“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

‘Fit for Life’ through History

The history curriculum at John Spence is built upon our school ethos of Fit for Life’. We aim to develop articulate and interested historians, who have the skills and knowledge to ask perceptive questions about the country in which they live and the wider world around them. John Spence students will become worldly citizens who, through the study of processes centuries ago, can understand and navigate the society in which they live today and the one that emerges in the future.

Skills and Knowledge

At Key Stage 3, the history curriculum is chronological and is designed to give students a solid command of the history of the nation in which they live, from before the Norman Conquest up to the 20th Century. This study is more than just the study of events; however, the curriculum is designed so that students’ progress through the curriculum by experiencing repeated encounters such as the changing power of kingship, religious changes, and expanding empires over time.

Lessons are posed as enquiry questions and focus on historical concepts such as continuity and change, cause and consequence, similarity, difference and significance which enables students to make connections, draw contrasts, analyse trends, and create their own structured writing.   Historical skills are an integral part of the history curriculum and at John Spence developing skill is a key focus. Again, students are exposed to repeated encounters of skill across KS3 in order to develop a range of historical skills from writing complex explanation to analysing sources and interpretations and evaluating significance.

In Year 7 we start with a study of the impact of migration to the British Isles through to a focus on Medieval England and significant turning points. In Year 8, we range from the religious changes of the Tudor period to the growth of industry and Empire, leading into the First World War. In Year 9, we demonstrate how the end of the First World War created the breeding ground for fascism and the origins of the Second World War. The Holocaust forms a major focus of our Year 9 course. We also introduce the long-term origins of the Cold War, which we continue with into Key Stage 4.  Additionally, each year has a local history study which enables students to see the impact of world events through a more personal lens. The curriculum also offers many opportunities to examine the history of other countries and peoples through lessons and our homework programme.

At Key Stage 4 we build on much of what has been learned at Key Stage 3, by continuing to look at European conflict and we deepen our understanding of the formation of the UK via a study of Medieval history. Examining the expansion and consolidation of the USA enables us to make tangible links with the modern world and current affairs. As well as the Cold War, the Key Stage 4 course includes the history of the USA 1840-1895, the history of medicine in Britain from c1000-present and the reign of Edward I.

Communication and community

To progress in history, communication (particularly but not exclusively, the written word) is crucial and developing literacy skills is inherent at all levels of study. History lessons at John Spence align with the school wide focus on literacy; students are continually exposed to ambitious texts and adventurous vocabulary is explicitly taught. Critical analysis of sources, why some are more useful and convincing than others, is also important. We invest significant effort improving and honing students’ ability to write developed and complex explanations of cause and consequence

Homework requires independent research and also revision; the ability to learn and then recall and apply factual content is a key skill for exam success.

At John Spence we are a community, and history lessons are an important vehicle in which to expand our community and ensure that everyone is included, represented and valued. British values emerge continuously across the history curriculum with students exposed to the rule of law, democracy, respect and tolerance and individual liberty regularly. In addition to these fundamental values, students frequently explore different cultures, examine contrasting opinions and actions, and are exposed to great works of art, literature and architecture within their lessons. Students develop proficiency in skills needed for further education and future careers. History at John Spence provides students with opportunities to develop as worldly citizens who are ‘Fit for Life’.


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.