Oh dear oh dear oh dear!!
The drafts of the new National Curriculum for history were published on Thursday…what can I say that hasn’t already been said? I have been speechless since reading them.
If you haven’t had a chance to look, you can the proposals here.
Read it and weep! Bury your head in your hands. Think about working in Tescos, or a call centre. After all these occupations have got to be more appealing than teaching this incoherent overly prescriptive mess.
What is crazy about this whole process, is that no one from the history teaching community was consulted during the drafting of this whiggish list. There was no curriculum working party, the Historical Association were not involved at all. This kind of approach comes from Orwell’s 1984 – ‘he who controls the present controls the past’. Being given a set list of topics that must be taught in a particular order is something one would expect from a dictatorship, not from a democratic government.
The detail is in places awful. It is far too heavy. And the worst of it is that most of it is to be delivered by our hard working but non specialist primary colleagues.
We can moan all we like but as a community of history teaching professionals we must act now. We must coherently explain why this overly prescriptive long, extensive list of dry events is like will be the death of the subject that we love. We need to lobby our local MPs, shouting from the roof tops at what a retrograde step publishing this document in its present form woud be. We must take the HA poll and comment on the HA forum thread on this. We need to comment on the schoolshistory forum. We need to tweet and retweet like mad. We need to join the facebook group. We must attend the Historical Association’s meetings on this across the country. We need to lobby the DfE in the hope that they are willing to listen (Pam Raven is the subject leader for the National Curriculum Review for History). We need to email members of the Education Select Committee explaining why this curriculum development simply won’t work. Most importantly we must respond to the consultation by the 16th April.
So why won’t it work?
- Primary teachers are being asked to teach content and topics that are totally new to them (unless they were teaching in the mid 1980s or before). There are no resources available for them and, thanks to LA cuts, no advisers or consultants left to train them to do this. History for All clearly pointed out the lack of subject specific CPD at this level. In any case, most primary schools are more concerned about the changes to the core subjects. They won’t have time to consider the how best to trawl through this turgid treacle (where is the time going to come from to do this? Maths? English?).
- Key Stage 3 has been robbed of all the dear to heart topics that kids love so much and have been left with a diet of mainly dry political and economic events which will bore the pants off many of them.
- If primary schools cannot deliver the teaching of 500BC to 1700AD then a whole generation of kids will have a bigger black hole in their historical understanding.
- The whole curriculum is to quote Mr Gove, supposed to be ‘less prescriptive’. In fact it is the most prescriptive straight jacket that has been thrust down to us in the history of history teaching. If you compare this with the document for geography which offers teachers choice in the topics they can teach, you can see what this document really is – politically driven to control what is taught to future generations.
- Although the concepts and processes are there somewhere at the beginning, there is no mention of the enquiry – this is s what Ofsted’s subject specific guidance tells us is the best way to teach our subject.
- The tradition of schools history is that it an analytical subject which encourages independent thought and debate. It is not a subjective list to be regurgitated but not understood.
- If you take each piece of content on the list and suggest that it needs one or two hours teaching time, for many schools,there is not enough time on the curriculum to cover all the content suggested.
And that’s just for starters.
Please, please, please get involved. It really is time to act.