Serving in an area of high deprivation in West Leeds, our vision at Raynville Primary School is that every child should develop a deep understanding of the world and what it means to be a human. We believe that humanities can be improved in every school if there is strong subject leadership, high-quality curriculum progression, regular staff professional development and most importantly a vision for how the subjects can enrich the lives of young people, taking them beyond their everyday experiences. There are three underpinning principles for our humanities curriculum.
First, we aim for pupils to develop a detailed factual knowledge that is sequenced in a progressive way. Both subjects include a knowledge organiser for every unit of work, which includes vocabulary, facts, dates and all other relevant information that all children are expected to memorise before they move on to their next topic. Over time, this builds up in children’s long-term memory to become a storehouse of understanding that can be utilised in several other subjects. This knowledge is useful for its own sake, for reading comprehension and it is also important as they move into high school and begin to prepare for formal qualifications.
Next is the principle of enquiry focus. Each lesson begins with a question that is conceptual and assumes that pupils will have to draw not only on the knowledge that they’ve learned in lesson time but also their conceptual understanding of the subject itself. For example, in a History lesson studying the First World War, instead of beginning with an explanation of the learning objective such as ‘to know the causes of the First World War’, we begin with an enquiry question, such as ‘which cause of the first world war might have been the most significant?’. This principle draws on the facts they should know on the knowledge organiser (see the example above) for the lesson but expects pupils to go beyond this and consider the historical significance of what they are learning and form a judgment for themselves. In addition to pupils developing conceptual understanding of the subject through an enquiry question, it also aids assessment. By beginning and ending a lesson with an enquiry question, you can assess, knowledge, skills and understanding and the lesson still remains open ended: the more able attainers can develop a sophisticated understanding of the lesson while the lower attainers can respond simply, yet every pupil has been taken beyond their everyday experience to make a judgment on the historical period being studied.
The final principle is creative,hands-on learning. At Raynville, we aim to ensure that everything we do in our subject is as engaging as it can possibly be. In Geography, for example, instead of stopping at the drawing of rivers and labelling them (which is still an important step) we try to carry this forward and make model diorama rivers that show the source, upper, middle and lower courses and represent the journey of a river. This small example is one of many that we aim to embed into our practice as teachers to ensure that all of the learning pupils do at Raynville does not just stop at knowledge but aims to apply this to their understanding of themselves and the world in which they live.