The two world wars and the Holocaust are at the centre of the new KS3 course
Lessons on the two world wars, the Holocaust, slavery, and the British Empire will be compulsory under a new curriculum published next month, The TES can reveal.
Qualifications and Curriculum Authority officials have denied reports of a row with the Government over the content for 11 to 14-year-olds. But the extra emphasis given to the world wars and slavery in the latest drafts has followed public ministerial pressure.
The authority warned in 2005 that there was too much emphasis on Hitler in secondary history, a criticism that has also been made by historians and a former German ambassador to Britain.
A version of the curriculum presented to teachers at a seminar last summer specified study of the British Empire but made no mention of the world wars, the Holocaust or slavery.
In October it emerged that Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, had asked for slavery to be made a compulsory part of the curriculum. The following month it was reported that he warned that any move to drop the world wars from the key stage 3 curriculum would be "stamped on very quickly".
Jerome Freeman, a QCA history adviser, acknowledged that the inclusion of the slave trade had been the idea of ministers.
But he said world wars and the Holocaust had always been included in the statutory notes with the curriculum. The QCA's decision to move them into the main text was "simply an issue of presentation", he said, and that it had "stuck to its guns" on flexibility.
Mr Freeman added that expanding the range of courses at GCSE and A-level would help reduce the proportion of time pupils spent studying Hitler.
The new curriculum makes history for key stage 3 less prescriptive by dumping the six specified studies covering periods such as Britain 1500-1750 and world history after 1900. Instead, it insists that pupils have a sense of chronology and sets out different themes such as "conflict and its lasting impact".
KS3 also includes local history and visits to museums, galleries and other historical sites. The Government's pressure for changes to history echoes Mr Johnson's decision to intervene last year in key stage 3 English and demand that classic authors including Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen continued to be studied.
Heather Scott from the Historical Association welcomed the new flexibility but said no good history teacher would leave out the world wars and the Holocaust anyway.
Consultation on the history curriculum will begin on February 5 at www.qca.org.uk.