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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 02:23 GMT 03:23 UK
Tories want more history lessons
David Willetts
Mr Willetts said history helped create a national identity
The Tories are calling for children to be given at least a "basic knowledge" of British and world history.

Shadow education secretary David Willetts said the teaching of "real" subjects was vital to "shared culture, values and knowledge".

Pupils in England can give up history at the age of 14, but Mr Willetts said his party was considering whether it should be made compulsory up to 16.

He is chairing a seminar on teaching the subject at the Commons.

'National identity'

"We need to get the balance right between the professional judgement of individual teachers and the legitimate demand that children emerge from our schools with the basic knowledge of British and world history," Mr Willetts said.

"History embraces our shared culture, values and knowledge. It is fundamental to our identity as a nation."

Association of Teachers and Lecturers leader Mary Bousted has called for the national curriculum to be replaced by a series of "entitlements" to skills - such as creativity and physical co-ordination - rather than specific subjects.

Under the scheme, it would be "not impossible" that children go from the ages of five to 16 without studying any British history, she said.

But the government insists the national curriculum is here to stay.

In 2004, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority produced guidance stressing the use of more dates in history to build up "the big picture".

Mr Willetts will discuss with teachers, academics and examiners whether more of the school timetable should be devoted to the subject.

Mr Willetts said: "It teaches us how many of our rights and freedoms that we so often take for granted were won - how they are not abstract concepts lifted from a United Nations declaration, but were shaped and exist through existing and real institutions."

The seminar will also look at how to improve understanding of medieval, global and local history; the teaching of historical narrative; and whether "national" history can be taught while maintaining a "multicultural" identity.

Mr Willetts said: "In order to provide a high-quality education for our children, we must ensure that a meaningful and stimulating curriculum is taught in the classroom."

Conservative seminars on the teaching of maths, science, English, citizenship and languages will take place later this year.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said: "Having an understanding of history is vital. That's why all five to14-year-olds must study history with a particular focus on British history.

"We have also recently launched a major review looking at whether teaching pupils about British cultural and social history should become a compulsory part of schooling for all 11 to 16-year-olds - in addition to what is already taught."

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