5,000 people have signed my petition to teach Wales’ history – this is why it’s important

 

Sculpture by Henry Pegram of Llywelyn the Last at City Hall, Cardiff, Wales.

Elfed Wyn Jones

I’ve campaigned for almost three years now to teach Wales’ national history in our schools.

My first petition launched in June 2017, and after reaching its intended target of 5,000 signatures the matter was referred to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee for consideration.

They came back with five recommendations, most of which the Welsh Government and Kirsty Williams as Education Minister accepted.

All except one – which was to ‘to create a guide that sets out a common body of information for all pupils studying history’.

Instead, when the new curriculum was unveiled last year there was nothing explicit to stipulate that pupils need to be taught any Welsh history at all, beyond the history of their local area.

How much and what Welsh history is taught is instead left up to the teacher. This means that pupils face a lottery – some may learn a lot about Welsh history, others nothing at all.

With no specific resources created for teachers for the purpose of teaching Welsh history, what we’re likely to see is a continuation of the old curriculum, where the teaching of Welsh history is patchy at best.

This may well leave pupils with no common understanding of the nation’s past, which is essential as we build a Welsh civic identity that everyone in the nation feels that they can be part of.

We now expect 16-17-year-olds to vote, but a key part of voting in a national legislature is surely knowing what the nation is and where it has come from.

Knowledge about local histories is important too but pupils across Wales need to understand each others’ histories – in all its variety – for Wales to function as its own polity with its own Parliament.

And there are some aspects of Welsh history, such as the Glyndŵr Rising, and how Tryweryn reignited the campaign for Welsh autonomy, whose significance touched every corner of our nation.

 

Opportunity

So I’m trying again, in an effort to ensure that the Welsh Government understands the weight of public opinion on this matter, which is overwhelmingly supportive of this change.

My latest petition which closes early next month has already passed 5,000 signature mark which means that it will be considered for debate.

This petition explicitly calls on the Welsh Government to create a common body of knowledge about Welsh history that all pupils will learn. Please sign it if you haven’t already.

But the petition itself isn’t the end – it’s going to be part of a wider campaign to ensure that our young people learn about national as well as local Welsh history.

As soon as the lockdown is lifted I hope to present my petition to the Senedd in person and reiterate my views.

And I will be in contact with a number of organisations that have supported my petition, and work with them towards ensuring that we can make this change happen.

We must not let this historic opportunity to change our curriculum for the better go to waste.

The time has come to ensure that our pupils benefit from a broader understanding of the national history that has been denied to so many of us, and if I and others must fight harder to ensure that happens, so be it.

So please, help us with the first step, sign the petition – and let’s go one better than 2017.

If we can show the strength of feeling in the country via the petition then it will make an undeniable case that the people of Wales want our own national history taught in our schools.

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