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. Price on December 3rd. It contains a very good modern schoolroom, but it is not finished inside. There is no floor of any sort. The school, nevertheless, is of the most inferior description, devoid of method in the instruction, and of capacity in the master. During the whole of last summer the school was shut, and the room was used by the carpenters who were repairing the church. One of their benches is now used as a writing table. Few of the children remain a year; they come for a quarter or half a year, and then leave the school.
Fourteen children were present, together with two young men who were there to learn writing. Four of the children only could read in the Testament, and the master selected the 1st chapter of Revelations for them to read in. They stammered through several verses, mispronouncing nearly every word, and which the master took some pains to correct. None of them knew the meaning, or could give the Welsh words for "show " "gave" or "faith." One or two only knew that of "grace," "woman," "nurse." Their knowledge of spelling was very limited. Of Scripture they knew next to nothing. Jesus was said to be the son of Joseph; one child only said the Son of God; another thought he was on earth now; and another said he would come again " to increase grace," grace meaning godliness. Three out of the five could not tell why Christ came to the earth, a penny having been offered for a correct answer. Two could not tell any one thing that Christ did and a third said he drew water from a rock in the land of Canaan. None knew the number of the Apostles; one never heard of them, and two could not name any of them. Christ died in Calvary which one said was in England, and the others did not know where it was. Four could not tell the day Christ was born, or what it was called. The days in a week were guessed to be five, six, four, and seven. The days in a month twenty and fifteen, and nine could name the months. None knew the number of days in a year, and all thought the sun moved round the world. This country was said to be Cardiganshire not Wales. Ireland one thought a town, and another a parish. England was a town, and London a country. A king was a reasonable being (creadwr rhesymnol). Victoria is the Queen, and it is our duty to do everything for her
In arithmetic they could do next to nothing, and failed to answer the simplest questions. I then examined the young men, promising twopence to those who answered most correctly. They had a notion of the elements of Scripture truths. Two of them had no notion of arithmetic. The third answered easy questions and could do sums in the simple rules. On the general subjects their information was very little superior to that of the children.
Hafod Schools - These schools were built by the Duke of Newcastle, upon a part of his estate in 1837. The building is a strong and handsome structure, with a house for the master and mistress between the two schools. The boys' school has all necessary and suitable outbuildings attached to it, and all completed but the outbuildings for the girls are not yet finished. The present master and mistress were trained at the Central National School, Westminster, about nine years ago.
The boys' school is capable of holding about 50, and the girls school about 40; but there are only 31 boys and 19 girls on the books. Some parents in the neighbourhood told me that for any instruction besides reading and spelling there is an extra charge of from threepence to sixpence per week. Some think this an imposition, as the master and mistress receive a stated salary, and will not continue their children at the school. The reading of the highest classes in both the boys' and girls' school was but a shade better than in the common day schools, which are not conducted upon any system, nor by teachers trained at a model school. The ability of the scholars to explain the meaning of the words read in the lesson, and the amount of general knowledge possessed by either boys or girls, was very defective as to what might be expected from the advantages possessed by the teachers of this school compared with those who are able to keep their schools open during the winter only; but the superiority with respect to a more thorough comprehension of the subject was hardly a shade higher than in the common schools.
The writing of the boys and the girls was very well done. The master is a good writer and this seems to be the only branch above mediocrity, and taught satisfactorily. In arithmetic only one boy did the sum correctly I gave them in multiplication, having ten figures in the multiplic and two figures viz. 36, in the multiplier, and three only did the following sum in subtraction --- 100000 - 101. One of the girls only did an addition sum right, consisting of the first ten figures. In grammar not one could tell me the parts of speech, or answer any other question upon the subject. In geography not one knew the chief town in England, Scotland, or Ireland, nor scarcely any other simple fact relative to this branch of knowledge. In the lower classes the reading and spelling is purely a mechanical operation; no attempt seems to be made to impart a single idea by explanation, nor to ascertain whether anything is understood, by asking a question.
The only difference between the little fellows on the lower forms in this school, and the other common day schools in the locality, is that they have a slate, on which they write a part of the time. Simultaneous instructions, accompanied by frequent questions, explanations suited to the capacity of the scholars and these also accompanied with appropriate illustrations, are much needed in this school, to make it more useful
November 18th, 1846.(Signed) HENRY PENRY, Assistant.
I also examined the boys in the school with similar results.
J. C. S. [Jelingar C Symons, the chief commissioner in Cardiganshire]