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Fair share of good ideas

Secondary history teachers will be flocking to York next weekend for the Historical Association's annual 14-19 education conference.

The theme of the conference, "Past imperative", is as much to do with the need to ensure that history continues to thrive post-14 as with the fact that it was obligatory in the past but is no longer.

History becomes optional at 14-16 from this September, which will leave the position of subject in this age group under threat from the expansion of vocational courses and, ironically, from the high standards required at history GCSE, which has been blamed by some leading history teachers for the falling numbers taking the exam this summer.

For this year's conference, organiser Rosemary Rees has drafted in new speakers and the agenda places a stronger emphasis on passing on successful ideas from the classroom. "If history is to flourish as a school and college subject, it is essential that we share with our colleagues the very best of good practice at all stages of secondary education," she says.

One of the key concerns of history teachers at the moment is how best to teach the new requirement at GCSE to study interpretations. The details of this requirement will be examined in a workshop run by Tony McAleavy, a humanities inspector for Gloucestershire, and David Aldred, a senior GCSE examiner. Colin Shephard, a GCSE chief examiner, will look discuss setting and marking coursework on interpretations.

Another issue of prime interest is how best to tackle the requirement to teach overviews as well as depth studies at key stage 3. This will be addressed by Michael Riley, head of humanities at Bucklers Mead School, Yeovil.

Other topics tackled in the 60 or more workshops will include the development of thinking and writing skills, the role of history in fostering identity, the uses of archive film and feature films, approaches to A-level and various ways to liven up the teaching of specific subjects such as the Holocaust, the French Revolution and the Blitz.

The conference takes place on 13-14 September at the University of York. Accommodation is available, but some of the workshops are already full up. For details, call the conference line, 01904 432940.

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