Schama’s plans for new 2014 history curriculum-straws in the wind

As you know, Simon Schama has been charged with leading the review of the history curriculum . Never shy of appearing in front to camera, or being interviewed by the press, Schama is repeatedly  dropping hints about what might be in store in his report. Most makes perfectly good sense.

 Who would not want the new Curriculum to make a connection between history and the lives of children and young people> This was writ large in OFSTED’s 2007  History in the Balance anyway. As was his next point, that students should develop a ‘long view’ and a coherent view of the past . He wants pupils to look at a broader picture of British history’, not just narrow depth studies. So do we all but not if at the expense of enquiry-based learning in which students develop their own understanding by exploring a range of contemporary accounts and later interpretations.

Our Simon is also interested in the curriculum providing stimulating digital resources through links with sites, museums and archive . I hope what he means by this is that money is to be spent bringing all the best work together so that it can be accessed through one portal. We all know there is lots of brilliant work out there which we simply do not have the time to access.

His final observation, that he want the history curriculum to develop a visual pedagogy  is unsurprising given his personal interest in this topic. Remember His Power of Art series on TV? What is fascinating here, of course, is that he is wandering into the realms of ‘how’ the curriculum should be taught, just at a time when Gove is saying it is up to teachers to decide how and that there has been too much interfernce in the how in the past. Clearly a massive side swipe at the National Strategies-gawd love them!

The only thing consistent about Gove is his own inconsistencies. Can anyone explain why he feels the need to impose a national Curriculum for all, but not for Academies etc? He espouses freedom yet imposes his own view of what school history  should be like. I think this is the type of muddled thinking that history teachers will be able to exploit to their own advantage. Whatever Gove believes about the merits of teaching the 18th century to uninterested, demotivated kids, history teachers just won’t let it happen.

A final word about skills and concepts rather than content then. Little has been said on this recently , but I feel that the nature of history as a discipline is now so embedded in the National Curriculum, rather than just in SHP, that Gove won’t be able to uproot it. Even if he tried, what sense would it make when at GCSE success demands that students are adept at source analysis and evaluation. Without a KS3 grounding I cannot see how results will be maintained. Just another issue that has not been throught through.

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