Sign In

Remember Me

Changing School History

At last we’ve had an announcement on the future of the curriculum – well 14-16 at least.

At some point (either 2015, 2016 or later, depending on what the DfE decides following the consultation) GCSE will disappear and there will be a new EBC (English Baccalaureate Certificate) for history. The History EBC will be provided by the Awarding Organisation that puts forward the best ‘suite of qualifications’ in the subject.

The whole process of curriculum reform has been, and continues to be, a shambles. At the outset we were told that Niall Ferguson and Simon Schama would be fixing school history. Where are they now? Whatever happened to the worthy notion of coherent curriculum reform 5-18? We still don’t know whether revised A levels for History will start in 2014 or later. And we are still waiting to hear about the future of the National Curriculum. What will be the point of a new National Curriculum anyway if academies can teach whatever they like? The whole process of curriculum reform has been a messy muddle, and the lack of clarity and genuine consultation continues to be an insult to the teaching profession.

Rant over!

What we shouldn’t forget in all this confusion is that, as one of the six core academic subjects in the E Bacc, history now has a more secure place in the 14-16 curriculum than ever before. We don’t yet know the shape of the future accountability framework, but it’s clear that history will be part of it. This can only be good news for the position of history at Key Stage 3 as well as Key Stage 4. Hopefully, those schools that slid down the slippery slope into the skills mush at Key Stage 3 will now be clambering onto the firmer ground of subjects and rigorous disciplinary knowledge. The Schools History Project campaigns for a curriculum in which the distinctive contribution of history to the education of children and young people is recognised and developed. There’s further to go, but at least the distinctive contribution of history has been recognised through its inclusion in the EBacc.

For SHP, the priority now is to engage fully in the consultation process, to work with Awarding Organisations and higher education bodies in the development of specifications and, further down the line, to provide the resources and professional development that will guarantee an improved experience of studying history for 14-16 year-olds.

The DfE’s consultation document seeks our views on ‘the characteristics of the new qualification’. It demands ‘challenging requirements for content’ and requires that students develop ‘a sound understanding of the subject studied, and are ready to move on to further study’. Interestingly from SHP’s perspective, the consultation document states that the DfE expects Awarding Organisations to put forward a ‘suite of specifications’ for each subject. It’s perfectly possible, therefore, that Awarding Organisations will devise versions of existing SHP and Modern World specifications. However, the intention of the DfE is to aid the Awarding Organisations by setting out its ‘broad expectations’ for essential subject content may preclude this.

So, 2015 (or 2016, or later) may see the end of SHP specifications as we know them. Does this matter? My view is: NO, AS LONG AS WHAT IS OFFERED TO 14-16 YEAR OLDS IS BETTER THAN THE CURRENT MODERN WORLD AND SHP SPECS.

The Schools History Project has long-argued that a study of only modern world history at 14-16 limits students’ knowledge and understanding of the subject. But, let’s face it, for a range of complex reasons, the current SHP specifications only partially reflect the principles on which the Schools History Project is based. It’s time for a radical overhaul, and the most important thing to argue for is not the preservation of current specifications, but an experience of learning history 14-16  that is underpinned by SHP’s six principles:1.Creating curiosity 2.Developing wide and deep knowledge 3. Engaging in historical enquiry 4.Understanding diversity 5.Engaging with the historic environment  6. Learning history in enjoyable and rigorous ways .

Just imagine a situation three year down the line, in which both Modern World and SHP specs no longer exist, but have been replaced by a five unit History EBC which consists of: 1. A development study  2. A depth study of an early period of British History  3. A local study  4. A depth study of a later period of British history  5. A wider world study. Imagine that these units are linked and structured in order to build a coherent and worthwhile knowledge of the past  And imagine too, that each of these units is assessed in creative and rigorous ways that allow all students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. Surely something like that would be an improvement on the current GCSEs?  It’s crucial to grasp this opportunity to improve the experience of leaning history for the next generation of students.  The Schools History Project is far more than the current SHP specifications. In the months and years ahead we’ll help to create a history curriculum 14-16 that all our young people deserve. More broadly, we’ll continue to be an innovative and creative force in history education 11-18. Our immediate priority is to provide an SHP response to the DfE consultation which runs until 10 December, so please read the consultation document [see it on the DfE website]  and let me have your views by responding to this blog.

Michael Riley

Director, Schools History Project

Michael has been SHP Director since 2008. He is responsible for the strategic direction of SHP, ensuring that the project provides an independent source of ideas and experience for the teaching of history in schools