NC39: Memorandum submitted by The Holocaust Educational Trust (HET)

 

Executive Summary

1. The submission below made by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) outlines the current issues concerning the content and delivery of the National Curriculum specifically at Key Stage 3, with special reference to the mandatory study of the Holocaust. We have considered:

The importance of why the National Curriculum should be maintained and the positive impact this has on students

The importance of History as a discrete subject at Key Stage 3 and the inclusion of the mandatory study of the Holocaust

The need to ensure that teachers are properly equipped to deliver the National Curriculum with adequate training and materials in school

The issues connected with the contraction of the Key Stage 3 curriculum

The cross over of subject matter between History, Religious Studies and Citizenship and how this should be considered in the future development of the National Curriculum

 

 

About the Holocaust Educational Trust

2. The Holocaust Educational Trust was founded in 1988 and was set up by Members of Parliament and Peers following a renewed public interest and need for knowledge about the Holocaust during the period leading to the passing of the War Crimes Act.  The HET's aims are to teach the history of the Holocaust, to preserve the memory of those who perished and to disseminate the contemporary lessons of this episode of history for the future.

One of our first achievements in 1991 was to ensure the inclusion of the Holocaust on the History National Curriculum at Key Stage 3 (usually delivered to Year 9 students aged 13-14).

In 1999 we successfully ensured research was undertaken and the assets of Holocaust victims and Survivors were unfrozen and returned to their rightful owners

Following a visit by Andrew Dismore MP and other Members of Parliament to the former Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau with the HET, we worked together to raise the profile of and establishment of the first national Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK in 2001. The day is now commemorated every year on the 27th January, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Our work has expanded significantly following a Government grant announced in 2005 by the Rt. Hon Gordon Brown MP, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer for our Lessons from Auschwitz Project, which includes a one day visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau. This funding enables us to facilitate the Project for two-sixth form students from every secondary school and college in the country.  

 

3. The HET education team deliver a range of educational programmes in schools, colleges and universities across the UK and curriculum. We work in the devolved regions, even though the Holocaust does not appear as a mandatory part of the curriculum in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. In schools and colleges all over the UK we work closely with teachers to deliver effective Holocaust education workshops as well as delivering Continuing Professional Development during twilight training sessions. At universities, we participate and lead sessions on delivering effective Holocaust education for Initial Teacher Training students on PGCE courses. We also run an extended teacher training course for UK teachers at Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem each year. We have also produced a number of key teaching resources for use in the classroom including A History of the Holocaust by David Ceserani, published in 1995, our Lessons of the Holocaust teaching pack - the first specifically produced Holocaust focused teaching pack of its kind, produced in 1998 and then revised in 2001; our online citizenship resource www.thinkequal.com launched in 2003 and our interactive DVD ROM Recollections: Eyewitnesses Remember the Holocaust, produced in 2007 and later that year recognised as key secondary level teaching resource by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).

 

4. We have strong relationships with hundreds of schools across the UK in many instances formed as a result of their sixth-form students participating on our Lessons from Auschwitz Projects. These Projects which have been taking place since 1999 focus around a one-day visit to the former Nazi death and concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau and include seminars before and after the visit to prepare participants for this unique experience and an opportunity to de-brief afterwards. After participating on the visit and seminars, students are then encouraged to undertake follow-up activities in their schools and local communities to pass on the key contemporary lessons they have learnt from visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau so that others may also benefit from their experience. With the introduction of Government funding, announced in November 2005 we have been able to increase the number of post-16 student participants from 400 per year to almost 3,000 per year. In February 2008, the Government announced the extension of funding for the Lessons from Auschwitz Project. We will now receive 1.5 million every year until 2011 towards facilitating these projects for post 16 students in England and we are working closely with the Department for Children, Schools and Families who are administering this funding. We are currently working with governmental bodies in the devolved regions to ensure that all UK students, including those in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are also able to participate in these projects.

