In defence of school history sign now

We, the undersigned, are very concerned about the government's plans for school history. Education Minister Michael Gove apparently intends to take us back to the days of 'traditional' teaching methods, combined with a more prescriptive curriculum. It is in opposition to such methods - and the disengagement that they engendered – that ‘New History’ emerged from the late 1960s. This encouraged students to analyse sources and to compare and evaluate interpretations for themselves. It valued international history and a diverse range of voices, including those of the marginalised and oppressed.

It is telling that the three historians leading the public consultation - Niall Ferguson, Simon Schama and David Cannadine - are all US-based university lecturers rather than teachers in British schools. The fact that all three attended Oxbridge and both Ferguson and Schama attended private schools (with Cannadine attending a grammar) suggests that Michael Gove has an elitist vision that does not regard highly the experiences of the vast majority of teachers and learners of history in state schools.

We also wish to correct a misrepresentation encouraged by this government about the alleged sidelining of British history. As the Ofsted 'History for All' report found, 'The view that too little British history is taught in secondary schools in England is a myth. Pupils in the schools visited studied a considerable amount of British history and knew a great deal about the particular topics covered.' We believe that such history, alongside local and international history, has a place, but that this should include a critical appraisal of the dark side of the British Empire - e.g. slavery, exploitation, colonialism - and not just be a celebratory story in support of a jingoist political project.

In conclusion, we aim to ensure that the public consultation results in:
•a flexible framework responsive to the needs and interests of students, rather than a prescriptive straightjacket
•an emphasis on rich learning rather than narrow test-led indicators
•a prioritisation of methods which engage students in enquiries and projects, rather than those that relegate them to being passive consumers

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Andrew StoneBy:
School and EducationIn:
Petition target:
Michael Gove, Education Minister

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curriculum, education, ferguson, history, schama, school

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