Every pupil in England will be taught about Magna Carta if Labour wins the next election, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt pledged today.
But critics have been quick to point out that the medieval document is already included in the national curriculum. They have also questioned whether Labour would impose the policy on the thousands of academies that have freedom to choose what to teach.
Mr Hunt, a historian, said: “Next year marks Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary and if I am education secretary after the general election, I am determined every child is taught the medieval past and modern power of this heroic charter.”
The latest national curriculum framework for history, published in September 2013, states that 11-14-year-olds “should be taught about the development of Church, state and society in Medieval Britain” and that this could include “Magna Carta and the emergence of Parliament”.
Mr Hunt, added: “A Labour government would update the curriculum to give teachers the tools to explain the importance of 1215.”
His article for The Sun newspaper links the issue to Labour’s plan to give the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds, saying that teenagers “need to learn more about politics – beginning with Magna Carta”.
He also notes that US rapper Jay-Z name-checked the document in an album title and highlights prime minister David Cameron’s inability to say what exactly the Latin words "magna carta" mean – (great charter) – when he appeared on an American chat show.
This summer Dominic Cummings, an ex-adviser to former Conservative education secretary Michael Gove, claimed his boss had blocked a “crazy” plan by Mr Cameron to send a copy of Magna Carta to every school in the country.
Today one of Mr Gove’s other former advisers, Sam Freedman – now Teach First research director – responded to Mr Hunt’s plan by asking: “Is he going to legislate to make [academies] teach individual historical topics?”
TES is conducting a survey about the teaching of human rights to coincide with the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
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