5 things history teachers should be doing this summer

Last updated: Jun 4th, 2024

History Tours Development Manager at Rayburn Tours, Paula Kitching, gives her top five recommendations for enjoying the summer holidays. 


It’s been an interesting 12 months – and the next year looks like it could be just as dramatic. For schools there has been the introduction of new ‘A’ Levels and this September there will be the new GCSEs. There is also a new education secretary and with that there could be new policies… So thank goodness that the summer holidays are here.

Now is a time to take some time out and have a break. Whatever your summer plans are (sleep, sunbathing, no marking, eating picnics in the rain, endless TV box sets…) this is also an opportunity to get out and about and catch up on some reading.


1. Get out and about

Getting out and about is essential, whether it is close-to-home or to a far flung destination. It’s important to look at new things, or for me – new old things. Over the summer I will make the time to explore the thing I am really excited by – the past.

2. Visit historical sites

Visiting historical sites and exploring the historical environment takes me away from the days of paperwork, e-mails and phone calls. Furthermore I love the planning and preparation – selecting where I am going – it can be quite local to where I live or another country. Then there is the research about the place – is there a supporting book, an historic map and firsthand accounts? Can I find out any conflicting evidence about the place, or is it a straight forward historic narrative that I will examine? How does the site fit into the local landscape and what are the connections to the sites/streets/communities around it today and in the past. This holds just as much excitement as the actual visit.

3. Holiday

This year, I am off to an area of Europe that I have been to many times before but rarely at leisure. In addition to spending time with my family, I will be looking at some of the local history – I want to check out how much evidence there is of the past and what it can tell us about the history of the place. I’ve done my research, got my notes ready and promised not to lecture those with me for any length of time… and I can’t wait.

4. Be a bookworm

I’ll also be catching up on some reading over the summer. There is a lot more medieval history being required now for GCSEs and ‘A’ Levels, so I have stocked up on some books. Inspired by her lecture at the Historical Association conference back in May I’ve got the new Janina Ramirez’s paperback ‘The Private Life of the Saints’. For the modern era I’ve got Dan Todman’s book ‘The Great War- Myth and Memory, in it he explores some of the representations of the First World War and how they have changed over the last 100 years, should be handy for battlefield tours.

5. Step back into the past

At a time when each day seems to be creating a new and radical history of the present I shall enjoy stepping back into the past. I’m hoping that the past might inspire me for looking forward to new challenges, or at the very least I might get to take time out from interesting and busy times. What I am sure will happen is that by the time I’ve got through my books I will have a new list of places that I want to visit. It’s like an endless circle and journey to connect sites, interpretations and the past, not actually work but it will certainly support my work as I move forward into the next 12 months.

Of course the summer will just disappear and what seems like lots of time to read or catch up will vanish before I realise it. Paperwork will still need to be done and e-mails will still need to be sent and answered, but for a short time at least I will reconnect to the study of the past for my own pleasure and engage with the historic world because I want to.