A response to the proposals for the new history curriculum

Here is a copy of the email I sent to the Department for Education today…

I am a KS2 teacher, with experience also in KS1. I am subject leader for my school in history and it is specifically about the proposals for the new history curriculum that I am responding to here. There are a few issues that I would like to highlight.

The chronological approach

 I think it is a nice idea in principle to teach history chronologically, as some children do struggle with jumping from topic to topic and then placing the various topics on a timeline. However, a chronological approach poses more problems than it solves.

Firstly, it allows uninspiring topics to creep back into the curriculum just to keep the ‘story’ running smoothly. At parents’ evenings, teachers are delighted to hear parents comment on how school is more exciting than in their day ‘when we just learnt dates and facts’. In my experience, both parents and children like the fact that pupils study the well known, ‘exciting’ periods of history.

Even within each topic, boredom and predictably is currently avoided by not religiously working through that topic chronologically but by picking out different types of history, one at a time (political history for a couple of weeks, social history the next week) or by looking at the skills of historians (researching in one lesson, presenting findings/viewpoints in another). If the different types of history and the skills and processes of history are important to the current Department for Education, as suggested in the opening paragraph of the history document, then I don’t believe a strictly chronological approach will provide the best starting place for teachers planning schemes of work. Maintaining a topic-based curriculum would be much more appropriate.  Continue reading