Medieval History in Schools

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:00 pm on 4th July 2022.

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Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley 10:00 pm, 4th July 2022

I completely agree: there is plenty of space in the curriculum. Earlier, I mentioned that the “Hitler and Henry” version of history is often done to death. Children often study the Nazis and the Soviets at GCSE and then do the same course, just in more depth, at A-level. There is plenty of scope to make room for medieval courses; I have even suggested some papers that could be removed from the syllabus to make even more room for medieval history.

I turn back to the solutions. Thirdly, medieval history must be taught with sufficient depth and breadth, ensuring that an array of events and figures are covered, including pre-1066. Whistlestop drive-by tours of the battle of Hastings alone must be a thing of the past. Fourthly, we must prevent the teaching of medieval history from being stymied by being included as part of a broad, intangible theme such as “Sports from 1000 AD to 1950 AD”. Fifthly, universities must be told to include compulsory medieval history options on their courses, so that we have a strong and steady stream of teachers with specialisms in medieval history imparting their knowledge to the historians of the future.

The schools White Paper of March 2022 said that the Government would not make any changes to the school curriculum for the remainder of this Parliament. However, I urge the Minister to heed my policy asks in the next rewrite of the curriculum. I also call on teachers, schools, universities and exam boards to provide a more comprehensive medieval history offering right away. They do not need Government intervention to make that happen; teachers do not need the Government to tell them to take the courses already on offer.

Medieval history is in our blood; it is our past but also our future. It explains why we are the way we are and why we live the way we live, but it also gives us a guide for what lies ahead. It teaches respect for our heritage, values, and culture, and instils critical reasoning and academic rigour. By teaching medieval history, we are not only preserving the past for future generations, but ensuring that millions more Britons in coming centuries will experience the pleasures of studying such a fascinating and rewarding discipline.