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;
This is a parish of great superficial extent, containing at the last census 12,239 inhabitants. The town of Aberystwith alone comprised 4,916, and is a chapelry within the parish. There are also several other chapelries, of which the numerous day and Sunday schools are included in the schedule table under the names the mother parish, of which the Incumbent is the Rev. John Hughes, Vicar. In no equal portion of my district are there so many schools of so high a standard. The superiority of the Sunday school is very marked, both as regards attendance and efficiency of instruction.
Aberystwith Boys' National Day School - I visited this school with the Rev. Mr. Hughes, the Vicar. This and the adjoining girls' school are held in a large commodious building, very airy, lofty, and light, and have necessary outbuildings - an exception to the generality of Welsh schools. Fifty-one boys were present, of whom the first class was selected to read the 9th chapter of St. John. They read very badly, in a heavy monotonous tone, without expression, and often committing gross errors in pronunciation, which, I observed, that the master on other occasions did not always correct, owing in a great measure to his own imperfect knowledge of the English language, with which he was wholly unacquainted three years before the time of my visit.
Mr. Hughes questioned this class generally on what they had read, and likewise on the leading principles of the Gospel, and obtained very satisfactory answers. In fact, in this, and subsequent examinations which I conducted myself, I am bound to say that (unfavourably as I thought of the generality of the instruction afforded in this school) the religious and Scriptural knowledge evinced was undoubtedly superior to that imparted in the great majority of day schools. In this essential branch a marked distinction exists, to the credit of those who conduct and visit this school; and the same remark applies in great measure applies to the girls' National school.
Of geographical knowledge the whole school is almost perfectly ignorant, and this extends in great degree to Scripture geography. In cyphering even the first class was very backward; the first rules were alone taught, and these very imperfectly learned. I set a common multiplication sum to several of the boys, and no one did it correctly. In mental arithmetic they did not proceed beyond the multiplication and pence tables. In spelling they were more proficient, but not by any means perfect. I selected six of the first class to repeat the Church Catechism, which they did very correctly, but seemed to have had very little instruction in its meaning. They did not even understand the Welsh for many of the words they used. Vanity one of them thought meant murder, another sinful, and a third theft. Faith they thought meant grace. Godfather was translated as grandmother. And Christ was the answer given to the question, What is an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven? Baptism was almost the only word I asked which they seemed to understand at all, and this was explained as "being put in a basin". They were nearly all Dissenters' children.
The Rev. Mr. Richards, who is the leading trustee and manager of these schools, told me that there are but two boys in the school who are the sons of Churchmen. The children were disorderly and noisy. As respects the present master, who is most anxious to improve himself, as well as his school, it is but fair to remark that he has only been appointed six months, that he is untrained and very young, and that the school, which is attended by the lowest and most untaught class of children, was previously closed for nearly half a year. Considerable improvement has been observable, I was told, since he took his post, under circumstances thus adverse to his progress.
The children came to the school absolutely ignorant of everything. Very few could answer me the simplest questions as to the number of days in the year, the names of places; whether Ireland was a town or a country; whether the earth moved round the sun, or not, &c. Some few meanings of words were given, such as bondage, which one boy described as working, without wages. Upon the whole they evinced general ignorance of the subjects they learned, with the exception of two or three boys out of the whole class; It was a mere verbal exercise with the rest. These schools are conducted on the old system; the classes are far too large and the teachers too few. In the girls' school there are no teachers. The Rev. Mr. Richards, who has saved and secured a handsome sum of money, chiefly by his own means, for the improvement of this school, is desirous of applying it to the best advantages.
J. C. S. [Jelingar C Symons, the chief commissioner in Cardiganshire]
Aberystwyth Girls National School - I visited this school on November 11th. The Misses Hughes, the daughters of the Vicar were present. The girls, of whom seventy were present, looked very neat and the mistress had them in very good control. The first class she called up to read consisted of no less than twenty nine: the National School system is here carried to an extreme. The class read the 11th chapter of St. Matthew. Many of them read very creditably, and with the exception of foundation, tares, iniquity, and converted, they gave the meanings correctly of most of the words I asked them. They evinced here a very fair amount of Scriptural, and especially of religious knowledge. They were, however, as in the boys' school, very ill-informed in the Church Catechism, and could not give the meaning of most of the words I put to them. Of geography they were very ignorant, and seemed scarcely to have any correct notions on subjects of ordinary secular knowledge. France was a town, and all said the sun went round the world. In accounts they were also backward. I took occasion to ask several of the children in the school, frequented, like the other, chiefly by the poorer classes, which of the two languages they would rather be taught in, and learn, Welsh or English; and without a single exception they preferred the latter.
J. C. S.
Aberystwith Wesleyan Day School - This school is the only really good day school I have yet seen in Wales. It is conducted by a trained master, who has certainly profited to the uttermost by a seven months' training in Mr. Stow's Normal School at Glasgow. A better example can scarcely be afforded of the effects of an education in the art of teaching. forming so striking a contrast to the comparatively fruitless labours of the most diligent of untaught teachers. The school is generally attended by upwards of 120 children of both sexes, and all ages, from six years upwards. There are also a few older youths, who occasionally take advantage of Mr. Williams's instruction. The school was opened on August 4th, 1845, by the Wesleyan Methodists, but they threw it open without any restriction to all classes and denominations. It is fitted up, as far the dimensions admit, on the plan of Stow's Normal School, with a gallery at the end. The pictures and boards for object lessons were there, but in almost all the other apparatus of Mr. Stow's system is deficient. There is no sufficient playground, where so much of the moral as well as physical discipline is effected. The building contains no class-room for the separate examination of the children, &c. Neither were there ball frames or geometrical figures.
The master, however, had allowed no deficiencies to impede the full exercise of the appliances which depend on himself. The obedience of the children, and order and discipline of the school, were admirable; perhaps as nearly perfect as it is possible to make it. No child is ever struck; and all is effected by the constant attention maintained by the bodily exercises incidental to the system and the prompt check of the whistle. Great effect is produced by the appliance of shame as a punishment, and by making the school participate in its infliction. Whilst teaching a class at the other end of the room, the master became, as it were, instinctively aware of some peccadillo at the top of the gallery behind him. He turned suddenly round. "John Davies, come down here." The child walked down slowly, sobbing with grief. "James Evans, come down also." This child was 6, and stood crying.
