Surrey’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine

The history boys and girls

From the Roman Empire to the Cold War, studying history helps pupils make sense of the present. Michael Connolly, Headmaster of Cranmore School, examines the importance of history to a child’s education.
Henry Ford is often quoted for his remark that: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it’s black.” This, of course, was in reference to his seminal engineering achievement, the Model T, which had an enormous impact on the car industry. However, he is perhaps less well-known for another blunt comment which was not entirely tongue-in-cheek: “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present…” One can understand the sentiment behind this view, especially from someone who was so committed to the advance of engineering and technology in the early part of the twentieth century. Even today, some educationalists are pushing a narrow vision of what subjects are important and, therefore, what children ought to learn in school.
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History has many incredible stories to capture a child’s imagination, that can enthuse, inform and take them on magical journeys.
One of the latest acronyms to gain traction is STEAM. If you have not heard of it, don’t worry, because another version will be along shortly. It actually stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. At first glance, this appears to be a curious list with art thrown in to give an illusion of balance. We know that politicians are forever stressing the importance of science and engineering for the economy. Moreover, we are all familiar with public figures such as James Dyson who is most certainly one of the most innovative inventors Britain has produced in recent decades. Nevertheless, the value from the study of humanities, and history in particular, should never be overlooked. One only has to witness the current political upheaval across Europe, including the UK, to ponder the famous aphorism from Santayana that: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In my view, it is vital that history forms an integral part of every child’s education. In this way, children learn to make sense of the world and interpret what is happening now in the context of what has gone before. One cannot hope to engage the interest of young children by poring over dusty textbooks. Rather, good schools have inspiring teachers who make excellent use of audio-visual resources to make history come alive. At Cranmore School, the latest gadget in the teachers’ toolkit is VR headsets. Children are absolutely enthralled by the chance to have a virtual experience of walking inside a pyramid or the Forum in ancient Rome.

This is, of course, not to suggest that this equipment can fully replace first-hand experiences though. The use of a field trip or visit to a place of interest, as well as museums, will always have a part to play. The pupils at Cranmore have derived great benefits from their visits to local historical sites such as Fishbourne Palace and Battle Abbey. In addition, we also host many workshops throughout the year which are led by professional actors in full costume with props. The opportunity to be a Viking for a day is something that children never forget. If we inspire children in their formative years, then there is every chance that they will study history in secondary school and beyond.
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Cranmore School
Epsom Road, West Horsley KT24 6AT
Telephone: 01483 280340


Images courtesy of Cranmore School