Make history compulsory to at least 16, say British inspectors

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School inspectors want history to be made compulsory for pupils up to the age of 16, and beyond, to help to foster the country's sense of national identity. They made the call as they voiced their increasing concerns about the poor teaching of history in primary and secondary schools. A damning report, published last week by the Office for Standards in Education, found that history lessons in English schools are leaving children ignorant of key facts.

Fears that the subject is becoming marginalised as the Government instructs schools to give greater emphasis to literacy, numeracy and vocational subjects has led Ofsted to suggest that it should be compulsory beyond the current age of 14.

"There has been recent public debate in the press and elsewhere about our national identity and what history young people should know," the report said. "Pupils are quick to point out that history provides an essential context for being an effective, informed citizen by helping them understand the evolution of the UK, its place in the world and how its history compares with that of other countries.

"History is highly relevant to us all. Arguably, it is so relevant to understanding our contemporary world that there is a strong case that it should be a compulsory subject at least to 16 and, in various guises, even beyond. That is why the weaknesses found during inspections are of considerable concern."

Primary schools teachers were criticised by the inspectors for regarding history as a bit of "fun" and a "welcome relief from the rigours of English, maths and science".

One of the reasons suggested for the lax approach was the tiny amount of time trainee teachers spend on the subject - just six hours in an average one-year, postgraduate primary teacher training course.

Even at secondary level, however, where history is generally taught by subject specialists, serious failings were identified.

Despite government pledges to beef up the teaching of British history, schools still focused on the in-depth knowledge of specific topics at the expense of an overview of history.

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