Get your facts right or go down in history, experts warn LTS

21st January 2011 at 00:00
`Considerable number' of inaccuracies found in material that was produced for schools

Historians have called on Learning and Teaching Scotland to improve the quality control of its teaching resources after they found a number of factual errors.

The criticism is focused on the Wars of Scottish Independence section of the Scotland's history resources, delivered to Higher students via the schools intranet system Glow.

Christopher Whatley, professor of Scottish history at Dundee University, led the working group of experts at the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), which last week highlighted concerns about the teaching of history in Scottish schools in an advice paper.

The report warned that history was in danger of being diluted under the Curriculum for Excellence framework, claimed that teachers were struggling to translate the CfE "experiences and outcomes" into a workable curriculum, and complained of an "excessive concentration" on the lead-up to the Second World War and the rise of Hitler.

It added that "there have been a considerable number of inaccuracies in the material that was produced for schools".

Historian and writer Fiona Watson, who was the RSE's expert on the Wars of Scottish Independence, told The TESS she was alerted to the problems by teachers: "The textbook and the classroom materials are highly problematic in terms of accuracy - factual and interpretational. I wouldn't regard accuracy as something that is negotiable."

Mistakes in the materials ranged from small slips and vague descriptions to more serious factual errors and misleading prioritisation of sources, she said.

"There are an awful lot where you think: `Well, this is not quite the way you should be presenting this stuff'. We applaud the efforts of LTS to provide helpful materials in terms of the format and the shape of what they are trying to do. All we would ask is that there is someone in place for each subject area to make sure that the rigour and accuracy of what is put in is acceptable for Curriculum for Excellence."

Dauvit Broun, professor of medieval Scottish history at Glasgow University, said that the root of "all sorts of strange things" was the decision to treat Blind Harry's Wallace as a primary source.

The poem on William Wallace's life was written more than 170 years after his death and was, according to Dr Watson, a "15th century work of propaganda and fiction" that could not be treated as a primary source.

A spokesperson for Learning and Teaching Scotland said: "LTS support materials for National Qualifications are developed in association with a number of experts and academics. As part of the continuous quality assurance of LTS materials, we are reviewing this history resource with the assistance of a range of experts."


Examples of RSE complaints about Scotland's history:

- It fails to explain why Robert Bruce, descended from the second daughter, thought he had a better claim to the throne than Balliol, descended from the elder daughter of the Earl of Huntingdon, in the context of succession laws of the time;

- It refers to Balliol's "coronation" when it was an "inauguration" - an important error because in 1292, the Scots were desperate to win the right from the Pope to crown their own king;

- It states that William Wallace led men against the Sheriff of Lanark to avenge the death of Marion Braidfute in 1297 - she exists only in the poem Blind Harry's Wallace, written 170 years after Wallace's death;

- It suggests that historians are split over the identity of Wallace's father, when proof in the form of a personal seal leaves no room for doubt;

- And a source exercise on the Lubeck letter asks about Wallace's role as Guardian when he did not take on that role until the year later.

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