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CPD - Historic Environment

How to read the Historic Environment 

A study day at the Tower of London for GCSE history teachers

Monday June 27th 2016

Following a Government White Paper, all exam boards for GCSE History are introducing a compulsory element on historic environment, assessed by exam and worth at least 10% of the GCSE as a whole (20% in the case of OCR B).

Through a partnership between the Historic Royal Palaces Learning Team, the Old Royal Naval College, and the Division of Archaeology in the University of Cambridge, a Continuing Professional Development Day will be held at the Tower of London, to assist Teachers of GCSE History with the challenge of teaching Historical Environments.

Attendance is free, but places are limited, so booking is essential.  The closing date is Wednesday 22nd June. To book contact Amy Mann: , 020 3166 6596.

A limited number of travel bursaries of up to 50 pounds are available for teachers from state schools.


The Tower of London

is a 1,000-year-old castle that protects the crown jewels.  It was a royal palace, a secure fortress, and an infamous prison. Kings and queens demonstrated their power from here, shaping society and influencing our world.

Today, the Tower is a rich resource for teachers and their students studying historic sites and environments in the new secondary school curriculums.  This study day will enable teachers to explore ways of interpreting the architecture and history of the Tower, and of other sites.

Tower of London
Image Credit: Historic Royal Palaces

Participants will

  • Access the latest academic research on a range of historic sites and environments from experts at the University of Cambridge.
  • Explore the Tower of London and learn to read it as an historic environment.
  • Take home resources which will enable the interpretation of their own local historic sites.
  • Become confident in interpreting the historic environment, at the Tower and at other sites.


from the Division of Archaeology will include John Robb, Simon Stoddart, Graeme Barker, and Charly French.  Using case studies, they will give examples of how to understand, apply and teach the thinking points helpfully provided by OCR B (see list below), but which are applicable to the syllabuses of all exam boards.

Provisional schedule

From 9.30

Arrival and coffee.  Please see joining instructions for details of where to report to on arrival.

10.00 – 10.05

Welcome and Introduction

Amy Mann and Megan Gooch, Learning Producers

10.05 – 10.35

Historic environments, the Tower of London, and Key Stage 3

Amy Mann

10.35 – 11.00

Archaeological resources for local History

Simon Stoddart, University of Cambridge


Must Farm and the history of the Fens

Charly French, University of Cambridge

11.40 – 12.00



Interactive tour of the Tower of London

12.45 – 13.15


13.15 – 13:45

Roystone Grange: Wall-to-Wall History

Graeme Barker, University of Cambridge

13.45 – 14.25

Cambridge as an historic city

John Robb, University of Cambridge

14.25 – 14.45

Historic environments and World Heritage Status

Ellen Lee from Old Royal Naval College

14.45 – 16.35

Building an enquiry: how could you use the Tower and other sitesand what would a scheme of work look like?

Group exercise


Free time to explore the complex and visit the Crown Jewels!

Thinking points (after OCR B)

a) The reasons for the location of the site within its surroundings.

b) When and why people first created the site.

c) The ways in which the site has changed over time.

d) How the site has been used throughout its history.

e) The diversity of activities and people associated with the site.

f) The reasons for changes to the site and to the way it was used.

g) Turning points and significant developments in the site's past.

h) The significance of specific features in the physical remains at the site.

i) The importance of the whole site either locally or nationally, as appropriate.

j) The typicality of the site based on a comparison with other similar sites.

k) What the site reveals about everyday life, attitudes and values in particular periods of history.

l) How the physical remains may prompt questions about the past ad how historians frame these as as valid historical enquiries.

m) How the physical remains can inform artistic reconstructions and other interpretations of the site.

n) The challenges and benefits of studying the historic environment.