I think we’re really touching on a slightly different subject, namely what should be taught in schools and why. I’m an academic by training, and fairly fundamentally believe in knowledge for its own sake, and instilling a love of learning. The useful skills aren’t really subject specific. It’s more (in the humanities) about learning to research, to balance competing viewpoints, to summarise complex information, to assess the validity of different accounts, to write fluently and to present your own views and arguments intelligently. Those things are absolutely transferrable. The actual specifics of why Edward II was deposed won’t help anyone, but hopefully some people find it interesting and can think intelligently about the parallels between that situation and today.
And if we’re talking about catch up teaching, we’re really talking about catching up syllabus content, which does contain things like the Plantagenets. Moreover, none of the GCSE specifications will prescribe a certain order of teaching (though the route through some is much more obvious than others), so the exam boards can’t just say ‘don’t teach X, just do Y’, as some people will have taught X already, for example.
To really complicate things, all GCSEs have Assessment Objectives (AOs), which are tied into key skills. For example, 2 different history syllabuses might teach 2 different periods, but are still ultimately looking to assess students’ ability to interpret sources and estimate their reliability. In this year’s TAGs, schools could reduce content but still had to assess the AOs in much the same way, which actually backwards engineers a lot of the content back in, if that makes sense. For instance, one AO in the humanities is often comparison. If only one of the units has a comparative focus, it’s very hard to assess comparison without teaching that unit, even if the board has said it’s no longer compulsory.
It would be possible to re-design syllabuses to address the AOs in a more concise way, but in reality it takes 2-3 years minimum for a syllabus to go from conception to teaching, via Ofqual approval. That’s too long to be useful in the present situation. Even if by some miracle everyone got their heads together right now, and Ofqual just waved it through, it would be very, very hard to get a useful scheme of work for September, with a full syllabus, suggested resources, sample assessment materials, etc.
Finally, as it’s education, everyone’s an expert (my pet peeve) and the actual teachers are never consulted on any changes. So just because we think something is sensible (or not) seems to make no difference whatsoever.