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 this parish with Mr. Penry on December 19th. It is very extensive and contains several Sunday and a few day schools. Of the latter I was alone able to visit the private one of Mr. Thomas. It is held in an old stable, the floor being still paved with pebbles. It was low and dirty, but tolerably well lighted and warmed. This is considered the best school in this large parish, the place itself having less the character of a village than a town. I found the first class of boys reading the oration of C. Marius to the Romans, out of the "Speaker," and examined them upon it, but all comprehension, even of the meaning of words, was confined to one or two of the elder boys. To such as "operation," and even "duty," I found the great majority of the scholars unable to give the meaning in Welsh or English. They were perfectly ignorant of Roman history and equally of English history. None knew the reign in which the Reformation took place, or the name of the king who succeeded Elizabeth. One only answered, and wrongly. The Scriptures were not read in this school. There was no system of teaching.
In arithmetic some few boys had attained some proficiency; one as far as fractions, another in the extraction of the square root, and another in the rule of three, all of which I tested. The remainder were alone able to answer questions in the multiplication table, and to work easy sums. These were all in the first class. The knowledge of spelling was tolerably good.
The rest of the school consisted of children who were in various stages of elementary reading, none of them comprehending more than a few of the simplest words, and some ignorant even of these. As the Scriptures were not read I did not question them on Scriptural knowledge. Their knowledge of places and of ordinary subjects was very limited. The master appeared to be a man of some cultivation of mind, but a meek inactive person, who on two or three occasions was set right by the elder boys, when endeavouring to give information about the scholars, and the branches they were learning. He is the Unitarian minister, and informed me that there is no Sunday school attached to the Unitarian chapels in this district.
I had evidence from the Incumbent of this parish, Mr. James, on the difficulties of establishing a good school here, and especially of maintaining a competent master. I also conversed on the subject with Mr. Jones, a leading Independent, and also with a leading member of the Baptist congregation. They informed me that a meeting of the committee of Dissenters had recently taken place, at which it was determined to build a school-house, and to apply for a Government grant; the question of taking assistance from Government having been defeated, and it was so settled.
J. C. S. [Jelingar C Symons, the chief commissioner in Cardiganshire]
I visited to-day, in company with the Rev. E. James, Vicar of Llandyssil, a day school in his parish, connected with the Church, but held at a Calvinistic Methodist chapel, called Waunifor. The room is lofty, well lighted, and, as there are only a few pews in it at one end, it is well adapted for a school, if it was newly floored, and properly furnished with desks, &c. It was very comfortless to-day, the room being large, the floor only earth worn lower than the outside, and having no fire in it.
Seven scholars read a part of the 10th chapter of St. John's Gospel very imperfectly, and spelled very incorrectly such words as " thief," "climbeth," "shepherd," &c. In examining them they did not know anything about John, did not know whether he was an Apostle or not. Did not know who Jesus Christ was; where he was born; when he died, nor the purpose for which he came into the world. They could not repeat one of the Ten Commandments. The Church Catechism is professedly taught, but they had not commenced learning it since the summer vacation. I questioned them in Welsh, and the Rev. E. James was present. I asked him if my questions were quite intelligible, and put in such a form as they could understand them? He replied they were, and declined to put any himself as mine were very proper.
Two of the scholars were learning arithmetic, but neither knew the multiplication table, nor the pence table as far as 50d. The writing much as usual, very badly done, and bearing marks of the greatest carelessness.
December 22nd, 1846. (Signed) HENRY PENRY, Assistant.
Horeb School.---I visited a day school to-day at Horeb, in the parish of Llandyssil. The room in which the school is held is over a large stable, joining an Independent chapel. It is well lighted, having a boarded floor, and being heated, it was very comfortable in the present inclement weather, forming in this respect an agreeable contrast with the other schools I visited during this and last week. Six scholars read to me a portion out of Murray's English Reader, and Enfield's Speaker very imperfectly, as usual. They spelled very correctly; but they understood nothing of what they read.
I examined these and some others afterwards in their Scripture knowledge; in this I found them very defective. They could tell me nothing about, the remarkable persons or events of the Old Testament. One of them said that Abraham was hard-hearted, confounding him with Pharaoh. All they could tell me about Jesus Christ was, that he was the Son of Mary. Only one of them went to a Sunday school regularly; and Unitarianism is very prevalent in this district.
In general knowledge they were equally defective. They told me the sun went round the earth, instead of the earth round the sun, and various other things equally incorrect. There were only two studying arithmetic; but they did not know how much 30d. was, nor did they know the multiplication table. The writing books were very slovenly and badly written. Two scholars were just commencing English grammar, but they did not know the parts of speech. The master knew English very imperfectly. He did not appear from what I saw of him an intelligent person, nor one apt to teach. This is the last day school I was able to find in this parish, and I was assured by different ministers and the clergyman, that there are no other day schools in it besides those I have reported on, and no Sunday schools besides the Llandyssil Church Sunday school; two Independent Sunday schools; two Calvinistic Methodist; two Wesleyan; one Baptist; and one at the new church.
December 23rd, 1846. HENRY PENRY, Assistant.