The Lessons from Auschwitz project gives the opportunity for two sixth formers in every school in the country to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau to learn the lessons of the holocaust, but the course is more than just a one-day visit to the former concentration camp, as

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students take part in seminars and hear first hand from a holocaust survivor. They not only deepen their knowledge of the holocaust, but learn what can happen when prejudice and racism gain a foothold in society. So far, more than 8,000 students and more than 2,000 teachers have taken part in the project in England. Crucially, when those students return to school, they are expected to pass on what they have learned to their peers at school and to their communities.

Effective teacher training is also fundamental to teaching about the holocaust. The Government recognise this, which is why as part of our £1.8 million for holocaust education funding we have allocated £250,000 for the Institute of Education’s holocaust education development programme. This programme helps to ensure that teachers are equipped with the training and resources they need to deliver effective holocaust education. The Lidice massacre is included in the teaching materials for this programme.

To date, some 550 teachers have benefited from this professional development programme, with two full days of workshops and online activities. A further 2,000 teachers have benefited from other forms of professional development on the holocaust, while a pilot group of 36 teachers has completed the country’s first taught master’s module in holocaust education. The level of teaching expertise in England’s schools on the holocaust is now higher than ever before—a welcome fact.

As the hon. Gentleman may know, the second world war and the holocaust are compulsory parts of the history curriculum at key stage 3. Schools can teach pupils about the Lidice massacre as part of their history curriculum, but they are free to design their own curriculums that will best meet the needs of their pupils. I hope we can all agree about the fundamental need for a greater emphasis on knowledge and content in the current national school curriculum, which was our reason for launching a review of the curriculum.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): I thank the Minister for giving me an opportunity not only to express my admiration for the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello) for raising this subject, but to mention that I was at school myself when I read a remarkable book called “Seven Men at Daybreak” by Alan Burgess. It told the story of the seven Czech and Slovak parachutists who assassinated Heydrich, and, at the end, what happened to Lidice afterwards. I do not know what the copyright position is now, given that the book was written so long ago, but I think that, in the context of the educational project that both the hon. Gentleman and the Minister have in mind, a reprint of that book would probably have as profound an effect on the schoolchildren of the 21st century as it had on me some 40 or 50 years ago.

Mr Gibb: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing his own personal history, and that book, to the attention of the House. I shall look into what he has said.

The new national curriculum will be based on a body of essential knowledge that children should be expected to acquire in key subjects during their school careers. It will embody, for all children, their cultural and scientific inheritance, will enhance their understanding of the world around them, and will expose them to the best that has been thought and written.

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Our commitment to the importance of history is clear from its inclusion in the English baccalaureate. The national curriculum review will consider the extent to which history should be compulsory, and at which key stages. We are considering the recommendations of the expert panel, and will also listen to the views of others before making final decisions. If we conclude that history should remain a national curriculum subject, we will expect the programme of study to continue to include teaching about the second world war and the holocaust. Every young person needs to understand it, along with the lessons that it teaches and how it shaped the modern world.

It is of concern that some subjects, such as history, have been less popular choices at GCSE in recent years. For example, in 1995 more than 223,000 students, representing nearly 40% of pupils in schools, were taking history GCSE. By 2010 the figure had dropped by over 25,000, and only 31% of pupils—just under a third—are now taking the subject. The Government want to encourage more children to take up history beyond the age of 14. We introduced the English baccalaureate—which recognises the work of pupils who achieve a GCSE grade between A* and C GCSE in history or geography, as well as maths, English, science and a language—to encourage a more widespread take-up of a core of subjects that provide a sound basis for academic progress. The baccalaureate has already had a significant impact on the take-up of history. According to an independent survey of nearly 700 schools, 39% of pupils sitting GCSEs in 2013 will be taking history. That represents a

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rise of eight percentage points, and a return to the 1995 level. If more children study history for longer, that can only be a good thing, as it will give them a good grasp of the narrative of history.

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello) on securing the debate. Does the Minister agree that it is all-important for pupils to hear the personal testimony of holocaust survivors, and that everything possible should be done to preserve that testimony even when survivors are no longer with us in person?

Mr Gibb: Of course I agree with the hon. Lady. That is why the visits to Auschwitz are so important. As part of those visits, pupils will meet a survivor. As she points out, however, as time passes fewer survivors will remain alive, so we need to do all that we can to record their experience. That is important, because it dispels and puts to rest the views of those who seek to say that these things did not occur, and provides a helpful personal history to record the events of the holocaust.

I hope that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South, and indeed all Members, agree that the Government’s continued commitment to holocaust education will ensure that future generations learn the important lessons of the holocaust and that no one in the country, or indeed the world, forgets the evil events of that awful period of world history.

Question put and agreed to.

9.49 pm

House adjourned.