"What" said the master to the rest of the school, "do you think of a child who cannot do as he is bid?"
"He is stupid - he is foolish," from a dozen voices.
"Charles Evans, go and help your brother down."
He came, and the sole punishment thus dreaded, and which seemed almost too severe, was that of standing in a part of the school which signified disgrace. A little girl dropped a halfpenny in the room when I was there; the manoeuvres and marching were so directed that the child never went quite near enough to her halfpenny to pick it up, and rather than deviate from the prescribed line she left the school without an attempt to recover her lost treasure.
It is part of the system employed by Mr. Stow, and fully developed in this school, that though books must be used, and lessons to a certain extent learnt, the master is the best book. The human voice and action, and the mental sympathy of the gallery, save much of the drudgery, and far more speedily and effectively impress the knowledge sought to be conveyed than by any of the old systems of instruction. The lazy resource of set question and answer by rote finds no place here; the intellectual activity of the scholar is the reflex of the teacher's mind. The questioning is the life-blood of the system; questioning in the most effectual shape, elliptically.
I visited this school on November 12th and 13th. The master gave the usual reading lesson to a class of sixteen; the subject being "European Scenes," in M'Culloch's Course of Elementary Reading on Science and Literature. The subject was a winter landscape in Russia, by Sir R. K. Porter. The reading is not the best part of the acquirements of the scholars; nevertheless they are very forward for the comparatively short time they have learnt.
When any child mispronounced a word the master spelled it, whereupon the whole class simultaneously pronounced it; thus every child corrected the error - and thus its correction was impressed upon the minds of all. Minute questioning followed upon all the topics of the subject. And indeed nearly every question was correctly answered. often by half the class at once.
I found, on examining them myself, that their knowledge of geography was very fair; in mental arithmetic they had made less progress, but the elder boys did some sums in practice which I set them very quickly, and in all minor rules I found them proficient. On subjects of general information I found them tolerably well informed. In Scripture knowledge there was a marked superiority over the generality of day schools. I heard a class of 21 girls read the 2nd chapter of 1st Book of Kings, some of them exceeding well; they gave their answers with much less readiness than the boys, but evinced a very fair knowledge of Old Testament history; the chief events in that of Solomon and the idolatry of his wives; the forms of government given to the Israelites in Canaan; and the names of the kings of Israel, were all correctly given.
The next day I further examined the school and found the girls and younger children, though far from perfectly instructed, in a state of progress which would not have discredited a school much longer in operation.
Considering that the children in this school are learning a foreign language, and that, nevertheless, they are able to understand, and almost, without exception, do understand nearly everything they learn, and that the older children can explain it in English, Mr. Stow's system must be admitted to have been well tested, and its efficiency confirmed in this instance.
[As it is impossible to tabularise the hours during which different subjects are taught, varying what they do in each class, I have, at my request, been favoured by the master with the *accompanying table of studies in his school.]
J.C.S. [* the table has not been copied out]
Aberystwyth Calvinist Methodists or British School - This school has been established by the Calvinist Methodists. They have funds to carry this school on, and to build a larger schoolroom, when this becomes too small to contain the scholars desirous of attending it. I have no report to make as to the proficiency of the pupils in this school, as it had only been opened a short time prior to my visit, and was not then in a state fit for inspection. Everything about it promises well.
Aberystwyth Church Sunday School at the Infant School - I visited this Sunday School on November 8th. It is held in the morning at the infant schoolroom, and superintended by the Rev. Mr. Hughes, the Vicar. It is conducted in a manner somewhat similar to the Dissenting Sunday schools, and the more laborious duties of the school are varied by hymns sung at intervals. Several adult classes attend this school, and a teacher sits with each class to read with and instruct them. I heard Mr. Hughes examine one of the classes of young women which he did admirably, and he put many searching questions to them as to the meaning of what they had read, and on the practical application of the doctrines and precepts it contained. They had read the 8th chapter of St. Matthew, and I questioned them on the facts and leading features of the Gospel history, and they answered very correctly, evincing well-taught minds.
Mr. Penry examined two other classes in Welsh, and reported very favourably on their attainments and intelligence. He says, "I went first into a class of adults, composed mostly of men from 40 to 60 years of age. I sat down in the class and read in turn with the others, in order that I might see their mode of proceeding. Each member of this class asked questions of the others upon anything that occurred in the course of the reading which he did not understand, and he was answered by one or two immediately, during the time I remained in this class. By this means the attention of all was kept up and, their knowledge brought into use, which rendered the exercise interesting and instructive." Mr. Hughes catechised the younger children in Welsh, and after an earnest and impressive address to the school, closed it with prayer and a hymn in the same language. This school does great credit to the Church.
J. C. S.
Aberystwyth National Sunday Schools I visited both the boys' and girls' Sunday schools on November 15th. They are the only Sunday schools in Aberystwyth, where the instruction is exclusively in English. In the girls' school one or two large classes were assembled in different parts of the room, and a monitor teaching them a hymn by heart, by repeating it verse by verse in a monotonous tone for the children to repeat after her: this they did mechanically with their eyes wandering in all directions and in a sing-song. voice, devoid of all expression. The mistress was hearing the first class read the Psalms or the day, with very scanty questioning. On remarking to her how necessary it was that everything should be explained to the children, she said: "I does my best. I spend a deal of time in teaching these here girls." She is also the mistress of the day school. No one, she said, assisted her in the task of teaching. They all learnt the Collect of the day, 23rd Sunday after Trinity. None knew the meaning of refuge, or author, or effectually. In fact they had evidently no knowledge of the meaning of the collect. Faithfully one thought meant believing in Christ.
J. C. S.
Aberystwyth Boys' National Sunday School - I visited this school at the same time as the girls' school. Two young gentlemen were assisting the master of the day school. The whole number present (forty-six) were divided into two or three classes, and a class of small children were being taught their letters and small words. Finding one of the classes was repeating the Church Catechism, I assisted in questioning them. The class consisted of fifteen boys (almost entirely the sons of Dissenting parents) who nevertheless were taught to repeat the response as to what their godfathers and godmothers did for them, the large majority never having had any at all. The Church Catechism was used, broken into short questions. As long as the printed questions were asked they were very correct; but whenever we enlarged or varied them the answers were confined to one or two children; and the following are fair specimens of the amount of comprehension. they possessed - A jealous God one thought meant beloved, another said it was hold him guiltless (giving the context). Guiltless they thought meant to punish, and one boy said it was guilty. Graven image was a picture. Jacob was the son of Isaac, and Isaac the son of Jacob.
