Welsh Award Ceremony 2015
This year’s award ceremony of the Welsh Heritage Schools Initiative’s history competition also marks its 25 years anniversary. Two groups impressed the jury with their detailed inquiries into the history of World War I in their region.
Three Sixth Form students from Wales have proven that historic research can be inspired even by something that was already considered waste. When a field worker from the Imperial War Museum came to their school to speak to their history teacher about a war memorial plaque that had been discovered on a skip, they knew they had found a topic for their competition entry. Ashley Richards, Barnard Jones and Jack Ashford from the Rhondda region in South Wales started to look into the origins of the plaque and found out that it commemorates soldiers who fell in World War I and must have originally been standing outside the nearby Methodist Chapel. The three engaged in further research into the lives of those who had fallen on the battlefields, and in 2014 they organised with their local primary school for the plaque to be put up again on the school’s site to honour the soldiers who had lost their lives. One year after hearing about the discarded memorial plaque for the first time the three students were awarded a prize in the Welsh EUSTORY competition.
The award ceremony on July 10th also marked the 25 years anniversary of the competition that is organised by the Welsh Heritage Schools Initiative. It is run by a committee of unpaid volunteers, sustained by a number of sponsors and has received strong endorsements from Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, and the First Minister of The Welsh Government, Carwyn Jones AM. Representatives from almost fifty award winning schools were invited to the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, the same venue where it was held for the very first time in 1990, to receive their prizes. In his guest speech, Leighton Andrews, former Minister for Education and now Minster for Public Services in The Welsh Government, stressed that the competition motivates students to critically think and analyse what shaped their lives and identities in the presence. He said: “You cannot understand where you are going unless you understand where you have come from”.
The competition invites schools to interpret the topic ‘heritage’ in its widest sense. For their entries, some schools began their research with pupils’ own families, school and their community; others extended their focus on a whole range of political, economic, social and cultural dimensions. Projects were presented in a very wide range of media, including visitor guides, film or drama and musical presentations and most schools who entered the competition displayed their work for parents and the wider community. The Albany Road Primary School from Cardiff won the first prize in their age group with their work on a local military hospital in the First World War. Running out of space in their main facilities, in August 1914 the Cardiff hospital was looking for suitable rooms in which they could treat war casualties – and found the kid’s primary school to be a fit. The primary school students investigated how this unusual neighbourhood of school and hospital was organised and presented their findings to the interested public last year. After winning a First Prize, they decided to use part their prize money of £1000 to set up a webpage that informs about the war hospital’s history during the First World War and contribute to the remembrance of this part of their local history.
The Sixth Formers from Rhondda are proud that they could contribute to the World War I commemoration in their local region, 100 years after the battle broke out in Europe. For the research and the efforts in reinstalling the lost war memorial, they did not only receive a money prize of £750 but also got invited to discuss questions of remembrance and identity with other students from all over Europe. They will join a group of 50 award winners from the EUSTORY competitions in Olsztyn, Poland for the 2nd Baltic Sea Youth Dialogue. There they will get another opportunity to get engaged in historical research.