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‘Which other country would leave out its own history from its education?’ asks Senedd member

17 Dec 2020 4 minutes Read
Siân Gwenllian AM. Llun gan y Cynulliad (CC 2.0).

A Senedd Member has asked “which other country would leave out its own history from its education curriculum?”

Sian Gwenllian, the Member of the Senedd for Arfon, made a speech to the Senedd where she criticised the new Welsh curriculum bill because of a risk “future citizens will be deprived of information about their past.”

There have also been calls to amend the bill by the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee. It has told the Welsh Government to include “explicit references” to Welsh history, BAME history, diversity and identity in the guidance that underpins the bill.

The Committee said that the importance of learning about history, identity and diversity had been a “key theme” in the evidence they had received during their scrutiny of the curriculum.

The Bill has passed stage one of its passage through the Senedd after a motion to agree its general principles was agreed.

 

‘Huge mistake’

Ms Gwenllian said: “It would be a huge mistake in my opinion not to include one specific unit on the story of Wales as part of the humanities, and the only way to put that right now is to include a specific reference to it on the face of the Bill.

“What country would actually omit its own story from its education curriculum?” the Plaid Cymru member asked.

“It has to be on the face of the Bill, or there is a risk that some future citizens will be deprived of information about their past.

“Learning about Wales and its people is central to the process of helping learners to develop an awareness of their national identity, but also about other identities – those that overlap and are multiple and relate to each other.

“This is crucial to encourage empathy, social awareness and to encourage active citizenship among learners, citizenship that is open-minded and sensitive socially and culturally.

“I very much hope that I will be able to persuade you on this.”

‘Concerns’

Under the Bill, the Welsh Government is proposing a new ‘Curriculum for Wales’ for 3 to 16 year olds, replacing the existing national curriculum which has been in place since 1988 in England and Wales.

“More broadly, matters relating to BAME history, identity and diversity have been a dominant feature of public discourse globally over the last 12 months,” a report by the committee said.

“We believe it is essential to ensure that our children and young people are taught and learn about their history and the histories of Wales, including BAME history, as well as matters relating to diversity and identity.”

They said that they were “on balance” happy to wait and see what findings were brought up by a new working group set up to improve the teaching of themes relating to Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities on the school curriculum, and work by Estyn on teaching Welsh history.

“This, however, is predicated on the desire to have further assurances from the Minister that these matters are secure within the curriculum now and in the future,” they said.

The committee said they had concerns that all school children in Wales receive the same opportunities and experiences from their education.

While they said that they supported the general principles of the Bill, they were concerned that this flexibility carries considerable risk if safeguards are not put in place to ensure children and young people in all parts of Wales receive a sufficiently consistent education.

In particular, the Committee wanted to know how the Welsh Government intends to ensure that all settings and all learners will thrive under the new curriculum and that existing inequalities are not exacerbated. Members have asked for assurances about how this will be monitored.

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