J. C. S.
The minds of the children are almost wholly unexercised. Everything is an irksome, barren effort of memory. There is little efficiency in the instructors, or life in the instruction; and these schools form marked exceptions to the high character of the other Sunday schools of the Church and the Dissenters in Aberystwith.
Calvinistic Methodist Sunday School, Aberystwyth - This Sunday school is the largest in my district. It not unusually numbers 700 or 800 scholars. It contributes in no slight degree to the high reputation which the Sabbath schools of Aberystwyth have deservedly attained. Menial activity is thoroughly sustained in this school. The whole of the chapel is occupied by the scholars, each pew being devoted to a class, and no class apparently exceeds from ten to twelve persons, and few consist of so many.
The school begins at two o'clock; but the teachers have. previously met to prepare themselves in the chapter to be read. This is a most important feature in the excellent Sunday schools of this town. No teacher can properly instruct others unless he is perfectly conversant with the subject of instruction. By studying and preparing it together great advantages accrue; for not only is method and uniformity of teaching secured, but those least educated and least competent participate in the acquirements and information of the more gifted and best qualified of their fellow-labourers. This is particularly beneficial in Sunday schools designed not for mechanical teaching but for spiritual exercise and Scriptural education. The same chapter is read throughout the school. At the end of every verse the reader may ask the rest any question which suggests itself to him, if he does not do so any of the others may ask the rest, and failing this the teacher may question them. Should any doubt or discussion arise, the teacher decides it, unless it involve some difficult point meet for reference to the superintendent or the minister - thus discussion ministers to instruction.
Questioning is the life blood of the system. That it occasionally transgresses the limits of utility and rambles into topics, of which the solution can hardly profit Christian scholars is undeniable, and the choice of the portion of Scripture to be read in this school on the day of my visit (November 15th) justifies this remark; it consisted of the 14th chapter of Leviticus, which relates to the ceremony of the Jewish worship. The questions could alone turn on obsolete rites, and it is almost impossible to call this religious instruction without an abuse of terms. The partiality of the Welsh people to the Old Testament is very remarkable. The book of Deuteronomy would hardly have been selected in any other part of the kingdom as a subject of Sunday-school reading. Here the system is to read the Old and New Testaments in turn, and to go straight through both. After the third hymn I found a class who were reading the 12th chapter of St. Matthew, and the questioning on the miracle of the withered hand on the Sabbath day was a fair specimen of the system.
It was asked, Might not this cure have been as well done on the Monday ? - No; for then the Jews would not have been by, and the opportunity would have been lost of showing the power of God. Another answer was, that Jesus took occasion to rebuke the Jews for their overweening regard for ceremonies. A reference was then made to the account of the same miracle in St. Mark, chapter iii.; and the meaning was asked of the words, 'Is it lawful to save life or to kill on the Sabbath? - Why, to kill"
The first answer was because by the Jewish law they who having power to save life neglect to do so are guilty of taking it away. Another said that the true interpretation of the verse was that Jesus knew that the Jews were endeavouring to entrap and deliver him up to death, and that when they accused him of breaking the Sabbath by saving life, He in these words reproached them with their endeavour to destroy His life, and that this was the killing to which He refers in that verse.
I asked several questions of another class, and found them very well informed on general points of Scripture history, and especially on the cardinal doctrines of the Gospel, which appear, as far as I was able to ascertain, to be well taught in all the schools in this town. The whole of the instruction in this school was in Welsh. No English books are used. The method and economy of this school appeared to me to be very perfect, and as it is the largest in point of numbers, I have obtained a statement, which is annexed, of the routine adopted.
It is a main feature of these schools that the attention shall be continually refreshed by a variety of duties. The reading and questioning is never allowed to continue long enough to weary even the youngest of the scholars. The business of the school is interspersed with recitation, short hymns well sung by the whole assembly, the catechising of the children, and occasionally of the whole school, accompanied by short exhortations, concluding with prayer.
As a means of sound spiritual instruction, and at the same time of ingratiating Scriptural study with the young, I think these schools one of the most successful of existing efforts. In this school, as in almost all others, the deficiency of daily instruction has compelled the intermixture of a lower order of teaching, and has in a measure forced upon it the exercise of functions of an infant school. The lower part of an area of most of these chapels is half filled with little children, who are taught their letters almost before they can distinctly articulate, some of whom are only two and a half years old. I counted no less than fifty of these little creatures on the day of my visit, and though they were kept in very passable order by their teachers, they made sufficient noise to render their presence to a certain extent a drawback from the decorum which otherwise prevailed in the school. Moreover such teaching is essentially secular, and repugnant to the province and professed object of these schools. It exists in them all; and both for the sake of the teachers of these children, and of the scholars themselves, it is to be much wished that very young children should, if admitted to Sunday schools at all, be taught apart.
The adults, as will be seen by reference to the tables of Sunday schools, very greatly outnumber the children. Many of the classes are attended by elderly people; but the bulk of the school consists of young persons between 15 and 25 years of age. A very strict scrutiny is exercised into attendance of the scholars; absences are noted down by the secretaries, and explanations required. If repeated, rebukes are administered,. Vocal music is studied here, and is carried to a great degree of proficiency.
The superintendent favoured me with the following statement of the system pursued at my request: It was established about fifty years ago. It is held regularly every Sabbath afternoon. It is commenced by singing, then each of the Bible classes in its turn repeats the Ten Commandments. One of the teachers afterwards engages in prayer. The whole occupies generally from ten to twelve minutes. The school is then divided as follows:- The first lesson commences. immediately after the prayer, and a quarter before 3; singing five minutes. Second lesson until 25 minutes after 3; singing five minutes.
The teachers in all the classes then catechise the scholars on a given subject for a quarter of an hour; afterwards the elementary classes are publicly catechised for ten minutes every Sabbath -with the exception of one in every month, when some other portion of the school is catechised, the Bible classes being divided into three parts for that purpose. One of the superintendents occasionally addresses the school, and it is then concluded with prayer by one of the teachers.