 

5. The Outreach Programme is a central part of our work and allows students and teachers the opportunity to hear Survivor testimony firsthand. The programme is free of charge and continues to expand, enabling a growing number of young people to hear and talk to Survivors. It also allows them to take part in focused workshops designed by our trained educators. Hearing a Holocaust Survivor speak has a powerful effect on students, for no video, no book, or picture can adequately substitute for a Holocaust Survivor recounting his or her experiences, answering questions and making history come alive. The Inner City Project (ICP), an extension of the Outreach Programme has been devised specifically for use in urban areas which have experienced racial tension. The workshops that form part of the Project are arranged over one week and encourage students to consider their own identity and personal responsibility. The ICP is delivered through history but has a distinct Citizenship focus as it encourages students to consider the dangers of racism and discrimination by focusing on the lessons of the Holocaust. Students are also encouraged to consider their role in their local communities and their personal responsibility as young active citizens who can make a difference. The Project includes all students hearing a Holocaust survivor's testimony.

 

6. Our reach goes beyond schools and universities. Our work with police officers has contributed to their diversity training, our Holocaust Survivor speakers and educators have delivered workshops to prison inmates and we work closely with Members of Parliament in their constituencies to challenge racial tensions by working with them to deliver our educational programmes in schools and the wider local community. Having played a crucial role in the establishment, delivery and development of the UK's national Holocaust Memorial Day, the Holocaust Educational Trust continues to play an important role in the delivery of this day and holds two permanent places on the board of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. We maintain regular contact and dialogue with various Government departments and education bodies including: the Department for Children, Schools and Families; Home Office (dealing with Holocaust Memorial Day, race relations and community relations); Foreign and Commonwealth Office (we are members of the UK delegation attending the International Task Force for Holocaust Research, Remembrance and Education); Department for Communities and Local Government and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. We also have close links with other educational bodies, including the Historical Association, Citizenship Foundation and the Association for Citizenship Teaching.

 

 

On the principle and content of the National Curriculum and its fitness for purpose

Arguments for having a National Curriculum

7. Prior to the introduction of the National Curriculum in the late 1980s, teachers were free to deliver their curriculum of choice without nationally defined aims and objectives. Since its introduction the National Curriculum has gone through periods of refinement and redevelopment. The inclusion of the Holocaust as a mandatory part of the National Curriculum in the History Programme of Study (1991) has ensured that all Key Stage 3 students in England spend some time during their compulsory education studying the narrative history of the Holocaust. It is vital that all students in England are able to learn about seminal episodes in History such as the Holocaust and the National Curriculum provides the framework within which this can occur. The challenge is ensuring that History teachers have the time and skills to deliver effective Holocaust related lessons to their students in a thought provoking and sensitive way.

 

8. Our view at the HET is that it is vital for the Holocaust to remain a mandatory part of the National Curriculum for History Key Stage 3 students. History is a key subject, which should continue to be taught as discrete subject across Key Stage 3. The study of History ensures young people learn about the past for its own sake as well as contributing to their understanding of the present. It develops critical enquiry skills that enable students to evaluate and reflect on the world in which they live - these skills once developed are transferable to other subject areas. Furthermore, a study of the Holocaust also provides young people with an insight into the complex nature of humanity - individual choices, actions and responsibilities. By making sense of the past and studying where unchallenged discrimination can lead to, students are often encouraged to contribute positively to a future society free from discrimination and hatred.

9. The teaching of History has a direct impact on other mandatory subject areas, notably Citizenship and Religious Studies. By learning about events in the past students can explore what political and social factors may lead to genocide and the role played by Governments around the world in these situations. The core learning about the Holocaust must take place in History, however other issues to be drawn from a study of the subject such as the lessons of individual responsibility, the nature of humanity, political processes and moral questions can be developed and discussed both in Religious Studies and Citizenship classrooms. Some aspects of HET's programmes focus on this question and emphasise the importance of collective responsibility against the dangers of being a bystander. The concept of collective responsibility is defined within a local, national and international context.

10. In the UK, as in a number of other countries in Europe, we have started to see the rise and popularity of far right groups. Such political groups often use the rhetoric of Holocaust denial to fuel their antisemitic ideas. By ensuring that all students learn about the events of the Holocaust in their History lessons we can ensure that young people have the historical knowledge and access to evidence to challenge the incorrect points raised by Holocaust deniers. Such historical knowledge also provides students with the knowledge of what can happen when prejudice and racism become acceptable.

