Oak updates

1 August 2023

Collaborating with our history expert group

Benjie Groom

Subject Lead - History

We were delighted to announce, back in March, the curriculum partners and expert groups that would be collaborating with our subject leads to provide independent feedback and advice so we best meet the needs and diversity of the country’s education sector.

Our expert groups have now met twice, firstly to hear about the curriculum partners and subject leads’ initial plans for their new primary and secondary curricula and how they would be involved as experts. More recently, they discussed threads, curriculum explanations and curriculum sequencing, as well as science-specific elements outlined below.

Curriculum explainer statement

We sought views on the quality of the curriculum explainer statement.

What is a curriculum explainer statement?

When you look at an Oak curriculum for the first time you will want to understand its intentions and how we reflect these. We have prepared curriculum explainer statements to articulate our vision to educators in a clear and concise manner.

Our expert’s thoughts on our curriculum explainer statement

In the format presented to the history group, our experts thought that primary and secondary needed separate curriculum statements to ensure they communicate effectively the different approaches. Some also felt as though it needed to be more specific in how it outlined the declarative knowledge that the curriculum hoped to build.


We sought views on the threads selected for each subject to ensure they are suitable and meaningful.

What is a thread?

There’s agreement across the sector that one approach to curriculum coherence is to identify groups of units across the curriculum that explicitly build a common body of knowledge. What is not agreed, is a common language to describe these groups. Concepts, big ideas, themes and threads are all used to describe these groups often in relation to a specific subject.

We have decided to use the term threads to represent these links like the visual concept of a thread weaving through the curriculum.

Our experts’ take on threads

We asked our subject experts if they felt the threads initially chosen for history would help to organise a curriculum successfully in a way that was useful for teachers. With the information shared at this stage, it was felt that clear links between the thread and the unit title weren’t always clear, however it was appreciated that this is likely to become apparent when further lesson content is available.

There was some debate around the number of threads with some members of the group stating that they thought there were too many, whilst other group members felt the number was appropriate. In response to this discussion, we have reflected further and have combined some of the threads to give a smaller overall number. This will ensure that they flow clearly throughout the curriculum.

Quality of the curriculum sequence

We sought views on the quality of the sequence of units within the subject curriculum.

Feedback on the curriculum sequence from our experts

At this early stage, history subject experts were shown the unit titles, threads and lesson titles.

In the primary phase, it was suggested that enquiries were too long, lacked direction and saw too much focus on the second order concept of significance. In response we are iterating the primary curriculum to rework existing sequences into shorter, more focused enquiries.

While the ambition of including so many diverse ancient and world civilisations in the primary phase was praised, some concerns were raised about the appreciation of their distinct natures. In addition to the above actions creating more context specific enquiries, we are reviewing the content of these units to ensure that they do not become generic.

In the secondary phase, there were insightful criticisms of the English lens through which many events were viewed. In response we have identified appropriate enquiries to iterate in a way that reflects experiences and voices from across the British Isles (e.g. comparing medieval state building more widely in England, Wales and Scotland in the Edward I enquiry, rather than focusing on English conquest). We are continuing to look at where ‘bridging’ narrative lessons or short sequences of lessons can provide greater world and European context to the British core.

Also in the secondary phase, there was a wealth of useful feedback regarding specific enquiry questions and how these could be improved. We are reviewing these to ensure they are best suited to guide pupils through the contextual and disciplinary journey that they outline.

We sincerely value the range of opinions and impartial expertise that our expert groups are lending us during this exciting time as we build our new curricula and teaching resources. We will reflect on this vital feedback as we continue to develop our curriculum sequences and teaching resources.

If you have any feedback you wish to share on topics discussed above please do get in touch at [email protected].

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You can view our new primary and secondary curriculum plans now. Teaching resources for every unit and lesson in the plans will be rolled out over this school year.

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