Richard Kerridge, History Subject Advisor
Changing exam specifications is a big decision. I know – I’ve done it several times. Some changes were forced by government reform of qualifications, and some were the product of the need for a change from within. Without exception, every change was accompanied by a lot of thought and consideration followed by a lot of reading and planning.
We know some of you are thinking about moving from your existing specification to one of our two History GCSEs, predominantly the Schools History Project ‘B’ specification (J411). We want to make switching to us as simple and painless as possible. In this blog, I will explain what we think is special about our GCSE ‘B’ specification.
Firstly, it’s simple to understand. There are five units, each worth 20% of the overall GCSE. The five units can be taught in one term each, leaving the summer term of Year 11 for revision. No need for a three-year KS3 anymore. Furthermore, there is plenty of choice – there are three options in each of the four study units. We were the first exam board to offer a Migration unit and our other units provide real variety. They offer something new, such as the Vikings and the Mughals, as well as the familiar, like Living Under Nazi Rule and People’s Health.
Secondly, our assessments are very clear and consistent. The period and thematic papers mirror each other’s assessment style. The two depth study papers also have some of the same question stems. They only differ for source/interpretation questions. In total there are just nine question stems across the four papers mentioned.
Don’t take our word for it, here are two teacher comments from our recent post-exam survey:
“Quality questions – allowed students to show off their knowledge.”
“Questions were fair and there were no surprises. Those who had prepared and revised came out happy.”
Thirdly, our assessments are accessible. Our papers start with low-tariff questions to allow students to build confidence from the outset and encourage them to keep going. We are constantly increasing our readability through a range of techniques, such as using familiar words and limiting specialist words to those in the specification.
Once again, let’s hear from OCR teachers:
“I think of all the exam boards for history this is a very accessible spec.”
“Just a brilliant course, with fair, open questions in general.”
Fourthly, we value local history. I have seen the transformative power that local history can have on students. Watching students on an archaeological dig handle their finds and marvel over being the first to touch the object for centuries was a joy and a privilege for me. Non-committed history students became engaged members of the class. They wanted to link their finds to the history we taught.
Our History Around Us unit allows you to fully engage with the history on your doorstep and really empower and motivate your students. You can of course choose a site further afield: we know of schools that have chosen locations around Ypres and the Somme.
Fifthly, this specification was written with leading members of the Schools History Project. The SHP’s core principles are:
Our endorsed textbooks are written by leading members of the SHP, as are our professional development courses. This specification is grounded in the best history teaching in the country.
My final reason for choosing OCR would be the support you get from us. Mike Goddard and myself are OCR’s Subject Advisors for History, and our role is to support you to enable you to teach the specification well. We hold regular webinars where you can ask us questions, we gather information from you to inform future products and are available by phone or email to talk about anything.
We’ve created a special ‘Switch to OCR GCSE History B’ page. Here you will find all the information you need to help you make a successful move to us. There is a video that goes into more depth than this blog and links to the specification and resources. And you can always get in contact with me or Mike.
Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you have any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org call us on 01223 553998 or Tweet us @OCR_History. You can also sign up to receive subject updates to keep up-to-date with the latest news, updates and resources.
Richard joined Cambridge International Assessment in September 2019 and OCR in October 2022. Prior to joining OCR, he taught History for seventeen years. He was a Deputy Head of Sixth Form, Head of Humanities, SSAT Lead Practitioner as well as writing and contributing to textbooks and exam-board resources. He has presented at the Historical Association and Schools History Project Annual Conferences and for Keynote Education. Richard is very proud to be an Honorary Fellow of the Historical Association. He enjoys being surrounded by his family, friends and two dogs.