BlogMererid Welsh Blog

As the Athrofa finishes preparations for its first research in education conference on ‘Languages, Literacy and Communication’, Mererid Hopwood revisits a report published 90 years ago: ‘Welsh in Education and Life’…


It’s a significant year. This is the year the British Broadcasting Corporation was established under the leadership of Sir John Reith as Director General, and the year of the first telephone call between New York and London.

It’s the year the doors opened to the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and the year the Labour Party voted in favour of the nationalisation of the coal industry. And there was plenty of need for a warm fire in a year that saw vast swathes of South Wales and our not-yet capital city disappear under a Christmas Day snowstorm.

This too was the year when a report, published by the HMSO in London, went on sale for a shilling and sixpence under the title: ‘Welsh in Education and Life’.

It was the work of the departmental committee appointed by the president of the board of education to inquire into the position of the Welsh language and to advise as to its promotion in the education system in Wales.

The said president was the Right Honourable the Lord Eustace Eustace Percy MP and the committee was made of 14 men and one woman.

It’s worth noting their names:

The Right Rev. The Lord Bishop for St David’s D.D. (Chairman);

The Hon. W. N. Bruce, C.B., Ll.D;

Mr E. T. Davies, M.A;

Mr William Edwards, M.A., Litt.D;

Miss Ellen Evans, M.A;

Professor W. J. Gruffydd, M.A;

The Rev. Canon Maurice Jones, D.D;

Sir Stanley Leathes, K.C.B;

The Rev. Thomas Rees, M.A., Ph.D;

Mr W. O. Roberts;

Mr D. Lleufer Thomas, M.A.,Ll.D;

Mr Philip Thomas;

Mr R. T. Vaughan, Y.H;

Alderman W. C. Watkins, J.P;

Mr G. Prys Williams H.M. Inspector of Schools;

and Mr. P. A. Lewis (Secretary).

Problems and Lines of Solution

The report is divided into three parts, from the ‘Introduction, Historical and General’, through the ‘Present Position’ to the ‘Problems and Lines of Solution’.

You can get a good sense of the broad scope of the study by glancing at the subtitles in the list of contents. In the first part, the reader is given an overview of ‘Griffith Jones, Llanddowror and his Catechetical Schools’, ‘The Methodist Revival’, ‘The State and Education’, ‘The Welsh National Movement for Education in the Language in the Second Half of the 19th Century’ and ‘The National Eisteddfod’, as well as a complete section dedicated to ‘The Drama’, looking in particular at the ‘Mysteries, passion-plays, moralities, and the anterliwtiau of Twm o’r Nant’ before closing with a section on the ‘Duty of the present generation’.

The second part looks at matters such as ‘Linguistic statistics’, including a section on ‘Welsh speakers per square mile’, then ‘Policy and regulations of the Board of Education’, ‘Welsh in the Training of Teachers’, the matter of ‘The Migration of Teachers to Engalnd’, ‘The University’ and an analysis of Welsh in various contexts from ‘Educational Books’ to ‘The Church and Sunday School’, not forgetting in ‘Legislation, in the Administration of Justice and in Public Administration’.

The third part, which, according to its title, looks at the problems and sorts them out, opens with a section that considers how the Welsh nation has kept its identity in ‘Welsh resistance against hostile influences of the past’.

It reaches wide as it tackles the ‘Elementary School’, the ‘Passage from Elementary to Secondary School’, the ‘General Effect of Examination’, the ‘Method’, the ‘University’, ‘Libraries’, ‘Societies’, ‘Music’, ‘Agriculture’ and ‘Commerce’.

Welsh in the Training of Teachers

“The promotion of the study of Welsh in the schools must ultimately depend upon an adequate and regular supply of teachers who have been systematically trained to teach the language…”

With this bold statement, the long section on teacher training opens by trying to establish the position regarding the teaching of Welsh in the six training colleges of the period.

From the Church and Normal Colleges in Bangor to Barry, from Carmarthen and Caerleon to Swansea, it finds that the provision was at best variable.

It notes that since 1921 it was possible to choose Welsh as a ‘specialist subject’ in the ‘Principles of Teaching’ paper, where would-be teachers had to demonstrate a detailed understanding of the methods of teaching and learning Welsh.

Then, it explains how in the 1926 syllabus a further advance was made which allowed (notice: ‘allow’) the Training Colleges to provide an additional course in Bilingual Education in order to provide the students with instruction as to how to teach ‘Welsh language and Literature (a) in Welsh-speaking areas, (b) in English-speaking areas, (c) in Bilingual areas’.

As we prepare for the Athrofa’s first research in education conference and look forward to welcoming experts in language and education to Carmarthen to examine attitudes, assessment, pedagogy, multi and plurilingualism, it seems that sometimes it’s well-worth looking back.

  • Mererid Hopwood is a member of Yr Athrofa staff at University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. Over the next weeks, Mererid will take a closer look at this report, as well as the Dan Isaac Davies series of letters from 1885: ‘Tair Miliwn o Gymry Dwy-Ieithawg Mewn Can Mlynedd’ (‘Three Million Bilingual Speakers in Wales in a Hundred Years Time’)