HA Secondary History Survey 2012

HA Survey

Published: 2nd October 2012

The Law of Unintended Consequence

A little over a year ago Michael Gove announced the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). It would transform education and rid schools and young people of ‘soft subjects'. However the real impact so far has been less than impressive. Those schools that already taught history well to GCSE continued to do so but those that had already introduced programmes limiting its time or reducing the years it is studied did not change course.

Schools are still replacing specialist history teachers with general humanities teachers. Young people without a chance of scoring well in their GCSE's are discouraged or prevented from taking history after Key Stage 3 - 31%, twice the level recorded in 2011. The two findings marry together - if the teacher isn't an expert in the subject is it any wonder that the student is not good enough to be considered for examination.

The Historical Association (HA) has been tracking the events in schools each since 2009 through an annual survey. In anticipation of changes to the curriculum and the exam system this year the HA's Survey looked in depth at the impact of the how EBacc was effecting history in schools. Whilst figures show marginally more students sitting history at GCSE it also showed that the schools that this happened had an existing positive track record on the subject, schools that did not value history still do not value history, irrespective of the EBacc. (2009-2011 Education Surveys)

In 2009 the Historical Association [HA] published the first major survey of history teaching in English secondary schools. The results made headlines: pupils were only receiving an hour or less of history each week, many only studying history for two years and a rise in non-history specialist teachers. Some of the downward trends may have stopped but they have not gone back up and continuing to go down are the actual numbers that can teach history effectively - would it be acceptable to let a mathematician teach English literature?

"History might be one of the most popular subjects for television documentaries, with historians becoming household names but learning history for the pleasure of knowing about the past is not supported in schools. That means that increasing numbers of young people will only have a fragmented understanding of their country's past and of the world around them, a refusal to make history compulsory to the age of 16 and the lack of movement on curriculum reform is only adding to the breakdown of history in some schools How much a child knows about the past will increasingly depend on the approach of the school not the range of the National Curriculum." Rebecca Sullivan CEO of the HA

This year's survey, the most thorough yearly examination of schools practices carried out by an independent organisation highlights once more that a change in examination name may not save our young people's future. 

Full 2012 Education Survey Report attached below.


The history survey: The Historical Association works with academics to contact teachers and collate their answers to a survey that explores everything from the numbers studying history, to the time allocated, the educational measures affecting study to who is teaching it and what the concerns of teachers are. Each year the results are released providing the most accurate study of a subject in schools year on year.