Diversifying the school history curriculum

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic histories and stories of migration have been largely underrepresented in the UK school curriculum. The University of Manchester is supporting schools to teach diverse histories with new resources.

This work delivers on the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4: ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Key facts

  • Claire’s work has provided resources to support the teaching of diverse histories.
  • More than 80 historians and researchers contributed to the Our Migration Story website.
  • Thousands of school students have benefited from Our Migration Story.

Claire Alexander, Professor of Sociology, partnered with The Runnymede Trust and the University of Cambridge to create Our Migration Story, a collection of accounts of migration to Britain from the Roman period up to the present day.

Creating an award-winning resource

The stories were collated by bringing together historians, researchers and leading members of cultural institutions including the Imperial War Museums, the National Archives and the Migration Museum.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and developed in collaboration with the OCR and AQA exam boards, the team created a new web resource for teachers and students.

The website breaks down migration stories by time period, and includes primary sources such as newspaper clippings and parliamentary reports that explore both the opportunities and the challenges faced by Britain’s migrant communities. Lesson plans and classroom activities are also available based on the stories featured.

Identifying barriers

Professor Alexander’s initial research found that young people, particularly those from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background, were keen to learn more inclusive histories. As part of the History Lessons project, which investigated the challenges for history teachers, a key finding was that teachers needed additional support and new resources for teaching a more inclusive curriculum.

From this the Our Migration Story project was born.

Embedding the change

The Royal Historical Society has described the resource as a “pioneering effort”, which has laid “essential groundwork” for the transformation of history teaching.

It is a fantastic project. It enriches the curriculum, makes research relevant and focuses on influencing future generations.

Community Integration Award judges

The website has been shared widely with schools teaching new GCSE modules on migration. It has been showcased at multiple national teachers’ conferences and has won a number of awards, including: the Community Integration Award Research Champion Award (2017); the Royal Historical Society’s Public History Prize (Online Resource) (2018); and the Guardian’s University Award for Research Impact (2019).

Crucially, the project has demonstrated the need for greater diversity in the curriculum. The Runnymede Trust worked with the Our Migration Story team and the Institute of Historical Research as a key part of their #TeachRaceMigrationEmpire campaign in 2020. 

The resource includes contributions from the Black Cultural Archive, the National Archive, the Imperial War Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Ben Yuri Gallery, the London Transport Museum, and the Migration Museum and Autograph ABP. 

Professor Alexander has connected widely with policymakers to advocate for a more inclusive curriculum. Her work has contributed to the Labour Party’s commitment to teaching Black History, and she gave evidence to a Petitions/Women and Equalities Committee on the curriculum in autumn 2020.

Podcast: Diversifying the school history curriculum

Infographic of classroom

In this podcast, The University of Manchester’s Dr Nic Gowland interviews some of our leading experts about how their research is helping to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals for global health, equality and sustainability.

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