Originally published In the National Library of Wales Journal,
Vol 20 (1977/78, Pages 131 - 150)

THE great majority of the Welsh County Intermediate Schools were in being by 1896, that is, without benefit of guidance from either the Board of Education, established by the Act of 1899, or of its Welsh Department, set up in 1907. A small number of the County Intermediate Schools, however, date from the early years of the twentieth century and their beginnings were closely watched over by the Welsh Department of the Board. The establishment in 1914 of the Amman Valley Intermediate School in Carmarthenshire is an interesting example of one of these schools and of the very real difficulties facing a community which, after some years of indecision, decided that the time had come to set up its own secondary school.

The County of Carmarthen Scheme of 1894 under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act of 1889 provided initially for the establishment of seven Intermediate schools to serve the county. These included a reconstituted Grammar School for Boys at Carmarthen, a new Carmarthen Intermediate School for Girls, separate schools for boys and girls at Llanelli, a school for girls at Llandovery, and mixed schools at Llandeilo and Whitland. The catchment areas of the various schools were laid down in the Scheme. As late as 1912 by far the largest of the rural schools in the county was that at Llandeilo, which then had 164 pupils on roll, a number exceeded only by Llanelli Boys' School with 193 pupils. For the Llandeilo Intermediate School drew its pupils not only from the agricultural Vale of Towy but also from the Amman Valley Sub-District, a rapidly developing industrial area. This accounted for the relatively large number of children on roll at Llandeilo; obviously if and when an Intermediate School was set up in the Amman Valley, the Llandeilo School was likely to experience a significant reduction in numbers.

The early attempts to establish an Intermediate School in the Amman Valley may be briefly summarised. Such a school had been provided for in the Carmarthenshire Scheme of 1894 and power to establish it was retained in the amended county scheme of 1912. In November 1902, Col. D. Morris of Bettws, Ammanford, led a deputation to persuade the County Governing Body for Carmarthenshire to implement the provision for an Amman Valley School. The County Governing Body sympathised with the request but regretted that owing to the passing of the Education Act, 1902, and the transfer of its powers to the Carmarthenshire Education Committee, it could do nothing to assist at this juncture. There was also a difficulty in that the inhabitants of the valley could not agree amongst themselves on the location of the proposed school. It could be Ammanford, or as some argued, Garnant which, although less convenient for the valley as a whole, might diminish the reaction on the Llandeilo School.

After the failure of the 1902 attempt nothing further was heard of the proposal until April 1910, when the same Col. D. Morris raised the question with the Welsh Department. There was obviously renewed interest at this time. H.M. Inspector of Schools reported in the summer of 1911 that there was much talk of opening a new Intermediate School for the Amman Valley and that as there had been a great increase in population in the valley in the last few years the Local Education Authority would be under pressure to accede to the proposal. A deputation from the Amman Valley appeared before the Education Committee on 18th July 1911, and emphasised that it spoke for the population of 23,000, an area with a rateable value of £60,000 – £80,000, and a child population of 4,500 – 5,000. A number of free sites for the proposed school had been offered but as the inhabitants could not agree amongst themselves on the location they were prepared to abide by the decision of the Education Committee on this point.

The Education Committee was impressed with the case put forward and agreed to proceed with the erection of the school. It arranged to inspect a number of possible sites in the valley, received representations from Llandeilo, Cwmamman and Ammanford, and on 9th September 1911, resolved that the new school should be built at Ammanford 7 A site was available. Lord Dynevor had offered an acre as a gift and he was prepared to dispose of additional land adjoining the site which the Education Committee wished to acquire. The County Architect was instructed to prepare all necessary plans in connection with the school. A plan of the proposed site was submitted to the Welsh Department on 2nd January 1912, with a request for approval to acquire.

It was at this point that the Welsh Department became fully involved in the Amman Valley proposal. The Chief Inspector for Wales, Mr. Owen Edwards, visited the proposed site with the County Architect on 23rd January I9I2. He also visited the catchment areas, possible alternative sites, schools likely to be affected (consulting the Heads of the Intermediate Schools at Llandovery, Llandeilo, Llanelli, Ystradgynlais and Ystalyfera), and influential Governors when possible. His first reaction to the proposed site was quite favourable:

"The site selected is a most desirable one. It is on an eminence from which can be seen the circle of soft outlined hills which surround this busy and rapidly filling valley. Before the school, and on slightly lower ground, will be an ample playground. There will be no need of levelling or of building containing walls. The other buildings near are all new or in process of construction – a Drill Hall, a Church, private houses."

He thought the site and its extension should be acquired and he agreed that Ammanford was centrally situated to the school district as a whole. The critical question to be asked, however, was whether the proposed new school would unduly compete with neighbouring Intermediate Schools and therefore, under the Board's Regulations, fail to qualify for Secondary School grants. The only school to be so affected would undoubtedly be Llandeilo. The Chief Inspector commented:

"There the number will drop at once to one half, the staff must be reduced, many of the buildings will be unnecessary, the salary of the Headmaster will drop by one-third. So far as I know, the L.E.A. have not thought of any of these things, and the Headmaster and Governors of Llandeilo seem to think they are helpless in the face of the Scheme. They are under the impression that this Scheme will override the Board's Regulations. The Ammanford people waited for ten years and more, they allowed Llandeilo to build, to develop a school – and now, as far as I can see, they have not given it a thought in building their own."

