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HMI debunks history and modern studies

HISTORY, to reverse the words of Henry Ford, is not bunk, and neither is modern studies, HM Inspectors have concluded in their latest verdict on secondary subject teaching in the Standards and Quality series.

But in a familiar refrain they condemn standards in S1-S2 where many schools are failing to stretch pupils in both subjects and do not follow a coherent curriculum that builds on experience in primary. Nevertheless,

55 per cent of courses were good or very good in history and

40 per cent in modern studies.

Between S3 and S6, HMI believes "there is a greater degree of solidity and confidence" than in other disciplines.

Concerns about the place of Scottish history in the curriculum receive mixed messages from studies of 67 departments between 1995 and 1999. The inspectors believe pupils in their first two years of secondary do not receive as comprehensive an experience as they might. But here are few concerns about lack of Scottish material or quality of work at Standard grade and above. Two-thirds of pupils drop history after the end of second year.

The inspectors praise history teachers for their courses and teaching at Standard grade and Higher, as well as their use of resources, leadership and ethos.

Most criticism is reserved for the significant minority of schools where S1-S2 performance is well below standard.

In modern studies, teaching in 43 departments between S3 and S6 is described as good or very good. Teachers are committed, pupils enjoy their work and there is good or very good leadership.

But the halo slips in the first two years where courses need a shake up to provide greater challenge for the majority of pupils.

Copies of the reports, price pound;6, are available from the Stationery Office Bookshop, 71 Lothian Road, Edinburgh EH3 9AZ (0870 606 5566).

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