Parallel Histories stems from my own past, both my childhood and more recently my experience as a high school history teacher over nearly twenty years. Over this time as a teacher a few things became very clear to me. First, students love learning controversial history which challenges them to engage with more than one perspective, second, they really enjoy discussing and debating these different historical perspectives and third, they don’t get enough opportunities to learn this way.
I set up Parallel Histories in 2017 to make it easier for teachers to teach controversial history in a lively and engaging manner, emphasising speaking and listening as much as writing. We have focused on doing three things; making educational resources which are innovative, challenging, and fun, providing teachers with training on how to teach controversial history, and running inter-school online debating.
Our programmes are open to everybody, but we ensure that our schools as a cohort have significantly higher levels of students on Free School Meals or with English as an Additional Language than the national average.
Looking further back, I spent formative years in Northern Ireland as the Troubles began. I have a very clear memory of my father taking me aged nine to see the aftermath of the previous night’s rioting on Bombay Street in Belfast. The sight of a family carrying their furniture out of their terraced house with its smashed windows and loading their possessions onto a lorry to make the move out of a mixed area, made a profound impression on me. I simply couldn’t understand how people growing up in the same neighbourhood had turned against each other. Later when I understood how history plays an important role in fostering identity politics, I realised that it is essential school students study these contested histories of conflict as part of their preparation to be active citizens in flourishing pluralistic democracies.
It took me quite a while to realise that Parallel Histories was what I wanted to do. Before becoming a teacher aged 40, I ran the US arm of a management consulting business and before that I worked in sales and marketing for big businesses with global brands. All interesting jobs but the one I’ve got now is the most important!
I became interested in learning about why people think the way they do about the past while as a history student.
Parallel Histories’ emphasis on teaching history through contested narratives seemed a natural extension of this early interest. Its focus on understanding the narratives of others is a useful corrective to a world already noisy with opinions.
The dual narrative approach we take can be applied to many historical conflicts, but for me the outstanding example of history being deployed to support each side in a long running conflict is the contested history of Israel and Palestine. I was hooked early during a school visit to Israel and Palestine, and I’ve returned many times to the Middle East to learn more. There are a number of articles I have written about the footprint European powers left behind in Jerusalem here. My work for Parallel Histories allows me to continue learning about the history and politics of the Middle East, through creating our videos, and in addition I get the chance to observe in workshops how students respond and learn from our new way of studying conflict.
I’m delighted to have been awarded a Churchill Fellowship and a Fellowship of the Royal Society of the Arts to keep developing the work of Parallel Histories.
I’m delighted to join the team. I have seen the benefits of the Parallel Histories approach in schools in many settings and aim to use this experience to increase opportunities for teachers and their students.
As a history teacher in the state sector, I experienced the power of Parallel Histories as an innovation for teachers wishing to tackle controversial historical topics in the classroom. I also saw the transformative effect Parallel Histories has on student engagement.
By learning how history is constructed, students gain a deeper understanding of how rich and real the past is and the role it can play in today’s conflicts. Students learn to question assumptions, to self-reflect and to understand why some communities, sometimes including their own, have struggled and continue to struggle to co-exist.In 32 years of teaching history, 22 as a Head of Department, Parallel Histories was the standout innovation in history teaching.
I studied history for my undergraduate degree, but I then I moved away from it for some time. I completed a Master’s degree in South-Eastern European Studies and then went on to work for international organisations in the former Yugoslavia, including the EU and the UN Development Program. I also wrote articles and worked in the field of risk analysis, which involved investigating conflicts in countries all around the world.
I found myself pulled back towards history as I realised that lying at the core of many political struggles are opposing historical narratives. I was able to explore this through a study of the national museums of Kosovo and Serbia, a topic on which I published several opinion pieces.
Very often both sides in a conflict will claim that their cause is right based on a particular view of history, while being unaware of the other side’s historical perspective. I believe that Parallel Histories’ unique approach can help to address this by exposing people to at least two different interpretations of the same events, thereby encouraging them to think more critically about their own preconceptions about history.
I’m a native English speaker, with decent Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin and basic Welsh.
My journey with Parallel Histories started in 2020 as a history teacher working in East London. I fell in love with the charity through delivering the Israel/Palestine scheme of work, and through the fantastic debate opportunities they presented for students. Three years later, and I have joined the team to become part of what I think is an amazing and meaningful cause.
I studied History and Politics at the University of Sheffield and went on to train as a teacher in London. I simply love history. I am a particular fan of the medieval period, but really can get swept up in any history at all. I feel very passionately about contested, controversial and neglected histories, and the dual narrative approach at the centre of Parallel Histories is what really pulled me into the heart of this work. I love writing, especially educational resources, and spend most of my spare time either reading or working on something myself.
I think it is easy to underestimate the power learning about conflicts has in preventing them in the future, and the huge importance in promoting non-judgemental approaches to deconstructing historical narratives. In my experience young people are perhaps the most willing to take on new viewpoints and arguments and show great ability to understand why certain histories are contested. That is why I know the work here at Parallel Histories is having real impact, and why I am so excited to be part of that process.
As Chair of Parallel Histories, I’m looking forward to helping the team drive growth. I’ve seen how effective the Parallel Histories program is in improving students’ critical thinking, speaking, and empathy for other viewpoints, all of which are very significant in improving their life chances.
I’m bringing experience in the education and charity sector and the love of history to the role of chair. Having studied Classics and Arabic at Oxford University, I worked in education in the UK and India before founding Just Like Us, a non-profit that now helps over 5,000 schools tackle LGBT+ bullying in UK secondary schools.
I studied a Masters at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education as a Fulbright Scholar before joining the Behavioral Insights Team where I led major streams of the COVID-19 response in the UK and US. I’m currently Head of the Middle East and North Africa where I lead projects to improve education, wellbeing and sustainability in the region.
I am the Head of School Development and Managing at the PTI (Prince’s Teaching Institute). I was an English teacher, AST and Deputy Headteacher for over 20 years working closely with the PTI as course designer for NTSDs and the English Residential Course. In 2018 I was seconded by the PTI as Head of Education Strategy and Development, establishing the Primary Hub model, developing leadership CPD and launching the Subject Leadership Certificate, including an international stream; leading to joining the PTI full time as Head of School Development and Membership in 2023. I am a Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching and I passionately believe that teachers should remain curious about their chosen subjects.