UK: New Curriculum Draft has Less British, More World History

Warwick Mansell of the Guardian reports that Education Secretary Michael Gove is preparing major alterations in the proposed history curriculum for England’s schools after receiving pushback from teachers and academics. According to sources in the Department for Education, the new version will add in a substantial world history component instead of focusing mainly on British history.

In addition, the revisions will give more freedom to schools to design their own courses, either dropping a number of requirements or converting them into suggestions. The Department showed the new draft to history teachers from around the country last week, and the document was subsequently leaked to the Guardian.

Winston Churchill is no longer named in the new draft. Five- to seven-year-olds will not have to learn about the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti, as suggested in the current draft, but instead could be told about the more modern figures of LS Lowry, Neil Armstrong, Tim Berners-Lee and Rosa Parks. Charles Darwin may feature in secondary school history lessons, while schools are to be given more scope to teach pupils about immigration and Islamic history.

The original curriculum, which was published in February and was designed for students between 5 and 14 years of age, was scheduled to go into effect next fall. Gove came under criticism after the original publication, not only from teachers but from prominent historians, for the curriculum’s emphasis on English history and a lack of attention to the history of other parts of the world. A former adviser to Gove, historian Simon Schama, called the draft “offensive and insulting.”

The first draft expected seven- to-11-year-olds to be taught British history from the stone age to the union of parliaments in 1707, with 48 bullet points taking schools through historical events and personalities they must teach, while history for 11- to 14-year-olds would cover 1707 to 1989.

But, although some historians – including David Starkey, Antony Beevor and Niall Ferguson – backed the move, the DfE seems to have been chastened by the reaction, with Gove indicating last month to the Commons education select committee that the curriculum would be changed for its next draft.

The new draft expands the breadth of topics covered and eases the requirement that children will need to study material up to the year 1707 by the time they leave primary school. Instead, the primary curriculum will end at the year 1066.