Podcast - Teaching migration, empire and colonialism in Britain's history lessons

Teaching migration, empire and colonialism in Britain's history lessons

09 Jul 2020 (47:19)

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Are UK history lessons inclusive enough so that everyone can see themselves in the story? Do they take into account the many legacies of the British Empire and colonialism? In this podcast, we are joined by history teachers, Clare Broomfield and Sitara Amin; historian and co-lead of the Runnymede Trust's 'Our Migration Story', Sundeep Lidher; and Mike Goddard from our UK exam board, OCR.

Visit the OCR blog for more information about OCR History and this podcast discussion. 

Find this episode on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Podcast transcript

Teaching migration, empire and colonialism in Britain’s history lessons

Alana Walden: [00:00:07.62] Welcome to the Cambridge Assessment podcast. I'm Alana Walden, and today I'm introducing an episode on the teaching of migration, empire and colonialism in British history lessons. This episode is hosted by Cambridge Assessment’s Yozzie Osman, with special guests from OCR, think-tank The Runnymede Trust and two teachers from schools in England.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:00:31.06] Hello and welcome to our podcast today. My name is Yozzie Osman. I work in Group Transformation at Cambridge Assessment and I'm also representing the BAME Staff Network here for the podcast. This podcast is coming out of a lot of stuff that we've seen in the news. Obviously, the Black Lives Matter movement has put an increased spotlight on what is being taught in UK schools, particularly in our history lessons.

 

A couple of questions that have come up a lot recently are: are the UK history lessons inclusive enough so that everyone can see themselves in the story? And do they take into account the many legacies of the British Empire and colonialism? Cambridge Assessment and UK exam board OCR are welcoming this conversation. And we believe that a diverse and inclusive history curriculum is vital. Recognising that there is a lot of work for all of us to do in this area.

 

So, delighted to be joined by a few people for the conversation today. So joining us, we've got Mike Goddard who is lead subject advisor for OCR. We have Sundeep Lidher, a historian and co-lead of our migration story from the Runnymede Trust, Sitara Amin, who who's a history teacher at Downham Market Academy, and Clare Broomfield, who's head of history for Villiers High School. So thank you very much for joining me today. Welcome to the podcast. If we could start by just getting the four of you to introduce yourselves, telling us a little bit about the work that you do, either in your schools or here at Cambridge Assessment or Runnymede. Clare, if we could start with you, please.

 

Clare Broomfield: [00:02:09.22] Afternoon. I'm Clare Broomfield. I'm head of history at Villiers High School in West London. I've been head of history for about six years now. And this is a really important conversation for me to have with you because of the nature of the children I teach. They are almost all from a BAME background. And this has been a really interesting dialogue between my team and them about how we include them in our history.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:02:39.41] Thank you very much. Sitara, please.

 

Sitara Amin: [00:02:41.50] My name is Sitara Amin. I am a teacher at Downham Market, and I've been teaching there for around three and a half years. The course is really important to our students because actually we do not have a community of BAME students. And we're trying to make more positive, well founded view about immigration just to challenge misconceptions at the moment.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:03:02.26] That's great, thank you. Sundeep.

 

Sundeep Lidher: [00:03:00.36] Hi, everyone, so I'm Sundeep Lidher. I am a historian. I'm currently finishing up PhD on the history of Britain's immigration and citizenship policy in the years between 1945 and 1962 so that's my own research. But I've also since 2016 been working with the Runnymede Trust on building an online resource called Our Migration Story. So, it's kind of online resource that designed to help people to teach histories of migration in the classroom. That work really comes off almost a decade of Runnymede's engagement with questions around history, education and in trying to support teachers to teach more accurate histories of Britain. So that's how I'm coming to the conversation and I'm really pleased to be part of it today.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:03:50] We're really pleased to have you. Thank you very much. And Mike, please.

 

Mike Goddard: [00:03:55.85] Hi, so my name's Mike Goddard. I'm a history subject advisor for OCR and I led OCR as the development of our A level history and our GCSE history qualifications and was involved in looking at what content should be included. And then in the effectively in the launch of those qualifications and the resources that we tried to work with partners to provide to teachers so that they can be taught effectively.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:04:28.36] Great. Thank you, everyone. I think we're gonna have some really good discussion today. I'm from the BAME Network at Cambridge Assessment and we talked about this a lot in our network meetings in terms of how we look at history.  One of the questions that's come up. And Mike, if I can come to you on this. To start us off. You mentioned this little bit in your introduction, but what has OCR already done to diversify its GCSE and A level History specifications?

 

What has OCR done to diversify its GCSE and A Level history specifications?

