Strengths in the humanities are highlighted in schools across Wales

Humanities courses that offer a variety of tasks, the study of issues of current concern, and the opportunity to undertake learning beyond the classroom, engage and motivate pupils well, according to Estyn in a good practice report published today. However, schools should ensure that there is an appropriate balance in the humanities between the development of pupils’ skills and their subject knowledge and understanding.

Inspectors visited primary and secondary schools that had been identified as having strengths in their delivery of geography and history. Estyn’s report, ‘Good practice in the humanities’ looks at the standards, provision and leadership in these subjects at key stages 2, 3 and 4, as well as highlighting case studies for teachers to use. 

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says

“Good practice identified in this report includes school leaders who understand the role of the humanities in a balanced curriculum, and teachers who skilfully blend the development of subject knowledge and skills, use a wide range of resources, and make effective use of the local area.”

The report found that planning for progression in the humanities from the Foundation Phase to key stage 2 is well developed. However, planning for progression from key stage 2 to key stage 3 is weaker. This is because curriculum transition arrangements between primary and secondary schools most frequently focus on the core subjects rather than on history and geography and this can result in pupils repeating work at a similar level.

The report includes seven case studies, including Rhiwbeina Primary School in Cardiff where pupils experience what it’s like to be an evacuee through role-play and a train journey to a local church hall to be billeted.  Members of the local community who were evacuees also share their experiences with pupils.

Inspectors also found that the humanities play an important role in providing learners with the understanding, skills, values and attitudes to participate in Wales’s diverse society. The good practice shared in this report should be used by schools to reflect on their own practice so they can better prepare their pupils for life as global citizens. 

The report recommends that schools ensure that pupils’ learning experiences in the humanities are wide-ranging, interesting, progressive and challenging, particularly at key stage 4. Schools should also monitor the progress that pupils make in the humanities more closely and evaluate their humanities curriculum in preparation for future curriculum developments.

Local authorities and regional consortia should provide better professional learning opportunities for humanities teachers, and the Welsh Government should ensure that initial teacher training programmes provide new teachers with the skills needed to teach the humanities successfully and to respond to future changes to the curriculum. 

Notes to Editors:

About the report

The findings and recommendations in this report draw on visits to 19 schools. The schools selected for visits had been identified as having innovative practice in curriculum design and/or strong outcomes in the humanities. When visiting these schools inspectors:

  • observed humanities lessons at key stages 2, 3 or 4
  • held discussions with middle and senior leaders
  • met groups of pupils with their work
  • reviewed curriculum plans and school documentation

Case studies from the following organisations are included in the report:

  • Bishop Gore School, Swansea
  • Cefn Hengoed Community School, Swansea
  • Elfed High School, Flintshire
  • Garnteg Primary School, Torfaen
  • Rhiwbeina Primary School, Cardiff
  • Ysgol Gynradd Cae Top, Gwynedd
  • Ysgol Gynradd Llanllechid, Gwynedd

Publication date

Friday, 6 October, 2017