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Schools: Model History Curriculum

Volume 822: debated on Monday 16 May 2022


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government who they are consulting on the content of the new model history curriculum.

We will work with history curriculum experts, historians and school leaders to develop a model history curriculum that will stand as an exemplar of a knowledge-rich, coherent approach to teaching history. The model history curriculum will build on the history curriculum and support teachers to make sure that all children can benefit from the breadth and depth of content in the national curriculum. We will shortly announce the panel supporting this work.

My Lords, those of us who remember Mrs Thatcher’s attempts to reshape the national history curriculum, David Cameron’s praise for teaching our island story, as he would put it, and Michael Gove’s calls for a more coherent patriotic history are concerned that authoritarian states teach a patriotic history; democratic states should teach debate and inquiry. Are the Government still committed to the fifth of the six aims stated in the 2013 definition of the national curriculum, which says we want students to

“understand the methods of historical enquiry, including how evidence is used rigorously”—

I know some Ministers are not very keen on evidence—

“to make historical claims, and discern how and why contrasting arguments and interpretations of the past have been constructed”?

That is what secondary school students should be taught in history.

I do not recall Margaret Thatcher’s reforms to the history curriculum but I may have been a beneficiary of them. I should be clear to the noble Lord that the model history curriculum does not change the national history curriculum. It is designed to be an additional resource to help teachers, where they choose to use it, to fully develop their approach, consistent with the 2013 national curriculum on history and with the principles that he pointed out in his question.

My Lords, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Africa—I declare an interest as a member—has just carried out an inquiry on the representation of Africa and its diaspora in the national curriculum, well led by the noble Lord, Lord Boateng. This work concluded that there were some good practices but serious shortfalls and shortages of information and rightful facts on the history of Africa and Islam, for instance. Will the noble Baroness undertake to ensure that she talks to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Africa and to the noble Lord, Lord Boateng? Finally, I take this opportunity to pay tribute to Lady Afshar, who was such a champion on education and history in this House. We will all miss her deeply.

My Lords, I believe that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has engaged with a number of the groups referred to by the noble Baroness. I reassure her that the model history curriculum is being developed to reflect the richness of world history, teaching pupils about societies and civilisations within and beyond Europe.

My Lords, the National Education Union has called for England to follow the Welsh Government in making the teaching of black history mandatory. Have the Government considered doing so?

My Lords, I am aware of the Welsh Government’s initiative in this area. The Government are clear that, within the existing national curriculum, there is a wide range of opportunities to talk about black history as well as other diverse histories that have shaped our country. We are focused on developing the model history curriculum, which will provide additional resources to teachers as well as providing, and signposting teachers to, other resources that they can use in teaching not just history but citizenship and other areas of children’s education.

My Lords, if we are to cohere as a democracy, should we not be teaching our children that they are not just a random set of individuals born to a different random set of individuals but heirs to a common tradition shaped by our parliamentary institutions, the common law, the tradition of personal freedom and all the rest of it, and that wherever their parents or grandparents were born, being our sons and daughters makes them partakers of this sublime patrimony?

My noble friend will be reassured to hear that the reformed history curriculum introduced in 2013 does place more emphasis on understanding British history in the context of world history. The curriculum sets out within a clear chronological framework the core knowledge that enables pupils to know and understand the history of Britain, from its first settlers to the development of institutions that help to define our national life today, as well as aspects of Europe and wider world history.

My Lords, will the Minister support Troy Deeney, the captain of Birmingham City Football Club, who is running a high-profile campaign to make the teaching of black, Asian and minority-ethnic history experiences mandatory?

My Lords, I am aware of the article and campaign referred to by the noble Lord; I read it myself. I am afraid that my answer is not hugely different from that which I gave previously. We support the teaching of black history within the national curriculum; there are many opportunities to do so. We are developing a model curriculum for history that will provide teachers with more resources to teach a diverse history, and one that reflects the story of these isles.

My Lords, may I draw attention to Latin America in this context? By that I mean not only the ancient cultures in Latin America, of which there are many, but the links with the slave trade and the important support for the independence movements there; these have created huge goodwill, very relevant to our trade and other efforts to improve relations with the countries of Latin America.

My noble friend’s question reflects the fact that, when we talk about diversity in the teaching of history, there are many different stories and parts of the world that pupils can learn about, along with how they relate to the history of this country. That is why the national curriculum and the model history curriculum provide a framework in which teachers can then use their expertise to ensure that pupils gain an understanding and the knowledge that they need to take the study of history forward.

My Lords, I have heard the noble Baroness’s replies to the two previous questions and that leads me to ask mine. With the freedom that she describes to choose the ethnic-minority and black history theme likely to be exercised among populations where there are significant populations dominated by people of colour, is the mandatory approach not the one that will see to it that people in white areas will learn about black history? Is that not the whole point?

I reassure the noble Lord that, in teachers and schools having the freedom to determine the topics of teaching within the framework of the national curriculum, it has been noted in a recent survey of history teachers by the Historical Association that more teachers have commitments to develop their content in their teaching of black and diverse histories. I think that is a pattern that we have seen across the country, and it is in the framework of the national curriculum that they are able to do so.

My Lords, I refer to my entry in the register of Members’ interests. Does my noble friend share my concern that the British Education Suppliers Association is considering legal action against her department for the way in which it has introduced the Oak National Academy, and that its attempt to effectively nationalise the provision of supply of the curriculum and severely damage our highly successful education technology market is not what one would expect from a brilliant Education Secretary who is himself an entrepreneur?

I do not share my noble friend’s characterisation of the development of Oak National Academy and the resources that it provides. I agree with him that there is a wide range of resources available to schools and teachers in developing their lessons. The Oak National Academy and its successor have added to that range of resources, and that has been a positive development.