'Make history compulsory' call from team of experts

Published: 12 July 2007 at 14:03

Teachers with passion for preserving national pride and individual identity complete recommendations for the future of history lessons in schools.

A Research Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University, who has spent his life teaching history, is leading a team which is calling for history teaching to be made compulsory in every year of secondary schooling to the age of 16.

Seán Lang represents the History Practitioners’ Advisory Team (HPAT), an independent team of experienced teachers of history, at school, sixth form and university level, which has just produced a report for Nick Gibb MP, Shadow Minister for Schools, to advise the Opposition Front Bench on a possible future shape for the school history curriculum.

In the report, the team concludes that history should matter to society and it recommends that it must be retained as a vital subject to back up national commemorations, environmental heritage and our sense of past. The team is keen to work with politicians to push such reforms through to strengthen the position of the subject before it gets further eroded in schools.

Seán Lang explains:

“As teachers with a huge amount of expertise between us, we are all passionate that history must come higher up the agenda in schools. There is strong evidence that parents want their children to know about their history and about their cultural heritage and feel disappointed that the subject is being denied to them.”

“Around 80% of students drop history at 14 or earlier which means that they lose their entitlement to history. We believe that the only way to safeguard pupil’s right to learn about their history is to make the subject compulsory.”

“As a nation we have an apparently insatiable appetite for visiting heritage sites and museums, for history in paperback, and for history on television and in the cinema.  History has successfully changed its image to the point where there are now at least two television channels devoted entirely to history.”

He cites the phenomenal success of the popular TV series Who Do You Think You Are? in which various personalities research their family history and the fact that people are inspired to research their own family history.  When the National Archives put the 1901 Census online so many people logged onto it that it crashed on its first day.

“I think a knowledge of history is essential in developing any sense of national, community or even individual identity and I think it is becoming more obvious as British society appears to fragment.”

Some of the recommendations from the report include abolishing Citizenship as a separate school subject, introducing a single course of study in history from 11 to 16, with a strong core of narrative British history and avoiding the common risk of repeating or ‘revisiting’ topics from the curriculum.

HPAT concedes that to some degree, the robust health of history in society is reflected in schools.  Ofsted has regularly found history to be one of the best taught subjects in secondary schools and in 2004/5 it was second only to Art and Design in the proportion of its lessons judged excellent.