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Bestselling author Sebastian Faulks hails excitement and fun of history-writing prizeBestselling author Sebastian Faulks is judging Chalke Valley History PrizeIt is run by Daily Mail and Penguin Books and challenges young writersThe novelists has berated the downgrading of history in schoolsHe said it must regain its 'central place' and is as important as science
02:05 GMT, 11 March 2013
02:06 GMT, 11 March 2013
Judge: Bestselling novelist Sebastian Faulks, who is a judge in this year's Chalke Valley History Prize, wants more pupils to study history
Novelist Sebastian Faulks berated the downgrading of history in schools yesterday as he urged youngsters to take up their pens and 'discover the excitement of the living past’ through writing.
The bestselling author, a judge in this year’s Chalke Valley History Prize, said: 'History needs to regain its central place in schools.
'It’s every bit as important as science, maths and English. Children should never have been allowed to drop it before GCSE.'
The prize, run in partnership with the Daily Mail and Penguin Books, challenges youngsters to write vivid stories bringing the past to life.
Faulks, whose best-known work Birdsong features a highly acclaimed retelling of the Battle of the Somme, hailed the competition as an important example of how to help repair the damage done to traditional lessons.
He said: 'I'm very happy to be judging this prize. It encourages wide reading and research and will reward students who can coherently express their excitement in – and grasp of – what they have discovered.
'Until history regains a central place at school, we rely on initiatives like this to encourage children to think beyond the limited options offered in most classrooms.
'This prize has an excellent balance of fact and imagination, of hard work and good fun. I hope that hundreds of young people will take advantage of the challenge it offers and discover the excitement of the living past.’
The number of pupils studying history in state comprehensives in England fell by nearly a fifth after they were given the option to drop the subject when they start their GCSEs.
Bring the past to life: The Chalke Valley History Prize is run by the Daily Mail and Penguin Books
A group of MPs and peers last year urged that history lessons should be overhauled and a British history qualification brought in for 16-year-olds.
The report, from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History, also said the average 13-year-old learns history for just one hour a week.
The Coalition is attempting to reverse the trend by putting a stronger emphasis on creative subjects including history.
As well as Faulks, the Chalke Valley prize’s judging panel this year includes Joanna Lumley, author and Fast Show comedian Charlie Higson and historian and broadcaster James Holland.
Importance: The author said history must regain its 'central place' in schools and is as important as science
Completing the panel are literary agent Mark Lucas; Alex Clarke, an editor at Penguin UK; and James Petrie, head of English at Hereford Cathedral School.
The prize is part of the Chalke Valley History Festival in Wiltshire, which runs from June 24 to 30.
Rachel Thomson, 15, who was among the winners last year for Witch Child – a tale of persecution in the Tudor period – said: 'It’s given me loads of encouragement.
'As part of the prize I got to speak to a publishing agency in London and they told me how to take my writing further and I’ve been inspired to continue writing.’
The prizes are 100 worth of Penguin or Puffin books and one-to-one consultations with Lucas Alexander Whitley Literary Agency and Penguin Books.