 

 

Suggestions to improve and enhance the National Curriculum

11. While we are firm in our conviction that there should be a National Curriculum, we are of the view that there is room for improvement in its current form and the new Curriculum reforms to be introduced from September 2008 will result in positive changes. We recognise that the core lessons on the historical narrative of the Holocaust should be delivered through History lessons, however we are also aware that the most creative Holocaust education is often delivered through other subject areas. We have found that subjects where teachers have greater fluidity in their approach and do not follow the rigorous content driven National Curriculum Programmes of Study often have more flexibility in their approach. For instance through Religious Studies (not part of the National Curriculum, but with an agreed framework), English where teachers are able to develop certain themes within literature and Citizenship where the study of historical events can be used prior to examining contemporary citizenship issues.

 

12. The new, reformed Curriculum to be phased in from September 2008 encourages greater flexibility and links between subject areas. By making connections between subjects, events and activities, teachers will be able to design programmes of study that are most suited to their students' needs. The HET has already seen schools operate successfully with greater co-operation between different subjects when delivering its Inner City Project. Targeted at schools in areas where there have been reports of rising racial tension, our Inner City Project has been delivered to students across a number of subject areas including History, English, Citizenship, Art, Religious Studies and Music. The Project highlights the key modern day citizenship lessons to be drawn from the Holocaust and students who participated in the Project have produced work that clearly emphasises the merits of community cohesion and co-operation. For example, at Brampton Manor School in Newham students used the medium of art to produce individual tiles which illustrated the need for people from different backgrounds to live in harmony. The tiles were exhibited in the school's central courtyard for all members of the school community to view and reflect upon. As part of the Project students also hear the testimony of a Holocaust Survivor which ensures that the subject of the Holocaust has a clear historical context as well as the more modern day Citizenship aspects also being explored.

 

13. It is of course, essential from the perspective of Holocaust education and from UK education in general that the Holocaust does continue to be a mandatory part of all students' education. However equally important is the quality of teaching and the curriculum time given to teaching this catastrophic episode in 20th century History. Both of these matters are currently ad hoc and are dependent on the knowledge and training of teachers as well as the teaching materials that are available and do not always necessarily reach the standards that should be expected of the National Curriculum and Holocaust education. The HET has produced a number of resources for teachers to use including our Lessons of the Holocaust pack first produced in 1998 and revised in 2001, aimed at teachers delivering the Holocaust at Key Stage 3 and above and our interactive DVD ROM Recollections: Eyewitnesses Remember the Holocaust, produced in 2007 which is focused around eyewitness testimonies.

 

14. It should also be noted that although the Holocaust does appear as a mandatory part of the History Programme of Study not all schools deliver Holocaust education. In some schools the HET has approached the History department to ensure the Holocaust was taught prior to our arrival in the school with a HET educator or Holocaust Survivor speaker. There are a number of reasons as to why a school may not be teaching about the Holocaust, for instance; misreading the Programme of Study and not realising that the Holocaust is a mandatory part of the curriculum; a lack of confidence in delivering the subject by teaching staff; running out of teaching time at the end of the academic year.

 

15. Within secondary schools another problem is the lack of information sharing between teachers of different subject specialisms. For instance, it is not unusual to find that as well the Holocaust being taught in History lessons other students in the same school may also be studying it in both Religious Studies and English - and yet the teachers in these three subject areas will not be aware of the content their colleagues are delivering. Such overlap is not uncommon, nor is it a bad thing as each subject can develop schemes of work that complement the core teaching that is going on in History lessons. However, the issue is, that often there is no joined up approach to the creation of schemes of work or materials. To ensure the meaningful development of the curricula it is imperative that curriculum leaders in schools begin to consider the content of other related subject areas.

 

16. Since the Holocaust was introduced onto the National Curriculum there have been developments in the way that effective Holocaust education is delivered. For students to learn the contemporary lessons of the Holocaust the most effective teaching often occurs through the context of Citizenship lessons rather than History where the Holocaust is a mandatory area of study. Effective Citizenship teaching relies heavily on the historical narrative as delivered through History lessons. Once the historical narrative is in place students are then able through the medium of Citizenship to learn about the contemporary lessons of the Holocaust that they can apply to their own lives today. These lessons address issues of racism, xenophobia, the role of the media, individual personal responsibility and the role of government both locally, nationally and internationally. Such teaching ensures that students not only learn about the past but learn from it, and so are encouraged to be reflective and responsible individuals with an awareness of their civic duties.

