Y Pwyllgor Deisebau - Y Bumed Senedd
Petitions Committee - Fifth Senedd17/07/2018
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|David J. Rowlands AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Mike Hedges AC|
|Rhun ap Iorwerth AC|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Claire Rowlands||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr Cwricwlwm, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director Curriculum, Welsh Government|
|John Pugsley||Pennaeth y Gangen Celfyddydau, Dyniaethau a Llesiant, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Head of Arts, Humanities and Wellbeing Branch, Welsh Government|
|Kirsty Williams AM||Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros Addysg|
|Cabinet Secretary for Education|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Kath Thomas||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Lisa Salkeld||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:15.
The meeting began at 09:15.
Bore da, good morning, and welcome to the Petitions Committee. Unfortunately, there are a number of members of the committee who are unavailable at this moment. Therefore, under Standing Order 17.31, I declare this meeting is inquorate at this time, and we will adjourn this meeting until 09.35.
Datganwyd nad oedd y cyfarfod yn gwneud cworwm am 09:15 ac ataliwyd y cyfarfod.
The meeting was declared inquorate at 09:15 and suspended.
Datganwyd fod y cyfarfod yn gwneud cworwm am 09:35 ac ailymgynullodd y cyfarfod ffurfiol.
The meeting was declared quorate at 09:35 and the formal meeting reconvened.
Bore da again. We are now quorate as a committee, and therefore we can recommence the Petitions Committee. We have apologies from Neil McEvoy, and also Janet Finch-Saunders may be arriving late.
The first matter on the agenda is item 2, which is new petitions. The first of these is 'Newtown Brimmon Oak Bypass'. The petition was submitted by Mervyn Lloyd Jones and Rob McBride, having collected 402 signatures. We had a response from the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport on 3 July, and the petitioner has also provided further comments. Do committee members have any—?
Just go back—send the comments on to the Cabinet Secretary and ask for their response.
Okay, yes, fine. Are you happy?
And what about the possibility of writing to Newtown town council?
Well, we'd write to Powys County Council, wouldn't we, to ask whether there are any proposals in the area.
I would agree—the county council.
Okay. So, the possible actions are: if the committee considers that the response from the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport is reasonable, it could close the petition and commend the petitioners for the work they have done to highlight the tree and promote the local area. Or we shall write to Powys council to ask for details of any work they are taking locally in relation to recognition of local history or interest on the bypass route. Is that okay? Are we happy with that? Yes. Fine.
The next new petition is 'Protect children's lungs from harmful pollution whilst at school'. The petition was submitted by the British Lung Foundation Cymru, having collected 159 signatures. We've written to the Minister for Environment, and we have received a response from the Minister—. This is saying that we had not received it when the papers were published.
We haven't received a response from the Minister on this, although, according to the usual timetables, we should have done several weeks ago.
Okay. Can we write back?
I was going to say 'prod'; Mike says 'write back'.
The usual convention is to respond to us in 17 working days. This has not happened, so we'll make a note of that late response. So, the possible action is that the committee could await a response from the Welsh Government on the petition and seek substantive comments from the petitioners following that, before considering the petition again in the autumn term.
That seems to be our normal mode, but can we—Rhun used the word 'prod'—can we express our disappointment that we haven't had the response within the required time?
I think that that's certainly the case. The committee could also write to the Welsh Local Government Association to ask for details of work that local authorities are undertaking to manage air quality around schools in light of local air quality management policy guidance issued in June 2017. Would the committee recommend that we do that?
I have no objections to doing that. At this stage, we'd usually just want to wait for the Minister's response, but if that's something that we think could be useful, why not do it now?
Do you want to do it now or do you want to wait for the Minister's response and send the Minister's response as well so that they know exactly what's happening?
We proposed it as an option for the committee on the basis that the summer recess means there'll be a significant time delay now, whenever the Minister's response is received, so we could expedite that petition by doing that in the meantime.
Under normal circumstances, I would suggest that we waited for the Minister's response and then contacted the WLGA, but we've got eight weeks in between, so if you can expedite it during that time it would mean that, when we meet back in September, we should be okay.
The next new petition is 'Pembrokeshire says NO!! To the closure of Withybush A&E!' The petition was submitted by Myles Bamford-Lewis, having collected—and I think we ought to note this, as it's the largest petition we've ever received—40,045 signatures.
I don't see how we can not ask for a Plenary debate. If it means anything that we ask for 5,000 signatures to have a Plenary debate, they've massively exceeded that. Even if they have a load of people from not in Wales, they must have over 5,000 from the Pembrokeshire area alone. It's obviously a matter of very serious interest and concern in the area. If having debates on petitions means anything, this is one that has to go there.
