History in the making

The Life Sciences UTC is perhaps not the sort of school that you would think of when considering studying subjects like history. However, as it offers a full Key Stage 4 curriculum for students in Year 10 and 11, it has an amazing team of history staff who offer a history programme with a difference.

The school has found historical studies to be even more relevant this year as it has given them a fresh perspective on the current global pandemic.
Laura Bonnesen, history teacher at Life Sciences UTC said: “We are passionate about introducing young people to the lessons we can learn from the study of history.

“At the UTC, we focus on health and the people at GCSE. This allows us to study topics that really interest our aspiring doctors, nurses and scientists as we look at history through from medieval medicine right up to present day. We look at Islamic medicine in the medieval era and figures such as Rhazes and Ibn-Sina. This is absolutely fascinating and a brilliant way to consider the past.”

Students have the opportunity to focus on key individuals and their contributions to science and medicine. For example – William Harvey, an English physician in the 1500s who was the first known physician to describe systemic circulation and map that blood is pumped to the brain from the heart.

They also study Edward Jenner, the British scientist and physician who pioneered the concept of vaccines and created the world’s first vaccine, helping to eradicate Smallpox. This has been fascinating, particularly this year, as they have been able to bring in historical comparisons around the backlash faced by Jenner from anti vax campaigners.

Students consider the role of women in medicine through history and look at the experiences of Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole, Sophia Jex Blake and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.

They have found that students particularly enjoy the study of key public health institutions and the creation of the NHS.

They also benefit from the opportunity to consider historical public health crisis, including the spread of HIV during the 1980s and the potential reluctance to manage the crises due to a perception that it was a ‘gay disease.’ They evaluate the role of activists and campaigners in raising awareness and consider healthcare inequalities as HIV still affects many people around the world.

History teacher, Chris Challinor said: “Students have the opportunity to benefit from such rich knowledge, and it gives us an opportunity to consider the impact of history on things we now take for granted. Our students’ strong scientific knowledge and passion for future careers in medicine, healthcare and engineering makes this a valuable programme of study to supplement their understanding and aspiration with context and offer role models from across society to inspire them.”

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