History in schools 2017

Teachers' views - the HA history survey findings

Published 7th December 2017

GCSE history changes affecting KS3 students

Recent findings from the Historical Association’s Annual Survey into History Teaching in English Secondary Schools, suggests that – despite the best intentions – changes to GCSE history are seriously affecting the amount of time given to history lessons at Key Stage 3. 

The proportion of respondents overall reporting that they now allocate only two years to Key Stage 3 is 44%, which represents a 9% increase on last year’s figure of 32%. When asked specifically about whether the introduction of the new specifications had altered their allocation of time to Key Stage 3, 16% of comprehensives, academies and free schools reported that they had either reduced Key Stage 3 to two years, or that they had decided to start GCSEs part-way through Year 9, and a further 13% were planning to do so. The respective proportions were higher in grammar schools, at 12% and 25% respectively. In both cases another 11% of respondents reported that their schools were considering making similar sorts of changes.

This is a matter of profound regret to the Historical Association since changes of this kind have a significant impact on young people’s access to history by reducing the period of secondary education in which the subject is taught to all young people. 

This picture is compounded by the number of schools reporting that GCSE history is influencing what they teach and how they teach at Key Stage 3, with 44% of schools also reporting they are using a system of assessment at Key Stage 3 that is based on GCSE grading.

Too much, too difficult?

Analysis of teachers’ concerns about the new GCSE specifications makes it very clear why more and more schools are concluding Key Stage 3 early and allocating more time to GCSE: 75% of respondents regard the amount of content to be covered as essentially unmanageable. They have even more concerns about the suitability of the courses for the full range of students in their schools: 90% disagreed that the courses were appropriate for early stage learners of English as an Additional Language (EAL) and 86% viewed them as inappropriate for those with low prior attainment. These concerns are particularly important when the government has just renewed its commitment to the EBacc suite of subjects, stipulating that 75% of the Year 10 cohort should be pursuing them by 2022 (and 90% by 2025). 

While the number of young people taking GCSE history is now around 43% of the cohort, there are growing concerns that many young people are required to choose between history and geography. The end result is that more than 50% of young people will only have had a specialist history teacher for two years of their schooling. 

Primary survey results

History is popular in Primary schools but under-resourced, and many teachers do not feel they are provided with the CPD they would like to get to grips with the subject. The majority of primary school teachers do not have any formal history training.

Read both Secondary and Primary reports in full via the links below:

Attached files: