Dates have a role to play in the teaching of History but they should not be centre stage. They can provide a framework and are valuable when measuring the speed of change or placing subjects in context. Recent surveys condemn pupils’ knowledge of dates and in so doing demote the value of History as a subject today. History teaching appreciates the importance of the question ‘Why?’ not just ‘When?’. Parents frequently bemoan the way History used to be taught in schools. One of the main criticisms is the emphasis on the rote learning of dates. Perhaps we should be heartened by the fact that the surveys indicate that the teaching of History has moved away from the realms of date–learning. Surely the development of analytical skills will be of more benefit to students in an age where ‘joined-up thinking’ is being advocated – unless recitation is considered to be more valuable – and that would be worrying.
You are here: / / / / Elisabeth Gooch, Head of History, Hellesdon High School