Please note: this guide was written before the 2014 National Curriculum and some of the advice may no longer be relevant.
For more up-to-date guidance see:

How can a school demonstrate progression in children's historical skills and understanding? An excellent strategy is to ask every class, from Year 1 to Year 6, to examine, question and comment on the same historical source (an object or picture is best).

Ask the children to record their thinking under three different headings:

  • What we can see and can say for certain.
  • What we think (our opinions, hypotheses).
  • What we would like to find out.

The level, depth and sophistication of the children's responses to the picture or object should increase with age, so providing evidence of progression.

This approach is also a useful diagnostic tool for co-ordinators and those with teaching and learning responsibilities: if there is no consistent pattern of progression, the responses can pinpoint where development work is needed.

Principles for progression

1. Use common techniques across the school.

2. Practise the same skills at different ages over and over again - do the children tackle them better each time?

3. Revisit key areas of content and key vocabulary.

4. Keep an integrated model of historical progression in mind. Aim to improve children's enquiry skills, knowledge and concepts, so they develop an ever deeper understanding of people and societies.

5. Attitudes have a huge impact on learning. Plan teaching activities that challenge and engage children, as well as yielding evidence of progression.

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