Only one chapter is read in the school every Sabbath, same chapter in all the classes, the Bible being the school-book for those who have learned to read. The teacher and scholars read each in his turn; the one that reads is to ask questions from his verse; scholars are afterwards at liberty to do so; then the teacher asks such further questions as appear to enable the whole class to understand what they have been reading. The teachers are greatly assisted in this important part of their duties by attending the teachers meeting on the Sabbath. The teachers are all changed every six months. The object of this is, that all the classes should now and then have the advantage of the labours of the best teachers.
It is a system, however, attended with some inconveniences and drawbacks, especially the dissatisfaction in many of the adult classes, where an attachment has been formed between the teacher and his class, from being obliged to separate; the shortness of the time allowed the teachers before they are removed also prevents many of them from being as useful as they otherwise could be. There is a society formed amongst the teachers which meets once a week. One of the members delivers a lecture on a given subject, and a general conversation, occasionally a discussion then follows, which occupies the remainder of the meeting. This is found to be of great service. The members are taught to think, to express their thoughts in a concise and lucid manner, and to conduct themselves with kindness and good temper.
The teachers have their weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings. The weekly meetings are held on the Sabbath mornings, after the 9 o'clock service, lasting generally from one hour and a half to two hours, and concluding at half-past 12 o'clock. It is one of the most important and interesting meetings we have in connexion with our Sabbath school. The object is to prepare the teachers for a proper discharge of their duties during school hours. The chapter which is to be read in the schools is read at this meeting, and there is frequently a very interesting discussion on its content. Several of the teachers are supplied with the late Rev. James Hughes's Commentary on the Bible, in Welsh, which is principally a compilation from Scott, Henry, Pool, Doddridge, and other eminent commentators. They have in their possession several English commentaries also. Several of the teachers have libraries of their own, and some of them very extensive and well selected.
There is a circulating library also belonging to the school. Most of the teachers and a large number of the scholars are subscribers, each paying one penny per month. The monthly meetings for the general business of the school are held on the first Wednesday evening each month. The quarterly meeting for mutual exhortation and instruction in the spiritual duties of the Sabbath-school teacher are held in the evening after the 6 o'clock service, on the second Sabbath in the month of January, April, July, and October. The annual meeting for the election of the secretaries, and the arrangement of the teachers in their several classes &c. is held on the first Wednesday evening in the month of December. No new rule, nor any alteration in the existing ones, can be effected except at the annual meeting. Every question is determined by a majority of the teachers present at the meeting. The superintendents are elected annually by the teachers, in the school, on the first Sabbath in December, in order that those who could not attend the meeting on the Wednesday evening might have a voice in the election. There are two superintendents and two secretaries.
There are several collections made in the school during the year. An annual collection in aid of the funds of the British and Foreign Bible Society amounts this year to about 34l; a quarterly collection for the Calvinistic Methodist Home-Missionary Society for South Wales, upwards of 41l in the year; quarterly collections towards supplying the poor of the school with clothes, amounting, in the year to about 12l, besides collections for the circulating library, and occasional collections for school-books, tracts, and hymns for the children, minute and account books for the superintendents and secretaries.
There is also, in connexion with the school, a meeting held once a month to advocate the claims of the foreign missions. They are addressed by three of the teachers and the officiating minister. The attendance is good - between 600 and 700 persons, sometimes more. A collection in support of the society is always made. Amount last year, upwards of 86l. These meetings have been held regularly for the last twenty-seven or twenty-eight years, Sunday meetings are held regularly every week. The younger children meet on the Sabbath afternoon at half past 1, and those more advanced in years on the Sabbath evenings after the public services, and on Wednesday evenings, all attended by some of the teachers.
December 30th 1846 JOHN MATTHEWS, Superintendent.
Aberystwyth Baptist Sunday School.-This was the last Sunday school I visited at Aberystwyth.. It was not quite so fully attended as the others I had previously visited, but those of the scholars I examined were quite as well instructed. I questioned some of them minutely on the leading facts in the history of the Israelites, and in questioning one of the classes on the miracles of Moses I asked which of them was a type of Christ? And was immediately answered, the healing of those bitten by holding up the brazen serpent in the wilderness as mentioned in the 3rd chapter of St. John's Gospel. This and many other answers evinced a much greater extent of Scriptural knowledge than is possessed by the same classes in England. Of the instruction possessed by the females I am unable to form a judgement; they were too bashful to answer even the minister who accompanied me. Nearly the same system, with some slight deviations, was followed here, as at the other schools, with somewhat longer periods of reading and fewer hymns. The younger children are catechised, and when they cannot answer the older scholars answer for them.
J. C. S.
Aberystwyth Independent Sunday School - This school is a very large one. It begins at two o'clock. The system of instruction is explained in the accompanying statement, by the superintendent. It will not be found to differ materially from that pursued in the Calvinistic Methodist school, except that the same chapter is not universally read which the teachers have prepared themselves in, and which is certainly to be regretted. I visited this school with Mr. Penry on November 8th, and examined one of two of the classes, who answered questions, alike on the Old and New Testament history, with general correctness. The scholars seemed to reflect as well as to read, and much questioning prevailed. An exhortation on the dangers of the ensuing fair followed from the minister, who also took that opportunity of expressing his hope that they would be stimulated by our inquiry to make fresh efforts, and to persevere not only in reflecting on what they read, but on continually questioning the teachers on all points of doubt and difficulty.
J. C. S.
Mr. Penry says, in his Report of this school - "I examined a class of boys who read the 8th chapter of 2 Corinthians; another class, composed of young men, who were reading the 5th chapter of I Kings; another who read in the Acts of the Apostles; and a class of young women, who read the 1st chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. In most cases the answers were given correctly and promptly, and I found that generally the scholars displayed a more extensive acquaintance with the historical facts and geographical position of places in connection with the Bible than I found before in any school in Wales."
