The calling of humanities is to make us truly human in the best sense of the word
J. Irwin Miller
Our aim in the Infant and Junior departments is to instil in the children a love of the subject that will encourage them to continue their studies further into the Senior School.
The study of history in the Junior School ranges from the Egyptians through to 1945; a study of aspects of local history and the history of the school itself form the basis of the Year 6 curriculum. Therefore, by the time the pupils enter the Senior School, they have a broad knowledge of the times and major events. Outside educational visits support and enhance the pupils’ understanding of events.
One of the important skills when studying history is the processing of differing types of information, ranging from textbook descriptions to document sources, and the use of maps, photographs and computer databases. This is reinforced by project work, encouraging pupils to accumulate and process facts, as well as producing their own notes.
Importance is placed in history lessons not purely on the learning of historical facts but also on the acquisition of key historical skills. From Year 7 onwards pupils learn to use terminology such as cause and consequence, chronology, change and continuity. Pupils engage in source analysis from an early stage, and are taught about bias and the reasons for different historical interpretations. At all stages of the history syllabus, a balance is achieved between the global and national impact of key events and their effect on the lives of ordinary people living at the time.
The Year 7 course covers British history from 1066 to 1485 – starting with the Norman Conquest, going through key episodes under the reign of the Norman, Plantagenet, Lancastrian and Yorkist kings, ending with the Wars of the Roses. Major events such as the Black Death, the Peasants’ Revolt, the Crusades, the Magna Carta and the Hundred Years War are all studied in depth.
Year 8 covers the period 1485 to 1714 (Tudor and Stuart dynasties) but also extends into a thematic study which covers events later in the 18th century on the topic of Revolution: the Jacobite Uprisings, the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. Key themes and events covered in the first part of the course are the reign of Henry VII and the restoration of law and order, Henry VIII, his six wives and the dissolution of the monasteries, religious upheaval under Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, the Spanish Armada, James I and the Gunpowder Plot, Charles I and the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell and the Protectorate, the Restoration of the monarchy, the Great Plague and Great Fire of London and the Glorious Revolution.
The Year 9 course covers a lot of the topics currently being studied at GCSE, but in less depth. It is based on 20th-century events, with emphasis on the causes and events of the two World Wars. Pupils learn, for example, about trench warfare and what life was like for the troops in World War One, as well as gaining insight into the effects of war on ordinary people in Britain and acquiring a political understanding of the inter-war years and the reasons for and impact of the rise of dictators in Europe and further afield.
In Years 10 and 11, pupils follow the AQA History B GCSE course (although from first teaching in September 2016 there will be significant changes to the GCSE history course). This picks up the themes studies in Year 9 and examines them in much greater detail. The first course of study concerns conflict in the modern world, looking at the causes and consequences of the two World Wars more than their actual events – areas studied include the Alliance System, the Naval Race, the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Schlieffen Plan, the terms and impact of the Treaty of Versailles, the failure of the League of Nations, Hitler’s foreign policy and the failure of Appeasement. The second section of the course involves a depth study of three different countries over a short period of time, and we choose to look at USA in the 1920s, Germany in the 1930s and Vietnam from 1954 to 1975. Additionally, there is, for the time being at least, a controlled assessment component in which pupils conduct source analysis studies of two topics which change each year but look at different aspects of Britain’s contribution to the fighting in the two World Wars.
Pupils are taught about the relationship between the earth and its people and how we can be environmentally aware. The school is fortunate to have a large woodland area and river running through its grounds, allowing pupils the ability to study many areas of the syllabus practically.
In the Infants, we begin to develop pupils’ knowledge and understanding of places and processes in the world, both locally and beyond. We also encourage them to conduct simple investigations in our extensive grounds.
As they move through the Junior School, the pupils widen their knowledge about the world and expand their knowledge and skills base, through classroom work, working in the local environment and field trips. From Year 5 upwards, the pupils are taught by a Geography specialist.
As they progress into the Senior School, they continue to learn in a variety of ways and their independent study skills are developed through a study of a particular aspect of the subject. Head of Geography, Mr Johnson, believes that pupils learn about the subject through their own experiences, therefore the pupils have the opportunity to participate in a number of field trips to places including North Yorkshire, the Lake District and North Wales. Pupils at Beech Hall follow the Geography National Curriculum. Infant and lower Juniors are taught by their class teacher, and from Year 5 upwards a geography specialist teaches the pupils.
The school is a Christian establishment; however, the varying stories, festivals and points of view of all major world religions are studied through lessons and assemblies. We organise various trips in order to complement the curriculum and visitors are also invited in to the school to augment the pupils’ studies. These first-hand accounts by interesting, knowledgeable speakers enhance our pupils’ understanding.
Pupils choosing to take Religious Studies for GCSE follow the AQA Religious Studies B course. This is based on attitudes of different world religions towards key contemporary issues. The course is divided into two parts: Religion and Life Issues, and Religion and Morality. Pupils learn about and compare the teachings of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism on issues such as animal rights, the environment, prejudice and discrimination, abortion, drug abuse, crime and punishment, wealth and poverty. Because of its nature of comparative religious study, the course is open to pupils of all religious denominations.