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The view of Brexit among the young - and how will it be taught in the future?

PUBLISHED: 10:30 03 February 2020

It may be challenging for history teachers to explain Brexit to children in the future  Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images

It may be challenging for history teachers to explain Brexit to children in the future Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images

PA Archive/PA Images

How will you explain Brexit to your children, and grand-children in years to come? I guess this might depend upon whether you are a 'leaver' or 'remainer' and possibly also on the way it all works out in the next few years.

It would probably be fair to say that the country was divided and that people made up their minds based on their values and experience of life.

And we really are divided - two opposing groups that are finding it extremely difficult to see the other's perspective. While Brexiteers are celebrating in London's Parliament Square, candlelit vigils are being held in Scotland and the Prime Minister is talking about an 'astonishing moment of hope', at the same time as recognising that 'many feel a sense of anxiety and loss'.

So, how will we handle this in schools and in History lessons in the future? Well, we will be expected to teach the facts! We will also teach children that people have different views and we will encourage them to listen to, and evaluate, views on all sides of the debate.

Our primary curriculum requires schools to teach, 'the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life'. This is defined in the Ofsted framework as, 'the essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens, introducing them to the best that has been thought and said and helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.'

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We are also required to develop and deepen pupils' understanding of the fundamental British values of democracy, individual liberty, the rule of law and mutual respect and tolerance. As we heard from an Ofsted inspector last week, children need to not only know what these values mean, they also must be able to tell you that they are 'British' values.

In my experience our young people often have an innate sense of justice, fairness, respect and tolerance. They see themselves as global citizens in a world that is joined through social media and interactive, visual, educational resources that bring the world into their classrooms and homes. They don't operate within physical boundaries any more - look at the way they have come together to shame older generations about our actions to prevent climate change and global warming.

We need to recognise that the polls showed the vast majority of young people wanted to remain in Europe. As these young people age perhaps they will find a way of remaining 'British', separate from the EU but connected in new and innovative ways? Or perhaps they will over-turn the decision and rejoin in the future?

It is life experience, aside from values and education, that shapes our decision making. The lessons they learn from life, opportunities to make a living, provide for a family, look after their health, will all shape the political views that they have.

You only have to listen to the incredibly moving accounts of two ex-World War Two veterans, broadcast from the white cliffs of Dover on the day we left, to appreciate the lessons that their generation had to learn the hard way. Brigadier Stephen Goodall remarked: "At my age I shan't be living much longer but I hope that, for the sake of my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren that Britain will move back to being much closer to Europe" because, "I like to be called a European… it has meant so much to me". And Sid, who talked about his sadness at leaving and described himself as Welsh, British, European and a human being.

You could predict that the next generation of History teachers will find it difficult to teach this period of history in a balanced way, especially if they feel that their generation did not have a voice. Only time will tell whether they will be teaching about the greatest mistake of the early twenty-first century or not.

- Clare Flintoff is chief executive at ASSET Education, a local Multi-Academy Trust.

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