The officers of the Welsh Department including A. T. Davies, the Permanent Secretary, J. L. Casson, the Assistant Secretary and, T. G. Roberts, the Administrative Assistant, were all concerned about the probable injury to Llandeilo of the Amman Valley proposal. Following Owen Edwards's observations the Permanent Secretary called for a detailed appraisal of the situation. The Chief Inspector had been critical of Ammanford's lack of consideration for Llandeilo, but the Assistant Secretary pointed out that the Llandeilo School Governors had known all along that a school would or ought to be provided for the Amman Valley children and that when the school was established Llandeilo would merely revert to normal numbers.

In the meantime, the Education Committee was becoming impatient at the delay in replying to its request of 2nd January for approval of the proposed school site, and wrote on 17th February and again on 11th March appealing for a response. The reply when it came on 13th March asked for details of the extent and limits of the Amman Valley School district, the terms of acquisition of the proposed site, and how it was intended to defray the cost of site and buildings. The Department also wished to know the type of school the Authority had in mind and particularly the number of pupils to be accommodated. The Authority replied with commendable speed. A letter dated 20th March 1912, enclosed a map showing the extent of the school district and the site consisting of the gift of one acre from Lord Dynevor and a further one acre, one rood, fourteen poles to be purchased from him. It was intended to meet the cost of site and buildings by borrowing under the provisions of Part II of the Education Act, 1902, the annual repayment of capital and interest to be charged to the area to be served by the school. The Authority wished to plan a Day and Boarding School for 400 boys and girls. At a later stage the Department was to remind the Authority of its stated intention in this letter of meeting the costs of the school under the provisions of the 1902 Education Act.

Following receipt of the Authority's letter of 20th March, the officers of the Welsh Department had some difficulty in ascertaining the precise population of the proposed school district, but assumed it would be somewhere near 25,000. If a school for 400 pupils was provided, it would amount to 15 ½ places per thousand and, as T. G. Roberts commented:

"Certainly a large provision exceeded by the number of pupils per mille in Merionethshire but it exceeds considerably the per mille of any other county. I presume, however, that if the School has a differentiated curriculum calculated to render it especially suitable to this dense population, it might easily justify its erection for 400."

T. G. Roberts noted, too, that at the moment only 4.8 per thousand in the Llandeilo School district attended the Intermediate School, 160 pupils out of a population of 33,180. The Llandeilo School did not appear to draw to anything like the full extent upon the school population of its district. Time was to show that this was indeed so. J. L. Casson, the Assistant Secretary, found the figures very puzzling:

"As the numbers in the Llandeilo School are under 200, I don't see how they expect to get 400 in a school in the Amman Valley Sub-District unless the latter school is such as will appeal to a different class of children than Llandeilo does."

The two Carmarthen town schools and the Whitland school served school populations of over 9 per thousand whereas in the county of Carmarthen as a whole 6 per thousand attended the Intermediate Schools. The Assistant Secretary thought that the Chief Inspector had better confer with the Education Authority and with the Governors of the Llandeilo Intermediate School on the whole question.

Not surprisingly, a number of Llandeilo residents wrote to the Board of Education objecting to the Amman Valley proposal while Amman Valley representatives, parents of Amman Valley children at the moment obliged to travel to Llandeilo, and 'other influential people', pressed the Education Committee to secure the Board's approval to the proposal without further delay. The Welsh Department had already made it clear to the Carmarthenshire Authority that the proposal to establish the Amman Valley School involved the question of recognition for grant under the Board's Secondary Schools Regulations (Wales). The Authority's attention was drawn particularly to Regulation 29 which ruled that 'a school to be recognised for grant purposes must not compete unduly with a neighbouring school'. The Authority was told on 20th April that an inquiry must be held to establish this point and the justification for a school for 400 pupils in the Amman Valley.

The Inquiry was held at Ammanford on 31st May 1912, and the Report was forwarded to A. T. Davies on 13th June. It confirmed that there was strong local demand for a school in the Amman Valley and the Inquiring Inspector acknowledged that the desire for the school was reasonable and legitimate. The question of possible undue competition with Llandeilo would depend on the nature of the curriculum at the new school; the Llandeilo district was essentially agricultural, the Amman Valley largely industrial. Mr. Llewelyn Williams, appearing for the Llandeilo district at the Inquiry, had urged that if a school were established at Ammanford it should be a technical school. Mr. J. W. Nicholas, Clerk to the Education Committee, while not accepting that suggestion on behalf of the Authority, 'intimated that the proposed school would have a curriculum with a strong technical bias'. It was not made clear in what manner the School would be given a technical bias which would differentiate it from Llandeilo. It was recommended that this be left to the Board to take up with the Authority. Should the Board be satisfied with the Authority's intentions then any objection to the proposal on the grounds of undue competition with Llandeilo would be removed. On the question of numbers the Authority had been prepared to accept the Board's decision and it was thought that a school of 200 pupils would be large enough for the present.

The Inquiry having taken place and its Report having been carefully considered, the Welsh Department communicated its decision to the Carmarthenshire Education Authority in a letter dated 26th June 1912 – a letter which was to be referred to on a number of occasions in the next two years. The Board agreed that a case for a new school at Ammanford had been made out, although it could not accept the figure of 400 for the school in the first instance; it suggested a school of 200 with provision for extensions. And then came the crux of the matter. Recognition of the school for Board of Education grants under Secondary School Regulations would depend on:

(a) whether the curriculum is framed and the school is equipped and staffed in such a way as to enable the Board to regard the education given in it as suitable to the circumstances of the locality which are industrial (and, particularly, mining) in character, and
(b) the steps taken to prevent the school competing unduly with the neighbouring County School at Llandeilo.

