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History Blog

Making Pearson Edexcel GCSE History more accessible
By Ben Armstrong
28 Nov

Creating the Foundation Edition of the Weimar and Nazi Germany book for Pearson Edexcel GCSE History has been an exciting project. The mainstream book covered the topic effectively and in good detail, but I was aware of the challenges faced by teachers with classes of students with a lower reading age, especially if the classes are mixed ability and incorporate students with a wide range of target grades. The goal was to create a Foundation Edition of the book that was accessible to students with a lower reading age, while not sacrificing the core, essential information and also maintaining comparability to the mainstream edition so that teachers can use the two editions side by side.

My perspective as a classroom teacher

I approached the book from two angles. Firstly, I considered it as an experienced classroom teacher. I have taught in comprehensive schools for over a decade, with classes of very able students but also many students who have lower target grades, or who face challenges such as English as an additional language or specific learning difficulties. With each topic, I considered how I would use the material in the classroom and pictured the difficulties that some of my students had encountered with the mainstream book. The key question in my mind was ‘how would my students who find the subject challenging be able to access this information?’ For example, I know how hard it can be to help students to understand the Weimar Constitution; failing to grasp this at the start of the topic makes much of the subsequent content up to 1933 very confusing. This page has been simplified into a diagram which retains the core information but is much easier to access. Throughout the book, the reading age of the text was a priority, and emphasis has been put onto explaining concepts in language that all GCSE students can understand.

Foundation Edition
(click on page to enlarge)
The Weimar Constitution - Foundation edition

Maintream Edition
(click on page to enlarge)
The Weimar Constitution - Mainstream edition


My perspective as an experienced examiner

At the same time, I was approaching the topic as an experienced examiner. It is important that simplicity does not prevent students from accessing the marks by failing to meet the required standard, or that the principal specification points are not clearly addressed, causing students to panic in the exam hall. Therefore, much time has been spent on considering the content coverage, but also on ensuring that the exam question guidance provides models for approaching the exam questions that students can remember easily and apply.

Overall, I am pleased with the finished product. It is a clear, accessible book that I would gladly use to teach my own students and that will prepare them for this exam paper.

Ben Armstrong is an experienced teacher and examiner. He has written several textbooks and revision guides at both GCSE and A-level.
Ben’s Foundation Edition of Weimar and Nazi Germany, 1918–39 is available now.
The reading level has been independently measured and verified by MetaMetrics® using the Lexile® Framework for Reading.
You can view the full series of Foundation Editions for Pearson Edexcel GCSE (9–1) History here.



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