 

Mike Goddard: [00:04:54.92] Yeah, sure and I mean, as you started off by saying I mean, OCR definitely really strongly welcomes this conversation. We feel that we've made some steps, but we don't feel that we in any way have found all of the answers yet. Just by way of context, A Level history in its current form has been taught since 2015. So, we were redeveloping it in 2013 and 2014 and at the time, the main criticism that was levelled at A Level History courses was that they were 20th century and euro-centric. I mean, that that was the big thing. You know that they were fair and valid criticisms. So, what OCR tried to do was, was to introduce a lot more optionality and to make it possible within the structure of an A Level to teach, for example, the history of non-European civilizations in their own right. So not just when England invaded them. I guess our most you know, our headline new option in that area was a precolonial African kingdoms option. We felt and we still feel that it's vital to have that diversity of history available to teachers, particularly in today's society. So that you can recognize the achievements and the validity of other civilizations and it just makes for a greater level of inclusiveness. That was A Level history. Those particular options haven't really taken off in terms of being popular. But one of the things that, you know, one of the charges that could be levelled against us is, well, maybe you should have made them compulsory and I hope that that's something that we'll discuss.

 

Mike Goddard: [00:06:50.13] ] A year later, GCSE history was developed and here we thought, okay, so we need to carry on this theme that perhaps ramp it up, you know, work with more partners to really show that we are taking this seriously, that we want everyone to be able to see themselves in the story. So we introduced a theme on migration to Britain, which is taught by two of our guests today. The idea of that was to study, well to recognize just the truth that England's past is defined and shaped by immigration over thousands of years. And to use that as a lens to understand our past and in so doing, to make sure that we include everyone who is studying it can recognise themselves and their own backgrounds and see that history is relevant to them and about them as well. And that's kind of where we're at at the moment. We've launched these courses. They've been taught for a couple of years and we've worked with various partners to try and promote them. We haven't made them compulsory. There is a lot more that we could be doing, but we feel that we've made a start.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:08:04.48] Thank you, Sundeep. I'm just wondering if there are some links here. You're the co-lead for Our Migration Story. Would you mind just telling us a little bit how that came about and the work that you were doing in this area?

 

‘Our Migration Story’ and the issue of inclusivity

 

Sundeep Lidher: [00:08:12.18] Yeah, of course. So I guess the first thing to say is that we've been working with OCR, and Mike sat on our advisory board for Our Migration Story, and that started in 2016. And really, that resource was kind of a collaboration between the Runnymede Trust, the University of Manchester and University of Cambridge. Professor Claire Alexander and Joya Chatterji are both the leads. And really, the idea was, Runnymede has been doing lots of work with history teachers, as I said, for over a decade. And what we found in doing that work was that there was definitely teachers that really want to teach this stuff. And recognize how important it is. But there's at the time in 2016, the work that we've been doing just before that between 2014 and 2016, we found that, you know, there weren't really adequate resources. The teachers really wanted better resources. So that's really where the idea for Our Migration Story came. So the idea was to kind of build a resource that would be easily accessible to teachers, that would sort of contain the history of migration to Britain over a long period. So we start with the Roman period and we end with Theresa May, 'Go Home' van campaign. And I can talk in the course of this conversation a little bit more about the resource, what we did and what we found. But I think at the start of the conversation, if I may, I think one of the things that I certainly found when I was working on Our Migration Story is how sort of different stakeholders in different constituent discussed the question of curriculum reform and what it is that we're trying to do in this space.

 

Sundeep Lidher: [00:09:41.79] So often you know, I hear the word diversity, which is good to have a diversity of representation. But I think I hear inclusion a lot, too. And sometimes the question sort of sits around this issue of inclusion and who gets included, who doesn't but I think for me, I see it as a twofold issue. Firstly, I think it's a question, as like said, of accuracy. So, our work at Runnymede has been about looking specifically at the British history curriculum. One of the things that we've been preoccupied with is providing teachers and students with a fuller story of how Britain came to be and to give students the opportunity to kind of understand the development of modern Britain through historical ends in an accurate way and in a way that's full. So I think accuracy is the very first thing that we need to kind of get our heads around in terms of what we're trying to do here. And that's first thing, it's a question of intellectual integrity. I think the second part of this equation is about this question of inclusion. And I think that's you, right, that all of the young people who we serve in our history classrooms get the opportunity to see themselves in the curriculum. And the way one sees oneself in the curriculum can operate on different kinds of axes of how we identify ourselves. Right there along axes of race, gender, class, locality and what we're seeing is that, you know, the way that the current curriculum looks is that, you know, certain young children are seeing themselves more frequently in the curriculum than others.

