Changing approaches to history education 4 Mar 2013

No Ebacc... 

Education Minister Michael Gove announced in early February that the government has decided to scrap plans for replacing GCSEs in six core subjects with a universally applied ‘Ebacc’.  This qualification included history, but had excluded the arts and design.  85% of respondents to a consultation thought the choice of Ebacc core subjects was wrong, and Bacc for the Future and other campaigners opposed the plans.  The Cultural Learning Alliance pointed out that 15% of schools withdrew an arts subject in 2012 as a response to the impending changes.

News of the U-turn was welcomed by a huge range of arts and culture groups who were concerned that arts subjects would become downgraded ‘second tier subjects’. 

However, the Ebacc set of subjects remain as an indicator which schools must report on in coming years, and GCSEs are expected to be reformed to give more emphasis to fact learning and exams.  Department for Education – Michael Gove’s full statement, Cultural Learning Alliance

...but changing approaches to history GCSE

Much of the philosophy behind the GCSE changes is explored in a speech which Michael Gove gave to the Social Market Foundation.  Here he argues that a traditional education gives children from less well-off homes a better chance of doing well and becoming represented in the country’s future elites. 

Responses to proposed changes in history teaching have been mixed: some, like Natasha McEnroe, director of the Florence Nightingale Museum, are concerned that history may be reduced to a single, approved understanding: “History should be where children are able to ask questions in a safe place. I worry about the ideology that history is somehow a series of objective facts.”

Nick Winterbotham, Chair of the Group for Education in Museums said that the absence of anything post-17th century in Key Stage 2 could take many social history museums off the menu for primary schools.

Others, like Professor Niall Fergusson, argue that history teaching is not working as currently framed and that the curriculum will not be the tour through stock patriotic figures that some critics fear.  Consultation continues on the curriculum until 16th April, and organisations can respond here.  Guardian, Social Market Foundation, Museums Association