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All set for vocation-linked course

A new GCSE is in the pipeline. Jerome Freeman and Jane Weake supply an update from the QCA

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is developing a new qualification for history, which we hope will be an exciting and innovative addition to the existing GCSEs.

The new qualification is known as a hybrid GCSE, because it links history to related vocational areas, such as the heritage industry, museums, galleries, historical sites, archaeology, tourism, media and law.

It will be piloted in schools from September 2005 and, after widespread consultation and a thorough review, we hope to offer it more widely. It could eventually add to the range of courses offered at schools and colleges as part of the new 14-16 humanities entitlement that comes into effect in September.

This is a good time to look at broadening the appeal of GCSE history to encourage more students to take the subject after the age of 14. Currently nearly two-thirds of young people drop the subject after key stage 3.

Recent research shows that many of them enjoy history, but cannot always see its relevance to their future careers.

We hope that that this new qualification will go some way to addressing this. It will certainly help to equip students with important skills as citizens in a rapidly changing society, enabling them, for example, to look at news and current affairs more critically, putting them in a historical perspective.

As well as developing links to related vocational areas, the pilot will offer a unique opportunity to trial new approaches to teaching, learning and assessment at GCSE level, building on the existing good practice increasingly seen in many schools.

Students could, for example, be assessed in part on their ability to design and write a series of web pages for a local historical site, or to critically evaluate an existing museum display that depicts a period of history they have studied during the course. The history hybrid will consist of a core (equivalent to half a GCSE) and two optional units, chosen from a range of general and vocational options, to make up the full GCSE.

All students in the pilot will take the history core unit, which will cover aspects of local, national and international history. They will have the opportunity to actively engage with the history of the locality, and to find out how it relates to their lives and how they might become involved in its preservation for future generations.

They will learn about the work of museums, galleries and historical sites as part of a detailed enquiry focusing on a period of national history. In addition they will investigate how an event in recent global history has been portrayed in the media, and why this should matter.

The optional units will present opportunities for students to specialise, according to their aptitudes and interests, by following either general or vocational pathways. These units will enable students to follow up an interest in a particular aspect of the history core in greater depth, while others could use them to enhance their understanding of areas of work and employment.

The QCA is looking for about 50 schools to take part in the pilot. For more information on how your school might get involved, please see the contact details below.

Giovanni Bruggi, history subject officer at QCA. Tel: 020 7509 5449. Email:

For further information about the new 14-16 humanities entitlement, visit areas.htm

Jerome Freeman and Jane Weake are members of the QCA's history team

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