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The Early Days, The Last Two Hundred Years, Central Government or Church, The Blue Books, Welsh in Schools, 1870 Compulsory Education Act, 1889 Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1902 Education Act,

Tregaron school room

The Early Days

Before the compulsory Education Act of 1870 the growth of education through a school system in Ceredigion was slow and often primitive. Influenced mainly by religious bodies the first organised attempts were to enable children to read the Bible. The relevance of any further education in a rural society, no doubt, seemed remote. The best known private school, started in 1735, was founded by Edward Richard and was at Ystrad Meurig. Both Greek and Latin were taught here and it became well known throughout Wales, being of Grammar School standard.

About this time Griffith Jones, Vicar of Llanddowror, set up a system of circulating schools which remained in each village for one winter, and between 1731 and 1779 a total of 250 school sessions were held in Cardiganshire (Ceredigion). These schools closed in 1779 and the state of organised education deteriorated and remained poor until long after 1800.

The Last Two Hundred Years

The history of administration of education in the last two hundred years became increasingly the story of continued conflict and compromise between the claims of the central government and the different church bodies.

The Sunday Schools in Wales, started by Thomas Charles of Bala, were the only effective places to learn reading and writing in Welsh.

Central Government or Church

By the mid 1830s the Nonconformist Schools were in financial difficulties but refused to seek help from the government fearing that their religious freedom would be lost. The Church of England schools did accept help. At this time the unco-ordinated state of education throughout Wales was frowned upon, and a call was made for the Government to conduct an enquiry.

The Blue Books

A Commission carried out an enquiry in 1847 into the state of existing schools and the Report (The Blue Books) led to some revealing facts. The number of children attending the schools were few compared with the population of children. School rooms were found to be damp and squalid; schools were often held in barns, private dwellings or village churches which were cold and dark. The teachers were often unqualified and badly paid. Much was made on the ignorance and immortality of the people, blamed on the Welsh language and Nonconformity; this led to an outcry, and the statements were largely refuted. The report did lead to an improvement in standards and as a result of this attack the British and National Societies built 47 new schools between 1847 and 1870 in Ceredigion.

Welsh in Schools

Welsh was not taught in established day schools until 1891, and since few people in rural areas spoke English the Sunday Schools proved to be very popular. No Welsh had been allowed in day schools and in many of them anyone caught speaking Welsh had the punishment of wearing a piece of wood hung around their neck bearing the words "Welsh Not". Both teachers and parents thought this the most rapid way to advance the use of English for utilitarian reasons but others saw it to be the most rapid way to stamp out the Welsh language.

1870 Compulsory Education Act

Under this act School Boards were set up in every parish and many new State schools were built, but the existing Church of England and Noncomformist schools were usually retained; many of the Church of England (Church in Wales) schools remain, but few of the Nonconformist schools. In Llangynfelyn each farmer was to pay two shillings and six pence per quarter year for each child attending school; each craftsman or miner was to pay two shillings and a labourer one shilling and sixpence. After the compulsory Education Act was passed the difficulty of paying these amounts proved too much for some parents and the children were kept away from school. In the country areas the labour of the children in the summer months was too valuable so many children attended only during the winter months. At Pennant school the average attendance in February was 89 but in June 29. Enforcing the Act proved almost impossible in the remote areas. These problems were eventually overcome, and the pattern of primary education established by 1880 is largely unchanged today.

1889 Welsh Intermediate Education Act

New schools for the education of older children were established in Aberystwyth (Ardwyn), Lampeter, Aberaeron, Tregaron and Cardigan.

1902 Education Act

This act made both the National (Church) and Education Board Schools the financial responsibility of the Cardiganshire Education Committee. Many non-conformists objected to this and some refused to pay the additional rates.

Trott, A.L., 'Educational Charities in Cardiganshire 1833 - 1835', Ceredigion, IV, 1, (1960)  pp. 47 - 59

Lewis, H.J., (1933), 'An Outline of the History of Education in Cardiganshire', N.U.T. Conference, Aberystwyth Souvenir, (1933), pp. 87 - 116