History lessons to keep British focus: Education adviser denies shift to multiculturalism

Click to follow
Claims that British history will give way to multiculturalism in the new national curriculum are false, the Government's most senior education adviser said yesterday.

Sir Ron Dearing, chairman of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA), confirmed that three- quarters of the core history curriculum would be devoted to Britain and only a quarter to the rest of the world, as exclusively reported in the Independent in March.

He dismissed complaints by Chris McGovern, a member of the authority's advisory group on history, that key events of British history had been omitted from the new curriculum, due to be published on Monday.

Six of the eight main study units for 7- to 14-year-olds would focus on British history, he said, and a seventh on the 20th century would include Britain's part in both world wars.

'It would be impossible to teach this mandatory curriculum without reference to the key personalities and events of British history. I cannot see how this could be interpreted as giving comfort to sociological approaches to history,' he said. All pupils will have to learn about the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings, a copy of the new curriculum obtained by the Independent shows. They must study Tudor monarchs, the Armada and the growth of the British Empire.

In a minority report, Mr McGovern said there would be a legal requirement to teach topics such as the history of the West African republic of Benin, the Indus Valley and 'black peoples of the Americas'. In fact these are among the choices for short, supplementary courses.

He added that topics such as the origins of Parliament would be optional.

In fact pupils must learn about the Magna Carta, the Civil War, the Glorious Revolution and extension of the franchise in the 19th century.

While Mr McGovern has complained that there is too much emphasis on non-European civilisations and on social protest in the new curriculum, most history teachers will say it is too Anglocentric. The Historical Association has expressed 'deep concern' that the amount of British history is to be increased.

Mr McGovern dismissed Sir Ron's criticisms yesterday. 'It's quite possible to teach British history without teaching the landmarks,' he said.

'Alfred the Great is optional but you have to teach everyday life in Viking Britain.

'Why prescribe the multicultural, multi-ethnic gender perspectives if you are not going to prescribe Boudicca?'