Aim: To support student achievement through encouraging student passion and engagement in History beyond the A Level syllabus, and to raise students’ university aspirations.

Background: The History department is a successful one with excellent uptake and better than national average GCSE and A Level results. However, many A Level students were not engaging with the subject outside of their studies. Only 25% of A Level History students were going on to study History at university and only 10% were going to study History at a Russell Group university.


Year 1: The programme of History visits was broadened across Key Stages 3 and 5 and preparations were made to launch a History Society. Approaches were made to further education institutions to organise visits and speakers.

Year 2: The History Society was successfully launched in the Sixth Form and broadened into a Humanities Society. The History visits programme was extended further. A register of alumni was begun in order to create an alumni network.

Year 3: The student-led Humanities Society struggled because of the impact of exams, as students prioritised their revision. Staff delivered lectures on subjects of their choice, though student turnout was low. New visits were organised, including a trip to Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, and workshops on studying History at university were run by former students. Questionnaires showed that these activities raised the aspirations of students to apply to top universities.

Year 4: The Humanities Society was ended because of a lack of interest from students, but the department continued to devise new trips. The link with Fitzwilliam College grew stronger and collaboration included guidance on new A Level specifications and course structure. An inaugural literary event in association with the Frinton Literary Festival was hugely successful with 100 students and 30 staff attending.

Evidence: University applications, trips and activities.

Impact: The aspirations of students have been raised, as university applications show:

  • 2012 – first successful applicant to Cambridge
  • 2013 – unsuccessful applicant to Cambridge; two students to Russell Group universitites
  • 2014 – two unsuccessful applicants to Oxbridge; one student to Russell Group university
  • 2015 – three applicants to Oxbridge, two unsuccessful, one conditional; four students with conditional offers to Russell Group universities

Reflections: A big barrier to the success of the Humanities Society is the nature of a split-site school where getting students to work across the key stages is challenging. The focus on the Key Stage 4-5 campus is hugely exam-centric, which means students find it difficult balancing extra-curricular activities with their academic work.

Contact: M Speakman,