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History Teaching

Volume 462: debated on Thursday 28 June 2007

We are currently considering final advice on the new key stage 3 curriculum to be taught from September 2008. The advice specifies the holocaust, the slave trade and the two world wars as compulsory. British history will remain as a substantial element of the curriculum, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear.

I thank the Minister for his reply, but does he agree that a firm grasp of our country’s history is vital for all our children and that teaching segments in isolation does nothing to improve the understanding of the glorious traditions of this country? What plans do the Government have to ensure that children are taught a well-rounded and comprehensive history of these islands?

Order. Before the Minister answers, may I tell Members as gently as possible that I would prefer them not to read out their supplementary questions? Supplementaries should be a spontaneous reflection on what the Minister has said.

I shall try to be as spontaneous as I can, Mr. Speaker.

British history is an important element at all key stages. Our review of key stage 3 will make a difference by ensuring that important elements of British history will be supported; in addition, GCSE and A-level courses will have a minimum content of 25 per cent. British history.

May I suggest another area that should be part of historical education in this country? The history of Parliament. Parliament has played a key role in establishing our liberties and freedoms, so will my hon. Friend make sure that we use all our resources here so that schools have proper access to this place? Will he also talk to the British Museum about using its resources so that people can understand not only British history but that of the wider world, too?

I should love the opportunity to talk to the British Museum, and if I get the chance I am sure I will. My hon. Friend makes an interesting point about Parliament, which is, as many Members are aware, part of the citizenship curriculum. Many Members talk about Parliament and the benefits of parliamentary democracy to pupils who visit and tour this place. Long may that continue.

May I make a plea for room in the curriculum for the teaching of local history and local culture? It is important that young people have a sense of place and identity. I am struck by the fact that when I take children around the House and show them things that relate to the history of Somerset, their teachers tell me that they are never taught about that in history, which seems a great shame.

There is flexibility in the curriculum for that. Last week, I addressed a conference in Cheltenham where we talked about the city curriculum, which affects my constituency. At key stages 1 and 2 in particular, teachers talk about local landmarks and history and incorporate such work. We encourage schools to continue to do that.

The Minister said that the abolition of slavery would be addressed, so in that spirit may I make a plea for the history of black and Asian people in this country? It is also part and parcel of our history, but has never been discussed. Young people would benefit from it in their education.

Those matters were considered recently as part of the Ajegbo report, of which my hon. Friend may be aware. He and I are very much part and parcel of British life these days, but he is right and, following our review, the slave trade, the British empire, the holocaust and the two world wars will all be essential elements of the key stage 3 curriculum. That is the right way forward: to learn about British life and our history, but also about migration and immigration in the context of the slave trade. It is important that we do so.