The Holocaust is today part of every child’s formal education in England. The principal way in which children will learn about the Holocaust is through the National Curriculum for History.
The National Curriculum
In England, by law children are to be taught about the Holocaust as part of the Key Stage 3 History curriculum; in fact, the Holocaust is the only historical event whose study is compulsory on the National Curriculum. This usually occurs in Year 9 (age 13-14). While academy schools do not have to follow this syllabus, it is assumed that they will deliver Holocaust education as part of a “balanced and broadly based” curriculum. Similarly, although independent schools are not obliged to deliver the National Curriculum, many in fact do.
Although there is no formal requirement for Holocaust education in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, participation in the Trust’s Outreach programme and Lessons from Auschwitz project as well as programmes sponsored by other organisations suggests that the Holocaust is widely taught nonetheless.
Most students learn about the Holocaust in History but also in a variety of other subjects. These most often include:
- Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education
- Religious Studies
History becomes an optional subject across the UK after the age of 14. For those who choose to take History at GCSE and/or A-level in England, Northern Ireland or Wales, the Holocaust can be found in a number of exam specifications. It can also be studied for some Religious Studies GCSEs and A Levels in England and Wales. The Holocaust is not referred to in the Scottish equivalents to GCSE (National Qualifications) or A-Level (Higher/Advanced Higher), although the Nazi period up to 1939 is addressed in History.
Within higher education there is a rich a vibrant research culture around Holocaust studies. There are a number of highly respected scholars working in UK universities, and students can further their learning about the Holocaust through various courses. For postgraduates there are degrees directly focused on the Holocaust, while a growing number of research students are studying the subject in centres at Royal Holloway, University of London, the University of Southampton and the University of Leicester.
Effective teaching about the Holocaust requires great skill. The Holocaust Educational Trust offers a wide range of free initial teacher training and Continuing Professional Development programmes to assist teachers across a range of subjects and age groups. The Trust has also developed the innovative Exploring the Holocaust teaching pack specifically for use in schools in the UK.
Beyond the classroom
Outside of formal lessons, tens of thousands of students each year hear the eyewitness testimony of Holocaust survivors through the Trust's Outreach programme.
There are also a number of museums and memorial centres which offer opportunities for students to learn more about the Holocaust, whether through school or family visits. They include:
- Imperial War Museum, London
- Holocaust Centre, Nottinghamshire
- Jewish Museum, London
- Manchester Jewish Museum
- The Wiener Library Institute for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide, London
Holocaust Memorial Day
The most public form of Holocaust education is the annual commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). The day is marked on 27th January each year – the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – and was first held in 2001. Britain was one of the first countries in the world to hold such an event.