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Why teachers like OCR B (SHP)

I’ve been heartened by the positive response of history teachers to the OCR B (SHP) specification. Judging by the feedback we’ve received so far, there seem to be five main features of the specification that teachers find particularly appealing:

  1. The clarity and manageability of the spec. Teachers like the clarity of a GCSE course which is organised around five equally-weighted studies. As they begin to plan individual units, teachers tell us that the clear structure of content within each study is really helpful when planning schemes of work.
  1. The diverse and interesting content. Many people have chosen the SHP spec because they know that the content will appeal to their students. Some teachers have told us that all the options on offer were so interesting that they found it hard to choose!
  1. The sound principles underpinning Spec B. Teachers like the fact that the specification is built on SHP principles. The focus on making history meaningful to students, and on promoting rigorous and enjoyable learning, have been particularly welcomed.
  1. The free choice of site for the study of the historic environment. OCR B is the only GCSE specification which allows this. Schools are choosing a range of fascinating sites for the History Around Us study in the specification.
  1. The overall pattern of assessment. Many teachers have told us that they welcome the range of question types, the way in which students are rewarded for their use of any relevant knowledge, and the clarity of examination papers.

Now that the 2016 exams are over you will be thinking in more detail about the next academic year so here are some reminders about planning for the British Studies and History Around Us:

The Thematic Study

Each of the thematic studies is organised around three issues, so focus directly on these in your planning. The content in the spec has been carefully structured so that students begin with a brief overview of each period and then learn about each of the three interesting issues. The clear structure will help your students to get to grips with the big changes and continuities in the theme, and the factors which led to these. There is also plenty of scope to build-in the fascinating details which bring history alive, so decided where your students will explore aspects in more depth.

The British Depth Study

Again, the clarity and variety within each study should help your planning. The headings for each of the five sections in the study are the starting point for your planning. Turning each of these into a rigorous and engaging enquiry question will provide a clear focus for your students’ learning. There are lots of examples of enquiries in the support materials on the OCR website and in the resources published by Hodder Education. Remember that the assessment focus is on interpretations of history so build in a range of visual and written interpretations, and encourage your students to argue about history!

The site study

This will be a joy to plan and teach. Some schools are choosing iconic sites while others are going for places which are relatively unknown. Whatever site you chose, engage your students with a fascinating investigation (Why should XXX be world heritage site? What can the story of XXX reveal? What makes XXX so special?…) and challenge them to communicate their findings through ‘real contexts’ (audio-guides, radio programmes, display boards…) Through their research and creative communication students will develop the knowledge of the site which they will need in the exam.

A range of resources are already available to help you take forward your planning. Have a look at the guidance on the OCR website and check out the textbooks and Dynamic Learning resources for the Thematic Studies already published by Hodder Education. We are receiving some great feedback about the quality of SHP’s textbooks for OCR B and will ensure that more quality resources for the British Depth Studies are with you in the autumn term. The new SHP website will also provide a range teaching and learning resources to support Spec B.

Happy planning and enjoy a well-deserved summer break.

Michael Riley

Director, Schools History Project