South Wales schoolchildren become first to pilot history education programme

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Pupils from Tongwynlais Primary School playing Cadw's Victorian board game at Castell Coch

Pupils from Tongwynlais Primary School playing Cadw's Victorian board game at Castell Coch

A group of Cardiff schoolchildren became the first to discover Wales’s Victorian history this week (15 October), as Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, invited them to pilot a new element of its Wales-wide education programme during a trip to Castell Coch.

Pupils from Tongwynlais Primary School visited the Victorian castle – former home to nineteenth-century nobles Lord and Lady Bute – on Wednesday to partake in one of a series of tailor-made learning sessions being rolled out across the country.

Newly launched KS2 & KS3 activities at Castell Coch in Tongwynlais and Plas Mawr townhouse in Conwy include guided tours from the sites’ famous former occupants.

Lady Bute leads the proceedings at Castell Coch, while Lord and Lady Wynn – famed for their taste for lavish entertaining – will be on hand at Plas Mawr to show off their grand Elizabethan mansion.

In addition, a specially designed interactive Victorian board game has been created to teach children about life in nineteenth-century south Wales. In groups of two to six, pupils will learn key facts as they move their counters between 1801 and 1900, before using the accompanying fact sheets for further research and group discussions.

As part of its focus on education, Cadw has introduced a number of high quality free online resources for teachers, providing essential information and ideas for activities for use before, during and after the education visits which tie in with school curriculums. New innovative education packs have been created specifically for foundation and key stage 2 and 3 that use historic monuments to tackle subjects covering literacy, numeracy, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and geography. Teachers can also now book their class visits online.

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport said: 'This is an excellent example of how the historic environment can be used to enhance the education experience for young people in Wales.

'Our heritage monuments are assets that should not only be protected, but should also be enjoyed, explored and questioned. Through learning about the significance of our historic buildings and sharing the stories they hold we are helping to create future custodians of our heritage.'

10-year old Tongwynlais Primary School pupil, Cayla Brown, was one of the first to trial the board game at Castell Coch. She said: 'I liked the game. It is really good for people to play and learn more about history at the same time.'

The activities are set to complement the existing KS2 & KS3 programmes already on offer at Cadw sites across Wales, including Caerphilly Castle, Caernarfon Castle, Segontium Roman Fort, Blaenavon Ironworks and Tretower Court and Castle in Powys.
The education programmes at Castell Coch and Tretower Court and Castel are supported by organisations including Cardiff Story, Glamorgan Archives, Brecon Beacons National Park and Natural Resources Wales, which have developed complementary educational activities so that pupils can spend whole days learning out of the classroom.

Sue Mason, Head of Lifelong Learning for Cadw, said, 'These exciting new education activities and resources aim to bring the fascinating stories behind our historic buildings and the characters who lived in them to life as a way of engaging pupils with their local heritage, and to support the teaching of subjects such as history alongside numeracy and literacy skills and the curriculum Cymreig.

'Learning at site gives pupils the chance to be transported back to a period in history making it a living lesson. Authentic experiences aid not just their understanding of a subject but also their retention of information.'

Both the Meet Lady Bute tour at Castell Coch and Travelling Tudors session at Plas Mawr must be booked in advance. The half day activities cost £90 per group, for up to 30 pupils.

The new board game, 19th Century Cardiff, and accompanying resources can be downloaded directly from the Cadw website for use in the classroom.

Cadw Education Programme: What’s on offer?

Tretower Court and Castle, Powys: A Servant’s Life

  • Interactive tour led by a servant of the 900-year old house, who shows pupils exactly what life is like serving Tretower’s wealthy Tudor owners –  the Vaughans
  • Hands-on activities in Tretower’s great kitchen and hall.

Castell Coch, Tongwynlais: Meet Lady Bute

  • Bespoke tour around the rooms of the spectacular castle from its own former resident
  • Pupils explore the life of John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute – one of the period’s richest but most private figures – and the work he undertook with architect William Burges to build the gothic monument
  • Pupils also explore the dungeons, defences, walls and well tower on a self-led trail

Plas Mawr, Conwy: Travelling Tudors

  • Learn about aspects of life in Tudor times from the Wynn family of Plas Mawr Elizabethan Mansion
  • Tour topics include food and drink, travelling the globe and the technology used to build and decorate the house
  • In addition teachers are provided with a self-led activity.

Education visits are also on offer at Caerphilly Castle, Blaenavon Ironworks, Chepstow Castle, Segontium Roman Fort and Caernarfon Castle. 

For more information about school visits or to download education resources, visit