It’s 3.15pm on a Wednesday afternoon in the airy atrium of the Suffolk One sixth-form college in Ipswich, and there’s a palpable sense of relief. This year’s A-level history candidates have emerged from an exam on Churchill, and are chatting animatedly about it with their teacher, Jenny Moore.
They are delighted because they were asked to discuss an extract on Churchill from the war diaries of General Sir Alan Brooke, which they know well. They have loved this part of the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR) exam board’s history syllabus.
“My granddad is 80 and he’s read every biography of Churchill. He was surprised at the range of stuff we were studying,” says Joshua Williams, 18.
Churchill might seem obvious fodder for students – he was once voted the greatest Briton of all time in a BBC poll – but not everyone would agree. A Labour MP, Rupa Huq, has been asking questions about this module, in which students look at Churchill from 1930-51 and Britain from 1951-97. Why, she wants to know, is 15% of the A-level mark allocated to Churchill? Why does the second part of the module start in 1951, at the end of a Labour administration, and end in 1997, at the beginning of one?
Has the study of British history been “blue-washed” by the Conservatives? Can the hand of the former education secretary Michael Gove– whose revised A-level curriculum was examined for the first time last year – be seen here? ...