SHP: third plenary

Michael Maddison, HMI, on outstanding leadership in history.

Michael begins with some press headlines in the 6 months leading up to the publication of the new curriculum, and then invites us to identify the papers that have reported various headlines since. Michael is going to share Ofsted’s evidence, giving us a snapshot of the current picture. He fears that at primary, the picture has become less positive with less subject specialism and greater focus on creativity. It is episodic and leads to episodic knowledge. In secondary, there are huge successes. It is well taught by subject specialists and the NC has led to high quality teaching and learning. Attainment is high and entries are rising. History maintains a consistent GCSE entry for the past 20 years. Roughly a third of pupils take it.

There are concerns, though. More non-specialists and variable teaching time mean that standards are variable and progress is not fast enough. The person who indicates that his school gets 3 hours a week for history in year 7 is treated to envious sighs from the crowd. Students are restricted from accessing history post-ks3.

Regarding good leadership, Michael recommends a few books, including Ofsted’s Good Teaching, Effective Departments. He talks us through the supplementary history-specific guidance to go alongside the Ofsted level descriptors. Effective teachers have good subject knowledge. The learning is rooted in rigorous historical enquiry. Historical thinking, the ability to investigate, consider, reflect and review events, is well developed in great lessons. It’s also important to explain why they’re doing it. Lots of people singing from this hymn sheet this weekend. When Ofsted saw me, they did ask the students why they were doing their activity and they were able to answer. It is vital, he says, to have a clarity of rationale and thinking. Why, what, how, when? What do we want pupils to know, do and understand that they couldn’t before? Let the prior learning guide your planning.

What makes a good curriculum?


He cites the Hampshire History Steering Group and their work on getting children to appreciate causation at a much younger age. He also mentions Harris Academy and their 2 year KS3.

Use the data to assist when leading in department. he takes us through some slides, available later, showing statistics about achievement in history. On average, girls do 6 or 7% better than boys in history GCSE, for example.


He recommends the case studies available from Ofsted as models of good practice, and finishes by asking us to reflect on what we’ll do differently after today’s session. Replan ks3 – I don’t think I’ll have time to do two more.


He also says that all/most/some is a cop out and reduces challenge immediately. Hear, hear. As Jackie Beere said in a session I went to once – who wants to be some?

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