Enrichment Opportunities

Briefing Pack

By Barbara Hibbert, published 4th September 2009


History can be used to enrich students' experience of education in many ways.  Everything has a history and links can be made with, and support given to most other subjects.  Opportunities can be provided to classes, whole year groups, across year groups, or to individuals. Enrichment can be as simple as tipping off an individual student about an essay competition or as complex as applying for lottery funding for the whole school to take part in a commemoration, such as was available for the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 2005.  Teachers need to keep their eyes open, their wits about them and either make a mental note of opportunities for future use, or keep a formal list, which can be shared and passed on.   

Enrichment within school

Links with librarians: It is a good idea to maintain good links with the librarian in school.  A list of good historical fiction which can be handed out to students and displayed in the library when topics are being studied helps capture the imagination.   Sometimes school libraries are contacted by local books shops when an author wants to visit schools to promote a new book and this can provide a cost free event.  Other authors may charge to visit, but it might be possible to share the costs with the English department and the library.

A History club: there are many formats this could take, from watching historical films (and critically analysing them) to ‘Antiques Roadshow' type events, to genealogy, to ad hoc groups for competition entries. 

Essay and writing competitions: there are a huge variety of history related essay and other writing competitions every year.  Some are regular, some one-offs.  Sixth formers interested in applying to study history at university ought to be aware of these - they can be lucrative as well as prestigious!  Links and further details are provided in the appendix.  There are also regular competitions for younger students, including the Historical Association's own ‘Write Your Own Historical Story' competition for Key Stage 3 pupils. 

Collapsed timetable days: these are increasingly popular with school management teams and provide an opportunity for History teachers to take the lead.  Links can be made, for example, to citizenship, using the national ‘Who Do We Think We Are?' initiative. 

Schools doing a modern British option at GCSE could have a 60s day (perhaps at the end of year 9 for all students, to encourage uptake!) which involves music, drama, media study etc. Members of the local community could also be invited to join in and share their memories and experiences with students.   A day on medieval Baghdad could link with science, technology and religious studies.  A focus on Charles Darwin could provide links with science and religious studies.  Almost anything could link with drama and English.  Languages could have an input into a day which involved looking at other countries or cultures.  Funds might be provided by linking with the school specialism and accessing specialist school funding. 

Websites: there are various websites which provide enrichment, especially for A level History students.  A free one worth looking at is The History Faculty which includes podcasts and resources from various academic historians.  Oxford University History faculty website has various resources for students who are thinking of applying to Oxford to study history, many of which are useful to any aspiring history candidates.  

An excellent resource for sixth formers undertaking personal or individual studies is http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/paper/index.html which gives reviews of academic history books and also often includes the author's reply to the reviewer.

The national archives also have an excellent website

Visitors to school: these might include academic historians from local higher education institutions who are often keen to share their specialism with sixth formers, and whose costs may well be met from their institutions' outreach programmes; veterans of various conflicts; enthusiasts and re-enactors who want to share their enthusiasms with students.  Amongst the latter are a number of English Civil War groups, some of whom can provide a whole day of activities.  There are also theatre groups who provide various offerings, some of which are examination related.  Although ‘rarely cover' will clearly have an impact on such activities they will generally be less disruptive than visits out, especially if they involve whole class groups or whole year groups.  It is even possible to link with maths and have a genuine Second World War enigma machine in school for a codebreaking workshop.  

Enrichment outside the classroom

Museums, stately homes and heritage sites are keen to attract school visits and many provide a great deal of help and support, including exam specific preparation. The Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds, for example, has workshops focused on thematic topic of health and medicine through time.  

It is worth keeping an eye on the programme at local theatres as many productions may be history related and theatre visits are another way to draw students in to a real passion for the past.  There are often cheaper matinee performances aimed at school groups. 

Debate Chamber runs master classes in History as well as a number of other subjects and has a limited number of bursaries for students who would not otherwise be able to attend.

The Sutton Trust runs various summer schools, including History, for students who would be the first generation of their family to attend university.

Enrichment beyond national boundaries

Many schools have well-established foreign trips which are curriculum related.  Perhaps the most popular are visits to the battlefields of the Western Front or the D-Day beaches, which can be very reasonably priced and are excellent recruiters for GCSE history.  They also provide an opportunity to link with languages, and in schools with a language specialism there is the possibility of accessing language college funds to help subsidise the trips.  There are many well-established companies who will make all the arrangements and provide a guide for such trips, although many teachers feel confident to guide the trips themselves.

More expensive trips which go further afield can be really inspirational, but teachers should be aware of issues of access for less affluent students.  One way to address this, at least partially, is to organise the trip at least a year in advance and accept small, regular payments.  This allows students to fundraise and take part-time jobs to contribute towards the cost.  There are occasional opportunities for individual students to travel as part of a larger project, which can be free or heavily subsidised.  Projects such as the Holocaust Educational Trust's ‘Lessons from Auschwitz' which allows two sixth formers from every secondary school to take part in a four part project, including a day trip to Auschwitz, should be drawn to students' attention. 

