In recent weeks, we have focused on the Welsh economy and the impact of the cost-of living crisis on Welsh communities. This week, we will explore the teaching of Welsh history in our schools,
and examine why it is so crucial to the education system in Wales.
In 2021, Estyn agreed with the Welsh Government to undertake a major review following two recommendations by the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee on the teaching
of Welsh history, culture and heritage.
The recommendations outlined that Estyn should review the teaching of Welsh history in schools and the extent to which schools are meeting the requirements of GCSE, AS and A-Level standards.
The committee also recommended that Estyn review how diversity is taught in schools and consider if the history taught is representative of all of Wales’ communities and their international
Following the events of summer 2020 and the Black Lives Matter movement, Estyn agreed with the Welsh Government that the review take account of Welsh and wider Black, Asian and Minority
Ethnic history, identity and culture.
However, while these recommendations were welcome, there were calls to go further.
For instance, Estyn’s own findings revealed that while most primary schools featured Welsh and local history in the curriculum, in many secondary schools, lessons included only cursory references
to local and Welsh history.
Furthermore, the report found great variation in the way Welsh history was taught, with some schools not considering Welsh and local history to be an integral part of the local curriculum and
instead, considering it as an “add-on”.
Since these findings were published, the Senedd Cooperation Agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru now includes a commitment to ensuring that Welsh history is a “mandatory” part of the new
curriculum in Wales. This was partly in response to Estyn’s own damning report which also found that in a majority of schools, “pupils have little knowledge of the historical events that have shaped
their local area and can name few significant Welsh people from history”.
One may ask however, why is it so important that pupils across Wales learn the history of Wales?
The teaching of history undoubtedly helps inform people to enable them to participate at all levels of society. More crucially, by learning about history, we also learn lessons from the past as to how to
avoid mistakes and reform society for the better.
For instance, consider events such as the 1934 Gresford Colliery disaster, the Senghennydd disaster of 1913, or the tragic events of Aberfan in 1966. The latter led to the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act
1969 to require steps be taken to ensure the safety of tips, which later influenced the enactment of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
These events were pivotal in the shaping of Welsh history.
There have been suggestions that the teaching of Welsh history can be divisive. References are made to events such as the Rebecca Riots or the Glyndwr revolt. However, again, these are key
events that helped shape the modern Welsh nation. We must not shy away from learning our country’s history. As well as learning from the past, many events and customs are a cause for celebration – take the Samhain Festival (Calan Gaeaf in Welsh), which eventually influenced the modern traditions of “Halloween”.
As a modern nation, we should embrace our country’s unique identity, culture and diversity.