Arthur Burns writes:
2014 has been another (over?-) exciting year for History as a school subject. Hot on the heels of the reform of the national curriculum has come the publication of new History A-levels to run from September 2015 on the new linear model championed by Michael Gove while secretary of state; as I write, the awarding bodies are concluding work on their responses to the new model of GCSEs to be taught for the first time in 2016. At the same time, History’s status as a subject will also be affected by changes to school performance measures. I wrote something on these issues in the Royal Historical Society Newsletter for May 2014, and we will be organising an event to further discussion in the new year – watch this space!
In the meantime, however, this makes keeping a weather-eye on the current position of history in schools – and in the arrangements for training future teachers – all the more important. The Historical Association performs a very valuable service to the History community in the UK with its annual survey of the teaching of History in schools and the views of teachers, and its latest report has just been published. Written by Dr Katharine Burn of the University of Oxford and Dr Richard Harris of the University of Reading, its main findings are:
- There has been a 5% increase in the number of respondents reporting that Key Stage 3 history is crammed into only two years (23% compared with 18% last year)
- There has been a further erosion of children’s right to learn history after the age of 13 years – 44% our respondents said some students are actively steered away from studying history for GCSE by their school if at 13 years they are judged to be unlikely to get a Grade C, even though they would have 2 years to improve and often enjoy history.
- 50% of respondents said GCSE specifications were likely to make a significant impact on what they decide to teach at Key Stage 3.
- Most teachers thought that the decoupling of AS from A Level would be detrimental to the future take-up of history post-16.
- 90% of respondents agreed that all new trainee teachers should receive a guaranteed minimum entitlement to university-based elements in their training. Serious concerns were expressed regarding plans to put more trainee teachers into the classroom without any academic or specialised mentor support and training.
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