Gove wins backing on history shake-up

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It is “right and proper” that schoolchildren learn about the history of their country, a group of academics said yesterday, as they backed Government plans for an overhaul of the curriculum.

The idea that the new history curriculum is “jingoistic” because it focuses heavily on British history is “absurd”, according to David Abulafia, professor of Mediterranean history at Cambridge University.

Prof Abulafia is one of three academics to back Education Secretary Michael Gove’s new national curriculum in a new booklet for the Politeia think tank, saying youngsters should learn key historical dates and events in a chronological order.

But there was also a warning that the controversial new history proposals focus heavily on politics and could leave little time for pupils to learn about other nations.

Ministers published details of their new history curriculum in February, laying out plans for pupils in England to learn a broad chronological history of Britain, from the Stone Age through to the end of the Cold War.

Opinion on the proposals quickly split, with opponents arguing the plans were too narrow, prescriptive and would leave pupils without a decent understanding of the subject.

Writing for Politeia’s history booklet Prof Abulafia said a number of prominent historians had called for “much fuller representation of the world” in the new curriculum, rather than just focusing on the history of Britain.

But he suggested: “This view neglects the simple fact that we are here in Britain and it is essential to know the street plan of one’s own neighbourhood before learning the street plan of Kuala Lumpur or Vilnius, even if one has relatives there.”