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« Julia Manning: More teaching and less testing in schools | Main | Tony Emmerson: Biology, physics and chemistry - not single science »


Adrian Owens

Do we believe in setting the professionals free and leaving parental choice and pressure to influence educational direction, or do we believe in prescribing what should or should not be taught?

My stance is to weight that balance firmly in the direction of leaving education to the professionals and parental choice/pressure with only a minimum compulsory framework. Therefore much as I would want students to study history, I cannot support compulsion. No to this one.

Andrew Woodman

I would say yes to this. I always remember the sign in my history class that said 'Without a knowledge of the past, how can you understand the present and not make the same mistakes in the future'. I think everything that has shaped the present world e.g magna carta, empire ect should be taught up to 16.

I would add a proviso to the degree it's taught and set from a much earlier age and just teach the basics to the less academically gifted kids.


British history probably should be made compulsory.

On the Queen's 80th birthday, David Cameron stood up in the House of Commons and congratulated her on being the fifth longest serving monarch in over 1000 years of British history. Behind Victoria, George III, Henry III and apparently Edward III.

Except that as you'd hope thousands of pounds spent on an Eton education would have told you, Edward III reigned for 4 fewer years than the current Queen today.

The fact that neither Mr Cameron or any of his advisors realised this is a pretty damning indictment of what's taught even in our most exclusive schools!!

Denis Cooper

Emphatic yes to this. As an exception to the general rule I wouldn't leave it to the professionals (who've been through teacher training colleges riddled with political correctness and anti-British sentiment) or to parents (because even those who were raised in this country may not know enough to value its history, thanks to teachers who'd been through teacher training colleges ... etc).

The most important period children should learn about is the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Of course all other periods should be covered, from prehistory through to modern times, but the events of 1688 - 9 were of paramount importance because they established our present constitutional monarchy.


I agree with this proposal (can someone suggest a completely insane policy, please- all these good ones are making me feel like a Yes Man).

However, I would begin earlier, perhaps shortly after the departure of the Romans (who would themselves be described, and their legacy assessed). We owe too much to the Vikings and Saxons to begin the story with their conquerors.

Perhaps the course to be made up of two sections, each on a different scale? The first year could be an overview of the main events of in our history since the Romans, and the second year could focus on more recent history to give an in-depth inderstanding of our current situation.

Denis Cooper

Incidentally if anyone cares to read the Bill of Rights 1689, "An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown", it's here:


".... for the vindicating and asserting their ancient rights and liberties declare:

That the pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal;"


clive elliot

I say no to this. It was Henry Ford I who said 'History is bunk', and if it was taught to him as badly as it was taught to me at school, I don't wonder he thought that. I doubt if there are enough good history teachers to carry out this policy well. It would be wrong for history to made compulsory as this would mean it occupied time in every school at the expense of somethiong else which might well be more relevant.

If parents are to have real choice of school, then schools must be free to develop different curricula. The top-down approach of specifying too much detail from the centre is wrong in education as elsewhere. The constraints of the national curriculum need to be diminished, not increased as they would be by this policy.

Richard Cooke

I absolutely agree that British History should take a central place in the basics we teach our children. However, I do not necessarily think that pupils should be compelled into taking it at GCSE. Pupils start GCSE courses at fourteen. I believe that by this time pupils should already have a broad knowledge of our past.I strongly believe that if we are talking about encouraging children to have more sense of belonging to Britain and patriotism, then education at 14 is too late. Of course, it would also be good if the Union Jack was flown proudly from every educational institution in the country, and every other public institution for that matter.

Matt Wright

Oh Dear, while its tempting, the concensus so far on education issues here has tended to be for the state to interfere less and stopping micro-managing teachers. This does start to turn a spotlight on where the dividing lines should be though. I think most of us would agree that a cohesive integrated nation is important. Where would we start that process except perhaps in schools. It highlights what I said on the last thread that Govt cannot entirely cast schools off to float anywhere. My feeling is that Govt should set some basic outcomes (rather than numerous targets) and check how schools are going about this but empower good headteachers to excel rather than reduce all schools to an average or lowest common denominator. One key outcome is a common heritage so possibly in this sense British history should be incorporated into the requirement,



Which periods of British history ought to be covered or specifically emphasised?

