How we are trying to design the best KS3 Curriculum ever

Following on from the Cottenham Village College team’s blogpost about their experience with the Ofsted pilot, we are grateful to the team at Fairfield School for sharing with us their thinking and connecting and working journey to revamp their KS3 curriculum…

Now that new A Levels and GCSEs are more set up, many of us are turning our attention to the KS3 curriculum. This process has been given extra impetus by the heightened level of interest in curriculum from OfSted, but I imagine many of our schemes are a bit dusty after several years at the coal face of new exam specifications.

At the Fairfield High School History Department we decided to take a good look at what we are teaching, and to start this process by thinking about the intention of our curriculum. We (myself and Dan Warner Meanwell) spent a long meeting thinking carefully about this, and came up with the list below. It is not intended to be a fixed document, and I imagine it will be tweaked about a good deal over the coming months. But for now, this is it:



  • Chronology of British History
  • A sense of historical eras
  • Factors for change over time
  • Knowledge of History that reflects the Fairfield community
  • Subject specific vocabulary (knowledge and question stem words)
  • Context of GCSE topics




  • Able to write a well organised, knowledge rich argument.
  • Ability to analyse, interpret and evaluate historical sources as part of an investigation.
  • Ability to comprehend and evaluate historical interpretations.
  • Engage with historical debate, seeing reasons for different interpretations and confidently forming their own.


Broader development (global learning; employability; celebrating multiculturalism):


  • An understanding of the history of Britain’s role in the world
  • The ability to confidently use a wide range of academic vocabulary
  • Able to confidently express an opinion based on knowledge
  • A willingness to question received opinion and/or stereotyping
  • An understanding of the value of our multicultural society, coming in part from a history curriculum that resonates with our community


From this we then started to design the curriculum, and the following things informed our teaching:

  • The expressed desire of students and parents for there to be more positive BAME history
  • Following this, consultation with BAME student groups from KS3 and 4 about what they thought should be on our curriculum.
  • Feedback from local community groups such as Bristol’s Tackling Islamophobia Working Group and Anti Racist Alliance about aspects of our curriculum they feel are supporting their work in the community.
  • Our own areas of expertise and resources.
  • Key concepts and vocabulary that students need. This included ones they will need for their GCSEs.
  • Feedback from professional colleagues in other schools about how we could approach some topics – many thanks to Rich Kennett of Redland Green School and Hugh Richards of Huntington School in particular on that front.

We then designed the curriculum around these factors. The finished curriculum will take more than a year to achieve, so we have an interim design for next year as we work through. For us, doing year 7, then 8 then 9 will not work since that would mean none of our current students experiencing a history curriculum with the levels of positive BAME history that we want. We will therefore have a more patchwork development over (hopefully) 2 years. If anyone would like to see how this will work, do get in touch.

Some examples of how we are developing the curriculum include:

  • Changing our study of life in medieval Britain to a comparative unit looking at Medieval life in Europe and in the Islamic world (thank you to Darren Bond of Chipping Sodbury school for quite a bit of that!)
  • Introducing a new thematic unit at the start of year 7 on the history of migration to the United Kingdom from the Romans to today.
  • Introducing a unit looking at the astonishing Empire of Mali before we start the trans Atlantic slave trade.
  • Introducing a thematic unit in year 8 looking at the shifting structures of political power in Britain

If anyone wants to ask further about how we went about this, or where we are now – please do. For us, it has been a fascinating chance to really think profoundly about the purpose of what we do in our community and our subject. As we start the hard graft of getting there, the excitement of trying to produce an amazing curriculum for Fairfield is helping to keep this an uplifting experience!

Kate Smee

Director of Humanities, Fairfield High School

The Historical Association have started a series of webinars to support departments and subject leaders to redesign their curriculum and develop the team. 

Please do join in the conversation via #OBHD @histassoc 

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