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The Reports of the Commissioners appointed to enquire into the state of Education in Wales. 1847

This report was published by three English university scholars into the educational system in Wales. The three were Lingen, Symons and Vaughan Johnson. The report unfairly drew attention to the inadequacy of Welsh education . One of their main points was that Welsh children , and often their teachers too, could not speak English. The report was produced in blue books, hence the name. Apart from , and because of, the understandable outrage of Welsh people the report helped to forge a  greater sense of national identity and the publication was referred to as "The Treachery of the Blue Books" [Brad y Llyfrau Gleison]. One of the principal Welshmen who fought a campaign against the report was Evan Jones , better known as Ieuan Gwynedd, a  minister and a journalist . One of the report's statements was that Welsh was a " peculiar language isolating the masses from the upper portion of society". Sadly, for the Welsh language, faced with such criticism many people did opt for an education in the English language despite the efforts of Ieuan Gwynedd and others. [ Based on an article in"A Helping Hand "by W J Jones 1996]

This is an extract by Aidan Jones from the actual Report as far as it relates to this parish;

LAMPETER

Day School - On Monday, October 26th, I visited and inspected the above place. The school room is a large building situate on the common behind the town, near which is a large pool of dirty stagnant water. In front of it are large heaps of rubbish and filth, and what is cleaned out of the neighbouring pig styes. The building is very much out of repair, and in a deplorable condition. The furniture is also wretched. It consists at one desk for the master, a small square table, a few decayed benches, and one long desk, placed in the same manner as the National school desks are, and extending from the door, which is placed rather to one end of the building to the other. The door is in a very dilapidated state; opposite it was another door leading to where formerly the outbuildings were. They are now completely out of repair, and the neighbouring fields serve the children for the purposes of a privy.

The method of teaching was very imperfect. Not one of the children seemed to have the slightest understanding of what they were reading, and neither of them could answer the simplest question thus put by the master in such a way as almost to put the answers into their mouths. I heard them read the 5th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Mark, which they did with great difficulty. Did not know what the temple or synagogues were. Believed that the plague was blood. Thought they had heard that Jesus Christ came on earth; He was the Son of God, and was now in heaven. Did not know why He came on earth. Though the last question was put by me in the plainest way possible, they persisted in avowing that they were totally ignorant of why he came. 6 x 9 made 54; believed 63 quarts made a gallon. Neither of the boys or girls had the slightest knowledge of their Catechism.

(Signed) DAVID LEWIS, Assistant.

Church Sunday School - I visited this school on October 25th, together with my Assistant, Mr. Lewis, at 9 o'clock in the morning. It is held in a woefully dilapidated building - the boards broken in several places, and holes in many parts of the roof, which lets the water freely in; there are two broken doors - and no fire: nothing could be much more desolate, cheerless, or forbidding, than the aspect of this place (*). Nevertheless we found a fair assemblage of children.

(*) This evil will very shortly be abated. The Dean of St. David's, and the Reverend Mr. Sinnett, are exerting themselves to build a new schoolhouse, and on a large scale.

This school has one or two peculiarities which deserve notice. In the first place, the scholars at this school are nearly all children, or young persons; there were but two or three adults amongst them; whilst in the three Dissenting Sunday schools, the scholars are nearly all grown-up people; some were elderly persons, and there were but few children there. The reverse was the case here, from the fact that to this Sunday school is attached the only day school in the place, and the children attending it, are expected to attend the Sunday school. The other peculiarity is that the students at the College attend as teachers. Not less than eighteen are in the habit of teaching the children, and I observed that they sat with each class, and read verses in their turn, precisely as is the custom of teachers in other Sunday schools. Perhaps no school in the Principality is equally rich in spiritual and well-educated teachers. Nevertheless, the fruits were nowise apparent in the acquirements of the scholars.

