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Children’s Crusade

Durham primary teacher David Field describes how he is trying to set his children on a path that may make them the historians of the twenty-first century.

Earning your living as a primary teacher is not the easiest way to beg a crust, but when you are a teacher who loves history, your woes are compounded ten times over. I am sure readers of this magazine are convinced of the important role history plays in developing the growing minds of young children, and would shudder to think of its elimination from the primary curriculum. And yet that is precisely what is happening in many of the schools in my region, and mostly, I am ashamed to say, without a whimper of protest from the teachers concerned.

My own school, though, Stephenson Way Primary in Newton Aycliffe, is not taking this latest ‘improvement’ to the curriculum lying down. Despite economic problems, Newton Aycliffe in general, and Stephenson Way school in particular, are happy, industrious places with a strong community spirit.

Our children are rewarding to teach. Many come to school eager to learn more about themselves and the past. Starting with their own past, the children are slowly introduced to the history of the world they will one day inherit, using the media of play, song, story, food, dressing up, fairy tales, objects and pictures. The watchword is ‘make it lively, make it interesting, and – above all – involve the children’. History belongs to these children; it is their right to learn about it and to own it, just as much as it is their right to learn to read, write and calculate numbers. They cannot be proper citizens without it.

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