Welsh sociology is big in New York

Nicola Porter

A made-in-Wales sociology syllabus has proved a big hit with an academic think-tank - based in New York.

Researchers from the global social change research project stumbled across the curriculum while surfing the web for information on Wales. They discovered that being Welsh is not all about rugby, sheep and coal mines that shut down decades ago. Now they are considering using the information for their research on global change.

Nationality, including a special section on Welsh culture, is part of the Welsh exam board WJEC's sociology syllabus that students sat for the first time last summer. There is also a chance to look at other British cultures - including England's World Cup soccer tradition.

Sociology is the first WJEC syllabus to be accessible on the National Grid for Learning Cymru website. Teachers, who are sometimes not sociology specialists, swear by its user-friendliness, with 1,000 more candidates across the UK since last year.

Joanna Lewis, WJEC subject officer for sociology, said the interest in the new specification had been staggering.

"Putting the new syllabus on the NGfL website really sold it," she said.

"Teachers told us they wanted it in plain English and that's what they got.

I was over the moon when it got a hit from New York."

The new syllabus was introduced in 2005 after a year-long consultation with teachers and lecturers. Fans say it is easier to follow and allows students and teachers to download material and study aids.

One anonymous teacher said on The TES's web staffroom: "My Year 12 is already doing WJEC. I'm happy with that - it's less content-heavy for weaker students."

Other study areas in the curriculum include mosh pits (for punk dancing) and clubbing, anti-social behaviour, religious belief and single mothers within family networks. Students are encouraged to watch TV programmes such as Coronation Street, The Simpsons and The Royle Family to aid their studies.

Janis Griffiths, head of sociology at Bryn Hafren secondary in Barry, south Wales, said: "It is so geared to the needs of learners and teachers of the subject. Sociology has a bright future."

Last year, 1,250 pupils in Wales took A-level sociology. Of those, 1,007 were girls and 243 were boys. The specification can be found on the NGfL website www.ngfl-cymru.org.uk

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Nicola Porter

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