Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

'Hitler and Henrys' stay popular

The reign of Henry VIII is still one of the most popular topics for A-level history students

European dictators and the Tudors are still among the most popular topics for sixth-formers studying history, research shows.

It suggests that "Hitler and the Henrys" continue to dominate A-level history, as schools continue to favour modern historical topics over medieval and early modern.

Civil rights in the United States is also in demand, along with the study of influential wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, according to a new study by the Cambridge Assessment exam group.

Researchers analysed students' topic choices for one unit of the OCR exam board's (part of Cambridge Assessment) AS-level history course, as well as conducting a survey of school history heads of department about A-level history in general.

The study, which comes days before teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their A-level results, concluded that overall, schools generally prefer modern history topics, with Russian Dictatorship (1855-1992) the most popular topic offered to pupils last year.

This was followed by Civil Rights in the USA (1865-1992), and Dictatorship and Democracy in Germany (1933-1963).

The top British history topic was Mid-Tudor Crises (1526-1569) in fourth place, followed by Churchill (1920-1945) in fifth.

The findings also show that for specific history units analysed, private schools were less likely to offer a modern history option than state schools (39.8% compared to 46.7%).

And high achieving schools were less likely to offer modern history for this unit than those considered medium or low attaining (39.3% compared to 46.2% and 58.7%).

"This study has found that centres appear to favour particular historical periods and topics over others, and that these preferences are, at least in part, determined by the attainment level of schools, and the type of school," the paper concludes.

Mike Goddard, OCR' s head of history, said: "It's sometimes said that Hitler and the Henrys can dominate school history. That is why here at OCR we are giving schools the opportunity to embrace a broader focus - with the extra help and support to do so."

In May, OCR published details of its proposed new A-level history course, which includes topics on the life of figures such as Alfred the Great and Genghis Khan as well as pre-colonial African kingdoms and the rise of Islam.

The exam board has said that the new qualification is an attempt to broaden the options available to students taking A-level history and will help to better prepare youngsters to study the subject at university.

The course, which has to be approved by exams regulator Ofqual, is set to be introduced to schools in England in September next year as part of a Government overhaul designed to toughen up exams.

The top 10 OCR A-level history topic choices offered by schools and colleges in 2013 are:

1. Russian Dictatorship (1855-1992)

2. Civil Rights in the USA (1865-1992)

3. Dictatorship & Democracy in Germany (1933-1963)

4. Mid-Tudor Crises (1536-1569)

5. Churchill (1920-1945)

6. Rebellion & Disorder Under the Tudors (1485-1603)

7. Henry VIII to Mary I (1509-1558)

8. Democracy & Dictatorship in Germany (1919-1963)

9. The Origins & Causes of the French Revolution (1774-1795)

10. From Pitt to Peel (1783-1846)

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