 

 

Sundeep Lidher: [00:11:00.73] And so this is a question, this inclusivity question isn't necessarily just about, you know, making black and Asian kids feel good about themselves, which is often how it's being framed, particularly in the media space. I think what we're trying to do is have an equality of representation in the curriculum. So, yes, it's a question of inclusivity. It's also a question of accuracy. And I think that those two things are not the same and they get completed, they do, of course, overlap. But I think it's really important to be clear about what we're talking about, of course, at Runnymede we advocate that all children get to study non European history and history is beyond Britain and as Mike said, you know, history of places where Britain has never had any contact and all of that is important. But our preoccupation and we think it's you know, it's becoming more and more urgent in the landscape in which we're all living is to get our national story right. It's a story that has been about global connectedness. It's a story that involves ordinary people. You know, so these are the things that I think we need to deal with and we need to do all of this at the same time. This is the point that I wanted to make at this stage I think.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:12:01.17] Thank you. I'm wondering if we can bring Sitara and Clare in here. You're both teachers and I know you both teach OCR GCSE history at your schools. You mentioned in your introduction that these schools that they're quite different. I'm wondering how your students respond to these sorts of topics and these kinds of discussions and what they might think about how history should be taught and thinking about inclusivity. Claire, if we could start with you, please.

 

Teaching migration to Britain in history lessons

 

Clare Broomfield: [00:12:28.39] Of course, so on paper, it does appear that a lot of the national curriculum and even if you think about GCSE courses that don't include migration, they might appear that they are only going to teach a certain history of the UK. And I think what the migration topic does so brilliantly is reminds the students that I teach that are from black and Asian backgrounds, that actually they have been part of British history for two millennia. And therefore, when we teach them those things that might be perceived as very white English history. They are actually part of it, too. And they have so enjoyed the opportunity to see how their migration stories, which tend to be more post 1945, actually fit into a much longer history of migration to the UK. And it it does allow them to see themselves much more and that's been so valuable for many of them.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:13:36.41] Thank you. I'm just thinking about my own experiences with studying history as a black woman. But also, you know, just for once, I've read Miranda Kaufmanns’ book on black cheetahs, for example, that made such a difference to my learning. So it's just interesting to hear, Sitara, if we could come to you and your experiences because you teach in quite a different school.

 

Sitara Ahmann: [00:14:00.16] Yeah and it's I think we have to be really careful about not being very, and I not using term preachy, but I think that's the best way of describing it, saying immigration is right, we should be accepting because that's never going to be going down well. Children are incredibly inquisitive, especially the ones we have. They want to learn. They're excited by you know, we've heard about personal stories, examples. And the course brilliantly highlights that I teach about my own parents. My mum came from Kenya during the persecution 70s. My father came from Pakistan as well. So it's nice to be able to bring all of these stories in a personal level, as well as trying to get them to understand the world around them.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:14:44.33] How do you stop this discussion from being too preachy? I just think it's a really interesting point, because I know there's there's a lot in the media. There's a lot of discussion here around national curriculum, around what we're learning about in schools, around what we should be teaching in schools. How do we make that, you know, relevant to everyone and stop it from being preachy, as you say? Do you think?

 

Making the discussion relevant and the importance of scholarship

 

Sitara Amin: [00:15:06.37] I think if you tell children what to think, you will have some element of pushback, whether they'll support it or not. Therefore, actually approaching things with compassion and empathy and understanding would help. Because actually, the students I teach do not have the opportunity of meeting others from often a BAME background. So I can't stand up at the front and say Immigration's brilliant, look at all these things that the British culture but actually if I tell it from personal examples and as I said, that's what the OCR course does beautifully, then actually that's what gets them thinking and learning and actually just wanting to know more.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:15:52.86] Sundeep, just coming to you there

 

Sundeep Lidher: [00:15:54.61] I think the thing I would add is probably I mean, the first thing I would say about the OCR's wonderful module is that you know, they let us think about migration kind of across a very long period. And I think what they do beautifully is to kind of demonstrate how migration has been part of British history and changes in British history over time and so really the history of migration to Britain is a story that everything single young person has a stake in. And I think what we tried to do with Our Migration Story as a resource, and I think what the modules do really well is that it complicates the idea in our mind of who a migrant is. I think it raises very important questions about who continues to be considered a migrant, you know, through subsequent generations. How a different migrant groups treated differently. Yes, it complicates our understanding of what migration and what a migrant is. And on this question of being preachy, I would say our work at the Runnymede Trust and on Our Migration Story in particular has been driven entirely by scholarship, by historical scholarship. And what we tried to do with our migration story resource is the capture of the wealth of research and scholarship that exists on British histories of migration and translate them for teachers and young people in schools. So, I mean, the way to not be preachy is to focus on doing good history and focusing on making visible and accessible the wonderful and incredibly important scholarship that exists in this space and bringing it to the classroom. And to me, that kind of scholarship driven approach has been really to get around those questions of, you know preaching. So that's what I would say that we need to root ourselves in this scholarship.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:17:40:81] Thank you, Clare.

