AMs assured that Welsh themes will be at the heart of the new curriculum

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It seems not a week goes by without AMs demanding that some topic of learning is either made mandatory or included on the face of the new curriculum. This time it was Welsh history.

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Calls on the Welsh Government to ensure that the history of Wales is taught to every school pupil in Wales without exception.

No certainty Welsh history will be taught at all

Sian Gwenllian AM (Plaid, Arfon) said that while the curriculum often circulates around skills rather than content, the new curriculum – which places history under a “humanities” theme of learning – doesn’t acknowledge Welsh history at all.

While the goal in the new curriculum to give teachers more freedom on how to deliver lessons was laudable, there’s a danger of inconsistency. What was needed was proper teaching materials and resources:

Sian concluded that people are proud of their roots and want to find out more about who we are as a nation; there was a duty to respond to that.

Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) said the history of Wales and the ancient Britons were “intertwined and inseparable” and should be taught to every pupil. While Mark Isherwood stressed the importance of a common British history, Alun Davies AM (Lab, Blaenau Gwent) said it’s impossible doing so without reference to our industrial heritage. He hoped the concept of “cynefin” (“habitat/belonging”) within the curriculum will be properly part across all areas of learning.

Delyth Jewell AM (Plaid, South Wales East) stressed the importance of learning histories (both good and bad) and historical literary works that we don’t know much about – citing the 1919 Cardiff race riots and Y Gododdin as examples. History didn’t have to be taught chronologically or over-emphasise the “acts of kings and queens whilst neglecting the experiences of ordinary people”.

“I’ve been speaking to people younger than me today….two of them didn’t recall anything apart from learning about the Welsh knot in primary school….some remembered being taught about the Rebecca Riots, some about Chartists – it depended on where they were from in Wales – but, actually, the majority of them couldn’t remember anything they’d learnt in school about Welsh history. And that’s why we’re having this debate….you know, ‘cofiwch’, well, if we’re not taught anything, what on earth are we going to ‘cofio’?”
– Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West)

“I have never met a teacher who failed to make full use of Welsh history”

David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) said the 2012 Cwricwlwm Cymreig put Welsh history front and centre, but echoing what Sian Gwenllian said, it was important the right teaching materials were available and history organisations ought to play a key role there.

One AM who focused on history from a scholastic perspective was former history teacher, Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley). The idea that all pupils should be taught Welsh history without exception was potentially ill-thought-through – namely in relation to pupils with complex learning needs.

“That is, of course, not to say that the teaching of Welsh history should only be the preserve of a certain cohort, and I would strongly argue this has never been the case. Welsh history has always been firmly embedded in the national curriculum….and in all my years of teaching, I have never met a teacher who failed to make full use of Welsh history topics and case studies in all of their lessons. These were very often the ones that were most popular amongst students, too.”
– Vikki Howells AM

Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) stressed the need to teach history to break down stereotypes and challenge perceived wisdom. Jayne Bryant AM (Lab, Newport West) said Welsh events could be used to study world events; the Roman settlement at Caerleon, Welsh privateers (in the development of the British Empire) and the Chartist’s impact on democracy.

Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd) believed history shouldn’t be about careful analysis, local knowledge and local facts. He cited the example of Dr William Price: “the bloke who cremated his son” – but the importance there was the break with church law on resurrection, which is hardly ever discussed.

Defining a singular history of Wales

The Education Minister supported the motion and offered assurances on how Welshness/Welsh history will be included within the curriculum:

“‘Cynefin’ is not just a place in a physical or a geographical sense. It is the historic, cultural and social place….we will expect learners to know and to understand their communities, their nation and the world. So, for example, learners will learn about Robert Recorde in the maths (area of learning), the linguistic and the literary history of Wales in both languages will be covered….and in science & technology learners will explore how Wales’s geography, its resources, its workforce….shape the scientific activity and industry of the country.”
– Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor)

The motion was unanimously approved.

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