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Simon Schama has been appointed as the coalition’s main advisor on school history and has been charged with leading a sweeping review of the curriculum. He was reported in the media as having met David Cameron to set out his ideas on the importance of every child understanding our “island story” before leaving school.

Schama, now a professor at Columbia University, has outlined key events that all children should learn about. They include: The murder of Thomas Becket, the Black Death and subsequent Peasants’ Revolt, the execution of King Charles I, the British rule in India, the Opium Wars between the UK and China, and the conflict in Ireland.

Schama was concerned that much of the evidence of high quality teaching could only be found in state Grammar schools or Independent schools and is determined that all children should be given the best.

A survey recently published by the Historical Association seems to endorse Schama’s fears. It states that: “A significant number of teachers report serious concerns that history is disappearing in their schools, with senior managers assuming that the study of the past has no value in its own right.”

“Lessons tend to focus on skills not knowledge”

The report found that: “60% of history teachers were concerned by the growth of non-specialist teaching in Key Stage 3, 25% of academies merge history into other subjects to teach generic skills. Grammar schools and comprehensives report similar trends. Non-specialist teaching in history – i.e. teaching from those with no training in the subject and often with no qualification higher than a GCSE – is becoming increasingly common, particularly in Year 7 (11-12 year olds), but also throughout Key Stage 3. That means lessons tend to focus on skills not knowledge.

The schools leading this generalist trend are the academies but the other schools in the state sector are following and all groups are seeing the trend spread beyond Year 7 into Year 9.” Michael Gove, speaking at the Conservative Conference, also heralded the overhaul of the English curriculum, stressing his belief in the importance of studying the ‘great’ authors including Keats, Austen, Dickens and Hardy.

“A significant number of teachers report serious concerns that history is disappearing in their schools”

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