At some point in the 1970s or 80s (or was it the 90s?) a small group of history teachers got together and attempted to improve the delivery of history in English (and maybe also Welsh) secondary schools by setting up the School History Project. They reasoned that historical content (i.e. key dates, events, names etc.) is not the 'be all and end all' of history. To study history properly you also need to analyse and evaluate: these are vital life skills for a young person. In the process of tackling a knotty old historical bone, a young person can be taught a systematic way to break down the question into bite sized chunks. The beauty of history is that the answers to such questions as 'Who started World War One?' often changes over time: there is rarely a simple answer to any historical question. History is an art not a science. In later life, such key facts as the date of the Great Fire of London are of little practical use to a student trying to make their way at a time of austerity. However, the skills needed to interpret the historical evidence from past times are transferrable life skills that can help an adult to inform their world picture at home and at work. The School History Project (SHP) focus upon teaching these essential life skills, bless them. And if you doubt what I write here, then Google 'celebrities with history degrees'. People with history qualifications are highly prized by employers because they tend to have cute minds. Studying history properly gives them that.
If I have a criticism of this SHP series of books, it is that the vocabulary is too tough for many Year 7, 8 and 9s that I teach. I really do have to break down the sources for about half the class because many of the kids find the material too hard to access. I wish the SHP would sort that out. I also feel that the pages are too 'busy'. Some of my students find the crammed pages are too daunting and they are put off. Having said that, I think these are the best school history text books currently made. If you know of something better, then I would seriously love to see it.
Please do not buy this book. It is full of brilliant ideas that will really enliven your teaching. Your lessons will obviously end up being better than mine as a result, and I will look bad.
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