Key Stage 2 History

Noah’s Ark, Whitby Museum

The 2014 National Curriculum says the following about Key stage 2 (KS2) history:

Pupils should continue to develop a chronologically secure knowledge and understanding of British, local and world history, establishing clear narratives within and across the periods they study. They should note connections, contrasts and trends over time and develop the appropriate use of historical terms. They should regularly address and sometimes devise historically valid questions about change, cause, similarity and difference, and significance. They should construct informed responses that involve thoughtful selection and organisation of relevant historical information. They should understand how our knowledge of the past is constructed from a range of sources.

In planning to ensure the progression described above through teaching the British, local and world history outlined below, teachers should combine overview and depth studies to help pupils understand both the long arc of development and the complexity of specific aspects of the content.

Pupils should be taught about:

  • changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age
  • the Roman Empire and its impact on Britain
  • Britain’s settlement by Anglo-Saxons and Scots
  • the Viking and Anglo-Saxon struggle for the Kingdom of England to the time of Edward the Confessor
  • a local history study
  • a study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066
  • the achievements of the earliest civilizations – an overview of where and when the first civilizations appeared and a depth study of one of the following: Ancient Sumer; The Indus Valley; Ancient Egypt; The Shang Dynasty of Ancient China
  •  Ancient Greece – a study of Greek life and achievements and their influence on the western world
  • a non-European society that provides contrasts with British history – one study chosen from: early Islamic civilization, including a study of Baghdad c. AD 900; Mayan civilization c. AD 900; Benin (West Africa) c. AD 900-1300.

History topics can be studied as cross-curricular topics incorporating, for example – geography e.g. finding out about the Nile when studying the Egyptians and in Art drawing some Egyptian wall Art.

That’s all very well but what do children actually need to know and be able to do by the end of their primary school years.

  • An increasing knowledge of local, British and world history in an increasingly secure chronological framework. (facts, sequencing event, use of timelines, ordering and date related words, timelines.)
  • Asking and answering more complex questions about the past as they make connections (look out for words like cause and consequence, similarities, differences, significance of something, continuing)
  • Children build a more complex vocabulary relating to history – empire, civilisation, parliament, monarchy, democracy
  • They understand that the past can be represented in different ways – pictures, stories, oral history, buildings etc.
  • They can tell the difference between primary and secondary sources of evidence and explain why they reach a decision as to what is primary and what is secondary.
  • They should understand that different people may have different views of history and that evidence can be interpreted differently.
  • As their knowledge about history grows their explanations for things becomes more complex as they draw on their knowledge base.
  • They should become more independent.

There’s lots to get your teeth into so it’s really important to ask any child you are helping what they are doing at school and read through their homework with them, asking them what they think they are being asked to do to check their knowledge and understanding.

Realistically some of the topics are covered in depth such as the Great Fire of London whilst other topics take an aspect and look at that aspect in less detail. it’s important not to tell the child the answer but to hep them find the information that they need, to interpret it and then decide whether it is useful – you’re teaching them how to think for themselves not turn them into professional parrots! They should also have fun – many of my adult students recall history lessons with a special kind of dread.

The skills that a child requires at KS2 are usually carefully structured so that they develop as the child matures. An eight year old may be able to use the terms B.C. And A.D. whereas a nine year old might use exact dates and be able to draw a time line within a specific period of history. An older child might be able to place events within a much wider time scale and be able to discuss cause and effect.

The other thing to remember is that schools may use a rolling history programme across KS1 and KS2 and there may be other things that are covered every year such as Remembrance Sunday or Guy Fawkes Day.

As well as history vocabulary and here’s a list of words that children should know taken from Primary History 69. Do not make a child learn a list of words – they are better learned in context: