Aim: To increase teachers’ skills in providing suitable levels of challenge and enrichment, and in giving advice on further study of History. To improve A and A* results and increase the numbers studying History at degree level.

Background: There was a high uptake of A Level History students, but few chose to study the subject at university. Teachers were inexperienced at supporting the most able to prepare for interviews at top universities.


Year 1: Student voice data revealed that pupils lacked sufficient independent study skills. Summer preparatory reading tasks, graded as essential, challenging, extra depth and overview, were created for those entering Year 12. Homework tasks involving reading and research facilitated flipped learning. Gifted and talented students were identified in the spring term.

Year 2: Lessons featured greater differentiation. Stretch and challenge tasks, intended to stimulate deeper discussion, critical thinking and independence, were modelled in department meetings. Reading lists were extended to include more degree-level texts and A/A* students were encouraged to read these. Guest speakers from the University of Sussex visited the school. Talking time was introduced at the start of lessons to allow students to coach each other and explore their prior research on new topics. Student trackers were produced to help staff and pupils reflect on their progress over time.

Year 3: Visits were successfully arranged to the University of Sussex library and the National Archives to support students with accessing primary sources and wider reading. Students found this enriching and stimulating and were able to reference challenging historical works by professional historians. Two students attended an Oxbridge Summer School and secured interviews for History joint honours at Oxford. An Oxford tutor was invited into the school for a session on interviews and a mock interview question bank was started. The two students reported being thoroughly prepared for their interviews. Neither received a place, but the feedback from Oxford showed that both had achieved 9/10 on History and had scored lower on their joint option at interview.

Evidence: Student and teacher voice data, uptake at A Level, university applications, student reading records, coursework marks.

Impact: Students reported much greater confidence in their independent work and reading, and all ‘gifted and talented’ History students achieved A/A* grades in their coursework essays. The number applying to History/joint History honours at university also increased. The projected A Level intake has now doubled, with particular interest being expressed by highly able GCSE students due to the support available for stretch and challenge and the championing of applications to Russell Group universities. Teachers have also reported greater confidence in supporting students in their applications.

Reflections: The department has come a long way in encouraging independence and supporting our most able students to challenge themselves, but there is still a need to embed this consistently across modules. It is disappointing that we are yet to get a student into Oxbridge, but we feel galvanised by the high ratings which our interviewees received.

Contact: Molly Rozier,