Aim: The original aim of the project had been to support the development of Ancient History GCSE in schools in Devon and Cornwall. However, because there was insufficient interest in Ancient History in the region, the focus of the project changed to developing interschool links through Holocaust education.
Background: Ancient History had become exceptionally popular at Devonport, and as there was significant expertise within the department, the school seemed to be in a good position to promote the development of the course throughout the region.
Years 1-2: Planning meetings were held at school and a professional development course on Ancient History was planned and held in London through the PTI.
Year 3: Contact was made with universities but attempts to forge significant links with partner schools were largely unsuccessful. Most schools were concerned with the challenges connected with the introduction of new syllabuses at GCSE and A Level, and did not have time to learn the whole new body of knowledge required to teach Ancient History. It was therefore decided to change the focus to developing links with partner organisations and schools through Holocaust education.
The Head of History attended an advanced Holocaust education course in Israel and kept a detailed blog which was shared with staff and students. On returning he gave lectures, first to the Sixth Form and then to others in the school. The way that the Holocaust is taught was revamped, and a coordinated approach with the English and Religious Studies departments was planned. A day of professional development in conjunction with the Holocaust Education Trust was also planned.
Impact: Trying to build partnerships around Ancient History proved too difficult, but dealing with an established topic that colleagues feel passionately about has been much more rewarding and successful. Being able to share information immediately while in Israel, and being able to provide more controversial and interesting points of view engaged colleagues with the topic.
Reflections: I understand the reasons why people might think that offering a different History GCSE might be a burden, but I passionately believe that this is a body of knowledge that should be disseminated far more widely and that the students who take the subject will gain a great deal, both in terms of knowledge and skills. The material is fascinating and at Devonport the take-up at GCSE and A Level is excellent.
Essentially this was a project about building partnerships and the Holocaust is a topic that really inspires teachers to expand their subject knowledge as well as the pedagogy involved in teaching it effectively. The work that I have done on the Holocaust would indicate that building partnerships can be done successfully so that students get a richer, more rewarding experience. The advice I would give is to check that there are willing partners out there before embarking on such a project.
Contact: David Riggs, firstname.lastname@example.org