Diversifying the Secondary History Curriculum in Sheffield

In January ’23, Secondary History teachers were invited to join Create Sheffield, Sheffield Museums Trust and Parkwood E-Act Academy, to explore ways we might collaboratively build a resource that would help to include forgotten, marginalised and ignored voices in the secondary History curriculum in Sheffield.

At the event, teachers shared their own experiences of being tasked with engaging young people in a History curriculum, which often doesn't match their student's heritage, lived experience or interests. 

In this story, you will read a little bit about what took place at this event. You will also read how we plan to support teachers to build a History resource which helps their school engage with its young people. This resource should provide students with ways to explore their own culture and history, by offering ways to engage a more diverse range of stories. 

This work is part-funded by IVE, Museums Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University and part of the wider programme ‘Culture on the Doorstep - Sheffield Curriculum Adventures’. Read more about this programme

Head of History at Parkwood E-Act Academy, Conor shared the reasons why he and his school are involved in Culture on the Doorstep, Sheffield Curriculum Adventures, and what he hopes to get out of it:

“Parkwood is situated in the north of Sheffield in Shirecliffe. We have a high proportion of students who have arrived in Sheffield within the last 5 years, many have English as an additional language and they all have lots of exciting diverse cultural backgrounds, experiences and history to bring to the school. 

Our History curriculum currently doesn't match up to the experiences of the students we teach. We want to make history more modern, identifiable and accessible. 

Working with Sophie from Create Sheffield and Laura from Sheffield Museums on this project gives our school the opportunity to bring local history to life, diversify it and make it more representative of the ethnic history of the students we teach. 

It has been fantastic to work with Sophie and Laura. They have begun to broaden our knowledge and this project is helping us improve community links and feel part of the local Shirecliffe community. 

This project and resource have the potential to allow teachers across the city to lean on each other, developing a body of knowledge that we can all share and draw from. 

It’s going to be a really exciting resource for the students and we are glad to be a part of it!”

Parkwood E-Act Academy Teacher, Charlotte, reflected on the possibilities of this work and the potential impact on her students:

“I was enthralled by the potential for students to be creative and think critically through this work. I want my students to find the nuances in different people’s experiences. 

I don’t want history to be presented as simply black and white, but rather encourage students to reflect on the different experiences and perspectives of the people involved. I want my students to learn something meaningful.”

During the online event Laura, Head of Learning and Participation at the Sheffield Museums Trust, asked attendees to look at and consider Keith Piper’s artwork the ‘Seven Rages of Man’ 

Keith Piper is a black-British artist and curator. He was a founding member of the groundbreaking BLK Art Group, an association of black British art students, based in the West Midlands region of the UK. 

Keith Piper’s installation ‘Outside Narration’, is a curated exhibition displayed at the Graves Gallery including his own ‘Seven Rages of Man’.  Originally created in 1984, the artist brought the ‘Seven Rages of Man’ back to life (after being presumed lost for years), in an installation which includes objects from the Sheffield Museums’ own collections. 

The exhibition and the Seven Rages are organised around the following themes;

  • Before colonisation
  • Colonisation
  • Independence
  • Migration to the UK
  • UK protest/reception
  • Worldwide context of migration 
  • Future 

Below is an introduction of the work from artist Keith Pipers’ own words;

“There are multiple narrations for any moment in history. Some have contributed directly to the official account of the past, and these are often the narrations that speak most loudly for the collections of museums where the official version of history is archived and articulated. 

However, there are countless other stories that challenge the dominant narrative. These are often from positions out of sight and in accents that official biographers have found different, difficult or haven't even tried to decipher. 

These outsider narrations have their own truths, memories, nostalgia and mythologies.  The Seven Rages of Man is an outsider narration of the historical ages that sit outside the dominant view of history.

‘Outside Narration’ encourages us to ask questions about history, to consider who and what is remembered and taught and to ask what might be missing from this story. "

Teachers' reflections on the installation and artwork 

“I’m looking forward to sharing this exhibition with my students. I can imagine using mask-making to help my students express parts of their own culture and creatively explore the experiences felt by different people throughout history through facial expressions.”

Conor, Parkwood E-ACT Academy

“The Historical Association has been asking how we can teach the narrative of Black British History without making it tokenized, and how we integrate it meaningfully into our curriculum. Many schools are teaching aspects of the seven themed areas/rages across the whole school, not just in year 7 and would find this artwork a useful reference.”

Sarah, King Edward VII School

Resource gathering

Create Sheffield is looking to build a digital resource, pulling together materials that help teachers explore alternative historical narratives with their students. This is a collaborative resource, helping teachers to support each other and share knowledge.

Next steps

We will be running another online twilight session in mid-April, followed by a session at the Graves Gallery in mid-May.  Please get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Thank you to the teachers from Parkwood E-ACT Academy, Fir Vale, High Storrs, King Edward VII and Newfield school, along with members of the Sheffield Museums, Sheffield General Cemetery and the University of Sheffield teacher training students for attending. 

If you are interested in getting involved or supporting this work, get in touch with Creative Producer Sophie Hunter sophie@createsheffield.co.uk