‘Welsh history must never be forgotten’ says Education Minister in response to Estyn criticism
Wales’ Education Minister has said that “Welsh history must never be forgotten” after a report said that a majority of schools in Wales are failing when it comes to Welsh and Wales’ BAME history.
Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales, revealed the findings in its report, The teaching of Welsh history including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic history, identity and culture.
The report said: “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.”
Speaking in the Senedd, Education Minister Jeremy Miles referred to the report and said that he was “considering how we respond” to it.
“But one of the things that is clear from the Estyn report is how important it is for our young people to have a clear understanding of Welsh history, including the many and varied diverse aspects of it, including Wales’s role in the slave trade and the race riots,” he said.
“These are important parts of the history of Wales and must never be forgotten.”
Jeremy Miles was answering a question from fellow Labour MS Jayne Bryant who said that “large and significant events cannot be ignored just because they’re uncomfortable or difficult. The 1919 south Wales race riots have largely been forgotten.”
“What steps will the Minister take to ensure that significant moments in our history like the south Wales race riots are included in the teaching of black history in Wales?”
Jeremy Miles said that next year they would prompt a national conversation in the Spring on next year on the development of resources and supporting materials on Welsh history and local context.
Estyn had said in their report on Welsh history that school children were unable to make connections between individuals and events in Welsh history to British and global history and did not develop an understanding of how key historical concepts apply to local, national and international contexts.
“As a result, they do not develop a progressive and coherent conceptual understanding of the history of Wales,” the report said. “This is often because opportunities to study local and national history are not strategically planned.
“In a few schools, pupils have a thorough knowledge and understanding of local and Welsh history. In a very few schools, pupils make meaningful connections between their local area and the history of Wales, the Britain and the world. Generally, pupils’ recall of historical events and life in Wales is strongest when they have visited a museum or historical site that bring these events to life.
“In most schools, pupils have a limited knowledge and understanding of the histories of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic peoples and communities.
“Many pupils can name individuals from international history but in general have limited understanding of their historical significance. Most pupils do not know about the history of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals and communities in Wales.
“In a very few schools, where Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic history is prioritised and well planned, pupils develop an extensive understanding of history from multiple perspectives.”
Estyn undertook the survey at the request of the Welsh Government in response to two recommendations by the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee on the teaching of Welsh history, culture and heritage.
The Committee wanted Estyn to review if schools were meeting their requirements when it comes to teaching for GCSE, AS and A level qualifications.
It also wanted Estyn to review how diversity is taught in schools and consider if the history taught is representative of all of Wales’ communities and their international connections.
In the Senedd, Conservative member Natasha asked whether there was a danger that focusing on colonialism and slavery could exacerbate racial tensions in the classroom and that not enough attention may be given to to the positive contribution made by people of colour.
“How will you ensure that the teaching of ethnic minority history in schools across Wales will have the desired effect of enhancing cohesion and understanding between communities in Wales and not widening them?” she asked.
The Education Minister said that it was an “important point”.
“I visited the Mount Stuart Primary School down the road from here to launch the Betty Campbell award for teachers who’d demonstrated particular commitment to diversity in the curriculum and in the classroom, and was talking to the young people there about their role models in their community,” he said.
“They had done a project where they were celebrating the positive contributions of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities to their community and to Wales and, indeed, to the world.
“So, I think the diversity needs to be, in fact, diverse—it needs to reflect the entire experience both in history but also in today’s modern Wales, and I’m confident that, learning the lessons that Professor Charlotte Williams and her group have helped us with, and the work that Estyn is helping us with, we will be able to provide that rich curriculum that makes sure that all our children in all parts of Wales understand the full diversity of Welsh history and modern Wales.”
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