Diversity Steering Group: mission statement

History of all for all

The Diversity Steering Group brings together the key umbrella bodies in UK history education – The Historical Association, The Royal Historical Society, The Institute of Historical Research, and the Schools History Project – with the Runnymede Trust, an independent race equality think tank.

The Diversity Steering Group came together with a shared concern that history, particularly the history in examination specifications, is not reflecting good historical practice. Over the course of the last century, historical research has continuously broadened the range and diversity of the people and forms of human behaviour it explores, and the content of GCSE and A-Level specifications needs to be regularly reviewed and updated in the light of current good scholarship.

Research from a number of sources, including work by the Runnymede Trust, the Historical Association and the Royal Historical Society, has informed our approach1.

Defining diversity in history teaching

Diversity in history cannot be simply about race and ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality or disability; it is all these and more. It is not about putting one or two women and a person of colour into the story; it is the complex, layered understanding of all human life and experience and how they intersect. It is about telling new stories from many previously obscured positions and challenging insular stories with views from outside.

History in our schools must better reflect the widening horizons of the last century – the widening horizons of the study of history (which is always discovering new subjects) and the widening horizons of our citizenry in a shrinking world. A monocultural approach will not equip young people to begin to explore the rich complexity of the subject. A study of British history which does not engage with global contexts and global influences is one-dimensional. Conversely, a study of the wider world which only engages with it when Britain does so robs most of humanity of its history and our pupils of their entitlement to know about the breadth of human history outside narrow confines and to constantly expand their worldview. A narrow approach does not reflect the intellectual integrity and rigour of the subject, nor indeed the fundamental value of the study of history, which is to learn about the many ways there have been of being human in the world, and not only about one way.

Why is change needed?

History is not a static, unchanging, fixed account of events. It is a living discipline that explores new avenues, that reviews and reinterprets the past. Textbooks, examination specifications and school curricula therefore cannot remain static. History and historians respond to, are shaped by and challenge the nature of contemporary society.

When reviewing the history curriculum, it is vital to consider the range of voices that pupils will encounter from a variety of times and places, from different social and economic backgrounds and the array of sources used. A diverse history curriculum should be rich in cultural, political, local, material, environmental, social and economic history.

There is a growing body of work from teachers and from academic historians on diversifying what is taught in history. Conversations can be found in HA and SHP events and conferences, in online webinars, in articles and in podcasts. Popular TV, books and history magazines also reflect this interest in a broader and more global picture of the past, as does research into pupils’ reflections on the history they are being taught. Teachers are increasingly asking if their curriculum is too narrow, and whether it represents the scale, scope and diversity of the past. History post-14 must also reflect these changes.

Research and scholarship have opened up new and exciting approaches to many different histories, firmly putting British history into a global context. We cannot tell the history of slavery only through its abolition. We cannot tell the history of the Raj without the history of the Mughal Empire.

Despite all this new research, making real and significant difference to history curricula in our schools, to examination specifications and in textbooks and other resources still requires considerable work. Examination specifications, particularly GCSE, frequently have an unhealthy influence on the whole curriculum in secondary schools2.

Discussions about bringing changes into our history teaching and resources have been slow and we can hear the voices of young people strongly advocating for histories that better reflect the global and multicultural society they will be living in3.

How will we do this?

The Diversity Steering Group’s initial work is with the examination boards: to listen to concerns they have, to consider how historical research has opened up new perspectives, and to offer help and advice with the work they are doing to review existing specifications. We are asking them to help us better understand what changes might be made in the short term and what resources they feel might be needed to support such change.

Once a full content review of A-Level and GCSE history exams is announced (this applies to England only) there should be the opportunity for a more comprehensive review of the specifications.

Changes are being made to GCSEs in Wales for first teaching in 2025 and further conversations with WJEC should be a priority.

HA worked with Scottish colleagues to survey history teaching in Scottish schools.

More broadly, we will encourage and support schools and teachers to question their curricular choices, to ask whether those choices truly reflect the diversity of the past and to engage with recent scholarship. We will talk to senior leaders in schools and colleges, to exam boards, to publishers, to policy makers and others who influence the history young people will learn and ask whether it reflects the intellectual integrity of the subject.


1. HA, 2021 Survey into History in English Secondary Schools and History in Scottish Secondary Schools
Royal Historical Society, Race, Ethnicity & Equality Report (2018)
Runnymede Trust, Teaching Migration, Belonging and Empire in Secondary Schools
Our Migration Story
Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity

2. HA Surveys into History in English Secondary Schools show this trend over years.

3. For example petitions to UK Parliament from a number of young people.

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