Winnie, You're History; Great British Heroes Face Axe in New Curriculum

Article excerpt


BOADICEA, Henry VIII and Winston Churchill could be among the landmark British figures banished from history lessons as part of a 'dumbing down' of the subject.

Traditional history would virtually disappear from classrooms under Government plans to reform the National Curriculum from September next year, it emerged yesterday.

Draft programmes of study for primary and secondary schools contain almost no requirements for children between seven and 14 to be taught about important people, dates and facts.

Instead, teachers are urged concentrate on 'historical skills' and to ensure that pupils consider the 'ideas, beliefs, and attitudes of people in the past' from various social, cultural, ethnic and religious perspectives.

Primary schools, under orders to devote more time to raising standards in English and mathematics, could be allowed to abandon whole historical periods.

Secondary schools would no longer be required to teach children the history of Britain in chronological order but would be free to mix and match different eras as teachers chose.

Chris McGovern, director of the History Curriculum Association, said the changes would confirm the disappearance from classrooms of 'the landmarks of British history'. He fought to keep figures such as Wellington and Churchill when the original curriculum was drawn up five years ago.

This curriculum tells primary schools, for example, specifically to teach children the history of the British Isles from 55 BC to the early 11th Century under the heading 'Romans, Anglo-Saxons, and Vikings in Britain'.

Lessons are expected to cover the Roman conquest of Britain including the rebellion led by Boadicea, the reign of King Alfred, and Anglo-Saxon resistance to the Vikings. But the

proposed new curriculum simply states that pupils should 'study how British society was shaped by movement and settlement of different peoples'.

Existing orders for history lessons on life in Tudor times say children should learn about Henry VIII and the break from Rome, Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada, and the exploits of Francis Drake.

In future, said Mr McGovern, teachers could simply decide that children could develop their 'historical skills' better by appreciating what conditions were like for sailors on Spanish ships. …