The slow death of history in schools has been much lamented. As David Cannadine's new book The Right Kind of History demonstrates, the same concerns have been raised about how history should be taught in schools for the entirety of the twentieth century - should pupils be memorising kings and queens, facts and dates, or should they rather be pouring over sources, analysing and interpreting historical material?
While these debates, valuable as they are, continue to swirl, they are redundant to the fact that History is dying off in large parts of the country. Nationally, last year the proportion of pupils being entered for GCSE History (let alone passing the subject) dipped beneath 30%. But this does not reflect the reality beneath surface. A short report that I've published today- History in Schools- A School Report reveals that in many areas History is already a dead subject: in 159 schools, not a single pupil was entered for GCSE History, with 13% of Comprehensives entering less than 1 in10 pupils for the subject. Burrow down and it gets worse: in Knowsley, just 8% of pupils passed GCSE History and a mere 4 pupils passed A-level History.
An educational divide opening up within our schools, and indeed the nation. In 1997, the gap between the proportion of pupils studying History in grammar schools compared to Comprehensives was 17% - it is 25% today. History GCSE is increasingly becoming marginalised, and in some schools forgotten entirely. The study of History, a subject which should unite us as one nation, has now become the subject of two nations. In entire communities and schools, often in some of the most deprived areas of the country, the study of History has been shunned.
Compare this with our European counterparts, all of whom teach history in some form to 16, and it seems we sit isolated: Embarrassingly, Britain remains the only country apart from Albania where History is not compulsory beyond 14.
As policy makers, teachers and historians, we can continue to debate and disagree what history, whose history and how history should be taught. There is also important work that needs to be done to create an examination that focuses not merely on Hitler's Germany, Stalinist Russia or the history of Medicine, but an exam which will ensure that pupils are given the chance to learn our national history across a broad chronological perspective. There is work to be done to ensure that history is not crowded out of an increasingly regimented primary school curriculum, and to redraw the curriculum so that pupils are no left to suffer the study of ' bite-size' periods of history, often taught in a haphazard and ahistorical fashion. But let us begin from should be a common starting point: that every pupil should be studying History in some form to 16.
We cannot opt-out of History: the past a compulsory part of our shared knowledge and culture, forming our national identity. To continue down the road of its slow eradication in schools is to risk losing this common identity for future generations.