Invasion and settlement

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By Pat Hughessenior lecturer, Liverpool Hope University

Two of the key concepts in a study of the Anglo-Saxons are ‘invasion’ and ‘settlement’. But what do the terms really mean and how can we help children to understand them?


The main purpose of teaching children about the Anglo-Saxons, according to the National Curriculum, is to show ‘how British society was shaped by the movement and settlement of different peoples in the period before the Norman Conquest’. As with the Romans and Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons can be used as a case study to exemplify this.

Ideally, Anglo-Saxon work should provide valuable connections to a study of your locality, linking closely to the local history and geography of your area and making the most of children’s interest in their own surroundings. A good starting point might be to investigate whether these people from a distant time ever came to settle near your school. The ‘Settlements’ sheet (activity sheet one) shows where Anglo-Saxon cemeteries have been found and gives some idea of the extent of their settlement by the end of the seventh century. Notably, the Anglo-Saxons did not settle in Wales, Ireland or Scotland.

Key concepts

To meet the ‘Knowledge, skills and understanding’ requirements of the History programme of study, children need to gain an adequate understanding of what the words ‘invasion’ and ‘settlement’ mean. This must be at an appropriate level and should move beyond a glossary-style definition. It would be useful to explore the meaning of these words in word level work during Literacy Hour. This might involve an initial discussion about children’s understanding of the words, followed by a session demonstrating the different types of invasion and settlement. The activity could then be revisited at the end of the unit to identify whether or not children’s knowledge of these key words has been extended.

One of the purposes of studying the periods before the Norman invasion is to enable history to inform current thinking. The QCA guidance, included in Unit 6B of the History Scheme of Work, provides possible teaching activities linked to children’s own experiences of moving home. While not all children will be familiar with settling in a different country or a different part of the country, inviting others to share their experiences can provide valuable leads into citizenship and PSHE. Refugees and asylum seekers often receive negative media coverage and schools may be the only place in which the issues of movement are covered in a positive way.

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