Before designing the Centre’s CPD programme, it was imperative to find out more about what was already happening in classrooms across the country. Our landmark study explored when, where, how and why the Holocaust was taught in state-maintained secondary schools in England. Research began in 2008 and was published in 2009. The researchers employed a mixed methods approach with an online survey completed by 2,108 teachers across England and follow-up interviews with 68 teachers in 24 schools.
A number of important findings were identified, including:
- While the Holocaust was taught across year groups and subject disciplines, it received most attention in Year 9 History (students aged 13 to14). Teaching time varied considerably, with an average of six hours spent on the subject.
- Although some teachers demonstrated detailed specialist knowledge and clear understanding, others had significant gaps in subject knowledge. Many seemed to draw on popular rather than academic discourse.
- Teachers indicated their teaching tended to be dominated by a focus on Auschwitz and the persecution of the 1930s. Scant attention was given, for instance, to pre-war Jewish life, or victims’ perspectives. This reflected and perpetuated perpetrator-orientated narratives found in many textbooks.
- 85% of teachers believed the Holocaust should be compulsory in the secondary history curriculum, but many struggled to articulate its distinct historical significance.
- Many teachers prioritised civic-based (e.g. focused on broad understandings of racism, prejudice, discrimination) over subject-specific teaching aims (e.g. focused on understanding the Holocaust as an historical phenomenon).
- There was uncertainty over how to define the Holocaust, though most indicated they understood the Holocaust to include various victim groups rather than focus on the particular fate of Jewish people.
- Very few teachers received specialist professional development. 82.5% considered themselves self-taught and 77.5% wanted CPD.
Read the full report of the research here: Teaching About the Holocaust in English Secondary Schools
Continuity and Change over the last 10 years?
Shifting policies and priorities in the English education system as well as the evolution of the nature, scope, and application of Holocaust education in schools necessitated a new study to explore teachers’ experiences and practices when teaching about the Holocaust. In November 2018, the Centre launched, Continuity and Change: 10 years of teaching about the Holocaust in English Secondary Schools. This research builds on the research conducted in 2009 to explore the current landscape of Holocaust education. Analysis is ongoing and is investigating how things have changed in the last decade and the ongoing issues and challenges that teachers encounter when teaching about this complex subject. More information about the Centre’s latest research with teachers can be found here