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Easter Challenge – Hard Boiled History! – Take a look at some of the entries!


‘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 7-11 Course Guides are provided to outline course content, assessment, terminology, further useful reading, suggested historical sites to visit etc.

Year 7 Student & Parent Information Booklet

Year 8 Student & Parent Information Booklet

Year 9 Student & Parent Information Booklet

Years 10 & 11 Parent & Student Information Booklets




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 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.


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. Lesson sequences are based around enquiry questions such as ‘Why did William win the Battle of Hastings? or ‘Why did the King and Parliament go to war in 1663?’ These enquiries culminate in outcome tasks which include essays, spoken presentations, memorial designs, group projects and the writing of historical narratives.  Below is an outline of some of the enquiries students will encounter across Key Stage 3.

Year 7 

At the start of Year 7 students are introduced to key substantive concepts such as kingship, society, revolution, liberty, and feudalism and second order concepts which help us organise the process of studying history including cause and consequence, change and continuity and significance. Students then investigate these different enquiries during the course of the year:

  • What is History?
  • What was England like before 1066?
  • Why did William win the Battle of Hastings?
  • How did William take control of England?
  • Why was the church so important in people’s lives?
  • Why risk death to defend the church?
  • When were Jews in most danger in medieval England?
  • Were Becket and Henry always enemies?
  • Could a medieval monarch do whatever they wanted?
  • Who mattered most in medieval society?
  • What makes a good historical story about the Black Death?
  • Why did the peasants revolt in 1381?


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.  Enquiry questions students will encounter in Year 8 include:

  • Who was Elizabeth I?
  • What was the most serious threat to Elizabeth I?
  • Why was the world expanding in the 16th and 17th centuries?
  • Why did the King and parliament go to war in 1642?
  • How similar were the experiences of soldiers and civilians in the Civil War?
  • Why were kings back in fashion by 1660?
  • How different were the attitudes of the colonised and colonisers?
  • What was it like to be involved in the slave trade?
  • How did the meaning of ‘government’ change for the people of Britain c1600-c1900?


Year 9

Year 9 starts with an overview of the period 1900-present day. Enquiry questions students will encounter in Year 9 include:

  • 20th Century: What do you know?
  • How safe was it to live in Britain during the Edwardian age?
  • Two Bullets & Twenty Million Deaths: Why did a murder lead to war in 1914?
  • What motivated men to continue fighting in the trenches?
  • To what extent was WWI a ‘World War’?
  • How fair was the Treaty of Versailles?
  • How did new ideas cause conflict?
  • How was the Second World War won?
  • What was the Holocaust?
  • Why did the sun set on the British Empire?
  • Sixties: How far was there a social and cultural revolution?
  • What’s the best way to bring about change?

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. Students are given the opportunity to choose their own focus for their coursework.

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