 

 

How best to balance central prescription and flexibility at school/classroom level

17. In recent years the number of schools choosing to deliver the Key Stage 3 curriculum in two years instead of three has increased. The contraction of a three year programme into two raises serious questions regarding the depth and breadth of subject matter that students study, not to mention whether they have the emotional maturity to engage appropriately with the content. We at the HET have found the contraction of the Key Stage 3 curriculum to be particularly challenging and problematic. Traditionally the Holocaust was taught at the end of Key Stage 3 in Year 9 quite often during the summer term in the final weeks before students move onto Year 10 and at a time when students have the emotional maturity to deal with the complex issues raised by a study of the Holocaust.

18. The contraction of Key Stage 3 into Years 7 and 8 and the teaching of the Holocaust in Year 8 is hugely problematic. When learning about the Holocaust one is faced with issues focusing on man's inhumanity to man in the most extreme way - genocide carried out on an industrial scale across Europe. It is often difficult for adults to comprehend the enormity and breadth of the events of the Holocaust and for younger students it is likely that they will not have the maturity or emotional literacy to process the information they are dealing with.

 

19. As well as the issue of a contracted Key Stage 3 curriculum, teachers are faced with other challenges delivering the Holocaust at Key Stage 3 History. In the Programme of Study teachers are told that they must address the Holocaust, however, for those who have neither studied in depth nor had specific training in the field of Holocaust education this can often seem a daunting task. Often Holocaust education is given only a matter of a few hours on the History curriculum which calls into question what can be achieved and the quality of the teaching and learning that takes place. With this in mind it would seem appropriate for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Standards and Skills website to include meaningful schemes of work for mandatory subject areas that are prepared in consultation with experts in the appropriate field. These schemes of work should be written in such a way so as to give teachers maximum flexibility and should include both a four hour shorter scheme of work as well as a ten hour scheme that can be used in History lessons. This approach is welcomed by teachers as they are able to use the time they have in an effective manner.

 

20. Although teachers do have some flexibility over content within their curriculum area, they may not have the appropriate resources to deliver their subject effectively. Often class sets of text books are bought and used as a standard core text throughout an entire teaching year. This core publication is often supplemented with additional teaching materials often produced by the teacher. In a number of instances the sections in educational text books relating to the Holocaust are not pedagogically sound and often focus on the more gratuitous aspects of this period of history, little thought is given to the sourcing of images (many of which were written or produced by perpetrators), nor is much thought given to the sensitivities of the students who may be using these texts. (see Appendix 1 for Guidelines for Delivering Effective Holocaust Education). A lack of time and money means that teachers are often limited in their knowledge of what is available to source their bank of teaching resources more appropriately. With this in mind we would recommend that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority website includes links of organisations working in the field of Holocaust education who produce appropriate teaching materials.

 

 

Management of the National Curriculum

Extent to which National Strategies are effective in supporting the NC

21. There is no National Strategy for effective Holocaust education delivered through the National Curriculum, however as an organisation working nationally we have found that the most effective method of supporting teachers is to offer teacher training in both Initial Teacher Training institutions and through providing Continuing Professional Development for practising teachers. Our teacher training consists of both pedagogical approaches to Holocaust education as well as practical ideas for classroom activities. Having said this, the challenge, as reflected in research undertaken by the Historical Association, is ensuring that practising teachers are able to be released from their teaching commitments to attend subject related training.

 

22. We have found it increasingly difficult to encourage teachers to attend training sessions that take place during school time. As a result we now offer Continuing Professional Development training as twilight sessions, so having less impact on the school day. Our intensive training held at Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem takes place during the school summer holidays, at a time when schools do not have to cover lessons or pay supply teacher costs. (Even when funding for supply teachers is available schools are often loathe to release teachers for training as students sometimes do not react well to seeing an unfamiliar teacher in front of their class.)

 

 

The impact of the current root and branch review of primary curriculum

23. Over the past five years we have seen a rise in the number of primary schools that are teaching aspect of the Holocaust to their students. Although the Holocaust does not explicitly appear on the primary curriculum many schools find that elements of the subject, particularly the Kinder who came to the UK as child refugees or a study of Anne Frank enhances their students' study of the Second World War. In 2005, the HET supported this by working alongside the National Union of Teachers to produce Paul's Journey a teaching resource aimed specifically at Key Stage 2 students normally in Years 5 and 6. This has to be seen as a positive contribution to Holocaust education; however the issue seems that there is little knowledge of Holocaust education being delivered at this level amongst secondary teachers and therefore when students make the transition from primary to secondary school this knowledge is often not drawn upon by their secondary school teachers. In light of this, the HET welcomes the current independent review of the primary curriculum which is being led by Sir Jim Rose which will consider the transition for students from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 and the information that should be passed from primary to secondary schools.

