History Enquiries

Our Historians in action...

How we build Champion Historians:


Champion Historian leaving Blackhorse at the end of Year 6 have a secure understanding of chronology and can explain key significant periods and events in British and world history. They understand how Bristol docks acted as a conduit for trade, migration and exploration from Roman times to the present day.  Through focusing on links forged through trade, exploration and Empire, they can explain how communities from around the world contributed to our national story. Champion Historians can use this knowledge to interrogate a variety of sources, evidence and artefacts to investigate history for themselves.


Our 'learning ingredients' in History:


Extensive Opportunities:  History is taught within our enquiry curriculum, often alongside geography and DT, and sometimes science.


Where history is the ‘lead subject’ within an enquiry, most lessons within that enquiry will have a history objective. However, the enquiry may also include linked lessons from the other enquiry subjects (geography, DT or Science) to provide context, or to allow children to make links between the knowledge learnt across several subjects.   For example, when the children learn about the history of the Indus valley civilisation, they also learn about the geography of the area, as this helps children to understand why a successful civilisation thrived along the fertile banks of the Indus River.


Likewise, we provide further opportunities to develop children’s historical understanding of history within Science and Design Technology led enquiries. For example, when learning about adaptation in science, the children will learn about the discoveries of Charles Darwin; and when learning about the blood and circulation, they will learn about Edward Lister and the history of vaccination.


Discrete subjects sometimes use history-led enquiry themes to provide a context for the development of knowledge within that subject. For example, in Art, children learn about Georgian and Victorian landscape paintings of Bristol docks as part of an Art unit on Watercolour landscape painting.


The school has also invested in providing extensive opportunities for children to develop a sound understanding of chronology, both within our lesson sequence (see below) and through physical resources around the school.


Finally, the school makes good use of visits and visitors to allow children to ‘see’ history in situ, further enriching the children’s understanding of the past.


Expert Tuition: As most of our teachers are not history specialists, the history led enquiries have been carefully planned and sequenced with guidance and support from the history subject leader. All teaching staff have also received training from the subject leader on how to structure a unit of learning and the rationale behind this, as well as training on chronology and using historical sources from Historic England.


Purposeful Practice: The history enquiries are organised to support children in their understanding of key historical eras, and themes which span multiple periods. Several eras and themes are returned to several times with increasing depth as children grow as historians. 


The reoccurring themes are as follows:

  • Bristol docks through the ages - as a conduit for innovation, migration, trade and exploration. 
  • Indian Sub-continent - links to ancient civilisations, religion and migration.
  • The Romans - and their impact on England and the local area.
  • The Victorians - and their impact on Bristol docks, trade, migration and engineering.


Structure of lessons within the enquiry:

1. History enquires begin with a lesson focusing on the chronology of the new period and how it relates to previous eras taught. Children are encouraged to visualise the relative length of time since, and between, periods studied and the present day.


2. History enquires next identify the key aspects of the period, focusing on:

  • Geography - where the period of history was located.
  • Rulers
  • What was happening in England at the time (if World history).
  • Inventions - which children may have experienced or seen e.g. toys, bridges, transport.
  • Beliefs
  • Settlements


3. Next children focus on the facts (substantive knowledge), reading information for themselves wherever possible. Specific vocabulary is explicitly taught and selective words are reinforced through a 'Word Aware' approach.


4. After this, children focus on geography and topography, and how this influenced the development of the era. 


5. Only once children have secured a good understanding of the era (and then mainly in upper KS2), children practice the skills of the historian (disciplinary knowledge). For example, children may compare and contrast bridge building techniques to answer the question 'How were the greater engineers: the Romans or the Victorians.


6. Children conclude their enquiry by completing a challenge which answers the enquiry question and demonstrates their understanding. 


Personal Effort: We believe that every child can become a successful historian by learning and revisiting key disciplinary skills over time alongside revisiting and adding to their core substantive knowledge. Children deepen and secure their knowledge through carefully planned Spaced Retrieval. We use quizzing at the start of every lesson to ensure that children are ready to move on to the next stage of their learning. If teachers identify that there are gaps from a previous lesson, they will address these before moving on. We also use longer term Spaced Retrieval to revisit concepts and skills taught less recently, to ensure that this knowledge is secured, deepened and transferred permanently into children’s long term schema. Spaced Retrieval and how to use it most effectively is the focus on our 2023-24 Professional Growth Project.