Before a national curriculum solidified and imprisoned us in a maze that grew progressively more dense with targets like mantraps, history had space to delight curious and open minds, and sometimes the ‘rush’ was unexpected, magical and hard to explain.
In the days before a curriculum dictated that secondary school history would start from 1066, we wrote love letters in Sumerian cuneiform, explored Ley lines and took field trips to Stonehenge, Avebury and Silbury Hill. It might sound very ‘New Age’ but St Josephs taught ‘traditional’ history, and balancing chronology and structure with fun.
We also taught family. I still remember how worried I was when my Head of Year’s eldest daughter, Clare Drewett, entered the school. Fortunately for me she was part of a gifted cohort and I still remember the exuberance of those lessons. It was summed up in one particular moment on the top of Silbury Hill.
It was a cloudless, blue sky day with Neolithic England spread out below us. And the magic of the moment hit one particular student. She hurtled towards me and I twirled her around and around beneath that blue sky before dropping her next to her picnic. Couldn’t do that today. Never thought of it then. It was just good to be alive in a world humming with insects and the dead all around us.
Avebury from above
West Kennett Long Barrow, a neolithic tomb.