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Education

Welsh history teaching more miss than hit

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A SENEDD Committee heard frustrations from teachers, history societies, pupils and academics that children do not know the story of their community or country.
The Senedd’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee heard children often commented they learnt more Welsh history in a Welsh language lesson than from their history teacher.
With a new curriculum on the horizon, the Committee also heard concerns there is a danger the new and less prescriptive curriculum’s development is happening without a good understanding of what is currently taught in schools.
Dr Elin Jones told the Committee “we don’t know the basis upon which we will be building for this new curriculum. We don’t know what teachers are making out of the current curriculum.”

A REVIEW NEEDED
Many who gave evidence to the Committee made clear that the picture is patchy across Wales and the extent to which Welsh history is taught varies from school to school. There is also a concern that there is not a clear understanding of the content and standard of current history teaching in our schools.
The Committee is calling on the Welsh Government to request that Estyn carry out a review of the teaching of Welsh history in schools. Only once there is robust evidence and an understanding of current teaching can assessments be made to inform the new Curriculum for Wales 2022.

LACK OF LEARNING RESOURCES
For Welsh history to be taught effectively in schools, teachers need training and resources. The Committee believes the Curriculum for Wales 2022 should be properly supported with teaching materials which reflect the ambition to teach the history of Wales from a local and national perspective. It recommends the Welsh Government ensures such resources are widely available.
From the experts who gave evidence, the Committee heard examples of Welsh history that should be taught, including the laws of Hywel Dda and the schools of Griffith Jones. Some believed the new curriculum should have a list of ‘must-haves’, i.e. topics all the pupils in the country need to be taught so they have a rounded knowledge of the events that have formed modern-day Wales.

A PUBLIC POLL
During summer 2018, the Committee ran a public poll, inviting members of the public to select from a list of potential topics for the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee to look at.
Nearly 2,500 people participated in the poll. 44% voted for “Teaching of Welsh history, culture and heritage in schools”.
Since then the Committee has been looking at how Welsh history is currently taught and what the Welsh Government’s new Curriculum for Wales 2022 means for future teaching of it.
Aled James, Assistant Head Teacher at Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr in Cardiff, who teaches history commented on the findings: “I’m pleased to see the Committee has looked at this issue. It’s essential that all pupils in Wales have a similar experience of Welsh history and there’s consistency. I think the Committee’s call for a thematic review of the teaching of Welsh history is a good idea so that we get an overview of where we are regarding the teaching of our nation’s history. It is a chance for ESTYN to highlight the strengths and bring attention to the situation across History departments in Wales.”
“We know that some schools are doing some good work in this area and I hope we can share best practice to make sure that all students across Wales should leave with a basic level of Welsh history knowledge.”
“To equip students well for the next stage in their education there should be a focus on local history, taught in a national and international context. It should also cover the diverse population of Wales and look at the history of all races and religions that make up our country.
“Although the new curriculum in 2022 should free up schools to teach according to their needs, I think the new curriculum should have some suggested key events in Welsh history but not be too narrowly focused.
“I agree that teacher training would need to be addressed but I think if we look at schools first and identify any gaps in Welsh history teaching then training gaps could be addressed as more of this training is focussed in schools now.”

WELSH HISTORY TEACHING ESSENTIAL
Bethan Sayed, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee said: “Teaching Welsh history has to feature in our children’s education – for too long young people have gone through the education system without really learning about the story of their community or country.
“With a new curriculum on the horizon, our inquiry has shed light on the inconsistency across Wales and some of the reasons why Welsh history isn’t featuring as it should. We heard many reasons such as the lack of teaching materials and the need for teacher training.
“There is good practice in some schools and I believe there is a lot of public support for improving the way we teach Welsh history to our children. We’re calling for the Welsh Government to review the level of Welsh history teaching in our schools. Only when we fully understand the picture of Welsh history teaching can we put measures in place to ensure that teachers get the support and materials they need.
“We believe that teaching should also reflect the diverse population of Wales – histories of Wales’ racial and religious diversity should be included in teacher training and reflected in teaching materials.
“I’m grateful to those who took part in our public poll and asked us to look at the teaching of Welsh history and to those who gave evidence to the inquiry. Our report urges the Welsh Government to take seriously the need for our history and cultural heritage to be taught to the next generation.”