The Board saw no reason why Article 29 of the Secondary School Regulations should prove a stumbling block in the way of recognition, if due care was taken from the outset 'to ensure that the school shall have a definite bias towards education of a much more technical character than is usually given in Wales in a School of the Intermediate type'. Recognition of the school for grant-earning purposes would depend on effective steps being taken to maintain and continue the differential character of the school when established. The Authority was therefore advised to submit the proposed curriculum of the school to enable the Board to judge whether it complied with these conditions. In all this may be seen the determination of the Chief Inspector that immediately and for the future the proposed Amman Valley Intermediate School should be clearly differentiated from the Llandeilo School and indeed from most other Intermediate schools in Wales. In so far as Llandeilo was concerned, the Board viewed 'with no little sympathy the anxiety of the Governors of Llandeilo, but cannot lose sight of the fact that the making of special provision for the higher education of children in the Amman Valley has been in contemplation from the year 1894 onwards'.

This letter was read to the Carmarthenshire Education Committee at its meeting on 11th July 1912, when it was agreed that a school for 200 pupils be built, although on a motion by Col. D. Morris it was also agreed to appoint a sub-committee to consider and report on the advisability of starting the school in temporary premises'. The Clerk had already written to the Board on 1st July agreeing to the figure of 200. He assured the Board that the School would have a strong technical bias; meanwhile, the Authority would be glad to know if the site plans originally forwarded to the Welsh Department on 2nd January 1912, were now approved. The Board approved the site on 15th July and suggested that the Authority confer with Owen Edwards on the curriculum.

At this point the Amman Valley project suffered the first of a seemingly endless series of setbacks. The Governors of the Llandeilo Intermediate School had written to the Board on 10th July asking if they could be kept informed of further proceedings in connection with the drafting of the curriculum for the Amman Valley School. The Board's officers at once realised that it could not have occurred to the LIandeilo Governors that under the existing Scheme relating to the Carmarthenshire Intermediate Schools both the Llandeilo School and the proposed Amman Valley School were controlled by one and the same body of Governors. An amended Scheme would be necessary to provide the Amman Valley School with its own and separate Governing Body. J. L. Casson, the Assistant Secretary, minuted to A. T. Davies:

"This is not an ideal state of things and there is a good deal to be said for two separate Governing Bodies. Still the Scheme permits of only one and I think we need not originate the point."

A. T. Davies responded:

"Let the point (which is a very awkward one) emerge, as it necessarily must do very soon in the natural course of events. But the condition of things should make us very wary at every stage."

The Board thus wrote to the Education Authority on 29th July (with a copy to the Governing Body) and drew attention to the legal position. It underlined the fact that under the Scheme it was for the Governors of the Llandeilo School to agree building plans and curriculum with the Education Committee before submission to the Board for approval. The Chief Inspector commented:

"I think that in the circumstances the arrangement is the best possible. The Managers of the two schools will be responsible for the two curricula and they will find themselves forced to differentiate."

With a lack of imagination singularly unusual for him, the Chief Inspector did not appear to appreciate the stormy reaction the Board's letter would arouse.

By return of post the Authority informed the Board that the letter of 29th July had been considered as a specially urgent matter at the quarterly meeting of the county authority held on 31st July. It pointed out the very serious consequences that followed from what it regarded as the Board's interpretation of the Scheme:

"The effect would be to place the provision of the buildings and, what is more important, the administration of the School in a body of Governors who are notoriously opposed to the interests of the new School, and who have every motive to injure its chances of success. It would in fact place the educational advancement of a large industrial community numbering more than 20,000 people at the mercy of a body of Managers who are not only vigorously opposed to the establishment of the new school but who for the most part represent interests that are entirely dissimilar."

In the Authority's view the position was humiliating and intolerable. The Scheme must be amended so that the new school could have its own body of Governors. The matter was urgent and the Board was asked to receive a deputation.

T. Davies was not surprised at the Authority's reaction -

"In fact, I should have been surprised if they had not taken it up, for the position (legal though it be) is an absurd – indeed intolerable – one and I think our reply might, in very guarded language, indicate that we appreciate the force of much that they argue. We ought, however, to make it clear to them at once that it is not a matter of the Board maintaining a certain attitude or placing a doubtful interpretation upon any words in the Scheme but simply the provisions of the latter, as it stands, leaving us no alternative but to call their attention to provisions which, until altered, are as binding upon the Board as they are upon the parties."

The Board accordingly wrote to the Authority on 7th August pointing out the legal position but adding that the Board appreciated the objections to the new school being under the same management as the Llandeilo Intermediate School and that if this was not to be the case an amendment of the new County Scheme, approved as recently as 14th May 1912, would be necessary. The Authority immediately applied for an amendment to the Scheme so as to establish the Amman Valley as a district in itself with its separate Governing Body.

But there were interminable delays in securing the necessary amendment. It was the end of November 1912, before the amended scheme was published for the first time. This resulted in questions over the proposed boundaries between the new School District and the Llandeilo District, and it was not until 10th April 1913, that the amended Scheme was finally settled and published for the second time. It was sent to the Privy Council on 26th June and received the Royal Assent on 12 August 1913, over a year since the Board had pointed out the legal position, a year in which no real progress with the Amman Valley School had been possible.

