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 noted school on the - of November, 1846, with Mr. Penry.
It is one of the best endowed schools in the Principality, and owes its establishment, in 1757, to the benevolence of Edward Richard, Gentleman, of Ystrad Meiric, who devised certain lands to trustees to appoint "a proper schoolmaster to teach school in the parish church or elsewhere in Ystrad Meiric, to the glory of God and the benefit of that poor neighbourhood. " Twelve poor boys of Ystrad Meiric were to be instructed in the principles of the Church of England and the Latin tongue, and the school was to be "a perpetual Grammar School for ever." The school was further endowed in 1771 and 1774 by other deeds of the same donor, in which he sets forth the qualifications of the master, that he should be of a good moral character, and qualified to teach the Greek and Latin, as taught in the principal grammar schools in England, so that boys therein instructed might be qualified for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The charity was also extended to thirty-two poor boys of the parish of Ystrad Meiric, or the neighbouring parishes. The founder also left his library for the use of the school, which was very ably conducted by his successor, Mr. Williams, up to 1825.
The present master, the Rev. Mr. Morris, is the Incumbent of an adjoining parish, and has the care of two in addition. I found about sixty lads present in the schoolroom, which is a long large building of grey stone, standing at the side of the churchyard, in a bleak and desolate position. The room was very scantily supplied with school furniture. The master occupies a study at the end of the schoolroom . He informed me that the lads present were almost exclusively the sons of the neighbouring clergy and farmers, and that, to the best of his belief, three only belonged to the labouring classes. I consequently confined my examination to these children, and declined, though requested by Mr. Morris, to examine the rest of his pupils.
The ages of the children I examined were 7, 11, and 13. Mr. Morris said he did not teach them himself, his assistant pushed them on till they were ready for him. They read to me the 24th chapter of St. Luke. They read very indifferently, and understood the meaning only of simple words. They spelt tolerably well. The eldest child alone knew any arithmetic. The second and third boys could not tell how of much 4x5 was. The youngest was reading short words, and scarcely knew his letters; he called a, b. He was wholly ignorant of English, and when I said spell "time" he echoed the words "spell time". One only knew the number of days in a year. All thought the sun went round the earth. The days in the week were said to be six. Fifty-three weeks made a year. They were all ignorant of the common facts of the Gospel, and could answer none but the most simple questions. None of them wrote tolerably. They were evidently only half taught. It is however right to state that they had been only a short time in the school. The result of the examination of another boy attending the school will be found in the Report on Gwnnws. It appears that the school is seldom kept open much after 2 o'clock.
There is good reason to think it desirable that this school should be attentively examined and frequently visited by those who are appointed to do so. The amount of the endowment as stated by the Charity Commissioners, arising from the original bequests, is £86.10s to which has been added the endowment of the Lledrod school, amounting to £150 more; but there is every ground for believing that whether the present master receives it or not, the land is worth considerably more. The Lledrod estates are vested by another donor in the hands of separate trustees, and they are to all intents and purposes distinct and separate charities. The schools only were united.
J. Lloyd, Esq., of Mabws, is still the trustee of the Lledrod endowment; and Colonel Powell of Nanteos, Earl of Lisburne, the Bishop of St. David's, and others, are the trustees of Ystrad Meiric. The Bishop is visitor, and has therefore the power to dismiss the master, acceding to the deed of Edward Richard the founder. Before the establishment of Lampeter, most of the Welsh clergy in South Wales were ordained from Ystrad Meiric. The school is said to have fallen off ever since. Many good classics now living in Wales derived their only education from that school. It is much to be lamented that the school should not be rendered more available for the education of the sons of farmers and poor clergymen, as well as for the poorer classes generally.
J. C. S. [Jelinger C. Symons, the chief commissioner]
Rev. James William Morris, Clerk, Curate of Ystrad Meyric and Strata Florida, and Headmaster of Ystrad Meyric and Lledrod School.
THE working classes have a right to send their children to this school. About two years ago we had a good many, but the mine works have taken them off, so that only three or four are now in the school. The bulk of the scholars are sons of the clergy and farmers, amounting to 66. There is no distinction made in teaching these two classes. They are classed and examined together. Thus a working class child would have a classical education if he stayed long enough. None of the poorer class stay long enough for this, but only just to know a little arithmetic, and writing and English.
There is a very great deficiency of good schools in the whole of the country for the poor. The masters are utterly incompetent to teach properly. This charity could not be made available for the use of the poor. The master must be competent to teach the Greek and Latin classics, so that, according to the founder's deed, boys might be fitted for the universities, therefore it does not seem to have been the object of the founder to confine the endowment to the working-classes.
There are no local means to give the poor the benefit of proper schools; such means must unquestionably come from without. The benefit of the Sunday-schools is more ideal than anything else, at least compared with what would arise from good day-schools. The people are now in a most deplorable state of ignorance. Better education would have a beneficial effect on their morals, and would civilize them in every respect.
J. W. MORRIS.