Overhaul school history, urges report by MPs and peers

 
Henry VIII School history needs more of a sense of time says a parliamentary committee

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School history lessons should be overhauled and a British history qualification brought in for 16-year-olds, urges a group of MPs and peers.

The average 13-year-old learns history for just one hour a week, says a report from the all-party parliamentary group.

The government should allow schools in England to replace citizenship classes with history lessons, says the report.

The government said it was looking at history teaching as part of the national curriculum review.

The report, from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on History and Archives, says many schools regard history as too tough for their weaker students and allow them to drop it after two years at secondary school.

It also highlights widespread concerns about the curriculum, in terms both of content and the pace at which it is taught.

"It is very difficult to generate understanding and a sense of chronology in such abbreviated time periods," says the report.

These views chime with those of Education Secretary Michael Gove who has voiced concerns about the lack of a "connected narrative" in the teaching of British history, with some notable figures such as Winston Churchill, Horatio Nelson and Florence Nightingale not mandatory in the current curriculum.

'Doctor Who history'

Chris Skidmore, MP and vice-chairman of the committee, told BBC News he believed in taking a chronological approach to teaching "rather than what I would call Doctor Who-style history".

He added that it was important to balance analysis with chronology, as students needed to understand concepts such as time and the past.

He said he did not think that starting with the Victorians and skipping backwards and forwards was an effective approach.

The committee recommends the new qualification could be taught over five years, rather than the two required for GCSE. It would encompass a "local, national and international" perspective on British history.

The group would like the qualification to be one of the government's new English Baccalaureate Certificates which will replace GCSEs.

Mr Skidmore said his conversations with teachers had reflected an appetite for teaching citizenship through a focus on British history, the development of democracy and "our hard-won freedoms".

He added that he personally would favour making history compulsory to 16, but the report notes that this would require an extra 10,000 history teachers.

The report also reflects that the majority of young people currently get most of their history in primary schools and urges better training in the subject for primary teachers.

'Key events'

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "We believe all schoolchildren should be taught about key events and figures in British history. That is why we are looking at history teaching as part of the national curriculum review to ensure that pupils are engaged and inspired by the subject.

"The introduction of the EBacc has meant schools are more likely to offer history to all pupils and will help us to keep history at the heart of the school curriculum. This year 41% of Year 10 pupils are studying history GCSE, compared to 31% of students who took history GCSEs last year."

Supporters of teaching citizenship said they were "appalled" by the report.

Andy Thornton, of the Citizenship Foundation, described it as "an understandable defence of their own subject based on ignorance of another's", adding that citizenship teaching had helped transform schools, inducting pupils "into the social order of the day, empowering them to play their part in its stability and prosperity".

Paula Kitching, of the Historical Association, said the new course would be a positive step, but it should be geared to all ability levels and supported by more in-service training for teachers.

"We have been tracking the teaching of history in schools for a number of years and have repeatedly warned of the dangers of limited time and a reduction in specialist teachers.

"There are many good teachers in English schools teaching history but the conditions and restrictions highlighted in the report's findings will mean that history for all will remain a dream rather than a reality."

History writer and former teacher Trevor Fisher however described the report as "awful" and "backward looking".

"History is the fifth most popular A-level subject, with students that are passionate about their subject. Once you make it compulsory, it is dead," said Mr Fisher.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 430.

    427. beesaman
    If history is important why did all of the political leaders do PPE at Oxford?

    You think a PPE degree contains no history?!

    Finally the government are starting to talk sense. A greater understanding of how and why the present has come to be, which involves looking at history AND geography is vital for combating the problems of the 21st century.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 429.

    As much as I love history, I can recognise that not everyone gets the same level of enjoyment out of it, so I din't think it's a good idea forcing all children to do it up to the age of 16. Also, we need to stop looking at history as the story of Christians in Europe, "but rather the story of humans on the planet" (John Green) and look at change from a wider context than just political forces.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 428.

    Final comment: politicians are destroying education with their constant tinkering and interfering. Politicians are trained in "talking", and little else. Education is not an ideological tool to use to win votes. Sums it up for me when I heard that someone believed that it was not important to teach grammar!! What? Is it any wonder our kids talk and write in text language!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 427.

    If history is important why did all of the political leaders do PPE at Oxford?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 426.

    As a history undergraduate student, I would argue that there is too much of a narrow biographical focus on British "icons" like nelson or churchill and not enough on Britain's place in wider world history. Also less attention should be given to military history and more to social and cultural topics. Politics is also very important expecially if history is going to replace citizenship!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 425.

