“Children learnt more Welsh history in a Welsh language lesson than from their history teacher” - National Assembly hears frustrations of teachers and pupils
The National Assembly for Wales’ Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee has heard frustrations from teachers, history societies, pupils and academics that children do not know the story of their community or country.
The Committee were told that often children commented that they learnt more Welsh history in a Welsh language lesson than from their history teacher.
With a new curriculum on the horizon, the Committee heard concerns that there is a danger that the new, much less prescriptive, curriculum is being developed without a good understanding of what is being taught in schools today.
Dr Elin Jones told the Committee “we don't know really what is the basis on which we will be building for this new curriculum. We don't know what teachers are making of the current curriculum.’
A review needed
Many who gave evidence to the Committee made clear that the picture is patchy across Wales and the extent to which Welsh history is taught varies from school to school. There is also a concern that there is not a clear understanding of the content and standard of current history teaching in our schools.
The Committee is calling on the Welsh Government to request that Estyn carry out a review of the teaching of Welsh history in schools. Only once there is robust evidence and an understanding of current teaching can assessments be made to inform the new Curriculum for Wales 2022.
Diversity at its core
Organisations including Race Council Cymru, the Heritage & Cultural Exchange and Ethnic Minorities & Youth Support Team Wales (EYST) told the Committee that the curriculum must reflect the historical contributions made by minority ethnic people to Wales. They argued that Black History, especially the contributions made by BAME people to Welsh society, should be specified as part of the new curriculum and should not be optional.
The Committee believes that reflecting the wider story of Wales will potentially reduce racism and promote understanding. As the history of Wales is diverse and multicultural then that needs to be embedded in the Curriculum for Wales 2022.
The Committee is calling on the Welsh Government to ensure that the Curriculum for Wales 2022 has diversity as a core element and that history is representative of all of Wales’ communities and their international connections.
Lack of learning resources
For Welsh history to be taught effectively in schools, teachers need training and resources. The Committee believes that the Curriculum for Wales 2022 should be properly supported with teaching materials which reflect the ambition to teach the history of Wales from a local and national perspective and is recommending that the Welsh Government ensure that such resources are widely available.
From the experts who gave evidence, the Committee heard examples of Welsh history that should be taught, including the laws of Hywel Dda and the schools of Griffith Jones. Some believed that the new curriculum should have a list of ‘must-haves’, i.e. topics that all the pupils in the country need to be taught so that so that they have a rounded knowledge of the events that have formed modern-day Wales.
A public poll
During summer 2018, the Committee ran a public poll, inviting members of the public to select from a list of potential topics for the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee to look at. Nearly 2,500 people participated in the poll. 44% voted for “Teaching of Welsh history, culture and heritage in schools”.
Since then the Committee has been looking at how Welsh history is currently taught and what the Welsh Government’s new Curriculum for Wales 2022 means for the teaching of this subject in future.
Aled James, Assistant Head Teacher at Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr in Cardiff, who teaches history commented on the findings:
“I’m pleased to see the Committee has looked at this issue. It's essential that all pupils in Wales have a similar experience of Welsh history and there's consistency. I think the Committee's call for a thematic review of the teaching of Welsh history is a good idea so that we get an overview of where we are regarding the teaching of our nation's history. It is a chance for ESTYN to highlight the strengths and bring attention to the situation across History departments in Wales."
"We know that some schools are doing some good work in this area and I hope we can share best practice to make sure that all students across Wales should leave with a basic level of Welsh history knowledge. "
"To equip students well for the next stage in their education there should be a focus on local history, taught in a national and international context. It should also cover the diverse population of Wales and look at the history of all races and religions that make up our country.
"Although the new curriculum in 2022 should free up schools to teach according to their needs, I think the new curriculum should have some suggested key events in Welsh history but not be too narrowly focused.
"I agree that teacher training would need to be addressed but I think if we look at schools first and identify any gaps in Welsh history teaching then training gaps could be addressed as more of this training is focussed in schools now. "
Bethan Sayed, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee said:
“Teaching Welsh history has to feature in our children’s education - for too long young people have gone through the education system without really learning about the story of their community or country.
“With a new curriculum on the horizon, our inquiry has shed light on the inconsistency across Wales and some of the reasons why Welsh history isn’t featuring as it should. We heard a number of reasons such as the lack of teaching materials and the need for teacher training.
“There is good practice in some schools and I believe there is a lot of public support for improving the way we teach Welsh history to our children. We’re calling for the Welsh Government to review the level of Welsh history teaching in our schools. Only when we fully understand the picture of Welsh history teaching can we put measures in place to ensure that teachers get the support and materials they need.
“We believe that teaching should also reflect the diverse population of Wales - histories of Wales’ racial and religious diversity should be included in teacher training and reflected in teaching materials.
“I’m grateful to those who took part in our public poll and asked us to look at the teaching of Welsh history and to those who gave evidence to the inquiry. I’m hopeful that our report today will urge the Welsh Government to take seriously the need for our history and cultural heritage to be taught to the next generation.”
Read the full report:
Teaching of Welsh History