OPINION: Learning from history as we celebrate the Platinum Jubilee

Drones make shapes above the Platinum Party at the Palace in front of Buckingham Palace, London, on

Drones make shapes above the Platinum Party at the Palace in front of Buckingham Palace, London, on day three of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations - Credit: PA

Memories have been made over the Platinum Jubilee celebrations that will last a lifetime.  

Whether it’s the story of Paddington’s tea party with the Queen, or Queen’s opening tracks; the street parties and film shows or our own personal family gatherings; the celebrations have provided a shared moment that will become part of our history.  

For the celebrators, and the dissenters, this is no doubt a point in history that they will remember. 

A drone display during the Platinum Party at the Palace staged in front of Buckingham Palace, London

A drone display during the Platinum Party at the Palace staged in front of Buckingham Palace, London, on day three of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II. - Credit: PA

In primary schools we have made an effort to make sure that children remember being part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations as this is part of their story now too.  

We have acknowledged the role that our Queen has played over the last 70 years and we have learnt about service, loyalty and humility. Keeping it personal brings it to life - the changes that the Queen has seen over her lifetime provide unlimited content for classroom learning.  

History is a fascinating subject. Many of us love researching the past, finding out more than we previously knew, especially about our own family’s history.  

It is so much more than learning facts, dates and names - in fact, it is the investigation and questioning that brings the subject to life for young people. How do we know that? Do we trust the source of that information? What are the other perspectives? Whilst we study, we keep in mind the purpose - to learn lessons from the past and to be better people because of what we know can and does happen.    

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Looking back can reinforce our sense of identity - who we are and where we’ve come from. We see participants on the TV series, ‘Who do you think you are’ experience a roller coaster of emotions as they learn about the actions and lives of their ancestors.  

They tend to seek out the good in an attempt to explain where they get their particular resilience, or ability to perform, etc. A sense of identity, or an explanation, helps us to navigate the future with more success.

It is natural to look for the positives, to look back with nostalgia but the past is littered with many stories that we cannot be proud of.

As we learn about the terror, the wars, famines, plagues, inhuman acts of our ancestors we realise what can happen and what humans are capable of doing.  We learn that we should remember with humility and we should be very careful not to glorify. 

Whether we go back 70 or 700 years, our lands have become home to people from numerous cultures, races, and faiths and together we make up what we might call ‘modern Britain’.  

History must be the study of everyone’s story because the wider the stories the more we have the potential to learn. Keeping stories personal helps us to relate to others individually and develops tolerance and understanding.  

There is no meaning in looking back and reflecting on the past if it is not beneficial for the future.  Every country needs a vision - for a future that brings prosperity, peace and happiness for its citizens.

For many it was joyous to come together and to celebrate but not everybody wanted to, or could, take part.  We now need to build an inclusive vision for the future that involves all sections of society leaving no groups out.  

The schools in our trust share a vision that we publish on websites and use to guide all of our decision making.  It is, ‘To equip and empower the next generation of children to create a more compassionate, equitable and sustainable world, where they personally and collectively thrive.’ 

Now is a point in time when we could learn from history, both recent and past, and take a long term view in order to form a long term plan.  We could use our knowledge of the past to form a vision for the future sustainability of the planet; to bring nations together and to learn from everyone’s perspective - that has to be the legacy of any celebration of the past, otherwise there is no point in it all. 

- Clare Flintoff is CEO of ASSET Education which runs a number of primary schools across Suffolk.