Position of migration on the curriculum

The National Curriculum must be taught in all local authority-maintained schools in England. Academies and free schools are not under this obligation, although they are required to teach a broad and balanced curriculum, and in many cases follow the National Curriculum in practice.

History is a compulsory subject in Key Stages 1-3 of the Curriculum (ages 5-14). The curriculum covers a range of British and world history, with options available for teaching, meaning that schools are not required to teach a uniform curriculum.

For example, the curriculum requires teaching about “the development of Church, state and society in Medieval Britain 1066-1509”, but this requirement could be fulfilled through teaching a range of subjects, such as the Norman Conquest, English campaigns to conquer Wales and Scotland up to 1314, or the Wars of the Roses.

Migration is mentioned in the curriculum at Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14), where pupils should study “an aspect or theme in British history that consolidates and extends pupils’ chronological knowledge from before 1066.” An optional example provided is:

a study of an aspect of social history, such as the impact through time of the migration of people to, from and within the British Isles

GCSE level study

The following approved GCSE History qualifications contain segments to do with migration: 

 Press articles

 Parliamentary Material

Schools: Migration, HC, PQ 220324, 18 February 2019

Asked by: Moran, Layla | Party: Liberal Democrats

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what guidance his Department offers to (a) teachers and (b) schools on how they present the issue of migration.

Answering member: Nick Gibb | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department for Education

The Department does not offer guidance to teachers or schools on how they present the issue of migration. However, sections 406 and 407 of the Education Act 1996 require maintained schools to prevent political indoctrination and secure the balanced treatment of political issues. This duty is reflected in the funding agreements for academies and free schools. In particular, Section 407 of the Education Act 1996 places a duty on schools to ensure that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils, they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.

There have been recent valuable additions to the resources available to support teaching of this issue in History. For example, the Windrush Foundation has produced key stage 2 lesson plans for primary schools, and the Runnymede Trust’s ‘Our Migration Story’ website provides extensive resources, including lesson plans.

The Geographical Association and the Royal Geographical Society both provide resources on the issue to support teaching of the Geography curriculum.

Migration: Education, HC, PQ 217645, 12 February 2019

Asked by: Moran, Layla | Party: Liberal Democrats

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether his Department provides guidance to the writers of educational textbooks on how to present the issue of migration in their books.

Answering member: Nick Gibb | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department for Education

The Government does not provide writers of educational textbooks with guidance on the presentation of migration.

Textbook writers can find information on the content of programmes of study for each national curriculum subject, GCSE subject content, and A Level subject content at the following links:



History is taught in Scottish schools as part of the ‘social studies’ component of the Curriculum for Excellence. At S4 level (ages 14-16), pupils may fulfil the requirements of the curriculum through study of issues that might include migration:

  • Investigating a meeting of cultures in the past and analysing the impact on the societies involved. A ‘meeting of cultures’ may result from, for example, conflict, conquest, exploration or discovery, the expansion of power or migration.
  • Children and young people will build on their previous knowledge of different population structures through exploring aspects such as demographics, migration and the effects of population growth.


In the National Curriculum for Wales, history is compulsory at key stages 2 and 3 (ages 7-14). Migration is not directly mentioned in the history curriculum, although it should be noted that the curriculum is not prescriptive and so allows for a wide range of subjects to be taught.

The Welsh Curriculum is currently being reformed, with a new curriculum planned to be in place in 2022, which will include history as part of a broader ‘humanities’ area.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, history is a requirement under the National Curriculum from key stages 1-3 (ages 6-14).

In key stages 1-2 (ages 6-11), children learn to examine the decisions made by historical characters, with a given example being a family’s decision to emigrate during the Irish famine. At key stage 3 (ages 11-14), pupils should explore how history has affected their personal identity, culture and lifestyle, with immigration and emigration highlighted as aspects to consider.

Relevant Organisations

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