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History by word of mouse is a winner

Henry VIII was a stickler for detail. Woe betide any gentleman of the privy chamber who was not in a "sober manner" and ready to help dress him at 7am every day. If the King's barber wanted to avoid getting the chop, he also had to be on time and not in the company of "vile persons or misguided women".

These are examples of the facts that have been enthralling pupils logging on to an award-winning website.

Learning Curve, launched in 1999 by Tony Blair, has come joint top of a poll of the best ICT resources for history teachers.

The National Archives' educational site beat stiff competition from Microsoft Word and the BBC history website in the poll of 150 history departments. Only digital cameras were ranked as useful as Learning Curve.

Tom O'Leary, a former history teacher who is now head of education and interpretation at the National Archives, said it was not just the quirky facts which had made its website such a success.

"Amazing facts do draw children into the subject," he said, "But primary source materials, such as original documents and eye-witness accounts, have also inspired children and made the website such a success."

Learning Curve is structured to tie in with the history national curriculum from key stages 2 to 5. Teachers can help students learn about topics ranging from the Middle Ages to the Cold War.

As well as the source material, there are interactive quizzes and games on the website. Pupils can, for instance, joust with each other or take a virtual tour of a Tudor village.

And if today's pupils think they have it bad at school, they can read about some of their counterparts from the Victorian era who would only too willingly have swapped a day working down a coal mine for a few hours in the classroom. One such 14-year-old was forced down the mine by his whip-wielding mother.

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