How each unit works:

Each topic begins with a ‘wondrous moment’ to get the children interested and this may be an educational visit, workshop, artefact, image or story.

Each unit plans for substantive (historical) knowledge (people, events, situations, developments, chronology, characteristic features, historical terms) linked to a particular period. As children move through the school, this is revisited and built upon from earlier units where possible. This strengthens the children’s instinctive layer of historical knowledge that all new historical learning will become embedded within.

Each unit also focuses on disciplinary (historical concepts) knowledge (continuity and change, cause and consequence, similarity and difference, historical significance, historical evidence, chronology). Both substantive and disciplinary knowledge are supported by using key historical skills, which are embedded throughout units and at the heart of the history curriculum (enquiry, using evidence, interpreting, evaluating, using sources, organising and communicating ideas). Substantive and disciplinary knowledge are interwoven in our history curriculum.

Throughout the units children are required to organise and communicate their findings. This could be in the form of written learning, presentations, class discussion, group or partner work or even debate (in upper KS2). At the end of each unit, children take part in a quiz to assess their substantive and disciplinary knowledge and in response, time is given to not only revisit learning to embed within the children’s instinctive layer of historical knowledge, but also to address any misconceptions or

Historical Knowledge (substantive knowledge):

  • Chronological knowledge/understanding – dates, time-lines and sequencing events.
  • Characteristic features including people and places – how we recognise the defining features of a period or event through physical features, such as dress/costume, architecture, transport, agriculture, trade and the ideas that shape the period.
  • Historical terms – such as empire, civilization, democracy, monarchy etc.

Historical Concepts (disciplinary knowledge):

  • Continuity and change – similarities and differences within times as well as across periods.
  • Cause and consequence – why things happened and the effect that these events then provoked (the ripple through time).
  • Similarity and difference (diversity) – within a period/situation, between historical periods and over time.
  • Historical significance – of events/people.
  • Historical evidence (and contestability) – how do we know about the past and can we rely on these sources?.
  • Chronology* - understanding how time-lines and sequences can be traced back to each other

*Please note that chronology is classified as both a concept and form of substantive knowledge.

Historical Skills:

  • Historical enquiry – history is all about investigation and questions from both children and teachers.
  • Using evidence/interpretations of history – sources of evidence including primary where appropriate and layering of sources as well as an awareness that there can be different versions of the same event and that history is about fact, bias and point of view. Making historical inferences based on different source material.
  • Evaluation – selecting and combining information, and investigating for bias. Analysis and identifying what is significant.
  • Understanding that our knowledge of the past is constructed from a range of sources.
  • Organising and communicating ideas – historical understanding can be shown through images, discussion, debate, diagrams, tables, drama, dance, written tasks and presentations.


Understanding and remembering historical vocabulary and abstract concepts can be challenging for some pupils. At Thomas Jones we pre-teach historical vocabulary and ensure pupils have access to word banks and visual resources that might aid their comprehension. Tasks are adapted according to individual needs and pupils are supported with reading and writing, either by an adult or a peer in mixed ability groups. History lends itself to a multi-sensory teaching approach.  Lessons are visually stimulating through investigating artefacts and sources of information such as photos and video and children are also encouraged to participate in role-play to enhance their understanding of events or eras. Outcomes may vary for pupils working towards the same learning objective. Some pupils might produce an extended piece of writing whilst others produce a pictorial story board with captions.

in knowledge and understanding.

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

In the Early Years Foundation Stage, children learn historical skills as part of the ‘Understanding the World’ area of learning. Within this, they work towards the following Early Learning Goal (ELG): 

Understanding the World - Past and Present 

Children at the expected level of development will:  

  • Talk about the lives of the people around them and their roles in society;  
  • Know some similarities and differences between things in the past and now, drawing on their experiences and what has been read in class;  
  • Understand the past through settings, characters and events encountered in books read in class and storytelling;  

The early learning goals in the EYFS aim to guide children in making sense of and talking about past and present events in their own lives and in the lives of family members. An emphasis on storytelling and use of books is also evident. At Thomas Jones, enquiry, communication and exploration are central to all aspects of the EYFS, and form the foundation for future History learning. We also ensure that book corners hold a variety of both fiction and nonfiction texts and that whole class story times include books with historical content and/or characters to promote questions and discussions about the past. 

