Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

British Empire Back on the School Curriculum

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

British Empire Back on the School Curriculum

Article excerpt


CHILDREN are to be taught about the British Empire under sweeping reforms of the secondary school curriculum.

For the first time, the history of how Britain came to rule a quarter of the world's population and land mass is to be made a specific requirement of the National Curriculum for 11- to 14-year-olds, said the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority exams watchdog.

The reforms, which are not yet finalised, are likely to provoke opposition from some teachers on the grounds that schools should not be seen to mount a justification of the Empire. Until now, 11- to 14-year-olds have had to learn about Britain from 1750 to 1900, a period which misses out the early expansion of British interests overseas begun by Henry VII, who died in 1509.

Jerome Freeman, the QCA's history curriculum adviser, told the Times Educational Supplement: " Empire has been given more emphasis and greater strength. It is a significant part of British history and a topic that history teachers have to embrace more."

But the QCA moved to placate Leftwing critics by stressing that the history curriculum will cover both the Empire and "its impact on different people".

Pupils in the first three years of secondary school will also have to learn about the "changing relationships between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales".

This could prove controversial, as traditionalists will be watching for any sign of schools following the example of director Ken Loach, whose film about the Irish war of independence, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, has been dubbed a pro-IRA diatribe by some commentators.

Under other reforms that could also prove controversial, the PE curriculum does not include compulsory swimming.

The existing English curriculum list which says that in addition to a Shakespeare play, pupils must study eight major poets and four major novelists before and after 1914, will be scrapped. It will be left up to teachers to decide which poets, playwrights and novelists "before, during and after the 20th century" will be covered. …

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