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Last Updated: Friday, 4 February, 2005, 13:26 GMT
Alarm at history 'Hitlerisation'
crowd mobbing Hitler's car in 1934
Hitler in 1934: courses chart his rise to power
There is "widespread disquiet" over what is seen as the narrowing and 'Hitlerisation' of GCSE and A-level history, a watchdog report said.

The annual review of subjects by the QCA found study was dominated by the Tudors and 20th century dictatorships.

"This narrowing of post-14 history has been roundly criticised, particularly where some schools appear to revisit similar periods of history," it said.

Information and communication technology had the worst teaching.

Exam pressure

Standards in history continued to rise, and compared well to those in many other subjects.

But the QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) said: "There continues to be widespread disquiet over what is seen as the gradual narrowing and 'Hitlerisation' of post-14 history."

Topics such as the British empire are not treated with the significance they merit
QCA monitoring report
In 2003, 58% of all candidates entered for GCSE history took a modern world history specification.

At AS and A-level, figures from the three English exam boards showed high numbers of candidates entered for sixteenth century, and modern British and world history options.

There were several reasons.

"Increased scrutiny and accountability mean that many schools tend to take a pragmatic approach to teaching examination courses," the report said.

They tended to "play safe" by opting for appealing and familiar topics.

There was also widespread teacher expertise in Tudor and modern history, and "the commercial considerations of awarding bodies and publishers" meant a wealth of Tudor and modern history material.

But in the early secondary years there was sometimes "a marked imbalance between British, European and world history".

"In others, topics such as the British empire are not treated with the significance they merit. In addition, it would appear that not all teachers have taken into account the requirement to teach aspects of British history within a wider world context."

English concerns

Reading in both primary and secondary English was "still a cause for concern".

Pupils were reading a wider range of material, but extracts were increasingly used at the expense of whole texts.

Teachers felt pupils' progress in their personal reading was "difficult to encourage and monitor".

Within class, the same fiction texts were taught in different years.

"At GCSE and A-level, the set texts have changed little in the last few years and there is a limited range of texts studied for examinations," the report said.

Much had been done to improve writing, but "when the characteristics of discrete text types are reduced to a checklist of features, the effect is restrictive", said the QCA.

Teacher confidence

The report on information and communication technology (ICT) said it continued to have a high profile in national educational policy.

It was "one of the key skills for life".

Yet teaching in secondary schools "is still not as good as other subjects, and for the 16 to 18-year-old range, the proportion of good or better specialist teaching of ICT is low", the QCA said.

A factor driving a shortage of resources was increased teacher confidence and competence, leading to a greater demand.

"There is greatest success in the use of ICT to support other subjects where schools are using their resources flexibly, for example by complementing their ICT suites with sets of wirelessly connected laptops, and placing learning materials on the schools' intranet."

Almost half the those who sought qualifications this year did one in ICT. The subject attracted more boys than girls, but girls had higher attainment.

In the overview of Key Stage 3 (ages 12 to 14), the QCA said many schools indicated that the curriculum suffered from "content overload" which made incorporating additional aspects very difficult - for example, citizenship, careers education and guidance and work-related learning.

The age group also suffered from "continuing staffing turbulence", particularly unqualified or weak teachers, or frequent changes of staff.

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