It's one that will have a keen interest attracted to it from other parts of Wales as well, no doubt. There are issues of principle here that are worth voicing. We rarely get to discuss principles on matters such as this in the Assembly, and I think it would be a positive move.
Yes, well, given the fact that the consultation by Hywel Dda health board has just concluded, the possible actions are to await views of the petitioner on the response received from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services before deciding what action to take on the petition, or we could seek, at this moment in time, a slot from the Business Committee for as early as possible after recess.
The caveat, obviously, is that there's going to be a delay now, and we can't quite say where we're going to be at with the process by the time we get to discuss this in the autumn. But still, I think we have to follow that course of action. All that will happen is that the nature of the debate itself will perhaps change.
Well, if it's all resolved, we can withdraw our request, but at least we'll have the request in for the first meeting.
Right. Fine. We could also write to Hywel Dda university health board to ask for additional details about the process and timescales they intend to follow now that the public consultation has finished. Shall we do that?
It won't do any harm.
We've got a rough idea anyway, but any specifics would be useful to us in our timetable.
But it can also be very useful to the people concerned.
Okay. Fine. Thank you.
We move on to item 3, which is updates to previous petitions. The first of these is 'Pass Wide and Slow Wales'. The petition was submitted by Jocelle Lovell and was first considered in October 2017, having collected a total of 1,755 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 21 November 2017 and agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, and also to the police and crime commissioners. We have had a response from two of the police and crime commissioners—that's the one for Gwent and the one for Powys, is it?
North Wales. But we'd like to record the fact that we have not had a response from the Dyfed-Powys or south Wales police and crime commissioners. We are disappointed that they've not seen fit to answer our questions. The possible action is that we could ask the petitioners to update the committee as to whether a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport can be arranged, and to provide further feedback following this.
Can I just say that one of the great successes we have is getting people talking to each other? If we can get them to engage in a discussion, that might take us some way forward. So, can I urge that we write back to them asking them have they arranged it? And if they haven't—. Well, if they say, 'No, the Cabinet Secretary is not available', then we resolve now to write to the Cabinet Secretary urging him to engage. If we were meeting in two weeks' time, I wouldn't be moving that, but as we've got the summer, I think we need to put the next steps in as well.
Are we also writing to Dyfed-Powys and South Wales Police, just to ask again? If we are putting together a picture of opinion amongst police and crime commissioners, I think it's not asking too much to ask for a full set.
We've been chasing behind the scenes, but we can write another letter from the Chair, and from the committee, which might expedite things.
That might expedite things. If you still don't get anything, perhaps Rhun could write to the one for Dyfed-Powys, and I can write to the one for south Wales.
Okay. The next petition for us to consider is 'Reopen Carno Station'. The petition was submitted by Carno Station Action Group and was first considered by the committee in October 2017, having collected 877 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 1 May and agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport. A response from the Cabinet Secretary was received on 9 July. A response from the Chair of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee was received on 12 June. Do any of the Members have any comments?
This is one of a number of areas of Wales that are eager to use every tool at their disposal to seek the reopening or opening of stations—Crumlin was the last one that we discussed. I have great sympathy—Llangefni in my constituency is another area that's part of the same programme of consultation by the Welsh Government. It's a live issue. I tend to feel, as I'm sure do the petitioners, that it's not live enough—that it's kept bubbling over when I'd rather move towards something concrete. I'm loath to close petitions of this kind, certainly, but it's difficult to know what actions we can take.
What questions are we going to ask further with regard to this? What actions could we take that could progress it in any way? I can't see that we can, given the answers that we've been given by the Cabinet Secretary. The Chair of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee also made inquiries with regard to this.
Can I agree with both of you? I think that sometimes we have to accept as a Petitions Committee that we can't make any further progress. I think this is one of them. I think that keeping it open won't actually achieve anything, because we've already had a 'no' from the Minister—not even a 'no, but—' or a 'maybe', but a definite, unequivocal 'no'. I don't see that there's anything else that we can do apart from continuing to engage in correspondence until one of us gets tired.
I think we ought to note the fact that the Government is pressing the UK Government and Network Rail to institute these, and they are actually putting together business plans for each of the stations that are being considered. I think it has been agreed that we will close this petition.
The next one we are considering is 'Stop Using Worker Certification On Welsh Government Projects'. The petition was submitted by Paul Fear and was first considered by the committee in May 2018, having collected 66 signatures. It does appear from the comments made that the Government is intransigent on this. We've also had responses from the unions with regard to this certification, and they are in favour of it. So, it appears that they're not going to change the rules with regard to the construction skills certificate. Do you have any comments?