The only consolation to the proposers was that despite some misgivings on the part of the Board regarding the exclusion in the conveyance of all mineral rights and the lack of provision for compensation in the event of subsidence and damage to buildings, the site was in fact approved on 23 April 1913, and loan sanction given on 16th July to the borrowing of £840 for the purchase of the land, repayable in sixty years.

There did not, indeed, appear to be any great sense of urgency in the Welsh Department in regard to the school. T. G. Roberts minuted to the Permanent Secretary on 11th August 1913:

'Until quite recently there has been no suspicion that the matter of the proposed school was at all urgent and indeed it cannot be said that it is urgent now. The local people are now assured that the school will be provided . . . and the site has been secured. No plans of the premises have been submitted however; even if temporary premises are first erected this will be bound to take at least a year. Further it would be against the interests of the Llandeilo School and of the pupils attending it from Ammanford to open a school in the middle of the school year: the Board are bound to see that there is no undue competition with Llandeilo School; even if the curriculum of the new school be satisfactorily framed as so by its technical character to avoid competition with Llandeilo School, yet the Governors of the latter would have reason to complain if a large number of their pupils were suddenly withdrawn in January next.'

The Local Education Authority was, however, not unnaturally anxious to make up for lost time. The subcommittee appointed in July 1912, to consider the advisability of starting the school in temporary premises, had been unable to make any progress because of the delay occasioned by the protracted proceedings over the amendment of the Scheme.

The subcommittee met at Ammanford Council School on 26th September 1913, decided against use of the Baptist or Wesleyan Schoolrooms which had been suggested as possible temporary premises for the new county school but instead recommended the erection of temporary premises on part of the new school site and the appointment of a Headmaster. They stipulated that the Headmaster should be 30-45 years old, Welsh-speaking, and a University graduate with experience in the supervision of technical subjects. The Education Committee adopted these recommendations and informed the Board of its intentions on 6th October 1913.

J. L. Casson, the Assistant Secretary of the Welsh Department, was very reluctant to agree to the school being started in temporary premises. He reiterated the departmental view that the locality had done without the school for many years and could well continue to do so until the permanent buildings were erected; the erection of temporary buildings would be an unnecessary expenditure of public money. A. I. Davies took a more sympathetic view of the situation. He was satisfied that it would never do to thwart the L.E.A. in this matter. According to his normal wont, however, he was prepared to defer to the Chief Inspector's views. Owen Edwards's observations were quite explicit.

"I believe that the L.E.A. are driven, against their better judgement, by the impatient parents of the district. I think it would not be to their interest to begin the school in temporary premises, and certainly not in the middle of the school year. Could we ask them whether they have considered:

(i) The very undesirable break in the children's course if they are going to withdraw them from Llandeilo.
(ii) The great and needless expense necessary – and apparently unjustifiably necessary – in preparing temporary premises when the permanent buildings are already being put up.
(iii) The careful consideration of a curriculum that will satisfy the Board's condition of recognition will require considerable time.

The Headmaster should be appointed, he should have ample time to study the needs of the neighbourhood, and to draw up a curriculum to be considered by us. We should remind them that the position of the school is exceptional and that, unless great care is taken at the beginning, we may not be in a position to pay grants."

The Permanent Secretary accordingly issued an instruction that a letter be drafted embodying the Chief Inspector's views:

"It must be so worded as to make it clear that circumstances, not hostility on the part of the Board to the idea of setting up a temporary school, make the latter an imprudent and hazardous exercise in regard to which the Board can give no sort of promise beforehand on the all important subject of grant."

Before the draft letter was ready, however, another twist was given to the sequence of events and this resulted iii another decision. On 16th October, Mr. Vincent Morgan, Architect to the Carmarthenshire Education Committee, called to see the Permanent Secretary and his officers. He explained that the proposed buildings would be of the Doecker type, which were of a more permanent nature than ordinary wood and iron structures. He thought the idea was to use this building for some years during which the Governing Body would have a clearer idea of the requirements of the neighbourhood. The Doecker Buildings would be used subsequently for other purposes. The architect knew nothing of curricular implications. No guidance had been given him in drawing up plans; he had merely been told that a school of ordinary Intermediate type with a technical bias was wanted. It was the Board's architect who clinched the matter. He pointed out the difficulty of planning a school before it was known exactly what subjects would be taken. His office had not as yet had experience of schools of the type the new school was apparently bound to be to meet the conditions laid down in the Welsh Department s letter of 26th June 1912. It would be wise, in his view, to start the school in the proposed temporary buildings, particularly as these buildings could later be used for other purposes. Permanent buildings could be erected when it became clear what the school's purpose was.

It was thus owing to the architect's arguments that the Board wrote to the Authority on 17th October approving the proposal to open the school in temporary premises. The Authority was reminded, however, of the grant conditions set out in the letter of 26th July 1912, regarding the differentiated curriculum and the avoidance of undue competition with the school at Llandeilo. It would be impossible in the time available to plan the curriculum in readiness for January 1914; careful consideration would be required by the Governing Body and the Education Authority after consultation with the new Headmaster, prior to the Board's approval. Building plans for the new school could only be based on the timetable structure adopted to implement the approved curriculum. It would lint be in the interests of pupils to be transferred from Llandeilo in mid-year and the Governors of that school would have justifiable cause for complaint if their staffing and general school arrangements were disrupted without adequate notice. The Board was, therefore, of the opinion that the opening of the school should be deferred to the beginning of the next school year on 1st August 1914.

