You Spoke. We listened. Our response to the History Consultation 2013

Published: 16th April 2013

The Historical Association - History Curriculum - We have answered

On the 16 April the formal consultation to the proposed curriculum closed. The Historical Association has put in a full response, here is how the evidence was collected from history teachers and this is what they told us:

Collecting the evidence There were only 8 weeks from the release of the curriculum (the date for release was not announced in advance) by Department for Education until the close of consultation on the 16 April the Historical Association:

  • Held face to face forums across England with over 500 teachers
  • Held an online forum with over 100 written responses
  • Held an online poll with over 1600 responses
  • Carried out the HA annual in depth survey of history teaching in secondary schools
  • Carried out a short survey of primary teacher's reactions to the draft curriculum.

The HA has made one of the most comprehensive responses to the draft proposal on the history curriculum using collected evidence from teachers and educators.

Key statistics:

From the poll:

  • Only 4% thought the curriculum was a positive change

From the secondary survey:

  • 93% of respondents strongly disagree that everything from Stone Age to 1700 should be taught at primary
  • 96% of our survey respondents thought the new NC was over prescriptive
  • 96.2% of all the secondary teachers surveyed including those at independent schools and the new free schools felt that insufficient attention had been given to the views of history teachers in the development of the new curriculum. That statistic included 100% from the established academies.
  • Only 7% of respondents agree that their school will follow the new history curriculum and the currently proposed content closely

Key concerns

Dumbing down - The proposed history curriculum will not achieve its aims.  To be able to include all the units and areas listed especially at primary level content would need to be simplified and shortened to such an extent that information would be dumbed down and the importance of key events would be lost.

Time allocation - there has been no indication that history will be given any more time in the curriculum. It is only compulsory to aged 14 unlike most other European countries. Some schools provide less than 1 hour a week for history

Chronology - Teaching history in chronological order alone will not help students to develop chronological understanding. Chronological understanding is something that can only be built up over time and by making connections across periods.

Who is teaching - Too much of the important history will only taught at primary level - by non specialists, with little or no training in history.

Aims The history curriculum displays a complete mismatch with how children learn and child development. It is also mismatched with content and aims of other subjects. 

A narrow focus of history - too Anglo-centric and politically focused, very little British, European, or global history and very little social history.

The term discipline has been removed from the history aims - does that mean history in schools is not a discipline and instead just a collection of facts?

In contrast to statements for other subjects, there is nothing to fire enthusiasm and motivation of students in the aims or purpose statements for history.

Key Facts

Fact: Teachers from independent schools and academies who replied to the survey are horrified at the proposed curriculum. They don't have to teach the National Curriculum and where in the past they have used it as a guideline they may now move away from it, further creating a divide between the state and independent sector.

Fact: Some of the teachers most vocally against the new curriculum are from the academies - they do not have to follow the National curriculum and may also stop teaching it.

Fact: England is one of the few European countries that allow pupils drop history at aged 14 - and in some schools prevents them from taking history in case it affects the overall exam results of the school.

Fact: Without proper initial training, CPD, curriculum time and resources -  especially at primary level - the proposed curriculum is unworkable in many ways.  Perhaps the most difficult obstacle to overcome is  that the operation of mixed age classes in many primary schools will make the proposed curriculum completely unfeasible.

The introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988 was intended to create an entitlement for all young people for a broad and balanced education. There was to be cohesion across the country enabling people to move from one end of England to another and children could fit into school at the correct development stage and no one would be educationally disadvantaged. This proposed national curriculum would undo this aim as many schools would simply move away from it.


Teacher quotes:

"It is a completely ill thought out proposal that will create huge problems and be ultimately detrimental to history teaching and learning. The KS2 proposals are particularly ridiculous. The narrative proscribed at KS3 bears no relation to the experience of children today and culls the skills that are essential to any enquiring mind.   The real problems that History teaching faces are to do with lumping it in with Humanities, 2 year KS 3s and a relentless obsession with exam results over deeper learning and understanding. The authors of this curriculum are woefully or wilfully ignorant of this fact". Teacher - academy

"The content heavy approach to this curriculum is incompatible with the time devoted to the subject. Lessons will be content driven with few skills and therefore dumbed down.  The topics in KS3 are too political and war driven, something which turns many students off history. The overlap with topics studied at GCSE is also likely to discourage students and parents. Little account is taken of females, diversity or anything other than the White, Male European view of history and this is said as a traditional history teacher who happily teaches Kings and Queens and great men alongside a wider experience. "Teacher - academy

"If I was going to design a curriculum for History to put pupils off the subject, this would be it.....  The impact of this will not only see a drop in enthusiasm but also a loss of interest in a very boring and British focused History. An absolutely horrific model, and as a teacher in an academy, given the choice, I will be certainly 'opting out' of these changes next year". Teacher - academy

"I am extremely concerned that the proposed curriculum has been formulated without any real consultation with those who teach History on a daily basis or at least respected academics currently in the field of History education. It is disjointed aloof from current pedagogy and appears to dismiss the fact that OFSTED have recently recognised that the majority of History teaching is good or outstanding. I advocate review and reform but this proposed curriculum is damaging to the rigour of History teaching as an academic discipline, to the teaching profession as a whole and most importantly to the children of Britain." Teacher - comprehensive school

"I've always loved my subject as it inspires and challenges. This is just scripted boredom. I doubt very much Primary schools will cope will the intricacies the Tudor Period and others. I expect boredom and 'what's this got to do with us will become the norm. We do amazing things in history- we challenge; we debate we discuss topics that are relevant to an inclusive audience. There's not much inclusive here. Where is 'black' history? .... What an insult to tell us to be ready for 2014. So, I should just shelve £1000s of pounds of newly bought decent SHP resources? This is rude. I ain't doing it. I'm in a private school. I'll carry on with a curriculum the student want not want the government wants. Humph. AAAAAARRRGGGHHHH." Teacher - independent school

"I support the principles of a cohort of knowledge and the emphasis on a chronology. However, to place complex issues such as the Reformation or the civil war in Key Stage 2 would represent a serious dumbing down of the study of those issues, which would not be taught by subject specialists. Much of Key Stage Three seems very dry and arid and would probably result in fewer taking the subject on." Teacher - independent school