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Teaching the British Empire


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According to a BBC Report: “Schools spend "insufficient time" teaching about the British Empire, education watchdog Ofsted has warned. Time given over to teaching 11 to 16-year-olds the "significant subject" could be just a few lessons in five years, inspectors found. Some schools devoted lessons to the question of what history was instead of teaching the subject's actual content. “

Scott Harrison (Specialist Adviser for History at Ofsted) told the SHP Conference (4th July) that he was in favour of more time being spent on the British Empire. In fact, he believes that the NC should be more prescriptive (he used the phrase “legislation for diversity”). He is currently working on a paper on this and has promised to post a copy on the forum.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/3884087.stm

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Scott Harrison (Specialist Adviser for History at Ofsted) told the SHP Conference (4th July) that he was in favour of more time being spent on the British Empire. In fact, he believes that the NC should be more prescriptive (he used the phrase “legislation for diversity”). He is currently working on a paper on this and has promised to post a copy on the forum.

i will certainly look forward to reading that. I have just been involved in an HMI thematic inspection at my school looking at 'combatting racism in schools'. The two inspectors who have been to a range of schools around the country were interested in finding about the activities that I have organised for Black History Month at the school and the attempts that I have made to integrate a multicultural British history into the curriculum that we teach. The general (positive) impression that I was left with is that Heads of History should (and do) have the discretion to interpret the National Curriculum quite flexibly. The aim is to provide a curriculum that is appropriate for the pupils that you teach. I have one major concern with that - there is a huge risk of isolation and alienation here, with only places with minority communities being expected to cover an inclusive history, whilst the rest of little England happily ignores that contribution that ethnic minorities have made over hundreds of years. Let's hope that this was not the intention.

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Scott Harrison (Specialist Adviser for History at Ofsted) told the SHP Conference (4th July) that he was in favour of more time being spent on the British Empire. In fact, he believes that the NC should be more prescriptive (he used the phrase “legislation for diversity”). He is currently working on a paper on this and has promised to post a copy on the forum.

I have one major concern with that - there is a huge risk of isolation and alienation here, with only places with minority communities being expected to cover an inclusive history, whilst the rest of little England happily ignores that contribution that ethnic minorities have made over hundreds of years. Let's hope that this was not the intention.

This is not the intention. Scott Harrison made it clear that Ofsted is concerned by the time spent on certain areas of the curriculum. For example, he feels that too much time is spent on studying Nazi Germany. Another concern is over the time spent on areas of content that are difficult to justify in terms of importance. This is a reflection on the debate we had on the History Forum about studying Jack the Ripper. Although these topics are popular with students, it does mean that there is less time to study other topics. Scott Harrison, argues that schools should be spending more time studying the British Empire. I agree with him. It does not worry me that the right also think this. For example, Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "The key point is that the Empire was very beneficial to indigenous populations in many ways, even though it had its faults. The nice thing is that a lot of ex-colonial populations still think quite well of the British." This is of course just one interpretation of the British Empire not one that I share). As Ofsted stated: "Pupils should know about the Empire and that it has been interpreted by historians and others in different ways." That is something I think we can all agree with.

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Guest Andrew Moore

I think it makes sense to learn about any system that dominates large areas of the world, its peoples and its resources.

The British Empire is worth studying because, in a way, it is the meeting place of the old world and the new or developing world. And it embraces all human life - trade, politics, art, war, travel, sport...

It would be hard to try to understand India or Canada or Australia today without some sense of how they came to be as they are.

As a boy I read war stories in The Victor. The attitude shown to German and Japanese soldiers was stereoypical and xenophobic. But there was no shortage of stories that celebrated the heroism of soldiers in Sikh regiments, fighting with the allies in World War Two. The Ghurkas did come in for some stereotyping, but of a positive kind. Perhaps there is some truth in that stereotype. In the Falklands campaign, some reports suggested that where the Ghurkas were deployed against the occupying forces, the latter did not stick around to find out whether the regiment's reputation was deserved or not. I think many others would have done the same...

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  • 3 months later...
I think it makes sense to learn about any system that dominates large areas of the world, its peoples and its resources.

The British Empire is worth studying because, in a way, it is the meeting place of the old world and the new or developing world. And it embraces all human life - trade, politics, art, war, travel, sport...

It would be hard to try to understand India or Canada or Australia today without some sense of how they came to be as they are.

I would recommend

"COLONIALISM AND ITS FORMS OF KNOWLEDGE:

THE BRITISH IN INDIA" by Bernard S. Cohn (NJ, Princeton U.Press; 1996)

...Linguists in India and the cultural indoctrination of the Subcontinent by language and norms imported from the British Isles........

Shanet

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