 

 

Conclusion

24. It is vital that the Holocaust remains part of National Curriculum in History but for the subject to be delivered in a meaningful and sensitive way by teachers within this context it is imperative they receive the appropriate training and adequate classroom resources.

 

The subject of the Holocaust is a key element of any historical study of the 20th century world and must continue to feature in all students' knowledge and understanding of the past. However the Holocaust also raises a number of issues, for it has immense contemporary relevance, raises moral and philosophical questions about the nature of humanity and is often therefore also taught by teachers in subject areas other than History. In light of this, inter-disciplinary approaches to developing schemes of work should be encouraged. This will enhance the overall delivery of the subject and have a greater impact on students. In our experience teachers are keen to teach about the Holocaust but are often unsure who to turn to for advice and/ or assistance. It is in these instances that teachers should be aware of specialist organisations such as the HET and be actively encouraged to approach us to benefit from the advice, resources and further Continuing Professional Development opportunities that the HET can offer.

 

 

Key Recommendations

25.

The HET supports the framework and structure of the National Curriculum as it stands and welcomes the new proposed changes to the Curriculum which will be phased in from September 2008.

The HET believes that it is vital that History remains on the curriculum as a discrete subject with the Holocaust as a mandatory part of the Key Stage 3 Programme of Study.

The HET recommends that schools develop a joined up approach to writing schemes of work, so taking into account similar subject matter being taught across a number of subjects.

The HET recommends that the contraction of Key Stage 3 from 3 to 2 years be prohibited as such contraction limits the depth and breadth of students' learning.

Teachers who deliver lessons on the Holocaust should be able to access training offered by organisations such as the HET to ensure that their teaching of this subject is undertaken in a sensitive and effective manner.

The HET recommends that teachers should have easy access to effective teaching resources when teaching about issues such as the Holocaust.

 

 

Further information

26. The HET hopes that the above information will be of interest to the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee. The HET is willing to respond to any requests for further information or queries about its teaching resources which may assist the Committee's inquiry into the National Curriculum.

 

Appendix

1. The Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research has produced a set of guidelines for delivering effective Holocaust education. All Holocaust educational organisations adhere to a set of teaching guidelines and copies can also be found in HET's resources including Recollections: Eyewitnesses Remember the Holocaust and our Lessons of the Holocaust pack. Below is a summary of the guidelines:

 

Summary

The Holocaust can be successfully taught to students; do not be afraid to approach this subject

Define the term Holocaust

Create a positive learning environment, with an active pedagogy and a student-centred approach

Individualise the history by translating statistics into personal stories

Use witness testimony to make this history more "real" to your students

A cross-curricular approach will enrich your students' understanding of the Holocaust

Contextualise the history

Give broad and balanced coverage to this subject

Be precise in your use of language and urge your students to do the same

Distinguish between the history of the Holocaust and the lessons that might be learned from that history

Avoid simple answers to a complex history

Provide your students with access to primary sources

Students should be alerted to the fact that the perpetrators produced much of the evidence of the Holocaust

Encourage your students to critically analyse different interpretations of the Holocaust

Be responsive to the appropriateness of written and visual content and do not use horrific imagery to engage your students in a study of the Holocaust

Avoid comparing the pain of any one group with that of another

Allow your students to explore a variety of responses of the victims, including the many forms of resistance to the Nazis

Take care not to define the Jewish people solely in terms of the Holocaust

Indicate that the Holocaust was not inevitable

Do not attempt to explain away the perpetrators as "inhuman monsters"

Be careful to distinguish between the perpetrators of the past and present-day societies in Europe and elsewhere

Encourage your students to study local, regional, national and global history and memory

Ask your students to participate in and reflect upon national and local traditions of commemoration and remembrance

Select appropriate learning activities and avoid using simulations that encourage students to identify with perpetrators or victims

Avoid legitimising the denial of the past

Be aware of the potential and also the limitations of all instructional materials, including the Internet

Distinguish between historical and contemporary events and avoid ahistorical comparisons

Be responsive to the concerns of your students

To view these guidelines in greater detail, please visit www.holocausttaskforce.org

 

 

 

March 2008