The History Department encourages girls to challenge, evaluate and share their ideas as the exciting and diverse curriculum inspires a fascination with the past and how it shapes our world today.

Head of Department: Mr William Lane

Lower School curriculum

In the Lower School, girls study a range of historical topics from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. In Remove, the focus is on Medieval England, with a study of topics such as the Norman Conquest, life in the Middle Ages, Magna Carta, the Crusades, the Peasants’ Revolt, the Black Death, and the medieval Kingdom of Mali.

In the Lower Fourth, girls study Tudor England and the Chinese Qing dynasty, and in the Upper Fourth, Britain and the wider world from the 18th to the 20th century. This starts with a look at political and social developments in the 18th and 19th centuries, moves on to a study of Britain and the First World War, and concludes with a study of the aftermath of the war and political developments in Germany up to 1939, with a particular emphasis on the Holocaust.

Upper School curriculum

At GCSE, pupils follow the EdExcel IGCSE Specification – a course that covers a number of aspects of modern world history including the Russian Revolution, Germany between the First and Second World Wars, the Cold War and the work of the League of Nations and United Nations in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Sixth Form curriculum

In the Sixth Form, girls take the AQA A Level course. The core course covers Tudor England, studying the reigns of monarchs such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, alongside 20th century China, covering the communist revolution of 1949, Mao’s dictatorship, and its aftermath to 1997. In addition, girls study a 100-year period which lies outside the examined course and undertakes a Historical Investigation on a topic of their own choosing from within it. Periods for study vary from year to year but include the Age of the Crusades, Golden-Age Spain and twentieth-century America.

This gives them the opportunity to research an area of historical debate and write a 4,500-word essay. Pupils learn to work independently, supervised by a member of the Department.

A pioneering department

The History Department at Downe House has been at the forefront of developments in secondary history teaching for a number of years. Overall, our courses provide pupils with a thorough understanding of the political, economic, social, religious and cultural issues of the past through an understanding of contemporary perspectives and historical debate.

A large number of pupils go on to study the subject at university in order to develop a wide range of careers in finance, law, the arts and teaching.

Further information about the teaching and learning of history may be obtained by contacting the Head of Department, Mr William Lane.

Meet the History Department

William Lane

Will joined Downe House as Head of History and Politics in September 2014 from Charterhouse, where he had been Head of the Sixth Form, Deputy Director of Studies, Head of History and a Housemaster. He read Medieval History at St Andrews University, and, after a year at Emory University in the United States, completed his PGCE at Cambridge. He was involved in the setting and examining of a range of qualifications at A-level and Pre-U over a number of years.

Andrew Hobbs

Andrew arrived at Downe House in September 1993 having spent the previous three years working as a Loss Adjuster in London. Prior to that he read History at St John’s College, Cambridge, completed a PGCE at the University of Exeter and taught for four years at Hemel Hempstead School in Hertfordshire. Having held the post of Assistant Teacher of History at Downe House for three years, Andrew was Head of Department from 1996 – 2014. Andrew has had considerable involvement on the pastoral side of school life given that his wife was a House Mistress and he lived on site for four years.

Sarah Barnard

Sarah came to Downe House in September 2005 having spent five years at St Mary’s, Wantage. She read History at St Andrews University before spending two years as an assistant housemistress teaching History at St Leonards. For many years Sarah was Assistant Head of Sixth Form and, for seven years, Housemistress of Tedworth. She is currently in charge of the Futures Department, overseeing university applications.  Sarah was a GCSE examiner for AQA and is currently studying for a GDL in Law.

Rachel Phillips-Morgan (on secondment to Sauveterre for 2022-23)

Rachel joined Downe House as a teacher of History and Politics in September 2014 from Lucton School in Herefordshire, where she had been a Houseparent of a mixed boarding house and teacher of History and Politics. Rachel studied History at Aberystwyth University and then worked as an EFL teacher both in the UK and abroad. Rachel completed her PGCE at Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2011. She is an examiner and Team Leader for AQA A-level Politics.

Candice Greenly

Candice joined Downe House in September 2021 from St Mary’s Calne where she spent nine years as a teacher of History and an academic and evening tutor in the Fourth and Fifth Form boarding houses. Prior to this she taught at St Catherine’s Bramley, having completed a PGCE at the Institute of Education. She holds a BA and MA in History from Newcastle University, with a particular passion for the Early Modern Era.

Alice Startup

Alice joined Downe House in September 2021 as Assistant Housemistress of York and Teacher of History. Alice joined from Benenden where she had a variety of roles, most recently as Deputy Housemistress and History Teacher. She has a wide range of historical interests and specialised in 20th Century cultural and social history for her MA.

Jane Uncles

Jane joined Downe House as a Teacher of History and AGN Housemistress in September 2022 from Badminton School, where she had been a Teacher of History, led iGCSE Global Perspectives and was Sixth Form Housemistress. Previously, she had been a Head of Humanities and History, Head of Sixth Form and Deputy Head. She read History and Politics in Manchester, completed her PGCE in Cardiff, holds a Masters from Bristol University, and the National Professional Qualification for Headship from the National College for School Leadership. She has for many years been an A-Level History Examiner and a GCSE History Team Lead Examiner.

Tours & Open Mornings

The best way to find out more about Downe House is to experience it for yourself. Book a personal tour or join us at one of our Open Mornings, available throughout the year.

Now accepting more Day Pupils for September 2025! Learn more at our Open Event on Thursday 9 May.
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