Education Minister criticised over ‘there’s no such thing as a Welsh history’ comments

Kirsty Williams AM. Picture by Welsh Lib Dems (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Education Minister Kirsty Williams has been criticised over comments she made about Welsh history as she defended Wales’ new school curriculum.

In comments to Golwg360 the minister defended a focus on local history in the curriculum, after some had voiced concerns that the open-ended nature of the curriculum meant that pupils would not learn enough about Wales’ national history.

“There is no such thing as a Welsh history,” she told Golwg360. “There are Welsh histories we need to talk about.”

She said that students would begin at the “youngest age, with the ‘habitat’ principle and understanding their own area – and building on that”.

“That has been welcomed by historians, the Learned Society of Wales – who have been helping us to devise the curriculum,” she said.

“And it provides a very good starting point for understanding the wider world starting from the area you know best.”

Plaid Cymru criticised her comments, saying that she had “[denied] that Welsh history exists”. Sian Gwenllian AM, the shadow minister for education, culture and the Welsh language said that her comments were “misguided and misplaced”.

“The truth is, there has never been a real focus on Welsh history in the curriculum in Wales,” she said.

“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.

“However, by not including the history of Wales specifically within the framework there is no certainty that the history of Wales and historical events within the history of Wales will be included in lessons in studying the new curriculum. There’s been a dreadful lack of leadership from this government.

“The Education Minister is full of contradictions. One the one hand, she argues for a non-prescriptive approach then goes on to specify some aspects that need to be statutory – but not others. Religious education and sex and healthy relationships education will rightfully be statutory – so why can’t learning about the history of Wales and the world be too?

“A Plaid Cymru government would ensure that all are part of every child’s experience in our schools. Not one pupil should lose the opportunity to learn about Welsh history.”

A Welsh historian, however, defended Kirsty Williams’ words, however, saying that they had been “taken out of context”.

“She said Wales has histories rather history and was stressing the plurality of Wales,” Professor Martin Johnes of Swansea University tweeted. “That is not offensive. (Although I think it’s fine to use the term history because all histories are plural).”

The latest version of the curriculum will be published one week today.

 

‘Welsh dimension’

Speaking at the press conference, Kirsty Williams said that pupils would be able to learn about Wales in all subjects, not just history.

“We will also see, next week, that there is an expectation that all [subject areas] provide a Welsh dimension,” she told the conference.

“Not just in history, but also in geography, literature, Wales’s contribution to science and technology, Wales’s contribution to the arts.

“So I think it would be a big disappointment if we just limited our children’s teaching about their country if we left that to a history lesson.”

The curriculum will begin to be delivered in 2022.

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j humphrys
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j humphrys

There’s no such thing as an Education Minister.

George D. Aber
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George D. Aber

Or perhaps Mr. Humphry’s, there a multiple “Education Minister’s,” just not a single, consolidated one whom can adequately “Minister?”

Dafydd
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Dafydd

Efallai nad ydynt wedi dysgu hanes yn ei hysgol breifat.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Rydym yn byw ac yn dysgu.

Cambro
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Cambro

Local histories are important… but they are all part of the larger tapestry of Welsh history and identity. I can only see this delivering a limited and blinkered view of Wales. Learning about Welsh history is all about learning what binds us together as a nation – but maybe that’s the problem for the Unionists.

Simon Gruffydd
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Simon Gruffydd

I have read that learning about your locality and its history first and then working out to one’s nation’s history is the method they use in Germany. I have always thought that approach would suit the Welsh well. Of course the statement that Wales doesn’t have a history is shocking in its ignorance. Welsh history is bigger, grander and richer than English history incorporating all of Britain long before the Saxons, Angles and Danes, or even the Romans, showed up on our shores.

Hilton Marlton
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Hilton Marlton

The minister said that Wales doesn’t have only ONE history. This is true of every nation and country. We live in an age of multi-identity politics. Politicians need to get to grips with this and be less binary. History is unique to every single person on this planet. The alternative is either Stalinism, Moaism or some other form of collective brainwashing. Celebrating diversity is the sign of a mature and well balanced culture.

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

Learning national aspects of Welsh history worked for me when I was in school; the emphasis was on national history, backed up by consideration of local aspects. This is not brainwashing, nor ‘Stalinist’.

Kirsty Williams’s decision to put the focus on local history will not give Welsh schoolchildren an adequate grounding in the history of their country as a whole, including (importantly) its relationship with England. What is it that she’s afraid of? The truth coming out?

Clive Sway
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Clive Sway

So when does it start then and with whom?

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

In the 5th Century A.D. but with no named individual.

Gwylon Phillips
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Gwylon Phillips

It was the approach I used in my junior school.

Norval Smith
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Norval Smith

This education minister doesn’t know anything much at all.

Gareth Westacott
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Gareth Westacott

So …. a senior minister in the Welsh ‘national’ government doesn’t believe there is such thing as ‘Welsh history’. Perhaps she doesn’t believe there is such thing as a Welsh nation either? In which case, what does it represent, then, and on what premise does it exist at all, this government in whose name she presumes to make such ridiculous pronouncements?

Hilton Marlton
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Hilton Marlton

The heading of this article is a terrible manipulation of the ministers words and intent. We need to restore respect, honesty and integrity to UK politics. Misquoting, editing and manipulation of information is a one way street to conflict. I think Brexit Britain has had enough of this.

Richard
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Richard

Is Shakespeare Welsh ???

George D. Aber
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George D. Aber

Most of his actors are i think???? ….the good ones atleast….