I think that the grandfather rights exist so that all people who were properly qualified had to do was apply and they would get it automatically. That was advertised a lot—I think that's the way the union described it. I think that it is important that people working on sites are safe. There's no reason why I can't wander onto a site claiming I'm an electrician and be let loose attaching electrics without this. I think that that would cause me and probably everybody else in the world some concern. So, I think that this is a means of trying to ensure that you have skilled people doing important jobs on sites. I think that the petitioner—. Experienced and skilled tradespeople should have applied for it under grandfather rights—whether they can still now apply, I don't know, but they did have those rights to apply, and I think they should have done.
That didn't actually cover the construction skills certification scheme card—it gave them access to sites in a different way, actually, Michael. So, I think that we have a certain sympathy with the petitioner on the fact that obtaining this CSCS card should cost as much as it does, because it's quite a prohibitive cost if you're having to pay for it yourself. And it appears that this is not just with regard to this industry; this could be a creeping thing for many other industries, where people who are certainly well qualified and have worked for many, many years are going to be forced to spend, sometimes, large sums of money in order just to be certificated.
Yes, but I was going to say that one of the things that the petitioner doesn't like is the fact that they've got to pass an NVQ level 2. To actually be a skilled tradesperson, you have to pass an NVQ level 3. So, you only have to be partly skilled, and if anybody wanted to go onto a site, I'd expect them to have done at least an NVQ level 2.
I'm slightly confused in that we clearly want to ensure that people have the right skills to work on sites. The thought of Mike Hedges turning up to do a job of work as a spark is frightening—
For all of us. [Laughter.]
But there seems to be support from unions for making sure that workers have the right certification. Whether there's an alternative to CSCS is the issue here, and there's also the question, of course, of what influence Welsh Government has over this. As far as I see it, Welsh Government has spelt out its position regarding these cards pretty clearly, so is there much that we can do as a committee to pursue it?
I'm not sure that we can take it—
I sympathise with the petitioner, of course. He has his reasons, but—.
I was going to say—[Inaudible.]—but they accept NVQ level 2. If you haven't got the card, NVQ level 2 will get you there. I would hope that anybody working on a site would have at least NVQ level 2, for the safety of all of us.
Okay, we'll close this petition at this moment.
I'm not sure where else we can take it.
Because of time restrictions, we're going to defer consideration of items 3.4 and 3.5, and we are, on those two items, awaiting further information at this point.
So, we move on to item 3.6, which is 'Establish Statutory Public Rights of Access to Land and Water for Recreational and Other Purposes'. This petition was submitted by Waters of Wales and was first considered in November 2016, having collected 3,478 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 4 April 2017 and agreed to forward the petitioner's comments to the Cabinet Secretary for environment and rural affairs and await further detail on the proposals for reform being developed by the Welsh Government.
We've been provided with an update, and I'm referring to a written statement issued by the Minister for Environment on 19 June. Do we have any comments?
Yes. There is more that we could be requesting in terms of information in light of that statement by the Minister. Do we agree?
I think, for the record, we should read out the Minister's statement:
'There were strong but differing views on how best to reform access legislation. We
therefore believe that now is not the right time for substantive reform. But we are committed to exploring selected aspects of change where there was greater consensus, including on some of the administrative arrangements and multi-use paths. We will continue to facilitate further discussions through established groups such as the National Access Forum.'
The petitioners have expressed their frustration with what they consider to be a lack of action on this subject over a number of years.
And I can understand that, because it's a petitioner who wants to increase access and is not getting the increase in access. The question for us is: is there scope through this particular committee to seek any more information? And I guess if it's a matter of furnishing the petitioner with more information, we could write to the Minister to ask for some clarification.
Do you agree with that, Mike?
Yes. Okay. So, we'll write to the Minister for Environment to ask for more detail about consideration given by the Welsh Government to options for reform of access legislation, in light of responses received to the sustainable management of natural resources consultation, and discussions being facilitated with the national access forum. Are you happy with that?
Because all we can do is seek for that conversation to continue, I guess.
We're going to defer items 3.7, 3.8 and 3.9, again due to the time and the fact that we are awaiting further information.
I'm quite happy with that. Can I ask—we're gathering quite a lot of plastic petitions at the moment—whether we could perhaps give consideration to inviting the Minister to come and talk to us, as they did last time when we had three items, on the plastic ones? I think that worked incredibly well last time and it brought a number of petitions to an end.