Tudors to Edwardians with special emphasis on Industrial Revolution


I'm split on this issue. Part of me wants to give schools full autonomy but part of me likes the idea that all children should know our history.

That said, we had a strong sense of national identity before compulsory state education and before everyone was educated up to 16. Therefore I find myself questioning whether this is really that necessary.

Neil Wilson

I haven't read all of this yet but I already think it is a great idea.

I did History right up to degree level and still know more about the Nazis than the Victorians.

It seems that the teachers cannot be trusted to set an agenda that sees them teach fairly and impartialy about the Empire. Instead they would rather bloat on about the evils of Nazi Germany. I admit that it has its place but shouldn't it be studied in parallel with the Soviet Union?

Regardless, this is a great idea and one that will help end this stupid notion of multiculturalism.

Mark Fulford

A definite No from me.

Conservatives should be handing control to parents, students and teachers - not taking it away.

My school ran a timetable based on 8 O-levels. Choosing from Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, English (x 2) and French, which subject would you have forced me to drop? (Bear in mind that French, Maths and English were already compulsory).

Forcing people to take particular subjects also doesn’t take their aptitudes and interests into account. For the first two years of secondary school I was forced to learn Latin and Greek. It did my attitude towards school absolutely no good that I was totally disinterested by at least 40% of what it offered.


That the pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal...

Sounds like statutory instruments to me (OK, I know they are technically approved by Parliament, but to describe them as having the consent of Parliament stretches it a bit given the way they get approved).

I approve of the principal of everyone learning British history but then again the people who would implement it are the educrats who hijacked the National Curriculum and used it to further destroy education in this country. So that's a No from me.

Andrew Woodman

Geography Mark. Pointless subject to do after 14.


We have a philosophy of ending the over management of schools and this is too presciptive. I liked the idea at first but we need consistency.


Yet more central government control of local education?


I am very sympathetic to what lies behind this (as a History graduate how could I be otherwise?), but would wish to amend it in some crucial ways. I have long believed that History should be treated as the next most important subject after Maths, English & Science for the sorts of reasons given by the proposer. You can understand little about present day politics and culture if you know little history, and that shows when you get historically ignorant politicians such as our present PM.

However, the problem with a British History only GCSE is that, unless people do double history GCSE (which mostly they won't) it means no-one will do any European (or wider) History at all at that stage. I also agree that it is the basic lower level broad history, which should have been leant long before GCSE, that is most neglected and I am concerned by the curriculum suggestions above which seem to be in danger of falling into the same trap as present history teaching of just looking at bits and thereby missing much of the "broad sweep".

To foster much greater general knowledge and understanding of the broad sweep and chronology of British History, I would therefore propose instead one of two alternatives:

The first possibility is that before GCSE choices, at age 14, everyone does "The British History Test" - this would cover the whole period from 1066 to 1997 in basic chronology and themes (e.g. Norman Conquest, the Reformation, the English Civil War, Immigration to Britain 16th to 20th century, the Development of Constitutional Monarchy (which could include how present-day Parliament works)etc - probably no more than about 10 or 12 themes of key aspects of British History that all Britishers should have some inkling of, with due note to our present diverse make-up). This could be tested primarily by multiple choice and maybe some drawing of timelines etc - so it would not be necessary to know that Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509 (if I have got that right) but it would be necessary to know that he was in the early 16C, after the Wars of the Roses and before Elizabeth 1. It would also not be necessary to know all the doctrine of the Reformation but it would be necessary to know whether it was (a) the splitting off of part of Western European Christianity from the Roman Catholic Church rather than (b) the Reform of the Monastries (c) the re-formation of the English Kingdom after the Wars of the Roses or (d) setting up a standing army...(you get the idea). This test would purely have distinction, pass and fail and generally if you failed you'd have to take it again until you passed (within reason). Yes, it would put British History in a special position by having this test, but why not if, in terms of general knowledge, it is the most important subject?

