At its root, History is an ongoing debate about the past.
Historians aim to arrive at persuasive theories about what happened in the past and why, and it is the continual dialogue between these competing theories that makes the subject such a fascinating one. In the Sixth Form, we encourage our historians to reach their own conclusions on complex historical questions, by developing their ability to analyse evidence and craft convincing arguments. Through their lessons and wider preparatory reading, students not only develop a detailed understanding of past societies, but also refine their ability to evaluate the competing interpretations of other historians.
Students are therefore encouraged to undertake their own wider reading for each lesson, and we aim to teach our Sixth Formers in a style akin to undergraduate seminars. This allows students to question what they have read, air their ideas, test theories, and challenge competing interpretations. As well as the examination board textbooks, students are provided with a range of historians’ work to deepen their understanding of the syllabus content, and are also encouraged to make use of the excellent text and electronic collections in the Mervyn Peake Library to support their learning.
Students who choose to study History at A Level will follow the Edexcel syllabus. This requires candidates to study four modules: two units in the Lower Sixth and two units in the Upper Sixth.
These topics include a depth study on Mao’s China between 1949 and 1976, and a breadth study on Russia from 1917 to 1991 in the Lower Sixth. In the Upper Sixth, students complete a breadth module on the British Empire 1763 and 1914, and a coursework element linked to historical interpretations from the Russia course. The course is assessed through this internally marked coursework assignment, and three examination papers at the end of the Upper Sixth. Overall, the course gives students the chance to engage with and learn about some of the major transformations in modern global history, that have shaped the current political and economic climate.
Students who have enjoyed GCSE History, who have a passion for the past, and a love of reading should certainly consider taking the subject at A Level. Studying History develops students’ skills of analysis, synthesis, deduction, and evaluation, as well as helping them to become expert essay-writers and convincing debaters. This set of skills opens many doors, and is highly-valued by top universities and employers alike.