Help pupils understand their place in history, say teachers

8th September 2006 at 01:00
History should be taught chronologically to give children a sense of their origins, according to a new report.

The Scottish Association of Teachers of History (SATH) has published a discussion document outlining how the subject could be expanded, as one of the submissions made to the Scottish Executive's curriculum review.

Currently pupils in primary study just one history topic and in S1 and S2 receive only an hour of history tuition a week.

Peter Hillis, professor of history education at Strathclyde University, and a member of SATH, said: "There are difficulties in terms of what a pupil can grasp, but there is a genuine concern that pupils can dip in and out of history and not have a sense of that chronological span.

"The ideal is that by S2 every pupil who doesn't carry on with historical study has some grasp of where they have come from, where they are going and where they fit into the world."

History teachers have been lobbying strongly for their subject since misreported comments by Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, made at one of the seminars held to mark the 40th anniversary of The TESS, were taken to suggest he wanted to make history "a thing of the past".

Professor Hillis said: "A knowledge of history is absolutely essential to children's education. If you don't know where you have come from, it is difficult to set things in context.

"History is a popular subject outside of school. You only have to switch on the TV to see programmes like Time Team - we need to capitalise on that. We have got to encourage a sense of identity of your own culture and history."

Professor Hillis believes studying the past should sit at the heart of A Curriculum for Excellence and that it links to other areas of the curriculum. "Enterprise and creativity is related to history," he said.

"If you are doing the Vikings, there is a lot of art and design you can build into that."

However, he is expecting a mixed reaction to SATH's plans as schools may lack resources for a particular age group.

David Armstrong, president of SATH, said: "There was concern that a subject like history could well lose its identity in some sort of melange where it is a social science subject."

Mr Armstrong, principal teacher of history at West Calder High in Midlothian, added: "In terms of time given to it, it is not on the same level as maths and English, so there is not really time to give people a reasonable experience on, say, the history of Scotland and how it relates to the outside world. We have been under pressure as a subject within the curriculum. There are a couple of schools in Glasgow where history has effectively disappeared."

The report is on SATH's website at

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