 

Claire Broomfield: [00:17:42.88] I was just going to add that it's always quite fun when I get to the 19th century part of the GCSE course to say, well here begins my migration story, and they sort of giggle and look at me and go back your white British Miss. And I'm like, yes, that my ancestors were Irish. So here we go. How were they treated it? It's so much fun for them to see oh, so you're a migrant, too. So my story is connected to your story and let that beautiful connectivity and nuance is brought into the room. And that's a really good thing to see.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:18:18.55] And I think it looks back to your point, Sundeep, about inclusivity and thinking, you know, how we are all connected with these stories. And also, what's Sitara is saying about empathy. I think that the really good points here. And Mike.

 

Mike Goddard: [00:18:33:76] I wanted to pick up on what Sundeep was saying in that the response to accusations of being preachy is just to say, actually, this is all based on scholarship. And this is the facts of our story. Now, you can interpret it how you want. You can say, therefore, immigration has always been of wonderful benefit to England. You can do what you want, but what you can't deny is you can't deny the facts. And that's why it was really important for OCR to work with academics when designing this course to take advantage the latest scholarship. So particularly we worked with Black and Asian Studies Association with Professor Hakim-Adi and others. And then we were pleased to work with the University of York's Immigration Project as well, to make sure that, you know, we couldn't be accused of being politically partisan on this and that that accusation wasn't have to be levelled at us. You know, shortly after announcing the course. But it really isn't, it's political, but it's not politically partisan and it is based on rigorous scholarship.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:19:42.40] And what other challenges, if there are any Mike, has OCR faced as an exam board when it comes to their role, diversifying secondary school history?

 

The role of an exam board in diversifying the history curriculum

 

Mike Goddard: [00:19:52.21] Well, I think the main one is that we have to be realistic, that we are operating in a marketplace for qualifications. So, I think that in many ways we're very lucky in England that we haven't got a government imposed history curriculum. I think that could be really dangerous. But what it does mean is that exam boards have got a lot of freedom to design courses and, you know, we then have to try and persuade teachers to choose to teach them. We have to be realistic about the options which are available to teachers, their resources, their time, the accountability measures, what they're SLTs may be telling them to do. All of these things, you have to sort of have answers to when you're introducing a new course, unless you say that course is compulsory. So that's why working with Sundeep and Runnymede to get some amazingly high-quality resources available to teachers that can be brought straight into the classroom was a fundamental importance. And I think our challenge as an exam board is to keep making relationships like that with the right people, keep getting the messages out to schools to say that we can we can help you introduce this if you want to do it. Because otherwise it's an easy understandable option to teach, to teach the other options that are available. What, I don't think, I don't think it's our place as an exam board, and I might be wrong on this, is this is to say, no, this history is better than this history. You know, I think we have to say to the history community, like, we are making this stuff available because we're listening and we understand what the problem is. This is how we're making it practical. And then it's over to the history community to say, actually, it is really important to teach this. I think if OCR goes around as an exam board saying no you have to teach African kingdoms, that's more important than teaching Nazi Germany. I think that's it's difficult for us to justify doing that.

 

The challenges for schools and teachers

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:21:55.01] Yeah. Yeah. Sundeep do you want to come in here?

 

Sundeep Lidher: [00:22:00.59] Yeah, I just I would just add that, you know, I think that some of the challenges that we encountered in the process of kind of disseminating Our Migration Story and learning a bit more about, you know, the kind of challenges that teachers face is kind of interesting and might be useful for this conversation. So, I mean, just to put it in context, once we've built this resource, we found that we were very pleased to find that lots of teachers were using and found it useful in their teaching. But we kind of then put that aside about 18 months where we kind of went out and spoke to teachers at various conferences around focus groups with workshops, CPD events and spoke to lots of teachers. And I think in that process, what we realized was, you know, it's fine to have a space in the curriculum. We can come back to the national curriculum, hopefully in second. But the national curriculum, as it stands, does create some opportunities for teaching this material on migration and empire, as do the GCSE module. And so we have those openings in the curriculum and then we created this wonderful resource, which we hoped would then result in lots of teachers teaching it. But actually, what we found, as Mike just said, with the kind of constraints on teachers. On the one hand, you know, individual teachers may find that they want to teach this stuff, but then, you know, departmental heads or, you know, people higher up in the school governance may not wish to and that's kind of a problem. Teachers are also under incredible pressure, under time pressure and pressure of not having enough resources. And so, really, if we want teachers and we want to encourage teachers to support them to be kind of innovative in the way that they think about their curriculum and incorporate the kinds of history that we think are important and interesting for young people, then we must support them and so this is this is a huge thing that we found. The other thing that we found that's really important and where there's a deficit is that we really do need improved opportunities for teacher training and teachers CPD. So we conducted a survey with teachers in the course of Our Migration Story project, and we found that 78 percent of the teachers that we surveyed wanted training on how to teach history of migration. And 71 percent wanted a better teacher training on how to deal with histories of empire. Because, of course, on the one hand, there's the question of subject knowledge. And many of the teachers that we spoke to were really interested and excited about this material but they hadn't learned it themselves and so really filling in their subject knowledge was one thing. But then there's also this other question of how to navigate these topics in the classroom. So they raised all kinds of issues around identity, inequality, racism. And I think what we need to do is particularly around racism and how to kind of navigate classroom discussions around this is to provide. And what we found was teachers were asking for this, some training around: you know what? How do we understand racism? How do we talk to young people about this? And I suppose these are the kinds of challenges that we found at Runnymede that kind of exist beyond just creating space in the curriculum and resource provision.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:24:42.62] Sitara? Clare I'm wondering if I can bring you both in here as teachers, if you've faced some of these challenges that Sundeep has mentioned and sort of what your experiences are in this space. Sitara, if I could come to you first, please.