1066 AND ALL THAT
In the nineteenth century and for most of the twentieth, British History was treated as though it were the history of England. This approach was a reflection of the political project of the ‘creation, survival and modification of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’ between the Industrial Revolution and the Partition of Ireland.
History was taught as if it was a process of continuous progression. Everything moved towards UK’s creation because that was the irresistible motor of history. From serfdom to feudalism, to the over-mighty subject, to absolutism, to a republic, and then constitutional monarchy, followed by the glory of the empire. Along the journey were the waymarkers: The Domesday Book, Magna Carta, the Reformation, the Civil War, Restoration, Glorious Revolution, followed by the Victorian zenith and the empire upon which the sun never set.
English history enshrined romantic nationalistic exceptionalism. That view of history was enshrined by popular historical writers such as Sir Arthur Bryant, who churned out flowery prose in books with titles such as Set in a Silver Sea: A History of Britain and the British People, Vol 1 and the equally execrable Vol 2, Freedom’s Own Island.
History curricula helped promote the idea of the inevitability of political union and the triumph of England. It rendered other British histories less relevant and – crucially – inferior.
As recently as 2015, the WJEC history course taught in Welsh schools was only 10-15% Welsh history.
Llewellyn Fawr and Llewellyn ap Gruffudd were bit players in history teaching and reference to Owain Glyndwr came more often in Shakespeare’s history plays than in history classes. After that, a bit more about Henry VII being born in Pembroke Castle, the Bible in Welsh, the SPCK, non-conformism, and mining. And that was, more or less, it.
Peculiarly, Wales celebrates its national history by reference to the history of its conquerors and the remains of Welsh subjugation. Pembrokeshire was/is ‘the County of Castles’; Caernarvon Castle was important because of the investiture of the Prince of Wales; the monuments to oppression dot the landscape – and are celebrated.
The way the Welsh Government has the remnants of conquest at the centre of its tourism strategy underlines the difficulties faced by trying to look at the Welsh past from a Welsh viewpoint.

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Community

Top marks for Ysgol Casmael

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YSGOL CASMAEL in Puncheston are celebrating after being given an excellent report by school inspectorate, Estyn.

The rural north Pembrokeshire Primary school was inspected in November last year, and the report, published on Thursday, praised the school for their accomplishments.

The school was rated ‘Excellent’ in all five inspection areas.

Praising the school, the report said: “Leadership is strong and innovative and is developing the school as a very successful creative community, which makes the most of its local area to enrich its pupils’ education.”

“All members of staff have very high expectations to ensure the well-being and progress of all individuals.  This creates a healthy learning environment, in which all pupils are encouraged to work hard and create work of a high standard.  Nearly all pupils are extremely polite and treat each other and adults with a high level of respect.”

“Staff work together very effectively to plan an exciting, creative and stimulating curriculum for all pupils.  They provide practical and interesting experiences that engage nearly all pupils’ interest in full.  This helps pupils to develop as ambitious, confident and knowledgeable learners.”

Speaking specifically about standards at the school, Inspection Area 1, the report pays particular reference to the numeracy skills.  “More able pupils solve increasingly complex problems, for example when calculating the volume of different cylinders and prisms successfully”, giving this area and excellent judgement.

With regards to wellbeing and attitudes towards learning at the school, Inspection area 2 was again awarded an excellent judgement, the report states, “Nearly all pupils behave excellently in lessons, during break times and during periods while working independently.  Nearly all pupils are very keen to attend school daily, as they enjoy the exciting activities and the care that is available to them.”

