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Drafting the new SHP OCR GCSE for 2016

Throughout the autumn term, SHP has been working in partnership with OCR to draft the SHP GCSE for 2016. You can see the fruits of our labours in the draft outline specification below. We are very excited about our new specification and believe that it will provide a rigorous and engaging GCSE course for the next generation of students. The new draft specification is, of course, underpinned by SHP’s six principles [ here ]. The options for each of the studies range widely across periods, places and cultures; and engage students with a range of approaches to studying history. The equal weighting given to the five studies (each representing 20% of the GCSE) should provide a clear and consistent structure that will be helpful for course planning. The options cover a wide range of fascinating history. A balance across periods is maintained by providing an equal number of options for medieval, early modern and modern history. Overall, the options provide some continuity with worthwhile elements of the current SHP specification, and offer new and exciting areas of study for GCSE students. Our rationale for each of the studies within the specification is as follows:

The thematic study requires students to understand change and continuity across a long sweep of history. Each of the option begins in the Roman period and encourages students to think about the relationship between past and present by following the theme through to the present day. The study focuses on a social/cultural theme in British history. This provides a contrast with the greater political focus of the British depth study and ensures balance across the specification as a whole. The choice of studies provides some continuity with current development studies in the SHP specification, and offers a fascinating new option on Migrants to Britain.

The British depth study focuses on a coherent short time span and a period of history during which the country faced severe pressure due to the possibility, or actuality, of invasion. The depth study includes strong political and military elements, and will focus on the interplay between these and other aspects.  This emphasis provides a clear contrast with the thematic study. Each of the options has been the subject of scholarly debate and is rich in interpretation.

The period study has been given a wider world focus in order to maintain the overall balance and coherence of the specification. Each of the options focuses on a considerable time span that goes beyond the requirement of a ‘medium time span of at least 50 years’. We believe that the longer narrative sweep will help learners to grasp the central ideas, events and developments within the period study. The relatively long time span will provide an appropriate contrast with the wider world depth studies and, by requiring students to engage with a ‘complete’ narrative, will add to the overall coherence and rigour of the GCSE.

The wider world depth study focuses on a historical situation involving the interplay of different societies and cultures. The options reinforce the coherence of the course by allowing students to explore the concept of invasion and conquest in a different context from the British depth study. Each of the options is rich in contemporary historical sources and has been the subject of a wide range of interpretations.

In the spirit of SHP, the specification recognises the importance of studying ‘History Around Us’ by allocating the study of the historic environment 20% of the GCSE and by assessing this element through a separate exam paper. Centres will have completely free choice of the site to be studied and students will have the opportunity to study the fascinating history around them.

Michael Riley     

Director, Schools History Project 


OCR SHP GCSE 2016 Specification (subject to accreditation)

Paper 1 British History 40%


Thematic Studies


British Depth Studies

The People’s Health c.200 to present


Crime and Punishment c.200 to present


Migrants to Britain c.200 to present


The Norman Conquest 1065-1087


The Elizabethans 1580-1603


Britain in Peace and War 1900-1918



Paper 2 Historic Environment 20%


A study of a site in its historical context



Paper 3 Wider World History 40%


Period Studies


Wider World Depth Studies

The Viking Age c.750-c.1050


The Mughal Empire, 1526-1707


The Making of America, 1789-1900


The First Crusade c.1070-1100


The Aztecs and the Spanish Conquest of Mexico, 1502-1527


Living under Nazi Rule, 1933-1945



Michael has been SHP Director since 2008. He is responsible for the strategic direction of SHP, ensuring that the project provides an independent source of ideas and experience for the teaching of history in schools


  1. Thanks for this update Michael. I think this course looks absolutely fantastic. I think it offers a breadth, depth and diversity of topics that is missing from all GCSE courses presently. I also really appreciate the fact that SHP and OCR are telling people what is happening early.

    I am already thinking about which options I like to do, but am spoilt for choice: C and P or immigration? Normans or Britain 1900-1918? Vikings or Mughal Empire?

    I just wondered: Will there be a source paper and knowledge paper like now? Or will it be examined differently with all elements combined?

    Thanks again for this update.


  2. Thanks for this positive feedback, Richard. We should be able to give you some details on assessment at the end of February,


  3. I think that the new spec looks really, really good. Its great to see that C&P remains, as it is a great topic to help students explore how society and our attitudes relating to law and order have developed.

    The depth studies offer something a little different, I really can’t decide whether I prefer the Norman conquest or Britain 1900-18. Though not specifically linked, these could offer a great way to explore a bit more of local history with our students.

    I feel that we have missed a trick for a long time ignoring the historic environment around us; there are so many wonderful untapped or underused sites.I have found museums and various heritage services to be wonderfully helpful in preparing resources and visits. My one question would relate to how this will be assessed; i understand it will be an examination, but how will examiners be able to cope with all these different sites being explored?

    In terms of resources, there will be a real demand for the new topics. How will SHP plan to deliver these? Is the aim to produce shorted, focused topic books (ie Tudors) or will you lump these together into one book? Cost is obviously a major concern for many departments at the moment.

    Finally…. VIKINGS! I am rather excited by this topic.

    All in all, it looks great


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