I think, Chair, there is a further, fourth, petition in relation to single-use disposable plastics that will come to the committee for the first time early in the autumn term, and after that the committee has then got, I think, three or four petitions on that subject matter. We could then invite the Cabinet Secretary for a later meeting.
That would suit me.
There is a paper to note: correspondence from the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport on the 'Free Train Transport for school pupils with Arriva Trains Wales' petition. It's just a point to note.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 6 ac 8 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 6 and 8 in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Right, we now move on to item 5, which is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from items 6 and 8. I propose in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 that the committee resolves to meet in private for items 6 and 8 of today's agenda, and to reconvene in public for the evidence session—item 7—at 10:15. Are Members content?
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:58.
The public part of the meeting ended at 09:58.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 10:15.
The committee reconvened in public at 10:15.
Good morning, Cabinet Secretary, and welcome to this evidence session with the Petitions Committee. Would you like to introduce your colleagues for the Record, if you would, please?
Of course, Chair. This morning, I'm joined by Claire Rowlands and John Pugsley, who have specific responsibility around the development of the new curriculum.
Okay. As you'll be aware, Cabinet Secretary, the committee has been considering this particular petition since earlier this year. It collected a significant number of signatures and the committee has agreed to conduct further scrutiny of the issues raised. We have previously considered correspondence from you on this subject, and during May we held an oral evidence session with the petitioner, Elfed Wyn Jones, and Dr Elin Jones, on this subject. We have invited you here today to discuss issues around the teaching of Welsh history further. Members of the committee have a number of questions that they wish to ask today, and I will open the questioning session with you. In her evidence, Dr Jones said that history gives
'background and context to every...subject in the curriculum.'
What are the Cabinet Secretary's comments with regard to that?
I'd absolutely agree with Dr Jones about the importance of history and the context it can bring to many subjects. 'Successful Futures', which is the report that was written by Professor Graham Donaldson, on which our new curriculum is being developed, is very clear as he says in his statement that he sees the importance of using historical perspectives to address contemporary issues as well as history being fundamental to achieving the purposes of the curriculum. So, forgive me if I'm repeating things that committee members are already aware of, but one of the purposes of the curriculum is to ensure that children and young people develop as ethical, informed citizens, and ready to be citizens of Wales and the world. And I would argue that we cannot fulfil that particular purpose of the curriculum if we do not ensure that history, as part of our humanities area of learning and experience, is taught well and gives children and young people an understanding of their culture and their community and of our story as a nation.
Fine, thank you. Mike, you'd like to come in.
Can I go back in history, as it were, to the task and finish group? Do you endorse their views?
Well, I believe that many of the recommendations that were contained in the task and finish group's report were considered by Professor Donaldson when he wrote 'Successful Futures', and many of the issues of concern have been implemented in Welsh policy. For instance, one obvious example, Mike, would be the changes to the examinations at both GCSE and Welsh A-level. Naturally, teachers choose those exam papers and then teach the curriculum as will be examined. What we've seen in the new A-level, AS-level and the new history GCSE is a much greater emphasis on the need to teach children aspects of Welsh history.
Ychydig o gwestiynau cyffredinol gennyf i. A ydych chi'n credu, â'ch llaw ar eich calon, fod yna ddigon o addysgu plant mewn ysgolion yng Nghymru am hanes eu cenedl eu hunain?
I have a few general questions I'd like to put to you. Do believe, with your hand on your heart, that there is sufficient teaching of children in schools in Wales about the history of their own nation?
I think, Rhun, that it's difficult to quantify—because we don't collect data as such—whether there is too little, just the right amount or too much. When I reflect and I visit schools—I'm in schools most weeks; at least one school every week—I do take the opportunity to ask children about the nature of the lessons they're learning. Indeed, Mike and I were at one of his outstanding schools in his constituency just last Thursday, I believe, Mike, and we took the time to ask the children of that school what they had been doing in history. It's a school in Swansea. They told us how they'd been learning about the copper industry and the copperworks in their local area, and how that had shaped life in Swansea. I know that, sometimes, people say that we spend too much time focusing on world war two, and indeed the children said to us that they'd been learning about world war two, and I said, 'Well, what have you been learning about that?' And they told us, 'We've been learning about how our city was destroyed in the Blitz. We found out what it was like to have to live in those circumstances.' So, I visit schools all the time. I certainly see and hear children tell me about what they've been learning about their Welsh history, but because we don't have any definitive data—because I'm sure none of us want to be in the position of teachers reporting back on exactly the lessons they've been learning—. But the programmes of study in our current curriculum are quite clear in both key stage 2 and key stage 3 about what we would expect them to be teaching our children, and I believe the changes to the GCSE and A-level courses also place greater emphasis on Welsh history.
