Since leaving Hertford I have taught History in state comprehensive schools. I greatly enjoyed the breadth, diversity, rigour and freedom of the 1980s Oxford History course. Those values and skills continue to underpin my teaching from years 7 to 13.
Growing up in the 1970s London-Irish community made me aware that competing historical narratives shape identity and influence behaviour. Starting my first job, I was asked whether I was teaching the “Irish or English version” of History. Hertford equipped me to answer that question. We learned that historical judgements require rigorous analysis of all available evidence. Without this discipline, interpretations are tendentious. Students of all abilities and backgrounds should understand that versions, however apparently authoritative or ‘official’, are provisional and open to challenge.
Hertford’s equal access commitment was my main reason for applying here, and also for welcoming this ‘photo-opportunity’. In telling my students about it, I will emphasise that their independent learning is part of a wider endeavour with social and moral value. At all levels of state education we must judge success against targets. Key targets for my students are: exercise your democratic rights, think critically, ask questions and beware of distorted and dishonest versions of the past.