I have just been lucky enough to have a look at a copy of Diana Laffin’s latest A level History book British Society 1945. Its part of the Enquiring History series for A level.Quickly thumbing through it I am struck by the clever teaching techniques and the interesting content. It made me reflect how much progress there has been in teaching over the last 20 or so years. Progress that will be lost if Gove’s proposed history curriculum becomes the National History Curriculum.
Diana’s focus starts with her own story – complete with photographs and a timeline. The power of the personal used to great effect. Then she dives into the great enquiry question: When, if ever, did Britain become a multi cultural society? Students are asked to make a timeline and look at the how far events can be seen to show Britain as fully multi cultural. They are introduced to interesting topics, asked to think in the grey as well as the black and white and are introduced to concepts such as ‘typicality’ and ‘the qualified conclusion’. Great content and a great enquiry based focus – what more would you want to turn you on to history post 16?
If I remember way back to my A levels. The contrast couldn’t be more striking. We focused on The Enlightened Despots, The French Revolution and the Congress System….The teacher sat at the front and told us what happened. We didn’t look at different historians views. We made notes then went away to write essays – those who didn’t know how to research and write, did badly. The content wasn’t made to be engaging, clever enquiry questions were a thing of the future, active teaching techniques only meant that the teacher moved from lecturing at her desk to lecturing standing up.
I know which focus and approach is better. I also know the journey that the history teaching community has taken to get to where we are today as I have been lucky enough to have been a part of it. History teaching in England is in a great shape. Youngsters are made think, debate,anaylse and draw conclusions. All of this could be lost if the proposals for the History Curriculum are published in their current form. At 17 I found the enlightened despots pretty dry – I also struggled with The Enlightenment. I was a history nut – still am.
Gove wants kids to study this dreary stuff: to look at the English enlightenment, the Congress of Vienna, the Crimean and Boer Wars. He wants kids to focus on his personal version of our Island Story. And he wants them to do this at the age of 11! Diversity is totally lost. The word enquiry doesn’t seem to appear anywhere in the document. Looking closely at the KS3 content, it is so dense and arbitrary that it is almost impossible to pick out big stories in an attempt to help kids understand the or any big picture(s). And the whole notion that history should be taught as a discipline appears to have been screwed up and chucked into some waste paper basket in an office of the DFE
If you care about history – about how kids are taught in schools in the 21st century, please spend half enough responding to the present proposals. Click here to respond the consultation before the 16th April.
If you need some guidance or ideas to help you a good first port of call is the Historical Association’s website. They put forward a good case.