Learning about and from the past

History is so much more than a record of events; it is the examination of the past which demands critical use of evidence. It is the process of enquiry, the search for evidence, and the examination of this evidence by sorting, evaluating and weighing it.  Historians use this evidence to imaginatively reconstruct the past – to write their history. The problem is that evidence is nearly always incomplete so historians use their skills to fill in the gaps and imagine and infer how it might have been. However, when historians describe and explain the past, what we get is their construct, and not a fixed and uncontested view of the past. Children should therefore have the opportunity to see how and why versions of the past differ.

How we cover the History curriculum year by year


Our aim is to stimulate children’s interest and understanding about the life of people who lived in the past. We teach children a sense of chronology and through this, they develop a sense of identity and cultural understanding based on their cultural heritage. They therefore learn to value their own and other people’s cultures in modern multicultural Britain and, by considering how people lived in the past, they are better able to make their own life choices today. They should develop a sense of who we are and why we are the way we are as a nation.

We teach children to investigate past events in Britain and in the wider world and, by doing so, develop the skills of enquiry, analysis, interpretation and problem-solving. By Year 6 our children should be able to look at evidence presented and ask … Is it reliable? What can I learn from it if it is unreliable? Is this an interpretation or primary evidence?


The National Curriculum states that at KS2 children should:

  • know and understand the history of these islands as a coherent, chronological narrative, from the earliest times to the present day: how people’s lives have shaped this nation and how Britain has influenced and been influenced by the wider world
  • know and understand significant aspects of the history of the wider world: the nature of ancient civilisations; the expansion and dissolution of empires; characteristic features of past non-European societies; achievements and follies of mankind
  • gain and deploy a historically grounded understanding of abstract terms such as ‘empire’, ‘civilisation’, ‘parliament’ and ‘peasantry’
  • understand historical concepts such as continuity and change, cause and consequence, similarity, difference and significance, and use them to make connections, draw contrasts, analyse trends, frame historically-valid questions and create their own structured accounts, including written narratives and analyses
  • understand the methods of historical enquiry, including how evidence is used rigorously to make historical claims, and discern how and why contrasting arguments and interpretations of the past have been constructed
  • gain historical perspective by placing their growing knowledge into different contexts, understanding the connections between local, regional, national and international history; between cultural, economic, military, political, religious and social history; and between short- and long-term timescales.

At Henleaze we strive to provide opportunity to:

  • develop critical thinking skills by adopting an enquiry-based approach, either by designing their own enquiry question for investigation or considering a well-designed question provided by their teacher.
  • make connections, comparisons and contrasts when carrying out history tasks.
  • input into the planning of their topics, reflecting their own interests, heritage and experiences.
  • develop their self-confidence and sense of belonging.
  • apply their historical skills and knowledge to a wide range of contexts outside of history lessons.
  • use their historical knowledge to develop presentation and drama skills, for example assemblies, topic talks and experience afternoons.
  • most importantly, to enjoy history and finding out about the world around them.

Planning and delivery

The humanities are taught mainly through topic work. Each year, there will be at least one topic with a History focus, and History will also be covered where relevant in other topics. Topics are designed to deliver essential subject knowledge and to progressively develop the skills required to think like a historian. 

Ancient civilizations are studied and the impact of invasions on the development of British culture. We aim to bring history to life through the use of stimulating visits and visitors, role play and story telling. The emphasis is not so much on committing to memory lists of dates, but more on understanding why things have happened in the past and the impact of historic events on our present lives. It is also important that children learn to be discerning in their use of historical evidence; history can look very different depending on your point of view.

Our curriculum takes into account what is relevant to our children, what they want to find out and Bristol, the city in which they live. Children make connections between what they have previously learnt to help them build a deeper understanding. Our Elli dimensions encourage children to ask questions, be curious about the past and learn to analyse what they find out.

Where appropriate, resources have been signposted to help teachers ensure plans include British values and diversity. Teaching and learning is made inclusive with a range of strategies – e.g. pre-teaching, support staff, paired learning and dyslexia friendly strategies.

Whilst a topic-based approach is taken at HJS, history skills have been mapped across the school to ensure curriculum coverage and progression. Teachers use this HJS progression of skills document as a basis for planning the history lessons for their year group. In addition to this, children are given the chance to input into their learning, telling teachers what they know already about a topic and what they would find out. Teachers will adjust their ideas based on this pupil voice. Teachers will also ensure that an enquiry approach is taken to most of the lessons in the sequence and will ensure that links are made with prior learning.

Wherever possible, links will be made between the aspect of history under examination and the local area to make history relevant to the children. Wherever possible, visits to local sites or expert visitors to school are encouraged to extend and enrich children’s learning.

There is no expectation for time allocated to history each week as the focus of the topic may vary between history and geography. However, the minimum teaching content expectation is set down in the progression of skills document.

Cross curricular links

History provides many opportunities to link with the wider curriculum. Our topic-based approach to delivering the humanities curriculum means that children will be thinking about chronology, causation and enquiry outside of formal history lessons, such as learning about the development of New York whilst learning about The Americas in Year 6.  

Children will also encounter historical content when learning about the wider curriculum, from investigating key moments is the understanding of the solar system in science to understanding context for pieces in art. Children will also encounter historical ideas, especially key individuals in assemblies and thinking starters

History offers a great opportunity to apply reading and writing skills in a meaningful context and history topics are often used as a stimulus for learning in the core curriculum. Presentations, particularly in UKS2, often use historical ideas as a start point for children’s own research and the development of speaking and listening skills

Equal opportunities and inclusion

History provides an inclusive platform. We aim for the curriculum to cover aspects of world history, to give equal prominence to the work of significant men and women, and to link with the lived experience of the people in our community.

All pupils share the same statutory entitlement to a broad, balanced and differentiated curriculum regardless of the ability, gender and cultural background. We plan our history lessons to facilitate the learning of all pupils as individuals with differing needs, backgrounds, experiences and expectations. Children with SEND will be provided with adult support, an expectation of differentiated outcomes and, where needed, differentiated worksheets.

History supports the development of a rich vocabulary and developing vocabulary is fundamental to pupils’ progress, narrowing the word gap between pupils who are word-rich and word-poor. History also fosters important attitudes such as critical thinking, empathy, awareness of the world around them and problem-solving.  Children will work individually and as part of a team which will build a sense of belonging, self-esteem and positive wellbeing. These are all valuable life skills for children of all abilities.