Many children within the EYFS have younger and/or older siblings who they will see being involved in activities at a different level. This can be used to extend the children’s learning and understanding of themselves and the world around them. By the time children are in Reception, they will be increasingly aware of the changes in routines during different times of the day and seasons of the year.  Using themselves as starting points, children begin to learn that as they grow up they are increasingly able to do more things for themselves independently. They do this through discussion of their own baby photographs. These planned activities develop early historical skills such as enquiry and using evidence as well as disciplinary knowledge such as similarity and difference and chronology. 

Key Stage 1

In years 1 and 2, children begin to develop an awareness of the past. They focus on learning about the significant people, places and moments in history and understand where these fit within a chronological framework in relation to the modern day. Children use common words and phrases relating to the passing of time as well as more specific vocabulary and historical terms. Children learn to recognise similarities and differences between ways of life in different periods including their own. Enquiry is key, and children will ask and answer questions, communicate their understanding and begin to understand how we find out about the past and the different ways it may be represented.

KS1 History Curriculum Map:


Autumn Term

Spring Term

Summer Term

Year One

My World Your World

·       Changes within living memory  - timeline baby to now

·       Compare and contrast old toys and transport

Castles & Knights

·       Detailed study of Queen Victoria.

·       Study of significant historical place - Tower of London and compare/contrast Tower of London as a home.

·       Castle purpose and construction.


·    Study of Amelia Earhart

·    Brief history of flight

·    Comparison between two significant figures: Queen Victoria & Emilia Earhart

Year Two

Exploration & Discovery

·       Timeline of key explorers. Compare the Race to the South Pole and the Race to the Moon.

Near & Far

·       The lives of significant individuals – Nelson Mandela

·       Significant events in their own locality – Empire Windrush

By the Seaside

·       Consolidation of chronology and timelines – connect back to Year 1.

·       Study of a Victorian seaside holiday.


Key Stage 2

In years 3 to 6, children continue to focus on key historical knowledge of local, British and world history from a range of eras. They secure their understanding of chronology even further as well as within the periods they study. They continue to develop use of appropriate historical terms, new vocabulary and consolidate historical language from KS1. Children continue to study the key historical concepts of diversity, cause and consequence, continuity and change, chronology and significance. Over time, they learn to not only answer questions and investigate sources of evidence, but also devise historically valid questions based on these key concepts. learn to recognise trends, connections and contrasts over time in these studies. As children communicate their findings and responses in an organised and thoughtful way and through different mediums, they will scrutinize a range of sources with an understanding of how these construct our knowledge of the past. Substantive knowledge takes the form of both overview and depth studies and relate to learning lower down the school in some instances.

KS2 History Curriculum Map:

Year Three

A Tour Around Britain

(geography unit)

Ancient Britain

·       Changes in Britain from Stone Age to Iron Age

Pyramids & Papyrus

·       Achievements of earliest civilisations – Egypt depth study

Year Four

A Tour Around Europe

·       Timeline of London’s history

Building an Empire

·       Roman Empire and its impact on Britain

Planet Earth

(geography unit)

Year Five


·       Movement of peoples. WW2 and coming to Britain.

Along the Amazon

(geography unit)

Invaders & Settlers

·       End of the Roman Empire, Anglo Saxons & Vikings

Year Six

Hard Times

·       Victorian inventions

Lost Kingdoms

·       The Kingdom of Benin and  Baghdad AD 900


Civilisation and Democracy

·       Ancient Greece and the birth of democracy