School Provision and the Education of the Young.
Daniel Fletcher, b.1816 in Cardiff-d.1877, signed his marriage certificate with a cross. He could not write his name. His father, Phillip Fletcher, b.1795 in Cardiff-d.1857, also probably could not write. It is near to the truth to say that neither of them attended any form of school. Although they probably would have if there was a school for them to go to! At the start of the C19th, there was no national system of education in Wales. As in the United Kingdom, education in Wales was, until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the province of the wealthy or the clergy. Those who had money would pay for the education of their children.
The two voluntary societies, the National, and British and Foreign School Societies had been established since 1811 and 1814 respectively. The National Society’s (Church of England) aim was “to plant a Church school in every parish of the land in order that the pupils may learn the Scriptures and be given moral education. During the 19th century thousands of schools were established.” (From their website). In 1814 the British and Foreign School Society (BFSS), set up 'British Schools' and teacher training institutions on non-sectarian principles throughout the 19th century. Their system was designed to “….provide a basic education for as many children as possible with the funds available, and despite a great shortage of teachers….The Society’s aims are: ...the advancement of education, that is, the physical, mental, moral, religious and spiritual development of the whole person regardless of national, racial or cultural background in accordance with the principles of the Christian faith but on a non-sectarian and inter-denominational basis and without credal tests."(From their website). Even so, they promoted very few schools in the mining areas in the first three decades of the nineteenth century.
Whilst on his journey in South Wales, Hugh Owen attended an important conference held on December 1st, 1854, at the Temperance Hall, Merthyr Tydfil, mainly to establish a Society to act as an auxiliary of the B. &. F.S.S., in South Wales, and to be known as the South Wales British Schools Association. In his speech at the conference he drew attention to the urgent need for elementary schools in the district and pointed out that 'the number receiving school instruction was shown by the last census to be rather more than one in every eight of the population, taking England and Wales together, but taking Wales, with Monmouthshire, alone, the number was shown to be less than one in every eleven of ...the population'. He estimated that the number of children in Wales 'attending schools of all descriptions was only 103,247, whereas there ought to have been at the rate of one in eight of the population, 145,392 attending schools', so that there appeared 'to be at least 42,145 children in Wales without day-school instruction', and these children belonged to the classes that were in most need of public sympathy and aid'. Moreover, he was very concerned that the Established Church was much more successful than the Nonconformists in founding schools, and regretted that 38,925 children in Wales attended schools supported by the Church of England, whilst only 14,975 attended schools supported by Dissenters. (Ref: British Schools in South Wales, The Rev William Roberts (Nefydd), South Wales Representative of the British and Foreign School Society, 1853-1863. B L Davies National Library of Wales journal. 1974, Winter. Volume XVIII/4. Extracted onto the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales)
The Rev. William Roberts toured Wales between 1852 – 1862 on behalf of the BFSS and reported on the provision of schools in towns and villages. For February 15th 1855, he writes in his report: “Aberaman: In this populous place there is no public school, there are some friends very wishful to establish a B.S. I called upon some of them, some were for receiving Gov. aid, the others against. There are some difficulties also in the way as regarding the ground. These things will be inquired into more fully in the course of a month or two.” (Ref: The Journal of William Roberts ('Nefydd'), 1853-62.E D Jones, National Library of Wales journal Vol VIII/3 Summer 1954. Extracted onto the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales.)
Almost all elementary education in Wales before 1870 was voluntary. By 1868, there was a National School and a British School in Cwmbach but in densely populated industrial areas often the Voluntary Societies’ Schools were inadequate. From as early as 1820 attempts began to provide an elementary education for children in industrial areas of South Wales. In Hirwaun in 1820, the first colliery school was established. This type of school was typical of many schools built in Glamorganshire during the C19th in which the owner of a colliery, copper-works, tin-plate works or iron-works company funded the building of schools for the education of children of their employees. These were called Works Schools and could be found built near many industrial areas. Works Schools filled the gap that the Voluntary Schools left in the provision of schooling for children when there was increasing and powerful demands from society and employers to provide an educated workforce. There was little or no financial support from Parliament and most funding to pay for books, staff and maintenance of building, were voluntary. However the colliery schools were unique in that money was deducted from mineworkers wages to help towards meeting the cost e.g. 1d in the £ from the men’s wages towards the costs of “ A teacher and 3 monitors, who would provide instruction in Holy Scriptures, reading, writing, arithmetic, English books, English grammar and Welsh.”. In the Cynon Valley, the Duffryn School was one of the largest colliery schools in South Wales. In 1894, it had 1,121 pupils on roll and an average attendance of 669. In 1894 the miners from these Cynon Valley collieries contributed money to and sent their children to Duffryn School: Lower Duffryn Pit, Middle Duffryn Pit, Aberaman Pit, Abercwmboi Pit, Navigation Pit and Penrhiwceiber Pit.