The following is the account given at my request by the superintendent of the system followed:- "The statistics of this school are given in the printed form. The following observations refer only to its management":-
"The officers are a superintendent and secretary, who are elected half-yearly by the teachers. The teachers, who are Church members, are generally permanent , but when any changes occur, they are effected at a quarterly meeting. A teachers' meeting is held every Sunday forenoon at eleven o'clock, which is presided over by the superintendent, and is also open to the elder scholars. First, a chapter in the New Testament (which is taken consecutively) is read for exercise, and correctness in the art of reading aimed at. This over, the chapter is commenced again, when the grammatical construction, the literal meaning. and the subject-matter of each verse are investigated and criticised. The meeting generally continues about one hour, and is closed by prayer; and although the attendance is not so good and regular as desirable, still its beneficial effects are apparent, both personally and upon the school.
The school is held at two in the afternoon, and is commenced by reading, singing, and prayer by the teachers alternately, which occupies about ten minutes. The reading classes, which contain from six to eight persons each, then take their chapters - the teacher correcting and proposing questions after each verse. The instruction thus imparted embraces grammar, biography, history, geography, and divinity, but naturally confined to Scriptural subjects. Some classes will occupy the whole time of the school with one chapter, while others will get over two or three. A uniformity in this respect has often been attempted, but found impracticable. This arises from the different ages of the scholar and the various talents of the teachers for conversation and elucidation. The consequence is, that some classes are considered superior to others, and are more resorted to; and this finally acts as an incentive to the teachers to labour for information.
At 3 o'clock silence is called for, and a hymn given out to sing; after which a chapter is repeated by heart by a class notified the preceding Sunday:- then the juvenile reading classes are examined in the subject for the week, such as the history of any person, county, or event mentioned in Scripture, &c. The school then re-enters upon its work for about half an hour more, when it is broken up for catechising - the children one Sunday, and the adults the other, alternately. The books used for this purpose are generally the productions of ministers of the denomination. After catechising, the secretary calls over the classes for the number of chapters and verses committed to memory during the week, and rehearsed to the teachers, - a general statement of which is given quarterly. The tasks and duties for the ensuing week are then published, and the whole concludes at 4 o'clock by prayer.
The public duties of the school are usually performed by the superintendent; but the minister officiates occasionally. The younger children are instructed in the elements of reading according to the ingenuity of their teachers, without reference to any particular system. A quarterly meeting of the teachers is held, in which all changes, removals, defects of management, and new plans are considered, and adopted or rejected by the majority. Also a public meeting is held quarterly, when addresses in behalf of the school are delivered by a fixed number of teachers and the minister. No library as yet belongs to the school, but a general feeling begins to prevail in favour of procuring one. The entire work of the school is carried on in the Welsh language."
9, Bridge-street, Aberystwyth, November 11th, 1846.
(Signed) ROBERT JONES, Superintendent.
Aberystwyth Wesleyan Methodist Welsh Sunday School - The system adopted in this school does not materially differ from that of the schools which I have just described. I visited it on Sunday, November 22nd. It is held in the Wesleyan chapel, a commodious building. The instruction is given exclusively in the Welsh language. The galleries were nearly filled with the adults and youths, and the children were as usual on the ground. In one respect there was a peculiarity in this school. There are one or two grammar classes, but the best teacher being absent I had no opportunity of hearing this branch of instruction.
The portion of Scripture appointed for the whole school for the day, was the latter part of the 6th chapter of St. John's Gospel. The teachers in the classes I listened to were zealous and intelligent expositors. They had, as usual, spent an hour in preparing themselves for the chapter of the day. Some of the questions, however, appeared to turn less on the great principles of the Gospel than on the interpretation of phrases and the meaning of doubtful passages, tending to the explanation of the text rather than to the general bearing of the chapter. Thus, on the 37th the explanation given in one class was, that all meant all people, in distinction to the doctrine held by some, that salvation is limited to the elect. The question What was meant by believe in the l0th verse, and the promises attached to belief? elicited no satisfactory answer from the young persons in it.
To the question what was necessary to salvation I could obtain no better answer than praying to God and believing. I asked what grace meant, and the teachers said they thought that too high for the boys to explain. It struck me forcibly that the chief fault in the instruction given is, its occasional want of breadth. There is, I think, in some teachers too little care to impress the great features of the Gospel on the minds of the scholars; and this extends equally to facts and doctrines. The questioning should be of a more practical character.
I found two lads evidently belonging to the trades' class, who could not tell me the number of the Apostles, and said there were four. Others, on the contrary, were answering well, and evinced much more perfect instruction. The minister came in and delivered an exhortation, in which he impressed on the teachers the necessity of closely questioning their classes, observing that the came there not to learn to read so much as to understand the Scriptures, and thereby render the Sunday school what it was designed for - a means of salvation. He also warned them against the temptations of the fair to be held on the following day. This being over, a hymn was sung, and the reading recommenced. I afterwards begged the superintendent to catechise the whole assembly (about 250 in number) which he did, and at my suggestion, on the subject of prophecies.
The answers were to the effect that David, Balaam, Isaiah, and Jeremiah were the chief prophets; that their prophecies had Christ in view. The 22nd Psalm and the 50th of Isaiah were cited. Coming of Christ was typified by the Passover, which was to commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian sacrifice, &c. The answers were given by one or two of the men, and not by the assembly. The singing was unusually good, and very creditable to those who have undertaken this branch of the worship. The whole instruction was broken into parts and interspersed with hymns, exhortation, catechism and prayer. The interest and mental activity of the assembly never flagged, and were thus kept alive throughout the whole of the two hours. It is scarcely too much to say that hardly one individual scholar ever remits his attention for more than a moment or two; and I cannot close this brief account of the Sunday schools of Aberystwyth, without expressing great satisfaction with a system of Scriptural instruction evincing so much judicious zeal and active piety as these schools denote.
Comminscoch Day School - I visited this school, in company with Dr. Williams, on November 14th. It is held in one of the ordinary school-houses already described at the side of a country road; the benches and tables were of the coarsest description, and all the children read together by way of learning their lessons. The Rev. Mr. Hughes had just preceded me; and although the children had had the benefit of being questioned by him, they were unable, with the exception of one boy, to answer simple the 18th chapter of Genesis, which the master selected for them to read in English. They read English but did not understand it. One or two answered some questions on Gospel doctrines and narrative fairly, and they spelt tolerably well; but on all points of secular information they were deplorably ignorant. They neither knew the number of days in a year, or the name of the country they lived in, or what Ireland was, or even what 5 x 6 made, or how much 20d. was; and one only knew the number of days in a week. The master, a humble inoffensive man, assured me he lived on 6l. a year, his whole income from this school.