Inspection area 3 is focused on Teaching and Learning Experiences, here inspectors praised the teachers for providing an “Exceptionally stimulating and creative curriculum for pupils, which develops their skills very successfully across all areas of learning.  Effective planning methods are preparing staff and pupils well to introduce the new curriculum.”  This again received a judgement of excellence.

A fourth excellent judgement was awarded for area 4, Care, support and guidance.  “The school promotes the importance of good behaviour, courtesy, respect and commitment very successfully.  As a result, pupils behave well consistently, are very polite and respectful towards each other and visitors, and apply themselves conscientiously to their activities….  All pupils have an individual development plan, class teachers give the content of these careful consideration when planning their lessons. “

Finally, Inspection area 5 makes a judgement on the leadership and management of the school.  “The head teacher has high expectations of herself, staff and pupils.  Her vision focuses clearly on supporting pupils’ wellbeing and developing ambitious and confident learners in a creative and Welsh environment…There is a strong sense of teamwork in the school…The school is an effective learning community in which staff learn from each other in a supportive environment…the school is innovative in developing a creative and stimulating curriculum that engages nearly all pupils’ interest in their learning.”  This area was also given a judgement of excellence.

Mrs Amanda Lawrence, head teacher at Ysgol Casmael, said: “I believe a team approach is essential to the success of any school, but particularly to a small school like ours, in a rural area.”

“Through working collaboratively with all stakeholders, we are ensuring that all pupils receive the best possible experiences in a homely environment, with a strong yet inclusive Welsh ethos.”

“I am so grateful to have the support of a strong team of highly experienced practitioners, a strong governing body, alongside supportive, appreciative parents, but above all I am grateful to our pupils, the individuals who make our journey towards a new curriculum in Wales so vitally important.  As we are receptive to their ideas, so they too are eager to take on board changes in our pedagogy with excitement and enthusiasm, this is what energises us as a staff to keep expanding our horizons.”
Mr Russel Evans, chair of Ysgol Casmael’s governing body, said: “On behalf of the Governors of Ysgol Casmael, I would like to thank and congratulate the school on their recent extremely successful and impressive inspection report.
As a governing body we are very aware of the hard work of the teaching staff and of the pupils in reaching these standards, together with the continued and constant support of the parents, non-teaching staff and the friends of the school.
As a school which values its community role, we are aware that the success of this school is dependent on everyone connected with our educational provision playing their part in our success and development.
May I also thank my fellow Governors for their hard work over the years and for their support to the school.”

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Community

Dairy challenges Pembrokeshire kids to win £1,000 for their school

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ECO-FRIENDLY kids in Pembrokeshire are being urged to get creative with recycling and win their school £1,000.

The call comes from Wales’s leading yoghurt producer, Llaeth y Llan, who want to hear from primary schools with wizard ideas for re-purposing their plastic pots.

They’re offering £1,000 for the school with the best plan for reusing those little pots in a fun and useful way.

And to show they’re serious about making sure Llaeth y Llan yoghurt even more environmentally friendly they are also urging schools to collect the lids and send them back to the dairy.

Llaeth y Llan have put up a total of £20,000 to encourage schools across Wales to recycle and Director Gruffudd Roberts said: “Climate change and the environment are now global issues and a lot of that is down to young people and their concerns.

“As a company we believe it’s vital to involve children in spreading the message of the importance of recycling to secure the future of our planet.

“We are extremely excited to see the designs created by each school using our pots.

“Not only is recycling our main focus, we are proud to fund prizes that will assist the children’s future.

“Being able to give £20,000 worth of prizes to schools whose budgets are stretched makes the project worthwhile.

“School funding is simply not going to buy vital equipment such as Chromebooks, garden supplies, sports gear and school trips. We want every school in Wales to have an equal opportunity to win their share of our £20,000 prize fund.”

