History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

Teaching Issues

2016 History GCSE: Looking carefully at the specification content

So, I have spent the last couple of days looking again at what AQA, Edexcel, OCR/A, OCR B and WJEC are proposing for the 2016 History GCSE. And my oh, my the devil is in the detail! I know that these specs are only in draft form at the moment, but with such massive changes on the horizon knowledge is power. We all need to make an informed decision on who is offering what is best for us and our students.

Be careful

To help you think about all of this, I have compared the content proposed for what seem like some of the same topics: USA, Germany and The Normans.  There is some agreement, but lots of  variation in the content proposed by the main providers. You need to be very careful when deciding which exam board to choose! If not you could end up teaching the wrong course and the wrong content.

USA 20th Century

Lets take America in the 20th century as an example. This is quite a popular option. But which exam board do you choose? Well if depends when and what content you want to cover.

Time periods:

  • 1910-1929 WJEC: A Nation of Contrasts, depth
  • 1919-48: OCR/A: The People and the State, depth
  • 1920-73: AQA: Opportunity and Equality, period
  • 1929- 2000: WJEC: The Development of the USA, period
  • 1945-74: OCR/A The People and the State, period
  • 1954 – 72: Edexcel Conflict Home and Abroad

So if you wanted to do the traditional pre WW2 with the Roaring Twenties and the New Deal then you probably go for WJEC, or OCR/A. And if you wanted to get your students to learn about the USA in the 20th century as longer period you could do AQA, or the WJEC development study. But,  don’t make your choice just based on the title. You need to be much cuter than that I am afraid.

The content that is covered by the different exam boards has large variations in it. Some cover the stuff  that you would expect to see and already have some corking lessons ready to go, but some boards miss some things out.

If we start with the pre WW2 content, there does seem some similarity,  I love all of the cinema and entertainment side of the 1920s. Neil Bates has some amazing lessons on cinema scandals.  Only WJEC covers this in its content, AQA and OCR/A miss it out. The same goes for the Monkey Trial, and the reasons for The Bust!?

If you were going to choose a USA course that covers post World War 2 content, then you need to be very careful. The WJEC, OCR/A and Edexcel courses all have major differences and some have some striking omissions.

They do agree on some things. As you would expect they all cover The Civil Rights and Racial Tension. But then they seem to go their separate ways. The Edexcel course goes into major detail about Vietnam, the others do not.

OCR/A has lots of detail about political dissent in  1960s America and the others do not, where as WJECs course turns into a kind of Cold War course by looking at US flash points post ’45.

This is all very confusing. And we can’t afford to get it wrong.

Germany 20th Century

There is more agreement here in content, particularly up until 1939/45. But again you need to be careful which course you choose as there is some new detail proposed by some, and omissions by others.

As you would expect all the boards are offering this as an option, but from many different starting points:

  • 1890-1945 AQA: Germany  Non British Depth / period study
  • 1918-45 Edxecel:   Weimar and Nazi Germany
  • 1919-33 WJEC: Depth  Germany in transition
  • 1919-91 WJEC: Period study
  • 1925-55 OCR A: Germany  The People and State
  • 1933-45 OCR B:  Living Under Nazi Rule

So if you go with AQA you will have to get to grips with details about the Kaiser and his rule, before following a quite traditional amount of content.  Edexcel is proposing  what I would  expect this course to do, but there is more precise detail to be covered than the other examination boards. OCR /A misses out all the  end of WW1 s details and the terrible year of 1923 which to my mind is a shame, as I love teaching this. It also misses out the recovery 1924-29, so all of the Weimar culture that many of us love.

After this all the providers seem to agree to 1939 –  OCR/ B comes into fray from 1933. The content proposed across all of this by WJEC in its period study is patchy to say to least….

If you want to get to grips with Germany post 45 then OCR A will look at de Nazification and the differences between East and West Germany. The others stop in either ’39, or ’45.

By the way, if you want some fab lessons, that work and you can teach straight away, you could always download our Germany lessons.

The Normans

The  pattern continues with other options. The Norman Conquest looks like a great British depth study,  but again the devil is in the detail. All the three boards covering, this start and end at different points?!

  • 1066-1100 AQA: Norman England
  • 1060-88 Edxecel: Anglo Saxon and Norman England
  • 1065-87 OCR B: Norman Conquest

Be careful, if you think this course is just about the build up to, and the Battle of Hastings. This is only the starting point, and AQA  fail to mention The Battle of Fulford!

There is more similarity and agreement here, than for The USA, although OCR B is the only course looking at castles throughout the whole period, and AQA and Edexcel focus on the changes to the church and Archbishop Lanfranc…

In a nutshell

You need to be really careful about the courses that you choose. Sticking with your present exam board might not be the best option. There is lots of variation. I would recommend you hear from the main exam boards themselves. But when?  This could be time consuming. They are all offering their own training, but who can afford to take 4 days away from school? Never fear, help is at hand. You can hear from them at this year’s SHP Conference in July.

If you can’t make that, we have AQA, Edexcel, OCR and WJEC all under one roof in the Autumn Term.  And we  are on hand to offer advice and training on how to get to grips with other aspects of this  new GCSE.

For more information about our courses and how we are going to help you with the new GCSEs, it is well worth signing up to our newsletter, to keep two steps ahead.

Happy History Teaching




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