 

Sitara Amin: [00:24:56.13] I've been very lucky, the student's I've taught have really enjoyed learning about the course. We don't have any explicit racism, we have more questions about identity. And actually, it's open discussion and it's a comfortable environment and as was said earlier, it's about scholarship. So it's reading widely, deeply, and then actually applying that knowledge to the situation. I feel very uncomfortable talking about race sometimes in the classroom because I'm an Asian woman I've got to fear of being you know, someone's going to turn and say you can only talk about race because you're Asian. That's my constant fear but actually our students are very, very responsible and actually they deal with it very appropriately.

 

Clare Broomfield [00:25:39.54] I am also very lucky in that I don't have a lot of constraints on the topic side. I choose and my team and I can negotiate together what we decide to teach. And I think something that came across really well when we started reading through the GCSE migration textbook was so you're talking about the Jews in medieval England, when we then talk about the Norman conquest with year seven students, you can start weaving in that narrative of how important that group were to Williams castle building project, which is quite clearly shown in the national curriculum. So I think if people sort of start looking in the right places, quite a few of those problems that Mike has very well described can actually be overcome. But the biggest one of time and how you fit into your very limited amount of planning and preparation allocation, this scholarship and study and research, that can be an issue. And it's one that my team and I have tackled in all department time. We're lucky we get one hour a week every week where we can sit down and discuss history. And that's what we've made of priority and it is about departments being allowed to do that. That is the best way forward, I think.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:27:09.91] Yeah, Sitara.

 

Sitara Amin: [00:27:11.98] I just thought I'd say you're it's great that you're talking about like the Jews in medieval England and Castle building, and that's exactly what we should be doing. We should be talking about these stories from year seven, year eight, if looking at black tudors than the Miranda Kaufmann book, integrating these stories in now. So it's not just tokenistic when it gets to GCSE. They've got a wealth of history already behind them as well. I just want to say, that's a brilliant idea.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:27:38.86] What kind of feedback do you get from your students? Because I remember when I was at school and we did one module, I think, on slavery, and it very much felt a bit like a box ticking exercise and we didn't really go into depth around the discussion on history and, you know, our story and how we're all connected to this and there's so much I could talk about. But it's not for me to say but I'm just wondering what kinds of feedback you get from your own students in this area.

 

How students respond to learning migration to Britain

 

Clare Broomfield [00:28:04.57] I was going to say I was discussing this with my year 12 after their lesson last week, and I showed them the new curriculum that we've been putting together over the past year, really for September. And they were just like, oh, we can't we've studied Islamic Spain. And this is amazing because it gives us a context which supports what they have already been realizing, which is Britain is an island, but it's an island connected to the rest of the world and has been for millennia. And they wanted to see that more. And that's been really welcomed by most of the students. It allows them to see themselves in the curriculum at multiple points, but it has taken us well over a year, conversations every week, mapping it out, remapping it out, having to sort of slim down certain things that people have taught for years, not necessarily removing things, but sort of adding and enriching topics that we might already teach, but adding in these extra stories.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:29:16.10] Thank you. Sitara, I didn't know if you wanted to add something,

 

Sitara Amin: [00:29:19.96] Also, my year 12s are incredibly jealous and they asked one of them asked for a copy to textbook at one point, the migration textbook and it's wonderful to see that interest and yeah, it's about having time. Because I didn't feel comfortable teaching it at first and actually we're getting there slowly. I think that's the best way of putting it. But actually, the students really do develop an understanding. They feel positive. And especially in light of the Black Lives Matter campaigns, the issues of racism that came up, my year 12s, for example, are very politically aware. They know there's been a rise in racism since, you know, in the last few years and actually, they want to know more. And they want to understand more about racism and identity and how that feeds into Britain and then by extension, themselves.

