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.



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  1. Pingback: New GCSE History – what do the boards have to offer? | One Damn Thing | The Echo Chamber

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