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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;

LLANWENOG

Pentre Rhys Adventure School.

I visited this school with Mr. Lewis, my Assistant, on October 26th. It is situated on the side of a bye road from this parish to Llanwnnen. It affords a notable proof of the real desire of the poorest classes in Wales to learn the English language. It is in a wild country inhabited by poor people, and their efforts at education are wholly unaided by any propertied neighbours.

The schoolroom was originally a cow-shed, converted into a schoolroom, without any attempt even to mend the paving of the floor, which was well worn, and so uneven that the rough benches in it were propped up by large stones; the walls were of mud ; the roof of decayed thatch, without any attempt at a ceiling ; and there were only two small windows at each end, affording little light in the middle of the place. The door was full of holes, and there was neither fire nor fire-place to counteract the chilly dampness of the place, the ground being wet and muddy from the trickling of water through the roof. The entire area of the place was 10ft. by 16ft. No less than eighteen uncouth boys and girls, in the primitive dresses of the country, were stowed on the benches which were ranged along the walls. There were two square tables, one at either end of the place, and a chair for the master, and this formed the whole furniture of the school. Each child had a book, and nearly all were reading aloud each by himself.

The master, a poor half-starved looking man, came out rod in hand to meet us. Our visit, he said, was not unexpected, as he heard we were going about. I requested him to call up eight of his best scholars, (classes there were none,) and give them a lesson in his usual way. He did so rather reluctantly, and put them upon the 1st chapter of the 2nd Epistle of Timothy in English, no Welsh being taught in the school. They read verse by verse very imperfectly, frequently mistaking the pronunciation of words, and but very seldom corrected by the master, who it appeared shortly knew next to nothing of the language himself. Where the pronunciation was correct, I remarked that the accent was good - decidedly purer than in most of the villages of England.

The master said that he never explained the meaning of anything, but when they had done reading went immediately to spelling. The only thing he attempted seemed to be, to tell them the meaning of all the English words he knew himself in Welsh. This I have by no means found invariably the case. Thus the children who always learn the meaning of words very fast when they are taught them at all, were able to translate most simple words into Welsh, but to that extent only were learning English.

The word " gospel" they thought meant "condemnation", but they knew what Son, Father, prayers, lands, &c., meant. They had not the most distant comprehension, however, of the meaning of what they read mechanically in the Scriptures. Finding this to be the case, I commenced an examination of all they knew, every question being translated into Welsh by Mr. Lewis ; and in order that they should really try to answer and exert their minds, I promised and gave a penny for every right answer, the only satisfactory means of an exhaustive examination in such schools. Six out of seven did not know who Christ was, nor had never heard of a good man coming to the earth to save sinners ; but the eighth, a girl, had heard He was the Son of God. None knew whether He was on earth now or not. Five knew that if they were bad they should go to hell ; most of them did not know where they should go if they were good.

They had no notion whatever of the meaning of different countries, or of the commonest subject. The days in the year were said to be 200 ; and one only knew the names of the months. Of arithmetic they knew next to nothing, nor could any of them tell how much 36d. made, or what was 7x8. Some were attempting to write; but the only object of the school was to teach the bare power of reading English words, without any attempt to do so with comprehension of anything.

These schools, of which this is one of a large class in this country, are not for the purpose of mental instruction, or of education in any single sense of the word, but for that of accustoming the eyes to certain signs, and the mouth to utter corresponding sounds; add to this a rude notion of writing, and that is the sum of the schooling in the majority of the parishes in this county. The schoolmaster in this instance knew very little more than the scholars, nor is it at all expected that he should. His total income was 12l per annum, out of which he paid 10s. for the rent of the school shed.

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

Court-newydd School

On November 4th I visited the above school. It was a miserable, small, cold room. It was lighted by three small glazed windows, one at one end of the room, and the other two in front. It was a thatched building, the walls were in a pretty good state of repair, the thatch was in a miserable state, there being large holes in it through which the rain was falling very fast. There were several pools of water on the floor. The floor was of earth, which was excessively damp. There was a fire-place in the room, but no fire, though the day on which I visited the place was very cold and rainy. The room is occasionally used as a place of worship, but not immediately connected with any sect. The furniture consisted of one small table and a few broken benches; both table and benches were in a wretched condition.

The school is only held for about six months in the year. The children are then taken away and sent out to watch cattle for the neighbouring farmers, and assist at the harvest. There were only a few children present at the time of my visit, the master could not form them into a class; they were not able to read. One of them attempted to read a few lines in Murray's Introduction to the English Reader, which he did in a wretched manner, hesitating at every word. He could not even spell some of the words which he met. The others were mostly all in letters and monosyllables. The master said he never explained to them the meaning of what they attempted to read ; he merely taught them to read by rote.

The following were answers I got to questions: One of them had heard of Jesus Christ; did not know who He was. Had never heard of the Apostles,. Had heard of the disciples. Did not know whether they were men or unreasonable creatures. Had heard of God; He was in heaven. Had no idea what sort of a place heaven was; had never seen the place. Parents never told them. One of them thought it was a good place. Did not know for what purpose Jesus Christ came on earth. Did not know what became of Christ. Good children went to heaven after their death: wicked children went to hell. The country they lived in was Wales. England was a country. Had heard of the Queen ; her name was Victoria ; she lived in London, and made money. Ireland was a country. Did not know what the inhabitants were called. There were 12 inches in a foot, and 4 feet in a Yard. Somewhere about 800 yards in a mile.

Signed DAVID LEWIS Assistant

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(Gareth Hicks)

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