This week, OCR will submit its new draft History GCSEs to Ofqual, the first of 47 draft OCR qualifications for teaching in 2016 in the second wave of education reform.
This comes just weeks after OCR had all 37 of its new qualifications for teaching in 2015 accredited – the highest number by any exam board.
OCR’s two new History GCSEs, to be taught from September 2016, both contain an optional new strand of study, ‘Migration to Britain’, since medieval times. “We’re already hearing that this will be popular in schools,” said Mike Goddard, Head of History at OCR. “Exploring and understanding the constant shifts in the British population is a rigorous and exciting new academic topic for young people in schools to be able to study in detail for the first time. We can’t understand Britain economically, culturally or politically, if we don’t understand our relationship with the world. Migration into and out of Britain is and always has been a central part of this relationship.”
OCR believes migration to Britain makes an ideal topic as it asks GCSE students to consider historical concepts of continuity and change over a long sweep of time – one of the new requirements for History. “Our two History GCSEs allow schools freedom to take their own approach to the topic: whether it’s to use the theme to understand the events of the past or to use it to understand elements of British society today which could involve a study of their own town or city in comparison with urban communities such as Spitalfields in London, St Paul’s in Bristol or South Shields in Tyneside all affected by migration,” explained Goddard.
Martin Spafford, Head of History at George Mitchell School in East London for over 20 years, and an education committee member of BASA (Black and Asian Studies Association), helped design the new GCSEs. He said: “It’s key to understand that through a study of migration, children can reach an understanding of the key historical events that have shaped this country and its relationship with the world – such the Hundred Years’ War and the British Empire, through to the Industrial Revolution and including the European Union.
“This is not an esoteric study of multiculturalism. This topic is core British history and inclusive of the history of all of us, whether you see your roots as being Irish, Saxon, Viking, African, Bangladeshi, French or German, for example, or not.” He continued: “Students may be surprised to discover, for example, how in the 1440s, one in 100 people in England was foreign born. In London, it was six in 100, exactly the same proportion as in the 1901 census,” added Spafford. “And parish records collected by BASA show people of African and Asian origin were widely dispersed throughout England from the 16th century.” He also praised the topic for allowing students to develop what he calls ‘historical literacy’, helping them to connect with the lives of ordinary people.
Professor Mark Ormrod of the University of York is one of a number of academics researching migration who is feeding up-to-the-minute research into the new topic. “This GCSE topic is fantastic, as immigration has been a constant in our history, a feature of life in Britain for 2,000 years and longer,” he said. “It is an outstanding example of how a long view of history helps us to understand, and to find a place for ourselves, in contemporary society. People from Europe and further afield have arrived on these shores, in numbers small and large, in search of asylum, work and opportunity, and were sometimes invited to come. Our research project, ‘England’s Immigrants: 1330-1550’, shows how, for example, in the late middle ages, no one was more than 10 miles from an immigrant.”
OCR is developing two new History GCSEs for teaching in 2016, one on Explaining the Modern World (focused on key international events and interactions of the 20th century) and the other in conjunction with the Schools History Project (which puts more emphasis on a range of periods and different approaches to studying history). Both will include migration into Britain as an optional topic.
The two draft GCSEs will be submitted and published on the OCR website on Thursday 2 April. www.ocr.org.uk/history.