The Governors reacted angrily to the postponement and there were headlines in the local press – 'Attack on Board', 'Intermediate School Difficulty: Strong Criticism'. There was a demand that the Board should receive a deputation, which A. T. Davies was prepared, indeed, to receive on 4th November. But J W. Nicholas, Clerk to the Education Committee, advised his members to accept the position. No deputation was sent.

Of more significance was the appointment of the School's first Headmaster on 13th November 1913. He was Mr. George Owen Williams, aged 34, a graduate in History, and Senior Master at Bridgend County School. His first task was to draft the proposed curriculum for the new school. This was approved by the Education Committee on 11th December and forwarded to the Welsh Department of the Board for comment. This meant effectively, of course, Owen Edwards's reaction, and this was by no means favourable. Basing his position on the Board's letter of 26th June 1912, the Chief Inspector had to say that the draft curriculum would have been the same had Llandeilo not been in the question at all. In his view, the Amman Valley Governors had not yet appreciated the difficulty of their position. The upshot of the matter was that the Board suggested to the Authority that a solution of the curriculum question might be facilitated if a conference was arranged between the Authority, tile Governors, and the Chief Inspector.

The conference duly took place at the County Offices, Carmarthen, on 4th February 1914, when there were present representatives of the Education Authority and of the Governing Body, the Chief Inspector, with Mr. Hammond Robinson of the Central Welsh Board and Mr. G. 0. Williams, Headmaster of the school. Owen Edwards opened the discussion by referring to the lack of differentiation between the proposed curriculum for the Amman Valley Intermediate School and that at Llandeilo and therefore the inevitability of undue competition. He said that the Board of Education held the view that no two County Schools should be alike, but that each should serve the needs of the district in which it was situated. Financial grant in the case of the Amman Valley School was conditional upon a definitely technical bias. The Board, indeed, held the opinion that only those pupils requiring a Technical education should be taught at the Amman Valley School; those requiring a Classical education should continue to attend the Llandeilo School. J. W. Nicholas, speaking on behalf of the Authority, said that though it was understood the school was to have a technical bias, it had not been understood that 'Classical' pupils should be sent to Llandeilo. Not unreasonably, lie feared that there would be strenuous opposition on the part of tile parents in tile Amman Valley to such a course being taken. After a general discussion it was agreed that the Headmaster in consultation with Owen Edwards should prepare a new curriculum for the approval of the Board of Education.

The summary of the revised scheme of Organisation and Curriculum for the Amman Valley School was submitted to the Board on 12th March 1914. It was understood that the Chief Inspector had approved tile main lilies of the curriculum subject to the elaboration of syllabuses in the various subjects. This would, of course, have to await the appointment of the teaching staff.

The general outlines of the scheme were most interesting. It was proposed that the school should be mixed and that its curriculum should take a definite technical bias determined by the needs of the locality. The school's catchment area was industrial – coalmining and tinplate, although there was also a considerable agricultural population. It was intended that the Main School would consist of four forms – II, III, IV, and V, ages 12 to 17, and the four year course of instruction would include English Language and Literature, History, Geography, Welsh Language and Literature, French (if there was a demand for it), Latin, Mathematics, Science, Manual Work, Domestic Science, Drawing, Music, Shorthand, Book- keeping, and Physical Exercises. The course of instruction would be identical for boys and girls except that the principal science for boys would be Physics and for girls would be Botany, and that boys would take Manual Instruction in Wood and Metal, whilst the girls took Cookery, Laundrywork, and Needlework. Latin would be dropped as a general subject in forms IV and V, 'only those showing an aptitude for languages and wishing to prepare for University and Professional examinations will be permitted to pursue Latin in these forms. Those who take Latin will substitute it for Manual Instruction'. To ensure a definite technical bias it was intended to give greater prominence to the teaching of Science and Mathematics, Manual Work (including Domestic Science for girls) and Geography. Out of 34 teaching periods per week it was proposed to devote 13 periods to these subjects in the lower forms and 19 in the upper forms.

There were further explanatory notes on the curriculum.. Science in the first year would be general experimental Science closely associated with mathematical work. In the second and third years the boys would begin an organised course of work in Chemistry and Physics; Chemistry would predominate in the second year and Physics in the third year. The girls would follow a similar course but would substitute Botany for Physics. In the fourth year the boys would study Physics and Electricity, the girls Botany and Hygiene. The course in Mathematics would include Arithmetic, Algebra, and Geometry, and Trigonometry would be included at an early stage. Geography would have a strong geological bias and it was intended to make a feature of the Geography teaching and to fit up a special room. Similarly, Wood and Metal work was to be a strong feature of the school and a special room would be provided which in time might develop into an Engineering Laboratory.

In History, attention would be paid to local and Welsh history and to industrial and social history and the growth of modern institutions rather than to the usual political history. Drawing of a more technical and mechanical character would be included in the higher forms. In Languages more attention would be paid to literature and composition than to formal grammar, and Welsh would be treated as a living language. In many of these details may be seen the strong influence of Owen Edwards's ideas on content and method in secondary education.

