Tagged with: Education

Posts (7)

  1. Presenter & Stand-up Comedian

    My Search for an A*

    I've just done a History GCSE - without revising - for the BBC One show Search For A*.

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  2. Rachel Treadaway-Williams asks why literacy and numeracy levels have sunk so low.

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  3. The School of Mines was the brainchild of some of the largest coal owners in the region and was funded by the levy of one tenth of a penny on every ton of coal that was produced from the coalfield.

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  4. School boards were swept away and joint education committees were established in every Welsh county.

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  5. In the year 1847 the British government commissioned a report into the state of education in Wales. Not, in itself, such a momentous event, but when the remit of the report was widened to include a study of the morals of the Welsh people it resulted in a furore that still rumbles on to this very day. Never can a civil service document have excited such passion as the 1847 Report of the Commissioners of Enquiry into the State of Education in Wales (780kb pdf file). Blue books The report, known throughout Wales as the Treason of the Blue Books (all government reports being bound in blue covers), was the result of a motion put forward a year earlier by William Williams, the Welsh MP for Coventry. He was particularly concerned about the lack of opportunity for poor children in his homeland to gain knowledge of the English language. Kay-Shuttleworth, secretary to the Council on Education, wrote the terms of reference for the Enquiry in October 1846 and it is clear, right from the beginning, that education was only one of the government's concerns. From the 1820s to the late 1840s Wales had appeared to be the centre of major discontentment. In the 1820s there had been serious disturbances in Tredegar and Merthyr while in Ceridigion there had been a virtual war over the issue of land enclosures. From 1839 to the mid 1840s the the Rebecca Riots caused mayhem across mid and south Wales while in 1939 the Chartist march on Newport provoked huge worry and concerns in government circles. Clearly Wales needed to be looked at in some detail and to English officials and civil servants it seemed highly likely that, in the far west, sedition was being planned - in the Welsh language. There is no doubt that education for poor children in Wales was inadequate - it was also inadequate in England! There was desperate requirement for quality education for all, education that would, the government felt - long before the commissioners reported back - be predominantly in the English language. And central to this was the need to provide trained teachers. The trouble came when the extra clause was slipped into the terms of reference, to look at the morals and behaviour of the Welsh people. Quite why this was inserted is not clear - certainly it could have little impact on the educational element of the report who could and would educate their charges efficiently. Since the predominance of Welsh was one of the main reasons for the report it would have been reasonable to expect the commissioners appointed to oversee the inspections to have a knowledge of the Welsh tongue. Not so. Commissioners Lingen, Simons and Vaughan Johnson spoke no Welsh, were not even educationalists and, importantly, had no experience of the type of fervent non-conformity to be found in Wales. A number of assistant commissioners were appointed and, by and large, these were the men who toured the schools, towns and villages. The questions they asked, the passages of literature (usually the Bible) they required children to read and the problems that were meant to worked out in the head of each child were framed in English - many of the school teachers had difficulty understanding them, let alone their pupils. While the non-conformist Sunday Schools - where education was offered in Welsh - were, in the main, praised in the report, the ordinary day schools were certainly not. It was hardly surprising when pupils were expected to work out subtraction problems such as "Take 1799 from 2471," in their heads, with an answer expected within a few seconds. And the condition of the schools themselves was under equal scrutiny: "The school is held in the mistresses house. I shall never forget the hot sickening smell which struck me on opening the door of that low, dark room in which 30 girls and 20 boys were huddled together." But there were other issues of concern for the commissioners. They had also been charged with making a study of the moral state of the country and it was a task they were happy to carry out. When looking at the morals of the nation the Anglican vicars, many of whom felt isolated and apart from the parish in which they lived, were quite content to help out with comments that were little more than a little condemnatory: It is difficult... to describe in proper terms the state of the common people of Wales in the intercourse of the sexes. I believe the proportion of illegitimate children to the population in Anglesey, with only one exception, and that is also in Wales, exceeds that in any other county in the kingdom." When the report was published it was scathing and sweeping in its findings. Welsh children were poorly educated, poorly taught and had little or no understanding of the English language. They were ignorant, dirty and badly motivated. Welsh women were not just lax in their morals - many of them being late home from chapel meetings! - they were also non-conformist lax. To reinforce the power of the established church and to make English the required mode of teaching and expression in schools is the main thrust of the report. Howls of protest were to be expected - and they duly came. Yet the sobriquet "Treason of the Blue Books" did not come into popular usage until seven years later when Robert Jones Derfel wrote a play called Brad y Llyfrau Gleision, or, in English, The Treason of the Blue Books. Derfel's play opens in Hell where the Devil decides that the Welsh people are too good and are becoming more godly by the hour thanks to the influence of non-conformity. He promptly hatches a plan to bring down this pure and godly people. The play has shaped the opinions of many, even at this late stage. Many people believe the findings of the enquiry had been more or less decided before the commissioners even began their work. One thing is clear, however. The report gives us a fascinating snapshot of life in the 1840s and for a brief while, at least, it did manage to put education high on the political agenda. Ultimately, however, the Treason of the Blue Books helped to create a view, a rather smirking and disrespectful view, of Welsh morals that has lasted until the 21st century. Publication of The Report of the Commissioners of Enquiry remains one of the most important moments in Welsh history, and it is questionable whether or not the Welsh language has yet managed to break free from the disapproval of the commissioners. Phil Carradice investigates how Victorian Wales was scandalised by a government report into its schools and sexual morals in Blue Books and Red Faces on this week's episode of Past Master on Sunday 23 January at 5.30pm.

