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A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.

Marcus Garvey


What is History?

The study of or a record of past events considered together, especially events of a particular period, country, or subject: Cambridge Dictionary

The bodies of knowledge about the past produced by historians, together with everything that is involved in the production, communication of, and teaching about that knowledge. Professor Arthur Marwick, The Open University

History is the study of the past – specifically the people, societies, events and problems of the past- as well as our attempts to understand them. It is a pursuit common to all human societies.


Why do we study History?

Understanding the past and how it links to the present helps our understanding of our long human story. All societies are living histories – the product of all that has been inherited from the past, shaping our present and contributing to our future. We live in societies with languages, cultures, traditions and religions that have evolved over millennia. We use technologies that have developed from the earliest flint tools to computerised artificial intelligence technology – each stage contributing a chapter to the narrative of our human experience. We aim to enable pupils to understand that there are multiple interpretations of the past – the past is not simply ‘dead and gone’ but is continually being re-interpreted.


The National curriculum states the purpose of historical study as:

Helping pupils to gain a coherent knowledge and understanding of Britain’s past and that of the wider world. It should inspire pupils’ curiosity to know more about the past. Teaching should equip pupils to ask perceptive questions, think critically, weigh evidence, sift arguments, and develop perspective and judgement. History helps pupils to understand the complexities of people’s lives, the process of change, the diversity of societies and relationships between different groups, as well as their own identity and the challenges of their time.


Through their study of the Opossum History curriculum, we intend that pupils will:
1. Develop an understanding of the history of Britain and the wider world  

Pupils develop a wide body of substantive knowledge of how past societies in Britain and the wider world were built, operated and changed over time and how societies influenced others. They make connections and comparisons with contemporary society. At KS2, learning about Britain’s history will be broadly chronological, to support understanding of development and change over time. We intend that historical concepts are repeated over time (in different meaningful contexts), so that pupils have the opportunity to build their schemata and strengthen their understanding with each encounter.


2. Gain knowledge beyond their experience

Pupils learn about wide ranging events, concepts and significant people beyond their everyday experience, through stories from the past. They consider lessons (good and bad) which can be drawn from these narratives to support their understanding of cause and consequence. We intend to share powerful stories and lessons from the past with pupils, which they may not otherwise have the opportunity to hear.


3. Understand identity

By learning about the history of Britain, including the migration of groups of people from prehistoric times onwards, the curriculum aims to instil a sense of belonging for all pupils – helping pupils to recognise their story within the long history of this country and the global community. Exploring the achievements of this country and significant individuals throughout history may contribute to a sense of identity and connectedness. By including historical content and narratives from the communities of origin of large proportions of our school population, we intend that all pupils feel represented and can recognise their voice in the story of Britain.


4. Developing an enquiring and analytical mind

Historical study requires learner to enquire; seek, analyse and critically evaluate evidence; and draw conclusions. By integrating disciplinary knowledge into each study, we intend that pupils are able to construct and present coherent historical arguments from their findings. They gain an understanding of how people’s claims about what happened in the past can be tested. They can support their evaluation of truth by reference to evidence. They grasp that reconstruction and interpretation are used by historians to make judgements about historical events.


5. Acquire historical vocabulary

We intend that pupils increase their historical vocabulary across the primary school experience. This enables them to speak a ‘disciplinary language’ in common with other historians. Mastering vocabulary relating to knowledge and concepts supports pupils to understand material they encounter in historical sources and the ability to communicate it clearly.


6. Become inspired

Through the provision of wide ranging content, enriched by contextual hinterland material, we intend that pupils will experience a sense of excitement from learning about the past and their place in the long history of human civilisation. We intend that this will inspire pupils to want to continue their learning in History as they move to the next stage of their education.


Opossum Values

Through their study of people and societies of the past, Opossum values are realised.

Being respectful - demonstrating respect for the viewpoints of others by listening courteously and debating respectfully.

Being aspirational – an expectation that pupils are capable of research, discussion, debate and opinion on increasingly complex topics

Being caring – developing empathy for individuals and groups of people who faced challenging circumstances in the periods studied

Having integrity - Seeking truth by considering and critically analysing historical perspectives and interpretations. Show a respect for evidence, a concern for the truth and for valid argument, not mere assertion.

