History teachers call for extra time on 'kings and queens'

21st May 2010 at 01:00

Conservative plans for a return to "traditional" history lessons, where pupils recite the names of kings and queens and celebrate the British empire, will only succeed if the subject is given more space on the timetable, teachers have said.

Members of the Historical Association have demanded that new Education Secretary Michael Gove supports their demands for more time for their "dying" subject.

These demands come despite Mr Gove's promise to give schools more freedoms by accelerating the academies programme and by encouraging parents' groups and charities to set up "free schools", which would be allowed to opt out of the national curriculum completely.

Research by the association suggests that history teaching is on the wane in academies as schools abandon it as a separate subject and push children towards "easier" vocational courses to improve their results.

However, Mr Gove has declared himself a strong supporter of history, saying he wants the subject taught "in order".

But teachers, speaking at the Historical Association conference in Sheffield last week, said they could only make the plans work if they were given more time. Most children get, on average, just one hour's history teaching a week.

"Our overwhelming concern is how we can deliver this content-driven approach," said the association's chief executive Rebecca Sullivan. "But we are pleased by the possible rise in status of history - now teachers must be given more time to teach it."

Mr Gove has said that a committee of the "greatest minds in Britain" will decide what children are taught. Historians Simon Schama, Andrew Roberts and Simon Sebag Montefiore will be invited to give their views.

A Department for Education spokesman said ministers were working on their "next steps" for the curriculum. "The coalition agreement between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats said teachers would have more freedom, so this would give scope for history teachers to argue for more space on the timetable," he said.

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