Curriculum Leadership

8. Fighting for history's place in the curriculum

This may seem unnecessarily combative but we are not necessarily talking about the amount of time labelled as history but about the principles which underlie good history teaching and their presence or absence throughout the school curriculum.

History offers an evidential as opposed to an experiential view of human nature: although many insights may be generated through empathy and imagination historical conclusions must be based upon demonstrable fact, just as in any other science. Whenever reasons are offered to children for the way people behave they must be capable of standing up to historical analysis. How were these explanations arrived at? What is the evidence? Is there another possible interpretation? The historian on the staff often acts as a guardian of objectivity, less concerned with an immediate emotional response to events and more able to see them in relation to the longer term.

Of course, the historian also needs time to do the things that the National Curriculum requires and it is here that a combative spirit may come in useful! The timetable is territory and those who hold most of it hold most power and respect as well as bigger budgets. If history is squeezed into one afternoon a week in alternative terms, not only will it be impossible to teach it in the imaginative way suggested earlier but it will also come to have the status of a separate minority subject instead of the one whose perspective underlies and embraces the whole curriculum. It is not just a question of history's space on the timetable; the good curriculum leader will argue for an input into every other subject in which information is passed on. As Pat Hoodless says: the study of history fosters critical awareness of what is heard and what is read and develops skill in raising questions about sources of information, essential in a modern, democratic society. (History & English in the Primary School - Preface).