Case Study

Why the humanities matter to me
17 May 2019

Why the Humanities matter to me

Dr. Linda Whitworth

Middlesex University

The Humanities subjects, Geography , History, Religious Education and Citizenship are part of the primary curriculum, but currently we
know they are being squeezed for time and resources (Barnes and Scoffham, 2017). In some schools they are delivered discretely and in others as part of a cross-curricular or topic approach, but either way many schools report that they struggle to provide high-quality Humanities provision in a crowded timetable.

Yet these four subjects are central to children’s understanding of the world and their place in it. Each subject carries individual approaches to knowledge and skills which catch hold of children’s imagination and stimulate curiosity, enquiry and wonder. Learning about people and places, in the past and in the present, contributes to children’s understanding of who they are, their worldviews, cultures and beliefs. These lessons are where they build a sense of identity, learn about human rights and responsibilities and develop an understanding of community which enables them to participate in school and in adult life.

For me the Humanities are essential if children are to understand themselves and the world and they need adequate time and resources to engage with them imaginatively. Not only should children understand what humanity is and does, they also need knowledge and skills to grapple with some of the most challenging issues we face in the 21st century. The recent news of school children’s demonstrations about climate change illustrate the passion that they can feel about their own futures and their care for the world. News of species’ loss and the threats to sustainability concern them now and they need well-informed and creative teaching to assist them in imagining ways to
respond to these challenges.

If we are to teach a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’, the Humanities must sit at the centre of what primary schools offer. If we are
to provide a curriculum that is ambitious and designed to give all learners … the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life (Ofsted, 2019, 9 ) then schools need a new vision for the Humanities in the primary curriculum, which will educate for the needs of the 21st century .

I ask you to join our campaign to promote the Humanities in primary education and give our children opportunities to experience the deep
understandings these subjects can bring, when given time and resources.

Please consider how the humanities can be creatively promoted in your schools to improve the balance of the primary curriculum.


Barnes, J. and Scoffham, S. (2017) ‘The humanities in English primary schools: struggling to survive’. Education 3-13, 45 (3)

Ofsted (2019) The Education Inspection Framework,
accessed 15/05/19

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