History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

The Essential Guide to the HRC Key Stage 3 Curriculum

20 year’s worth of thinking has gone into planning and resourcing the History Resource Cupboard KS3 curriculum.

The rationale behind this comes from scholarship, policy and best practice.

The free schemes of work and curriculum map provide you with an ambitious and coherent curriculum plan.

We believe that the National Curriculum for history provides a coherent, demanding and well-framed vision for what a high-quality history curriculum should be.

KS3 CurriculumIndeed, History Resource Cupboard’s KS3 curriculum aims to ensure that all pupils:

  • Become curious to ask questions and know more about Britain’s past and that of
  • Develop a chronological framework of British history that will enable them to make sense of the new knowledge they acquire.
  • Understand the process of change, to see how we arrived ‘here’ and help them to make sense of the present.
  • Realise that the past is gone and history is constructed and contested.
  • Can see and use History’s unique second-order concepts to construct arguments and support them to become analytical citizens who can question human motivation and society with skill and confidence.
  • Know and understand significant aspects of the wider world.
  • Gain and deploy historically grounded understanding of terms such as peasantry, empire and parliament.
  • Understand the methods of historical enquiry, including how evidence is used rigorously to make historical claims.
  • Can view history from multiple perspectives.
  • See the connections between social, political, religious, cultural and religious history; and view history on different time scales.

KS3 Curriculum Coherence

Right from the start pupils are introduced to how enquiry works via the mystery of the Loughshinny skeleton.

Next, building on scholarship, you provide an overview of a thousand years’ worth of history in one single lesson. Here your pupils are introduced to a chronological framework. They also see the four main themes that are used to structure each period:

  • Beliefs
  • Power
  • Ordinary Lives
  • Cultural Encounters

This curriculum is then taught chronologically via these four recurring themes. This allows you to gradually paint the big picture of Britain’s past, build the different narratives and provide your pupils with a real historical sense of each period covered.

These big stories are the threads that you weave through your curriculum. So, the story of monarch’s power is taught in your medieval power unit and dropped in once you go on to teach the medieval ordinary lives unit.  You then pick it up again in the Early Modern Period power unit, then again in the Industrial period.

Clever teachers will link back to the prior knowledge before introducing each new unit. ‘Remember when we looked at power in the Medieval Period? Who was in charge? What criteria did we use to judge how successful monarchs were? Well, now we are going to look at power in the Early Modern period to see how it develops / changes…’

To further help ensure pupils gain a big picture of the past, each unit starts with an overview before you dive into the depth of the 5 or 6 mini enquires that make up that particular unit. This ‘scale switching’ will encourage your classes to see how the particular lesson fits into the big picture of the curriculum.

Historical Knowledge and Progression

History is divided into two types of knowledge:

Substantive – the story.

Disciplinary – the conceptual.

Despite what you might have been led to believe, cognitive science tells us the substantive knowledge is best remembered if taught via the recurring second-order concepts that are unique to our subject. This is why the HRC KS3 curriculum is delivered via enquiries that mainly focus on second-order conceptual thinking. knowledge

Knowledge Takeaways are provided for each period.  These ensure that you are clear on the substantive knowledge you are intending to deliver. This is the knowledge you want your students to remember and take away from your curriculum.  Every enquiry lesson writeup outlines this for you.

Each unit provides you with a substantive knowledge test and with a knowledge organiser. Use them to help check how much your class knows.

Disciplinary knowledge is developed through different mini enquires. To ensure progression in historical thinking we have synthesised, from scholarship, exactly what kinds of analysis we want students to do in each second-order concept overtime. This is outlined in the ‘disciplinary’ take-away document.

Each enquiry write-up highlights the exact conceptual thinking that is being developed.

All enquiries lead to a substantial and meaningful end product. This shows you how well your student’s disciplinary knowledge is being developed. This assessment data, alongside the results from the substantive knowledge tests, will provide you with a rich understanding of how well your students are progressing.


When curiosity and fascination are caught, learning accelerates. Therefore all students need to be engaged if they are to sustain the effort needed to embrace complex concepts and recall important detailed knowledge.

All of the enquiries here are built around the principles for success in the history classroom. The intention is to make history meaningful by focusing enquiries around personal stories, particular places or puzzles and problems to be solved. We firmly believe in the use of the Initial Stimulus Material as originally outlined by Rob Phillips way back in 2002.

The use of the personal story is another powerful tool which brings history to life and makes students care about the past. Across this curriculum, you always hear from real people.

Access and Challenge

According to Michael Young, all students have a right to access the powerful provided by schools’ history. This right of access defines their entitlement as pupils. However, we also know that pupils learn at different rates and have different starting points.

The HRC KS3 curriculum has therefore been planned with this in mind.  Images, sorting activities, radar graphs, mysteries and Venn diagrams are used to ensure that work is accessible and challenging to all.

Modelling is another key to success. The intention is to ensure that the students know the secrets of success and can see what this looks like.

Having carefully thought out end tasks that use the information from the previous steps is key to ensure that learning is fun yet rigorous.

Making KS3 curriculum Assessment manageable and meaningful

markingTeachers need to be able to drill down and see how students perform on individual extended writing and spoken tasks, and to see how much substantive knowledge is being retained.

This curriculum allows you to do this. We build to answering extended written ‘end tasks’ and model how students should approach them. This is good practice.

Sometimes you should allow your students to answer a question cold – give them no support but just see how they can do. This will generate some important data for you.

The stepped approach to our enquiries will allow you to check learning. Mini plenaries are built-in for this reason.

It is also recommended that you should only really mark the end products in detail providing targets for improvement and high lighting where the student did well. Do not spend hours marking the work in the build-up to the final task.

Departments need to agree which of the end products used across the course they will mark diagnostically. Subject leaders need to generate reliable data which can be used to track progress across the department. If time allows it is recommended student work is moderated and discussed in a departmental meeting.

It is suggested that the detailed marking of one to two end products happens every six weeks.

Build-in opportunities for peer and self-marking for some of the other written outcomes. Students need to be trained to mark their work.  This will help keep the workload manageable.

The end products/assessment opportunities allow your students to show you how well they are doing. How well have they grasped the key concepts? How accurate is their deployment of the substantive knowledge they use to support their arguments? Using end products alongside the substantive knowledge tests and homework checks, provide you with all the assessment data you need.

This kind of information informs the teacher and enriches discussions around which students may need more support with explanatory writing? Which topics may need to covered again? Whether or not the sequence of lessons leading up to the end product motivated the students and armed them with the skills and knowledge needed to tackle the final task. This allows you not only to review their learning but how well you have planned and delivered your curriculum.


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