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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 12:33 GMT
Praise for Scottish history boost
William Wallace
Questions on figures like William Wallace were optional
A leading historian has welcomed a decision to make questions on Scotland's past compulsory for students sitting the Higher history exam.

Dr Fiona Watson, who presented the BBC TV series In Search of Scotland, said the move would underline the importance of Scottish history.

The exam will contain a mandatory Scottish section from 2010/11.

The decision by the Scottish Qualifications Authority came after a campaign by teachers and academics.

The Higher has always contained optional questions on Scotland's history, but they were often on topics not usually covered in schools, which tended to focus on the later modern period.

The situation was branded a "national disgrace" in 2005 by Professor Tom Devine, Scotland's most prominent modern historian.

While it is important that pupils learn about the wider world, it is equally important that they have an appreciation of the history of their own country and its culture
EIS spokesman

Dr Watson, a lecturer in Scottish History and Director of Environmental History and Policy at Stirling University, said she hoped students would now learn about the "broad sweep" of Scottish history, from the Romans through the Wars of Independence to the two World Wars and the discovery of North Sea oil.

She told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "A lot of people have been asking for this for a very long time and I think it will make a significant difference to the number of people in Scotland who actually know something about their history.

"There has been Scottish history as part of the curriculum now for quite a long time and there has been an awful lot of work done on it but the problem was it was always voluntary and that means if people wanted to avoid it then they could.

"It think it also underlines the sense that Scottish history is important. If everybody has to get out there and actually answer some questions on it then it underlines the fact that it is a fundamental part of our culture.

Dr Fiona Watson
Dr Watson believes Scottish history study has been stuck in a rut

Dr Watson called for youngsters to be taught local as well as national history, and stressed the importance of freeing perceptions of Scottish history from the "same old groove."

"I have done very well from that, having come from the Wars of Independence, but there is a lot more to Scottish history than those key moments and key people and just exploring the wealth of Scottish history I think would be wonderful," she added.

A spokesman for the SQA confirmed: "We've reviewed the Higher history content and listened to the educational professionals of Scotland and subject experts.

"Up until now, Scottish history has been part of the course and more often than not questions on Scottish history have been in the exam, but they've not been compulsory before."

A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland also welcomed the move, adding: "It is important that pupils learn about their culture and history, so moves to make Scottish history a mandatory part of the Higher grade history exam are welcome.

"While it is important that pupils learn about the wider world, it is equally important that they have an appreciation of the history of their own country and its culture."

The HM Inspectorate of Education recently said it was concerned about whether pupils in primary and early secondary were being given a full understanding of Scottish history because of the freedom given to schools over what is taught.

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