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‘A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.’


History has a value and relevance to all students whatever their academic ability, gender or age. It develops skills and knowledge that can be used by adults both in their role as a citizen and as a member of society. At Burford, we view History not only as simple facts and dates but encourage students to become detectives who explore the past in an exciting way.

The process of historical inquiry encourages our students to critically analysis, develop a questioning and inquisitive nature and the ability to evaluate and interpret sources and opinions. History lessons at the Burford School provide a forum for debate and discussion on central issues which have changed and continue to impact upon the world around us.

Staff and facilities

The History Department is led by Mrs E Thomas. She is supported by four further teachers.  It is a well resourced department in terms of textbooks and historical expertise.

For Year Groups 7-10 Course Guides are provided to outline course content, assessment, terminology, further useful reading, suggested historical sites to visit etc.

Year 7 Course Guide

Year 8 Course Guide

Year 9 Course Guide

Year 10 Course Guide

Year 11 Course Guide



Alongside the history lessons provided through the curriculum, the Department runs two trips.  In late May there is a trip for Year 9 students to the World War 1 Battlefields.

Every other year a trip to Berlin and Krakow is open to those in Years 12/13. Both these trips enhance and support areas of the curriculum covered in Key Stages 4 and 5. Two Sixth Form students are also provided with the opportunity to participate in the ‘Lessons from Auschwitz Project’ coordinated by the Holocaust Educational Trust.


House Competitions

During the academic year, we also run a number of House Competitions, including a ‘Histagram’ competition, medieval shield making, historical debates and public speaking as well as written historical fiction. Several of the competitions are linked to the Historical Association, Local Historical Places and Cambridge University. Please see a selection of competitions below.

 This year Grace Ford won the Oxfordshire regional heat for the Historical Association’s Great Debate. On 10 March 2018, Grace and 23 other sixth-form students from across the country gathered in the Palace of Westminster. To get to the final they had presented an argument on the question:

Was the 1918 extension of the franchise the most significant moment in British democratic history?

Five Year 9 students, Holly Poyser, Scarlett Watson, Toby Habberley, Jack Fergus and John Gulland, attended the Oxfordshire Remembers First World War conference at St Hugh’s College in Oxford. In preparation for the conference, students researched the local impact of the First World War in Burford and the surrounding areas and how local events linked to national and international events. As part of their research students visited the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock to investigate the impact of the First World War in the local area. Students focused on the men on the Burford War Memorial, the changing role of women, the role of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the developments in aviation and medicine during the war.

Battle of Hastings (Year 7)

In Year 7 students take part in a house competition to make a medieval shield.  These are judged by one of the School Governors before being used in the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings– complete with trebuchet.  The Battle takes place on the Year 7 field and though hotly contested is always won by the same side.


First World War Centenary (Year 9)

To mark the centenary of WWI Burford School History Department, alongside six other schools in the West Oxfordshire area, are taking part in a research project every year until 2018 to commemorate the First World War.

Each school will send a group of four Year 9 students to deliver a presentation on a topic relating to the particular year of the war being commemorated (e.g. this year the focus is on 1916). The presentations take place at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock. Burford School’s topic this year is The Shell Shortage & the Role of Women in the Munitions Factories. An outside expert will judge the presentations and a prize will be awarded.


Key Stage 3

History is a compulsory subject at Key Stage 3 with three lessons over a fortnight taught in Year 7 and Year 9 and four lessons a week in Year 8.


Year 7

In Year 7, students are introduced to new vocabulary and concepts and encouraged to investigate and question. We start with an introduction to historical skills, progress through to the Battle of Hastings, taking in ideas about causation, and whether history is written by the winners.  William the Conqueror and his consolidation of power is then examined and finally Medieval Life; looking at whether a Medieval King could do whatever he liked?

Students also get the chance to act the detective on the case of the murder of Thomas Becket and find out what it was like to have the plague and to be a “revolting” peasant during the Peasants’ Revolt.  In studying the Crusades students have the opportunity to look at medieval life in Europe and beyond.


