“My advice to the new education secretary” – history teachers share views

History teachers share their advice to the new education secretary, Nicky Morgan

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Michael Gove was last week replaced as education secretary by women’s minister Nicky Morgan.

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In David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle Gove, who has come into conflict with some history teachers, was moved to chief whip.

Morgan has already rewritten a final ministerial statement from her predecessor to include a promise to listen to teachers’ views on schools reform – a move welcomed by teaching unions.

Here, three history teachers share their advice to the new education secretary:

“Don’t be overly prescriptive”

The new education secretary should start off by listening to teachers. They are the ones who have to implement policies on a day-to-day basis and have a clear understanding of what works in practise and what doesn’t.

From a history teacher’s point of view, the new education secretary should have faith in teachers and not be overly prescriptive in what they expect to be taught. Also, don’t be afraid of teaching skills – being able to critically analyse sources is of paramount importance in today’s world of 24-hour news and social networking.

David Gunn is a history teacher at Camden School for Girls in London. To have a go at his Beat the Teacher quiz, click here.

“Trust the judgment of teachers”

Please recognise that education of children is not a business, and success cannot be measured on a spreadsheet. Instead, trust the professional judgment of teachers – after all, we are highly trained with university qualifications and actually spend time with students. With this in mind I advise you to treat teachers with the respect we deserve.

Alana Britton is head of history at Holloway School. To have a go at her Beat the Teacher quiz, click here.

“Consensus, consensus, consensus”

Many history teachers agree that knowledge needs a higher profile, and many would concur that the new public exam syllabuses offer potentially exciting ways forward. A majority are more than willing to share great ideas online or in person at TeachMeets. That’s a great bedrock for what is supposed to be a coalition education policy for the next 10 months.

History in schools is in good shape, but renewing teachers’ faith in consultation, cooperation and consensus-building can only help improve learning and achievement.

Dr Robert Massey is a history teacher at Bristol Grammar School. To have a go at his Beat the Teacher quiz, click here.

“Appreciate that history isn’t a ‘catch-all'”

History is often the subject that is expected to cover the same literacy strands as English and the content and skills of history (in a stand alone history curriculum), and then a lot of schools expect history teachers to cover most of the topics and skills for citizenship in one single curriculum.

All too often history and citizenship are seen as the same thing. But in order to really develop history in the classroom – sound pedagogy and a curriculum that engages and excites – the demands for citizenship to be covered through the study of history needs to be drastically revised. Not only because of the ‘squeeze’ that this has on time for history skills, knowledge and literacy in the classroom, but also the consequences of this for the poor provision of citizenship.

History and history teachers can support the development of well-rounded citizens, but are not a ‘catch-all’ for delivering all of students social, moral, religious, and political education, as well as our own subject.

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Alaine Christian is a history teacher at Lordswood Girls’ School. To have a go at her Beat the Teacher quiz, click here.