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Black History is Welsh History

Charlotte pictured in Adelaide, South Australia. Photographer: Naomi Jellicoe.

I’m Charlotte Williams. In 2020 I led work on the teaching of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic histories and contributions in support of the new curriculum. In 2022, I was really pleased that the Welsh Government made mandatory the teaching of these perspectives for all schools and early years settings in Wales.

I’d like to take this opportunity to answer a few questions on this.

Why is teaching this important?

People often ask me this. My entire education since the age of five when I entered primary school in Wales, has been in Wales. If I think back over my 15 years of formal education, I can’t recall that I was given one book to study, one history book, one novel, an image in a magazine even that reflected the presence of people like me in Wales. Nothing.

We know from research that this has a huge impact on children from minority ethnic backgrounds, in terms of their self-esteem, their confidence, their interest in learning and their attainment. But it has a huge impact on all children in school.

I didn’t hear anything about Wales in the world, about the slate industry, the coal industry, the iron and the wool industries, and how they connected Wales in trade routes across the globe. I didn’t hear about missionaries who took messages to other lands following colonial routes or about all the migrations that toing and froing from Wales that make Wales the rich multicultural society. That it is today.

Black history is Welsh history, and this is what I want all children in schools in Wales to have the opportunity to explore. An education that engages with these diverse perspectives is a rich education.

How does this benefit our children?

Today’s children expect much more than I did. Our children expect, and deserve, an interesting and broad education that prepares them well for the world in which they live and operate. Children today are globally connected. They often have to make sound and ethical judgments about difference and diversity. They need to understand about the cultures, and they need to understand how and why Wales became the diverse nation that it is.

Research tells us that children exposed to more diverse perspectives become more inclusive in their attitudes. So education like this contributes to creating an #AntiRacistWales. This type of knowledge gives children confidence to ask searching questions, to be inquisitive and curious about different ways of seeing and knowing their world.

A protestor holding a Black Lives Matter sign.

Are our teachers equipped to teach them about this?

Teachers are getting geared up and getting up to speed, engaging with professional learning themselves so that they can deliver on this.

Schools are looking at their policies and their practices and engaging with anti-racist actions. Parents and carers are also contributing their knowledge and experience to transforming and enriching the curriculum.

It’s going to take effort on all paths to make this mandate a reality and benefit all children and young people across schools in Wales.

Professor Charlotte Williams

Chair of the Communities, Contributions and Cynefin: Black, Asian, Minority Ethnicities in the new curriculum Working Group

Join the conversation and show your support by using the hashtag #AntiRacistWales.

Darllenwch y dudalen hon yn y Gymraeg.

Charlotte presenting an award at the Professional Teaching Awards Cymru at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff.

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