HL Deb 09 February 1894 vol 21 cc208-10

asked the Lord President if he had any objection to state what percentage of Welsh schools had taken up Welsh as a class subject; in how many schools that had earned the "excellent merit" grant had Welsh been taught; the percentage of failures amongst Welsh pupil teachers in English composition? He said, these questions were not in any sense contentious, for they involved no complaint with regard to the Lord President or the Vice President. As a matter of fact, the course taken by the Department, which was thought by some people to be wrong, was begun under the late Government, for in the Code of 1891-2 the teaching of Welsh was made a special subject. That was in consequence of what had been said by the Cymrodorion Society, and of what had appeared in some vernacular papers advocating that Welsh should be taught in the day schools. In the last Code, 1892-3, the present Government had made it a "class" subject. The question was not hostile to the teaching of the Welsh language; it was simply a plea for more attention in teaching English in Wales. The Chairman of the Welsh Land Commission (Lord Carrington) would bear him out, or would certainly not contradict his statement, that many of the witnesses called before that Commission regretted that their insufficient knowledge of English prevented them from going to England for the purpose of farming and taking part in the industries there. But without going into that, it was very clear that people who only spoke Welsh must be under a great disadvantage. Even in the Welsh-speaking districts a farmer was at a loss if he could not speak to English dealers, nor read English agricultural newspapers. He had asked a Board school teacher in Anglesey whether he was satisfied with what the Department had done, and if he was now teaching Welsh, and he replied, "No, it is a special subject, and we do not want it here." If was only in South Wales, and places where Welsh was dying out, that some people thought it would he well to keep it up by having it taught in the schools. A gentleman who spoke Welsh thoroughly had written to him— It is difficult In conceive a more retrograde movement than that taken with regard to teaching Welsh in the day schools. The great want of Welsh children is a thorough knowledge of English, for which the present Code makes no special provision, as it should do in the ease of Wales. There is no man (unless he is a paid agitator) who wishes to have his child taught Welsh ill the day school. The great complaint is, and has been, that the children are not taught English, and the hotter class of working men very often send their children to Liverpool or some other English town to learn English.…To introduce Welsh into the schools is simply ruinous, and, besides, I do not think one in 50 of the schoolmasters knows Welsh grammar, though they speak Welsh colloquially. An illustration of this difficulty in teaching Welsh grammar was that hardly two persons would be found to agree upon the reason for the permutation of initial consonants, which was now neglected in South Wales and had almost disappeared in Brittany.


My Lords, I am not going to enter into the question of the advantage or otherwise of learning the Welsh language; but my noble Friend need not be alarmed, I think, because it does not appear that much advantage has been taken of making Welsh a class subject. The Department are not aware that any schools inspected have yet taken up Welsh as a class subject. It was only under the Code of 1893 that Welsh was first introduced into the list of possible class subjects, and that Code has not yet been a year in force. No school, therefore, could yet have taken Welsh at the inspection without changing its class subjects in the course of the school year— a most unusual course. In the inspection year ended August 31, 1893, 21 departments took Welsh its a specific subject, not as a class subject. There has been no pro- vision for the payment of an "excellent" or other merit grant in any Code since 1889. The higher principal grant of 14s.,to which it is presumed Lord Stanley of Alderley refers, was paid to 14 out of the 21 schools which took Welsh as a specific subject. The principal grant is paid according to and for proficiency in elementary subjects alone, and the Inspector, in awarding it, does not take into consideration whether Welsh is or is not taught. No record has been kept of the failures amongst Welsh pupil teachers in English composition.


expressed himself as much obliged for the answer the noble Earl had given, which he thought would be satisfactory to those who had desired the question to be put.