Michael Gove’s reform of the national history curriculum has caused widespread concern.
The Department for Education (DfE) is currently hosting a consultation on reforms to the national curriculum that will affect children from primary school-age to Key Stage 3. The consultation is aimed at school teachers, parents, young people, employers and local authorities among others, and is due to close on 16 April 2013.
The DfE plans wholescale changes to the history curriculum, replacing a framework with ‘a record of outstanding practice’. Ilona Aronovsky of History Education Consultancy has described the scrapped curriculum as ‘inclusive’:
It had a good balance of social and economic history, and meaningfully included Black and Asian history and the spectrum of social class and diversity … now this is removed from the curriculum – it makes no sense.
The DfE’s new focus abandons such inclusiveness, adopting instead a nationalist modus operandi. It aims to ensure that children ‘know and understand the story of these islands: how the British people shaped this nation and how Britain influenced the world’. Where it does occur, the inclusion of Black and Asian history in the curriculum has been described by the Historical Association as ‘clearly tokenistic’.
The DfE’s new proposals claim to give ‘greater flexibility to professionals’, yet according to a letter signed by prominent professionals it ‘betrays a serious distrust of teachers’. The Historical Association and the Royal Historical Society have both claimed that the curriculum was drafted ‘inside the Department for Education without any systematic consultation’. The result is overly controlling – a content-heavy syllabus has been cherry picked by the Minister of Education. Such a method has been taken as ministerial arrogance, and has been described variously by commentators as ‘micro-management’, ‘Goveian prescriptivism’ and ‘Michael Goveathonics’.
In an open letter to the Independent, 100 academics raised fears that while the DfE spoonfeeds facts about ‘Britain’s past’ to pupils, the draft curriculum further undermines the capacity for critical thinking. The letter claims that ‘This mountain of data will not develop children’s ability to think’. What remains of education is an ‘endless list of spellings, facts and rules’ about British history with no time for critical engagement – a citizenship test in education’s clothing.
Campaigners are worried that, after the successful fight to get Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole reinstated on the history curriculum, many assume that all is well. A campaign has been launched against the ‘narrow and ideologically reactionary vision of the curriculum’. For more information, see the campaign’s Facebook page here.