Have you thought of ways of trying to measure a bit better? I appreciate what you're saying about the need for data, but it's clear that Dr Elin Jones felt that there had been measures in the past, because in relation to the work of the task and finish group, they've said that when research was done about 20 years or so ago—it's quite a while ago now, after my time at school, though—that maybe only a third of schools taught Welsh history properly. So, she clearly felt that there was enough analysis done at that point—whether it was done properly, they considered that in the task and finish group. Could you do the same now?
Well, of course, in December [correction: October] of last year—I believe it was December [correction: October] of last year and I'm sure the committee will have looked at it—Estyn published a report on the quality of humanities teaching, which included history in our schools. They did that because I wanted to satisfy myself of the quality of humanities teaching. Like every report of Estyn, it pointed to some excellent practice going on in Welsh schools and also pointed to things that, collectively, both individual schools and the middle tier of our education system could do better. I'm not so blasé that we're not interested in finding out how we can do better, and that Estyn report suggested that in many, many cases, the quality of humanities work was good and pointed to some excellent practice in schools across Wales about how they're teaching local and Welsh history.
There is a point here, though, where you could have excellence in the teaching of history teaching any part of history. You could have excellence in teaching history, as my daughters have done, studying American history at length and German history, which they've enjoyed. It could be excellent teaching but you're still not getting to the nub of telling people who they are and where their nation's come from and how it's developed over the years.
Well, you're absolutely right. There can be excellent practice but it's also about the content. What the report suggests is that children are being exposed and being taught and having the opportunity to learn and study about their history. They gave a very good example of a primary school in Gwynedd that was able to focus—because in Gwynedd there's no point having a tick list that says that Gwynedd has to learn about the copper industry; it's not particularly perhaps of interest to them—but of course that school was particularly interested in the quarrying industry and how quarrying, in their part of the world, had shaped their lives, had shaped their community and was their story. So, what I'm trying to get across is that, in the current scheme of works, there is an expectation at key stage 2 and key stage 3 that Welsh history is taught. In key stage 4, which is often what people focus on, especially around American history and German history—my own daughter is in the last year of children who will sit that history GCSE—that's been changed. The new history GCSE, which has been taught from last September, which will be examined for the first time completely next year, has a much greater emphasis—because I acknowledge that, certainly for GCSE, there was a lack of focus and a lack of direct, explicit expectation that Welsh history would be taught, which I think is reflected in perhaps the experience that you've had, and I know Mike has talked at length in the committee about his daughter's experience at GCSE and A-level history. That's been changed. I think Dr Jones herself, in evidence to the committee, acknowledged that the contents of the GCSE and A-level had been changed and she welcomed that.
Why does she feel that nothing much has changed since the task and finish group, though? I acknowledge what you've just said absolutely, but she feels that the report was forgotten. It was before your time as Minister, but—.
Well, I'm sorry she feels that because I take very seriously this issue. As I said, I don't believe we can achieve the purposes of our curriculum unless we teach children about their national story and the story of Wales, and the story of their community, which of course will be very different depending on which part of Wales that you're living in. I want to be absolutely explicit: I believe that 'Successful Futures'—Graham Donaldson took on board the task and finish group. Indeed, Dr Jones has been involved in the process, so she herself has been able to give expert advice and evidence to the humanities AoLE. Officials met with Dr Jones just last month to check in with her about that. There are further meetings planned in September. A specific piece of work is being carried out about a Welsh dimension across the curriculum, because I don't want to the Welsh dimension just to be about history, or indeed just about our language. We should be looking at the Welsh dimension in our science, and our maths, and the history of the contribution that Welsh people have made to the development of these areas. So, I don't want to just pigeon-hole it in these two subjects.
So, actually, there is a specific stream of work, which Dr Jones has contributed to, and the Learned Society of Wales continue to contribute to, which is to explore the Welsh dimension, not just in a specific subject, but actually how the dimension is made available and is present throughout the entirety of the AoLEs—not just in one subject, but actually how that Welsh dimension will be present in every single one of the six AoLEs, because I think the only way we will get depth and the quality of what we're looking for in the curriculum is if we do that.
Do you have any concerns that with history, specific history, there's been no guidance specifically for history since the task and finish report? The comment by Dr Jones is that schools have been left in the dark. Do you have a comment on that?
