History teaching has substantially changed to address diversity, say teachers

Friday, October 22, 2021

Category: News

Some 87% of UK secondary schools report making substantial changes to history teaching to address issues of diversity, according to research by the universities of Oxford and Reading, based on an Historical Association survey of history teachers.

One of the ‘most encouraging findings’, according to Dr Katharine Burn, one of the report’s authors from Oxford’ Department of Education, ‘Is the evidence that schools are now paying attention to the history of migration to and from Britain and to the diverse experiences of those who settled here.’

The report also cites the most important reasons for making changes to the [key stage 3] curriculum were: ‘a sense of social justice, to better represent the nature of history and the stimulus of recent events.’

Curriculum topics, such as the history of British Empire or the transatlantic slave trade, share equal prominence with teaching of other experiences such as ‘forms of resistance or rebellion by enslaved peoples’ At least 90% of state-maintained schools reported teaching all such dimensions. But the issue of its legacy remains largely unexplored (addressed by only 13% of schools).

Migration and Black and Asian History included

The survey found 72% reported teaching about the history of migration whilst 80% were studying Black and Asian British history.  Most commonly this focused on the post-war period, including the experiences of the ‘Windrush generation’ but a great many schools also now explore the experience and role of black Tudors.

Despite innovation within key stage 3, the current GCSE syllabuses may restrict introduction of diversity into lessons. Respondents overwhelmingly disagreed with the claim that their exam board made it possible to include study of the history of people with disabilities: (88% disagreed), the history of those identified as LGBTQ+ (87% disagreed) or the history of Black and Asian British people (71% disagreed).

According to Dr Burn, ‘If we want to achieve more genuinely inclusive approaches to history teaching, then reform of GCSEs is the most urgent priority’.