‘Jingoistic and illegal’ – what teachers think of Michael Gove's national curriculum reforms

Over 100 historians claim Education Secretary’s plan ‘lacks balance and promotes political views’

Education Secretary Michael Gove is flouting the law over his plans to revamp the national curriculum, a group of history teachers will warn tomorrow.

In a letter to The Independent signed by more than 100 teachers from a variety of schools - including independent, grammar and comprehensive, they claim the draft plan are a breach of their legal duty to avoid “the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school”.

The draft proposals place an emphasis of “how Britain influenced the world” and say five to seven-year-olds should be “taught about the concept and of a nation's history”.

The bias, they add, “is also evident in more subtle ways such as its handling of slavery... which is listed (in the document) as 'the slave trade and the abolition of slavery', implicitly giving equal weight to the two.”

However, the history teachers have been more incensed by what they perceive to be the “jingoistic” way Mr Gove and Prime Minister David Cameron have promoted their plans. In a speech Mr Cameron talked of teaching about “our island story in all its glory” while Mr Gove spoke of portraying Britain as “a beacon of liberty for others to emulate”.

Katherine Edwards, one of the signatories, said: “The rhetoric has been extremely bellicose.

”I think pupils will feel switched off by history if these proposals go through - partly because they will feel they are having a particular agenda forced on them.

“The proposals are very dry and certain sections of the community will feel excluded - ethnic minority groups and girls even.”

The signatories include author and retired history teacher John Clare and Oxford University porofessor of history Robert Evans.

The letter says the proposals fall “fall well short of the requirement to be 'balanced and broadly based' set out in the Education Act of 2002.

The proposals have already been attacked by many eminent historians such as Simon Schama, who acted as an adviser the the Government on the national curriculum.  He called the final draft ”insulting and offensive“ in remarks at the recent Hay Literary Festival said it was like ”1066 and all that - but without the jokes“.

He said the proposals were too focussed on white males with too much emphasis on how Britain had influenced the world. In particular he singled out the inclusion of Clive of India, who established the supremacy of the East India company in 18th century Bengal and whom he described as a ”sociopathic, corrupt thug“ who made ”our dodgy bankers look like a combination of Mary Poppins and Jesus Christ“.

In their letter, the teachers describe the inclusion of individual such as Mary Seacole, the black nurse in the Crimean War who was included after a campaign by historians, as having ”rightly been described as a garnishing of tokenism by... Professor Schama“ .

They say the Department for Education ”has not made a serious attempt to refute or address the charge of political bias“ and that Mr Gove has branded his critics ”Marxists“ and ”Lefties“.

”We therefore consider that there are strong grounds for believing that this curriculum, should it be implemented and any further changes to the history of teaching which seek to impose a political bias or flout the requirement for breadth and balance, would be unlawful,“ they conclude.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education added:  “It is absolutely absurd to claim that teaching the history of Britain is illegal or politically biased.”

Mr Gove, in a recent speech to state schools heads, did indicate he was reviewing the proposals and that the final draft would include a commitment to studying elements of foreign history in detail. This week's review of the GCSE syllabus gives a commitment to spending 40 per cent of time on British history and 25 per cent on overseas.

Video: Education minister David Laws on not 'writing off' pupils

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: MIS Officer - Further Education Sector

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all