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  6. Do you have a story about life in Wales that you want to share with the world? A new bilingual website, People's Collection Wales launches today and promises new ways to explore, share and engage with Welsh history and culture. This is an exciting online project that is truly groundbreaki...

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  7. Most people who drive west from Carmarthen on the road to Pembroke pass through the village of Llanddowror, blithely unaware that this quiet backwater spot was, in the early 18th century, the centre of an educational movement that was taking Wales - perhaps even the world - by storm. For this was the base of Griffith Jones and his famous Circulating Schools. In an age when there was no compulsory education, when the vast majority of working class people could neither read nor write, Griffith Jones created a system of schooling that by the time of his death in 1761 had taught almost 200,000 people to read. Jones, arguably more than anyone else, helped to make Wales into a literate and literary nation. Griffith Jones was born in Carmarthenshire in 1683. He was educated at Carmarthen Grammar School and was ordained into the Church of England in 1708. After early curacies in places like Penbryn (Cardiganshire) and Penrieth (Pembrokeshire), he became curate and master of the the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge School in Laugharne. At one stage he did consider going to India to carry out missionary work for the SPCK, but decided against it and in 1716 became rector at Llanddowror, a post he held for the rest of his life. As an active member of the SPCK Jones was concerned about the illiteracy of his parishioners and when he began his Circulating Schools in about 1731 he was clear that one of his main aims was salvation. He wanted people to read but only so that they could read the Bible and the catechism of the Church of England. What Griffith Jones created was a series of schools that would rotate or circulate around the rural parishes of Wales, mainly in the winter months when farm work was relatively slack. The schools would stay in one place for approximately three months and then move on to another location. Dozens of men, women and children flocked to the schools where they used the Bible both as a means of instruction and as a training manual or reading book. The Bible was used as a means of instruction and as a training manual or reading book By 1737, just six years after they began, there were 37 such schools in existence with over 2500 pupils or scholars attending the classes. For those who had to work during the day, evening classes were set up and Jones himself, from his base in Llanddowror, was instrumental in training the teachers. He had powerful support from wealthy land owners like Madam Bevan, the woman who continued to run and oversee the schools after his death in April 1761. The system attracted the interest of reformers and educationalists from all over Britain - and from further afield as well. In 1764 Catherine II of Russia commissioned a report on the activities of the schools, with a view to creating a similar system in her own country. Griffith Jones was not without critics, however. Many people disagreed with teaching ordinary working men and women to read, particularly reactionary clergymen who felt that their position at the centre of the community was being undermined. Jones was a powerful preacher, someone who would hold the attention of mass gatherings, whether they were in the church or in the open air. He was called to account on several occasions by his Bishop for ignoring church rules and customs and, particularly, for things like preaching on the weekday! It did not stop Griffith Jones who was determined to proceed with what he felt to be his mission in life. Although not a reformer himself he can be seen to be something of a forerunner to the Methodist revival that was soon to hit Wales and all of the United Kingdom. By creating a literate and educated populace, men and women with a deep and focussed interest in the gospels and all scriptures, he had certainly paved the way for ministers like John Wesley. More significantly, Griffith Jones and his Circulating Schools had created a people for whom education was crucially important, not just as a way to better oneself but as an aim and an end in itself. That is a stance that has never left the Welsh people. Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login. Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

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