Hodder History Expert Blog

The 30th National Schools History Project Conference: Day Two
By Tony Fox
11 Jul

Thinking starts early at SHP! My breakfast was spent contemplating the suggestions from http://www.frontlinelivinghistory.com/ that we had discussed in the bar on Friday night, especially their Great War Battlefield Medicine workshops.

Then on with day.

A space

I chose Dr Andy Pearce’s workshop A Space called Treblinka, because I have attended a number of UCL, Centre for Holocaust Education seminars. In fact I was at the launch of British Responses to the Holocaust resources in Leeds on the Monday before the conference. I knew I’d be provided with high quality resources as well as detailed and precise thinking.

The simple activities will lead to deep understanding, and give students time to think, explore and develop ideas before they articulate them. I was particularly impressed by the way Andy has set up ways to use the ongoing archaeological research taking place at the site.

I’m looking forward to using his fine work.

Local landscapes

I had been lucky enough to meet Prof. Tim Cole in 2007 during my IWM fellowship, so I was eagerly anticipating this post-lunch plenary: Beyond Auschwitz: exploring the meaning of local landscapes in the evolution of the Holocaust.

His session was based upon his publication Holocaust Landscapes. He powerfully demonstrated the dynamics of the movement of people, and the effects upon individuals. An example of this was a short extract from the story of Janina Bauman, as published in Winter in the Morning. Tim demonstrated that Auschwitz is not the main focus of The Holocaust, but rather the mass shootings and the Operation Reinhard camps are.

Combined with my work on Ponary and Dr Andy Pearce’s workshop I now have a powerful set of ideas and resources for exploring local landscapes of The Holocaust.

'Anglo-Saxons v Vikings'

Now it was 3pm. Strangely the resources exhibition which is usually abuzz was quiet. The reason? There was this soccer game about to start on the telly.

The press were billing England v Sweden as Anglo-Saxons against The Vikings, which as the Anglo-Swedish War of the 19th Century is noteworthy for its lack of conflict (in terms of casualties it was a nil-nil draw) I suppose this is the closest analogy they could come up with.

I eschewed the football and got on with the fun stuff...

Let’s get sorted

For a change I chose a workshop that had no local history aspect! 

Ben Walsh’s Let’s get sources sorted was highly entertaining, as well as useful. I particularly liked his message to the marker ‘you might as well lie and give me a C (smiley face)’ scribbled on one exam paper.

However the serious point I took away was that if we get students to adopt 'the historian’s mindset’ this will enable them to cope with any question in the exam. If we teach to the test there will inevitably be an odd or strange question that trips up candidates, whereas, if a student adopts 'the historian’s mindset' they will not be thinking 'what type of question is this?', they will be thinking 'how can answer this?'
Making Histories
There was one more plenary than usual this year. The 5.30 slot was ‘Our Migration Story: teaching migration history and why it matters so much'. It was immense, in both scale and content. With five speakers to present within the 60 minute slot, it was a feat of precision and timing.

The effect was that I was left wanting to find out more. There was time only to give us a taster, not enough time to get our teeth into a particular area. 

All the speakers were contributors to the Our Migration Story which is a treasure trove of case studies and teaching plans for anyone teaching migration.

You will find a better and more detailed description of this plenary on the SHP website. For me the section on BAME representation by Dr Robin Bunce caught my imagination, for with the anniversary of Peterloo ahead, the issue of better representation has relevance.

Grumpy old men
Before the evening plenary, Ian Luff was thanked for all his work - particularly in his sharing of role play and demonstration ideas across nearly two decades of SHP conferences. He responded with an inspiring and emotional pep talk. Thank you Ian.

The final plenary of every SHP Saturday has traditionally been entertainment with a serious edge!  Ian Dawson gets to dress us and play an angry monarch while Chris Culpin, is usually forced to dress as a monk and play the role of a terrible grump.

In anticipation it was somewhat of a disappointment to see the serious looking title: 'Room 101 and the History education Valhalla.' They would each have two items to criticise and send to Room 101 and two items to praise and send to heaven/Valhalla. I thought: 'no dressing up then, but at least they will be grumpy.'

On the second count they did not disappoint. But to my surprise the audience also got what they had wanted on the first count: Ian reprised his role as King John, scowling and shouting. Without this, and the usual Dawson matrimonial double-act, the SHP conference would be incomplete.

The bar...

Now we were into the fourteenth hour of the conference day we retired to the Bar, where I planned and discussed my 2019 workshop, there is no doubt in my mind I’ll be back next year.

Tony Fox

Tony Fox took his PGCE at Trinity and All Saints College (the home of  SHP) in 2000. He is a Humanities teacher based in the North East of England. He has Chaired the Durham Branch of the Historical Association since 2005, is the South Durham regional Officer for the Battlefields Trust, and is an advisor to various heritage bodies and groups in the region.

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