Well, I think there are two issues. I think, in the development of the curriculum, issuing new and additional guidance is probably not particularly helpful. To say that schools are left in the dark, I would, in the current curriculum, point to the programmes of study that are available to schools, which set out, I would argue, very clearly, the expectations of what schools should be doing at individual key stage levels. So, for instance, at key stage 2, children should—and if you don't mind me quoting, and if you bear with me just a second—
'build on the skills, knowledge and understanding acquired during the Foundation Phase'
'the daily life of people living in either the time of the Iron Age Celts or the Romans...the daily life of people living either in the Age of the Princes or in the time of the Tudors'.
So, we're very clear about our expectation about what people should be talking about there. And, again, there is also very clear advice around key stage 3.
But if I reflect, for instance, on my own children's education, I would agree—the old GCSE spec did focus massively on America and Germany, and not a great deal of Welsh content. Although one question on this year's GCSE paper was about the formation of the NHS, which gave children the opportunity to be able to explore very clearly that the foundation and the origins of our NHS come from Wales, from a Welsh politician, and the experiences of a Welsh community that took control of their destiny and provided the impetus for a national service. But if I think about—. And I test this with my own children. I asked my daughter, 'What have you learnt in primary school about your local history?' Where we are, copperworks are not particularly interesting and quarrying is not particularly interesting. But my children were particularly interested to hear about the clearance of the Epynt, of how a community was moved off their land to make way for the army and the consequences that that had for the community, for the individuals who lived on that land, and the consequences for the language—it literally moved the language to the west of Brecon and Radnorshire. And not only did they learn about that in class, they went to the Epynt, so that they could see it for themselves, and they talked to a member of the community who had been part of that move. They heard direct testimony from that gentleman about what it was like to live in that time.
So, I think it would be impossible, would it not, to be able to create a tick-list to be able to satisfy the needs of every single community? Because we have to empower our teachers to be able to talk to children about their particular story, which will be very different if you are living Butetown, and that diverse community, and how that community has been shaped to look like it does today, to the clearance of the Epynt, to the quarryworks of north Wales, or whether it is Swansea being flattened by German bombers.
Interesting questions. It's very interesting that they studied that in their school in Brecon. There's a question, though, about whether that kind of teaching of history should be seen as national history rather than local history, and whether that kind of theme should be taught in schools from Flintshire to Pembrokeshire. If you're looking at themes—if it's about themes, my children have studied the issue of human rights through largely what happened in the southern states of the United States of America, rather than through the story of the Welsh Not or brad y llyfrau gleision. These are stories of the transgressions of human rights in our own nation. You can study that through looking at it through the prism of local history in a school in a part of Wales where they had an old Welsh Not sign, for example, or you could decide, 'You know what? This is our national history that deserves and needs to be told in all parts of Wales.'
And that's why our current programme of study for both key stage 2 and key stage 3 gives the opportunity to develop and apply a child's understanding and knowledge of the cultural, economic, environmental, historical and linguistic characteristics of Wales. There is nothing within the current curriculum that stops that from happening. I would argue, in our new curriculum, we have the ability to apply these principles across AoLEs. So, when you're doing health and well-being and you're looking at rights, then you can much more easily in the new curriculum be able to pick that subject up within the humanities. Whether that's in history, whether that's in geography, or whether that includes a piece of English or Welsh-medium text that a child might be studying as part of their literacy development. So, I think our new curriculum gives us even greater opportunity to make those connections across different subjects, rather than it being a subject-specific lesson that children would sit through.
I would have thought—and you may not agree with this—that actually putting it all into context—. If I just talk about Swansea, which I know more about than anywhere else—
You probably know more about it than anybody else, Mike. [Laughter.]
Swansea exists, in a way—it was developed around not just copper but also tin plates, and also some other much smaller industries, but those were the two. There was a cut-off in Landore, which was the tin plate to copper gap. But why do we have those there? Because we had a lot of coal from Brynhyfryd and Cwmbwrla that you could bring down, so it was cheaper to bring the copper from Anglesey down there. It's this sort of context. If I were to talk to an average 18-year-old A-level history student about this, they'd look at me blank. I think that's the point that we're all trying to get across: why do these places exists? Why didn't they smelt copper in Brecon? Why are there different things, and the effect of inclosure Acts on different parts of Wales, much less than England, and how we became what we are today? That, I would have thought, would be the key to history. As I said on another occasion, my daughter has an encyclopedic knowledge of the southern states of America, Germany up to the end of the second world war, and South Africa, but actually knowing about how we got to where we are in Wales—. It's not just—this is where Rhun and I have political disagreement—about the Welsh Not, it's how Welsh workers were so incredibly badly treated by both Welsh and English iron and coal masters.
