SHP Sixth Plenary

Chris Culpin: 40 years on – what do young people need from history now?

Before Chris, notices. Carenza Lewis shares the finds from a test pit dug behind a halls here. We are directed to – Euroclio conference, 7-13 April in Germany. This sounds interesting. Also the SHP conference in London on November 24th is a must-attend, surely!

Chris begins by reminding us that reviewing the National Curriculum is a political process. He talks about writing the initial National Curriculum.

We then compare Gove’s vision for education with the standards students are judged against on the international league tables, PISA, and find a complete mismatch. Learning by rote does not help students to think critically.

The new primary curriculum has disenfranchised some of the experts on the panel, who have spoken against it. Will the same thing happen with secondary?

It seems History won’t be compulsory to 16; that there might not be a national.curriculum. But (WTF, says Culpin) – does all this matter? If everywhere is an academy, a free school or an academy, it will be irrelevant.

SHP was set up 40 year’s ago, in 1972. It focused on the question, What are the needs of adolescents which history might meet?
1. Understand the world in which they live – hence, Modern World study.
2. Find their personal identity by widening their experience through the study of people of a different time and place – met by the Depth study.
3. Understand the process of change and continuity – Development study. Big picture thinking.
4. The need to acquire leisure interests. Thevworking week was diminishing in 1972, so the History Around Us study aimed to fill this.
5. The ability to think critically and make judgments about people and places.

Today? British children are the unhappiest in the world, apparently. And now a lot of projects aimed at young people – Aim Higher, Connexions, EMA – have been cancelled. Tuition fees are on the up. We now have the “post-modern teenager” –


How can History help with this? They still need to understand the world they live in – particularly, to deal with the news explosion. Maybe the depth study needs rethinking – Medieval Baghdad, anyone? Change and continuity – war, and people working together. Four Nations. Power, and the struggle for it. What about ordinary lives? Inequality? The Spirit Level has some good graphs to show the impact of a range of social issues – these look suspiciously like the graphs my HoD used in his assembly this year. I now know what he’s been reading!

Chris returns to the principles of SHP at the end of the session.


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