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;


 I visited the school established here by Mrs. Bevan's charity on December 11th, accompanied by T. Lloyd Hall, Esq., of Adpar House.  It is the only Welsh day school in my district.  It was held in a long, low loft, formed of the convex roof of the building.  This school had excited my attention of its having the reputation of possessing one of the best of Mrs. Bevan's teachers, being wholly unfettered by the difficulty of teaching a foreign language. The teacher was a respectable and animated looking person, of apparently about 50 years of age.  From thirty to forty children were ranged round the room, after the fashion of dame schools.  The first class were called out at our request, and the master commenced the spelling lesson.  He had no sooner taken the book into his hand than they all broke forth barking, rather than uttering, the letters and syllables of immense long Welsh words in the most rapid succession, and at the pitch of their voices.   All the Welsh gutturals and the harshest sounds in the language were shrieked out with desperate energy until stopped at length by the master, when they appeared almost breathless.  "That", said the master, "is Dr. Bell's system".  I now requested that they be permitted to read, when they were put into the 17th chapter of the 1st book of Samuel, which they read extremely well.  The master questioned them on some verses, and described a shield and other things in a peculiar fashion; the children taking places when any one corrected another with a sudden rush, as if it were a feat of extreme bodily activity.  

When this was over I questioned the two first classes by means of an interpreter, and found they had a very partial knowledge of the history of Moses, and next to none of the leading feature of the life of Christ.  Bethlehem they thought, was in heaven; they did not know what the Commandments were; and Apostles were described as men who carried letters.  Of miracles and parables they had no definite notion.  In arithmetic none could tell what 4x7 was; the master said they had not learnt it, nor had they any notion of the pence table, or any single fact in ordinary secular knowledge.  They thought there were six days in the week, and that Sunday was not a day of the week at all.  Some said there were thirteen months in the year, and none knew the number of days; they had no definite notion of places or countries.  The writing of the few who learned was indifferent.  The school altogether impressed me very unfavourably of the system of teaching .

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

Mr. Penry, who visited this school likewise, says in his Report of it --- Six scholars read to me the 28th chapter of 1st Samuel; the reading was done very correctly it was the best Welsh reading I have heard in Wales during the enquiry.  The spelling also was very correct; they were taught this according to the system of Dr. Bell.  The exercise was performed very rapidly, and to a stranger, without minutely observing, it would be considered confused noise, but the effects of it proved that the scholars were taught to spell very correctly by the plan.  The scholars had not understand what they read, though it was in Welsh, except the few most familiar words which occurred; so that there is as much necessity for questioning and explaining in teaching any subject well in Welsh as there is in teaching English.  The scholars were deficient in Scriptural knowledge; they did not know who Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, or Isaiah was, nor could they tell me anything about them.   They know who Jesus Christ was, but did not know how he saved sinners.  One little girl only, after much time, could tell me whether each of them had committed sin.  She said that she had told her mother an untruth; but not one of them knew the Commandment that forbids lying.  The first part of the Church Catechism is not taught, at the desire of the Rev. Mr. Jones, Incumbent of the new church at New Castle Emlyn.  The Belief was repeated correctly, but they did not understand it, for they could not answer what "Almighty," "believe," "crucified under Pontius Pilate, " "right hand of the Father," "judge the world," "communion of saints," &c. meant.  Arithmetic is not taught; and only two were writing in books; the writing was carelessly and badly done.

 December 18th, 1846.

I visited to-day the Sunday School held in the parish church of Llandyfriog; the Incumbent, the Rev. Isaac Hughes, was present superintending it.  There were but few scholars present when I arrived there; snow had only just disappeared, and the morning was very frosty; this, I was informed, was the cause of so few being present.  Those who were present were nearly all adults.  I examined the senior m le [sic] class; they read the 4th chapter of St. John's Gospel in Welsh, but not very correctly.  I questioned them as to the meanings of some of the words which occurred in the chapter; such as "Pharisees," "disciples," "city," "sixth hour," &c.; also as to the situation of Galilee, Samaria, Judea, &c., and also as to the personal histories of Jacob, Joseph, &c; but the answers I obtained on the above subjects were few and unsatisfactory.  I examined them further on the principal doctrines of the New Testament.  The "atonement, " "repentance," "faith," "justification," "sanctification," &c.  Their answers upon these topics were, in general, very correct and satisfactory.  I enquired if the Church Catechism was taught, and the Rev. I. Hughes informed me that it was not, but that they intended to introduce the Rev. T. Charles's catechism.

December 27th, 1846.   HENRY PENRY, Assistant.