Enrichment for teachers

And don't forget that teachers sometimes need enrichment too!  The opportunity to revisit History for its own sake and remember why we studied this, rather than something else can revitalise and refresh us and therefore our teaching.  There are numerous opportunities for teachers and instead of asking why you might be chosen for a particular project, ask why not.  The German Federal Foreign Office has provided a five day, all expenses paid, seminar in Berlin in recent October half terms for teachers of modern German History.  The Imperial War Museum has had an ongoing project ‘Their Past; Your Future' which has provided various all-expenses paid trips for teachers. Although this project is coming to an end, look out for similar ones in future. 

The Prince's Teaching Institute (PTI) offers regular summer schools where teachers can hear about the latest research and meet academic historians.

Teachers who feel really ambitious could think about applying for a teacher exchange, such as the Fulbright exchange programme to the USA run by the US department of state in collaboration with the British Council.


All the opportunities list above help to maintain the profile of our subject with students and senior leadership teams and help to develop the skills students need to be good students of history as well as making them passionate about the subject.  At a time when the ‘softer' attributes of an education are being highlighted, both for admission to higher education and in helping students to make their way in the world of work, history teachers can use the natural advantages of our subject and the huge interest in it beyond the narrow confines of examination syllabuses, to the advantage of our students.  And the events which are offered by local branches of the HA itself should not be forgotten!

Appendix - details of various competitions

The Julia Wood Prize

St Hugh's College, Oxford and History Review.

The Principal and Fellows of St Hugh's College, in association with History Review, offer the Prize, worth up to £400, for the best historical essay submitted by a schoolboy or girl who, at the closing date, has been in the Sixth Form of any school or college for a period of not more than two years.  A version of the winning essay will be published in History Review. Candidates should state whether they are in the Lower or the Upper Sixth, and should give a home and a school address.  Essays should be submitted by a school, and no school should submit more than four essays.  Essays should be of not less than two thousand words and not more than four thousand words.  The choice of historical subject is left to candidates.  Essays should be typed, or clearly hand-written, on one side of the paper only.  


Write an essay of between 2,000 and 4,000 words on one of the following topics. Include a Bibliography and, if necessary, a Web-ography. 

Sample Vellacott History Prize Questions:

1. 'Athens may be truly said to date its ruin from the day of its triumph over the Persians'. Was Bolingbroke right?

2. In learning about a people from history, is it more important to know what they ate or what they read?

3. By what time was the Roman republic truly dead?

4. ‘The Ghost of the Holy Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof'. Do you agree with this characterisation of the early medieval papacy?

5. ‘Within months, Magna Carta had been forgotten by the barons, repudiated by the king and damned by the pope'. Have historians exaggerated its importance?

6. What do you understand by ‘feudalism'?

7. ‘Medieval kings were rather like Coke machines: if they didn't give you what you wanted, you kicked them until they did'. When did violence cease to be an acceptable way of confronting medieval rulers?

8. What should we understand by the term ‘Renaissance state'? (You may confine your answer to one country if you wish).

9. Account for the decline of city states after 1500.

10. What reasons were there to fear for the future of the Church in 1500?

11. ‘Disease has been the most powerful force for social change'. Do you agree?

12. What do you understand by ‘the Machiavellian moment'?

13. What was the impact of the European discovery of China in the seventeenth century?

14. Is there such a thing as 'an art of war'?

15. Was printing a technology that transformed thought?

16. Where did political power lie in late seventeenth-century Britain?

17. There is no such thing as ‘British history'. Do you agree?

18. When did the English Revolution stop being ‘glorious'?

19. ‘The stronger the nation, the greater the myth behind it'. Discuss

20. Whose Enlightenment was the most successful?

21. Has the middle class been the only truly revolutionary class?

22. Is the job of the historian to separate the rational kernel from the mystical shell?

23. Is the law of unintended consequences the most powerful law in history?

24. Who is the most underrated leader in German history?

25. Was Napoleon the ‘world's soul astride a horse'?

26. Has revisionism triumphed in the writing of Irish history?

27. The clue to understanding Stalin, like every other tyrant, is in his upbringing. Do you agree?

28. Why did fascism never take hold in Britain?

29. 'Whatever you say, the Americans have been with us since Pearl Harbour... it's good to know they're there'. Sebastian Faulks (writing as Ian Fleming), Devil may care (2008). Do you agree with James Bond?

30. Why do we no longer write the history of races?

31. Has Darwinism been a force for good or bad?

32. "The American civil rights movement can only be seen in a global context". Discuss.

33. How should historians approach the history of broadcasting?

34. Does history prove that you should always negotiate with your enemies?

35. How far can we justify a Euro-centric approach to history?

36. 'Brissot rather than Burke'. Do you agree with this view of the American neo-conservatives?

37. Does the crisis of capitalism prove that Marx was right after all?

The Robson History Prize

The Robson History Prize 

The teaching staff in History at Trinity College, Cambridge, invite students in Year 12 (or equivalent) to submit an essay of between 2,000 and 4,000 words on a question to be chosen from the list provided. 


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