Following the launch of the reviewed national curriculum in September 2014, , staff at Skyswood have regularly reviewed the quality of their curriculum units and carried out an in depth review of history in September 2019. Our History Co-ordinator, Mr Grant Jones, has worked closely alongside staff to ensure an innovative, enquiry-based approach to History. The emphasis on the development of key historical skills is central to all units of study, and the five areas of skills development remain at the heart of the children’s learning.
Local history has a high profile right from the early years until the very end of Key Stage 2. Children learn about family history in Year 1, along with the story of St Alban and St Alban’s Cathedral. In Year 3 they visit Roman Verulamium and in Year 5 they study the War of the Roses, looking at the historical significance of St Albans (where there were two significant battles.)
Children learn best through practical engagement, and through projects such as the creation of our own Iron Age House, visiting speakers and theatre companies (such as the Florence Nightingale role play day and the History Off the Page Vikings experience) and purposeful trips such as the Celtic Harmony Day, the Tower of London and the Duxford War Museum. We aim to enthuse and engage our children, capture their imaginations and support them in developing a critical, enquiry-based approach to History that examines historical events from a range of perspectives. The five principles that underpin our History curriculum are to develop skills with regard to;
* HISTORICAL ENQUIRY
* HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION
* KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF EVENTS, PEOPLE AND CHANGES IN THE PAST
* CHRONOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING
* ORGANISATION AND COMMUNICATION OF HISTORICAL LEARNING
History and Geography units are taught as blocked units over the course of a term. Therefore, classes will cover at least one historical or geographical unit per term. Our cross-curricular approach ensures that historical learning is supported through literacy, art, music, and other curricular areas. Classes often present the children’s historical learning through special events, such as class assemblies.
Summaries of each unit of study are given below:
THE GUNPOWDER PLOT – Year 1 (Autumn Term)
The new curriculum requires a study in KS1 of significant events beyond living memory that are commemorated through festivals or anniversaries. The Gunpowder Plot is a short unit that looks into the story behind the plot and the significance of November 5th. The children enjoy the short unit and we are delighted that the Jersey Farm community put on a fantastic Bonfire Night Fireworks celebration that many of our children attend. The Verulamium display (by the lake) is another local event that is always very popular.
THE STORY OF ST ALBAN – Year 1 (Spring Term)
Another one of our shorter historical units, but obviously one with great local significance. The new curriculum states that children should study ‘significant historical events, people and places in their own locality.’ St Alban (the first Christian martyr) is the obvious choice. The vast majority of our children have already visited St Alban’s magnificent cathedral, and they enjoy finding out about the story of Alban (who was executed by the Romans up on the hill!)
OUR FAMILIES – Year 1 (Summer Term)
The summer term study looks at significant people in their own families and encourages children to find out about the lives of parents, grandparents and, where possible, even their great grandparents. Insights into how life has changed are all the more relevant when passed down as stories through the family. The children find out about how St Albans has changed over the past century and use photographic evidence to build up a simple chronological time line of developments within our local area. Our own book, ‘Skyswood- The First Fifty Years’ is a great resource for this unit. The children are fascinated by changes in uniform, the building and past stories from former Skyswood pupils and staff!
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE – Year 2 (Spring Term)
The study on Florence Nightingale is brought to a wonderful conclusion through our Florence Nightingale Role Play Day, where several activities are set up in the school hall and the History Off the Page Drama Company venture back in time with the children to discover what life was life at the Scutari Hospital during the Crimean War. The children enjoy the opportunity to dress up for the day, and through practical experiences gain a more critical insight into many aspects of life in the time of Florence Nightingale. Some carefully selected books are identified within our topic plan (which can be downloaded from this page.)
THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON – Year 2 (Spring Term)
Part of the KS1 History Curriculum includes events beyond living memory that are significant nationally, and cites the Great Fire of London as a recommended study. This project has already proven popular as part of the previous curriculum content and has been slightly tweaked to reflect the changes of emphasis with the new curriculum. The children find out all about the Great Fire of London, and consider the differences between seventeenth century London and London today, finding out about why the fire spread so rapidly and the challenges that were faced when attempting to put it out! The Fire Brigade pay a visit and the children consider how the changes make modern day fire fighting very different from back in 1666! Some of our children have visited the Monument and the Museum of London prior to their children learning about the Great Fire of London, this has equipped them with a good knowledge and lots of enthusiasm for their learning within school. Some highly recommended books are also highlighted in the unit plan (that can be downloaded from this page).
APOLLO SPACE MISSIONS – Year 2 (Summer Term)
The new curriculum states that children should find out about ‘changes within living memory and events beyond living memory that are significant nationally or globally.’ We have chosen to study the Apollo Space Missions in Year 2 as this is a subject that greatly appeals to our children and, for any adults born before 1969, must rank as one of the most significant historical events of our lifetime. The children will learn about the American and Soviet Union space race as a broad overview, but then focus in on the Apollo missions and moon landing in greater depth. The film Apollo 13 is a PG classification and might be a good film to watch with your children to inspire them in preparation for the unit on the Apollo missions.
