Title of Assignment: An individually written assignment of 1500 words. The paper should express how the issues raised in the 30 minute group dialogue on the contrast of the educational contribution made by the Sunday school and labour movement initiatives in Welsh communities impinge upon current practice. Date of Submission: 17th May 2005 Introduction To contrast the educational contribution made by Sunday school and the Labour movement initiatives in Welsh communities much research was required; it was not a case of just looking into the Education of Wales, but also the industrial, social, religious, political and cultural developments. From an appreciation of these influences I can then see how this impinges upon my current practice.

Circulating Schools Before 1830 education for the non-privileged was voluntary in nature and charitable in provision, largely supplied by the established church and non-conformists. Griffith Jones, a Welsh clergyman set up the Circulating School movement in Wales in a bid to educate a greater number of children. Teachers were committed, mobile, flexible and prepared to use whatever room was available, in one case a windmill; they would spend three months at a time in a village setting up the school and then move on.

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Over a 45 year period Circulating schools visited almost every parish in the country delivering predominantly basic literacy through religious texts in the medium of Welsh. Unfortunately by the end of the century a lack of funding caused the movement to dissolve, but not before a hunger for learning had been created. Sunday Schools Sunday schools followed the success of the circulating schools, which lasted only a few months before the teacher moved on. School on Sunday when most people were available was not a new idea; it was tried first by Robert Raikes in England and taken up by the ever growing nonconformist sects of Wales. The name synonymous with the establishment of Sunday schools in Wales is that of Thomas Charles and they differed to those established by Raikes as they catered for the whole people, from children to the elderly, they were also taught in the Welsh medium, that was essential for them to succeed.

Arguably the achievement of Methodism, along with fervent welcome of circulating schools “rested at least partly on an inchoate sense of the dislocation of traditional Welsh society in the 18th century” (page 40 Jones & Roderick, 2003). This was not, however, to the extent caused by industrialisation at the end of the century, although there were significant alterations in traditional rural society.

The fundamental teaching in reading and writing was based on the Bible and in the beginning schools were held where ever they could find a building such as houses and barns. However, the growth in nonconformity led to an increase in the construction of chapels, to include purpose build school rooms. “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”


It is important to note that Wales has always been admired for its natural beauty, with most of the Welsh people being of agricultural decent until the mid 18th century when all that was to change with the development of Britain’s industrial revolution. As this developed the population and disfigurement of the landscape grew, drawing people from the land as well as immigrant workers into industrial areas of Wales for work, villages in these areas grew becoming towns.

A classic example of this growth and industrialisation is Merthyr Tydfil, once a small village in the upper Taff Valley, its surrounding area containing everything necessary it was soon to become a successful iron industry. By 1801, the population of Merthyr was 7,700, a figure which rose to 22,000 in 1831 and to 46,000 in 1851, with the result of Merthyr being the largest town in Wales.

The domination and repression of those in power was the cause of much industrial unrest and in 1831 Merthyr was to see the worst uprising to happen in Britain during the 19th century. This rebellion was partly due to the instability produced by the disturbance of parliamentary reform. Nevertheless, the primary causes can be put down to the specific character of the Welsh encounter of industrialisation; it concluded in troops being called upon, at least 20 people being killed outside the Castle Inn and the hanging of Richard Lewis (Dic Penderyn).

Naturally poor conditions married with the skills they learnt through circulating and Sunday schools fuelled reasoning the rise in agitators. Although the views on how to accomplish their goals were quite different, there was radicalism from both the working and middle classes; whilst the middle class opted for a more peaceful reform, the working class preferred a more aggressive rebellion. However, there was one issue with which they were both united and that was reform of Parliament.


Working class consciousness was shown in the rise of Chartism; the ordinary man in the street wanted more for their lives. In all three petitions were presented to Parliament, the final petition containing six million signatures was presented on the 10th April 1848 and gained huge importance, owing to the reaction of the authorities as they encountered the confrontations in that year of turmoil.

Leading up to the events of 1948, in May 1938 the People’s Charter was published as a draft parliamentary bill. Within it was six points: Manhood suffrage, Secret Ballot, Abolition of the property qualification for MP’s, Payment of MP’s, Equal Electoral Districts and Annual Parliaments. Thousands of working people pulled together on the principle of this charter, and hundreds went to prison for their beliefs.

The people wanted more, the government realised this and that the control of the upper classes was in decline. Education also featured highly in their endeavours and the Labour movement, because of it’s increased awareness, wanted more of everything, including education – this was a time for change. “During the century after the end of the movement, most of the Chartist demands were passed into law, and undoubtedly the Chartist issues of democratic inclusion and the rights of citizenship remain highly relevant today.” (Roberts 01-05-2002)

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