Powys Digital History Project

Education in Wales 2


Circulating Schools
Griffith Jones of Penboyr in Dyfed founded the Circulating School movement in Wales as a way of reaching a greater number of children. While curate at Laugharne he became a teacher at the SPCK school there and continued his involvement in education when made rector of Llanddowror. He established a school in the village in 1731, and then began to develop his ideas of establishing further small village schools to be run by itinerant teachers who would spend three months establishing the school, and then move on.

The idea proved hugely successful and it has been estimated that around 3,500 schools had been set up by the time of Griffith Jones' death in 1761. Again, teaching was mainly basic literacy through religious texts provided by the SPCK and charitable funds were spent on the teaching and not on buildings. Schools were run in barns and storehouses and, in one case, a windmill. By the end of the century problems with securing adequate charitable funding caused the movement to peter out, but not before an appetite for learning had been created.

Sunday Schools
Despite the success of these measures, many parts of Wales were not reached by them or were visited by a circulating school which lasted only only a few months before the teacher moved on..

near Llanidloes,
believed to be
the site of the first
Sunday School
in Wales
Crowlwm, near Llanidloes

Into this vacuum the Sunday Schools came. This was an idea first tried in England and seized upon by the rapidly growing nonconformist sects in Wales. Here classes were held on the day most people were available and were open to adults and children alike.

Again, basic tuition in reading and writing was based on the scriptures. The success of the movement led to its adoption by all denominations and a publishing industry grew to satisfy its need for textsAt first the schools were held in houses and barns. Later they were often held in purpose-built Sunday School buildings alongside churches and chapels.

The Sunday Schools created a huge impetus towards universal education and gave huge support to the Welsh language, but once state education was established their role remained religious and therefore peripheral to the main thrust of education in Wales.

There are 6 pages on the origins of education in Wales. Use the box links below to view the other pages.