How should we adapt the history and geography curriculum next year?

After my last post, I was asked what my thoughts about history and geography next year are, so I thought I’d write a new post on the topic. These are just some of my personal suggestions, and as usual I need to say that this isn’t the definitive way to approach this because every school will be different, but hopefully my advice will be useful.

My first step would be to identify which history and geography topics each class missed this year. Look at the content that is normally taught in these topics, and which National Curriculum objectives they are teaching.

When deciding how to slot in missing topics, look at two things – whether/where these objectives will be revisited during the key stage, and how essential the content is. Obviously everything we teach is important, but realistically it’s not going to be possible to fit in everything that’s been missed and still teach the curriculum as normal, so some prioritising will have to take place.

  1. Is this the only time children will be taught a particular National Curriculum objective? If yes, then it will either need to be incorporated into another topic, or the whole topic will have to be slotted in next year. This decision depends on the next point.
  2. How essential is it? Having more than a superficial knowledge of some topics is vital for future learning in the subject. For example, my class missed learning about Ancient Greece in history. This is the only time they’ll learn about this time period throughout KS1 – KS3, but having some knowledge of it is important for children who want to continue with their history studies, as well as knowledge of Greek mythology being important for later learning in English. These children can’t leave primary school without learning about Ancient Greece, so we will have to fit the topic in next year.
  3. For some areas, you might decide that it’s important to have some knowledge, but that it can be reduced so that there’s much less content than normal in order to combine topics. For example, the history bullet point in the National Curriculum which includes an overview of ancient civilisations, and a depth study of one civilisation. Although in an ideal world these would be done as two separate topics, if necessary they could be combined, with the depth study involving a couple of extra lessons rather than a whole term’s learning.
  4. If the missed learning will be built on in topics taught later in the key stage (or in KS2 for Year 2), then those topics can probably go ahead, but with the teacher being aware that prior learning was missed so that they can adapt their planning to take that into account.
  5. As I’ve explained in my previous posts, some objectives can be delivered more effectively through being revisited frequently across the year, rather than being taught only in one term. The obvious example of this would be locational knowledge in geography. For KS1 – know the four countries of the UK, their capitals and the surrounding seas, and the seven continents and five oceans of the world. For KS2 – locate the world’s countries, and cities and counties of the UK. These need lots of practice for children to remember, so the best way to ensure children achieve these objectives is to plan in plenty of short opportunities to revisit and retrieve this information. I describe ways of doing this in more detail in this post: https://mrssteaches.school.blog/2020/02/05/history-geography-curriculum-decisions-for-class-teachers-part-2/

Once you know which units you need to try to fit in in each year group, look at your normal curriculum plan for next year. Can some of the units be shortened to make room for an extra one? Reducing the number of lessons for some topics, teaching only what is absolutely essential, should allow for the content that has been missed to be included. You may need to adapt the order in which you teach certain units as well, to allow for prior knowledge being missing. For example, Year 3 missed learning about the Romans in Britain. Year 4 would normally start the year learning about the Anglo Saxons, but this will need to be adapted so that they have learnt about Roman Britain first.

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