New history curriculum in England

So, the government are proposing that the history curriculum for England should be a narrative covering the whole of English and later British history since prehistory. That is good – and much needed. But, squeezing everything up to 1700 into KS2 is not going to be easy. And, is a linear narrative the best way of achieving chronological understanding? In some respects a linear narrative would be easier beginning at the end and working backwards, starting with now and going back into the deep past. That is beginning with the familiar, working from the known to the unknown.

A word of warning. Too much press attention, and even of professional comment will be on the knowledge content of the proposals. Historical skills and understanding are still in the curriculum – listed under the aims of history. Here they are –

* understand historical concepts such as continuity and change, cause and
consequence, similarity, difference and significance, and use them to make
connections, draw contrasts, analyse trends, frame historically-valid questions and
create their own structured accounts, including written narratives and analyses
* understand how evidence is used rigorously to make historical claims, and discern
how and why contrasting arguments and interpretations of the past have been
* gain historical perspective by placing their growing knowledge into different
contexts, understanding the connections between local, regional, national and
international history; between cultural, economic, military, political, religious and
social history; and between short- and long-term timescales.

There is much to dwell on. The curriculum is out for consultation. How can we frame a coherent case not for retaining the curriculum we have  now – any such plea will fall on deaf ears – but to create a knowledge heavy, narrative history curriculum that is teachable, engaging for pupils and enables good museum and archaeological input? Time to put our thinking caps on and not get sidetracked by sterile arguments between devotees of knowledge OR skills based teaching. Knowledge and skills go together – that is the expertise teachers.

About donhenson

I am freelance consultant archaeologist specialising in public archaeology, interpretation, education and the media.
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