September 2012
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History EBC and the Mad Hatters tea party

Is it just me, or does the provision for 11-19 history seem to be in an even greater mess than usual. At a time when we STILL don’t know what is happening at A level (or when) or the much heralded Schama-approved KS3, we find that Gove has, at a stroke, signed the death warrant of GCSE. From 2016 it will be full steam ahead EBC. It all makes the Mad Hatters tea party seem like a paradigm of positive decision making. There are some good aspects to this terrible muddle. Firstly, the EB will send those sinking rat-like headteachers who plumped for courses such as L2L, and other hollow acronyms,in Y7, swimming back to the good ship History which is now part of the elite fleet. It will also preserve history’s place in the secondary curriculum for quite a few years ahead. And it means, joy of joys, the end of the execrable GCSE courses which turned textbooks into coaching manuals and lessons into drilling ways of bluffing the examiner. I welcome the shake-up of the oddly bi-polar course provision which sees some students engaged in the diplomatic history of the 20th century week-in week out for two years whilst others study the American West and the local castle. What if you don’t want to study the American West? The SHP options have always seemed too arbitrary for my liking and now need rationalising. Likewise the 20th century courses have always seemed too narrow ,too dense, too much focused on the first 40 years. It’s about time we considered some hybrid which has a development study, a pre-20 the century depth study, something local and social and some aspect of placing a 21st century issue in its longer historical context. We desperately need this change. We can no longer defend the indefensible. I just wish we could have the debate about EBC in the context of 11-19 education so we could explain to pupils in Y7 what sort of historical education they might experience in their school career. As it is it really is a dog’s breakfast, but we shouldn’t be surprised. I’m reminded of the story of the king who asks his wise men to boil down all wisdom into just 2 words. They work for years and eventually come up with what they think is the one eternal truth by which we all have to live. And the two words? Things change!

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