HA Secondary History Survey 2009

HA Survey

Published: 2nd October 2009

History Faces Extinction in English Schools

Pupils are receiving fewer and fewer hours of history teaching across secondary schools in England according to research by the Historical Association. The specially commissioned report discovered that:

  • Many children receive little or no history education after only two years of secondary school
  • 48% of academies report 11-12 year olds spend less than one hour a week learning history
  • 35% of academies and 20% of comprehensive and grammar schools report overall decrease in teaching time for history at Key Stage 3 (11-14 year olds)

Schools have been allowed increasing flexibility about the organisation of the National Curriculum and that has meant that traditional statutory subjects are being squeezed. The Historical Association undertook a major online survey of English schools receiving nearly 700 responses that revealed some worrying trends.  In many state schools - particularly academies and a number of comprehensives - the research suggests history is becoming a side-lined subject area and no longer given sufficient teaching time in an over crowded timetable.

The research also discovered that time allocation is having a direct effect on GCSE take up. Only 30% of pupils continue to study history to age 16 despite almost 70% stating they enjoy the subject*. If the trend continues then history will see declining numbers of pupils over the next few years as it battles for time against subjects regarded as being easier or offering more ‘value' - i.e. courses of study which carry the equivalent of 4 GCSE qualifications.

Students have been deliberately denied an opportunity to study history by forcing them down vocational or academic pathways.  GCSE students have also been taken off courses against their wishes to do BTEC qualifications in 6 months so that the school can boost its position in the league tables. This has happened to students who were otherwise on target for a C/B in history but who were doing badly on their other optional subject. - History teacher responding to the survey

The Historical Association believes that all pupils should have sufficient time to study history - a critical resource for any active citizen in a representative democracy.

A full version of the report is attached below.


Reports authors: Katharine Burn, Lecturer in History Education Oxford and Richard Harris, Lecturer History Education, Southampton University and Chair of the Historical Association's Committee for Secondary Education

Data on which these claims are based

This data comes from an online survey sent by the Historical Association to all schools and colleges teaching students in the 11-18 age range in March 2009. Just over 700 teachers from a range of different contexts (including middle schools and sixth form colleges) responded to the survey. Responses to the survey's questions about teaching 11-14 year olds were received from 644 schools, although the numbers responding to each specific question about practices in different year groups vary slightly.  The 644 schools included 503 state maintained comprehensive schools, 36 state-maintained grammar schools, 23 academies and 82 independent schools. Although the numbers of schools of each type obviously varies considerably, the pattern of responses provides a similar sample for each, in terms of the proportion of schools responding. Responses were received from approximately18% of comprehensive schools, 22% of grammar schools, 29% of academies and 19% of independent schools.

The Historical Association

The Historical Association is a registered charity and the national subject organisation for history with over 6000 members in primary schools, secondary schools and higher education. It also has more than 50 branches around the country that run over 300 historical events - talks, walks and privilege visits - each year.

The Association was founded in 1906 and granted a Royal Charter in 2007


Paula Kitching: 07720 809481

The Association: 020 7735 3901

Email: pkitching@hotmail.com or enquiry@history.org.uk

*additional research by Harris & Haydn funded by QCA and published in Teaching History, September 2008 - contact the Historical Association