Britain is well behind Europe in History Teaching

Labour Party

I return to one of my continuing concerns, namely the teaching of history in schools.

It interests and worries me for two reasons, the first being that I am a history graduate and believe in the value of knowing what went before and the ability that provides to evaluate the present. The second is that I have the education brief for the S&D Group in the European Parliament and therefore take an interest in education across the board. I was therefore pleased to follow the debate on history teaching in the Guardian over the past few days, especially this response on Comment is Free by Dean Smart. While Smart points out that Britain is the only country in Europe where history is not compulsory beyond the age of 14, history per se is not unpopular. We must, I believe, give considerable attention to why the UK is behind the rest of Europe when it comes to teaching history. We are also sadly lacking in foreign language teaching where we utterly fail to meet the EU recommendation that all schoolchildren learn two foreign languages in addition to their mother tongue.

What is wrong with our educational priorities? How can we give the next generation a rounded education including the subjects in which they will necessarily have to be proficient (maths and English) and those which will encourage them to think and develop the hugely important skills of communication problem solving? Dean Smart is of the view that not enough time is given to history in schools, but even so the subject remains popular. As I have pointed out before, as a nation we have a huge appetite for our past with recent television series on both the Tudors and the Edwardian era.

People are interested in history and this should be more exploited in schools. More and improved history teaching would benefit us all. The rest of Europe clearly believes this, and on this issue I truly believe we should follow their example. Michael Gove please take note.