 

Sundeep Lidher: [00:30:13.51] I think there are a couple of things I wanted to say in response. I mean, just picking up the point about students. I mean, one of the things I would say is that this movement for a better, fuller, more accurate engagement with British history isn't even a decades long in Britain so I know that Mike just mentioned BASA. So I think the Black and Asian Studies Association established in the late 80s, early 90s to kind of respond to precisely these questions. So, this question, whether it's been called diversifying or decolonizing and there is a difference between diversifying, decolonising we can maybe come to that. But these questions have been, you know, people have been working very hard on addressing these questions for decades. And I think what's really important about this precise moment is the engagement of young people in those courses. That's the thing I would say that makes this moment and the decolonizing moment and this moment where we've seen the biggest kind of anti-racism protest in Britain's history is the widespread engagement of young people. So I think, you know, these young people are very aware of, you know, the deficits and what they're being taught and they lead kind of leading campaigns to push the change. And I think, you know, and I think it's our duty to support these young people, but also to kind of respond to what they're seeing of the deficits. And I would just say, you know, just much more broadly, I think, you know, as educators, as historians, as teachers, you know, we owe it to the next generation to have a better sense of how Britain and that the world they live in came to be to help them navigate the world that they find themselves in when they leave school, to help them engage critically in discussions.

 

[00:31:42.22] And so we've been talking a lot about what topics we think students should learn. But I think also what's critical is helping them to understand the constructiveness and the constructive nature of history and historical interpretation. I think by doing that, not only are we kind of helping them to understand how the world came to be, we're also nurturing critical mind. But I think those critical minds are crucial in the time that we're finding ourselves in. But also, I think, you know, I think one element of this also is hopefully nurturing the next generation of historians. So if we're doing good history, if we're doing history that is geographically and chronologically broad and at the range of actors and history that is accurate and that our young people can see themselves in, then hopefully more young people, particularly black and Asian young people, will be encouraged to kind of enter the profession and study history. I think one very important piece of research, I think all history teachers and his history department should read is the Royal Historical Society’s recent report on race and ethnicity in the profession. And that report kind of dealt with, you know, quite alarming, but also in quite bold way that kind of laid out the state of the historical profession in Britain. And on the one hand, we have a terrible problem in universities with representation among academics and in terms of the kind of blatant racism that academics deal with in history departments. But the other thing that the report deals with students and one of the statistics in that report is only eleven percent of history undergraduates in Britain are black or Asian background. So I think in sort of addressing the history that we're teaching in schools, whether GCSE level. And my broader argument is that these things need to happen sooner, primary and also Key Stage 3 is that we kind of owe it to our students, but we also kind of owe it to history as well as a kind of discipline.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:33:24.66] I wonder then and you can all come in on this one, what more we can be doing then to encourage perhaps more teachers, more schools, or just get the conversation out there a bit more in terms of our history and the topics that we've generally discussed. Perhaps I'm going a bit more broadly and going beyond just the national curriculum. But what do you think we can all be doing to encourage these conversations and engage more people?

 

What happens next? Encouraging conservation and facilitating engagement

 

Mike Goddard: [00:33:51.45] Well, I mean, I think that to do is a really vibrant conversation going on at the moment. And I think the responsibility of exam boards is to recognise our role in that. I think we've got, you know. Well, I think we've got two main responsibilities, right. We have to listen to the subject communities. But then also we have to be very patient as well, and we can't expect instant change. So the example I gave of the African Kingdoms A Level option for instance, that was launched 2015 so five years ago. It's only now that we are seeing any interest that might be considered to be significant in it. And that's because it takes a long time. It takes a long time to effect change in schools and often things will get tried out in Key Stage 3 and that's completely appropriate. So we know that a lot of our African Kingdom's resources, for example, have been used for a few years with years seven, eight, nine. And I think it's upon us as an exam board to not just pull the option. We're not going to we never would, I hope, but also to say, OK, this is an investment for several years time. It's not going to translate into instant change. So as long as we're listening to the right people, as long as we're taking part in a conversation, as long as we're not being hasty. Then, I think that's what we need to do as an exam board. But with this particular topic, obviously, we're doing this podcast today, but the conversation is definitely going on and it's definitely loud and eloquent and it feels like a watershed moment potentially.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:35:37.54] Thank you. Sundeep.