I visited to-day a private school at Aberystwyth, conducted by Mr. John Evans. The larger schoolroom is on the first floor and over a part of the rooms belonging to his dwelling-house, and a smaller room on the ground floor for adults. The whole were erected by Mr. Evans according to his own plans, for the purpose of tuition. The larger room will hold sixty-six scholars ; it is well lighted, ventilated, and heated by a stove attached to the ceiling, so as to be out of the way. It is fitted up with a row of desks round the wall but the pupils are facing the master's desk when seated at them. The walls require fresh colouring and the floor repairing, otherwise everything else about the school, and its furniture, was in a fair condition.
I examined first the lowest class in reading and spelling; the proficiency of this was about the usual degree. The next class above this read a portion of the New Testament, without the usual tone and long pauses between each word, and answered very well the questions I put to them of a geographical, historical, and doctrinal kind. This class was also examined by me in English grammar, arithmetic, geography, and astronomy and correct answers were given me in almost every case upon the leading principles of these branches of knowledge. The only defect I found worth noticing was, the inability of the greater part of part of the class to put down any number of figures from my dictation correctly, not knowing notation very well.
A class of girls, who are taught separately, read a chapter next in the Old Testament, and answered very well the questions I put to them. Lastly, the highest class read to me a chapter in the Old Testament; and I examined them as to their general knowledge of the Scriptures, and my questions in most cases were answered correctly. I asked indiscriminately, any member of the class, to repeat to me the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer, and every one I called upon did it correctly. They repeated to me also accurately several questions out of Dr. Watts's Catechism, which they learn, and seemed to understand it, for I broke down the questions into parts, and also required them to explain the words which I supposed they did not know; and all these things were very satisfactorily performed. This class also answered very well the questions I put to them on vulgar and decimal fractions; square and cube of numbers, and the square and cube roots of numbers. In astronomy, they knew and answered questions on the distances of the planets from the sun; the time of their annual motion, and diurnal rotation; their diameter, bulk, and the time a cannon ball would take in reaching. the planets from the sun, for Mr. Evans has had printed a very correct diagram of the solar system, with the above named figures underneath.
He has in addition to this a very good set of slides for a magic lantern. He has also had constructed a small observatory at the end of his house, the walls of which are built in the direct lines of the cardinal points of the compass. From this homely-built star-gazing study, supplied with simple apparatus, made chiefly under Mr. Evans's direction, he found out any star I named instantly. He has also a very good telescope, for which he has contrived a simple but ingenious stand. He has at the end of his house a sun dial and a clock, made under his direction, which regulates the time of the town. He was a pupil for two years of Mr. Griffith Davis, actuary, in London; and from him, doubtless, he acquired a taste for the mathematics. He has now some adult pupils in algebra and Euclid's geometry; and in the winter, he told me that he has several pupils learning 'navigation. He has been teaching at this place for nearly thirty years, and I was informed that he has been very laborious and attentive to his duties, and his school has for many years been deservedly popular.
November 8th. 1846. (Signed) HENRY PENRY Assistant.
Coginan Day School ;- I visited this school, which is promoted by the Coginan Lead and Silver Mining Company, on November 27th, accompanied by Mr. Fosset, the Agent of the Company, and by one of the captains superintending the mine. The school-house is situated at a short distance from the mines in the same valley. It was built by one of the Dissenting congregations, and is rented to them by the Company. It consisted of one good sized boarded room, with several moveable table desks in good repair, and three or four benches, but with no other Apparatus of any kind. The Master who was originally here was a man of considerable talent as a preacher and orator, but a person of very bad character, whom the Company consequently dismissed. The present master is a very young man, wholly untrained, who has been in the school only six months. It is frequented not only by several of the working class children but by those of the captains and superintendents of the works, who are all Cornish men, consequently the first class consisted chiefly of English children. The master at my request called up the whole of his Testament class, consisting of about half the school. They read the chapter they had been last preparing, the 1st chapter of the 2nd Epistle of St. Peter. It was at once obvious that the most flagrant mistakes in pronunciation were only occasionally corrected by the master. Yea was pronounced yee-a without any notice whatever, and these read those, &c. &c. I asked the master if he ever questioned children on what they read. No, he said, never; and he afterwards informed me that for the amount of his salary he thought he did quite as much as could be expected of him. He receives only 10l a year at present from the Company, besides school fees.
Having previously ascertained that all the children in the class had been three years in the school, and that they attended some Sunday school, I selected eight of the children, six of whom were decidedly the most forward in the school; and the following is the result of the examination I made. Who were the Apostles? Dead silence; nobody knew. What were they to do? - Same result. Who appointed them? - Christ. How many were there? - Long, pause. First boy - Two, Sir. Another pause. Another boy - Twelve, Sir. Who was the Apostle who wrote the greatest number of the Epistles? Nobody could tell. A penny was here promised to the first who could tell who it was. First boy - John. Long pause. Who wrote the Epistle to the Romans and Thessalonians? Second boy - Peter. What did Christ come for? - To save the world How? - By dying. What must we do to be saved? Long pause. First girl.-We must die. Second girl.- Be good. What besides? - No one could tell. What did Christ do to instruct his disciples? - None knew. What were I the Apostles to do? Pause. A penny offered to any one who would tell. Second girl - To write. What were they called who were to write the Gospels? Silence. Who did write the Gospels? - Christ, Sir. Where was Jesus Christ born? - In Bethlehem. Where is that ? - In Judea. Where is Judea? - In Bethlehem. Is it in Wales? No, Sir; in England. Where did Christ die? - In Calvary. Where is that? In Bethlehem. Where is Bethlehem?- In Europe. Will Christ come again? First boy - No. Second boy - Yes. What will he come for? - To burn the world. The mission of the Prophets was explained by one girl only; and they were said by another to be Moses and John; and this was corrected by a sharp boy, who said that they told of John he thought, but what John he did not know.
