Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

History lessons 'go back to basics'

History and geography lessons are set to focus on facts and figures under a new back-to-basics national curriculum

History and geography lessons are set to focus on facts and figures under a new back-to-basics national curriculum planned by ministers.

Education Secretary Michael Gove is launching a review of the curriculum after previously raising concerns that key areas of knowledge are missing from the current "overly-prescriptive" system.

The review will look at how the curriculum can be slimmed down, to contain only the "essential knowledge" children should acquire, and leave teachers to decide how to teach it.

In a speech last October, Mr Gove warned that children are leaving school unable to read and write properly and ignorant of the nation's history. He called for an urgent shake-up to prevent the UK from being left behind by other countries.

Radical secondary curriculum reforms published by the last Labour Government in 2007 saw key historical figures such as Winston Churchill cut from a list of figures recommended for teaching as part of a bid to allow teachers more flexibility over what they teach.

The then Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the body responsible at the time, argued that teachers did not need to be told to mention pivotal figures in history lessons. But the coalition government argues that there should be a core knowledge that pupils should have to take their place as "educated members of society".

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The fact is, we know that children and young people are successful.

"Some children leave school with qualifications that Michael Gove doesn't recognise, but the fact is, generally speaking, people are very successful. What we need is a comprehensive, good local school for every child."

Mr Gove said he wanted a curriculum that refrained from telling teachers how to teach, but told them what to teach in core subjects. He denied he would be coming up with prescriptive lists of names and dates.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I'm saying that we need to have facts in the curriculum. I want there to be core curriculum content - facts, knowledge. I want teachers to decide what that is. Parents need to know what children are learning, both so they can hold schools to account and so they can play their proper part in helping."

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