Survey into History in English Secondary Schools 2018

Academic research at the heart of our thinking

Published: 14th March 2019

For the past ten years, the Historical Association (HA) has worked with the University of Oxford and Reading University to carry out in-depth research on the state of history teaching in schools. These reports have informed decision-makers at the highest level, notably government, Ofsted and examination boards. The reports also shape our priorities when developing support and resources for teachers. 

Download the full report on our latest survey at the bottom of the page.

Trends in School History

Since 2009 our surveys have revealed:

A continued concern over the amount of non-specialist teaching of history

  • In earlier surveys this was linked to concerns over the status of history and a growth of more generic integrated programmes.
  • More recently it is linked to greater subject specialist teaching at GCSE, leaving more non-specialists teaching Year 7.
  • In 2018, 60% of non-selective state-funded schools reported that at least some of Year 7 history was taught by non-specialists.

A continued concern over access and entitlement to history for young people

  • In earlier surveys low GCSE uptake, integrated programmes and decreasing teaching time at Key Stage 3 limited student access to history.
  • More recently, the EBacc has driven up numbers studying history at GCSE;
  • This is coupled with a growing trend towards a 2 year Key Stage 3 which has grown from 18% reporting a two year Key Stage 3 in 2013, to 44% in 2018.

The 2018 survey also shows that GCSEs are dominating approaches to history teaching from Y7 to Y11

  • 86% regard the new GCSE specifications as inappropriate for students with low levels of prior attainment or with EAL.
  • 84% of schools find the amount of content they need to cover for GCSE unmanageable 
  • 44% of schools reported they only allocate two years to Key Stage 3 
  • 79% of schools said they were adapting approaches to Key Stage 3 to more closely align with GCSE requirements

What does this mean for schools?

Concerns about GCSE history are driving a decrease in entitlement to history at Key Stage 3. This is undermining pupils experiencing a rich historical knowledge and understanding. It also appears at odds with recent rhetoric and the draft inspection framework from Ofsted. It is important that schools offer a coherent history education that enables progress and prepares students for their future as well as the demands of GCSE. Subject discipline and knowledge are at the heart of a strong curriculum.  

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