The geographical examination was utterly hopeless. Judea was in this country; Scotland joined Wales: Ireland was a town, and one thought it was a country; France a parish; and there were two quarters only of the globe. We descended to spelling, which proceeded very smoothly until we approached the words in which the dilemma between the e's and i's occurs, none of which words were spelt correctly, except by guess. The following was the result of questions as to the meaning of words, six out of eight of the children being English: Godliness - none knew; peace idem; precious meant soft; faith - love; righteousness - happy, and to have what is right; receive - to get; partaker - none knew; temperance - temper; kingdom - part of a town. They were asked here what a King did? No answer. What does the Queen do? - Goes about to places. Another - Minds the town. A parable, after a long endeavour, was pronounced to be a man, a penny having been promised, as usual for the first right answer.
In arithmetic, of the five girls no one could tell what 5 x 6 was. One did not know 4 x 5. The boys, two of whom were said to be in practice, with great difficulty answered 9 x 9. 70d. was said to be 3s. 10d. and 3s. 6d.; 40d 2s. 6d. and 3s. 4d. I set the boy who had been put into practice this sum on a slate:- If it takes 15 men to dig a pit in 6 days, how many men will it take to dig it in 2 days? The answer was 10. 4s 2d + 5s. 6d. was found to be 11s. 6d. by one boy, and 16s. 2d. by another. Mr. Fosset, the intelligent Agent of the Company, is desirous of improving the school, and of rendering the master efficient by sending him to be trained, but wishes to see what the Government will do
The yield of these lead and silver mines is very large, and the works are carried on without intermission, and the people, as well as the proprietors, are very prosperous, but inconceivably ignorant.
Penllwyn School. - This is an endowed school, but chiefly supported by Calvinistic Methodists. The room is a barn, without floor, ceiling, or fire-place, and in no respect superior to an outhouse. The usual dame school system was followed in this school, all the children reading aloud to themselves. They had, however, the advantage of a master of zeal and much natural ability, and I found both the first and second classes far above the average in ordinary attainments. They possessed a very fair amount of Scriptural knowledge, and one or two of the older boys had made progress in arithmetic. One exhibited great powers of calculation. Upon the whole, I have seen few better day schools; for the Children evinced not mere acquirements, but an intellectual aptitude and alertness which could only have arisen from an exercise of the mind. I visited this school with Mr. Price, on December 4th, 1846.
J. C. S.
Gors School - I visited to-day a day school called Gors, in the parish, of Llanbadarn-fawr. The schoolroom is a substantial building, and in every way suitable. It was built in 1810 for the use of one of Lady Bevan's teachers, but it belongs to the Calvinistic Methodists, and is used by them as a Sunday-school room. It is in good repair, except the floor, which is in a very bad state. The school was opened here this week, and seven scholars only were present. The master has only the fees of the children as a salary, and he has to pay 1l. per annum for the use of the room for a school. He informed me that he had attended a National school at Caernarvon, to learn that system of teaching. but he was obliged here to adopt the individual plan, on account of the small number. I heard all read who were able; only one could read in the Bible. I asked them questions on the common branches of knowledge taught in schools in these parts, to ascertain what they had learned at this school, but I could not obtain a single answer to any simple question. I found more children playing out about the road than were in the school, and I enquired why they did not attend? I was informed that the generality of the parents of them could not pay for their schooling but in most cases the parents have not much confidence in the abilities of the teachers, and they so often change, and the schools are shut up, that the parents who can afford to pay become indifferent about sending their children to school.
November 13th, 1846. (Signed) HENRY PENRY Assistant.
I visited to-day a school in the parish and village of Llanbadarn-fawr. The schoolroom is situated on an elevation above the village, in a dry and healthy spot. It is a strong convenient stone building, well lighted, and the floor is covered with boards over about one half of it, and the rest is the mere earth, the same as outside. The master is intelligent, and from what I could discover, pretty well educated. He has a creditable certificate from the Principal of Huddersfield Collegiate School, where he was an assistant master for six months; but either from the want of a system, or want of skill in teaching, or some other unknown cause to me, the proficiency of his pupils did him no credit.
I examined every class and scholar. The reading was the mediocrity of Welsh in that department. Answers upon any subject either in Welsh or English, I could only obtain very few, and that only from two or three of the scholars. The writing was much as usual in this part of the world. Arithmetic was very low: only one girl seemed to know anything about it. In English grammar, professedly taught, no one could answer one question. One girl, who was most proficient in arithmetic, answered a few simple questions in geography, and could tell me all the names nearly of the kings and queens of England down from Henry VIII., but could not tell me one of the leading facts or events which happened during the same period.
I feel considerable reluctance at being compelled by a sense of duty (to discharge which I find a disagreeable task) to report so unfavourably of this school, for the young man who is the master is amiable, and I believe pious and desirous of doing good. But he wants to be put in the way to be useful, by being taught an efficient system of managing scholars and communicating knowledge. He has but a small salary, and has to pay rent for this schoolroom, and he furnished it with desks and forms. These may be the causes which have depressed his spirits and repressed his energies.
HENRY PENRY, Assistant
Yspytty Cynfyn - I visited to-day the township in the parish of Llanbadarn-fawr, in which Yspytty Cynfyn is situated. This is a district church, which was rebuilt in 1827, and there are 136 free sittings in it, appropriated to the use of the poor for ever. The wife of the parish clerk informed me that there is no day or Sunday school held here in connexion with the Church, nor with any other denomination in this neighbourhood.
I examined here a girl named Eliza Evans, aged 14 years. She could not read English, and Welsh imperfectly. She did not know the name of the present month, how many in the year, what is the first, what is the last in the year, how many weeks in a year, how many days in a year, nor what is a year. I asked her to reckon 100, and she could go no further than 40. She did not know the name of the parish she lived in. She did not know who reigns over this country, nor what a king or queen is. She could not repeat one of the Ten Commandments. She did not know who was the first sinner, nor what is meant by a sinner, nor how many are sinners. She did not know what will become of the righteous or wicked when they die. She did not know for what purpose Jesus Christ came into the. world, nor who Jesus Christ is. She appeared exceedingly ignorant. She said that she did not go often to church, or any other place of worship, because her clothes were not good enough.
November l9th, 1846. (Signed) HENRY PENRY, Assistant.
