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.
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.