History: GCE A-level and GCSE

Department for Education written question – answered on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate he has made of the number of pupils learning about the British Empire at (a) GCSE and (b) A level.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the (a) quality and (b) quantity of British Empire history modules offered by exam boards at (a) GCSE and (b) A level.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

The history curriculum gives teachers and schools the freedom and flexibility to use specific examples from history to teach pupils about the history of Britain and the wider world. This can include the topic of the British Empire. Schools and teachers are able to determine which examples, topics and resources to use to stimulate and challenge pupils, as well as reflect key points in history. A high quality history education will help pupils gain a coherent knowledge and understanding of Britain’s past, and that of the wider world.

The Department does not estimate the numbers of pupils being taught specific topics within the curriculum. Entries to history GCSE have increased by 7% from 2018, and there has been a 5% increase to A level history this year, meaning that history A level entries are now at a higher level than in 2010.

The Department sets out the subject content for GCSE and A level history. Within this framework, exam boards have the flexibility to offer a greater focus on particular knowledge areas within the scope of the subject content, including, if they choose, the British Empire. Exam boards can only award GCSEs and A levels once the Office for Qualifications and Examinations regulation (Ofqual) accredits them. Ofqual accredits qualifications when it is confident that the exam board can comply with the requirements for the qualification on an ongoing basis.

Although the subject content does not specifically require teaching on the British Empire, both GCSE and A level history must include a substantial element of British history and/or the history of England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales. The new GCSE subject content requires a minimum of 40% British history, and the new A level subject content requires a minimum of 20% British history.

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