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Historians campaign for a better future

A campaign to "save" classroom history from extinction has been launched by the Historical Association, writes Nicholas Pyke.

History has already been reduced to optional status for 14- year-olds. Now historians fear that the Government's emphasis on basic literacy and numeracy will squeeze history out of the primary schools.

Last month's curriculum slim down allows primary heads to cut back on most arts and humanities in favour of the 3Rs.

The HA has sent out leaflets for pupils urging them to choose history GCSEs. It has also produced briefing packs to help history teachers fight their corner.

The packs say history is essential for active citizenship, provides a context for moral reasoning and systematically develops language use. It also helps pupils understand their own cultural traditions.

"The right to study history is being seriously eroded at all levels," said Professor Chris Wrigley, the association president.

The HA is worried history will become the preserve of the liberal-minded middle classes. Schools in economically deprived areas are under pressure to meet their targets in reading and maths, even at the expense of a broader education.

The campaign is timed to influence the national curriculum review planned for 2000. But secondary school departments are unlikely to find the subject made compulsory once more.

At a recent London conference the chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, Dr Nicholas Tate, said curriculum changes will involve less prescription, not more. This, he said, should give schools greater freedom to adopt a broad curriculum with history at the centre.

Secondary, TES Friday. page 14

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