Why Croydon’s children should study GCSE Migration

By - Wednesday 25th November, 2015

Sean Creighton asks what our children can learn from studying migration

A major breakthrough in teaching history at GCSE is on offer from September 2016. In comes the new OCR ‘Migration into Britain’ GCSE option, which looks at significant periods of migration into Britain since Anglo-Saxon times.

It is hoped that all Croydon secondary schools will choose to teach this option, to help our young people understand why Britain, and Croydon within it, are so diverse.

We are all the product of past migration. I am descended on my mother’s side from French Huguenot refugees; on my father’s, from returned British migrants from Canada. It is helpful to all teenagers that they be able to explore this and understand their own family past as well as their local community’s past and that of the country as a whole.

Key to the course will be understanding why people migrated to Britain

Croydon’s diversity is said to be one of its strengths. It is also one of its weaknesses. While most groups from different parts of the world tolerate each other, they often live within their own bubbles without really interacting with any others. And this includes Brits.

Misunderstandings can lead to problems between groups. Hostility to eastern Europeans springs to mind, or to anyone who looks different because of the colour of their skin or their religious clothing. Studying migration can have a long-term positive effect.

Key requirements will be for students to demonstrate that they understand the reasons people migrate(d) to Britain; the experience of migrants in Britain; and in turn migrant groups’ varied impacts on Britain. The students will also need to be able to explain the roles played by factors such as Britain’s connections with the wider world, beliefs, attitudes and values, governments, economic forces and communications.

This project is the outcome of over fifteen years’ lobbying the government, exam boards and the qualification bodies by BASA

The education committee activists of the Black and Asian Studies Association (BASA) have played a crucial role in shaping the OCR GCSE option. The option has been designed together by OCR and BASA as an official partnership and is badged by BASA. The textbooks supporting the GCSE course are being jointly written by the secondary school teacher Dan Lyndon, former teacher, independent historian and author Marika Sherwood, university lecturer and author Hakim Adi and former secondary school teacher Martin Spafford. This project is the outcome of over fifteen years’ lobbying the government, exam boards and the qualification bodies by BASA – of which I was committee member and secretary for a while.

The course will be structured around the periods 1000-1500 A.D., 1500-1900 A.D. and 1900-2010 A.D. There are also linked modules entitled ‘The Impact of Empire 1688-1730′, and ‘Urban Environments: Patterns of Migration’. The latter will focus on a port region each year from 2018-2022.

Schools will be encouraged to look at local migration history

Also on offer is a shorter, one-term inquiry, ‘Migrants to Britain 1250-present’ as part of OCR’s ‘History B: Schools History Project’ course, the textbook for which is being written by Lyndon and Spafford.

There will also be the opportunity to include aspects of the history of migrations into Croydon itself. OCR will encourage schools to explore local migration history and students can use this knowledge when answering questions in the final exam. While we have the framework for African and West Indian migration, and some from the Indian subcontinent, it would be helpful if local historians could investigate what materials they might have to illustrate migrations.

I will be pleased to co-ordinate with others to explore how we might work collaboratively to put together local material for schools to use. I can be contacted

Sean Creighton

Sean Creighton

A former employee of and freelance project worker with community and voluntary organisations, Sean is active with Croydon Assembly and with the Planning and Transport Committee of the Love Norbury group of residents associations. He is Chair of the Norbury Community Land Trust. He is a historian of Croydon and South-West London, British black society, social action and the labour movement. He coordinates the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History networks. He runs blog sites covering Croydon, Norbury and history events, issues and news. He runs a small scale publishing imprint called History & Social Action Publications. He gives talks on a range of history topics and leads history walks.

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  • Anne Giles

    Wonderful idea. The only problem will be the racist parents who try to influence their kids.