More Diverse, More Welsh: Committee’s verdict on the future of teaching Welsh history

Culture Committee
Teaching of Welsh history, culture & heritage (pdf)
Published: 14th November 2019

The inquiry was selected by a poll of nearly 2,500 people, of whom 44% selected this subject for the Committee to focus on.

1. Pupils are not being taught Welsh history as intended

Several reviews have taken place into the content and manner of Welsh history in the curriculum. In 2013, an independent group made several recommendations including providing clear guidance within the curriculum on the relationship between local, Welsh and global history and also that Welsh history should be included within every GCSE History specification offered in Wales.

Following reforms to GCSE and AS/A Level History in 2015 and 2017 respectively, specific units had to integrate Welsh history where appropriate, but this isn’t being taught as intended. Aberystwyth University’s Dr Steven Thompson said “tokenistic” Welsh elements were added to broader British history modules, with the focus still primarily being on “traditional” topics including the Nazis/World War 2, civil rights movements and the Tudor dynasty/Henry VIII.

The Committee was told that Welsh history was still story-based and didn’t have the same academic rigour applied to it as other topics.

There were concerns from some witnesses at a lack of teaching resources for Welsh history – but Dr Elin Jones – who led the 2013 review – said local history societies often had a lot to offer, suggesting the resources are there but are not being properly utilised.

2. The new curriculum needs clear guidance on which events in local, Welsh, British and international history should be covered

The new curriculum is less focused on content and more focused on general purposes. The draft humanities area of learning says that it should support “learners to develop an understanding of Wales and their understanding of what it means to be Welsh”.

Dr Elin Jones didn’t have any confidence the new curriculum will be based on clear guidance and good history teaching practice, while the Owain Glyndwr Society said pupils in different parts of Wales will have in-depth knowledge of one part of Welsh history focused on their local areas (i.e. coal mining, slate, Chartists, specific principalities), but not others.

Teaching unions expressed concerns that history will be diluted as a specific academic discipline and will be absorbed into a general “humanities-based curriculum”. UCAC told the Committee that some teacher training colleges were abandoning history and geography courses and merging them into “humanities”. This was said to potentially have a huge impact on GCSE and post-16 teaching.

3. History teaching needs to be more inclusive

Uzo Iwobi from Race Council Cymru said black history should be a mandatory part of the history curriculum. There’s some tension between flexibility and mandating core topics, but there was a general sense that many teachers may choose to ignore black history if it was deemed to be relevant to their local area.

Some teachers may not be properly equipped to teach history from non-white perspectives and some students were said to be critical of teachers’ lack of knowledge – said to be at least partly down to low numbers of BME teachers. Witnesses stressed the importance of knowing about each other’s communities:

“I want the kids who live in the docks (Butetown) to know about North Wales….as much as I want the people in Harlech to know about the docks and the coal industry….because it’s about Wales. This is our country and we need to know the total of how we got here, and, more importantly, how we are going to move forward. And we can only move forward together.”
– Gaynor Legall

The Committee recommended that the new curriculum has diversity as a core element and how diversity is currently included in history teaching should be reviewed by Estyn. They also recommended that Wales’ racial and religious diversity is included in teacher training programmes and properly reflected in learning materials.

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