|History 'disappearing from schools'
History is “disappearing” from state schools as growing numbers of head teachers view it as a worthless subject, according to research.
| September 10, 2010
Many secondary schools are squeezing existing three-year history courses into just two or merging the subject with geography to form generic “humanities” lessons, it was claimed.
Some schools are also preventing children from taking history GCSEs to steer them towards easier vocational qualifications.
The Historical Association, which made the disclosure in a survey of 600 schools, warned that the move risked seriously undermining children’s grasp of the past.
It comes just days after Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, announced plans to create a new English Baccalaureate in an attempt to boost traditional subjects.
Under plans, pupils who gain five good GCSEs in subjects such as history, science and foreign languages will be awarded the new certificate to encourage more teenagers to studying them at an advanced level.
In the latest study, the Historical Association found widespread evidence that history was being marginalised at all stages of secondary education.
Currently, most schools teach history as a distinct subject in the first three years of secondary school before pupils choose their GCSE options at 14.
But the report said growing numbers of schools were cutting the three year course by 12 months to find more space in the curriculum for other subjects and to give pupils extra time for GCSEs. The proportion of secondaries cutting courses to just two years doubled from five to 10 per cent between 2009 and 2010, the annual survey found.
At the same time, 31 per cent of schools merged history with geography to form humanities lessons in 2010. This compared with 28 per cent a year earlier.
In many cases, these classes were used as a platform for pupils to develop generic “thinking skills” instead of improving their knowledge of the two subjects.
One teacher at a state comprehensive told researchers: “We are disappearing. Integrated humanities is the way our senior management team wants to go and see us as awkward, backward and obstacles if we suggest subjects like history are valuable in their own right.”
In a further conclusion, the study found that some schools were preventing 13 and 14-year-olds from choosing history as one of their GCSEs.
Some 16 per cent of teachers reported some form of “restriction” on subject choices, often making courses such as history out of bounds for low achieving pupils.
The proportion rose to 27 per cent among the Government’s flagship academies – independent state schools normally built in deprived areas.
Dr Richard Harris, history lecturer at Southampton University, told the Times Educational Supplement that some children were getting just 38 hours of history teaching a year compared with 200 at other schools.
“I’m concerned at the growth of this two-tier system,” he said. “If you have less specialist teaching, children pick up less enthusiasm from the teacher. The Government must make a decision about what children are entitled to do; we think this should be at least three years of history teaching by a specialist.”