I don't disagree with you, Mike, which is why, of course, GCSE and A-level courses have been changed to better reflect the concerns that you're expressing. So, for instance, our new A-level teachers—it's suggested that study areas could include the Rebecca riots, the impact of the first world war on industry and life in Wales, because we need our children to know about the first world war, but we need to know a little about it's global consequences for the global world order but also what that meant and what those changes drove within our own communities, changing attitudes towards the Welsh language and Welsh culture, and also changes to social, religious and cultural changes in our nation between 1918 and 1980, which covers our modern history and how modern Wales looks and changes. So, that's why we've changed the course content of both GCSE and A-level, so those opportunities are there. I'd be the first to agree with you that they weren't there, perhaps, in our old GCSEs and our old A-levels, and that's why they've been changed, as a result of Dr Jones's work.
Why 1918 rather than 1870? I'm thinking of 1870 because that was when the Forster Act came in, and it was also the beginning of the religious revival in Wales. If you wander around most of Wales, you'll see lots of chapels that say, 'Built 1866'—or 1870 or 1874—and 1870 to 1914 was actually an important lead-in to what happened post 1914.
I'll pass your comments on to Qualifications Wales, but given the fact that we've only just recently changed our A-level and our GCSEs, I'm sure history teachers the length and breadth of Wales would not welcome a further change at this stage.
No, but it will have to be changed in the future. I'm just throwing that out—that 1870 was much more of a break than 1914, as 1914 was a break that we had that was caused by external events.
Are you confident that something such as the agrarian revolution would be taught within a Welsh context in history?
I'm sure that if that was being taught in a Welsh school, the consequences for our nation would form a very important aspect of that. What's really important, Chair—if you don't mind me saying—is that we don't hamper our new curriculum by doing what we have, perhaps in the past, where we have a tick list. What's happening in the development of our new curriculum is that we have our 'what matters' statements leading each individual area of learning and experience, and then we have to work with the profession to allow them to interpret those 'what matters' statements in a way that best meets the local content and the needs and the interests of their children in their classroom. Now, clearly, that work is ongoing at the moment. Dr Jones has been consulted on the 'what matters' statements for the humanities AoLE. She's in contact with officials about that. We're checking in with her because her views, and those of other academics, are important and we want to get it right, but we don't want to hamper and simply give our schools a long tick list, which would rob our teaching profession of their professional autonomy, and also their ability to create a curriculum that is specific to local interests and, indeed, the interests of their children. Because sometimes children take us to unexpected places, and they want to learn about things that perhaps the teachers themselves haven't—. Unless we give the children the space to say that—. So, for instance, if I think about another school in my own constituency, one school looks at the Epynt, but another school, because we have a connection with South Africa and the Zulu wars—and indeed, a member of staff is a descendant of somebody that won a Victoria Cross—the children in that school have been very interested in understanding what that's about, because they've got the direct connection with somebody who teaches in their school who has a family history. So, we're developing our future historians by giving them the skills to explore history—their local history and, indeed, world history—through connections that set something alight in them, and spark their imagination, which then the teacher allows to be encouraged and to flourish.
Just some questions. I'm enjoying this—
Sorry, I could talk about it for a long time. Half an hour is not enough.
How do you avoid a situation, then—? If you have a school that pursues something that is of particular interest to it because of its locality, or perhaps because of the nature of the school itself, how do you stop a situation where the only in-depth look at the history of the Welsh language in an area is done in a Welsh-medium school, which would clearly be ridiculous? You could argue that, because it is a Welsh-medium school, there's more of an appetite to look at the history of the development or the demise of, or pressures on—or whatever it might be—the Welsh language. How do you make sure that you have that consistency across all schools, whatever their linguistic nature?
At the moment, as I said, we have advice via our programmes of study that help guide teachers. As we develop the new curriculum going forward, we have those 'what matters' statements. As I said, going back to my opening point, I don't think you can fulfill the purposes of the curriculum for those young people leaving our education system—ethical, informed citizens, ready to be active, not just in their locale, not just in Wales but active citizens of the world—I don't think we can fulfill those purposes if a school does not take the opportunity to talk about and to discuss with their children the history of our language. Of course, we have to also see that alongside our communications AoLE, with the importance of the Government's target of 2050 and our reform of Welsh language teaching, especially in our English-medium sector, for it to be better than it is at present. So, it shouldn't just be seen in the history lesson; there are opportunities across the new curriculum to talk about those issues and to perhaps explain to children why the language maybe isn't heard in their community as much any more. But it gives us the opportunity to explain the benefits of being bilingual—the intrinsic, I believe, benefit that brings to you as a human being, but also the hard economic realities of why being a bilingual person will actually benefit you as an individual. So, I don't see that distinction necessarily between English medium and Welsh medium. We can't let the language just be the preserve of a certain type of school. We can't.
