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When was it best to live in …?

One of the great pleasures of building up Thinkinghistory has been the chance to see so many creative ideas from other teachers – and this is yet another one.

Dan Kneller has done what I’ve always wanted to do but never got round to – create an overview study of his locality. In Dan’s case it’s Portsmouth – BUT DON’T LEAVE NOW if you are not in Portsmouth! This is a great model of how to set up such an activity for your area and, just as importantly, Dan explains how he was supported and inspired by working with other teachers in his county. Hampshire has a great record of providing local authority support through the work of one of the outstanding local authority advisers, Neil Thompson, and it is wonderful to see Neil’s work continuing through the examples and inspiration of experienced teachers in the county. I’d mention them by name but they’d all be far too embarrassed!

What this has to offer is far more than ‘local history’ although that’s worth exploring as a KS3 topic in its own right. There’s enquiry, chronological knowledge and understanding, how we use evidence to justify statements, what kinds of evidence tell us about our locality at different times and what we can learn from them and a model of how to get a class working collaboratively and effectively – team work, communication etc.

So, having whetted your appetite, read Dan's introduction and see the resources below.

Dan writes …

When was it best to live in Porstmouth?

‘Seedy at times, grim in places, but colourful and tinted with the hues of history’

This was cricket commentator and author John Arlott’s comment on Portsmouth in 1969. On a visit in 1729, Steven Martin Leake described Portsmouth Point as Gomorrah, pairing it with the notorious Gallows Point in Jamaica, which had a reputation for being like Sodom. It is a fascinating city, with a rich and diverse past that has played a pivotal part in the nation’s history. Did you know that Portsmouth was excommunicated in 1449? Or that the Danes devastated Portsea Island 979? Few do. For myself, local history is a passion that started with stories from my grandad about my family, then working for the museum service in the city and also writing two dissertations on the history of Portsmouth. I’ve always wanted to get the ‘big picture’ of Portsmouth’s history across to our learners and my experience with the Challenge Group allowed it to happen.

In December 2014 I attended the first of three sessions for the Challenge Group. These sessions are intended to challenge teachers in their second and third years of teaching to create engaging, original and outstanding lessons. The focus of our sessions, presented to us by Sarah Herrity and Neil Bates, was to create a lesson that catered for the ‘study of an aspect or theme in British history that consolidates and extends pupils’ chronological knowledge from before 1066’. Sarah and Neil presented some example lessons and we also discussed the various approaches we could take in our planning. Would it be national, international or local? A transition project? A theme running through KS3? There were many aspects to consider but there was one thing we all agreed that our lessons would be, and that is enquiry led. When Sarah showed the group a lesson titled ‘When was it best to live in Southampton?’, the local rivalry immediately kicked in. I thought Portsmouth deserves a lesson like that, so from that moment I knew my approach would be local. The enquiry I created was ‘When was it best to live in Portsmouth?’

All the resources are included below.


Download the Resources

A full description of the enquiry and accompanying resources can be downloaded:

For a full description of this activity in WORD [ click here ]

For Part 1 of the PowerPoint (15MB)[ click here ]

For Part 2 of the PowerPoint (7MB) [ click here ]

For Part 3 of the PowerPoint (3MB) [ click here ]


Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.

This Page


Dan’s Description

Enquiry Details & Resources