Proposal for the Decolonisation of the Scottish History Curriculum

Improving representation within Scotland's secondary curriculum

There is currently a cultural deficit in the equitable representation of British colonial history
within the Scottish national curriculum. As a result, the Buchanan Institute’s Education Policy Team has called for a decolonial lens to be applied to the compulsory History curriculum in Scottish secondary education.

Published

2021

Education

Authors

Caleb Warren-Smith

Martha Loach

William Hardie

Christopher Milligan

Executive Summary

There is currently a cultural deficit in the equitable representation of British colonial history

within the Scottish national curriculum. According to Impact of Omission’s survey, 86.2% of

respondents learnt about the Tudors, whilst 7.6% of those surveyed said they learned about the

British colonisation of Africa.1 There have been localised efforts to rectify this, including the

SNP North Lanarkshire Councillor Danish Ashraf’s motion which gained support at national

party level. Moreover, the independent school, Fettes College, has made efforts to decolonise its

curriculum.


Although promising, these developments are insufficient as they rely on the efforts of individuals

and specific schools, as opposed to operating on a national basis. Indeed, the response of the UK

Government to a petition entitled “Teach Britain's colonial past as part of the UK's compulsory

curriculum”, which gathered 266,455 signatures, stated “topics within statutory themes are

chosen by schools and teachers.”


Thus, The Buchanan Institute’s Education Policy Team calls for a decolonial lens to be applied

to the compulsory History curriculum in Scottish secondary education. Our research will focus

on the first three years of secondary education following the national history curriculum and will

assess measures taken in both the public and private sectors. Whilst this study focuses almost

exclusively on the adaptation of school curriculums in the Edinburgh area, as the seat of Scottish

power, it is pertinent to frame these measures within a national context. History must appreciate

the contributions and sacrifices that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups have

made, and continue to make, to Britain. We call for the equitable refocusing of British history

from the perspective of imperialism to the lens of a global interlocutor.


The policies recommended in this report encompass curricula and pastoral reform.


Curricula: we propose that the decolonisation of Scottish history curricula is made

compulsory across KS3 (S1-S3) in both public and private sectors of education, and that

it adequately considers and critiques Britain’s imperial history and elevates marginalised

voices throughout history.


Pastoral: we advocate for comprehensive teacher training that promotes responsible,

respectful and thorough teaching. We also stress the utilisation of diverse historical

sources and materials that elevate the views of BAME people.