A coslett
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A coslett

The Education Minister is sorely in need of education. She could start by learning the nature of ‘history’ itself which might help her to recognise the impossibility if the denial she has made. Of course there is such a thing as ‘Welsh History’, a history that predates by centuries the English conquest and colonisation. Nothing on this earth, nothing in the universe, indeed, the universe itself cannot exist in the present and move towards a future without having travelled through a past! Local history, absolutely. But if this I’ll informed politician believes that the children of Cymru should not be… Read more »

Paul
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Paul

Misinterpreting the speech to suit your headline. Come on Nation Cymru you’re better than this.

https://twitter.com/wgmin_education/status/1219672382513860609?s=21

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

No, it’s quite clear what she is proposing, and most of the comments on this page are justified criticisms of that approach. That is not how you teach Welsh history.

Charles L. Gallagher
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Charles L. Gallagher

This is part of the classic English establishment’s way of denying you of your heritage, they suppress or ban the Welsh language, Welsh place-names your own history and they hope to make you part of Englandshire. They tried it in Ireland and Scotland so don’t put up with it.

Gareth Westacott
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Gareth Westacott

I wonder if she’s told the staff of the Departments of Welsh History at Aberystwyth and Bangor universities that they’re out of a job? They’ll have a shock!

Alwyn J Evans
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Alwyn J Evans

I have no idea what she’s talking about, which makes me suspect, neither does she.

A Prophecy is buried in Eglwyseg
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A Prophecy is buried in Eglwyseg

What is realised by those against either Cymraeg or Cymru, is that if the Cymry know their own history from a Welsh perspective, they will see one thing:

900 years of war to defeat us it took, so great is our warrior spirit. No people in history ever put up such a long fight before conquest. Light candles to remember.

O.R
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O.R

We are not defeated……yet

Graham Hathaway
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Graham Hathaway

Yesterday is history. Minister ‘s become history. And never heard of again. But mostly leave politics as a failed career.

Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

1. Historians get much pleasure from debating exactly what history is and long may they continue to do so. History is a science, as much as it is one of the ‘humanities’, and historians like to test their theories. One definition is that history is what we choose to remember about the past and in that sense what we think is important. Inevitably such judgments are constantly evolving over time so what we call history does too. 2. John Davies called his classic work ‘Hanes Cymru’ rather than ‘Hanes Cymreig’ and I am sure he did that for a reason.… Read more »

Walter Hunt
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Walter Hunt

Generals plan to fight the last war. Educationalist attempt to correct the failings of curricula past. In communities now in decline and dissolution, knowledge of “cynefin” morphs too easily into the “hiraeth” of the elderly and the exiles. There are of course examples from local history that are inspirational for the Welsh Nation. Consider William Edwards’ 1756 bridge in Pontypridd. If education doesn’t give Wales’ young people life skills and they are not inspired to “make history” and there are no opportunities for them in Wales, then the statement “Wales has no history” will become self-fulfilling.

George D. Aber
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George D. Aber

Failed generals fight the last war; intelligent leaders scope the field & utilize strategy…. It’s not an either/or situation; historical education or life skills, so that’s a slippery-slope argument…. Wales has history, everywhere has history; if a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?… If the only focus of education is honing another cog or spoke for a crooked wheel, then why not just call Wales “England” officially, drop the pretenses….

Walter Hunt
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Walter Hunt

I am not suggesting historical education should be abandoned for teaching life skills. However, I think a unified Welsh history curriculum and world history should take priority over British (=English) history and local history. There are a great many interesting subjects, but only so many classroom hours. Nations ARE their history . The anglosphere is not the world. I’m sceptical about Graham Donaldson approach to curriculum development and the content of Wales’ new “curriculum”

Andrew Aurphy
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Andrew Aurphy

Much has been written recently about the abject lack of Welsh history in the soon to be introduced Welsh schools curriculum but perhaps we shouldn’t be at all surprised when, Kirsty Williams, the minister responsible for the curriculum, stated in an interview with Golwg360 that “There is no such thing as Welsh history.” How absurd but also how so very sad, the Scots and Irish are quite rightly immensely proud of their history yet we continue to be denied any hint of our own past. Then again as Joseph Goebbles said “deny a people their history, culture, language and heritage… Read more »

Richard
Guest
Richard

Some seem to interpret her comment as a denial of Welsh nationhood, which is a complete misunderstanding and misinterpretation of what she said. What she meant was that there are diverse ways in which different people and communities in Wales remember and interpret their past and that that should be reflected in the Welsh schools curriculum.

Gorwe
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Gorwe

Newydd dansgrifio wythnos diwethaf. Siomedig iawn efo’r pennawd yma. Roeddwn i’n meddwl mod i’n cefnogi fforwm am drafodaeth call o faterion Cymreig, nid rhyw fath o ‘tabloid’. Mae ‘na bethau o’i le efo’r maes llafur yn fy marn i (wedi arwyddo’r deiseb) ond fedra ni wneud yn well na hyn.

Gorwel
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Gorwel

‘Gorwel’! Dyna fi yn gwneud typo fy hun. 🙂

Kerry Davies
Guest
Kerry Davies

There is no such thing as “a” Welsh history. Words, even little old “a”, are important. Wales has a myriad histories from economic to social, cultural to political and many more. Kirsty’s comments need examining in that context but also in the context of the Well-being of Future Generations Act which promotes a holistic approach to lots more than just education. Another difficulty when discussing history is which version you accept. What was “fact” when I was young is now Imperialist propaganda with added racism thrown in free. Geoffrey of Monmouth was real history once, now he is a mythmaking… Read more »

Winston
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Winston

Hen bryd i ni ddysgu moddau pendant i ddysgu gwers byth cofiadwy i eist elitaidd-imperialaidd-Seisnigaidd dwl fel hon, meddwn i…!