 

Sundeep Lidher: [00:35:39.95] I would agree with Mike in that this definitely feels like a moment where real change is possible. And I think at this moment it's the time to maintain momentum on these questions. I think one of the things that I would encourage people to do if they're listening, if they're interested, at the Runnymede trust, we launched sort of information campaign about a fortnight ago under the hashtag of teach, race, migration and Empire. If you go into the Runnymede website, you'll find more information on that and in that campaign, we've sort of outlined what people who are interested in kind of helping to make change can do right now and we've listed a set of actions. Partly what we've done is we've provided template letters that people can send along to their MPs and their school governors. Partly, we've provided their links for Runnymede reports, some of our key reports that are really important if you want to read up on what the current state of play in the curriculum is and why the insertion point to make them change are. And another thing that we're doing is working with the Institute of Historical Research to create a resource bank, so people were inviting people to submit resources so that we have a free open access information bank to teachers who do want to teach, for example, these modules have got somewhere to go to do that. I think one thing I would add is, you know, in terms of what's necessary for change, I think in the longer term, I think we obviously need to revisit what our national curriculum is doing.

 

Sundeep Lidher: [00:36:53.39] I think at the moment, you know, in a key stage three, the only mandatory topic of study is the Holocaust. And then that around that, there are lists of kind of suggested topics. And what's interesting to me is, you know, what's on those suggested topics and what isn't on those suggested topics. For example, we don't have any references in this suggested topic to Britain's longstanding history of ethnic and racial diversity. We don't have any reference in those suggested topics of The British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. We don’t have any reference to history of decolonization. So I think now there are very important questions to be asked about, you know, what is statutory in our curriculum, what is suggested and who gets to make those decisions? Who feeds into those? I think in the shorter term, what we can do it on in our campaign information outlines this is we need to make the most of the opportunities that exist in the curriculum now. Right. The key stage three all the way through to A Level there are insertions point. Yes. If it is the case that the Holocaust is the only compulsory thing, then of course, there is lot's of space then for teachers to be innovative and think about other kinds of things that might be important to teach in that space. There is A Level coursework as well, which also offers opportunities to devise questions around empire or migration or whatever a young person might happen to be interested in. But of course, the limitations of that are all of the things you've outlined in this podcast already, the kinds of structural challenges that face teachers. And one of the things that we're calling for the Runnymede trust in, and that call is being led by Dr Jason Todd at the University of Oxford, is to create a teacher training centre on the histories of migration and empire, which is modelled on the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education. And what that centre of Holocaust education does, it provides training and CPD opportunities for the teachers around the topic of the Holocaust to kind of tailor training around their needs and I think if we want these histories to be taught effectively and in a way that's sustainable and in a way that kind of deals with all of the kind of political changes that come and hit a curriculum every time the government changes, then we need kind of longer term, longer term thinking.

 

Sundeep Lidher: [00:38:54.66] And I think, you know, a final thing I would say is I think we need to think about Empire a bit more critically. So I think, you know, the OCR module does a wonderful job with migration. And there's an excellent section on sort of imperial migration, industrial imperial migration, I think in terms of engaging with histories of empire more broadly and understanding particularly how racism in this society that we live in today is the kind of legacy of colonialism and empire. I think that's the sort of next hurdle that we kind of collectively need to tackle and to help teachers and to help the wider public grapple with and understand. And as Mike said, there's no there are no short term solutions. This involves lots of different stakeholders working together to make this work. And maybe just also, the final final thing to bear in mind is that this is the problem that exists beyond school. So often we do understand there are deficits in the curriculum when we absolutely understand, that, you know, the ways that we might think about British history and the curriculum are very different to the way you think about British history perhaps at University. That was one of the things that struck me, is the way that I think about British History in my PhD, it's very different say, for example, than the way I understood British history in school. But also, you know, this is a wider societal problem. This is about the way the British History gets dealt with in the media and politics, in our built environment and statues. And I think that kind of now is the time to raise questions about all of that. But also, at the same time, to recognize that school are one part of a much larger problem.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:40:23.66] Thank you. I think that's a really good point. If we could turn to Clare and Sitara, perhaps for the final word, then what would you like to see more of? And what do you think in terms of generating more discussion, engaging more people in this debate, particularly in your experience as teachers?

 

Encouraging conservation and facilitating engagement as teachers

 

Clare Broomfield: [00:40:42.84] Well, I'd like to firstly point out that I've been working with a group called The Tide Project who are also invested very heavily in decolonizing, particularly the early modern period. And their resources are fantastic for any teacher who'd like to go to that website and decolonize that period of history that their teaching to their year seven, eights and nines. The one big barrier that I find with the students from my community, and it really disheartens me sometimes. I have some fantastic A level historians, but getting them to do history at university, their parents just can't see where they would go with it. And that's the biggest thing that I'm trying to work with at the moment, with the Royal Historical Society is on really showing, particularly the black and Asian community, the value of taking a history degree. And it can be linked to a career at the end of it but they need that sort of economic safety nets that they can see. If you go to do a law degree, you become a lawyer. If you do an accountancy degree, you become an accountant and history they can't quite see that sometimes. So I think we should all work really hard at embedding as much of the ideas that Sandeep has talked about so eloquently into our Key Stage three curriculum, because for some students, they will never do history again at that point. And that's slightly scary thought on some levels and probably does play into the discourse that society as a whole has around history. But for those who do continue into GCSE and A Level, we really want to encourage them if they've seen themselves in this curriculum, then see it also as historians. And that would be an ideal way forward for me.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:42:41.45] Thank you. That's great. And Sitara, anything from you.

