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History at our Senior School & Sixth Form

History at our Senior School & Sixth Form

History lessons at our Senior School are lively, creative and cover a wide range of topics. In addition, as a girls’ school, we emphasise women’s history wherever we can.  

In Year 7, girls consider the question ‘how powerful were medieval women?’, where they engage with characters such as Queen Matilda and Joan of Arc. Year 8 girls investigate the witch crazes of the seventeenth century – a topic which they approach with great enthusiasm - while girls in Year 9 study the votes for women campaign.

Sixth Formers, in A Level History, study two very different Tudor queens – Mary and Elizabeth, with very different reputations; they also investigate the gradual growth (or sometimes lack of growth) of women’s rights in the USA in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

History and HPL

Rooted in High Performance Learning (HPL), History lessons focus on encouraging our girls to think for themselves and to be confident in expressing their own opinions, while also having the courage to challenge intolerance and injustice when they encounter them.

Lessons are wide ranging, covering British history and world history, from the Norman conquest to the moon landings, and many topics in-between. This year, the girls have been embracing the world of independent research, including projects on ‘Fakespeare or Shakespeare?’ and ‘Should Winston Churchill be on the £5 note?’. These can be quite controversial, but by learning to sift through and weigh up the evidence, the girls have come up with some really mature, thought-provoking and sophisticated arguments.

In this uncertain world in which we live currently, the girls are encouraged to use digital resources and we are experimenting more than ever before with new methods of teaching and learning. Even our textbooks are available digitally, which means the girls can ‘write’ on them as much as they like - and, indeed, are encouraged to do so! 

Beyond the classroom

The History department plays an active role in the wider life of the school. In the Autumn term, a group of girls from Years 8 through to 13 ran a successful mock general election campaign, mirroring the real-life campaign that was taking place.

Although our results were very different from what actually happened, the girls learnt about the processes that political parties go through to win votes; they also learnt some valuable lessons about the dangers of living in a ‘Cambridge bubble’! 

Meanwhile, our small but committed band of Time Travellers – the lower school history club – have been researching the history of our school and are creating a history of St Mary’s in 12 objects – one object for each decade of the school’s life.

They have been finding out more about the lives of some of their predecessors at St Mary’s and finding lots of similarities as well as differences in the experiences of St Mary’s girls at the school close to 100 years ago.

We would very much like to hear from old girls about their experiences and time at St Mary’s.

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