My second possibility would be to have this test as part of GCSE either for one third of the marks if you were doing the full History GCSE or as a compulsary "half" GCSE for those not doing the full History GCSE.

On the basis of my strong sympathy but disagreement with key details of the proposal, I am not sure whether I should vote in favour or not. Perhaps other posters should advise me on that.

Alternatively does anyone know whether any of the Party's official Policy Commissions would cover this as maybe I should stir myself to make a submission?

Cardinal Pirelli

Too much of a diktat from central government for me, sorry.

Add to that the way that any compulsory subject reduces choice and this doesn't get my support.


We could abolish PSE (Personal and Social Education)which, I belive, is compulsory and spend some of the time on British History.

We could do with some rationalisation as it appears some children study the World Wars endlessly and repeatedly from 11 to 16 with no breadth in the curriculum.

Don't believe in compulsion though


I have to agree that we should offer flexibility to students after the age of 14 when it comes to picking their GCSEs. Let those who have a flair for languages pick two of them, rather than being tied-up in compulsory subjects (other than I suppose Maths and English).

That said, I think history should be taught much more rigorously from 5-14. The phrase "every schoolboy knows" should mean something again.

I'd strongly favour a broad narrative of British history from the Roman Occupation until at least the end of World War II. Obviously this would also deal with our relations with the rest of the world, both in the rise and fall of the British Empire and our foreign policy towards our European neighbours.

I do think there is a strong case for teaching local history as well, so that people can make sense of the environment they live in. There should be an emphasis on getting pupils out of the classroom and into local castles, cathederals, docks, railway stations etc.

Such a strong teaching of local and national history could be part of the solution towards addressing the dislocation felt by some young people.

I remember a couple of years ago a left-wing London council refused to let pupils in a predominantly south Asian school watch the Queen Mother's funeral as it had "no relevance to them". Not a great message to send kids of any colour or creed.

Simon Chapman

I would agree with NigelC & Alex. More rigorous in the early years, but not compulsory to GCSE. Also, the possibility of replacing citizenship with history?


Not sure if it should be taught to GSCE but to 14 absolutely. It definitely should be British history until that age.What periods? I would suggest that by teaching from the Wars of the Roses until 1914 would give children the knowledge to understand why the Britain is as it is now.


Instead they would rather bloat on about the evils of Nazi Germany. I admit that it has its place but shouldn't it be studied in parallel with the Soviet Union?

The Nazi fetish is simply to anchor the Doctrine of Multiculturalism in the classroom, to castigate those who carry flags and believe in nation states, and to show how only the values of the Soviet Union and the Brotherhood of Man are capable of washing off the dirt of national sovereignty..................until of course the EU came along.

There is so much propaganda taught under the current history Curriculum that it is no wonder David Starkey gets better paid running night-school classes on Channel 4 than lecturing in a university


I finished GCSE History in 1998 and for two years all I had studied was WWII.

Yes it is an important part of our history, but not when for my 5 years at Senior School-massive events in British History like Battle of Waterloo, the Magna Carta or the Boer War were not even mentioned.

It is time to reform the National Curriculum in most subjects in my opinion. For example;
1)Teaching children how to cook-rather than telling them how breadis manufactured and what the design processes are.
2)Showing students where places are on a map-rather than the field rotation of crops in India.
3)Showing them practical things like how to change a plug in science before anything else.
4)In english/art/music, let the classics be taught instead of looking at the contemporary works. Students have got to know/appreciate the history behind these things before they can understand the present or the future of their artistic capabilities
5)And if a PSE (Personal and Social Education)class is insisted upon then let it teach current affairs-which may help to reduce the voter apathy in the country.

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