Subject Team

Mr S Dunlop (Head Of Department)
Mrs J Coen
Miss C Patterson
Mr N Quaile

Department Aims

  1. Acquire knowledge and understanding of the past;
  2. Investigate historical events, people, changes and issues
  3. Develop understanding of how the past has been represented and interpreted;
  4. Use historical and political sources critically and in context;
  5. Draw conclusions and be able to reinterpret these in the light of new information
  6. Understand the development of the contemporary world
  7. Build up a historical vocabulary
  8. Improve standards of literacy, oral communication and numeracy
  9. Have an understanding of the development of modern political societies
  10. Develop their own political opinions and be able to argue for them.


GCSE History

Examination Board: CCEA

What is GCSE History about?

GCSE History covers a number of topics from Germany between the wars and the rise of the Nazis to Northern Ireland from the 1960s to 1985, focusing on the development of the troubles.  A range of skills are developed including the ability to communicate in both oral and written form, to work with others, to listen to and accept differing views, to extract information from a range of source materials and to reason and present organised and supported arguments.

What can this subject lead to?

Component  1

Two Outline Studies

Germany 1933-45

Changing relationships in NI 1965-98



External Examination60%
Component  2


Depth Study

International Relations 1945-2003


External Examination40%

What can this subject lead to?

History is a valued subject among many further education institutions and with employers who value the skills developed by the course. There are some jobs which relate directly to History but graduates of the subject are employed in many differing careers, such as law, accountancy, media, sport and business.

A Level


Examination Board: CCEA 

What is A Level History about?

Our study focuses on the sixteenth century and develops a range of skills which are applicable today. Students must gather information and report both orally and in written form, work with others, use a range of methods of communication, develop critical thinking skills and develop historical interpretation.

What will I study and how will I be assessed?

Unit 1 ENGLAND 1520-70External Examination25%
Unit 2 Spain 1556-1592External Examination25%
Unit 3 Elizabeth I 1570-1603External Assessment30%
Unit 4 Anglo-Spanish Relations 1509-1609External Assessment20%

Are there any particular qualities or skills I should have to study this course and to what kind of careers can it lead?

Students will use a number of skills in this subject and these include gathering information, expressing opinions in both oral and written forms and understanding and interpreting source materials.

A range of communication skills alongside critical thinking skills open doors to a wide range of careers.  Some of the main career pathways for students of History include law; management and consultancy; publishing and public relations; marketing and advertising; business and finance; accountancy; investigative journalism; politics and political research; media, broadcasting and communications and, of course, teaching and lecturing!  Interestingly in 2012-13 only 13% of History graduates in the UK entered teaching and 2.3% entered post-graduate study for the medical profession.

History requires a grade B at GCSE.


Government and Politics

Examination Board: CCEA

What is A Level Government and Politics about?

This is the study of political systems in Northern Ireland, GB and the USA. It also involves the study of political thinking.

AS and A2 Government and Politics develop essential knowledge and understanding of politics. This course concentrates on developing skills rather than knowledge. Students look at motivation behind actions and develop ways to argue their case. Much of the work will be carried out through group discussion which can be reported orally or in written form. 

What will I study and how will I be assessed?

Unit 1 Government and Politics of Northern IrelandExternal Examination20%
Unit 2 British PoliticsExternal Examination30%
Unit 3 Comparative Politics USA & UKExternal Assessment30%
Unit 4 Political PowerExternal Assessment20%

Are there any particular qualities or skills I should have to study this course and to what kind of careers can it lead?

The analytical and investigative skills developed in this course can contribute to a wide range of careers.  Some of the main career pathways for students of Politics include law, management and consultancy, publishing and public relations, marketing and advertising, business and finance, accountancy, investigative journalism, politics and political research, media, broadcasting and communications and, of course, teaching and lecturing.

Politics requires a grade B in GCSE History or a grade B in both English Language and English Literature.


Department News / Events

PC Students represented at “Lessons from Auschwitz” Project

Viggo Stanczak, Trinity Cully, Jake Givan and Hollie Taggart represented Portadown College in a Lessons from Auschwitz Project organised by The Holocaust Educational Trust whose aim is to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned for today. 

