Minister: History shouldn’t be confined to one lesson or one subject

(Title Image: via Senedd TV)

Yesterday afternoon, AMs debated the Culture Committee’s report on teaching Welsh history within the curriculum – summarised here.

Concerns history will be diluted in the new curriculum

Committee Chair, Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West), noted concerns from witnesses that Welsh history will be diluted – and students may not develop an academic rigour of historical analysis – when taught within a broader humanities area of learning under reforms to the national curriculum.

One of the Committee’s key recommendations was rejected by the Welsh Government too:

“I’m disappointed that the Government has rejected our recommendation to include a common body of knowledge for all pupils studying history in the new curriculum. The evidence we heard was that learning about key events will allow all pupils to have an understanding of how their country has been shaped by local and national events within the wider context.”
– Bethan Sayed AM

She added there was a real risk that under the flexibility offered within the new curriculum, students in different schools with different teaching methods may not end up with a shared sense of history that includes topics such as black history.

Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd) listed several key local and national historical events and personalities (some of which he mentioned in his short debate – here) – Dr William Price, the Taff Vale industrial dispute, and Llantrisant bowmen at the Battle of Crécy during the Hundred Years War – which may or may not be covered.

Shadow Culture Minister, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central), stated that if we don’t think about our history and culture then what makes us think anyone else will?

Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) outlined the importance of perceived injustices to the history of Wales, including the suppression of the Welsh language, while John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) believed teaching history should start locally and move nationally and globally instead of the other way around – later echoed by Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), who supported teaching students about local heroes.

Shadow Education Minister, Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West) made the case for history remaining a distinct academic discipline and subject. Too many teachers in schools were already teaching outside their speciality – something AMs have been told isn’t the best experience for pupils – but the new curriculum is going to create a humanities area of learning which will encourage this arrangement.

Sian Gwenllian AM (Plaid, Arfon) stressed the need to build a body of dedicated resources on Welsh history to use in the classroom – and there have been moved towards that via Hwb.

History “not a matter of one lesson or one subject”

Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), told the chamber that one of the new curriculum’s key themes is cynefin (English: “habitat”)– developing an understanding of identity and place.

“Analysing, understanding and questioning the histories and stories of Wales, our communities and our neighbours should not and cannot be limited to a history lesson….Therefore, it’s interesting to note that….I couldn’t find a single reference to literature, sport, film or drama. And that’s a real shame, as it gives the impression that history – or more accurately, histories – is only a matter for one lesson and one subject.”
– Education Minister, Kirsty Williams

She had sympathy with the recommendation that a specific body of key events and topics be studied by all learners, but it was rejected to ensure teachers have the flexibility to tailor lessons as they see fit, including the inclusion of local history.

She promised that new teaching resources referring to key events and topics in Welsh history will be made available – though a lack of resources wasn’t said by the Learned Society of Wales to be a particular issue (presumably meaning there’s plenty of it, but it’s not easily accessible or suitable for whatever reason).

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