St John Fisher  


Welcome to the History Department

Why is it important that students study History?


History is a highly academic subject that is increasingly being viewed as important in preparing students both for university and the workplace. History develops a range of skills that are essential in later life, notably evaluating evidence, presenting arguments, analysing and making judgements as well as recalling knowledge. Perhaps crucially History helps us understand the world in which we live. The History Department at St. John Fisher is proud to offer three subjects at A Level: Modern History, Government and Politics and unusually for a state school, Ancient History (Classics). This reflects our philosophy that all our students are capable of achieving good results and that we should offer as wide a range of opportunities as possible.

Departmental Staffing


Mr J. Sharpe; Head of History, Politics and Ancient History


Mr T. Best; Teacher of History and Ancient History (Classics)


Mr A. Fox; Teacher of History and Politics


Mr M. Melville; Teacher of History and Politics (Sixth Form Senior Tutor)


Mrs E. Wooldridge; Teacher of History and Politics
Dr M. Langstaff; Teacher of History
Subjects Covered
History at Key Stage Three


Key Stage Three at St John Fisher is Year Seven and Eight. Students are taught in their forms which are mixed ability. We follow the National Curriculum and will continue to do so after the current curriculum review is complete. Broadly speaking this covers the period from the Norman Conquest to the end of the Second World War. We undertake four National Curriculum Assessments in each year to help us arrive at a final National Curriculum Level.


History at Key Stage Four


Year Nine is used to study major topics that act as a background to the GCSE course which begins in Year Ten. We study the Great War, the Holocaust, the life and death of President Kennedy, Berlin 1945-1991 and a project on an individual that changed the 20th Century. Students continue to undertake National Curriculum Assessments throughout the year.

The GCSE Course

Currently, History is a modular GCSE although this will change back to a linear route in 2012 for students completing their GCSEs in 2014. We currently study Germany 1918-39, International Relations 1943-1991 (the Cold War), the USA 1941-1970, and Britain in the 1960s. The first three of these are formal examinations taken throughout the two year course. The study of Britain in the 1960s is the Controlled Assessment where students are allowed notes and plans but must undertake the tasks in timed conditions in silence, in the school. This is examined through EDEXCEL.


 History at A Level

This is examined through AQA. It is a modern course not least to offer a contrast from Ancient History (Classics) which the department also offers. At AS Level there are two examinations which are taken in the summer of Year 12. The first unit is Britain 1906-51 which begins by looking at the reforming Liberal Government of Asquith and ends with a study of the Attlee Government of 1945-51. The second unit is Soviet Russia 1924-41 which begins by looking at the rise of Stalin before moving on to assess Stalin’s impact on the political, economic and cultural life of the Soviet Union.


At A2 students undertake a personal study on an aspect of Russian History from 1815 to 1917. For most students this focuses on the downfall of the Romanov dynasty. The examined unit focuses on British History. It begins in 1951 and ends in 2007 and focuses on modern political, foreign and economic events by studying governments throughout the period. There is particular emphasis on Wilson, Heath, Thatcher and Blair and how they shaped the modern United Kingdom. It is taken in the summer of the Upper Sixth.


Government and Politics at A Level


This is examined through EDEXCEL. The AS course focuses on the workings of the British political system. Unit 1 focuses on the Constitution, Parliament, the Prime Minister and Cabinet and finally the Judiciary. Unit 2 focuses on Political Parties, Pressure Groups, Democracy and Elections. These examinations are taken in the summer of Year 12.


The A2 course follows Route A. This involves Unit 3 studying British Issues. These are The Economy, The Welfare State, The Environment   and Law and Order. This examination is taken in January of Year 13. Unit 4 studies the workings of the European Union and its impact on the United Kingdom. This examination is taken in the summer of Year 13.

Ancient History (Classics) at A Level


 We are delighted to offer this course being one of the few state schools in the country to do so. Ancient History is examined through OCR. Half of the AS course looks at Britain in the Roman Empire, through the use of original sources. We will study the reasons for the invasion of Britain, and the ensuing conquest, as well the response of the Britons through the process of Romanisation and rebellion. These examinations are taken in the summer of Year 12. The other half of the AS course looks at Ancient Greek history, which is taught at St. Aidan’s.


