The end of history? Students fall out of subject in their droves

The History Boys: The number of pupils taking history at 16 is falling, especially in state schools
The History Boys: The number of pupils taking history at 16 is falling, especially in state schools
Ian Dunt By

Schools need to urgently drop Labour's citizenship classes and replace them with history lessons to deal with the collapse of interest in the subject, MPs said today.

Research by the all-party history group found the number of 16-year-olds in state schools entering history GCSE had fallen below 30%.

The findings will come as a shock to Michael Gove, who was recently horrified to discover half of English 18- to 24-year-olds did not know Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar or that the Romans built Hadrian's Wall.

Gove has often spoken about bringing history classes back into chronological order, so students have a better idea of how events relate to one another, and to prevent an excessive focus on World War Two, which is often studied to the exclusion of other time periods.

The cross-party group of MPs want history to replace Labour's much-touted citizenship classes, which teach political engagement alongside subjects like crime, justice and being an 'active citizen'.

Any substantial increase in take-up would raise concerns about the availability of history teachers, however.

For that reason, even MPs on the all-party group stopped short of suggesting history should be mandatory until age 16, despite that being the norm in other European countries.

Figures show the divide in history learning follows broad economic lines, with many headmasters in deprived areas staying away from the subject because it is considered too hard.

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