Sian Gwenllian: Welsh History for Welsh Schools
19th June 2019 (WALES ARTS review)
Sian Gwenllian AM, Plaid
Cymru Shadow Minister for Education (and the Welsh Language), argues the
case for stronger history curriculum for
No one should be deprived of
learning about their history. Certainly, no pupil in Wales should be
deprived of the opportunity to learn about Welsh history. The recent surge
of the Cofiwch Dryweryn
murals replicated across Wales alongside the recent creative re-telling of the
south Wales race riots of 1919 are an indication that there is a real appetite
to teach and learn about the history of Wales.
There has never been a real
focus on Welsh history in the curriculum in Wales. Arguably, most pupils in
Wales learn more about the history of England than of their own country and
area. History as a subject has been, for the most part, limited to a
narrow range of topics which never offered the Welsh perspective or the Welsh
experience in its syllabus. There is now an opportunity to change this –
an opportunity that must be grasped by both hands.
The new Curriculum for Wales
is a real chance to not only right the injustice of those who were not given
the opportunity to learn about Welsh history at school but also ensure that
when we do come to teach the history of our country to the next generation, we
do so in a way that is representative of the richness and diversity of that
history. Neolithic Wales. Romans and Celts. Y Gododdin.
Hywel Dda and the first laws of Wales. The age of
princes, Owain Glyndwr’s revolt, and the subsequent 1536 act of union which
laid the foundations for the modern United Kingdom as we know it.
The industrial revolution
which made Wales a leading global industrial nation. Dic
Penderyn and the Merthyr Rising of 1831.
Reformation. The Rebecca Riots and the race riots of 1919. Wales’s
implication in the horrific global slave trade and empire. Somali and Yemeni
sailors settling in the docks of Butetown and Barry
and the contribution of the Welsh Windrush generation. World wars.
Suffrage. Tryweryn. The miner’s strike and LGBT rights. The Welsh language
movement. The referendum of 1997 and the establishment of the Welsh Senedd.
The teaching of Welsh
history is a key component of helping the next generation to become informed
and engaged citizens of not only Wales but of the world.
That’s not being
narrow-minded. That’s ensuring that our young people have a solid foundation as
they go forward into the world. After all, “How can we know where we’re going
if we don’t know where we’ve been?”
The Welsh Government
published its draft version of the Curriculum for Wales on 30 April 2019, will be publicly consulting on its
contents until July, before publishing a final version in January
2020. That’s why we need this conversation about Welsh history – now.
The draft curriculum
confirmed that history will be taught under the broader subject of Humanities.
There will be a national framework for maintained schools to build on and
develop their own curriculum but there will be no guide or
syllabus. Teachers will only have to meet the curriculum’s requirements of
ensuring their pupils are:
informed citizens of
Wales and the world
ambitious and capable
enterprising and creative
contributors to society
healthy and confident
The draft Humanities Area Of Learning and Experience states that it needs to support
learners to “develop an understanding of Wales and their own understanding of
what it means to be Welsh.”
History is mentioned but not
Welsh History in the list of subjects to be taught under Humanities. I want to
see ‘History’ changed to ‘The History of Wales and the World’ for clarity. We
simply don’t know whether the subsequent guidelines will detail which period of
Welsh history, or historic events within Welsh history, will feature within the
new curriculum. This would be a better foundation from which to build.
The principle behind the new
curriculum is commendable. It has been designed to give teachers the freedom
and opportunity to be creative when teaching within their subject fields and
demonstrates a recognition of the skills and abilities of our teachers.
However, when it comes to
practicalities and implementation, the government’s proposals are arguably too
vague and could result in inconsistency and inequality. We need detail on
how the new curriculum will be implemented – particularly in a climate of cuts
to schools budgets. Teachers must be given
adequate time and training to get to grips with the new curriculum. And
crucially, for the teaching of Welsh history, adequate teaching resources need
to be sourced and developed. Good practice must be harnessed
and universities need to play their full part in developing new, exciting tools
that teachers can use when planning their lessons.
All pupils should receive
the same opportunities to learn about Welsh history in all its forms in a way
that challenges and inspires them. The new curriculum must cultivate and deliver
an understanding of Welsh history, language and culture, not only to focus on
the past, but as a means of helping the citizens of Wales understand their
We can make right the
injustice of the decades of absence of Welsh history in our classroom by
ensuring that the history of Wales is taught to every school pupil in Wales and
do so in a way the ensures accessibility and equality. If the aim of the
new curriculum is to develop our young people into confident, engaged and
informed citizens then that must be reflected in its implementation and