Online history lessons littered with schoolboy errors, warns Royal Society

HISTORIANS have criticised Scotland's school curriculum body after inaccuracies were found in its teaching materials.

Christopher Whatley, professor of Scottish history at Dundee University, led an expert group at the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) which found "a considerable number of inaccuracies".

The report by the RSE also criticised the materials from Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) for "excessive concentration" on the Second World War. The materials are Higher history resources, available nationwide to pupils through the school intranet, Glow.

Despite praise from Star Wars director George Lucas, who now heads an education institute in the United States, the site has courted controversy.

It emerged private schools have to pay thousands of pounds to access key curriculum materials and teachers say it is not available in all local authorities.

Historian and writer Dr Fiona Watson of the RSE said teachers had highlighted the errors which ranged from small slips to factual errors such as calling Balliol's inauguration a coronation when Scotland did not yet have the right from the Pope to crown its own king.

She said: "The textbook and the classroom materials are highly problematic in terms of accuracy - factual and interpretational.

"I wouldn't regard accuracy as something that is negotiable."

She praised LTS for trying to provide helpful materials in a useful format, however she warned it had to be accurate.

She added: "All we would ask is that there is someone in place for each subject area to make sure that the rigour and accuracy of what is put in is acceptable for Curriculum for Excellence."

The site treating a poem written 170 years after William Wallace's death had been wrong, historians argued. Dr Watson described it as a "15th-century work of propaganda and fiction" and said it was not an accurate source of historical fact.

An LTS spokeswoman said: "LTS supports materials for national qualifications and are developed in association with a number of experts and academics. As part of the continuous quality assurance of LTS materials, we are reviewing this history resource with the assistance of a range of experts."

In November leading education academics said internet search engine Google offered better advice to teachers than LTS. That damning verdict came after the Scottish Government admitted it was "abolishing" LTS rather than simply merging it with the school inspectorate HMIe.

Sue Ellis, a reader in literacy and language at Strathclyde University, said LTS had nothing "accurate or helpful" on its website.

And Professor Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at Edinburgh University, described the absence of expert advice as "disturbing".He said teachers would be better advised to use Google if they wanted to find correct information. He added: "The LTS website does not even offer links to the excellent systematic reviews of research in literacy teachings that are available from the Institute of Education in London."

Labour set up LTS in 2000 but current Education Secretary Michael Russell said last year it would be "replaced by a new agency, integrated with the inspectorate and tasked with improving the support schools, teachers and pupils receive."

Here's what they got wrong

THE materials fail to explain why Robert the Bruce, descended from the second daughter of the Earl of Huntingdon, thought he had a better claim to the throne than Balliol, who was descended from the elder daughter of the earl, in the context of succession laws of the time which favoured male primogeniture.

THEY refer to Balliol's "coronation" when it was actually an "inauguration". This is an important error because at the time in 1292, the Scots were desperate to win the right to crown their own monarch from the Pope.

WILLIAM Wallace is stated as having led men against the Sheriff of Lanark to avenge the death of Marion Braidfute in 1297. However, she only exists in fictional form - in the poem Blind Harry's Wallace, written 170 years after his death and described by historians as "propaganda".

THE materials suggest that historians are split over the identity of Wallace's father. However, proof in the form of a personal seal leaves no room for doubt that his father was Alan Wallace.

A SOURCE exercise on the letter - which this seal was used on - to the Hanseatic city of Lubeck asks about William Wallace's role as Guardian when he did not take on the role for another year.

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