Curriculum 2014: History Guerrilla Style

This new curriculum has caused a kerfuffle – here is the link to the draft curriculum, The History section is on page 165 – 171.

Let me be clear, I have been watching the comments from plenty of teachers getting somewhat asymmetrical about the ‘prescriptive nature’ of the consultative document. The History Association have described it as a ‘troublesome document’, there are online polls for you to have your say. Many have written about the negative impact of the narrow curriculum, some more balanced than others.

I am amused.

The nay-sayers are being suckered. We have, as a profession, argued for many years that politicians need to trust us, and as @headguruteacher rightly suggests in his blog, we have clamoured for an opportunity to seize the initiative.

This, ladies and gentlemen is one of those moments.

Either we demonstrate that we are the calcified one dimensional people that our critics suggest we are, or we show our intelligence, agility, guile and sense of humour.

Look hard at what the curriculum suggests:

“A high-quality history education equips pupils to think critically, weigh evidence, sift arguments, and develop perspective and judgement.” That’s ok….

“A knowledge of Britain’s past, and our place in the world, helps us understand the challenges of our own time.” Debatable but not 100% wrong

The Aims for the End of KS3

There are 7 Aims here – only one is about chronology, three make explicit reference to world history, 6 make explicit reference to historical skills.(That’s a reasonable balance I think)

Moving on:

Key stage 1:

Summary – what it says you must do: (there is no expectation of a minimum length of time here)

1) get kids to understand some historical terms ( I just explained the Monarchy to the boy in 2 minutes – asked him what it was a while later was he said “its the big family of all the kings and queens, including those who have died” – job done, no?)

2) know some significant events like Bonfire night; 1966 & all that; (religious) festivals

3) know the stories of some cool people “such as Christina Rossetti” [it does not say you must teach about Rossetti, just explore innovative role models from history]

What it says you can’t do:

………. [nothing]


You have in fact been asking for Autonomy for years.

In fact PISA suggests Autonomy works…SO GRAB THIS CHANCE.

Key Stage 2:

Summary – what it says you must do:

Teach a shed load of stuff in chronological order.

Think 60 Second Godfather:

What it does not say:

  • How much depth you need to teach this in.
  • When in KS2 you must teach it.

My subversive suggestion is that you meet the requirements by spending Year 3 0r Year 6 creating a chronological sequence of 60 second explanations.  By my reckoning thats 14 films, one afternoon a fortnight for a year.

Which then begs the question:

What will you, in your professional judgement, as an educator, do with the History curriculum in the other 3 years?

Say hello to Professional Autonomy.

Key Stage 3:

What it says you must do:

Teach the following content as a combination of overview & in-depth studies.

British Empire & its decline, Enlightenment, 17th & 18th Century European history, Slavery, Victorians, including philanthropists, Industrial history of UK, 19th Century World politics, 20th Century British History, World wars, the Civilisation & Liberalisation of British Law.

It also says that children must use historical concepts in increasingly sophisticated ways to make connections, draw contrasts, analyse trends, frame historically-valid questions and create their own structured accounts. They should develop an awareness and understanding of the role and use of different types of sources, as well as their strengths, weaknesses and reliability. They should also examine cultural, economic, military, political, religious and social aspects and be given the opportunity to study local history.

What it doesn’t say:

  • How many need to be in-depth.
  • How in-depth is in-depth.
  • What else you do with the time you have available.

Now think guerrilla! What can you get away with to free up the time you need to deal with the parts of History that you believe, in your professional judgement, are important? You know, like world perspective? Or the stuff you value…..

To Conclude:

This is a gift wrapped, gilt edged dream come true.  Stop claiming that it lacks breadth, stop implying that unless the government tells you to, you are unable to make any decision about curriculum matters.  Start taking a professional guerrilla approach.  

Let’s give Gove what he wants and claim back the curriculum for ourselves, we have been given permission.

11 thoughts on “Curriculum 2014: History Guerrilla Style

    • you see – more disrespect for the profession.

      Does a test alter the way we teach? Are you endorsing teaching to a test?

      If they impose testing, we, as a profession will bottle it and just teach the minimum.

      So our noble ideals of a 21st century curriculum where skills will achieve all we need are false, we don’t actually have any confidence in that?

      • Unfortunately the reality is that the current government in particular seem driven to impose their will at every opportunity. If you were a head, would you have the confidence to direct your staff to teach what is valuable but might not meet with the latest requirements of Ofsted or floor thresholds, or would you guide them to meet the criteria that would allow you to keep your job?
        Everything, sadly, isn’t as easy as doing the right thing.

      • I’d have the courage of my convictions – or recognise that I have sold out to fear and stop whining.

  1. Well done Pete – borrowed the Godfather video immediately, but much more importantly, from a slightly difference stance, agree that if we don’t take the opportunity to step forward and inspire, who will? my weekly blog on this stuff.

  2. Pete,

    I’m not inclined to simply ignore and subvert (although the latter is what we always do as teachers, otherwise there would be no further political interference in what we teach the next generation). History teachers do actually believe their subject has a role in shaping the attitudes and opinions of young people in their care and politicians throughout time also know this. Their aim in educational terms is to make their students into well-rounded thinking citizens and they believe that their subject does this through an understanding and appreciation of the past as well as the healthy acquisition of skills such as recognising bias, the balance of evidence etc. This is a cornerstone of our democracy. To trivialise this into suggesting that ‘monarchy’ for example, can be explained in 2 minutes and understood by a child is at best naive and worst down right insulting (it’s rather like saying that the definition of Mathematics is just a series numbers with a few letters thrown in – done).

    Politically the nub of the matter is about viewpoints and perspective within society, that’s why history is controversial and why control of its content is attractive to politicians. Sir Richard Evans in one tweet recently said the debate is not between left and right, but between historians and politicians, and I’d add, with teachers stuck in the middle. Historians are fighting because they know what is required to be taught by law is in itself a potential assault on freedom to teach in an objective way. The present NC was contentious for the same reasons, but a consensus was reached around what knowledge and understanding pupils were entitled to have in order and the purpose of the subject (even Kenneth Baker and Keith Joseph knew this was necessary). This curriculum is skewed towards the one particular view of history and its purpose in the curriculum, that’s why it is being opposed.


  3. I appreciate the sentiment but what you are proposing amounts to a completely unworkable individual curriculum per school which will be impossible to resource because suppliers will not be able to anticipate their widely varying needs. Whoopee to free choice? Nonsense – we still need a consensus, just a better one than this.

    • You damn your own profession – unable to resource their own lessons, rejecting autonomy – because it’s easier not to have it?

      You have fallen into the trap

  4. Guerilla warfare is a last resort. For two years Michael Gove has conducted a campaign of white terror against the History teaching community, using the dastardly tactics of half-truths about the state of History teaching and leaks from the Daily Mail. More seriously, he has conducted this campaign secretively, with the help of a chosen few, and his more intelligent and experienced advisers have dropped out. The Programme of Study is now published – for discussion. It deserves an honest appraisal, not the seizing of an apparent opportunity. It is, in the opinion especially of History teachers, not fit for purpose, and needs to be binned, and the process of consultation begun properly. To return to the military metaphor – and have you seen how much military history there is in the PoS? – far better to fight face to face than resort to guerilla warfare: several sustained volleys should bring it down.

  5. Pingback: Where is World Education in The American Curriculum? | moderndaychris

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