A week or so ago I had the great pleasure meeting author of Made in Britain Adrian Sykes as part of my research into supporting social mobility through education.
His book celebrates the men and women who contributed to Britain’s glittering past and it’s received rave reviews. Adrian confided that he’d been taken aback by all the praise and was delighted to find out David Cameron read it to his children. Yet behind the success of Made In Britain there is a profoundly depressing reality.
Recent polls show that nine out of ten adults can name all David Beckham’s children, yet one in three thinks Churchill was a fictional character and one in four believes Hadrian’s Wall was built to keep out the French. Last year, fewer than one in three 16-year-olds in Britain’s comprehensives were entered for GCSE history, compared with 55 per cent of grammar school pupils. And in 159 state schools, almost incredibly, not one pupil was entered for the GCSE history exam. Knowsley was highlighted in the report having just 11 out of a potential 2,000 pupils taking A-level history last year and only four passed.
History is more than the study of half- forgotten facts. It is an ongoing debate offering youngsters the chance to develop their powers of deduction as well as learning about British geniuses such as Charles Darwin and Michael Faraday who shaped the world as we know it inspiring modern-day pioneers such as physicist Stephen Hawking and internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. My report for the Department of Education will be completed by the end of July.