HC Deb 07 March 1826 vol 14 cc1175-8
Sir John Newport

rose, to move for the production of an account of the application of all sums granted in the last session for the furtherance of education in Ireland. He called the attention of the House to the extraordinary fact, that while taxes were annually imposed on the people to erect new seminaries of education in Ireland, the existing seminaries were suffered to fail into complete decay. He particularly instanced the case of the school at Middleton, in the county of Cork. In 1812 the commission appointed in 1806 made a report upon the schools supported by private endowment. In that report it was stated that the school at Middleton was founded in 1696 by the countess of Orkney, and that it was endowed by her with an estate of 2,000 acres, which, within twenty years after, was leased out for 200l. a-year by the trustees, on a lease of lives renewable for ever. It was further stated, that the estate was then worth 2,000l. a-year, and that the power of the trustees to make such leases, appeared to the commissioners very questionable. The school, to which was attached a house for the master, had formerly been attended by a large number of scholars, but at present it was without a roof, and in total decay; the master had retired to Dublin, where he received his salary, and the House which he ought to have occupied, was occupied by a sergeant of police. He wished to know how this had come to pass, considering that the endowed schools were placed under the care of the commissioners of education, who were authorized to ask for an advance of money out of the consolidated fund for the repair of such schools as wanted it, upon the security of their surplus rents? He was greatly surprised at the decay into which this school had fallen, as Middleton was a healthy village, at a considerable distance from any large town, and admirably well adapted for all the purposes of scholastic education. He trusted that, when the House was again called upon for grants of money for the furtherance of education in Ireland, it would take care that those grants were made after some settled plan, and would not defeat with one hand the bounty which it doled out with the other. He would now move, for "an account of the application of all sums granted during the last session for the furtherance of Education in Ireland."

Mr. Goulburn

said, he was not able to state at that moment the ultimate determination of government on the subject of education in Ireland. It must necessarily be influenced by the reports which the commissioners might make, and the plans they might recommend. As far as the Irish government had yet had the plans of the commissioners before it, it had not been backward in carrying them into effect. Orders had been given to suspend all admissions into the chartered schools which had fallen under the reprehension of the commissioners. On this head there was a considerable reduction in the estimates of this year, and he trusted that that reduction would gradually take place in each succeeding year. With regard to the school at Middleton, he could only say, that as it was never under his cognizance, he could not give the House any precise information. At the time the commissioners of education made their report, that school did not receive their approbation; but as it was found to be under the direction of private trustees and special governors, they considered it not to fall within the scope of their jurisdiction. With regard to the decay into which the school had fallen, the sum necessary to repair it was 2,000l. Now the surplus of the revenue of the school was 10l. a year; and how was it possible that an advance of 2,000l. out of the consolidated fund could be made upon the security of such a sum? A legal opinion had been taken as to the right of the trustees to grant the lease which they had granted; but it had not been such as to justify any interference on the part of the governors to upset it. The school was a private foundation; the master was appointed by the governors; the power of visiting it was in the governors; and they alone were responsible for any dereliction of duty committed by the officers whom they appointed.

Mr. Spring Rice

supported the motion.

Mr. F. Lewis

assured the House that the reports of the commissioners of education would all be presented by the time appointed, with the exception of the report on the college of Maynooth, which would be postponed for a year. Great, but, he trusted, not insuperable, difficulties opposed themselves to the plans which the commissioners had hitherto recommended. They had not yet abandoned those plans, and he, for one, still entertained hopes that they would be ultimately successful.

Mr. Plunkett

said, that the school at Middleton was one on a private foundation merely, and did not come within the jurisdiction of the commission. At one time the school alluded to had been under the immediate inspection of a gen- tleman who had been a distinguished member of the university of Dublin, and then the scholars were numerous, and the funds flourishing; but since that time it certainly had gone to ruin.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, that if these schools on a private foundation, from the terms of their charter, or from any other cause, did not fall within the operation of the act of 1813, he was prepared to say that means should be immediately devised for subjecting them to an inquiry as rigid as that which might be extended to any school of public foundation, or under the immediate superintendence of the government. It never could have been intended by the legislature, at the time it authorized a commission to inquire into the state of schools of public foundation, that they should totally pass by schools erected by the grants of individuals, when those grants were manifestly intended for the public benefit. Still less could they have intended to pass by private foundations, where the income was stated at 200l. a year, and leave the whole of that sum to the maintenance of a master, without any attention to the school-house and the scholars, if it was true, that the lands from which such incomes were derived, amounted to 2,000 acres, which, if properly let, might bring 2,000l., but, from long leases upon lives, produced only 200l. a year. He thought there was an additional reason why the power of inquiry should be immediately extended to schools of every description, when it was proved that sums had been left for the education of children, and when, from such abuses, no scholars at present could be found. And he saw no objection why the present commissioners should not be empowered to pursue that inquiry in the same manner into private schools, as they were already authorized to do in the case of those of what were called public foundation.

Sir John Newport

observed, that the person through whose influence these leases had been granted, which cut down properties of 2,000l. a year to less than 200l., was a Mr. Broderick, a member of the Irish house of parliament, and a brother of lord chancellor Middleton. The state of all the schools ought, in his opinion, to be made a matter of report.

The motion was agreed to.