Why I’ll go on hunger strike to ensure the teaching of Welsh history in our schools
Elfed Wyn Jones
For three years I have been campaigning vigorously for the teaching of Welsh history in our schools.
What I and others are asking for, on the face of it, is no big thing: That pupils in Wales are taught about the national history of their own country.
This means teaching subjects that had an impact on all of Wales, such as how Tryweryn led to a campaign for political autonomy, and the Glyndŵr uprising.
That also means teaching the history of black and people of colour in Wales. The Black Lives Matter campaign in Wales has highlighted the lack of BAME history in our curriculum, and the need to develop a national history curriculum for Wales so every student can learn about the role of BAME people in Welsh history and Wales’ role in colonialism.
Currently however, the new Welsh curriculum, which will likely define how pupils are taught history in Wales for decades to come, is deliberately vague and there is nothing explicit to stipulate that pupils need to be taught any Welsh history at all, beyond the history of their local area.
No doubt for some teachers Welsh history will be central to what is taught – but it gives others leeway to essentially ignore it altogether.
Most likely, many teachers will simply continue on with what they teach now – and as those of us who were taught under the previous curriculum know, that can mean a sustained focus on Germany before World War II and the Tudors but very little on Wales or our diverse communities.
Freedom for our teachers to decide what they are passionate about and what would best serve their pupils in a local context is a good thing. However, there are some subjects that our young citizens should simply not be leaving schools without knowing about.
The present curriculum will create a lottery system where some students will be taught Welsh history and some barely any. The lack of set subjects will also mean that there are fewer resources about Welsh history available in our schools, which will make it even harder for teachers to include Welsh history in the curriculum.
With the voting age reduced to 16 in Wales, the policy is also incoherent – the Welsh Government want our young people to vote in national Welsh elections without ensuring that they reach that age knowing anything about the context in which our democracy was created.
However, after two petitions, two visits to the Senedd, and many emails to the Welsh Government – and despite the overwhelming support for the teaching of Welsh history by the public – it has become clear that my campaign has fallen on deaf ear. Petitions and letters alone won’t make the Government listen.
The recent letter I sent to the Government regarding Welsh history being taught was answered accordingly: “We acknowledge your passion about the subject, but things will go ahead as they are”.
Because of their refusal to acknowledge my campaign, I have decided that the only way that they’ll listen is if I take drastic measures.
I will go on a hunger strike until they make sure that Welsh history is a central part of the new curriculum.
This is a decision I am not taking lightly, but due to the urgency of the situation and the Government’s lack of care in ensuring that Welsh history is taught, there is no other choice for me but to do so.
The students of Wales deserve to be taught the history of our nation – including the mistakes and misdeeds. Only then will we build an understanding in and of all Wales’ communities, and forge a progressive Welsh civic identity that everyone in the nation feels that they can be part of.
A date will be set for the hunger strike once the lockdown has been lifted – or if the Government decides to push through the education bill during the lockdown.
I will not give up until our government listens to reason and ensures that Welsh history has a firm place in our schools.
This is the opportunity for change, the people of Wales are fully behind this – and I will not back down.
If you would like to sign the petition calling for the teaching of Welsh history in our schools please click here.
If you would like to sign the petition calling for the teaching of Black and POC history in our schools please click here.