Sunday, 6 October 2013

Why I think British History should be taught in our primary schools

The anniversary of the Battle of Hasting looms and 1066 is one of those dates that almost everyone knows of but not necessarily what happened or why it happened. Ask an English person when the Battle of Hastings took place, most will know that it took place in 1066 but who fought who and why is less known. Many children these days are not taught about this pivotal event in English history although I know from my own experience as a mum that my children, who have all gone through school now, were taught about the Anglo-Saxons in primary school only. But what did those primary school children actually learn about the Anglo Saxons? Do they retain any of that knowledge as they grow up as to who those funny Germanic people actually were – do they actually realise that they were the original ‘English’, the ancestors of today’s English. I see that the Key stage 1 curriculum has been disapplied which means that now teachers are free to design their own curriculum to suit their pupils needs. What a shame that the history of this land might be subject to the whims of teachers who may think that British history is not relevant to today's school children and many schools with large ethnic minorities. Not that I think that this is what will happen, but it is no longer a given that pupils will learn the chronological history of the land in which they live. This might sound un PC to you, but how better to create a sense of cohesiveness and a sense of belonging than by everyone, no matter what their ethnic background, learning and participating in history lessons, taking part in trips to wonderful castles and other living history exhibits that facilitate learning in an exciting, interactive and interesting way? The children of these migrant families, whatever their generation, may one day have descendants who will intermarry. The likelihood of this is quite high. Of course our history is relevant to them and to those who might also not intermarry.  As a re-enactor I want to share the  history I portray with those who live with side by side with me in this land as much as I like to learn about the culture of others I meet in my everyday life.

History is important and relevant because it helps us to learn from the past – so that we do not have to bear witness to the same scenes of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man time and time again; atrocities that have plagued humankind since man fought his way out of the primordial ooze. I know that time has shown that we don't learn completely, but small changes can make big differences and maybe now, in this century, it is time that we made a start. Children hopefully will never again be forced down coal mines or chimneys. What we have learned from the first and second world wars, stopped Nazism from holding dominion over society again. It still exists, but it doesn’t flourish like it did in the earlier half of the last century. Ethnic cleansing reared its ugly head back in the 90’s with Bosnia and Kosovo, but although slow to react, the world has shown their disapproval of such acts. Then there are still the dreadful inter-tribal wars going on in some parts of Africa, the problems in Syria, Palestine and Iraq - just a few that make me want to weep with frustration at the hopelessness of it all. But we are a work in progress and what are we if we don’t know our past? How then can we protect our future?

So if you believe that British history is important to all the children of this land then please share this post. Let’s share our different cultures together and make our future a lot brighter. 


  1. Not teaching history is daft. How can a nation know where it's going if it can't see where it's come from? When I was a child in Manchester, UK, we learnt about the 'Ancient Britons' (these days we call them Celts!) in year one, then wended our way through the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons and Danes and then 1066 and all that. I left to come to Oz half way through year four but the stuff I'd learnt in history stayed with me, to be complemented by the history of white settlement in Oz and later, in high school, the ancient history of the Middle East and the history of Britain from 1066 - WWII and a bit of Asian history. Sadly, the young people I know today seem to have a bit of a grasp of Australian history but not much else.

    And Latin should be compulsory, too :-) (Mumblemumblebloodymoderneducationsystemgrumblegrumble.)

  2. I am amazed at the "History" curriculum in British schools, which concentrates on three or for short periods only, without any significant reference to what went before, or what came after. Unless children start by getting a general understanding of the broad sweep of British and European history - ideally from the fall of the Western Roman Empire onwards - it is impossible to get any value from the obsessive concentration, in isolation, on the Tudors, Nazis etc. Some familiarity is essential with main events and developments, including the High Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Age of Discovery, the Reformation, the Enlightenment etc. if what follows is to have any real meaning. There is no sense teaching about the 20th Century without teaching first about the Age of Revolutions, Unifications of German and Italy, Peter the Great's modernisation of Russia, the rise of Prussia, etc.etc.etc.