Research Impact


Transforming Holocaust education and related policy across England and beyond

An extensive research programme from IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, has revolutionised how the Holocaust is taught to ensure the atrocities of World War II are recognised and remembered.

Personal belongings at Auschwitz

12 April 2022

The genocide of European Jews during World War II has been a mandatory subject in the Key Stage 3 National Curriculum for History since 1991, but research shows that many students fail to grasp some of its key aspects and impacts. Challenging the misconceptions and inaccuracies that persist in common understanding of the Holocaust is of central importance to society.  

10,000 students and their response 

In the largest study of its kind, Professor Stuart Foster and colleagues explored student knowledge about the Holocaust including students’ understanding, attitudes and learning experiences.

The study found that two-thirds of students did not understand the term ‘antisemitism’ and that students were typically ill-informed about the British government’s response to the Holocaust, leaving them unable to critically evaluate Britain’s relationship to the genocide.

Most students also uncritically accepted myths and misconceptions widely circulated in contemporary culture, and accepted stereotypes about Jewish people. Significant numbers presented Hitler-centric explanations for the Holocaust, failing to recognise it as a societal crime.  
The research linked these findings to teaching practice, where accurate historical representations of the genocide are sidelined in favour of broader lessons on where racism and prejudice can lead.

The team showed that when students are able to draw from meaningful historical knowledge, their understanding of the Holocaust is deeper and the connections made with contemporary issues are better informed and more profound. 

Redesigning Holocaust education for future generations  

The findings have led to a step-change in how this history is taught in schools, nationally and internationally. A teacher development programme established at the IOE has benefitted more than 18,000 secondary teachers in England, transforming classroom practice and enriching the knowledge and understanding of millions of students.

A ground-breaking school textbook developed from the research was distributed to 1,000 secondary schools across England in 2020, reaching over a million students, with teacher guidance materials available online.

The research findings underpin a pre-service teacher-training programme, commissioned by UNESCO and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights), that’s now used in more than 60 countries worldwide.  
At policy level, research evidence from the centre showed that effective Holocaust education was failing to reach young people and informed David Cameron’s Holocaust Commission Report ‘Britain’s Promise to Remember’, one outcome of which was the commencement of the building of the National Memorial and Learning Centre situated next to the Houses of Parliament.

Government officials, NGOs and teachers cited the impact of this research multiple times in an Education Select Committee Inquiry into Holocaust Education in 2015, and a Runnymede Trust campaign to change the history curriculum at schools has emulated the centre’s approach, highlighting its research with the aim to gather support for the creation of a national programme of teacher education on empire, colonialism and migration.   

Research synopsis

Transforming Holocaust education and related policy across England and beyond 

An extensive programme of research and engagement at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) has transformed how the Holocaust is taught in schools. Through comprehensive teacher training materials, student learning and policy engagement, the team at the Centre for Holocaust Education is ensuring the atrocities of World War II are recognized and remembered.