Celebrating our History and Politics pupils during lockdown: This week’s blog from Simon Davies, Head of History and Politics

Posted In Academic, History, Politics

Ordinarily when it’s my turn to contribute to the blog, I would be looking into the world of pedagogy to find something educationally challenging to pass on to you, and finding some way to link it to our own high flying pupils. However, these are not ordinary times, and whilst wracking my brain for something to blog, I ended up wondering if anything would better exhibit the high flyers and hard workers at Bethany than some of the pupils’ work since we’ve been in lockdown.

I came to the conclusion that the answer was probably yes. I have been hugely impressed with the way the vast majority of our pupils have redoubled their academic efforts and motivated themselves since they were forced to learn without their guiding, cajoling and occasionally grumpy teachers actually in the room with them. They have been a credit to themselves and to their parents, from our smallest Year 7 to our most gnarled and wise Year 13.

When you see the way the pupils and the staff have responded to the very different requirements of education in lockdown, it is easy to see why Bethany performs in the top 0.5% in the country for value added at A level.

So, enough of my chuntering (and advertising). On with the roll of honour! A small addendum; this list is not exhaustive, there are many pupils who have produced excellent work, but these are some of those who have stuck in my memory over the last few weeks.

Years 7 and 8 have been working on a 20th Century Project, focusing on a topic of their choosing and explaining its development from 1900 to the present day. Many of these have been really readable and entertaining, but particular highlights were: William Edmeades Stearns who chose to write about tanks; Helena McNamara who wrote about fashion; Emilia Dillon’s piece on food; Jessica Hambridge’s project on shoes; Lucy Shaw’s project on music and Fifi Charles’ project on fashion.

Year 10 have continued working hard on their iGCSE Germany 1919-45 topic and the way they have kept going, making lessons fun and interesting to teach, and producing some really high quality work, has been fantastic. Madeleine Parrott, James Caney, Charlotte Ensor, Sean Cameron, Cem Ucer and Ethan Hill have all produced consistently excellent essays on the Nazis’ rise to power and their policies in Germany, and will be in a fantastic position to cope with whatever the Government throws at us regarding examinations next year.

Many of our Year 12s across both History and Politics have been working hard and, in History, we have progressed to the end of our Anglo-Saxon/Norman topic quicker than we ever have in the classroom! Both William Newstead and Aaron Monk have produced high quality essays on everything from Anglo-Norman church reform (yes, that was a thriller) to the motivations for William I’s 1066 invasion to Robert Curthose’s victory at Gerberoy (with William continuing to insert the word ‘plethora’ into every essay, as he has done since Year 10 when I told him that ‘plethora’ was a splendid word and he’d be sure to pick up extra marks if he used it). Izzi Hanson-Abbott recently made the late (but entirely justified and sensible) decision to switch into History at A Level and produced an A grade source essay on Gerberoy at the first time of asking.

Our Year 11s and 13s have faced the stress this year of beginning the examination preparation process and then having it all swept out from under them, followed by weeks of uncertainty as to how their grades would be awarded. Through it all, the vast majority have maintained their good humour and have continued to work hard. Particular highlights for me have been the excellent quality History coursework on the Berlin Wall handed in by our three Year 13 historians, Will Craggs, Tom Golding and Alexia Pickett. In Politics, Jeremy Daubeny hasn’t handed in an essay since February worthy of anything less than an A grade. Our Year 11s continued to work on their GCSE topics, handing in essays left, right and centre, and they should be commended too.

However, my favourite piece of work has to be the magnificent ‘Tomorrow’s History’ diary of James Duncombe in Year 7. One of the tasks we had asked the pupils in Key Stage 3 to work on until the demise of lockdown prep in mid-May was a diary reflecting on national and international news, as well as events far closer to home. James has done a fantastic job, far better than I could have imagined.

Overall, then, in these very strange times, I have been greatly heartened by the attitude and work of our pupils. We will need more of this fortitude when we return in September – things will be far from normal – but the future looks very sound indeed for Bethany’s pupils.