Powys Digital History Project

Education in Wales 4


The infamous "Blue Books"
In 1847 a commission (consisting of Anglican Englishmen) to look into the state of Welsh education reported back, in what became known as the "Treachery of the Blue Books". This was a fairly damning indictment but also a very detailed one which recognised the class and religious divides which hampered progress in education in Wales. Unfortunately, it also made some severe generalisations along racial and moral lines which outraged the Nonconformists and led to a further alienation from Anglicanism.
By a Revised Code of Regulations, from 1862 the head teachers of all schools receiving a grant were required to make a daily entry in a School Log Book, an invaluable source reflecting the life of a school.

The School Boards
By 1870 the British Society (i.e. Nonconformist) had some 300 schools in Wales, but the National Society (i.e. Anglican) had over 1,000. The Liberal government now tried to create a comprehensive network of elementary schools in Wales, and also attempted to get round the unwillingness of Anglicans and Nonconformists to compromise over religion (which Peel had failed to do in 1843). This was the Education Act of 1870, which provided for a full education for lower-class children up to the age of 13.
Government grants would continue to British and National schools, but where provision was inadequate, a School Board was to be set up to build a Board school which would be funded by the rates.Photo of children
The board was to determine whether or not there should be religious education in its schools, but such education, if given, was not to be denominational: however, under Clause 25 of the Act, the boards were empowered to pay the fees of poor children attending denominational schools.

The British schools were incorporated into the School Board system, but the (Anglican) National and Roman Catholic schools preferred to stay outside. This meant that they received no financial assistance from the rates.
Controversially, no Board schools were set up where there was sufficient National school provision, even if most of the children in the area came from Nonconformist families. This was a source of grievance to Nonconformists. On the other hand, about half of the 320 Board schools in Wales opted for no religious teaching at all.

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

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