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 on December 7th. It contained two day schools; one established by subscription, and chiefly promoted by one of the daughters of the late Admiral Parry, a lady residing in the neighbourhood. It is a girls school, held in a room above an outbuilding and though warm and comfortable, is not adapted for the purpose. The mistress, an intelligent and painstaking person, has received no instruction in teaching, and is destitute of system. Nevertheless this is one of the few schools in which any effort is made to inform the minds of the children . They read the 6th chapter of Isaiah, and a the mistress questioned them on many points which arose from that chapter. I examined them afterwards on Scripture history, and found them very much better informed than usual. Many of the answers showed an advanced state of knowledge. In arithmetic they were very imperfectly instructed; and their knowledge of spelling was inferior. They had received some instruction in geography, and answered simple questions readily. I also heard them say the Church Catechism, and they explained "inheritor of the kingdom of heaven", "renounce", "vow" and other words which are commonly unexplained. The benefit of a constant superintendent is manifest in this school; writing was tolerably good. They also learnt sewing.

I afterwards visited the boys' school, which is one supported by Mrs. Bevan's charity. It is held in a wretched hut, in a damp lane, furnished by the parish. Mr. Jenkins, the churchwarden, accompanied me. Before we reached the door the hum of many voices was audible, and it was only by two loud blows of the master's stick on the table that silence was restored. The interior of the school was forbidding in the extreme. Two or three old tables and a few benches were the only school furniture. The floor was wet and muddy, and there was no ceiling of any sort, and a very small fire.

All the children bad been reading aloud out of various different books, from Isaiah to Reading made Easy. They were reading English exclusively. The class read the 8th chapter of Genesis; they understood next to nothing about it. Mr. Price translated all my questions into Welsh, as usual, and pence were offered and given for correct answers. Some questions were tolerably well answered. Judea was said to be in England. Christ was crucified in Bethlehem. Moses made the ark, and killed a man. They spelt tolerably well. Only a few wrote copies, and one which was shown to me was very indifferent. In arithmetic this class far exceeded the generality of scholars in these schools. They learn and repeated the Church Catechism, according to the will of Mrs. Bevan, but none of the younger children understood one word of it, and the older ones but very partially and imperfectly.

The following were some of the answers of the first class :- Godfather was thought to mean God the Father; godmother, mother; they promised "to give us three names". Inheritor meant the kingdom of heaven; and none knew the meaning of "pomps and vanity," or the articles of the Christian faith. Authority meant to trust in. I examined the second class; they understood the meaning of neither "ruler", "false" or "true" in Welsh, and spelt only very easy words rightly. They read the 13th chapter of Romans wretchedly, often quite unintelligibly. The master occasionally corrected, but did not often show how to pronounce, once or twice showing them wrongly.

After promising to give pence for the best answers, and every question being translated, I was told that Christ was the Son of God; that He was nailed to sticks, and put to death by two thieves; that God wrote the Epistle to the Romans; that Paul was the same as God ; that we must pray for victuals and clothes, and to be kept alive, and for nothing else. Three out of eight said there was no life after this; five thought there was. Three only could say The Lord's Prayer; and not one of them understood it. They learnt no arithmetic. This country is the land of Canaan. England is a town ; and so is Ireland ; and London is a town in Wales. There are six days in the week, and fourteen months in the year. In this school, as in most others, the only attempt is to make the children read English. All other efforts are insignificant and thought unprofitable, and are at least wholly neglected. The master, I understood, was a respectable and amiable man, but wholly untrained and unfitted for a schoolmaster.

J. C. S. [Jelingar C. Symons, the chief commissioner in Cardiganshire, 1846]

(Gareth Hicks)