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Wales is a small country that is distinctive in its landscape, culture and language. This gives the notion of place a particular resonance in Wales and reinforces the significance of local contexts. Cynefin (pronounced kuh-nev-in) is a Welsh word that signifies attachment to place within the Welsh context. Simply defined it means ‘habitat’, but it is a word that suggests greater complexity than this and evokes the profound nature of the relationship between the individual and the land. As Adams (2023) recently noted, cynefin should be thought of not merely as a code but as a way of participating with others and with the world around us.

This special issue of the BERA Blog is focused on education in Wales and is organised around the theme of cynefin. We have invited Welsh academics, policymakers and practitioners to address key issues and debates framed by themes of belonging, connectedness and community.

Cynefin has a special place in the Curriculum for Wales where it is being used to support curriculum outcomes in relation to citizenship, diversity, heritage and language. Cynefin also speaks to the approach to educational reform being taken in Wales. This seeks to account for the complexity of causality within schools as organisations, the agency of individuals at every level of the education system and the personal connections they feel within specific contexts (Snowden & Boone, 2007).

‘Cynefin has a special place in the Curriculum for Wales where it is being used to support curriculum outcomes in relation to citizenship, diversity, heritage and language.’

Huw Griffiths sets the scene and provides a bilingual narrative about how the word cynefin came to be included in the Curriculum for Wales. He informs us why it is the only Welsh word in the English version of this document.

In their bilingual blog post, Nanna Ryder and Rhiannon Packer consider cynefin in relation to Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological systems model and the way in which cynefin as a concept draws together different levels of influence in children and young people’s lives. They argue that schools have a crucial role to play in this; for example, through the promotion of the Welsh language and local cultures.

A rights-based approach to education is a central feature of the Welsh system. Jacky Tyrie and Michelle Brinn make the link between children’s participative rights and the development of the new curriculum. They discuss how the Curriculum for Wales embraces rights through a focus on schools as learning communities and the active engagement of learners’ unique cynefin.

In their blog post, Chantelle Haughton and Kevin Palmer reflect on recent Welsh Government policy which has cumulated in an anti-racist Wales action plan (ARWAP) and a suite of associated policies. The Welsh Government organisation named DARPL (Diversity and Anti-Racist Professional Learning) has grown in reach and mission. This blog sets out DARPL’s work, which encourages cynefin, delivering anti-racist training for educators in Wales.

Questioning the idea of cynefin as a second-generation migrant to Wales, primary school teacher Zara Parveen talks poignantly about her early life in the Gwent Valleys, and the racism that she and her family encountered. Her feelings of belonging are explored as she muses on her professional identity and lived experience.

In Wales, there is a longstanding belief in the importance of education to address persistent issues of poverty and disadvantage. In his blog post, David Egan argues that a dual approach focused on high-quality teaching and learning and community engagement provides a way forward, particularly for learners disadvantaged by poverty.

Finally, Matt Hutt considers the role of real-world examples in inspection reports in enhancing a sense of authenticity and trust. As he argues, this mechanism ensures that discourse is properly rooted in the aliveness of educational practice and the uniqueness of teaching and learning contexts.

We would like readers to absorb and share our sense of cynefin. Our posts in this special issue explain that while being relevant to academics and practitioners in Wales, the use of the word is universal. Cynefin used in a broader sense evokes feelings of community, culture, heritage and identity. It is these holistic concepts that we believe bind this special issue together and has resonance for academia and global thinking. While they are unashamedly Welsh, these blog posts have wider relevance and significance. We hope you find your sense of cynefin by reading and engaging with them.


Adams, D. (2023). Cynefin: Being of place. An investigation into the perspectives of first-language Welsh speaking hill farmers into the meaning of the word cynefin and the significance for education in Wales and beyond. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education. Advance online publication.

Snowden, D. J., & Boone, M. E. (2007, November). A leader’s framework for decision making. Harvard Business Review.