The decade around 1840 was a period of great social upheaval in Wales, manifested in the Chartist movement, which culminated in 20,000 people marching on Newport in 1839 resulting in a riot when 20 people were killed by soldiers defending the Westgate Hotel, and the Rebecca Riots when tollbooths on turnpikes were systematically destroyed. This unrest brought the state of education in Wales to the attention of the English establishment, as social reformers of the time considered education as a means of dealing with social ills. The Times newspaper was prominent among those who considered that the lack of education of the Welsh people was the root cause of most of the problems, although the population was generally literate in Welsh because of the activities of Sunday Schools and the need to read the Bible. In July 1846, three commissioners, R. R. W. Lingen, Jellynger C. Symons and H. R. Vaughan Johnson, were appointed to inquire into the state of education in Wales; the Commissioners were all Anglicans, and hence unsympathetic to the Non-conformist majority in Wales, and were monoglot English-speakers.
The Commissioners presented their report to the Government on 1 July 1847 in three large blue-bound volumes. This report quickly became known as Brad y Llyfrau Gleision (The Treachery of the Blue Books) as, apart from documenting the state of education in Wales, the Commissioners were also free with their comments disparaging the language, Non-conformity, and the morals of the Welsh people in general. An immediate effect of the report was for a belief to take root in the minds of ordinary people that the only way for Welsh people to get on in the world was through the medium of English, and an inferiority complex developed about the Welsh language whose effects have not yet been completely eradicated. The historian Professor Kenneth O. Morgan referred to the significance of the report and its consequences as "the Glencoe and the Amritsar of Welsh history".
In the later 19th century virtually all teaching in the schools of Wales was in English, even in areas where the pupils barely understood English. Some schools used the Welsh Not, a piece of wood, often bearing the letters "WN", which was hung around the neck of any pupil caught speaking Welsh. The pupil could pass it on to any schoolmate heard speaking Welsh, with the pupil wearing it at the end of the day being given a beating.
Many of the Welsh tried in vain to have the rules changed.
One of the most famous Welsh born pioneers of higher education in Wales was Sir Hugh Owen. He made great progress in the cause of education, and more especially the University College of Wales (Aberystwyth), of which he was chief founder. He was responsible for The Welsh Intermediate Education Act of 1889 after which several new Welsh Schools were built, the first of these being Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen in 1894.
Towards the beginning of the 20th century this policy slowly began to change, partly owing to the efforts of Owen Morgan Edwards when he became chief inspector of schools for Wales in 1907.
The Aberystwyth Welsh School (Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth) was founded in 1939 by Sir Ifan ap Owen Edwards, the son of O.M. Edwards as the first Welsh Primary School. The headteacher was Norah Isaac. Ysgol Gymraeg is still a very successful school and now there are Welsh language primary schools all over the country. Ysgol Glan Clwyd was established in Rhyl in 1955 as the first Welsh language school to teach to a secondary level.
Welsh is now widely used in education. All Welsh universities teach some courses in Welsh (most notably Bangor University and Aberystwyth University), but are primarily English language. Under the National Curriculum, schoolchildren in Wales must study Welsh up to the age of 16 and many chose to continue with it in their A levels and college years. All Local Education Authorities in Wales have schools providing bilingual or Welsh-medium education. The remainder study Welsh as a second language in English-medium schools. Specialist teachers of Welsh called Athrawon Bro support the teaching of Welsh in the National Curriculum. Welsh is also taught in adult education classes. The ability to speak Welsh or to have Welsh as a qualification is essential or desirable for certain career choices in Wales, such as teaching or customer service.
Welsh has a substantial presence on the Internet, ranging from formal lists of terminology in a variety of fields to Welsh language interfaces for parts of Microsoft Windows XP, a variety of Linux distributions, and some online services to blogs kept in Welsh.
There is a campaign for a new .cym TLD for Welsh-language websites, and websites that are of Welsh interest. A petition has been set up to gather support for the domain.
Secure communications are often difficult to achieve in wartime. Cryptography can be used to protect messages, but codes can be broken. Therefore, little-known languages are sometimes encoded, so that even if the code is broken, the message is still in a language few people know. For example, Navajo code talkers were used by the United States military during World War II. Similarly, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, a Welsh regiment serving in Bosnia, used Welsh for emergency communications that needed to be secure.