STONE AGE/BRONZE AGE/IRON AGE – Year 3 (Autumn Term)
The new curriculum requires children in KS2 to study changes from the Stone Age to the Iron Age. The children find out about the Neolithic hunter-gatherers and early farmers, carrying out a focused study of Skara Brae. This year the children are in the process of making an outstanding model, having found out about the layout and history of Skara Brae. Their Visitors Centre have been particularly helpful and supplied us with some excellent books to support the project. The children also look at the Bronze Age, before moving on to the Iron Age. The visit to the Celtic Harmony Centre provides excellent insights into the lives of Iron Age hunters and farmers. We have also undertaken an ambitious project of creating our very own Iron Age House, giving the children first hand experience of the wattle and daub processes. Some excellent books are identified within the topic plan (downloadable from this page), and this would be the perfect time to read a copy of Clive King’s Stig of the Dump.
THE ROMANS – Year 3 (Spring Term)
Our study on the Romans is clearly enriched through local history and learning opportunities relating to Roman Verulamium are a common thread throughout all aspects of the unit. Children learn about ‘everyday Roman life,’ find out about the Roman Army, and explore differences between rich and poor, and Roman attitudes towards men and women. A local visit is always incorporated into the unit, which is further enriched through our Art project focusing on Mosaic. The new curriculum suggests coverage of events such as Julius Caesar’s attempted invasion in 55-54 BC, the Roman Empire by AD 42 and the power of its army, the successful invasion of Claudius and the resistance of Boudica (which also has local significance.). These events are covered through our investigations into the Roman Army. Discussions regarding chronology and timeline are key to the unit on Romans. The children look at this period as a bridge to modern history, following on from the Iron Age. This is an area that parents might discuss further with their children, linking it to our own location and historical knowledge of Roman Verulamium.
THE ANGLO SAXONS – Year 4 (Spring Term)
A shorter unit on the Anglo-Saxons and Scots leads naturally into our unit on the Vikings. The curriculum suggests that pupils should study the Roman withdrawal from Britain, the Scots invasions of north Britain (now Scotland), the Anglo-Saxon invasions, settlements and kingdoms (along with Anglo-Saxon art and Culture), and Christian conversion (Canterbury, Iona and Lindisfarne.)
THE VIKINGS – Year 4 (Spring Term)
Following on from the unit on Anglo-Saxons and Scots, the children learn about the Vikings in greater depth. The content of this unit includes Viking raids and invasion, resistance by Alfred the Great, further Viking invasions (Danegeld) and Anglo-Saxon life up until the death of Edward the Confessor in 1066. If visiting any friends or relatives in the north of England, this would be a perfect time to pay a visit to the Jorvik Viking Centre in York.
THE MAYANS- Year 4 (Summer Term)
Following on from our Geographical study of Mexico, the children enjoy finding out about the remarkable culture of the Ancient Mayan civilisation. The project is supported through an art unit on Mayan Art. This year we are trialling this as a new History project for our Year 4 class. The new curriculum suggests that schools should choose from one of three options for a non-European study that contrasts with British history. The studies should focus on either Early Islamic Civilisation, Benin (West Africa) or The Mayan Civilization. The Great Kapok Tree (Lynne Cherry) and The Vanishing Rainforest (Richard Platt & Rupert Van Wyk) are wonderful books to open up discussions about deforestation.
THE WAR OF THE ROSES – Year 5 (Autumn Term)
The National Curriculum states that ‘pupils should study an aspect of history dating from a period beyond 1066 that is of particular significance to the locality.’ The first battle in The War of the Roses actually took place in St Albans (There’s a plaque up by Victoria Street commemorating the very occasion.) This battle was won by the Yorkists, who seized Henry VI as an outcome of Warwick’s victory. There was also a Second Battle of St Albans (Bernard’s Heath) that was won by the Lancastrians on their march to London. On this occasion the Yorkists fled, allegedly leaving Henry VI sitting under a tree singing to himself! The children learn about these battles, but also have an overview of the twists and turns throughout the War of the Roses. The children then turn their attention to the mystery of the Princes in the Tower. Was it really Richard who murdered them? Or was Henry to blame? The children examine historical evidence in order to make their own conclusions on what was most likely to have happened.
THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS – Year 5 (Summer Term)
One of the most popular history topics for our children. The unit of study offers opportunities to consider many different aspects of life in Ancient Egypt, including Egyptian mythology and the hierarchy that existed within Ancient Egyptian society. The project is supported by a very creative art unit, where the children make a beautifully decorated clay sarcophagus and a canopic jar. The children always enjoy finding out about ‘mummies’ and give thoughtful consideration to the central importance of the River Nile, both from a historical perspective and indeed with relation to Egypt today. For additional enrichment, parents might consider a trip to the British Museum, or the smaller but exclusively ‘Ancient Egyptians’ Petrie Museum (which is within easy walking distance of the British Museum).
WORLD WAR II – Year 6 (Autumn Term)
The children learn about events leading up to the beginning of World War II and consider a number of key events from different perspectives. The study includes the opportunity to find out about the evacuation and The Blitz, considering a range of historical evidence and materials. The children support their learning through a study of carefully chosen literature (eg Goodnight Mr Tom, The Diaries of Anne Frank).
THE ANCIENT GREEKS -Year 6 (Spring Term)
Year 6 children absolutely love the opportunity to explore some of the myths and legends of Ancient Greece and therefore this project comes to life not only in History lessons, but also through Literacy. The class draw thoughtful comparisons between life in the contrasting cities of Athens and Sparta. They investigate several areas of life in Ancient Greece, including the origins of the Olympic Games, Greek warfare, food, costume, community, theatre and art. The class also look at how the English language has been influenced by the Ancient Greeks. The unit includes great opportunities for role-play and is always a popular topic with the children.