A progressive way of teaching history | Letter

Jeremy Waxman responds to David Olusoga saying that history should not be treated as a ‘soft play area’

Your article (British history should not be treated as a ‘soft play area’, says David Olusoga, 19 June) recalls a time when, despite the experience of David Olusoga, it was possible not to fall into that trap. In the 1980s, I worked in the history department at Abbeydale Grange school in Sheffield, where the teaching of black history began with the Arawaks and Caribs, using textbooks published in the Caribbean, so that West Indian history was not viewed wholly in the context of slavers and enslaved; it went on to cover not only the triangular trade itself, but also the subsequent struggles for civil rights. We rounded off with a segment based on The Crown, that paean to black pride released by Gary Byrd in 1983, which reached No 6 in the UK singles chart.

We could do this because the curriculum was in our hands. Much of that stopped with the introduction of the national curriculum, with departments becoming more cautious in the face of a new inspection regime. Schools will develop the relationship to history that David Olusoga seeks when teachers are once again entrusted with autonomy.
Jeremy Waxman

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