Llaeth y Llan yoghurt, made with local Welsh milk, was started by dairy farmers Gareth and Falmai Roberts over 30 years ago and is still a family-run operation based at Tal y Bryn Farm, in the Vale of Clwyd.

These days though their yoghurts are on sale all over the country and are on the shelves of the UK’s biggest supermarkets like Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Co-Op’s.

Those distinctive pots now come off a state of the art production line and Gruffudd Roberts added: “We’ve already seen many innovative ideas for the pots from schools across Wales but there’s still time to stake your claims to a share of the £20,000 prize fund.

“We’d especially like schools to take pictures as they make their creations at each step and send them to us along with a main picture showing the end result.”

Entries for the competition close on February 25th and full details on how to take part in Llaeth y Llan’s are on the website at www.villagedairy.co.uk/school-registration/

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Education

No opt-out for learning about religion, relationships and sexuality

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PARENTS will not be able to prevent their children from learning about religion, relationships and sexuality in the new curriculum.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams made the announcement this week, emphasising the need for ‘careful and sensitive implementation’ of the decision.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams told The Herald: “Our responsibility as a government is to ensure that young people, through public education, have access to learning that supports them to discuss and understand their rights and the rights of others.

“It is essential that all young people are provided with access to information that keeps them safe from harm.

“Today’s decision ensures that all pupils will learn about issues such as online safety and healthy relationships.

The announcement was made following an eight-week Welsh Government consultation on ensuring access to the full curriculum, including the teaching of Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) and Religious Education (RE).

Kirsty Williams added: “I recognise this is a sensitive matter and the consultation responses reflected a wide range of views.

“There is clearly a need for us to work with communities and all interested parties in developing the learning and teaching for RSE and RE – this work will be vital to enable everyone to have trust in how the change is implemented.”

The Minister outlined plans for implementation which include the creation of clear guidance, resources and professional learning for schools and the creation of a Faith/BAME Community Involvement Group to hold its first meeting this February.

The group will engage in the development of RSE guidance, develop a shared understanding of the new curriculum and address the concerns raised by faith and community groups during the consultation.

The Minister continued: “It is vital that we continue to work with communities across Wales to ensure parents have the right to develop, care for and guide their children into adulthood while allowing our schools to provide a broad and balanced education.  

We will build on the community engagement which accompanied the consultation with a long term investment in listening to our communities and finding ways to address the issues which concern them.

The Minister also confirmed plans to establish a new RSE Working Group that will oversee the refinement of the new RSE statutory guidance to form part of the new curriculum guidance.

The Minister added: “I want to take the opportunity in 2021 to test the approach for RSE prior to it being made statutory in the new curriculum.  

This will provide valuable intelligence to inform the refinement of our approach and will also enable learners, parents and carers and communities to see it working in practice and to feedback their views.”

Further details on this approach will be announced over the coming weeks.  The consultation also showed support for renaming the subject ‘Religious Education’.

The most popular choice from respondents was ‘Religion, Values and Ethics’ and, as a result, the Minister confirmed the subject name would change when the new curriculum comes into effect. The Terrence Higgins Trust said that the news was something they very much welcomed, and said that they have been campaigning for this for a number of years. The Trust said that Wales has very much lead the way on this one as the UK Government has resisted calls to remove the parental opt-out for lessons when RSE lessons become compulsory in England from September. Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy at the trust said: “By guaranteeing access to Relationships & Sexuality Education lessons for all pupils, Wales is leading the way. We’ve campaigned for compulsory RSE lessons for nearly four decades and until now far too many young people have learned about sex through whispers in the playground. 
“This decision by the Welsh Government will go some way to fixing this. It’s absolutely vital lessons are LGBT+ inclusive and have a strong focus on HIV and sexual health so all young people have the knowledge they need to form healthy and fulfilling relationships. We are now looking to the Welsh Government to continue leading the way by providing all schools with the resources and training they need to deliver these new lessons to the highest standard across the board.” 

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