The History National Curriculum

The History National Curriculum

Do you want to know what’s in the History National Curriculum, but can’t find a simple answer? We give you a brief description below and direct you to further information.


What is the National Curriculum and why do we have it?


The National Curriculum consists of the programmes of study and attainment targets for all subjects in England at Key Stages 1 to 3. A programme of study is the content of what should be taught and attainment targets are what children are expected to achieve by the end of the key stage. All local authority-maintained schools are obliged to teach the National Curriculum by law.

The aim of a nationwide curriculum is that, wherever you go to school, there will be a common curriculum. This helps prevent upheaval in children’s learning if, for example, their parents need to move to another area for work. Many private schools also choose to follow the National Curriculum and their Common Entry Exam is based on it. Respecting their autonomy, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have their own curricula.


What is in the History National Curriculum?


The curriculum is comprised of historical knowledge, plus skills such as evaluation and analysis. History is compulsory in Key Stages 1-3, after which it becomes optional. Each key stage contains a local study unit, so children know something of the history of where they live. For example, do you have an oast house like the one below in your area? Do you know what it was used for?


Oast House Kent

An oast house in Kent


In the following sections, we will concentrate on the mandatory History stages. More information on Key Stage 4 and beyond can be found via the link below.


Key Stage 1: Years 1-2 (age 5-7)



Pupils learn about:

  • changes within living memory. Where appropriate, these should be used to reveal aspects of change in national life
  • events beyond living memory that are significant nationally or globally [for example, the Great Fire of London, the first aeroplane flight or events commemorated through festivals or anniversaries]
  • the lives of significant individuals in the past who have contributed to national and international achievements. Some should be used to compare aspects of life in different periods [for example, Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria, Christopher Columbus and Neil Armstrong, William Caxton and Tim Berners-Lee, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and LS Lowry, Rosa Parks and Emily Davison, Mary Seacole and/or Florence Nightingale and Edith Cavell]
  • significant historical events, people and places in their own locality.


Key Stage 2: Years 3-6 (age 7-11)



Students discover:

  • the changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age
  • the Roman Empire and its impact on Britain
  • Britain’s settlement by Anglo-Saxons and Scots
  • the Viking and Anglo-Saxon struggle for the Kingdom of England to the time of Edward the Confessor
  • a local history study
  • a study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066
  • the achievements of the earliest civilizations – an overview of where and when the first civilizations appeared and a depth study of one of the following: Ancient Sumer; The Indus Valley; Ancient Egypt; The Shang Dynasty of Ancient China
  • Ancient Greece – a study of Greek life and achievements and their influence on the western world
  • a non-European society that provides contrasts with British history – one study chosen from: early Islamic civilization, including a study of Baghdad c. AD 900; Mayan civilization c. AD 900; Benin (West Africa) c. AD 900-1300.


Key Stage 3: Years 7-9 (age 11-14)



Students study about:

  • the development of Church, state and society in Medieval Britain 1066-1509
  • the development of Church, state and society in Britain 1509-1745
  • ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain, 1745-1901
  • challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world 1901 to the present day, including the study of the Holocaust
  • a local history study
  • the study of an aspect or theme in British history that consolidates and extends pupils’ chronological knowledge from before 1066
  • at least one study of a significant society or issue in world history and its interconnections with other world developments




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For further details and the optional key stages, see the National Curriculum website.

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