Historians need to come up with better excuses for unpopularity

13th September 1996 at 01:00
In Nicholas Pyke's article "Historians want to curb the growth of GCSE rival", Christine Counsell, chair of the Historical Association, and others bemoan the increase in the number of geography GCSE candidates and the decline in the number of history candidates, and try to account for this by saying that "geography is perceived to be easier".

This is a strange assertion. This year, the national GCSE A-C pass rates were 53.7 per cent for geography and 56.9 per cent for history. Christine Counsell seems to have little hard evidence upon which to base her own ideas of pupils' apparent perceptions of the two subjects.

Pupils may need to complete more extended writing in the history GCSE, but geography calls for a wide range of written, geographical and numerical skills as well as recall and understanding, as required by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. If geography seems more relevant, as stated, then surely the subject should not be penalised by making the exam more difficult, as was suggested.

Pupils do not, generally, chose option subjects in Year 9 on the basis of a thorough research of what is a hard or easy subject. Rather they choose on the basisof teachers, track record, resources, what their friends are taking or simply because it is a subject they like.

The Historical Association will have to come up with better excuses!

JOHN HAWLEY Haydon School Wiltshire Lane Eastcote Pinner Middlesex

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