Based on the premise that ‘hearing is not like seeing’, the students took part in a four-part course exploring the universal lessons of the Holocaust and its relevance for today. This involved a site visit to Auschwitz as well as an interview with a Holocaust survivor.  These four students were selected from 10 students who applied for this opportunity, writing a 250-word essay on why they should be a part of this project.

Jake Givan’s reflections on his visit to AuschwitzBirkenau

As we anticipated, Auschwitz-Birkenau was a horrifying and profound experience. These concentration camps capture another era of remembrance, one that must not be forgotten.

I found the entire Auschwitz experience very uncomfortable. Walking into Auschwitz, entering through the gates, I felt a chill breeze going down my spine. I saw the destruction of the cell blocks in Birkenau, and just the sheer size of the place was unbelievable. I saw the piles of shoes and among the pile of rotten shoes there was a little red shoe shining through. This shoe shone like a beacon of hope for a little Jewish girl, promised a ‘better life’ in Auschwitz, only for her to be brutally murdered, cut down, starved by the monsters that were Nazis. These events happened and they happened to millions. I also saw the ash carts where Nazi soldiers would dump the Jewish people’s ashes into a lake.

I could only respond with questions: how did this happen? How were 1.1 million Jews murdered in Auschwitz? Where was everyone else?

I left Auschwitz with more questions than answers. When something so tragic, so profound, so enormous happens, the world must talk. We must remember. We must learn. Why is there still persecution happening in the world, still?! My challenge for you is if we don’t continue talking and reflecting, the world is bound to repeat itself.

Viggo Stanczak’s reflections on his visit to AuschwitzBirkenau

“When faced with the question how to describe my experience in Auschwitz-Birkenau I am met with a dilemma. Any other simple museum would be easily described: informative, interesting, impressive, fun…but how can you describe what is seen in Auschwitz-Birkenau? It no longer feels appropriate to describe what I experienced in one short sentence, nor does it do it justice.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, alongside the talk from the holocaust survivor Mrs Genine Wedder, did something that no amount of reading, research or lessons could do. It showed the scale of the Holocaust, but not in the sense of statistics: 6 million, 21 million, such and such square kilometres…which are so readily thrown around like sand. It showed me the scale of the Holocaust on the individual. The people, the families that lived their day to day life the same as any other person, who came from different economic backgrounds, had different beliefs and different personalities.

To understand the Holocaust is not to be aware that 6 million Jews, millions of Poles, millions of Roma and countless more were murdered at the hand of an ideology fuelled by such inexplicable hate. No. To understand the Holocaust is to understand that it did not occur overnight and anti-Semitism was ever present even before the war. It is to understand one family with thoughts the same as ours, who loved and feared, who had a home, humanity and above all, a normal life that was brutally robbed and torn apart.

In the Spotlight for PC’s Broadcasters and Politicians

Five students were invited to join the audience for BBC Spotlight on 24th October.

Matthew Wilson enjoyed his role as a panellist at the top table for the warm up with Mandy McCauley, articulating the politician’s viewpoint with vigour.  Nye Crozier put a question to the DUP’s Edwin Poots, while Penny McCullough was chosen to present her question on abortion to the panel.

Kathryn Reilly and Rachel Turner also enjoyed the audience experience as well as the anticipation following the submission of questions in the Green Room.

Meeting host Noel Thompson at the end and actually sitting with him at the top table was the highlight of the evening for students and teachers alike.


Educational Visits / Trips

PC goes Stateside

On 9th February, Portadown College History & Politics Department took 49 students to USA for 6 days.

The trip began in Washington, where students had tours of the monuments and Arlington Cemetery before visiting the Capitol – the heart of American government.

A stop off in Philadelphia set the American Declaration of Independence in context, as students witnessed the setting for the drafting of both the Declaration and the Constitution, before Washington had even been built.