The first class I examined consisted of five girls, who were reading the 1st chapter of St. John's Gospel. Their pronunciation was, as usual, good and correct; but they read without any approach to expression, The teacher, one of the students, questioned them occasionally at the conclusion of a verse upon the meaning of a term; as, for instance, Who was meant by "The Word" in the 1st and 14th verses? What Jordan meant? Where the law of Moses was given? -but with scarcely any result, no answer being given to any of the questions I listened to, excepting, to the question who were the persons of the Trinity, which they answered correctly.

I afterwards questioned them myself, the Rev. Mr. Sinett, the Curate of the parish, being then present, and found them ignorant of all but the very simplest facts in Scripture, such as that Christ came to die for sinners on Mount Calvary. They none of them knew who the Apostles were, or what was their office, nor what disciples meant. Of Scripture geography, they were almost perfectly ignorant. I had my questions translated frequently in Welsh, but with no better result.

Mr. Lewis, my Assistant, then examined them in Welsh himself, but with precisely the same result. I then examined a class of three girls in the 13th chapter of St. John, who were pointed out to me by the clergyman as being among the best in the school. One answered most of my questions correctly; she spoke and understood English better than Welsh. She and one other gave the meaning of words, and all seemed to have a tolerable acquaintance with the names, doctrines, and some of the chief facts in the Gospel. I examined the first boys' class, who were reading the Welsh Testament. Every question was translated. With one exception, they were less informed than the three girls, and had a very indifferent knowledge of what they were reading about, but made several shrewd guesses in attempting to answer - one of the numerous examples everywhere forced upon one's notice of talents unimproved, and natural abilities lost for want of culture. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that, however great may be the scholastic acquirements of the teachers, they fail wholly in instructing the minds of the children in this school, or in giving them ordinary Scriptural knowledge. My examination was confined to the older. and more advanced classes; and I am therefore of opinion that the great bulk of the scholars are learning nothing in this school but the art of reading, and that imperfectly.

J. C. S. [Jelingar C Symons, the chief commissioner in Cardiganshire]

Independent Sunday School.-This school was visited by myself and Mr. Lewis on the same day as the Church school. We found, as I have before remarked, scarcely any children. They were nearly all adults, ranged as usual in classes in the pews of the chapel, reading verse by verse, chiefly out of the Old Testament, and occasionally, but not often, questioning each other as to the meaning of a word. I examined one of these classes, every question being translated. I could obtain scarcely any answers, and the superintendent admitted that they were unable to answer them.

They were reading the 1st chapter of the Epistle of St. James in Welsh, not without difficulty. Temptation, one woman thought, meant sins, and one only out of six or seven knew the meaning of faith or grace. A more-instructed class of men were examined by the superintendent in the 3rd chapter of St. Matthew, of whom one or two answered questions respecting the denial of Christ by St. Peter, and the death of Christ, and other simple questions, correctly. The majority of them were however unable to do so. The Welsh Scriptures are alone read in this School.

J.C.S.

Wesleyan Sunday School .- We remained but a very short time in this school. It was scantily attended, and almost entirely by adults. In some of the classes the reading was superior, and the questioning assumed a polemical character. The subject in one instance was taken from the last few verses of the 10th chapter of the Acts, and after some discussion, during which their opinions and arguments were backed by quotations, more or less apt, they arrived at the conclusion that persons could receive the Holy Ghost who had not been baptized, inasmuch as in the 47th verse it is stated that some should be baptized who have received the Holy Ghost, this being in the past tense; but they concluded that none could receive it, who had not heard the word according to the 44th verse. A teacher was appointed to instruct the children, but scarcely any were present

J. C. S.

The Calvinist Methodist Sunday School - We looked into this school, and found a similar system pursued, and few children present. It is a safe conclusion that the majority of the children and young persons in Lampeter, of whom there must be considerably upwards of 200 (*) in statu pupilari are receiving no Sunday school instruction; and that the instruction given to the remainder is of a most inefficient kind, without any marked distinction between that given in the Church and Dissenting schools. There are no other schools for the poor than those reported in the Schedules in this parish.

(*) The population of the parish is 1507

J. C. S.

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(Gareth Hicks)

 

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