I was just going to carry on from that. I think that within Welsh medium and A-level Welsh, for example, Taliesin, Aneirin and Hedd Wyn are people who are studied and you get a greater knowledge of Welsh history, albeit medieval Welsh history, from studying the Welsh language than you do from studying A-level and GCSE history. I would argue that that was almost certainly the case, even with the revised curriculum. It does seem odd that history is being taught better in another subject area, albeit at key stage 4, than it is actually within its own subject area. You've read out a lot of statements that could be almost taken from any scheme of work that's been created, but with a bit of history added at the end of it. It's probably too late to do it now, but I think it would have benefited if we'd had broad themes of what people—'You should be able to, at the end of this, understand how your community was created, understand how Wales changed since'—I would say 1870, as that was one of the big cuts, but you might have said, 'Since the industrial revolution.'
Of course, what goes alongside the actual content of the curriculum is how you address progression, Chair. So, currently, at the moment, progression is addressed by a series of levels. Actually, what we're doing, alongside the content of the curriculum, is: how is that going to be assessed, how do we know that children are moving forward and developing, what are the progression points? So, what Mike is describing there are progression points and we will have progression points for each of the AoLEs. So, what kind of skills, what kind of abilities would we expect a child to see at different points during their education? So, Mike is quite right; progression is important: what historical principles and skills could we expect a child to have developed by the age of seven or 11 or 14? That work is ongoing alongside the actual content of the curriculum, because how can we judge a child is making progress unless we have those progression points alongside content? One of the lessons that we've learnt from the Scottish experience is that progression and assessment were bolted on at the end of their process rather than an integral part of the development of their new curriculum. We've learnt the lessons of what has happened in Scotland and we're making sure the progression points that Mike has just alluded to are a seamless part of the work that we're doing.
So, do you really feel that the curriculum you're developing and you're going to be implementing now will actually encourage history to be taught in a Welsh context—in a thoroughly Welsh context?
I believe wholeheartedly that our new curriculum gives us an opportunity not just to have a Welsh sense and a Welsh perspective in terms of history; I believe it gives us an opportunity to have a Welsh sense and a Welsh perspective right the way across all of our subjects.
Just one last one. Politics, obviously, should be kept out of the teaching of history, but you've heard people over the years say, 'You've got to stop the teaching of history being used as propaganda for nationalism', or whatever it might be. You could turn it on its head, though, and say that people have wanted to, historically, stop teaching the people of Wales about their real history. What are your thoughts on that and how things have, hopefully, changed?
I believe that, to develop historical skills, what's really important is that we give our children the knowledge to be able to examine a number of sources from different perspectives, different takes on a situation, and to be able to examine that, interrogate it and, crucially, make up their own minds. That's what makes a good history lesson, and that's what gives children the historical skills they need to interpret their own history—and, indeed, to interpret the world that they're living in. So, it's not to say that there is a right or a wrong; it is about empowering our children to be able to examine sources, to be able to listen to different arguments and to be able to evaluate those arguments, and, crucially, come to their own conclusions.
As you probably know, Dr Elin Jones was fairly critical about the Donaldson report in many aspects of it. Just to take one of those, she was concerned that, under the Donaldson reforms, there is the potential for teaching about Welsh culture to be restricted to Welsh language lessons. What would you say with regard to that?
I believe, actually, that the curriculum gives us the opportunity to understand Welsh culture throughout the curriculum. Indeed, it could well be in Welsh language lessons. Mike has talked about religious revivals; it could be in a religious education lesson. It could be in a literature lesson when people are looking at a piece of text either in the Welsh language or in the English language. It could be examining a piece of art by Kyffin Williams and looking at the depiction of our nation through art, whether that be painting or whether that be sculpture. Actually, I think the new curriculum gives us an opportunity to develop our sense of Welsh identity and understand the contribution of Wales to the world through a variety of subjects, not just in an individual lesson.
Can I thank you, Cabinet Secretary, for your very comprehensive answers to all of our questions? I must say that your enthusiasm for your portfolio certainly shines through, and it was shown today. So, I thank you very much, and obviously your colleagues, for attending today. Thank you.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:48.
The public part of the meeting ended at 10:48.