KS5 GCE History

Why study History at A Level?

Wherever you will go in the future, whether it is to university or an apprenticeship or into the world of work people will know and value your education when you tell them you have done A Level History. This is because History is a challenging and exciting discipline that develops not only your deeper understanding of the present by exploring the past but it also enhances your analytical and evaluative skills and teaches you how to gather together all of your knowledge and understanding and formulate your own supported argument.

In the past students of History have gone on to study a variety of subjects at university including politics, law, education, international relations, anthropology, archaeology, sociology, criminology, literature and business as well as ancient, medieval and modern history. History graduates have had success in fields like politics, entertainment, media, writing and law.  An A Level in History shows that you have a wide range of higher-order thinking skills such as the ability to research independently and build a strong argument. These are transferable skills that can be applied to any future discipline or employment. However, more than anything, History is a fascinating voyage into a past filled with colourful characters, stories, inventions, adventures, comedies and tragedies, all of which have shaped who we are today.

What will you study?

Here at Biddenham we do Edexcel A Level History. There are four units in A Level history, three exam units and one independently researched coursework unit. The units are split across two years and cover a mixture of historical periods from the 18th century onwards. All of your lessons are taught by history specialists who have expertise in the areas covered by the specification.

Britain Transformed, 1918-97
There are two linked units on democracies in change; the first examined unit is the one on Britain from 1918-97. In the 20th century liberal democracies came under increasing challenge from both within and without. Through learning about Britain, you will be able to understand the nature and effectiveness of the response to these challenges. The unit focuses on the social, political and economic impacts of these and covers everything from the impact and the end of WWI to the rise and fall of Margaret Thatcher and her legacy.

Ireland and the Union, c1774-1923
The third examined unit comprises two parts: the breadth focus on long-term changes in Ireland’s relationship with the United Kingdom and the more in-depth focus on key episodes of history during this period. The unit focuses on the political and social impact of the changes from the start of rebellion in the late 18th century through to the end of the Irish Civil War.

The USA, 195-1992: Conformity and Challenge
The second of the two democracies in change units, this one consists of a depth study of the USA in the post-WWII period, focusing on the growing affluence of white suburbia in the 1950s through the racial and political protests of the 1960s to the rise of right-wing groups in the 1980s and the development of bitter divisions between Democrats and Republicans. This unit, like the one on Britain, focuses on social, political and economic changes and challenges.

Interpretations of the Past Through Coursework
The coursework unit will link to the work done on Ireland in the examined unit, this ensures that you will have a very solid foundation upon which to build your independently researched historical enquiry. As you delve deeper into Anglo-Irish history you will be able to see how historians have formulates their arguments and use that historiographical understanding to structure your own.

Why did we choose these topics?
The topics that were chosen play to the strengths and interests of the teachers who will be helping you through your History A Level, but more than that they ensure that you are taught topics that will be of interest to you and are easy to engage with. The sense of slight familiarity with the periods covered will help you because it means you will start with a preconception about the period and the people who lived then, be it good or bad; most of us will know of Martin Luther King Jr, John F. Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher and the NHS.

How will you be assessed?

The History specification has recently undergone several changes to meet the new government guidelines. As a result the assessment schedule has changed significantly. Paper 1, 2 and 3 are exam units and will be assessed at the end of Y13. The coursework unit will be completed part-way through Y13 but will be typed and include a bibliography.

Paper 1 Paper 2 Paper 3 Coursework
1H Britain Transformed, 1918-97 2H.2 The USA, 1955-92: conformity and challenge H6 36.2 Ireland and the Union, c1774-1923 04 Coursework on Anglo-Irish History
Worth 30% of A Level Worth 20% of A Level Worth 30% of A Level Worth 20% of A Level

What are the entry requirements?

  • GCSE English Language or Literature at grade 5 or above and if GCSE History was taken then a grade 4 or above.
  • An interest in and enjoyment of history.
  • A desire to challenge yourself to develop skills of analysis, research, evaluation and argument.
  • A desire to take part in class discussion and independent projects.
  • An acceptance of the high level of reading required.
  • The ability to work independently and do independent study each week.

What are the costs?

You will be expected to purchase the textbooks for the unit and use these to help you with your study. There are three textbooks, one covers both Paper 1 and Paper 2 and the other two covers Paper 3 and contributes towards your Coursework. As of November 2016 the books were priced at:

£24.99 (available for purchase now) £16.99 (available for purchase now) £7.99 (on average; available now for purchase)

There are also trips planned for A Level history, students are responsible for paying for any trip fees. You will need to provide your own stationery for use in lessons (i.e. pen and paper).

Is there anything else I need to know?

A Level History is a subject that requires work outside of lessons; you will need to read the key texts but also other works by historians as well as watch films, documentaries and listen to podcasts. Some of these will be assigned to you while others will be those you have to go and find for yourself in order to expand your knowledge and understanding of the time periods covered in the specification. If you struggle with reading or writing because of a learning difficulty or because English is not your first language, the History Department can work with you to help you identify sources you can use that may be more accessible as a starting point.

Future opportunities

A Level History is well looked upon by employers and universities as a subject that they like and understand the significance of. Students who take A Level History can go on to study it at university or branch out into other areas including other humanities like law, drama or English literature or language or more social sciences like criminology, sociology and psychology. There are many universities that allow students to do joint honours programmes where they can combine the study of history at university with the study of another subject. For students who wish to go straight into the workforce employers value the skills students learn while studying A Level History including the ability to deeply analyse and evaluate interpretations and build your own logical arguments as well as being able to perform well under pressure and meet deadlines.

Course contact: reeann.vaughan@biddenham.beds.sch.uk