Head of Department: Mr Trehy

Teachers: Mrs Appleyard, Miss White 


The Burnham Grammar School History department has always encouraged high intellectual standards and a recognition that the skills needed for history can be developed over time and are not inherent to particular types of students. Writing and producing responses to questions or problems posed, is a process.  Successful work is not completed in a single moment of genius or inspiration, but is developed over a series of steps and often learned skills. Above all else, history helps to train our minds to think in a complex, rational and logical manner.      

History also places a particular stress on the development of independent thought and requires excellent communication skills, namely high levels of literacy and oral presentation. All students but especially in KS4 and KS5, will be expected to work independently to think for themselves and to engage in a good deal of wider reading and research. Students will often have to present the results of research both independently and in the wider context of class and group discussions.

There is also a fundamental need to come to terms with unfamiliar periods in history in a way that facilitates reflective and adaptable skills, including empathy and imaginative insight. Students need to be able to assess past events in a critical manner and not merely “tell the story”.

History at this school as a whole, offers various different approaches to learning, at different levels and in a wide range of subject areas. The Burnham Grammar School History department is unusual in offering a comparatively wide range of periods for study. Courses and topics vary from general overviews at one extreme such as the Cold war in Year 8, to in-depth studies at the other, such as the development of the French Nation State during the 16th Century in Year 13. The former encourages understanding of historical process, with its mix of continuity and change; the latter develops the analysis of documents and other material, developing research methods.

What we study at Burnham Grammar School:

KS5 History

The course 

The current curriculum at A Level ranges from the 16th to the 19th Century. There is a focus on the development of essay skills. However, there are a range of different question types, some of which do not require a response beyond two A4 pages, whilst others are rather longer. There are also document questions and a piece of coursework of between 4000 and 4500 words. The Exam Board is OCR. 

The topics will include the history of the Westward Expansion of the USA from 1803 to 1890, The English Civil War from the reign of James I to 1660, French history from 1498 to 1610 and coursework focused on a topic of your choice concerning the reign of Elizabeth I.  

All exams and coursework deadlines are in Year 13 and consequently, organisation and discipline are essential for the successful A Level student. You will learn or develop a number of very important skills when studying A level history. These include: the ability to argue logically and effectively so you can convince others of your point of view; the ability to empathise with others; the ability to detect bias and to look at a problem objectively; and the ability to select information quickly from a body of material. There are opportunities to go to lectures in London given by eminent historians, perhaps the authors of books you use in school. History students also visit the Houses of Parliament and the Supreme Court.

Scheme of Assessment 

The exams will assess your ability to write judgmental essays which reach a clear and supported conclusion, your ability to evaluate source material and to place it in the context of your wider knowledge of the period. You will also need to develop the ability to analyse change and continuity across a period of at least a hundred years, detecting patterns in that period and reaching a substantiated judgement in terms of the question. This will be in combination with an ability to evaluate different historians’ interpretations of an historical question or problem. The coursework will assess your independent learning: your ability to investigate a topic, to evaluate the ideas and material you research for it and to write 3-4,000 words of analysis, explanation, evaluation and judgement on the topic.

The exams 

Unit 1 British period study and enquiry:  25% of A level               

           The early Stuarts and the origins of the Civil War, 1603-1660 (Enquiry topic:

           The execution of Charles I and the Interregnum, 1646-1660)

           Exam 1 ½ hours    

Unit 2 Non-British period study: 15%

           The Crusades and the Crusader States, 1095-1192

           Exam 1 hour

Unit 3 Thematic study and historical interpretations: 40%

           The development of the Nation State, France 1498-1610

            Exam 2 ½ hours

Unit 4 Topic based essay – 3,000 – 4, 000 words: 20%


Anyone who enjoys studying the past and enjoys reading and writing will enjoy A level history. A keen interest in the subject will help you to get the most out of it. As history has elements of both the arts and the sciences, it can be studied with any other A Level.

 KS4 History

  • This three-year GCSE course will study Germany from 1890 to 1945, Elizabethan England from 1568 to 1603, the outbreak of World War II from 1918 to 1939 and a thematic British Study on Power and the People from 1170 to the present day. The Exam board is AQA and there are two exams both of which are two hours in length. 

    KS3 History

  • Year 8 students do an in-depth study of the outbreak of World War I, trench warfare, the trench diary research module, the outbreak of World War II and the major events of that period as well as a home front magazine research module. Later in the year they will focus on the Cold War and the rivalry between the USA and the USSR.
  • Year 7 students study the Medieval Realms course until the summer term. This covers various aspects of life in the Middle Ages and covers such events as the Norman Conquest, the Black Death, the Peasants revolt as well as religion and the Feudal System. At the beginning of the summer term, Year 7 will study the Industrial Revolution 1750 to 1900.