“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once, but 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” – Michelle Obama

At Key Stage 4 we follow the AQA syllabus. When the new GCSE was launched for teaching in 2016, we were able to choose three out of four components in areas we were already very familiar teaching, thus maximising expertise. While the focus and drive is, of course, attainment in an end exam, the units studied allow us to continue to look at how institutions in Britain have developed over the centuries (from the NHS to Parliament) and at our place in the wider world (Britain’s role in the Cold War, for instance).

The GCSE requires an interweaving of many skills; the recall and application of specific facts within developed explanations of cause and consequence, an ability to evaluate the relative importance of factors and the understanding of source material and how the purpose of source authors can affect what is being recounted.

Course content

Key Stage 4 is a very diverse programme of study. We begin with the Cold War at the start of Year 10, following on from the end of Year 9 and the final days of the Second World War from which emerged 40 years of enmity between the USA and the USSR. Also in Year 10, we study the expansion of the USA from the 1840s to the 1890s, thus learning about the emergence of the USA as we see it today. In Year 11 our focus is Paper 2 of the GCSE which is the history of medicine and the reign of Edward I. Paper 2 is focused entirely on Britain.

Skills developed

Literacy remains crucial to success at Key Stage 4. Critical analysis of sources, why some are more useful and convincing than others, is also important and thus why we practise this so much at Key Stage 3. We invest significant effort improving and honing students’ ability to write developed and complex explanations of cause and consequence. Home works at Key Stage 4 tend to focus around revision, almost exclusively so in Year 11; the ability to learn and then recall and apply factual content is a key skill for exam success.


Description Length Percentage Comment
Paper 1: Understanding the Modern World 2 hours 50%
Paper 2: Shaping the Nation 2 hours 50%


A study of history can lead to a diverse range of careers such as:

  • The media
  • Government
  • Heritage organisations (i.e.The National Trust)
  • Conservation
  • Teaching
  • Museums
  • The police and law.