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Not enough time for ethnic-minority past

Primary teachers need a more flexible history curriculum, race campaigners claim. Helen Ward reports

JUNIOR school teachers struggle to include black and Asian issues in history lessons because the curriculum is too rigid, race campaigners have told government advisers.

Pupils aged seven to 11 study local, British, European and world history, ranging from the Ancient Egyptians to the 20th century.

Now the Commission for Racial Equality has protested to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority about the difficulties teachers face providing appropriate history lessons for ethnic-minority pupils.

New rules that came into effect last week say all public authorities have a legal duty to promote race equality.

The QCA is developing guidance on teaching inclusive history which will focus on curriculum planning and include case studies.

Teachers and teacher-trainers say history guidelines for key stage 2 children leave less room for lessons to be adapted than at any other stage of the curriculum.

And Penelope Harnett, editor of Primary History, said: "History can contribute to a sense of belonging. If you can't find your place, or your family's place, you don't feel that sense of belonging."

Even where teachers do have the chance to address world history, they say, their efforts are undermined by a lack of resources.

Hilary Claire, senior history lecturer in the school of education at the University of North London, said: "The history curriculum is quite restrictive at key stage 2. We are part of a global society and it is a bit 19th-century to think you need to only know about your area. The curriculum needs to be relaxed."

Dr Grant Bage, primary history writer and lecturer, said: "We have a standardised national curriculum and resources. But most classes will not be a statistically perfect representation of society.

"The curriculum may give teachers the chance to localise history, but giving them the chance is not the same as helping them to do it."

STUDY TOPICS AT KEY STAGE 2

At key stage 2 pupils must study local, British, European and world history

* British history should include the Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings; Britain and the world in Tudor times and either Victorian Britain or Britain since 1930.

* European history should be a study of Ancient Greece and its influence on the world today.

* World history should be a study of key features of a past society selected from among these categories: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Sumer, the Assyrian Empire, the Indus Valley, the Maya, Benin or the Aztecs.

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