Penparcan [sic] School - On December 4th, in company with Mr. Price, I visited the above school, which was kept by a cripple, in a small dwelling-house, which had been converted into a schoolroom. The school furniture consisted of six benches and two tables, all in a wretched state of repair. The walls were partly mud and partly stone; a part of the floor was made of earth, and a part of it was paved; it was all very uneven. The room was not ceiled; it was lighted by three small glazed windows, there was a fireplace at each end of the room, but no fire in either on the day of visit, although the weather was excessively cold, nor did the master expect to have a fire there at all, owing to the poverty of the children. I examined a class of four boys and five girls. They read the 79th Psalm in English: the girls read tolerably well, but many false pronunciations were made; blood was pronounced as the oo in good, fire as free, hedges as ages, beseech as besiege. The master corrected only a few of these mistakes. They then repeated the Lord's Prayer, which they repeated without appearing to understand it; the master then made them spell, which they did imperfectly. None knew the meaning in Welsh of disciples, or woman, or greater. I then questioned them as follows, Mr. Price translating - a penny being offered to the one who answered the best:-
Adam was the first man and Eve was the first woman; Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt; they did not know how he got through the Red Sea ; the world was created by Christ. Christ came to safe sinners and was crucified; crucify they thought meant to stone. Christ was betrayed by Judas and St. Paul; the way to be saved is to pray to Christ; for forgiveness of Sins; on being asked what else, they said victuals and clothes, but nothing else; Christ will come again to the earth to save us. Three, out of five, said there was no life after this; one only answered right as to a future state. Six children (ages from 9 to 16) were then examined and the following was the result of the examination - a penny being promised to the one who gave the best answers.-
Christ was crucified to save sinners, crucify means being nailed to a stick; Christ forgives our sins by dying, and we should pray to him to be happy in heaven, as well as for clothing and victuals, and everything we want. Five did not know the meaning of grace; faith meant to lead a godly life; none could repeat more than the first words of each Commandment; none knew the meaning of miracles. Their general knowledge did not extend beyond the number of days and weeks in a year, and the name of the country in which they lived; Scotland and Ireland were said to be countries by some and towns by others; London was a kingdom; and Prince Albert a king. In arithmetic they only answered the simplest questions, and their writing was wretched; their copies were of the most original description. The following are verbatim copies of some of the text lines:-" Judgment day will ketch us altogether by and by" - "Submit yourselves and be covetou sness" (sness copied as a distinct word)." - "It is to late to spare when all is spent." - "Never can be wise that good councel despise." - "Quarrel not in school prepared, and amoant and change his pris." Two boys were doing sums in the rule of three, who it appeared, did nothing else but arithmetic.
Moriah Chapel School - I visited to-day a day school held at a Baptist chapel called Moriah, in the parish of Llanbadarn-fawr. It was only opened on Wednesday. It is conducted by the minister of the church and congregation assembling in the above chapel. Only seven scholars were present, and most of them very young. I examined each of them, and found all ignorant of every branch of knowledge. In answer to my question as to who wrote the Psalms, they said it was Jesus Christ. Not one knew the multiplication table, nor could say how many pence there are in half-a-crown. There is a Sunday school held also in this chapel. The answers to the questions in the schedule I obtained from the minister.
November 13th, 1846. (Signed) HENRY PENRY, Assistant.
Bow Street School - On November 25th I visited the above school which had only been opened a week. The school was held in a room in an unoccupied dwelling-house. The room was lighted by two small windows, one in the front and another in the back, in which there were very few panes not broken. There was a fire-place in the room, but no fire. The floor was made of earth; it was tolerably dry, but rather uneven. It appeared very deficient in furniture; there was a chair there for the master, but no table of any kind in the room. There were long deal planks supported on large stones, placed round the room, which served for the purpose of benches for the children.
I heard a class of eight boys and one girl read to the master the 13th chapter of Genesis; when the first boy had read the first verse, the master asked him the name of Abraham's wife? - Sarah. Did not know how Lot was related to Abraham. Abraham's father's name was Terah. Verse vi - Lot and Abraham were the persons who could not dwell together. All in the class read tolerably well, except two boys and the girl. He then gave them a word apiece to spell, which they did correctly, except the last boy, who could not spell "eastward." He did not ask them the meaning of a single word. I then heard the same class read a part of the 15th chapter of Genesis, which they all read in a creditable manner, except the three above mentioned.
I gave them a couple of words apiece to spell from the same chapter, which they all did correctly, except the few following: heir, believe, heifer, pieces, which none in the class could spell. They knew the meaning of the words vision, steward, house, sheep, darkness, stars, fathers, but not that of reward, heir, inherit, turtle, dove, pigeon, generation.
To questions given I had the following answers:- there were three in the class who did not know who created the world; four only knew what Adam was made out of. Adam and Eve were placed in the garden of Eden, but were soon cast out because they had eaten of the tree of life. Adam and Even had two children only - Cain and Abel. Cain killed his brother; did not know why. Enoch was the only person who went to heaven without tasting of death. Samuel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah, were all the prophets they had ever heard of. A prophet is a person that foretells future events; could not mention any particular events or persons foretold by them. Moses led the children of Israel from Egypt to Canaan; he divided the Red Sea before them though his own power. Pharaoh and his host, who pursued them, were drowned. Did not know where or when the Ten Commandments were given, or whether Moses went all the way to Canaan or not. Christ born in Bethlehem. Mary Magdalene was his mother; his reputed father's name was Joseph; did not know what Joseph. Christ was betrayed by Judas, and crucified; did not know by whom. Christ died to save sinners; did not know how sinners are saved by his death. Christ is now in heaven; will return to the earth to judge the world.
Did not know what grammar was, or the difference between a noun adjective and a noun substantive. 2 x 5 = 10. 2 x 9 = 18. 3 x 9 = 36. 6 x 8 = 44. 7 x 9 = 63. 8 x 9 = 69. 9 x 9 = 79. 30s. = 1l. 10s. 70s.= 3l. 120s. = 5l. 10s. Had all but one heard of the Queen; she reigns over England and Wales, did not know whether she reigned over any more or not. Twelve months in a year; five only knew how many weeks and days made a year. The school had been so lately opened that the master could not form another class of any kind, for they were nearly all in their letters and monosyllables.
(Signed) D. B. PRICE, Assistant.