Whenever a new national curriculum is proposed, it isn’t mathematics or science that make the headlines in the newspapers, it is history. Heavy weight historians speak up about what students should learn in schools.
Funny that, when many of them have never stepped inside a classroom in the state sector. They often come up with their lists of facts that kids need to know – should Agincourt or Peterloo be included? Depends on your perspective, you political motivations and what you personally think is significant.
History in schools generally courts publicity because people argue about the significance of certain events and people. Some lament the fact that young people have not been taught anything important.
A great source of irritation to them is the fact that apparently high percentages don’t know who Lord Nelson was or when certain battles were fought. Luckily David Cannadine’s research into history teaching the 20th century dispelled the myth of the Golden Age of history teaching when he published his ground breaking research.
The architects of the Schools History orders of 1995 were two steps ahead of this on going ‘significance’ debate. They devoted the concept its own Key Element, 2e. This went beyond telling teachers what the significant events or people were.
Pupils were to be taught to assess the significance of the main events, people and changes studied, in other words pupils were asked to consider and make judgements about historical significance.
Do history teachers actually teach pupils what is means when it comes to significance? Well, the fact that the late Rob Phillips wrote an article in Teaching History in 2002 describing ‘significance’ as the ‘forgotten key element’ should give the hint of a clue.
Download the rest of the article and key resources here for £2.99. The article defines what signifcance is, provides a thoughtful card sort to help with departmental plannning, gives you a thoughtful way to consider progression and shows you some real contexts in which you could teach significance.