The journey ended with 4 days in New York, taking in historical sites including Ellis Island and the 911 Memorial, coupled with a wide experience of all New York has to offer from Broadway musical Wicked and NBC Studios to landmarks Times Square, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park.

Some of the students reflected on their highlights:

“The pinnacle of the trip for me, was the visit to Capitol Hill. As a Politics and History student, seeing Congress in person was indescribable. The history that is entwined within the walls reflected the growth of politics and in turn, represents the political progression in America. In Politics we are taught the American political system and this trip provided the opportunity to see that system in action. Within Congress, we were permitted to sit in the House of Representatives and the Senate, witnessing politics in action and having a physical representation of the process that we are taught. The experience was truly unforgettable.” Mackenzie Killops

“Having such an amazing opportunity to go to America on a school trip will be the highlight of my time at school! Being in America’s political capital, seeing the skyline of the Big Apple and learning about America’s history was astounding.

The Washington Monument was my highlight. Standing at the colossal height of 167m, I was completely in awe. Seeing how the people of America honoured their first President, George Washington, with this beautiful monument, deepened my respect for the American Revolution and how much freedom means to people. It wasn’t just the sight of the monument:   we were able to touch the smooth stone that had stood the test of time. Many photos were taken to ensure I will never forget that night.”

Rebekah Robinson

“To stand on the site of the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, JFK and many other American Presidents was an unforgettable feeling. Standing in the heart of democracy with access to both Congress and the Senate chambers was a once in a lifetime experience for me.

From Washington to New York, the 9/11 memorial was sombre and silent. Seeing the many names etched along the edges of the memory pools was a sight I will never forget.”

Katie McConnell

Year 11 Students Debate at Stormont

Stormont is open for business again as Year 11 History students from Portadown College debate the right to vote at 16.

As Historians and students of Politics we are surrounded by lots of living examples of History and as a school we try to enable our students to experience some of these.  We carry many visits such as:

  • Visits to Stormont
  • To Politics Conferences
  • To Belfast to see Murals and the Crumlin Road Goal
  • To watch films, such as ‘The Butler”

Former student returns to PC to inspire students

Former student and advisor to MP James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, returned to the College to share his experiences and Political journey with A Level Politics students.

Political Journalism Workshop with Mark Devenport

Year 14 Politics students benefitted from a Political Journalism Workshop organised by Cinemagic with BBC Political Correspondent Mark Devenport.

Mark shared his transferable skills from Politics into Journalism, giving the students a few tips about pursuing a career in Journalism: “If you don’t write about it, someone else will.” Mark reinforced the building of a portfolio as essential regardless of how ‘important’ the stories are.

Politics Students participate in UN Day Celebrations

PC Politics students participated in the UN Day in Armagh hosted by ABC Council Lord Mayor, Councillor Julie Flaherty.  Students were addressed by Capt. Tom Fitzpatrick who currently works with the UN in Lebanon and Kevin Hyland OBE, UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner. 

We also attempt to carry out a major visit yearly.  Past trips include:

  • London 2015
  • Berlin and Krakow 2014
  • London 2013
  • WW1 Battlefields 2012

london 14


Although the study of History is not job specific, its students have the skills that enable them to pursue a multiplicity of careers demanding a wide range of talents, and they do so extremely successfully in an open and competitive jobs market.” 

The study of History provides students with a wide range of transferable skills, which are important in many career fields. Understanding and analysis of issues and events are of key importance to historians and can be applied in many other fields of work. Other skill areas developed in studying history include:

  • Understanding of and experience in research methodology;
  • Statistical compilation and analysis;
  • Information management;
  • Critical thinking and analytical skills;
  • Verbal and written literacy;

We attempt to show our students the jobs that can be linked to History by considering some high profile cases but more importantly with examples of the careers our own past pupils have moved into.

Former History and Politics Students discuss careers with current Year 13 Students

Year 13 History and Politics students were inspired today by the Careers of past pupils Kerry Crawford, John Davidson and Molly Liggett:

Kerry has opened her own café – Apple Patch in Scotch Street; Molly works part-time for the DUP; John works for NI Fire Service.