There are big changes coming at KS4. Others have written excellent posts summarising the new specifications and the differences between them. On reflection there’s something for everyone in most specs – we will each find some aspects that we seem to be familiar with. However, there is one new part of the GCSE – the Historic Environment Studies which are really new to most GCSE teachers. I thought I would take a look at the differences between the different specifications in overview.
|Board||% of Grade||Embedded in another unit?||Specified site or centre choice?||Topics|
|AQA||10%||Yes – in British Depth Study||Specified three years in advance (1)||Norman, Medieval, Elizabethan and Restoration historic environment|
|Edexcel||10%||Yes – in Thematic Study||Specified in spec. (2)||Crime and Policing in Whitechapel from 1870 to 1900
Surgery and Treatment on the British Western Front 1914-18
London and the Second World War 1939-45
|OCR – SHP||20%(4)||No – though centres can do this||Centre choice (3)||Centre choice within ‘parameters’|
|OCR||10%||Yes – in British Depth Study||Specified in spec.||Urban Environments: Patterns of Migration
Castles: Form and Function 1000-1700
- (1) – AQA will announce the sites when approved by Ofqual
- (2) – ‘Site’ is widely construed to mean ‘London’, ‘Whitechapel’ or even ‘the Western Front’.
- (3) – There are guidelines to help centres make the choice in the spec.
- (4) – OCR – SHP spec examines the historic environment study in a separate paper.
AQA’s historic environment studies are embedded in their British depth studies, and focus on specific aspects of the wider content related to those studies. Departments that follow the ‘Norman England’ option will therefore study ‘the historic environment of Norman England’, while those taking ‘Medieval England’ will study ‘the historic environment of Medieval England’. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the departments teaching Elizabethan or Restoration England will also be teaching about the historic environment of each period.
The focuses in each ‘historic environment’ study depend on with those of the rest of each depth study, but there is a fair amount of generic description. So, whilst Elizabethan England refers to manor houses, gardens and theatres, and the Restoration period refers to ‘stately homes’, the Norman period mentions ‘Cathedrals’ as well as ‘Castles’ which also figure in the Medieval description. Each depth study refers to ‘key historical events’, though the only illustration given in each case is ‘such as battles’.
AQA plan to publish the specific sites for each exam series three years in advance on their website. I can’t find reference to these yet, though I’m sure that they have planned the first three.
Update: following a very fast email response from AQA, who tell me that: “We will be publishing the sites three years in advance (it’s in the draft b specification), so for example, once we had an indication from Ofqual that this will be acceptable we will publish the sites for 2018, 2019 and 2020 to help teachers plan their courses. We’ll also be providing individual resources packs for each site and overall guidance for schools.”
The Historic Environment makes up 10% of the total marks in AQA’s GCSE
Like AQA, Edexcel’s Historic Environment component is embedded in another study, though in this case it is the thematic rather than the depth study. At first sight this might imply an approach which considers how and why a site changes through time. However, AQA have set out much shorter time periods in which the Historic environment studies take place. For instance. though the Crime and Punishment In Britain study, runs from 1,000 to the present day, the embedded historic environment study is a much more focused thirty years, from 1870 to 1900 and is focused on the issue of crime and policing.
Similarly the Medicine through time study, which runs from 1250 to the present, contains the embedded historic environment study of “The British sector of the Western Front’ and is focused on the years 1914-1918 and the issues of ‘surgery and treatment’. This pattern is repeated in the Warfare through time thematic study. The London and the Second World War option runs from 1939-45, though it lacks a focussing subtitle in the way that the others have.
The Historic Environment makes up 10% of the total marks in AQA’s GCSE.
OCR is offering two different specifications at GCSE, and each has a very different approach to the historical environment.
OCR – SHP
The Schools History Project approach to the historic environment immediately sticks out from the crowd of the other three offerings. The SHP-OCR specification it is 20%, double the tariff of the other specifications. It is also the only specification to assess understanding of the historical environment in a separate exam.
The second and perhaps most significant difference is that the specification ‘offers centres a free choice of site within a clearly stated set of parameters’, with the hope that this will lead centres to study a local site ‘that will enhance learners’ developing sense of identity’. The choice of site is not totally free, as there is a list of ‘parameters’ (though these are really guidelines to help centres choose workable sites). Like the other boards there is no ‘requirement’ for a site visit, but the specification does say that one is ‘desirable’. There is no requirement for the study to relate to any other part of the specification, though I would imagine that many schools will choose to find a site related to the periods and substantive history that they will be teaching elsewhere in the course.
The alternative specification, in common with those offered by the other boards, embeds the historic environment within another study. Also like most of the specifications set out by the other boards, the historic environment study makes up 10% of the final marks of the GCSE. Like AQA, OCR have embed their historic environment study within the British depth study. There are two environment studies. “Urban Environments: Patters of Migration” is the study for the BASA ‘Migration to Britain’ depth study, whereas for both “The English Reformation” and ‘Personal Rule to Restoration’ depth studies centres will take ‘Castles Form and Function 1000-1700’. This approach seems to imply an aspect of change and continuity that the others do not.
This approach also differs from the other specifications in that it involves both a Board and a centre specified site which ‘complements the specified sites’. Again a site visit is ‘desirable’ if not required. The sites for both studies until 2022 are set out in the draft specification.
I will be making a more detailed survey of each of these specifications in the coming weeks, starting with the AQA spec. I’d love to know what departments are thinking about doing with regard to the historical environment study – or whether it has figured much in your thinking so far?