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;


On November 16th [1846] I visited the Charity, or Endowed School in this village, accompanied by the Vicar. This school used to prepare youths for the Church, and several used to be ordained from it.  The present master, who is very young, is newly appointed, and it would scarcely be fair to judge of his capacity to teach by the present state of the school.  The boys appeared to be only partially instructed.  Two, however, were learning Latin, and had a very good knowledge of the grammar and were able to construe easy passages in the Delectus. They all read tolerably well; and the cyphering and writing were above the average in country schools.  There are some complicated charities in this parish, which as far as can be gleaned from the Report of the Charity Commissioners, are to be appropriated to some schools for the purpose of educating in Welsh and English.  It is difficult to understand the appropriation of these charities.  They are certainly not applied according to the statement in the Charity report; but I was informed by the Vicar that he considered that eleven poor children had a right to have a free education in this school; but that by an arrangement made by the late Vicar, twenty-two were educated at a payment of 2s. per quarter instead, to which no objection was made by the parishioners.  There is also another charity in this place mentioned in the Charity Commissioners' Report, which is to be thus appropriated; viz 5 l. per annum (interest of a bequest of David Jones) to supply a schoolmaster, Welsh or English, to teach the children of the four townships, each three months in succession; and each township during four years having the option of choosing in its turn a Welsh master.  I could find no trace of any such schools.

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

Borth Day School --- I visited this day school on November 16th, accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Evans the Incumbent of the parish, and the Misses Pritchard, the chief promoters of the school.  These ladies subscribed very largely to its establishment, aided by a grant from the Lords of the Committee of Council.

The schoolroom is a slightly and substantial building, in excellent repair. Borth is a very desolate place consisting of a long straggling street of the houses of fishermen.  No effort of any kind it appears had been made to establish a school in this place, when the suspicion of a murder, supposed to have been committed by some of the people of the place, suggested to the Misses Pritchard a benevolent desire to improve the morals of the place, of which this school was the result.

The usual adversity incidental to all similar efforts in this country prevents any very favourable reports of the effects produced. Though the school is well attended, the master is untrained, and the minds of the children are very imperfectly instructed. He has them in very good discipline, but in other respects there is little to praise. No less than nineteen boys and seven girls were called up by him to read in the same class. He questioned the children on each verse, chiefly so that the verse itself supplied the answer; when it did not, he generally failed to obtain one. The reading was very indifferent, both as to true correctness and expression.  Numbers of words, such as lively, oracles were passed by without any explanation.

A board with some very well selected questions on general Scripture knowledge had been supplied by the Misses Pritchard, which the master was instructed to use.  In questioning a select class, I found that they had, as usual, a very limited knowledge of English.  Mr. Price translated my questions; and although they answered some on the leading points of the Gospel history tolerably well, the greater number were wholly ignorant of it.  In arithmetic a few of the boys were tolerably proficient, in the commoner rules, but none had gone as far as fractions, nor did one of them know that the addition of a cypher multiplies by ten; in fact, I have not met with any school hitherto where it is known.  The great majority of the children in this school were far less advanced.  The knowledge of spelling was tolerably good.  Writing is greatly neglected; I failed to find one good copybook, though I examined all of them.  Of geography none had any correct knowledge.  The grossest mistakes were made in answer to my questions.

Throughout the examination I made, pence were given to the children for correct answers; and the Vicar, as well as Mr. Price, endeavoured to obtain answers to simple questions in the Gospel, and also on the Church Catechism, but often without success. It is impossible for a master, who has not been trained himself, to teach so large a school effectively, especially where the children are taught a foreign language, and are of the rudest and least manageable class.

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

Talybont School. --- On November 23rd I visited the above school; it was held in a schoolroom, which had been built about six years, partly by subscription raised in the neighbourhood, and partly by a Government grant of 72 l. or 73 l. (my informant could not tell me which).  There is also a yearly subscription of 3 l. l0s. towards repairing the schoolroom, and supporting in the school a few of the poorer children in the neighbourhood. The school furniture consisted of one desk at one end of the room for the master, ten long desks for the children, and a bench for each desk; the room was boarded and ceiled; it was well lighted by four glazed windows in front, and one in the back; there were two fire-places in the room, but no fire in either on the day of my visit.

I heard a class, consisting of sixteen boys and three girls, read to the master the 44th chapter of Genesis, which they all did very badly, except three boys, who read in a very creditable manner. When a verse was read to the master's satisfaction, the next bystander had a trial, and if he should happen to read it correctly, he took his place; when they had read a verse a piece he gave them the following words to spell, and asked the Welsh meanings of the same: --- Commanded, rightly spelt ---no one in the class could give the Welsh word for it; according, right (Welsh, ynôl); abomination, right ---did not know the meaning; younger, wrong (ienagach); brother, right (tirawd); searched, none could spell or give the meaning of; brethren, wrong (brodyr); speedily, no one could spell or give the meaning of; peradventure, one only could spell --- no one knew the meaning; hairs, right (gwallt); hares, no one could spell or give the meaning; servant, right (gwas); instead, wrong  (eistedd, e. g. to sit); harvest, right (cynhauaf).

