November 2010
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History and the E-Baccalaureate: some muddle thinking

For someone who seems superficially bright and clear thinking, Gove’s muddled mind has given birth to a series of problems which sit in wait for history teachers.

Issue 1

A new award, the English baccalaureate, will be introduced for any student who secures good GCSE passes in English, maths, science, a modern or ancient foreign language, and a humanity. Schools that help pupils attain this breadth of study will be given special recognition in league tables. So far so good, but what if  you work in a school where you are unlikely to meet the new threshold of 35% A*-C?  Will the kids all be encouraged to study history at GCSE there? I think we all know the answer. I know of tens of schools where students have been advised not to study history as it is ‘too hard’.

Issue 2

If schools are to be given more freedom, will that mean freedom not to offer history, not only at GCSE but also at KS3  That will be the test. We know Gove is averse to general humanities rather than traditonal subjects, but will he oppose the will of those headteachers who have joined the misguided Gaderene rush in that direction recently. Humanities was roasted in the late 1980s. Thatb is why they went for separate subjects in the National Curriculum.

Issue 3

The proposal  to raise the threshold at which schools are considered to be “failing” to fewer than 35% of pupils achieving five GCSEs graded A* to C is , apparently an absolute, but it is followed by saying “”Our approach is going to be more sophisticated than the last government,” he said. “If a school has a really tough intake but it’s still making tremendous progress, then we won’t be classifying it as under performing”. Which is it; absolute or relative to intake. If the former, and that’s how it sounds, thenwho is going to teach history there, especially in an area with nearby grammar schools.

Issue 4

Just what sort of history will emerge in the new curriculum?  Taught by redeployed soldiers to kids in blazers we start to get the idea! We hear the word ‘traditional’ far too often for my liking and Gove is far more interested in the 1688 Revolution than any adolescent I have ever taught.

We wait with bated breath for the next instalment, the draft of the new curriculum. 

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