The National Curriculum Review and History 2011

Published: 10th February 2011

In January the Secretary of State for Education announced a review of the National Curriculum in England, which includes a review of history. There have been many reports and rumours about the content and format for the revised history curriculum. The Historical Association (HA) would like to take this opportunity to clear up any confusion, explain what will be happening over the coming months, and explain what it is doing at this time.


Clearing up confusion

In the first instance, the HA would like to reassure teachers in both primary and secondary schools that no decision has been made about the content or structure of history in the curriculum. Press reports which suggest otherwise are mistaken. Many individuals and organisations have expressed views on the nature of history in the curriculum as it stands and as they wish it to be. Some of these ideas and submissions to the government have been reported as though they represent the shape of the new History National Curriculum. This is not the case.


What is happening at this time?

The Secretary of State has published a Call for Evidence as ‘Phase 1' of a public consultation on the curriculum as a whole and on individual subjects. With specific regard to history, the Call asks all interested parties (including teachers) to comment on:

  • Should history continue to be a National Curriculum subject at Key Stages 1-3, and should it be compulsory at Key Stage 4?
  • Should schools be able to determine what is taught - if so, in which Key Stages?
  • Should the National Curriculum specify levels of achievement / attainment targets - or are there more suitable alternative approaches?
  • How should the curriculum and targets be defined to ensure appropriate education for learners of all abilities and needs?
  • How should particular knowledge best be sequenced within the National Curriculum?
  • What are the most important factors to consider in developing a National Curriculum to ensure smooth transition between the key stages?


What about specified content?

The Call for Evidence has not asked for anyone to comment on what exactly should be taught in the history National Curriculum. Work on programmes of study will not begin until ‘Phase 1' has been concluded, and they will be subject to further, wide consultation. This consultation is due to start in Spring 2012 until Spring 2013. Therefore, new programmes of study for history will not be ready for teaching until September 2014. Professor Simon Schama has been appointed by the Secretary of State to lead this element of the consultation. He has been tasked with consulting widely with teachers and academic historians to establish the ‘core' content for the curriculum - around this core teachers will have great flexibility about what else to teach. Simon Schama will be joined on this history review by Professor David Cannadine and Professor Niall Ferguson.


What is the Historical Association doing?

We see it as our duty to contribute to the Call for Evidence to give a voice to the 6000+ teachers, academics and lay people who are our members, so at the moment the primary and secondary committees are working together to complete a draft submission. Our submission starts with our core mission: to make sure that young people are able to enjoy a rounded and rigorous historical education throughout primary and secondary school.


What do you need to do?

We cannot complete the submission without your help because we want to make sure that your voice is heard. The HA document will be published to you before being submitted to the Secretary of State. Please send us your comments to make sure that we accurately reflect the position of history teaching today and how it should develop in the future. Whilst this may be a time of uncertainty, it also represents a tremendous opportunity to secure the place of History in the curriculum. 

If you would like to get in touch in the meantime with your views or comments (particularly on the areas for comment bulleted above), please email: