Move over Florence

Daily Mail (London), December 28, 2004 | Go to article overview

Move over Florence


Byline: SARAH HARRIS

Schools are told to ditch 'jaded' heroine Nightingale and give history lessons about a female Irish pirate

PRIMARY schools are being encouraged to ditch Florence Nightingale from their history lessons and replace her with an Irish woman pirate.

The Government's curriculum watchdog fears that teachers have become 'jaded' with concentrating too heavily on the founder of modern nursing.

So the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is recommending that teachers look at obscure 16th century Irish pirate Grace O'Malley - who has been lionised by feminists.

It believes that 'teachers and their pupils can only benefit by taking more account of Ireland and its stories'.

But the watchdog was yesterday attacked by historians for downgrading Miss Nightingale in favour of politically correct Leftwing fashion. In latest guidance to primary schools about the teaching of history, the QCA asks teachers: 'Who needs Florence Nightingale?' It adds: 'Are you in danger of becoming jaded with teaching about Florence Nightingale?

'Are you looking for an alternative female to illuminate the "lives of significant men, women and children drawn from history" in history at Key Stage One?' (ages five to seven).

It cites Grace O'Malley as 'an alternative significant woman for primary history' and gives an example of how teacher Sandra Kirkland at Naseby Church of England School, Northamptonshire, managed to successfully introduce the pirate into lessons.

It states: 'Sandra gave herself a new lease of life and aroused the curiosity of years one and two (ages five to seven).' The guidance points out O'Malley's feminist credentials as a 'courageous woman who stood up for her rights' during the Tudor conquest of Ireland. But historians reacted angrily to the material, which has been posted on the QCA website. Dr David Starkey said there is 'no contest' between Miss Nightingale and Grace O'Malley - whom he had never heard of.

He added: 'There has been a fashion for knocking Florence Nightingale. I think it's unfortunate of course that poor Florence Nightingale was an upper- class woman who lived in a great country house and was successful.

There is a particular kind of Leftwing-fashion which gets cross even about Establishment women, let alone Establishment men.' He said teaching can become repetitive, but it is up to staff to refresh the study of Florence Nightingale instead of simply opting for sensationalism. …

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