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Braveheart fails to conquer curriculum

There will be no compulsion to study Scottish history in schools, curriculum leaders said this week. Their assurance follows reports that suggested there would be "a radical overhaul" on the back of the resurgence of interest inspired by Mel Gibson's Braveheart.

Chris Whatley, head of modern history at Dundee University, who has been chairing a review group on Scottish history set up by the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum, said it was hoped to provide "a stronger emphasis on Scottish history, providing general guidelines without being too prescriptive".

Denis Stewart, the council's director, said: "We hope to come up with proposals which will give pupils, particularly in the primary and early secondary stages, a greater and more coherent exposure to Scottish history against the background of 5-14 environmental studies.

"One of the difficulties teachers say they have is how to offer Scottish history in a structured and progressive way and we think we may have a framework which could help them to do that."

The council is consulting informally and confidentially on the history group's proposals, which will be considered at the end of November. The report will form part of a wider review of Scottish culture in the curriculum, on which views will shortly be sought from a wide range of interests. Dr Whatley said his review was "at a very delicate stage: the nature of the framework we should suggest and the degree of encouragement we should give to the teaching of Scottish history are very sensitive issues".

He added: "We would like to see more done better. Teachers have problems in that they have a lack of training if they did not get sufficient Scottish history at university and there is a lack of resources. But we have a chicken-and-egg situation. Teachers complain about resources and publishers say they are not interested because there is not the demand. We hope to break into that cycle by highlighting best practice, laying a stronger emphasis on Scottish history and generating the demand."

At present the only requirement to study Scottish history is at Standard grade as part of "Changing life in Scotland and Britain". Pupils have to mount an investigation which must be on a Scottish theme. The Higher provides "opportunities" for Scots themes where the 1850-1979 period throws up questions on the Union and devolution. The Higher reforms will include a compulsory Scottish element.

The report suggests that existing provision has led to a "Scottish historical deficit" in schools and that the "greater interest in Scottish culture and history . . . should be reflected in the school curriculum".

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