Scottish Education: History lessons no longer out of kilter

9th October 2009 at 01:00
Curriculum re-write will give pupils a better sense of national identity

Original paper headline: Scottish history lessons no longer out of kilter

Think Robert the Bruce. Think William Wallace. Think the Battle of Bannockburn. It was inevitably going to happen once devolution got into its stride; the Scottish history curriculum is being rewritten in a bid to give youngsters north of the border a clearer sense of their national identity.

One academic has claimed that the new Curriculum for Excellence will give the country's pupil population the opportunities "enjoyed by their counterparts in other parts of Britain, Ireland and Europe".

Dundee University Scottish history professor Christopher Whatley has been joined by Lachlan MacCallum of the Scottish schools inspectorate, who also believes that the changes to the way history is taught will mean children have a better understanding of their Scottish roots.

Speaking at a Scottish history conference in Dundee, Professor Whatley last week said teachers now have the opportunity to explore their country's past in a more profound and wide-ranging way.

He identified "enormous opportunities" to teach Scottish history in "new and exciting ways".

Professor Whatley highlighted the joint effect of curricular change and the growth of Scottish history at universities. "At long last, our young people will be in a position which has long been enjoyed by their counterparts in other parts of Britain, Ireland, Europe and elsewhere in the world to learn about and understand better the historical environment in which they've been born and raised."

While he conceded there were some "misgivings" about the experiences and outcomes among history teachers, he added that curriculum change represented an "awesome challenge" and that teachers had long suffered from a "serious deficit in terms of knowledge of Scottish history", but stressed that help was at hand.

Among the changes will be an increased emphasis on "under- represented" areas of Scottish history study, the late-medieval period, the Reformation and the Enlightenment.

"You need to know where you are before you can decide how to get to the next place," he said.

HMIE's Mr MacCallum, the conference's other keynote speaker, asked: "What is the point of all the good practice we see in teaching Scottish history in our schools if it is not set in a wider context, of time and location?"

He praised the imminent Scottish history resource trailed by the Scottish government's education secretary, Fiona Hyslop, at last month's Scottish Learning Festival, which would fill "important gaps" in history teaching.

"I am really excited about what promises to be a major national resource, one of the best of its kind in Europe," he said.

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