New topics for history A-level

Times Series: The OCR exam board is planning to introduce 10 new topics to its history A-level course The OCR exam board is planning to introduce 10 new topics to its history A-level course

Sixth-formers will study the life of figures such as Alfred the Great and Genghis Khan as well as pre-colonial African kingdoms and the rise of Islam as part of a new history A-level.

The topics are included in a new course drawn up by the OCR exam board, which said it was an attempt to broaden the options available to students taking A-level history.

It comes amid concerns that in the past, history qualifications have focused too much on "Hitler and the Henry's".

OCR said that it was adding 10 new topics to its draft A-level history course.

These include Alfred and the Making of England 871-1016; The Early Anglo-Saxons c 400-800; Genghis Khan and the Explosion from the Steppes c1167-1405; Japan 1853-1937; African Kingdoms c 1400-c 1800; The Rise and Decline of the Mughal Empire in India 1526-1739; The Rise of Islam c 550-750; The Ascendancy of the Ottoman Empire 1453-1606; China and its rulers 1839-1989, and The Middle East 1908-2011, Ottomans to Arab Spring.

The new qualification, 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.

OCR said that the new course will help to better prepare youngsters to study history at university.

Mike Goddard, OCR's head of history, said: "School history has been criticised, sometimes unfairly, for being too repetitive and for having a 20th century, Western focus.

"Hitler and the Henrys can dominate. Universities tell us they want incoming students to have greater breadth of knowledge. It's vital that schools and colleges have an opportunity to deliver, for example, the history of pre-colonial, non-western civilisations, alongside British history."

"OCR's new African Kingdoms c 1400-1800 topic for example, developed with help from experts in higher education, will give students, for the first time, the chance to discover the economic and political power of four pre-colonial kingdoms, which had far-reaching global trade and diplomatic connections."

The topics will be listed in the new course alongside existing ones.

History is currently the fifth most popular subject at A-level, OCR said, and the most popular questions on its current A-level history course are those on modern Russia, American civil rights and Tudor rebellion.

The board said that it is planning a conference in the autumn, with help from the Royal Historical Society (RHS) to encourage teachers to teach a broader history curriculum at A-level.

RHS president Professor Peter Mandler said: "We stand ready to work with schools to make exciting new curricula come alive for young people, to show them how much more history there is than 'Hitler (and Stalin) and the Henrys'."

Details of OCR's proposed new A-level history course come just weeks after it unveiled its plans for A-level English Language and Literature.

Under the proposals, pupils taking that qualification could study comedian Russell Brand's evidence on drugs policy and interviews with music star Dizzee Rascal.

Tweets by broadcaster and columnist Caitlin Moran and memoirs such as Twelve Years A Slave are also on the text list for the qualification, alongside poetry, plays and fiction by writers such as George Orwell, and William Blake.

OCR and the English and Media Centre (EMC), which helped draw up the syllabus, said that the range of texts included in the course is ''the most diverse yet for any English A-level".

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