Impact case study: Kirkby High School, Liverpool

The Centre is privileged to be working with 138 Beacon Schools across England, and their network of over 800 local schools. In this article, we explore the impact of the Centre’s Beacon School Programme on Kirkby High School in Liverpool.

In 2018/19, Kirkby High School became a UCL Centre for Holocaust Education Beacon School. As part of the programme, the school’s Beacon School Lead Teacher – Mr Joe Carroll – participated in a residential course in central London and a study visit to Poland. He enriched his knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust, and developed an innovative scheme of work specifically targeted to the needs of his students, embedding the Centre’s pedagogical principles and including many of the Centre’s lessons and resources.

Galvanised by the programme, he also wanted to explore how his new scheme of work was impacting on his students’ knowledge, understanding and attitudes. Working with the Centre’s research team, he used surveys to determine what students had learned. The results for his students are displayed in Figure 1 and compared to the national sample of students who took part in the Centre’s 2016 research.

Figure 1. The percentage of students at Kirkby High School who answered each question correctly after participating in the school’s new scheme of work compared to students in the national study.

As shown in Figure 1, the students at Kirkby High School showed exceptional levels of knowledge, with the majority of students answering each question correctly. Participating in their school’s new scheme of work – comprising many of the Centre’s lessons and resources – meant that students at Kirkby High School were far more likely to know the answer to the questions compared to students in the national sample (who hadn’t worked with the Centre or used the Centre’s lessons and resources).

Lead Teacher, Joe Carroll explained his approach as a consequence of the Beacon School Programme:

Year 9 students at Kirkby High School studied the Holocaust for a whole half term after they had studied the rise of Hitler and the Nazi’s and prior to studying civil rights in the USA. To begin the unit we conducted a multiple-choice survey on the Holocaust and asked students to give their own definitions of the Holocaust. Out of a sample of around 50 students, only three scored higher than 50% on the initial survey through their prior knowledge. Most students scored around the 30-40% mark and their definitions were relatively simple.

We used Barney’s toy car (Authentic Encounters) to launch the scheme of work and students really engaged in asking questions of the object, launching their own lines of enquiry through the story of Leon Greenman and his family. Students then looked at pre-war Jewish life, building in some of their RE study of Judaism, before looking at the process of discrimination leading to genocide. Students really engaged with looking into personal stories of those affected by the Holocaust and some deep and meaningful discussions were had when we looked into the lives and actions of perpetrators, collaborators and resistors within the ‘Being Human’ lesson framework. Students created a timeline of Nazi persecution of other minority groups and were able to build on their understanding of the Nazi’s rise to power and WWII to provide context. 

On completing the same multiple-choice survey after the end of the unit, students now scored much higher with their knowledge of the Holocaust. A majority of students scored over 80% with all improving on their previous result. We also found a big change in how our students voiced opinions on sensitive topics in a calm and secure way. They finished with a sound understanding of the process of genocide and new ways to explore morality. Feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive and when asked to define the Holocaust at the end of the scheme they were able to provide a higher level of historical detail than before. 

Senior Leaders in all the Centre’s Beacon Schools play a crucial role in supporting the Lead Teacher and highlighting the importance of Holocaust education across the school:

“The Beacon school work at Kirkby High School has really allowed our students to express themselves emotionally whilst studying a very sensitive topic. Students and staff have spoken positively about engaging with real life stories connected to the Holocaust and how this has enabled them to understand how the actions of every individual can have a significant impact, in both good and evil in the world. Mr Carroll as Beacon School leader has also taken his work to other departments with English and Drama especially altering their schemes of work based on his and our students findings and discussions. We have also met with Sir George Howarth, MP for Knowlsey and discussed our Beacon School work. We look forward to building on our work with the UCL centre for Holocaust Education to the benefit of all of our students and our wide community as a whole.”

Head Teacher at Kirkby High School, Rochelle Conefrey

Kirkby High School is a mixed secondary comprehensive in Knowsley, Liverpool. They have around 900 students and form part of the Rowan Learning Trust. The proportion of disadvantaged students is double the national average and they have a greater percentage of SEN/D students than the national average.  In Kirkby High School’s recent Ofsted inspection, the school was graded as Good for Effectiveness of leadership and management, Quality of teaching, learning and assessment and for Personal development, behaviour and welfare. This inspection came on the back of an inadequate inspection two years earlier with the school now being described as “barely recognisable to how it was two years ago”. The school was awarded Knowsley School of the year in 2019. Kirkby High School has received external recognition for its Music department and Rainbow / Pride club. Inclusivity is a key value to Kirkby High School with their motto “’Excellence for all’.

The UCL Centre for Holocaust Education is absolutely privileged to partner with Kirkby High School. We are really impressed with what Joe achieved through his work on the Beacon School Programme and his commitment to research informed classroom practice. We very much hope that colleagues at Kirkby High School will consider applying for the UCL Quality Mark status, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with them, developing provision for and quality experience of Holocaust teaching and learning.

  • Read more about the Beacon School Programme, learn about the fantastic work our dedicated Beacon School Lead Teachers and their colleagues do, and get details about how your school can become a UCL Centre for Holocaust Education Beacon School.

To date, we are proud to be working with 138 Beacon Schools across England, partnering with a network of over 800 local schools to improve Holocaust Education, and positively impacting on around 800,000 students each year. We encourage you to join this group of dedicated and innovative schools and transform teaching about the Holocaust in your own school.

If you have done the Centre’s Full Day CPD course and want to explore the impact of your teaching on students’ knowledge of the Holocaust by working with the Centre’s research team like Joe did, please contact Becky Hale.

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