Medieval History in Schools

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:03 pm on 4th July 2022.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister of State (Education) 10:03 pm, 4th July 2022

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend that a full understanding of history can contribute so much to that broader understanding. In the case of climate change, as he has mentioned, we can refer back to the late medieval warm period. We should absolutely take into account the longer view that medieval history can give us. I wholly agree with him on that.

I have endless examples that I could give the House, but I think that people have probably heard enough of them. What I would say is that we have an important opportunity before us. My hon. Friend rightly referred to our White Paper and the fact that we are not changing the curriculum at this time. That is because the curriculum is a framework that allows for some very rich, broad teaching. Indeed, the changes made by my right hon. Friend Michael Gove, which my hon. Friend praised, are in the curriculum that we are preserving.

It is important that we exemplify what can be done within that curriculum, particularly at key stages 1 to 3. That is why we are developing a model history curriculum to support the teaching of this time period across key stages 1 to 3. I am delighted today to have published on the Department for Education’s website the names of the expert panellists who will lead this work. I am delighted that Michael Kandiah from King’s College London is the chair and that Christine Counsell is the lead drafter. We will benefit enormously from Christine and the wider panel’s expertise in the development of an exciting, broad and knowledge-rich exemplar curriculum, which will demonstrate the breadth and connectivity of what can be taught at primary and key stage 3.

The exemplar of the model history curriculum will also demonstrate the principles of a well-sequenced curriculum. As my hon. Friend has highlighted, knowledge builds upon knowledge, and learning about key events, figures and themes pre-1066 is a basis for understanding the later medieval period. In turn, developments in medieval times in politics, government and society help to develop greater understandings of later periods including the history of the 18th and 19th centuries, the development of this Parliament and the understanding of American history. There is expertise about the medieval period among the panellists. They include Professor Robert Tombs, professor emeritus of French history at the University of Cambridge, and Professor Toby Green of King’s College London.

The model history curriculum will draw on the best that already exists in the history community and act as a further stimulus to great curriculum design. It will help teachers to teach our history national curriculum, which already offers breadth and depth of teaching on medieval history. We also hope that the breadth, depth and geographical span will inspire more teaching of different periods of history across wider geographies. Although it is an example for schools, it could even inspire our universities to teach broader spans of time, as my hon. Friend suggested. As he has demonstrated, medieval history has a vital role to play in the sequencing of history that all children should learn. I am sure he will agree that the examples I have shared about good practice in schools show that there is wonderful teaching on this subject in our schools today, all of which helps our children and young people to develop a strong knowledge-based understanding of history. Once again, I commend him for bringing forward such an important and historical debate.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.