A STUDY OF THE KYNNERSLEY EDUCATIONAL RETURNS FOR CAERNARFONSHIRE FOLLOWING the 1870 Education Act, the government launched a data- gathering inquiry into the provision of elementary schools in England and Wales so that 'gaps in the provision could be located, and action taken to have them filled, either by the existing voluntary agencies or, if they failed to do so, by new locally elected school boards'. But more than this was intended, since existing schools were also to be tested against norms of 'suitability' and 'efficiency', an aspect of the inquiry almost universally ignored. To meet the norms, schools had to satisfy criteria laid down by the Education Department's annual Codes and Minutes relating to every aspect of schooling; the content of curriculum and the attainment expected at each 'standard'; the conduct, discipline and attendance of pupils; the organisation of schools, and the qualifications and efficiency of teachers.2 The government wanted schools conforming to the norms established in each locality. The inquiry was, therefore, double-edged, designed both to locate gaps and to fill them with schools conducted according to standards set by the state. To gather the data, inspectors of returns were temporarily attached to the Education Department.3 Nominally subject to the authority of H.M.I. s (in their territorial divisions), their findings were to be the basis for judging existing provision and assessing future needs. The aim of this study is to examine the returns for Caernarfonshire in order to evaluate the quantitative and qualitative adequacy of its school provision in 1870-71 and, where possible, also to consider 'the school' as a social institution within its community. Unfortunately, not all the returns have survived, but sufficient exist to make the exercise worthwhile. From the beginning there was controversy. By their narrow definition of 'provision', the returns inevitably reflected the assumptions and biases of their framers, but more deliberate and sinister biases were also alleged in the county. Within days, E. Sneyd Kynnersley, the inspector, was suspected by 1 For regulations relating to the Returns, see Elementary Education Act (1870), 33 and 34 Vict. c 75, sees. 67-73. 2 For a full account of conditions, see the Education Codes (Codes of the Minutes of the Education Department) published annually by the Committee of the Privy Council on Education. For the meaning of efficient' and 'suitable', see the Elementary Education Act (1870), op. cit., sees. 5, 8, 71. 3 Elementary Education Act (1870), op. cit., see. 71. In theory the inspectors of returns were to verify returns compiled locally; in practice they were responsible for collecting them.