The Perse School


A historical understanding informs our questions, judgements and decisions about contemporary events

Our aim

History contributes enormously to students’ understanding of the world and its interdependence, achievements and aspirations. By engaging with history, students understand and appreciate not only the characteristic features and diversity of British society, but of a range of societies, political structures, cultures and beliefs that influenced the actions of people in the past. A historical understanding is imperative to inform our questions, judgements and decisions about contemporary events and the world in which we live.

We develop lively, enquiring minds that question and construct rational argument, think creatively and independently, and use initiative. Students develop their research, writing, debating and presenting skills; they work independently and in groups, and all students are actively encouraged to participate in class discussion. They learn about key historical concepts such as cause, consequence, continuity, change and development, as well as being encouraged to empathise with the values and perspectives of people in the past and from different cultures and societies.

Above all we teach them to think discriminatingly and critically. We place particular importance on the development of independent thought and analytical skills, and the qualities of perception and judgement, while fostering intellectual independence.

In particular, we help students develop the following skills:

  • Writing with clarity and precision
  • Reading and research skills
  • Arguing a case both on paper and in class discussion
  • Forming their own opinion and judgement based on the available evidence
  • Assessing the reliability and utility of documentary evidence
  • A sceptical approach to ‘obvious’ lines of argument

History is consistently the most popular optional subject at GCSE at The Perse.

Learning journey - Years 7-9

In Year 7 students concentrate on Medieval Britain, exploring 1066 and the Norman Conquest, the Crusades, King John and the Magna Carta, among other topics. Year 7 students also have one lesson per fortnight on local studies, taken by the Head, in which they discover the history and geography of their local area.

In Year 8 they study the 16th and 17th centuries, with topics including Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada, the Gunpowder Plot and the English Civil War.

In Year 9 students study industry, imperialism and slavery and make an in-depth study of World War Two, which provides important background for the IGCSE course.

Learning journey - IGCSE

Most students choose to continue studying history to IGCSE level, with over 140 students currently studying history in Year 10. We cover the following four topics over the course of two years:

  • The First World War 1905-18
  • Development of Dictatorship: Germany 1918-45
  • A World Divided: Superpower Relations 1945-1962
  • Changes in Medicine 1845-c.1945
Providing stretch

We encourage students to deepen their grasp and enjoyment of history with independent study. Each term we set tasks for students who would like to go beyond the curriculum, from considering whether the veneration of Becket is justified to identifying key figures in the campaign to abolish slavery. We provide articles, books and information about upcoming historical documentaries or films, as well as discussing current affairs and their historical context.  We run essay competitions, provide the opportunity to write articles for the Middle School History Magazine and encourage and prepare students to enter national essay competitions.

We run an extensive programme of trips which includes visits to Berlin, Paris, Poland, Normandy and the First World War battlefields. Year 7 students enjoy an annual trip to Northumberland to visit Hadrian’s Wall, Roman Vindolanda, some of the Northumbrian castles and Beamish Museum. During the Easter holiday around 50 Year 9 students visit the D-Day beaches and some of the key sites of the Normandy landings such as Pegasus Bridge. Our annual trip to the First World War Battlefields for Year 11 students has been running for over fifteen years.

We also run day visits to local museums and historical sites, such as Castle Mountfitchet, the IWM Duxford, Bletchley Park and the American War Cemetery at Madingley.

Beyond the classroom

We offer numerous opportunities to go beyond the classroom – opportunities that greatly enrich students’ enjoyment of the subject.

In Years 7, 8 and 9 we offer a weekly History Society club, Origins, which organises trips to historical sites such as Bletchley Park and the Tank Museum at Bovington. For Years 10 and 11 there is ‘Horizons’, which meets biweekly to discuss different themes and eras in history. We also run a History Book Group for students in Year 10 and 11.

The Senior History Society has invited a number of eminent historians to the school to give talks in recent years, such as Professor David Reynolds, Professor Sir Richard Evans Kt and Dr Suzannah Lipscomb. We are committed to cultivating cross-curricular links and work closely with other departments to offer joint societies with the Classics Department, as well as working with other departments to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

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