One of the reasons that we decided to move away from the Common Entrance syllabuses and exams in Geography and History was because we felt that the programmes of study and the papers were too narrowly focused on the acquisition of discrete knowledge that did not connect in a meaningful way to the children’s lives and their experiences of the world around them. The Common Entrance exams in Geography and History require children to be able to answer questions about the formation of waterfalls or why Harold Godwinson lost the battle of Hastings and, whilst we still want the children at Vinehall to be able to engage with such questions, we also want them to be able to relate these ideas to contemporary issues.
Scholarship papers generally require children to get to grips with broader questions, such as ‘Is migration a good thing?’ or ‘Do you think individuals can change the course of history?’ We want all children to develop the knowledge, understanding and critical thinking skills that will enable them to develop an answer to these questions, rather than just a subset of the pupils preparing for academic scholarships.
The theme for the Year 7s this term is Planet Earth, and we started with Fire and Ice. As well as studying earthquakes and volcanoes and the glacial landforms and processes, the children also evaluated the impact of fracking and examined the consequences of glacier loss. More recently, the children have been learning about rivers, focusing specifically on threats to river systems and river management. Water scarcity is likely to be one of the biggest issues the world faces in the next century and it is obviously vital that the children are able to engage with debates around water crises.
For the Year 8s, the theme for the term is Rebellions and Revolutions. We started by studying one of the most important events in human history, the First Agricultural Revolution, before racing forwards through time to look at much more recent events such as the Peasants’ Revolt and the late eighteenth century revolutions in America, France and Haiti. In the last couple of weeks, we have returned to agriculture and have been considering the positive and negative impacts of the Green Revolution.
Please click here for an essay by Delilah G that evaluates the impact of the Green Revolution.