Year 8

Year 8 starts with an overview of the period 1485-1900.  Some of the concepts from Year 7 are further explored, building on students’ ideas of continuity and change, cause and consequence.  During this year students learn to handle source work and evidence more rigorously.  Topics covered in Year 8 include:

  • Henry VIII – “Man or a monster?”
  • The Spanish Armada
  • Tudor life ( which includes a house competition to make a model of an instrument of torture and execution)
  • The Industrial Revolution
  • The Atlantic Slave Trade and its abolition

As in Year 7, there are opportunities for project and group work, and assessments follow the same format so students can keep track of their progress.


Year 9wolp

In Year 9, students look at the Titanic disaster.  They then move on to World War 1. This year the school is involved in the inter-school competition with the West Oxfordshire Learning Partnership (WOLP) to recognize the importance of the Centenary of World War 1. The competition is running for four years and is open to all students in the year group.  This year students were asked to give a presentation on an aspect of the war in 1916.  Next year’s Year 9 students will look at an event during 1917 and so on until the competition closes in 2018.

Students examine Jewish life before the war, before moving onto investigate how and why the Holocaust could take place in the 20th century and how the Holocaust should be remembered. Students then move on to study the impact of bombing on the civilians of London, Dresden and Hiroshima. Many questions relevant to today are raised regarding ethics, use of censorship and how and why certain events are remembered and commemorated.

The final topic of the year is the 1960’s and the assassination of JFK. Again, there are opportunities for project and group work and assessments follow the same format as in previous years.

Key Stage 4 – Edexcel GCSE History

Almost half of each year group choose to take History at GCSE.  Students follow the Edexcel GCSE course and are required to be self- discipline throughout.  They are taught how to structure essays and answers, form and support arguments, debate and come to reasoned judgments. There is an emphasis on source-work, particularly questioning evidence. Mock exams, exam type question practice and revision sessions are run to ensure students have every opportunity to reach their potential.

Students study the following units during the two years:

  • Paper 1: Crime and punishment in Britain, c1000–present and Whitechapel, c1870–c1900: crime, policing and the inner city.

Paper 1 gives students the opportunity to study the changing nature of crime and punishment from the medieval period to the present day. Students examine aspects such as the ‘hue and cry’, witchcraft, the Gunpowder plotters and the development of the Metropolitan Police Force.


  • Paper 2: British Depth Study – Option B4 Early Elizabethan England, 1558-88

The British Depth Study allows students to examine the challenges that Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, faced due to her gender, her marriage and plots against her both at home and abroad. Students also have an opportunity to delve into the world of Elizabethan exploration and new technologies.


  • Paper 2: Period Study: Option 26/27 – Superpower relations and the Cold War, 1941–91

Through the Period Study, students will examine the origins, development and ending of the Cold War from the division of Berlin, to the Cuban Missile Crisis, Olympic Boycotts and the significance of the fall of the Berlin Wall.


  • Paper 3: Modern Depth Study: Option 31 – Weimar and Nazi Germany, 1918–39

In this enquiry students will examine the problems faced by the Weimar Republic and the context of Hitler’s rise to power. Students investigate the impact of the Nazi dictatorship including the introduction of the Hitler Youth and the persecution of the Jews.


Key Stage 5 – Edexcel ‘A’ Level History

In Year 12 students study Britain, c1785–c1870: democracy, protest and reform and the unification of Germany, c1840–71. Studying two different countries allows students to develop a greater appreciation of the nature of power and authority in the given period, and to understand the similarities and contrasts between them.

In Year 13, Civil rights and race relations in the USA, 1850–2009 are studied.  This gives students a chance to explore developments that have shaped contemporary America and remain a fundamental issue in US society: the changing pattern of race relations between black and white Americans, both in terms of civil rights and also broader social and cultural changes over a period that began with millions of black Americans in slavery and ended with Barack Obama as President.

Coursework forms a part of Year 13.  The aim of this is to enable students to develop skills in the analysis and evaluation of interpretations of history in a chosen question, problem or issue as part of an independently researched assignment. The focus is on understanding the nature and purpose of the work of the historian. Students have to form a critical view based on relevant reading on the question, problem or issue. They are specifically required to analyse, explain and evaluate the interpretations of three historians.

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