The History Department offers an exciting and diverse curriculum to inspire a fascination with the past and how it shapes our world today, and girls are encouraged to challenge, evaluate and share their ideas.

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 the 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 and the Black Death.

In the Lower Fourth, girls study Tudor England, 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.

Upper School curriculum

At GCSE, pupils follow the AQA History specification – a course which covers aspects of 20th century world history, as well as the development of democracy in Britain over a 1000-year period and an in-depth study in the reign of Edward I which includes the study of a specific historical site.

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 taught course and undertake a Historical Investigation on a topic of their own choosing from within it. Periods for study include the Age of the Crusades, Enlightenment France and twentieth-century America.

This gives them the opportunity to research an area of historical debate and leads to an essay of up to 3500 words. Pupils learn to work independently, whilst being 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. Email: lanew@downehouse.net

Meet the History Department

Mr William Lane

Mr Lane joined Downe House as Head of History 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 the University of St Andrews, and, after a year at university in the United States, completed his PGCE at Cambridge. He chaired the syllabus development committee for Pre-U History and is an examination setter for the qualification. He was for many years an A-Level Principal Examiner.

Mr 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 in the pastoral side of School life given that his wife was a Housemistress and he lived onsite for four years.

Mr Mark Hill

Mr Hill joined Downe House in September 1997 having spent the previous three years teaching in an 11-18 mixed comprehensive school in Surrey. Prior to this, he read Modern History at the University of Hull, completed an MA in International Relations at the University of Reading and then worked in publishing for a year. Mark returned to the University of Reading in 1993 where he took a PGCE. He has been an examiner for OCR and the School Examinations Officer. In September 2007, Mark became Assistant Senior Master and, in January 2009, Assistant Headmaster.

Mrs Sarah Barnard

Mrs Barnard came to Downe House in September 2005 having spent five years at St Mary’s, Wantage. She read History at the University of St Andrews before spending two years as an Assistant Housemistress teaching History at St Leonards. For several years Sarah was Assistant Head of Sixth Form, doing a weekly duty in Willis, and she is currently Housemistress of Tedworth and in charge of overseas university applications. Sarah was a GCSE examiner for AQA and is currently studying for a GDL in Law.

Mrs Rachel Phillips-Morgan

Mrs Phillips-Morgan 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.

Mr Ross Wise

Mr Wise joined Downe House in September 2016 from St. Patrick’s College, Ballarat, Australia, where he had been Director of Middle School, Senior Boarding Housemaster and Teacher of Senior History and English. He completed his Bachelor of Arts majoring in History and Political Science at The University of Tasmania, after which he undertook his Bachelor of Teaching, specialising in History and English. Ross recently graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Master of Education and in addition to his teaching, is currently the Head of Academic Extension at Downe House.

Miss Grace Lawes

Miss Lawes joined Downe House in September 2019 having taught for three years at St John’s School in Leatherhead (an 11-18 coeducational school in Surrey). Here, in collaboration with the University of Kingston and George Abbot SCITT, she achieved a distinction in her PGCE. Prior to this, Grace taught at Marlborough College and read history at Royal Holloway University where she specialised in Holocaust studies and produced a genealogical project on her family’s experience in Austria for her undergraduate dissertation. Grace has also previously worked as an Assistant Housemistress and joined Downe House as a Housemistress in York, therefore, she has also had significant involvement in the pastoral elements of School life.


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.