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HMI advises clearer focus for history

The Government's history specialist has tried to scotch media myths about a dearth of Scots history in the 5-14 curriculum. Lachie MacCallum, HMI responsible for history and other social subjects, told last week's two-day Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum conference: "It would be a disservice to our young people and to our teachers if we simply assume a deficit model and ignore the good practice that does exist."

Mr MacCallum said: "We do not need to start from scratch. What we do need to do is to ensure that what is taught is more clearly focused, has a clearer purpose in developing an overview of Scotland's past, and has more impact and significance in the eyes of pupils and their parents."

Topics in the 5-14 curriculum often included the Romans in Scotland, the Vikings, Wallace and Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots, the Jacobites, the Highland Clearances, the Industrial Revolution (including New Lanark) and the home front during the Second World War. Perhaps surprisingly, events surrounding the Treaty of Union in 1707 are less popular.

Topics were generally carefully planned and interesting but there was often little reference to their historical significance. Mr MacCallum said: "Essentially there is in Scottish schools no surety of a coherent and continuous experience of Scottish history at the nine years when history is compulsory. Nor can we be sure that the historical significance of what actually is taught is really appreciated."

Mr MacCallum advises making more of the early years of primary and building a picture of the past as the basis for the next stage of learning. "It is asking quite a lot to move from 'when granny was a girl' in P3 to the Vikings in P4," he said.

But he warned: "The lack of suitable resources accessible to age and attainment levels is a vicious circle. No resources means little teaching. Little teaching means an uncertain market for publishers."

Turning to the post-S2 curriculum, he said almost every secondary school provided "sustained attention to the Scottish dimension" at Standard grade.

Mr MacCallum welcomed the curriculum council's review but urged teachers to be patient. It would take time to establish what should or should not be included.

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