Designing a History Curriculum Pt 3 – Disciplinary Knowledge (it’s all about the skills)

My thoughts, ramblings and useful tidbits I’ve found in designing our History Curriculum

I talked in part 2 about creating a whole school history timeline, but just so we don’t get our chronology out of sync (we are historians after all), the development of our History Skills Hexagon took place at the same time. The hand-in-hand nature between the two is key to what we want children to see. Whilst the timeline gives a framework within which to anchor the substantive knowledge, the Skills Hex give children a way to see the disciplinary skills they could use/are using in History to acquire this substantive knowledge.

The Skills Hex idea came partly from our Science Curriculum, where we have a wheel of disciplinary skills that Scientists use and partly from my favourite Sid Meier Civilisation computer games (which are based around history and hexagonal gameplay). The other benefit of using hexagons is that they are far easier to cut than circles (you can even use a guillotine): they look great in the back of a book 😀

Identifying skills

Identifying the skills took a bit more work than in Science where skills are more explicitly laid out, but the skills a Historian needs are there in the National Curriculum document. Each of the skills has been simply dual-coded. We took the identified skills areas and mapped the progression of each across KS1, LKS2 and UKS2. The development is subtle, but key.

Skills progression explainer for staff – apparently this is the kind of thing that “special visitors” like to see…

Our hope is that the History Skills Hex allows children to identify the skills of being a historian they have been using. In our school the children will have the relevant History Skills Hex stuck in the back of their book for reference. Lesson question labels will contain the icons for children to highlight in a plenary as they reflect on what they have been using. Thus, skills are highlighted and given the focus they need.

This is only the beginning

This is our starting point to ensuring the disciplinary knowledge is being taught in History. Supporting resources, currently in development, give each discipline at each stage a lesson focus (for instance, an exercise looking at primary and secondary sources in UKS2 whilst this is practically carried within the scope of the topic at that time). It is important that children are taught these skills hand in hand with substantive knowledge. We believe this will equip them to apply these skills confidently to future historical periods they will encounter.

The practical bit

The History Skills Hexes were created in PowerPoint using the shapes tool and icons from the Noun Project. No other “fancy” software was used. Text is pulled from the National Curriculum with a few adjustments.


© 2022 by Andrew Guilder ( licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International. To view a copy of this license, visit Based on content from Department for Education (2013) The national curriculum in England: key stages 1 and 2 framework document. Available at:


  1. Cecilia Basnett
    March 17, 2023

    I just want to say huge thank you for sharing a really interesting post and has helped me in thinking about our school curriculum.

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