Ordinary pupils, extraordinary results: a structured approach to raising attainment at GCSE


By Liz Dawes & Edwin Towill, published 11th February 1999

It is a very common complaint that history GCSE is unfairly demanding compared with other subjects. Well, it probably is. But that does not stop history at Robert Clack School from outperforming every other subject except art. Nor is this the story of one of those schools with an unusually large number of very able pupils. At Robert Clack School, fewer than a quarter of the pupils gain five grades A* to C. In history, however, about half of the students have been gaining grades A* to C (and this is not because of some sneaky ruse to stop the less able from taking the exam!). Dawes and Towill analyse only one aspect of their strikingly successful practice, but it is one which offers many rich ideas and practical suggestions. Their systematic and structured approach drives hard at those problems which Chris Culpin identified in August (‘Still learning how to teach Kimberley', Letters page, Teaching History, 92, August 1998). Their teaching is illustrated here through a conceptually sharp revision programme and some imaginative yet rigorous learning activities. No doubt this is not the whole story. Dawes and Towill allude, for example, to the importance of charismatic and enthusiastic teaching and to the vital role of Key Stage 3 in preparing for GCSE. I expect that both of these are critical. Nevertheless, the revision programme and activities presented here are worthy of reflection and discussion by every history department.

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