Oral history in primary schools


By Allan Redfern, published 30th September 1999

Although this article focuses on a distinctive and effective historical activity it is important from the outset to recognise that involvement in oral history also has the potential to enhance learning across the ‘formal curriculum’ and beyond. Talking to older people about their lived experience and recording their memories provides children with vivid and unique information which deepens knowledge and understanding of the past, closely involves participants in the process of historical enquiry and can create a strong sense of ‘ownership’ amongst pupils. This combination of knowledge, skills and understanding of course lies at the heart of history in the National Curriculum. However oral testimony relates to many aspects of human activity and experience also associated with other areas of the curriculum, such as religious and environmental studies and various facets of citizenship. The potential links with literacy and ICT are considerable. Benefits go beyond the ‘statutory curriculum’ and include the enhancement of social and communication skills and sensitivities in an intergenerational context.1 If we are to gain maximum benefits from the potential breadth of applications oral history offers we should recognise that at both key stages planning should transcend artificial subject barriers.

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