Historians back Gove lessons plan
Published 27/02/2013 | 06:36
Plans for a new history curriculum by Education Secretary Michael Gove have been given a ringing endorsement by some of the UK's leading historians.
In a letter published in The Times newspaper 15 historians, including David Starkey, Niall Ferguson and the Tory MP Chris Skidmore, commended Mr Gove's controversial plans to have topics taught in chronological order, saying it has "long been needed" and is a "welcome" idea.
The new curriculum would see children learning from the Stone Age up to the 1688 Glorious Revolution in primary school, The Times said, before moving on to the Enlightenment and the British Empire up to the election of Margaret Thatcher in secondary school.
The proposals have been met with much consternation and a survey of history teachers by the History Association found them "arbitrary and bizarre", the newspaper said.
In their letter the 15 historians said they were in "no doubt that the proposed changes to the curriculum will provoke controversy among those attached to the status quo and suspicious of change".
But they said that while the proposals would doubtless be adapted following consultation, "the essential idea that a curriculum framework should ensure that pupils are given an overall understanding of history through its most important changes, events and individuals is a welcome one."
It said: "Alongside other core subjects of the curriculum, mathematics, English, sciences and modern languages, history has a special role in developing in each and every individual a sense of their own identity as part of a historic community with worldwide links, interwoven with the ability to analyse and research the past that remains essential for a full understanding of modern society.
"It should be made possible for every pupil to take in the full narrative of our history throughout every century.
"No-one would expect a pupil to be denied the chance to obtain a full knowledge of the rich tapestry of the history of their own country, in both its internal and external dimensions. It is for this reason that we give our support in principle to the changes to the new national curriculum for history that the Government is proposing."
But other historians derided the proposals. Sir Richard Evans, Regius Professor of History at Cambridge, condemned them as rote learning "beloved of traditionalists", The Times said, while Greg Jenner, historical consultant to the BBC programme Horrible Histories, said the curriculum "represents an ideological shift back towards the moral didacticism of yesteryear".