    As long as it doesn't turn into British Imperial Propaganda! The rest of the UK has long been taught about the Tudors of England, but do English schools teach Scottish/Welsh/Irish history prior to Union? How many understand the UK's origin or Celtic Albion prior to Anglo Saxon? How many understand middle east issues are partly of our own making (Operation Boot, Balfour Declaration, Picot-Sykes)?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 424.

    I am sick of MPs, with no experience of teaching, schools or (due to the unsocial hours of Parliament) limited contact with even their own children, continually making pronouncements on what should be taught in schools, and how it should be taught. Usually, they hark back to some "Golden age" 1950s style private education. Why do we allow these buffoons to be in positions of power over us!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 423.

    I disagree most fervently with comments like those from HelenA... Today you have kids who care more about taking an iPhone to school than the correct equipment they need to work, kids don't know how to spell or know what a noun or a verb is, when asked. Ask a child of 13/ 14 : "who was Alexander the Great, and why was he such a significant historical figure?" Try it and you'll see!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 422.

    I was lucky and went to grammar school. Huge sachel, lots of homework, you did press-ups whilst queing for the horse, you were in the pool even if you forgot your truncks and wished there were no school holidays. But I dropped history as soon as possible because if you can read you can get all the history you want or need. You will never need it.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 421.

    MR.TRUCULENT SAYS!
    History lessons should begin today. The 1st lesson is ULSTER wants to be part of the UK and the Union Flag should be flown at all times. At the end of World War 2, India was split into religious sectors . India for the Hindus & Sikhs and West & East Pakistan for muslims. If people in the North of Ireland want to fly the green flag, they should relocate to Eire.
    E&OE

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 420.

    I might add: my partner, a Spanish teacher in England, explains that the UK is well behind that of Europe. The focuses of history were: prehistoric history, ancient history, medieval history, artistic and literal history, ad is done for a minimum 5 years. This is why our children are growing up with such a serious lack of knowledge (and I include other subjects too). Politicians STOP meddling

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 419.

    School history, with the curriculum chosen by the goverment can never be anything but cultural indoctrination and biased carefully picked propoganda. Science (including maths), Philosophy, free market economics, product development/design, starting/running a small business - spend more time on those and we might be getting somewhere.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 418.

    The national curriculum looks at World War 2 in year 6 and at GCSE and at A level. There's so much to learn and what is offered is too narrow. No wonder students are losing interest. Many years ago before the NC I seemed to study the Romans continuously, nothing has changed. It's all in the teaching though. One good teacher inspired me - but I studied sciences instead now it's a hobby.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 417.

    This focus on history is being driven by the Government's obsession with implementing the EBC qualification. Gove simply wants to value more academic subjects and devalue vocational subjects. He will force schools to follow his directive by insisting only certain subjects counts in the League Tables. Get with the 21st Century!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 416.

    (Anglerfish If you're still following, my apologies for my incorrect criticisms of your O level grade.)

    I'm not convinced it matters what history is taught - I do see it as of value for a well-rounded education, but variety is probably of greater value than us all being able to quote all the kings and queens - as I learnt in primary school.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 415.

    History at school is simply not suited for everyone and I dropped it as soon as i could as it didn't meet my interests at the time. 16 years later I have just completed an honours degree in history with the open university.

    Schools are not the only place we can learn about the past.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 414.

    Too many of the teaching profession have failed to understand the need for history and the result of ignoring its lessons. Military history is entwined in political and economic history. How it is delivered is vitally important, and needs committed teachers, not those wanting to push their own, often sadly outdated political agendas. The British have genuine grounds for pride,

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 413.

    One of the reasons I worry about having children is the state of education today - demonstrated by our not being able to appreciate what in history is important anymore! Where is Ancient Greece/ Rome/ Egypt? Where are the Napoleonic Wars? Where are the medieval empires? The dark ages? The Crusades? These are crucial in helping children understand how human history has evolved.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 412.

    How tragic to forge nationalistic kids, with mindless minds, without a global perspective of the common human adventure, who ignore the classics, who are kept in the dark on the age of enlightenment, who are unaware of the shared European heritage, who are moulded to remain islanders looking in, not out! Who might even think Henry VIII is the pinnacle of world history! How very sad! Ωιμέ!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 411.

    History is what, when, who and most importantly, why. Why is subjective so everyone can have an opinion, however that opinion needs to be based on evidence and put into context. The worst thing we can do is re-write it based on today's political ideals and morals. Children need to be encouraged to ask "why" for that way they will understand how countries/societies develop and their place in it.

 

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