding of what has changed within the living memory of the community. This chronological knowledge is foundational to the understanding of change over time. Children learn about events beyond their living memory. They learn about how Whitehaven has changed over the years which links local history through significant events, people and places. The locality is further understood by knowing about the places, the buildings, the events and the people that tell a story of the past. Children expand on the idea of events beyond living memory but learning also about how significant events have moulded and shaped the way in which the world changed. The Great Fire of London and Titanic units seek to draw together the disciplinary concepts of significance and cause and effect.  They also learn about the lives of significant individuals, focusing on Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole, Christopher Columbus, Matthew Henson and Neil Armstrong.


In addition to substantive and disciplinary knowledge, children will develop their experiential knowledge through museum visits/workshops and handling artefacts. Each classroom has retrieval walls to support children to see the unit as a whole and give them the autonomy to revisit core knowledge.  Timelines are also displayed in each KS1 classroom in order to make sense of chronology within a unit and place the unit in its wider sequence and help children develop their ‘mental timelines’.  


How do pupils make progress in history?

Pupils at St James’ make progress by increasing:

  • their knowledge about the past (‘substantive knowledge or facts)
  • their knowledge about how historians investigate the past, and how they construct historical claims, arguments and accounts (‘disciplinary knowledge)


Historical Golden Threads 

We have identified a set of key historical concepts that we have called golden threads that children will repeatedly revisit throughout their time at St James’ from Key Stage 1. Our golden threads are: invention and innovation, society and legacy, trade and exploration. 


By having the units centred around these concepts, pupils are able to make links between their learning from one unit and year group to another, as well as use this knowledge to make connections with the present day and their own lives.  


How do we know what the children have learned?

How is History assessed?

We measure the impact of our curriculum through checkpoints using the following methods:

  • Checkpoint 1 – At the start of each unit, children record in books what they already know  .
  • Checkpoint 2 - Review of previous learning at the beginning of each lesson
  • Checkpoint 3 - End of unit quiz of key knowledge
  • Checkpoint 4 – Continuing review of previous learning weeks later to check ‘sticky knowledge’
  • Checkpoint 5 – Pupil voice and book study

We also use:

  • Questioning
  • Talking to teachers
  • Low stakes ‘Drop-in’ observations
  • Feedback and marking
  • Progress in book matches the curriculum intent

History Curriculum Overview

History Curriculum Coverage

History Progression Map for Second Order Concepts

Progression sequence of what history look like at our school

What does the teaching of history look like in our school?

KS1 - How have toys and technology changed over the years?

Black History Month - Inspirational Black Women - Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman

KS1 - What was the Great Fire of London? What makes a great explorer? What happened to the Titanic? Learning about our local history and Remembrance

History in the Early Years

Understanding the World - Past and Present in their Nursery Rhyme unit

Understanding the World - Past and Present in Reception