Cynefin and the school collections at Carmarthenshire Archives

Archives Hub feature for April 2024

Work has begun on re-cataloguing the school and education records held by Carmarthenshire Archives.  The collection consists of the records of over 120 elementary schools, as well as school plans, photographs and minutes of various education authorities. Progress has been steady, and we aim to have the catalogues available on Archives Hub by the end of the year.

The work on re-cataloguing the collections also ties in with the planned development of an archive service for schools and colleges in the Carmarthenshire area.  The new Curriculum for Wales was introduced in 2022 and core to the humanities programme is a sense of “cynefin”.

“Cynefin” as defined by the new Curriculum for Wales is “the place where we feel we belong, where the people and landscape around us are familiar, and the sights and sounds are reassuringly recognisable.  Though often translated as ‘habitat’, cynefin is not just a place in a physical or geographical sense: it is the historic, cultural and social place which has shaped and continues to shape the community which inhabits it”.

The new curriculum allows learners of all ages to experience a range of stimuli that enthuse and inspire them to imagine and be curious, and to explore, discover and question through a range of opportunities.  This includes visits to libraries, archives and museums; engaging with structured enquiry and cooperative learning; to use artefacts and texts of historic and religious significance; and to work with individuals, experts, groups and organisations that have particular potential to provide stimulating contexts for learning.

The result has been an increase in schools requesting workshops linked to their locality and a good place to start is always with the school records, particularly the logbooks and admission registers.

Dating back to the 1870s in most instances, the school log books in our collections can help tell the story of a local community and illustrate the way an area responds to national events such as the two world wars as well as local events such as bad weather, harvests, and epidemics.

Image showing extract from handwritten Llwynhendy School logbook, dated 4 September 1939.
Extract from Llwynhendy School logbook, 4 September 1939. Item reference GB 211 OF/E 11/1/4.

Some examples I have recently come across include the staff of Llwynhendy School preparing to receive evacuees at the out break of the Second World War in September 1939. The admission register for the same school confirms that evacuees arrived at Llwynhendy from London, Liverpool and Birmingham.

Meanwhile in Bynea School in 1941, during an air raid warning the children were dressed and equipped with their gas masks ready for a speedy escape.  Instead, the children all stretched themselves out under the desks until the alert passed.

Image showing extract from handwritten Clawddowen School logbook, dated 5 May 1899.
Extract from Clawddowen School logbook, 5 May 1899. Item reference GB 211 OF/C 8/1/1.

In 1899, the school mistress at Clawddowen School was struggling with poor attendance. The very wet weather appears to have been putting most children off attending school. Although, even when “the weather is beautifully fine for good attendance…the children are kept home to assist in gardening and harrowing”. It was a battle the school mistress was never going to win.

At Llanfihangel-ar-Arth National School in 1868, the master was having a different problem.  His opening entries in the logbook record that “the children are not progressing satisfactorily owing to their ignorance of the English Language” and “the same difficulty is expressed still with the children in the want of English”. Another entry also records that “formerly they were accustomed to be taught in Welsh and the transition from Welsh to English is accompanied with many difficulties”. Today, nearly two thirds of Carmarthenshire primary schools are Welsh medium, and there are four bilingual secondary schools and one Welsh medium school in the county.

Image showing extract from handwritten Llanfihangel-ar-Arth National School logbook, dated 14 January 1868.
Llanfihangel-ar-Arth National School logbook, 14 January 1868. Item reference GB 211 OF/G 3/1/1.

As work continues on the collections, I am certain to find more examples that will help tell the stories of our local communities.

Katie Millien
Carmarthenshire Archives


Descriptions of other archives held by Archifau Sir Gaerfyrddin / Carmarthenshire Archives can be found on Archives Hub here:

All images copyright Archifau Sir Gaerfyrddin / Carmarthenshire Archives. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *