History shake-up derailed by SNP

16th May 1997 at 01:00
The campaign for more Scottish history in the primary and secondary curriculum has been surprisingly rejected by councils controlled by the Scottish National Party.

Labour-run Glasgow this week added to the chorus of opposition by warning against the dangers of an "uncomfortable nationalistic and jingoistic ethos" if teachers concentrated on Scottish history.

Officials in the SNP stronghold of Angus have presented the most damning counter to the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum's review group proposals on beefing up the history curriculum. The group, which reported in February, was chaired by Professor Chris Whatley of Dundee University and aimed to address the "Scottish historical deficit" but without compulsion.

Angus officials have told the curriculum council: "We tend to take the view that to make national (ie Scottish) history the core of the curriculum would lead inexorably to a more nationalist view of Scotland and its society. "

The council's response agrees with the review group's suggestion that a nationalistic or ethnocentric approach is extremely undesirable and that the multicultural nature of Scotland should be respected. In dismantling the recommendations, it doubts whether the "mental map of the past" presented as the "minimal entitlement for all pupils" is a practicable extension to the already overcrowded curriculum. It dismisses the assertion that history is the foundation for social sciences and "essential background" for studying Scots language.

Angus believes the 5-14 curriculum, when fully implemented, offers a curricular balance in line with the report's recommendations and argues that Standard grade history needs no change to accommodate the Scottish dimension. The council opposes any compulsory study of Scottish history in the revised Higher Still courses but backs optional short courses.

Meanwhile, history teachers in SNP-run Moray say any increased emphasis on Scottish history in secondaries is not a priority given the demands on staff and the high level of change in the curriculum. They believe the curriculum council's initiative was politically driven and maintain the review takes no account of additional resources and the extra burdens on teachers.

A curriculum council survey found 52 per cent support for a "fairly well pronounced" Scottish content but only 23 per cent said this should be "very pronounced".

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