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Saturday, 10 November, 2001, 01:49 GMT
Young 'have poor history knowledge'
Keith Michell as King Henry VIII
How many wives did he have?
Many young adults are unaware of basic dates and facts in British history, a survey of 16 to 24 year olds in England, Wales and Scotland suggests.

Three-quarters did not know that D-Day was the start of the Normandy landings in 1944, while a third thought it marked the end of World War II, the BMRB poll of 1,000 young people found.

The findings came as war veterans across the UK prepared to honour comrades who lost their lives.

History teachers want to develop pupils' thinking skills, not simply getting them to remember and repeat

Alison Kitson, PGCE history lecturer
A third of those polled thought Henry VIII had eight wives, not six, and 80% did not know Queen Victoria's reign lasted for 64 years.

Six out of 10 did not know St George's Day was marked on 23 April and a third got it muddled up with the Irish patron saint's day - St Patrick's Day - on 17 March.

And 75% of those questioned did not know Richard III ruled in the 15th century.

But despite this, 70% felt a knowledge of history was important and more than 10% believed it made them more attractive to the opposite sex.

'Schools to blame'

The Campaign for Real Education said the findings pointed the finger at teachers.

"This survey clearly shows that schools aren't doing their job of teaching important aspects of British history," said the campaign's Nick Seaton.

But former history teacher Alison Kitson - who now teaches history to trainee teachers at Warwick University - said it was important not to confuse knowledge with understanding.

"History teachers want to develop pupils' thinking skills, not simply getting them to remember and repeat," said Ms Kitson.

"I would rather children could talk about the impact Henry VIII had on the church than know how many wives he had.

Factual recall

"If I thought we were going back to a time when progress in history was measured purely in terms of factual recall, I'd give up," she said.

"We would be going back 30 or 40 years to a time when children were switched off from history."

Ms Kitson said schools were often forced to "squeeze" history lessons into the curriculum.

"Many schools often just have one hour a week at Key Stage 3 - so you can't expect miracles and teachers have to prioritise."

See also:

22 Sep 01 | Mike Baker
US attacks: Lessons for school history?
08 Oct 01 | Education
Today's assembly is about war
09 Oct 01 | Education
History 'not up to date enough'
16 Oct 01 | Education
Pupils can study origins of war
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