Gove faces war with equality activists as he axes Labour's PC curriculum that dropped greatest figures from history lessons Historic figures, including Winston Churchill, Oliver Cromwell and Lord Nelson will again feature in history lessonsThe 'back-to-basics' shakeup will see overhaul of social reformers like Jamaican-born nurse Mary SeacoleFears that the reforms, spearheaded by Education Secretary Michael Gove, could anger equality rights activists
22:32 GMT, 29 December 2012
Some of the greatest figures in Britain’s past are to be restored to their rightful place in history, thanks to an overhaul of the school curriculum.
The likes of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill had been dropped from history lessons under the last Labour Government in a move critics said was driven by ‘political correctness’.
But under a new ‘back-to-basics’ shake-up, pupils will again have to study these traditional historic figures – and not social reformers such as Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole and former black slave Olaudah Equiano, who were introduced into the 2007 curriculum.
The revisions, spearheaded by Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove, are certain to anger equality activists who believe history lessons are too skewed towards white British men.
But they have been welcomed by
traditionalists such as Conservative MP Philip Davies, who said: ‘The
curriculum has to specify figures like Nelson and Wellington.
‘Far too often we are apologising for things in our past, but actually we have so much in our history to be proud of. It is essential that children learn why they should be proud of their country.’
And former Government history adviser Anthony Freeman said teachers needed guidelines to teach about the key figures who shaped our past, saying: ‘Many teachers are more concerned to promote politically correct social themes than to present a narrative.’
Leaked drafts of the new history curriculum, to be published in the New Year, show that schools will be required to cover the Norman Conquest, Henry II and his conflict with the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, and King John and his power struggles with the Barons that resulted in the Magna Carta.
Episodes such as the Black Death, the Wars of the Roses, the growth of the British Empire and the trial and execution of Charles I will also be included, as will the Acts of Union – which will become the subject of scrutiny as Scotland holds a referendum on independence in 2014.
But out go figures including social reformers Robert Owen and Elizabeth Fry, aviator Amy Johnson, nurse Florence Nightingale, and Equiano and his fellow anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce.
Reform: Education Secretary Michael Gove has spearheaded the 'back-to-basics; curriculum reform. Last year, Mr Gove said that too many children were leaving school ignorant about Britain's past because syllabuses had been stripped of core content
However, pupils will still have to learn about social changes such as the abolition of slavery and the suffragettes. In addition, references to cultural, ethnic and religious diversity have been cut, although they will still be taught about immigration.
The changes have been drawn up amid great secrecy by Government advisers, including television historian Simon Schama. Mr Gove said a year ago that too many children were leaving school ignorant about Britain’s past because syllabuses had been stripped of core content.
He pointed to a survey which found a sixth of 18- to 24-year-olds believed Cromwell, rather than Nelson, led the British fleet at Trafalgar.
Mr Gove said: ‘I am genuinely worried that – despite the best efforts of brilliant history teachers, gifted academics and the television and publishing executives who’ve helped to popularise history – our curriculum and examinations system mean that children thirsting to know more about our past leave school woefully undernourished.’
Mr Gove has also criticised the existing curriculum for focusing on certain periods such as the Tudors and the world wars while missing out large chunks of the past.
The national curriculum sets out the minimum that should be taught in schools, but it does not prevent teachers adding any material they wish to flesh out lessons – including events and individuals that have been cut out of the new version. However, they will have to ensure they first cover all the areas specified in the new curriculum.
The national curriculum is compulsory only in maintained state schools; academies and free schools can create their own versions.
The Department for Education said: ‘We do not comment on leaks.’