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OCR plans to broaden the options in time and space with its new History A Level, to combat the repetition of narrow topics sometimes taken by history students at GCSE and A Level.
A Level students will be given the chance to tackle new topics, including Alfred the Great, Genghis Khan and pre-colonial African kingdoms, some appearing for the first time, alongside more familiar areas of study.
The proposed new History A Level, to be taught in schools from September 2015, aims to better prepare students for history at university level, encourage students to develop greater understanding of how different parts of the world relate to each other and help to revitalise and re-invigorate what is the fifth most popular subject at A Level.
Mike Goddard, OCR Head of History, commented: “School history has been criticised, sometimes unfairly, for being too repetitive and for having a 20th century, Western focus. Hitler and the Henrys can dominate. Universities tell us they want incoming students to have greater breadth of knowledge. It’s vital that schools and colleges have an opportunity to deliver, for example, the history of pre-colonial, non-western civilisations, alongside British history.”
“OCR’s new African Kingdoms c 1400 – 1800 topic for example, developed with help from experts in higher education, will give students, for the first time, the chance to discover the economic and political power of four pre-colonial kingdoms, which had far-reaching global trade and diplomatic connections.”
“To encourage schools to take a brave step and teach a broader range of history at A Level with confidence, schools need support. Those with fewer resources are more likely to play safe in their choice of topics. We will be providing extra help such as a web-based tool telling schools if their option choices meet requirements, what resources are available and offering a personalised specification.”
The principle of broadening school history is an approach favoured by many historians, including Professor Peter Mandler, President of the Royal Historical Society. Professor Mandler said: “The aspect of recent reforms to GCSE and A-Level most widely greeted with approval by academic historians has been the push to broaden the curriculum beyond the 20th century. History tells us not so much about who we are as about who we have been and what we might yet be. We welcome efforts by the examination boards to bring recent academic research on hitherto under-explored histories within reach of school pupils. It is particularly important not to tell the history of the non-Western world solely through its contact with the West.”
OCR, with the help of the Royal Historical Society, is planning a conference in the Autumn to encourage teachers to embrace a broader history curriculum at A Level. Professor Mandler continued: "We stand ready to work with schools to make exciting new curricula come alive for young people, to show them how much more history there is than 'Hitler (and Stalin) and the Henrys'."
Other new options planned for the A Level include The Early Anglo Saxons c. 400 to 800, The Ascendancy of the Ottoman Empire 1453 - 1606, Japan 1853 - 1937, and China and its rulers, 1839 to 1989.
More details of the new qualification will be made available in early June when the draft A Level History specification will be submitted to Ofqual for accreditation. OCR will be publishing all its draft specifications and exciting teacher resources on our website.
Take a look at the videos about how A Level History is changing and about the new African Kingdoms unit.