Being creative – using creative skills to communicate historical information    

Being community minded – recognising how contemporary communities and society have been impacted by historical events


Scope and sequence

The Opossum History curriculum fulfils and exceeds the requirements of the National curriculum. The curriculum has been designed to tell our human story from the earliest civilisations to the recent past. Telling our story in chronological sequence supports pupils to make sense of significant events and time periods and enables them to see the links and consequences of actions and developments over time.  Stories have been selected to enable pupils to learn key knowledge which will support them to answer each enquiry question. Stories of people and events include those which represent some of our local communities, enabling pupils to recognise their own heritage in the curriculum. Examples include: the impact of early Islamic scholarship, the significance of Mansa Musa and 20th Century Migration. The curriculum intends to ensure that the experience of women across history is also included, for example through exploring the stories of Millicent Fawcett, Rosa Parks, Boudicca, and migrants during the Roman period. 


Units of study have been sequenced to build pupils’ understanding as they progress through the school.

In EYFS, historical learning begins in ‘Understanding the World’ where children begin to make sense of their local surroundings, community and the wider world. By engaging with a broad selection of fiction and non-fiction texts, rhymes and poems children learn and understand concepts such as past and present and talk about similarities and differences between people around them and their role in society. In each of the overarching half termly themes, children explore ideas relating to history and the passing of time. Examples include:

All about Me: children begin to make sense of their own life-story and family history by looking at photos and sharing family stories.

Festivals and Celebrations: learning about significant people and events such as birthdays and Bonfire Night.

Stories from the Past: exploring the way people lived at different times in the past, such as the Stone Age and Victorian era.

The stories and language frames used in EYFS allow modelling and repetition of phrases that help children understand the concepts of past and present and develop their vocabulary. By manipulating (playing with) artefacts and looking at pictures, children have their first introduction to historical sources. 

Learning in KS1 builds on the Early Years’ experience by investigating topics within living memory and the lives of significant individuals. Topics may begin with children’s experience before comparing this with other historical periods – for example when investigating how toys and games have changed over time, pupils will consider contemporary activities before comparing them with those enjoyed in the past.  These studies enable young pupils to secure their understanding of how the past is similar and different to the present and that, over time, things and places may change. The KS1 curriculum begins with studies of significant people and developing understanding of changes over time e.g. ‘How has the High Street/our community changed over time?’ In the Year 2 study of the Great Fire of London, pupils study a specific event in depth. This study allows the opportunity to introduce disciplinary concepts e.g. evidential thinking and historical significance. The study of the Stone Age to Iron Age is scheduled in our curriculum at the end of KS1 (Year 2); this creates an opportunity for a depth study of the era and sets the foundation for the chronological learning, which will follow in KS2.  Each significant person and event studied is included in a visual chronology which is built upon throughout KS2.

Learning in KS2 is chronologically sequenced; this is to support pupils to understand the narrative in order, particularly in relation to connection between societies, invasion and settlement by different groups. Core studies of ancient societies and non-European study are allocated across the key stage. All time periods studied are added to a visual chronology to secure this understanding. KS2 concludes with a studies of migration over time, with a particular emphasis on the impact this has had on London.


Historical Terms

Substantive Knowledge – knowledge about the past (content)

Disciplinary Knowledge – knowledge about how historians investigate the past and construct claims, arguments, accounts

Substantive Concepts – abstract concepts such as invasion, empire, trade, monarchy. Pupils will explore wide ranging concepts across the curriculum but some will be more frequently encountered – these include: movement of people (migration), movement of goods (trade) and movement of ideas (technological development/education). Concepts such as leadership (government/monarchy) and religion also feature strongly in the topics studied.

Disciplinary Concepts – develop pupils’ rational and critical thinking:

  • Cause
  • Consequence
  • Change and continuity
  • Similarity and difference
  • Historical significance
  • Sources and evidence
  • Historical interpretations. 

Each study is developed to respond to an enquiry question centred around one of these disciplinary concepts.