I then heard the same class read a part of the 45th chapter of Genesis, which they did in a very similar manner to what they had done to the master.  I then gave them some questions, and had the following answers: - The world was created by God in six days; did not know the work of each or any of the days.  Had merely heard of the deluge; knew not the cause of it, or any circumstances connected with it.  Joseph (whose history they were reading) was the son of Abraham; he was sold by his brethren to the Egyptians ---three of them thought it was to Ishmaelites; he was taken to Egypt, and made governor in the house of Pharaoh the king; knew of no striking feature in his history while there.  Did not know the names of any of the Prophets, or any particular events or persons they foretold.  Moses led the children of Israel from Egypt to Canaan; they were only four years in the wilderness.  Moses went to Canaan.  The law, called the Ten Commandments, was given to Moses; did not know where, or when.  The Israelites came through the Red Sea on dry ground, but Pharaoh and his host, who followed them, were drowned; did not know how, or by whose power, the sea was divided.  Christ was born in Bethlehem; did not know where in Bethlehem; he was the son of Joseph and Mary; could not distinguish them from any other Joseph and Mary.  Christ was crucified on Mount Calvary; nobody crucified the same time.  He was buried; did not know by whom.  He rose from the dead after three days, and immediately went to heaven.  There were twelve Apostles appointed by Christ; did not know for what purpose.

8+4=12; 8+16=23.  3+4=12; 4x8=36; 6x12=82; 8x8=64; 8x11=84; 9x6=52; 9x8=69; 9x10=90. 12d.=1s.; 30d.=2s. 4d.; 40d.=3s. 4d.; 72d.= 6s. 4d.; 30s. = 1 l. 10s.; 52s.=2 l. 14s.; 99s.=4 l. l6s. 2 pints=l quart; 4 quarts=l gallon. 12 inches = 1 foot; 3 ft.=l yard; 6 ft.=0 [sic].  60 minutes=l hour; 24 hours=l day; 7 days=l week.  Did not know how many days or weeks made a year.  The Queen's name is Victoria; she reigns over the country; knew neither how long she has reigned, nor who reigned before her. There are four quarters of the globe; did not know their names.

(Signed) D. B. PRICE, Assistant.

Pen-y-Garn Adventure Day School. --- I visited this school on November 25th, 1846. It is kept in a damp cottage by the roadside, converted into a schoolroom by simply replacing the furniture with a few crazy benches, and a chair, and a couple of tables.  The floor is damp ground, and there is scarcely sufficient light to read by in broad daylight, without going close to one of two miserable little windows which alone light this den.

Notwithstanding this very unpromising exterior, I found far more progress and acquirement in this school than in most others, owing entirely to the natural ability and unusually good education of the teacher, a young married woman, named Jane Thomas, who has had an attendance of upwards of forty children during the year and a quarter the school has been established.  Her recent marriage had caused an interruption in the business of the school and had resulted in a decreased number of scholars on the day of my visit.

No particular method of teaching was adopted, but the Babel fashion, of every child learning its lesson aloud, was repudiated in this school, and the mistress appeared to have succeeded in imparting much of her own knowledge and acquirements to her little pupils in her own homely method, sometimes by class, and sometimes by individual instruction. She also occasionally employed monitorial aid.  She heard her best class read some of the brief scraps of "science" appended to Vyse's New London Spelling Book.  She read with them, and some of them read and pronounced very nicely; and she questioned them with tolerable fulness on the meaning of words, and on the simple points elicited by the subject.

I asked them the meaning of agriculture, using the English word, and they immediately answered me correctly in Welsh.  To the question, What is anatomy? I had the answer in Welsh, " Cutting up a body."  I next examined a larger class in the 9th chapter of St. Matthew, and obtained from the girls very satisfactory answers to my questions on that chapter, relating to the miracles, mission, and death of Christ; the conversion of St Paul: and in the Old Testament, questions on the passage of the Red Sea, and the history of Moses and Joshua, and the miracles wrought by them, were correctly answered upon the whole.  They also gave many correct answers in geography, and to a certain very limited extent were able to do mental arithmetic. The boys were very backward: a penny was offered in vain for an explanation of what parables meant.  Most of these boys had been at the school at Llanfihangel, and seemed to have learnt nothing there.  With great difficulty, and after many guesses, 4x5 was accomplished.

The mistress does not appear to give the same attention to the boys which she pays to the girls, some of whom write well, and are remarkably proficient in spelling: grief, deceive, tough, through, and even physician, were correctly spelt.  The mistress is desirous of improving her natural capacity, which I do not hesitate to say is considerable, in a good training school; were she enabled to do so, she would in all probability prove an excellent mistress.  Several of the children learn sewing and fancy work, which she seemed quite competent to teach.  

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