Going down in history

20th February 1998 at 00:00
Besieged historians are battling to end the curriculum squeeze on their subject. The Campaign for History - a Historical Association-led drive to lift the profile of the subject launched last week - aims to reassert children's right to study history up to age 18.

The campaign says government moves to drop non-core subjects in favour of extra literacy lessons at primary level are compounded by the GCSE options system, which allows pupils to give up the subject at 14. With the exception of

Albania, the UK is the only country in Europe where

history is not compulsory beyond this age.

The battle is being waged on several fronts. Leaflets and briefing sheets are going out to teachers, parents, pupils and governors in an effort to move history back up the educational agenda.

The campaign aims to emphasise history's across-the-board value - as a tool for learning literacy, communicating, arguing, researching or analysing, and as a subject essential to our understanding of the modern world, teaching us about culture, politics, morality and citizenship.

"The right to study history is being seriously eroded at all levels," says association president Professor Chris Wrigley.

The subject is being squeezed off the post-14 timetable by vocational subjects, he says, and some schools are already reporting staffing problems, following slumps in the number of weekly classes. "Once history becomes optional, headteachers faced with having to replace staff are going to replace them in areas that are compulsory."

Without urgent action history could soon be downgraded to a minority subject, he warns. "Teachers believe the subject will soon be taught by maths teachers who do a bit of history on the side." Moves to devote more time to literacy in primary schools need not mean the end of the subject, he suggests. Instead, literacy sessions could be incorporated into history classes.

The squeeze on humanities in schools is having "the unfortunate side-effect of denying less able children the chance to study it", Professor Wrigley says. "History could become an option just for the brightest rather than being for everyone. "

You're History, the campaign's leaflet aimed at pupils, stresses the vocational options available to history students, among them town planning,tourism, journalism, accountancy, policing and restoration work. But the campaign is careful to avoid antagonising other subjects jostling for space on the timetable, and says department heads should join forces with geography teachers to defend the humanities.

"We are not out to knock other subjects, " Professor Wrigley insists. "We want to ensure that students have the choice of studying. At the moment they don't."

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today