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Should history teachers be historians

August 4, 2009

The Conservative education spokesman, Michael Gove, is having a busy recess.  He is putting out a press release a day.  Today’s story is that only 76% of history teachers are historians.   It caught my eye as a history graduate, who studied history at GCSE and A-level, and is often heard bemoaning the general lack of knowledge about history, and particularly British history.  My first reaction was to be scandalised: 24% of teachers of history are not history specialists.   As with all good stories made for the Daily Mail, you are not supposed to start thinking beyond the headline confirmation of your prejudices.  But… isn’t it important that good history teaching starts at primary age, where teachers are not expected to be subject specialists.   And hasn’t it always been the case at secondary schools that teachers often have a secondary subject, so economists and geographers for example, might well take some history lessons.    So I’m really not sure whether Michael Gove has a point or not?  Certainly the decline in history graduates going into teaching is an important point and something I hope he has plans to address.

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