New Year message
31 December 2019

The New Year is an appropriate time to review the progress of Humanities 20:20 and to look ahead at plans for 2020. The steering group of Humanities 20:20 is a small group of educators who are passionate about the role which the humanities can and should play in the education of the whole child and the primary curriculum, as set out in the Humanities 20:20 manifesto.

While young children need to become confident readers, writers and mathematicians, the aims of primary education must be much more ambitious. We believe that the humanities provide an excellent context for children to apply and embed the skills associated with literacy and numeracy; and that all children benefit from such a curriculum, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. We hope to encourage schools and teacher educators to give greater prominence to how young children can learn to be, and become, thoughtful, confident and compassionate citizens. This is especially important in troubled times when the challenges facing the human race are so formidable.

The name Humanities 20:20 tries to capture the idea of a vision whereby the current imbalance in the primary curriculum is corrected. There have been encouraging signs, notably the new Ofsted Inspection Framework’s emphasis on schools providing a balanced and broadly-based primary curriculum, especially in Key Stage 2.

We have contacted many other organizations and individuals with similar aims and organized a valuable roundtable discussion. This has convinced us that there is a strong groundswell of opinion supporting our vision, but that many schools and teachers are unsure how to introduce such a curriculum or are worried about doing so. Yet we have also encountered many schools who are doing so in ways which excite and engage children - and their teachers.

We certainly cannot achieve our vision on our own. But we hope to encourage others to join us on our - and their - journey. We are currently planning two events in 2020 called ‘Lets Celebrate the Humanities’ – one for primary schools to showcase how they are incorporating the humanities within their curriculum, one for teacher educators to enable those becoming primary teachers to understand the importance of the humanities. Details should be available soon,

We will continue to work with Ofsted to argue the case for the humanities throughout primary education and for better support for primary schools, especially humanities leaders. We are planning to write an open letter to politicians and the press and hope that many other educators will support this. We intend once the political climate is more settled to try and gain the support of politicians in Parliament so that teachers and headteachers are enabled and encouraged to provide a much broader and more engaging primary curriculum than many of them feel able to do at present.

While we would like to imagine that 2020 will be the year when the humanities regain their rightful place within the primary curriculum, it is perhaps more realistic to see 2020 as the start of a decade when there is a wider recognition that the humanities are what enables children to think about and cope with the complex often controversial questions and challenges we all face. We urge you to join us in helping to make this vision a reality and tell us about your plans and your achievements.

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