 

Sitara Amin: [00:42:45.74] I think we need to continue discussing and I, I feel really ignorant of the discussions that have been had with the Runnymede Trust in our migration story. I've used both, you know well organizations and the website hugely. And it's making those discussions heard about. For example, Twitter has a huge history community getting out there, open discussions on a regional level. I don't know what the logistics are and how they would work, but it's promoting them and bringing it into the narrative that we see at the moment, the changing mood in the newspapers and, you know, the protests. We watch young people on the street and it's really powerful so it's not letting that momentum drop. But then at the same time, while that momentum is going on, keeping the discussions open for teachers to try and make a real difference.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:43:34.01] Sundeep?

 

Working together to make progress

 

Sundeep Lidher: [00:43:35.88] Yeah, I think the point that the teachers have made are both brilliant. And I think one of the reasons that Runnymede's work and Runnymede was also involved in the Tide project that Claire mentioned. But one of the reasons why some of those projects, the Tide Project and the Our Migration Story project have been kind of so successful and gaining traction is because we actually work with so many stakeholders. Right, so we were involved with, working with teachers, with exam boards, with historians, with archived galleries, museums, it's a whole ecosystem that kind of made these work. And I think in order to make progress, going ahead that kind of working together is crucial. I mean, one thing I would say, and I think another thing that has been very important in the work that we've done at Runnymede is the issue of framing these questions. So, I mean, a lot of people talk about diversity and I think diversity in and of itself in terms of curriculum change is important. Thinking about diversity, of geography and of actors. But I think the problem with diversity sometimes is that there's a danger that, you know, some people interpret diversity as adding one or two black or Asian people into a broader curriculum and then that's diversity. I think what diversity, the danger around just that word and the way that some might interpret it is it could become slightly tokenistic or just kind of a celebratory edition of, you know, a black or Asian famous person in particular. Period. Yeah. And so I think where decolonized thinking about decolonizing is helpful. I know the word has been muddied and I think a lot of particularly the kind of stick that decolonizing movements have gotten in the media is a problem.

 

Sundeep Lidher: [00:44:58.31] But I think at it's core, what the decolonizing movement is asking for an engagement, the questions around inequality and also power and structures of inequality and structures of power. So I think when we think particularly about the curriculum and change what the kind of decolonizing framework helps us to do, is to think not just about what we teach, but more broadly how we're teaching, what we're teaching. So what are our approaches as historians? What is our evidence? You know who's mind and who's writing are we drawing on to teach that stuff? It also helps us to think about why we teach what we teach, you know, who make those decisions, why. It also raises questions about who is doing that teaching, who, who makes up our teaching staff. So I think sometimes we get trapped in kind of this question of diversity, which I worry sometimes is a little bit or can become a little bit superficial. And I think the engagement that we need now and the moment that has opened up now is to ask much deeper, more probing questions around not just how Britain in the world came to be, but also to kind of identify what parts of those stories are missing and then to ask harder questions about why they're missing and who, you know, who is involved and plugging those gaps and how we can all work collectively to do that.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:46:04.77] That's great. Thank you. I'm just conscious of time. I don't know if anybody has anything else that they want to add.

 

Clare Broomfield: [00:46:09.71] I was just going to add to Sundeep's point there that the Teaching History Journal that the Historical Association produce has at least one article that I can think of in a journal couple of episodes ago that was totally focused on this and that they've been during lockdown producing some fantastic little videos you can watch about pedagogy and how we teach these things and why we teach these things. There is so much willingness from the history community to embed these courses and these ideas, and we are supporting each other as much as we can. And if you are a worried history teacher about it, just go on Twitter, go to the Historical Association or the school's history project. Go to OCR, go to Mike and say, how can we do this? And they will support you. We're in a good place and we need to push from here.

 

Yozzie Osman: [00:47:00.86] I think that's a really great way to end the podcast. Thank you very much to everyone for joining.

 

Alana Walden: [00:47:06.38] Thank you for listening to the Cambridge Assessment podcasts. You can find more podcasts over on our YouTube channel on our website, just search podcast gallery. Or you can find us wherever you listen to a podcast such as Spotify or iTunes.

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