In the eyes of the Board, building could not be dissociated from curriculum and it followed from the proposed scheme of Organisation and Curriculum that the new school would need laboratory accommodation for Physics, Chemistry, and Botany, a special room for Geography, a Manual Instruction Room for Wood and Metal Work, a Kitchen and Laundry, as well as the usual classrooms. 'When Mr. Vincent Morgan had visited the Welsh Department on 16th October 1913, the Board's architect had confessed that they had very little experience of the type of school envisaged for the Amman Valley, but at least general approval of the school's curriculum now gave the architects solid requirements to plan for. It seemed, indeed, in March 1914, that only the provision of buildings remained before the new school could admit its first pupils. The Authority had secured the appointment of a separate Governing Body, the intended building site had been approved, the Headmaster had been appointed and, possibly the most difficult hurdle of all, the school's proposed curriculum had been successfully negotiated. But there were further, and serious, obstacles ahead.

Notwithstanding its declared intention in its letter of 20th March 1912, to meet the cost of site and buildings under the provisions of Part II of the Education Act, 1902, the Authority had written to the Board in November 1913, seeking consent to the sale of consols and the rent charge on the tithe of St. Ishmael's parish (formerly the endowments of the Carmarthen Schools) to meet the cost of erecting portable buildings for the Amman Valley school. The suggestion was described by J. L. Casson as an 'utterly wasteful proceeding' and by A. T. Davies as 'preposterous'. The Board was not prepared to countenance the expending of capital belonging to the Intermediate and Technical Education Fund on the erection of temporary buildings. But although it was advised to bear the cost under Part II of the Education Act, 1902,46 the Authority was not prepared to give way without argument. It replied to the Board on 8th January 1914, pointing out that the proposed Doecker system building although portable was not temporary; the intention was to retain the building for secondary school purposes for a considerable time and to erect a brick or stone building only when the full development of the Amman Valley gave a clear indication of the type of permanent structure required. The Authority added that the proceeds of the consols and tithe rent charge in question had been allocated by the late County Governing Body towards a building contemplated as early as 1899, and were intended to be in lieu of a building grant similar to that which had been provided under the County Intermediate Scheme for every other Intermediate school in Carmarthenshire. The Board was asked to reconsider its attitude. The Board's officers were adamant, however. In their eyes the proposal now made by the Authority was tantamount to the provision of a permanent school in wooden construction. The Board's understanding of the matter was that the idea of opening the school in a temporary building was to save time and not to put off the building of a permanent school:

"After all these years and all the discussion that has taken place there can surely be no need to regard the proposal as an experiment and there seems no reason why they should not proceed with their permanent school at once, making allowance in their plans for the need of future enlargements."

The Authority was so informed on 21st January 1914, and tacitly had to accept the fact that it must resort to 1902 Education Act procedures to cover the cost of the Amman Valley buildings. Then, following approval in principle of the curriculum, the Authority submitted its sketch plans. These provided for classroom accommodation for 194 boys and girls together with the laboratories, practical classrooms, staff-rooms and stores thought to be necessary. These were returned by the Board on 16th April 1914, for amendments, better cloakroom and lavatory accommodation, and an Assembly Hall, Gymnasium, and Art Room. The amended plan submitted five days later showed a central hall which 'can also be utilised as an Art Room'; it was suggested that the nearby Drill Hall could be used as a gymnasium. The plans were finally approved on 30th April; on 15th May loan sanction was issued for £4,829 for the erection of the Intermediate School at Ammanford, the loan to be repaid within 25 years.

Within a month the Authority, pressed by the Amman Valley School Sub--Committee, had a change of mind and informed the Board that it now wished to build the school on the upper part of the site and to regard the building as the permanent school. This involved tar-paved areas and paths and a complete system of drainage. The cost of the additions required by the Board had been under-estimated by £209.10s 0d. and loan sanction for a further £I,859 was required to cover extra costs of buildings, furniture, and equipment. Immediate approval was requested for the substructure, so that the foundations could be ready to receive the Doecker building at the end of July. The superstructure could be put up in six weeks and the school would be ready for September 1914. General approval and loan sanction were forthcoming by the end of the month and it looked as though at long last the school building could go ahead.

But it was not to be. The firm that had contracted to supply the Doecker building was unable to secure the necessary materials for carrying out the contract, which then fell through. The outbreak of war on 4th August seemed likely to destroy any hope of proceeding with the project. On 11th August 1914, Ald. W. N. Jones, Chairman of the Governors, and J. W. Nicholas, Clerk to the Education Committee, saw A. T. Davies in London and said that in the circumstances the Governors wished to give up all ideas of putting up a temporary building but would proceed at once to plan a permanent structure. This would take at least two years to build, but in the meantime the Governors wished to use local halls for temporary purposes. The Permanent Secretary objected to the proposed halls but he thought that the Drill Hall, partitioned into classrooms, might be acceptable. He was prepared to visit Ammanford himself to advise. On 22nd August, T. M. Evans, Clerk to the Governors, informed the Board that a local building intended for a public laundry could be adapted for school purposes and by the same post a plan was received from the Authority.

The Chief Inspector and the Board's architect were asked for their observations. In the architect's view the laundry proposal was much more satisfactory than the other possibilities considered, and subject to some modifications and additions, generally acceptable." Owen Edwards's reaction was less favourable – 'I think it would be infinitely better if they could wait until the new buildings are ready and use Llandeilo School as before'. If the Governors insisted on using the laundry, they must fulfil the conditions laid down relating particularly to practical accommodation and to curriculum.

