Richard Kerridge, History Subject Advisor
For my first blog, I have chosen something I think is important to write about, diversifying the curriculum. The UK is diverse in where its people, including your students, come from, and it is important that a school curriculum reflects this. Now is a good time to consider whether your history curriculum does or whether a switch to a new topic, such as African Kingdoms, might be the right move for you.
The African Kingdom unit of our A Level History is seeing rapid growth. Autumn term webinars have indicated more schools switching to this topic. Furthermore, we’ve spoken to several schools recently and know there are more teaching it, or planning to, for future entry.
Don’t just take our word for it. Joshua Newton of St Paul’s, London, currently supervises African Kingdoms as the NEA unit for his students. He is planning to introduce African Kingdoms to one class of students from 2023 for examination in 2025. From 2024 the whole A Level cohort will take it. He says,
‘The African Kingdoms coursework is a joy to read and very interesting. It is just great history.’
He’ll be writing our next blog and will outline the reasons for his decisions when considering the move to African Kingdoms.
As subject advisor Mike Goddard said in 2021,
‘This [African Kingdoms] wasn’t a response to market forces or to a demand from schools. It was a recognition that this was a gap in the syllabus and the course was a way of correcting that.’
In short, it was the right thing to do. You can read the context surrounding Mike’s comment in the reports from the Royal African Society.
We are getting anecdotal evidence of schools using the materials produced for the African Kingdoms website lower down the key stages. It is good to know that schools are using the resources in imaginative and engaging ways. If you are one of those schools, please get in touch as we would enjoy hearing about what you are doing.
As we have blogged in the past, this is so important, in part because it helps to create a broader sense of collective histories. As Professor Toby Green, a leading historian of pre-colonial West Africa, has commented:
‘By seeing the similarities and, of course, the differences between the African past and the histories of other parts of the world, a common sense of identity can be built, something which is vital in modern mixed societies’.
Units on offer at A Level range from Genghis Khan and the Explosion from the Steppes to 20th century South Africa. I have taught the Crusades and the Crusader States unit myself and remember how difficult it was to introduce students to what was to them a new world with diverse people. But once introduced there was no looking back.
At GCSE, both of our specifications have excellent units on migration. Speaking at the Westminster Education Forum, Dan Keates, Assistant Head Teacher at Framingham Earl High School in Norfolk, acknowledged that OCR has led the way in diversifying the history curriculum. His students and staff ‘love the OCR migration to Britain GCSE course’ – another initiative that we recently introduced and one that allows all students to see themselves in the story.
If you are thinking about diversifying your curriculum, remember we are here to help. Read the blogs and newsletters, make sure you register for updates and drop us an email to ask any question – or to let us know how you’re getting on.
Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you have any questions, you can email us at history@OCR.org.uk, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_History. You can also sign up for subject updates with the latest news, updates and resources.
Richard joined Cambridge International Assessment in September 2019 and OCR in October 2022. Before joining OCR he taught history for seventeen years. He was a Deputy Head of Sixth Form, Head of Humanities, SSAT Lead Practitioner as well as writing and contributing to text books and exam-board resources. He has presented at the Historical Association and Schools History Project Annual Conferences and for Keynote Education. Richard is very proud to be an Honorary Fellow of the Historical Association. He enjoys being surrounded by his family, friends and two dogs.