BAME history lessons to become mandatory in Welsh schools

Professor Charlotte Williams

All pupils in Wales will be taught about racism and the contributions of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities (BAME), the devolved government has said.

Almost 35,000 people have called for Britain's colonial past to be taught in school lessons.

Under changes to the curriculum the teaching of BAME histories will be mandatory, with the Labour-led government saying this would help young people grow into “ethical and informed citizens”.

Professor Charlotte Williams, who led a working group created by the Welsh government to look at the teaching of minority ethnic contributions through history, said there was considerable evidence of racial inequality in Wales’s education system.

She said: “The attainment of children and young people from some minority communities is being hampered by a curriculum that has failed to represent their histories, and the contributions of their communities, past and present.

She added that the curriculum is hindered by the lack of positive role models in an education workforce that does not adequately reflect the ethnically diverse profile of Wales; and hindered by experiences of racism in their everyday school life.

A report produced by the working group makes 51 recommendations, including:

  • Mandatory anti-racism and diversity training for all trainee and acting teachers.

  • BAME history to be mandatory in schools.

  • Scholarships to support more BAME students to enter teacher training.

  • Mentoring and social support to be offered to all teachers from BAME backgrounds.

Plaid Cymru argued the changes were not included in the school curriculum law, passed in the Senedd last week, but instead in a code which could be changed or got rid of by ministers.

The Welsh government said this was "incorrect" and the teaching of BAME stories would be required in every school.

The Welsh government said £500,000 would be provided to support the implementation of the report’s recommendations.

The Welsh education minister, Kirsty Williams, said: “As the report states, our new curriculum can only be enriched by revealing the diversity of perspectives and contributions made by the ethnic minority communities to the development of Wales across its history and in the present."

In 2019, 12% of all pupils aged five and over came from minority ethnic backgrounds, though this differs widely across Wales, from 34.4% in Cardiff to 4.1% in Anglesey, according to Pupil Level Annual School Census data.

Forty of the 1,065 students who began training to become teachers in Wales in 2018-19 said they were from a minority ethnic group.

Meanwhile, Wales' new curriculum, set to be introduced in 2022, is based on six "areas of learning and experience" and does not set out exactly what schools should be teaching.

However, the changes will now mean all learning areas will need to reflect the diverse experiences and contributions of BAME communities and individuals to both past and present Wales.