A few days later, on 28th August, true to his promise, the Permanent Secretary travelled to Carmarthen on the Fishguard Express and met the Clerk to the Education Committee, the Architect, the Headmaster, Aid. W'. N. Jones, Chairman of the Governors, and some of his fellow Governors, and was taken to Ammanford to inspect the building now suggested for adaptation as a temporary school. Having seen the situation for himself, he had no doubt what the Board's decision ought to be. Writing to T. G. Roberts at the Welsh Department on 29th August, he said:

"I broached very cautiously (for it is almost regarded as high treason in Ammanford to suggest such a thing) the question of abandoning the idea of opening the school in temporary premises in view of the succession of difficulties the Governors are encountering. I soon found, however, that postponement was out of the question. Public opinion on the point is now strong even for the Governors: besides, the Headmaster is appointed and the staff ready, though the Chief Assistant is no longer available, having 'gone to the war'.

The old laundry premises, when treated as proposed, will be by no means badly adapted to their temporary purpose and they may certainly be approved. The school will be better housed than many more pretentious ones and will have the advantage of spacious playing fields immediately adjoining it. The boys and girls will also have entirely separate approaches and entrances.

…The Chairman at once agreed that a Handicraft Room should be built alongside the Laboratories and also suggested . . . a Cookery Room . . . should also be erected beside the new Manual Room. This would give a set of form rooms for 'practical' work all ranged alongside the school and each other – a thoroughly good arrangement."

The Governors were ready and willing to do anything the Board wished but begged to be treated with consideration in view of the fact that the war was responsible for the breakdown of their approved plans. Their architect thought the buildings could be got ready in three weeks although the Permanent Secretary had his doubts about this. He instructed T. G. Roberts, nevertheless, that a letter be issued giving approval to the proposal to convert the old laundry for school purposes subject to minor architectural modifications and provision of the essential practical accommodation. He reiterated that recognition of the school for grant under the Board's Regulations depended not merely on the provision of suitable buildings but also on proper staffing, equipment, and the implementation of the approved curriculum. On this occasion A. T. Davies did not wait for the Chief Inspector's views. He ended his minute to T. G. Roberts:

"Let Mr. Owen Edwards see the letter and this minute after dispatch of the former."

The letter was dispatch on 31st August 1914.

The Chief Inspector minuted to T. G. Roberts on 2nd September:

"I am glad that Mr. Davies found the laundry satisfactory. But it is essential in the case of this school that the Manual Work Rooms (Woodwork and Kitchen) should be ready before the School opens. Otherwise no Inspector can sign the certificate of efficiency. They are very ambitious at Ammanford, and especially the Chairman, but they have so far shown much more avidity to earn certificates at once than to establish a school with a technical bias – the condition of their existence.

The Headmaster wishes me to meet him again. But we have discussed aim, bias, and curriculum exhaustively. So I think, on the whole, I had better visit the school when it has got into working order."

The school opened its doors to pupils on 29th September 1914. It had accommodation for 186 boys and girls and 156 enrolled in the first term. Following the Chief Inspector's visit on 9th December 1914, the Board on Christmas Eve recognised the school as efficient and eligible for grant with retrospective effect from 1st August 1914. Owen Edwards's notes on his visit on 9th December are interesting and read as follows:

"Buildings: They are much better than anything I expected to find. They consist of (a) old converted laundry: this is the main room, consisting of 7 classrooms, Headmaster's Room, Mistresses' Room, Masters' Room, Store Room. (b) new temporary buildings (zinc and wood) -

Block I – Spacious kitchen and Manual Work Room (the latter is used as an Assembly Room)
Block II – Laboratories: (a) Chemistry, (b) Physics and Botany

Block III – Boys' Offices (Bucket system: septic tank for urinals)
Block IV – Girls' Offices

Staff: Very good – experienced and well adapted to the needs of the school.
Bias: At present tied down by (a) the previous education of the 60 Llandeilo children, (b) the absence of a Metal Work Room.
Still the requisite bias is already strong, and will develop still more strongly from the present Lower Form on.

The School has 33 intending teachers.

The seven original Carmarthenshire Intermediate Schools had been established within two years of the approval of the County Scheme in 1894. It took twenty years to establish the Amman Valley School. The County Governing Body before 1904 and the County Education Committee after that date must bear considerable responsibility for this big delay, for specific provision for the school was embodied in the 1894 Scheme. It was not until there was mounting local pressure that the County Authority moved in the matter. Prior to 1910 it had been content to hasten slowly. But, once it had decided to establish the school, and despite vacillation and indecision over architectural details, the Authority persisted in face of all the trials and tribulations which ensued. That it did so was due in large measure to the determination of the Amman Valley community that come what may, the school would be established.

The administrative staff of the Welsh Department gave the proposal to establish the school the thorough analysis characteristic of the Board of Education, but declined to be hurried in any way in the matter. The attitude of the administrative staff appeared at times to be one of irritation – the locality had done without the school since 1894, what was the urgency now? But the two men in the Welsh Department who played the most decisive roles were Owen Edwards, the Chief Inspector, and Alfred T. Davies, the Permanent Secretary.

