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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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Education

Vital support for job seekers and employers in West Wales

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TO MATCH job seekers with employers and career agencies across West Wales, a virtual jobs fair is taking place on Wednesday 9 September.

The free online event will be hosted by Working Wales, which is delivered by Careers Wales, and is in partnership with Job Centre Plus teams across West Wales and the south west and mid Wales Regional Learning and Skills Partnership.

Now, more than ever, job seekers and employers are relying on online support to find jobs and fill vacancies.

The event will run through Working Wales’ Facebook channels and will be split into two regional events covering West Wales mid and south. 10am-11am is for job seekers and employers in Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Powys and Neath Port Talbot. 2pm-3pm will focus on Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Swansea.

Attendees for the free event will have access to a wide variety of job vacancies from many sectors across West Wales as well as expert careers advice to support with job applications.

Working Wales is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund and was launched by the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates in May 2019.

Within the first year the service has directly assisted over 37,000 people across Wales. Careers Wales chief executive, Nikki Lawrence said “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the west to deliver a virtual jobs fair. Our careers advice and guidance is a vital part of supporting the economy during this pandemic, and these online events allow us to effectively and safely continue reaching and supporting our customers during these challenging times.”

To register your interest in these events, follow Working Wales on Facebook @WorkingWales. If you are an employer with vacancies to fill please also get in touch.

Available to anyone over the age of 16, Working Wales provides a one-to-one, tailored employability advice and guidance service, supporting people across Wales with job searching, CV writing, interview preparation, training and upskilling as well as with redundancy support.

For more information on Working Wales visit: www.workingwales.gov.wales or call 0800 028 4844

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Education

Oxbridge success for Pembrokeshire College students

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A-LEVEL students at Pembrokeshire College are celebrating after an impressive set of A-level results which has seen four students secure their places to study at either Oxford or Cambridge.

A breakdown of results shows 36% of students achieving A*-A grades and 88% achieving A*-C grades. With growing A-level numbers the College saw 278 results at A*-C grade out of a total of 315.

With the results for vocational courses now also out, over 260 A-level and Extended Diploma students are now hopeful of securing their places at university.

Students heading to the University of Oxford are Jessica Hillier (A*A*A*A) to read Biology at Jesus College, Lorna McEvoy (A*A*A) to read History at Trinity College and Lizzy Rowland (A*A*A) to read Law at Christ Church College. Meanwhile fellow student Alyssa Baker (A*A*A*) will be heading to the University of Cambridge to read Human, Social and Political Sciences at Sydney Sussex College.

Also heading to the University of Cambridge to read Modern Foreign Languages at Trinity College is Federation student Emma Nicholas. We would like to join Milford Haven High School in congratulating Emma on her results.

Other notable A-level successes include former Ysgol Bro Gwaun students Callum Harries who achieved four A* grades and Sam Rummery who achieved three A* grades. Congratulations also to former Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi students Tom Sheppard who achieved two A* grades and an A grade, and Caitlin Howe who achieved three A grades.

This year has also seen BTEC National Diploma students excelling once again with many students achieving Distinction grades and taking up places at universities across the UK to study a range of subjects including Cyber Security, Biological Sciences, Law, Pharmacology and Midwifery.

University destinations for Pembrokeshire College students span the length and breadth of the UK and include: Cardiff, Bristol, Exeter, Aberystwyth, Durham and Edinburgh.

After receiving this year’s A-level results, Principal Dr Barry Walters commented: “These results are testament to the hard work of our learners. With university places being offered prior to lockdown, based on each individual learner’s performance and achievements, we are mindful not to let the current situation detract from how hard these learners have worked throughout both their AS and A2 year to achieve the results that we see today.

“Grades were estimated based on work already submitted and it is important that the achievements of these learners are not underplayed. To have four students progressing to either Oxford or Cambridge is a huge achievement for the learners themselves, the teaching staff and the College as a whole.  We are also delighted to note an increase in the number of our students gaining places at other high profile Russell Group and Sutton Trust Institutions.

“To the significant number of learners, from both A-levels and vocational diplomas, now progressing to universities across the UK to study a vast array of programmes, we wish them all the best of luck and hope that they will keep in touch as they progress through their studies and into their future careers.”

For further information on the courses available at the College contact Admissions on 0800 9 776 778 or go to pembs.ac.uk/courses

 

Summary of Results:

Overall pass rate 100%

A*/A grade 36%

A*-C grade 88%

 

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Education

Young cleaners helped ensure schools safe

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YOUNG people are helping to ensure that all schools in Pembrokeshire meet the required Covid 19 hygiene safety standards as they re-open their doors to pupils.
Some 30 young people aged between 18 and 25 have been employed by Pembrokeshire County Council as additional cleaning staff to support schools with the extra work necessary to help keep pupils safe when they return to education.
Pembrokeshire Youth Service worked quickly with other PCC teams to mobilise the small army of cleaners as soon as the additional cleaning support was identified, says Chris Powles, Youth Team Manager.
“Young people have been disproportionately affected in the employment market during the pandemic, with the majority of summer employment they would have usually taken up in the tourism, leisure, and retail sectors being unavailable due to lockdown restrictions,” said Chris.
“By linking with secondary schools, Pembrokeshire College, the Youth Service Outreach and Cam Nesa teams, young people were contacted directly to be given the opportunity to apply for cleaning posts in primary, secondary and special schools across the county.
“The response was overwhelming. Young people have been keen not only to secure employment but to also play their part in supporting communities in dealing with the pandemic.”
One of the new employees, Courtney Cramb, said: “I love that this opportunity has been given to students especially during this time as many of us are unable to work but still have things like car insurance to pay for!
“I also think it will be a good experience and gives us the opportunity to help by giving back to the community whilst earning some money.”
The new staff are currently going through pre-employment checks and training to enable them to begin their casual contracts and start earning the incomes they thought that they had missed out on.
“This was a fast paced process with the requests for additional cleaning support from schools only coming in once they had been able to assess the need, whilst planning and risk assessing for their reopening on the 29th June,” said Cllr David Simpson, Council Leader.
“We are delighted to have given young people the opportunity to be part of the PCC workforce, and it shows the ability of Council departments to work together in responding quickly and effectively whilst trying to minimise the impact on those who are affected by the pandemic.”

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