Imogen Wiltshire, Head of History at Framingham Earl High School
At Framingham Earl we are pleased with the balance between local, national and international stories in our curriculum. At Key Stage 3 we have worked on this over the last two years and at GCSE, the OCR History B (SHP) course allows us to cover American, German, British and even Norfolk history.
However, we wanted to further develop the threads and links between these stories, ensuring these are adequately highlighted to, and analysed by, students. The local, national and international history we teach should not be isolated and disconnected; it should be woven together, showing how Norwich, Norfolk and East Anglia are connected to wider historical stories.
When redeveloping our curriculum with this focus on ‘powerful connections’, we began with Year 7. We purposefully decided to start very locally, with our study of ‘When did Norwich change the most?’. This acts as our history skills unit, teaching chronology and basic terms to students. From the very start, therefore, we are showing how big historical events such as the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution and World War One impacted the local area.
At the end of this enquiry, we encourage students to visit Norwich and enter our photography competition, analysing the historic landscape for themselves. We then continue to focus on local history, looking at Sutton Hoo to introduce evidential thinking, and Walsham for our Black Death enquiry. Our lens for these is using the local context – one they are familiar with – to make national and international connections.
When thinking about Year 8, we switch focus and start looking at more national and international enquiries. Like many schools, we cover industrialisation, the British empire and the transatlantic slave trade. Using national databases and local archives we have ensured all of these enquiries are linked back to Norwich, Norfolk and East Anglia; again ensuring that this golden thread of ‘powerful connections’ is analysed at all points.
Our study on British America (nicely setting students up for the OCR History B Making of America course) is brought much closer to home when we tell the story of John Rolfe, who was married of course, to Matoaka (or Pocahontas). We can then bring their story back to Norfolk and Matoaka’s burial at Heacham on the North Norfolk coast. Lesser-known stories have also been uncovered through a little research. We learn that the Galam slave vessel was constructed in Kings Lynn (just under 50 miles east of Norwich) and about connections between Earsham Hall (15 minutes from our school) and a plantation in Jamaica. All these stories powerfully link together big world events to the local area.
It is useful to talk about this course specifically as it does brilliant work in joining the dots between the local, national and international perspectives. The journeys taken by people through history to migrate to Britain chart the changing relationships which the country has had with the wider world, whether this is through the medieval wool trade, the Reformation or the growth of the British Empire. Students can see how the story of Britain relates and connects to Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and beyond.
You can also easily enrich the Migrants to Britain course with local stories. For example, we show how Lavenham grew wealthy from the wool trade and look at records of Flemish migrants who settled there. We show how the Reformation in Europe led to ‘Strangers’ coming to Norwich – at one time making up one-third of the population. We discuss Italian migrants coming to Norfolk, with one family setting up the still-popular Paravanni’s ice cream. We reveal how hundreds of Kindertransport children were taken to holiday camps and schools in Suffolk. We are connecting this course with places they have visited and stories that are already familiar.
Every time we study the Migrants to Britain course with a new cohort, they bring their own stories of migration, powerfully connecting our classrooms with the wider world. In the last couple of years we have had a student whose grandfather had traced their heritage back to 17th century Huguenots. Another could trace his heritage back to 19th century Eastern European Jewish people. The course also allows us to share more recent experiences of migration, including from the European Union and Ukraine. We can then personalise the course with these enriching stories which then add interest to classroom lessons and depth to students’ exam answers.
At Framingham Earl, we have found this work invaluable for our students. We teach a cohort where most of our students are white, and it would be easy for students to think Norfolk is somehow monocultural. Our work on powerful connections and the courses we have chosen from OCR have allowed us to dispel this myth. We show how Norfolk and East Anglia have been at the centre of some key world events and profoundly connected to many more. Finally, it has shown how our students have a diverse range of stories and heritages amongst themselves and are powerfully connected to the wider world.
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Imogen Wiltshire is Head of History at Framingham Earl High School in Norfolk. She is also a mentor on the University of East Anglia PGCE programme.