Monthly Archives: May 2014

1913: The Year Before on Radio 4.

I missed almost all of this, but caught the conclusion.  Portillo’s point seems to be that the Great War eclipses the social and political upheaval that was happening in the years before, and in some cases the War inhibited change.  This is in direct contradiction with one of the popular views of this war, that 1914 was a watershed between an idyllic Edwardian past, and brutal future.  I really like Portillo on TV and Radio, wish he’d decided on that career when he left university!

New GCSE History – what do the boards have to offer?

Hope you don’t think I’m flogging a dead horse here, but I’ve been puzzling again over the GCSE requirements published last week, and in trying to understand them I drew a few diagrams. (Don’t worry I’m not about to out myself as a visual-learner).

There there are now three types of study – Depth, Period and Thematic.

studytypesOne important change here is that there must be two depth studies.  One of the depth studies may overlap in the period covered with the Period Study.  Thematic studies look like development over time studies to me and to other people too.

We’re also informed that the GCSE should have history from all three of the ‘era’s defined in the guidance.


Finally, there are rules about the ‘location’ of the material presented.  Each specification must cover localities, British and ‘Wider World’ histories.



There’s no coursework and no controlled assessment permitted by the guidance.  Which leads me to think that the exam boards have been set quite a complicated task in making all this work.  Obviously we won’t know until we have sight of draft specifications, and I have no inside information on this at all.  I wonder if we can make some speculations about the construction of the new specs.

  • Three papers overall? Would be difficult to see how students could sit four papers for a GCSE history; which means that one of the depth studies will perhaps be examined with the period study?  You know, the way it is with Modern World papers.
  • This infers a specificiation that is focused on one era, through the period study and related depth study, with the others being bolted on.
  • In turn this could infer two different approaches to the relation between a period and depth study:  ‘British Paper’ in which the depth and period studies overlap is the most obvious as it gives the board a clear way of reaching the 40% minimum requirement for British history, or will there be a European / wider world paper with period and depth studies, with a separate British depth paper?
  • If the second is preferred then will there have to be a substantial element on British history in the Thematic studies to help edge British content up to 40%
  • Thematic papers will be one way in which the other eras of the course get studied – if the Period and Depth studies overlap, and if the ‘other’ depth study is from a second period, the thematic paper will be the way to catch the other era.
  • I bet Medieval history will get covered in thematic papers, and that it will be unusual to find a medieval depth study.
  • Localities?!  Where do these fit in?  I would guess that this will be in the British depth study.



Analysis and Narrative

I am just posting a reply to a student’s question on the School History Help Forum (an excellent idea on Andy Field’s website, which is staffed by volunteers, and could always do with some help).

I reminded myself of this resource which I created to help students to work on the difference between analysis and narrative in their topic sentences.  Which of these sentences are Analytical Sentences.  I adapted this from the excellent, but not en-vogue Cowie and Wolfson (or in print) textbook.

I’m not denigrating narrative history here, really.  Exam boards expect essays to be packed with analysis, and students who write a narrative starting sentence often find it hard to turn this into analysis.  The most successful essays start each paragraph with a topic sentence that it analytical, and the most analytical are often sentences which compare, contrast, or link with other topics in the argument.

Students often find this hard, and I find that examples are really helpful in learning how to see / deconstruct and then re-construct analysis at this level.

Research on Teachers’ Uncertainties

I would like to talk to teachers about the ways that uncertainties have affected their ideas, beliefs and working experiences.  I am hoping to meet and observe a small number of teachers (and this could be anywhere in the country) in order to increase my understanding of how uncertainties affect our working lives as teachers.

If you’re interested in taking part, please have a look at,  contact me at or DM me on @ed_podesta on twitter.