The A2 course looks at the ruling of the Roman Empire from AD14 to 117. Again, like the Year 12 course, this is taught predominantly through the use of original sources. Themes studied include the administration of the empire, frontier policy and responses to imperial rule. These examinations are taken in the summer of Year 13.

Departmental facilities


The department has four dedicated classrooms S4, S5, S8 and S9. All of these rooms have interactive white boards, while S8 is an IT suite. S4 and S5 also have a number of computers. The department has a wide range of textbooks, DVD’s and at A Level additional texts to support learning. We also have access to the Humanities outdoor classroom.



Career opportunities


History, Politics and Ancient History are all extremely well regarded subjects both by employers and universities. The academic nature and importance of the subject in developing vital skills are central to the inclusion of History in the English Baccalaureate at GCSE. Among the wide range of careers these subjects prepare you for are work in the Civil Service, Business, Politics, Law, Journalism, as well as Tourism and Education.



Results, extended curricular opportunities and gifted and talented provision


We are extremely proud that our examination results are significantly higher than the national average and not just in comparable comprehensive schools.  At GCSE around 93-94% of students have attained A*-C at GCSE with an incredible 60-70% of these at A*or A grade in the past three years. This is higher than the results of the average Grammar School who have a wholly selective intake. This helps to explain why History is such a popular GCSE option with nearly 400 students choosing to take it in Years 9, 10 and 11. At a Level Government and Politics has seen over 50% of students attain an A or A* for three years running, while History achieved 90% A*-C in 2010. Ancient History has blossomed since it was introduced in 2006 with 94% of students achieving an A*-C in 2010.


While results are very important to the department they are not are whole focus. We are committed to offering a wide range of extra curricular activities. Mr Fox runs History Club for Year 7 students and there is also a trip to Fountains Abbey in Year 7; a joint venture with the Art Department. In Year 8 pupils have the opportunity to visit the battlefields of the Great War to help them prepare for GCSE study. This trip is run in conjunction with the English Department. In Year 9 we organise for a Holocaust survivor to come and speak to the students about her experiences. In Year 10 the students have the opportunity to visit Munich, Nuremberg and Berlin to aid their understanding of the GCSE course.

In the Sixth Form we have run trips to Brussels and colleagues at St Aidans run a trip to the Houses of Parliament which are open to students at St John Fisher. In addition Mr Best helps run Debating Society for Sixth Form Students.


Part of the reason the department achieves such high results is our focus on stretching students of all ability. This of course applies to students at the top end as much as any other. Mr Sharpe works with Gifted and Talented students in Year Eight to encourage them to present assemblies to the whole school. This not only improves their historical knowledge but also their confidence and teamwork. Mr Best works with  debating for non-sixth form students who are often Gifted and Talented. At GCSE the department runs regular revision sessions in preparation for each module. This helps to explain why we achieve such a high percentage of A*/A grades. In the sixth form Mr Sharpe, Mr Melville and Mrs Wooldridge all have experience of overseeing the AQA Extended Project which is highly recommended to those students wishing to undertake study at the most academic universities. Yet we do not wish to simply be an elitist department, we strive to support students of all ability and student surveys at the end of GCSE and A Level courses show that students across the ability range feel supported and have enjoyed studying the subject.


Recommended websites


Increasingly the internet is a vital tool in supporting students study and research of History. Yet it should not be forgotten that books are often an even better source of information and the school library has a wide range of recently purchased books to support study across all year groups. Students at A Level are given reading lists and we encourage them to read widely around the subject, not only to support study but also to increase their enjoyment and engagement with History. Despite this we would recommend the following websites may be useful in the study of History, Politics and Ancient History
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St. John Fisher Catholic High School
Hookstone Drive, Harrogate HG2 8PT. North Yorkshire UK Telephone: 01423 887254 Fax: 01423 881056 Email: