The concept of Peace Schools, which will prepare confident Welsh and global citizens, is a growing seed in the creative project that is Wales for Peace. This page provides an opportunity to share examples of good practice that can feed into planning for a Peace Schools’ initiative in Wales. Contact us with your own examples and reports to share with schools .
By Gwenan Davies Jones, Headteacher
Koichi Nagashimaplanting the Llanllechid school peace tree /
Sir Nicholas Winton with his card from Llanllechidphoto credit BarbaraWinton
World War I and Hedd Wyn
There’s nothing like war or the threat of war to focus minds on peace. YsgolLlanllechidcommemorated the First World War in the context of Hedd Wyn. The whole school set about learning some of HeddWyn’s poems during sessions the school hall. Furthermore the older pupils learnt the commemorative ‘EnglynionCoffaHedd Wyn’ by R Williams Parry. Given their enthusiasm, a representation from the school was invited to Flanders in conjunction with the North Wales Rugby Choir campaign to raise funds for the Wales memorial. On a video clip here, you will see pupil Gwydion Rhys with a meaningful rendition of the poem he recited in Flandersas well as his reflections on local lads who went to war.
Of course we had to visit YrYsgwrn, HeddWyn’s home, and what a welcome we had from Gerald Williams, his nephew. We appreciated the crackling fire in the hearth and Gerald’s generosity in sharing his time and his thoughts about the war. He showed the medal the family received after Hedd Wyn was killed, a poor recompense for his life and not an object Gerald wished to glorify.
One needs only peek into the front parlour, packed with imposing eisteddfod chairs, to appreciate the extraordinary poetic potential lost by the nation, and the sadness surrounding the presentation of the ‘GadairDdu’ (Black Chair) during the Eisteddfod at Birkenhead. The ache of loss was not limited to the literary pupils. At YrYsgwrn, you step back in time to an era long gone – with all the senses activated in responding to the heat of the fire, the smell of the smoke, the tactile objects in the dark living room, and listening to the sheep bleating outside on the hillside. Such an immersion into the reality of daily life in rural Wales; the hardship yet the care and companionship; the sweat and tears of agriculture yet the redemptive role of religion in family life. And all this, as the bookshelf reminded us, woven together with dignity and the very Welsh respect for learning. So after an inner journey into our national experience and the impact of war on the family of YrYsgwrn, a family that’s become the symbol of our national experience, it followed naturally that we extended that view to look at aspects of bravery and peace beyond Wales.
World War II and children’s experiences
As our teaching themes concentrate on World War II, it was to that war we turned to discover aspects of bravery and peace. Our main focus was on the impact of war on young people and children, be they Welsh, Jewish, German or Japanese.
- Experiences of the Welsh: This was explored through the excellent S4C series ‘Lleisiau’r Ail RyfelByd’ (‘Voices of the Second World War’ by Cwmni Da) which covers World War II from a Welsh perspective, as we learnt about evacuees, propaganda, the battles and the suffering but also about the bravery of pacifists and conscientious objectors. (Note also the extensive provision on Hwb and at the National Library when seeking resources to support learning about the world wars.
- Experiences of Jewish children: Researching into the experiences of children such as Anne Frank and Hana (‘Hana’s Suitcase’) was an eye-opener in terms of the evil that racism can cause. It was difficult for us today to understand how the situation deteriorated to be so terrible. Why didn’t the German people or others prevent the holocaust? Yet an awareness of the Jewish experience has served to emphasise the importance of challenging racism in our own age.
- Experiences in Germany: It was another revelation to learn about the White Rosemovement and emotional to view the film about Sophie Scholland her brother who campaigned for peace in opposition to Hitler.
- A British Hero -Sir Nicholas Winton:Learning about his bravery and humanity was an inspiration to the pupils as they discovered that he saved 668 children through the kindertransport. His example restored the pupils’ faith in the power of the individual to take action according to his conscience. We sent a card of appreciation and had a response so it was sad to hear about his death soon after, but we are still grateful for the contact with his daughter Barbara Winton.
- Experiences in Japan: Of course we were pleased that there was an end to the war, but we couldn’t ignore the horrors experienced by ordinary people in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Again through the experiences of a young person called Sadako Sasaki we had a chance to learn to do origami and a peace crane as well as to research more about the famous peace monument.We’ve been fortunate to have frequent visits over the years from Koichi and Catherine Nagashima. So after receiving a seed from their garden in Japan, and watching it grow over the years in a pot, it was only natural that the pupils asked Koichi to plant the tree as the focus to our peace garden and discussion area on the YsgolLlanllechidschool green. Koichi described what war and the bombing over Tokyo was like for him as a child, and his description of the effect of hunger had a great impact on the children.
Peace and school ethos
Peace issues are not limited to subject themes. The participatory and international ethos of the school provides many more whole-school opportunities.
- Starting with the pupils, the school has led in piloting the successful Finnish anti-bullying programme KiVain Wales. It’s an innovative programme that allows pupils to establish healthy and positive interaction habits, as they deal with a range of scenarios, using different strategies including an awareness of when to use proactive discussion to avoid situations of conflict and bullying.
- The School Council took ownership of the Fairtrade agenda as they understood the importance of sharing the world’s resources more equally. From using Fairtrade foods to fabric, the pupils have been active making and selling goods to support communities worldwide.
- Peace in our communities in Wales is also essential for the school, and this is emphasised through whole-school diversity training. A rigorous reporting system is in place to record and address any racist issue and further awareness is raised through the services of ‘Show the Red Card to Racism’. Diversity is celebrated in our community through exciting experiences eg a visit to the local Chinese restaurant.
- The school also supports and is actively engaged with Wales-based groups such as the Urdd which has peace at its core and where young people annually send out a message of peace and goodwill worldwide.
- A critical aspect of developing peaceful attitudes and international understanding is the leadership the school gives on Global Education, with partner schools in India, Jamaica and China. An accredited International School the school has received many awards for initiative in this field. But the main purpose of this education is its impact on the pupils,eg the enjoyment of spending time with visitors from India and learning about their customs and culture. Furthermore there’s nothing to beat the skills the pupils develop as they research and celebrate the differences, recognise similarities, exchange information and re-assess their preconceptions of people from different countries. The school has also benefited from working with the British Council and has made the most of opportunities to send teachers to visit partner schools. These opportunities are invaluable in continued professional development and in raising staff confidence in subject and global-education teaching.
Peace and current affairs
We relate teaching to current affairs so flexibility is in-built according to requirements: eg the need to protect our communities from islamophobia (through facts and by understanding and empathy eg the film ‘Wadjda’and ‘Children of Heaven’), an understanding of current wars and conflicts, and the World War I centenary commemorations in Wales.
Thus, by sharing some of our school experiences, it is hoped that this report will act as a catalyst to others: to recognise aspects of peace education already practiced in schools across Wales, to further inspire and reduce our workloads by sharing good ideas, and to support the education aims of Wales for Peace.
SHARING WITH SCHOOLS & WALES FOR PEACE
Wales for Peace appreciates YsgolLlanllechid’s extensive and meaningful contribution and encourages other primary schools to share good practice, be they small classroomprojects or whole-school initiaitves: