At the end of this first half-term of 2023, History teacher and joint-Faculty Leader for Humanities, Mrs Maria Freeman, sat down with us to discuss her History classes, and some of the stand-out successes of the past six weeks.
Rydal Penrhos is a school with a rich and complex history. From the founding of Penrhos College and Rydal Mount School in the late 1800s by Rev’d Fredrick Payne and Thomas Osborn, respectively, to the merger of the boys and girls’ schools to create Rydal Penrhos at the end of the millennium, this school, and the North Wales region it calls home, has a rich history.
Perhaps it is because of Rydal Penrhos’ cognisance of its own past, that History has proven to be one of its most important subjects. It is a well-stated but important truism, that to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, we must study them. Similarly, one of the key educational objectives we have at Rydal Penrhos is to enable pupils to find the learning value in their own failure and grow stronger as a result.
With the school’s Lent Term at its halfway point, Senior History teacher Mrs Maria Freeman has detailed the impressive progress that pupils are making in the subject across Years 7 to 13. Since joining Rydal Penrhos in 2019, Mrs Freeman has become a firm favourite among pupils, both for her enthusiastic approach to her subject, and her role as a Year 7 form tutor. This is a crucial function in the process of transitioning pupils seamlessly from primary to secondary education.
Key Stage Three have continued to work hard in their History lessons, following a new curriculum that Mrs Freeman created alongside the Historical Association. The Historical Association is the UK national charity for History teaching, and is the same body that recently awarded Mrs Freeman her Chartered Teacher of History (CTHist) status.
Mrs Freeman’s newly devised curriculum for Years 7, 8 and 9 was inspired by a drive in History teaching circles to decolonise the curriculum. One of the happy consequences of this effort, is that it has produced a captivating program of study which pupils are fully immersed in and enjoying thoroughly.
In Year 7, as part of their broader focus on the Medieval period, pupils have been studying the positive role monasteries played in the society of the time, including their social and economic benefits.
Their peers in Year 8, have been investigating the Ottoman Empire which once dominated the eastern Mediterranean region, and why it was such a powerful force for so long. For one homework assignment, pupils were tasked with designing Turkish rugs which would have once been traded along the Silk Roads. Their colourful creations can be found in the gallery below.
Year 9 have made exceptional progress this year, and they have been taking part in ‘GCSE taster’ lessons, studying Germany between 1918-1929.
Within Key Stage Three, Mrs Freeman said that “special mention should go to Jacob in Year 7, for his dedication to the subject and his enthusiasm during class discussions; Josh in Year 8, for having the most improved test score since September; and Lucas in Year 9, for demonstrating great skills of explanation during a challenging topic on the German economy.”
For Key Stage Four pupils working towards their GCSEs, it has been an exceptionally busy half-term. Year 10 have recently completed their ‘Medicine Through Time’ unit, and will sit their a mock exam after half-term. Mrs Freeman praised all pupils in the year group for achieving the best class-average in an end of half-term test to date.
Year 11 finished the GCSE course on Tuesday 14th February, having worked through the content purposefully in order to allow time for revision between now and the final exams. Although pupils have taken away plenty of half-term homework, they can look forward to a reward trip for completing the course; a visit to Hack Green Nuclear Bunker in Cheshire. Previously, this has proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day.
Year 12 have made excellent progress through their course, which includes units covering the Era of the Crusades and Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England. The class is halfway through the latter, which focuses on the consequences of the Norman Conquest in the 11th century. Exam technique is a key element of A Level study and Year 12 are currently working hard to learn and improve this key skill.
Year 13, in their approach to their final exams, are honing their historical skills and showing great maturity in their academic writing. After the half term break, they will complete their final two weeks of learning, studying Russian History 1855-1991. The class have very much enjoyed this topic and will be able to demonstrate their prowess in the upcoming mock exams.
Both GCSE and A-Level History courses are set by the Edexcel examination board. Whilst Rydal Penrhos uses the Welsh board, WJEC, across many subjects, the school is fortunate that it retains the flexibility to employ alternatives where they best suit the needs of the pupils. As Mrs Freeman, who is an accredited Edexcel examiner explained; “In my opinion, the Edexcel course provides better preparation for pupils, due to its linear nature and its ability to provide a good foundation for future study.”
Thank you to Mrs Freeman for taking the time to speak to us. We look forward to sharing more History successes very soon!