Studying History in Secondary School is perhaps more valuable than many people would think, upon considering the vast array of skills and knowledge it can equip you with. I spoke with two History teachers, in order to see their opinion on History within a secondary education. Primarily, they told me that they liked the subject due to how you can ‘understand how you have come to be and understand social issues.’ It is certainly true that in studying history, you can understand how the events of the past have impacted on the events of the present, therefore developing the ability to understand how we can avoid mistakes and create a clearer path for society. However, it must be noted that for some, they do not consider history of any particular relevance to today. Upon speaking to another student, they told me that History ‘isn’t relevant in the way Geography is’ thus remarking on how Geography considers the great differences in political systems, economies, environments and cultures around the world, exploring links between them. Countering this, history too helps to develop an understanding of the world and the interconnectedness of society. It was also suggested that at GCSE level, whilst the subject content may not be more relevant than other subjects, the ‘skills for GCSE are vital.’ 

The skills that history can provide, even at GCSE level, could be considered unparalleled, as one teacher explained to me that history helps an individual to ‘break down narratives’ and ‘recognise fake news.’ Historical narratives can help to develop a coherent, temporal frame for life, so that a person can locate themselves within this, as was suggested to me. In understanding the skills history can equip a person with, it was also noted that history relates very well to other subjects within school, including a study of English Literature, where analytical skills can be used, and historical knowledge can be applied to literary contexts. However, despite the wide variety of skills history delivers, the secondary curriculum is not without flaws.

Recently, a greater focus has been placed upon decolonising the History curriculum in British Schools. One teacher told me that this must ‘happen at all levels, not just during Black History Month’ and that it is entirely necessary to consider the ‘neglected histories’ of certain individuals. At its peak, the British Empire was the most influential empire in the world. Whilst in Key Stage 3 history, students are taught about the British Empire, many parts of Britain’s colonial history are left out, including the use of violence and views about race. It is paramount that students are taught about this. A focus must be placed on exploring whose viewpoint information is coming from, therefore questioning what is being taught more often. Learning about colonialism also helps with understanding how modern day society was formed, and therefore, it is vital that this part of history is not neglected. History may be a vital subject, but ignoring crucial parts weakens the relevance of history in secondary education.

It was also suggested that GCSE and A-Level exams can be structured in ways that are not effective, despite the overall positive nature of the questions. I was told that ‘the language of the exam is unnecessarily hard’ at times, which could dissuade individuals from studying the subject at a higher level. Without exams, the teachers I interviewed commented that History should be taught all the way through secondary school, therefore emphasising the relevance and necessity of History as a subject. Therefore, despite the argument that history bears no significance today, it is not just a study of past events, but an exploration of how these affect today, and how this can help shape the future of societies throughout the world.