Call to bring history to order early on

26th June 2009 at 01:00
Rose review leaves teaching of chronology to primary pupils too late, says academic

The proposed new history curriculum for primary schools has been criticised for being stuck in the past, rather than drawing on recent research.

Alan Hodkinson, of Liverpool John Moores University, said the proposal to leave the teaching of chronology until the end of primary school is a mistake.

The comment comes as the final details of the Rose review of the primary curriculum are being settled.

Much recent research considers at what age children can grasp historical timescales.

Dr Hodkinson said: "Chronology is fundamental to history; without it, history isn't history. A display of hats through the ages without understanding `through the ages' is just a pretty picture."

Sir Jim Rose has proposed re-arranging the national curriculum into six areas of learning (see box). History will be taught as part of historical, geographical and social understanding.

Each area has a broad overview divided into three sections: essential knowledge, key skills and breadth of learning. There is also a more detailed curriculum progression section setting out what should be taught, and when.

It is not until Years 5 and 6 that the curriculum progression section includes the objective, "understanding the broad chronology of major events in the UK, and some key events in the wider world . and to locate within this the periods, events and changes they have studied".

In 2003, Dr Hodkinson's research in a Liverpool primary school divided Y4 children into groups. One was taught according to the national curriculum, and the others with additional time-related activities such as marking out events on a chronological ticker tape laid out in the playground. The group that had been taught chronology did better in recalling historical facts.

Dr Hodkinson said: "Children can understand chronology from a very early age. Primary teachers are not subject specialists. If the curriculum seems to say, `do chronology at the end of key stage 2', the danger is it will not be taught in those phases earlier on.

"Teaching chronology is important because without it children can't pin down when events are happening. A child I know thought the Romans and Victorians were close in time because they both had sewerage systems."

Six areas of learning

The 20 recommendations in the interim Rose report include:

Organisation of the primary curriculum into six areas of learning (understanding): human, social and environmental (now historical, geographical and social); physical health and wellbeing; arts and design; English, communications and languages; mathematical; scientific and technological.

Discrete subject teaching and cross-curricular studies.

Entry to reception at age four to become the norm.

ICT to be taught both discretely and through its application across the whole curriculum.

Related content:

British History Timeline

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