To be fair, I probably need to get more of a life, but ever since the new GCSE draft specifications for history were published, I have been dying to compare them and see which I like best. Now I need to declare some personal interest before I begin - I am currently involved in writing for the America unit of the OCR B specification. However I have come at this with a genuinely open mind because what I think is good history, and what I think might be best for the students at my school are two connected but different things!
What I am presenting here therefore is a summary of each of the specifications and its means of assessment. The comments are meant to help me quickly compare and contrast the options and see which might be most appropriate. I have not compared every unit as there are some I know we won't do, however the basic structure of most of the units is the same. Please feel free to let me have any comments.
- Choosing the best possible history to prepare students for A Level and build on what we do at KS3.
- BUT accessible enough to teach to students with mixed ability and in mixed ability classes.
- Moving away from GCSE as an aberration between good KS3 and A Level courses - ideally something with less prescriptive examination. Teachers have been getting very bored with the prescriptive nature of the GCSE examinations in OCR SHP.
- Interesting and engaging topics for our students (I have more research to do on this) with a focus on people's lives over high politics.
- A coherent course which could be built chronologically over three years.
- No major overlap with our A Level options: Russia 1855-1964, America 1740-1796, and Britain 1900-1951.
- Our KS3 prepares students for a range of options at GCSE without being a repeat eg. we focus in a bit on Hitler's rise and the Holocaust but not life in Nazi Germany. We look at the development of the Cold War but not Stalin's time in power etc.
- Being aware that the C+ (5+) borderline is a big issue for us.
- Not having to constantly change our Controlled Assessment unit every year.
- Not spending ages relearning new content when new A Levels are on the way - novelty within realistic bounds.
The tables I offer here try to compare the offerings from different boards. it is worth noting that all boards require schools to cover: a thematic study, a period study, a British depth study, a world depth study, and a study of the historic environment. They also require that schools cover three periods: medieval, early modern and modern.
- The spec comparisons look at how each board has approached the 5 different units required by the new GCSE. I have made comments on how the content has been approached and offer some of my own thoughts in light of our aims.
- The examination comparisons use the sample assessment materials. I have tried to look for how the boards have set out the marks and what they will be rewarding. I have also tried to keep an eye out for where they expect students to jump hoops or learn tricks. I have considered the balance of longer and shorter questions and have also tried to point out how many different question techniques students might need to grapple with.
Right - no more context - here are the comparison tables. I hope they are of some use.