The Chief Inspector had been concerned from the outset to ensure that if the new school for the Amman Valley was to be provided, it must not compete unduly with the existing Llandeilo School and it must have a curriculum differentiated from that of Llandeilo and clearly related to the needs of the community it was to serve. Owen Edwards used the Secondary School Regulations of the Board to the utmost extent in order to achieve these objectives. Neither Local Education Authority nor School Governing Body (nor, indeed, the Welsh Department) was allowed to avoid these key issues. It was only when they had been settled to his satisfaction that the necessary approvals were forthcoming from the Board of Education. For, although A. T. Davies was certainly no yes-man, yet, as the records make clear, in most things and at most times, he deferred almost absolutely to the advice he received from his Chief Inspector. There is no doubt that in some respects the Chief Inspector's views on secondary education were well ahead of his time. He would have been in sympathy with many of the recommendations of the Newsom Report of 1963 in connection with curriculum and examinations as they affected children of average ability. For there were certainly in the Intermediate schools many pupils who had no intention of pursuing a full-time secondary school course or hope of proceeding to higher education. Nevertheless, it is well to remember that the Intermediate Schools had been in being for less than twenty years and so far they had affected a comparatively small proportion of a potentially large secondary school population. In his insistence on small secondary schools of no more than 250 pupils or so, the Chief Inspector had it in mind that all children admitted should be capable of profiting by secondary education. In his anxiety on this point he underestimated the undoubted reserve of latent intellectual ability in Welsh countryside and industrial valley, ability which would, and when the opportunity was offered, in fact did thrive on the type of academic fare which the Intermediate Schools were well able to provide.

Probably the best friend the proposers of the new Intermediate School at Ammanford had in the Welsh Department of the Board was the Permanent Secretary, A. T. Davies. He had a surer appreciation of the strong feelings of the Local Education Authority and of the Amman Valley Governors than any of his officers. At critical points in the seemingly endless struggle to establish the school his intervention was decisive. When his department realised that under the County Scheme the Governors of the Llandeilo School would also be the Governors of the proposed Amman Valley School, and his Assistant Secretary thought that 'we need not originate the point', he was certain that this would never do and he encouraged the Authority to seek an amendment of the Scheme. Again, when owing to the outbreak of the war, it became impossible for the school to be built in the intended construction and the Authority proposed the adaptation of the laundry premises, it was the Permanent Secretary himself who visited Ammanford and after seeing the building approved this last attempt to circumvent the difficulties which had dogged the project from the outset.

The Chief Inspector had been very much afraid that Llandeilo would never recover from the establishment of the Amman Valley School. As things turned out, this view was unduly pessimistic. The Llandeilo School did, indeed, have a hard time of it in 1914. On 2nd March its buildings were partially destroyed by fire and there were delays in approving plans for rebuilding, finally resolved only through Owen Edwards's good offices. Inevitably, when the Amman Valley School was opened in September 1914, numbers at Llandeilo dropped, from the 1913 total of 214 to 145. But, against all expectations, the school recovered quickly and by 1922 its roll was no less than 280, nearly double the 1914 figure.

The Amman Valley School admitted 156 pupils in its first term. Throughout the war and early post-war years the Education Authority and the School Governors pressed for greatly extended accommodation. This was resisted by the Board of Education not only because of the Chief Inspector's opposition but also because of the impossibility in war and postwar conditions of approving any new school building. As long as he lived, the Chief Inspector was opposed to what he regarded as over-large secondary schools. In his view, if there was a case for extensions, it should be met by dividing the existing mixed school into single-sex schools or alternatively by providing a separate school in some other centre in the valley. The Board did, however, agree that the classrooms originally planned for 24 pupils each could be used for 30, and the School Governors found additional temporary accommodation, so that the number attending in 1923, for example, reached 303.

In so far as the differentiated curriculum of the Amman Valley School was concerned, war conditions made implementation difficult if not impossible. Following an Inspection in June 1915, the Central Welsh Board paid tribute to the young, capable and enthusiastic Headmaster, and referred particularly to two masters exceptionally qualified in Chemistry and Geography respectively. Both had joined the Army and the Chemistry Master was already a prisoner-of-war in Germany. Central Welsh Board Inspectors after a visit in January 1916, reported that 'it had been thought inadvisable to carry out the proposed scheme of technical work including the special course in Physics, owing to the expense of putting up the workshop and the uncertainty of the Science master's position'. But the school had quickly established its reputation. The Central Welsh Board Report on the Inspection for 1921-22 said, 'The school is efficiently organised and made a record for itself at the Annual Examination this year by securing the first five places in the list for County Exhibitions'. In the same period, the Llandeilo School maintained and enhanced its early success. Rivalry between the one school serving a mainly industrial community and the other serving a mainly agricultural community, contributed to the efficiency of both schools. After 1914, of course, two Intermediate schools existed to serve an area formerly served by the one school. The number of pupils at both schools taken together amounted in 1922 to no fewer than 564, compared with the 214 pupils at Llandeilo alone before the establishment of the Amman Valley School. The experience of less than ten years had clearly demonstrated the need for greatly increased secondary school facilities in this part of Carmarthenshire.


Wynford Davies has sadly died since this article was published in 1978. I have been unable to contact any one for permission to use this article and would be grateful if anyone who has any information could contact me on:

The provision of education in the Llandybie, Ammanford and Betws area has a long history, going back at least 270 years from the first circulating schools of Griffith Jones in 1731. This history is too long and detailed to be encompassed by one essay so it has had to be divided into several sections. And even this does scant justice to the rich and complex subject matter. It awaits a far more competent historian than the present author and will have to be far more scholarly than this patchwork quilt of a web site will allow. Still, we can but try. The various sections are:

Education in Ammanford 1
Education in Ammanford 2
Amman Valley Grammar School from 1914 to the present
Amman Valley Grammar School – the beginnings
Betws Primary School
Ammanford Technical College
Gwynfryn College ('Watcyn Wyn's School')

Date this page last updated: August 24, 2010