HC Deb 30 June 1842 vol 64 cc829-38
Mr. Cowper

rose, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the House to the state of the Greenwich Hospital Schools, and to move the following resolution:— That in the opinion of this House, the schools attached to the Royal Hospital at Greenwich should be open at all times to the inspection of inspectors appointed by the Committee of Privy Council on Education, and that reports of such inspection should be annually laid upon the Table of this House. From the schools connected with Greenwich Hospital there issued a considerable number of boys. Last year, the number of boys who quitted the school was 404, of that number 91 entered the royal navy and about 150 went into the merchant service. In some respects the schools were likely to be productive of considerable advantage to the public, for they afforded great facilities for the preparation of boys. The upper school gave a good scientific education, at least to a certain portion of the boys, and it could easily be made capable of imparting to all who entered it a knowledge of machinery and of those sciences which were applicable to navigation. Now that steam navigation had been brought to so high a degree of excellence, it did appear to him most important that no pains should be spared to increase the number of competent engineers, and with that view he thought it very material that the schools at Greenwich should be placed under the best possible regulation, that they should be conducted upon sound principles, and be calculated to enforce habitual obedience. The House—at least every hon. Member present—might not perhaps be aware that the upper school formed part of the original foundation of the hospital. The two schools, however, were distinct in their origin and different in their regulations. The lower school was formed in the year 1799, and it was not transferred to Greenwich till 1805, when the name of the school was changed by letters patent. In the course of fifteen years the grants received by the tipper school amounted to 350,000l., to which 40.000l. from the patriotic fund at Lloyd's had been added. In the year 1821 these schools were consolidated by act of Parliament, and placed under the authority of the Board of Admiralty. Now, as they received money under an act of Parliament, and as they were placed under the authority of the Admiralty, he did think the House had a fair right to see those places of education were conducted under satisfactory and adequate management. He had no wish to take away from the Board of Admiralty any authority which they at present possessed; his only wish was to secure publicity, to secure the benefits of a public examination, and of an efficient inspection. On former occasions the Lords of the Admiralty were in the habit of going down to look into the matter, and the pupils produced to them went on at such railroad speed that their Lordships felt not at all disposed to enter the lists against them; but these were the cream of the school: and when Lord Minto inquired about the generality of the boys, he found that they were not by any means well educated, and some of them could not even read. Having received information of the state of the schools, the Board of Admiralty requested the Privy Council to send their inspector to ascertain whether these allegations were true, and on the report made by that inspector all the subsequent proceedings were based; and he was of opinion that the inspectors should continue to examine these schools. [The hon. Gentleman read some extracts from a report made by Mr. Tremenhere, to show the defective nature of the religious instruction given to the children, and also their ignorance of geography, and other branches of knowledge valuable to persons destined for their sphere of occupation.] The reports of the inspector were corroborated by the others made at the same time by Mr. Irving, the present master, who when he was placed at the head of the school was requested to furnish an account of its condition. His report, dated May 25, 1841, was to this effect:— The course pursued (in the 1st and 2nd classes) was purely the old Bell and Lancasterian system, without any of the modifications which the lapse of time and the growing experience of educational men in every country had superadded to the original. Of the sixty-eight boys present in the lowest class, and whose average age was thirteen, twenty-four could not read at all, and twenty-two read very badly. Fifty of these could not work a small sum in addition. It was but too evident the majority of these children had not been taught either to spell or read, or to combine numbers. They were totally ignorant in every department of knowledge, and quite unable to give the meaning of the simplest words they had been attempting to read. Some of them could repeat the Church Catechism, but could not answer questions in explanation of the circumstances referred to in the questions. Nor could they repeat any promise of a Saviour made to Adam, or to Abraham, or to any one else. The appearance and the manner of the boys also betokened a deplorable state of ignorance. They were rude and exceedingly inattentive to even the most gentle and kind remonstrances of those who had the charge of them. In the third class, consisting of fifty-six boys, whose average age was twelve years, one-half stammered over a few sentences in a very lame way, and a few read very well; the majority had no knowledge of numbers whatever. In the second class the average age was thirteen, and only one-half of them could read well. None could answer the plainest questions on what they had read; they had not been accustomed to think at all. In the upper class one-third read indifferently, but their chief defect lay in not understanding the meaning of the words they met in their lessons, and they had little, almost no general knowledge: knew nothing of geography, even that of England. Such was the state of a school which ought to have been a model for all other schools in the country. Mr. Graham, the head master, says:— There cannot be said at present to be any religious instruction given in the school deserving of such a name. All that is done, and is professed to be able to be done, is to make the boys repeat, mechanically, the answers in the catechism. The Bible is sometimes used as a class-book. The boys are at present ignorant in a great measure of the first principles of religion, and it will therefore be of great importance to give due prominence to religion in the new course of instruction. The chaplain being requested to account for this state of things, made the following communication:— With respect to the lower classes, Mr. Tremenhere is certainly justified in his statement generally, and, indeed, much so in the other classes, and the great deficiency arises from a want of proper teachers; a circumstance which has been continually represented and has been as often disregarded. For it is only by familiar catechistical instruction given by all the masters in conjunction that religious elementary truths can be imparted to the children, as it is beyond the physical powers of the chaplain himself to instruct 1,000 children as they ought to be instructed, though, if the proper means and encouragement were given him, he may and ought to see it done. I think I need hardly allude to the inefficacy of religious instruction within the school, unless accompanied by corresponding moral discipline without, and over which the chaplain has no control whatever. No small portion of this evil arises from the very limited personal superintendence over the children during the period of recreation. Captain Huchisson, the superintending captain, on the 23rd of December, 1840, reported thus:— I beg leave, in conclusion, to observe that, charged with a heavy resposibility in the management of 1,000 children, many of whom have been used to low, if not vicious habits, before their entry into the school, I have had to fight a very up-hill, and almost hopeless battle, for some years under the evils and defects of the establishment as at present constituted; and although I have frequently represented to my superiors here at Greenwich the difficulties in which I have been placed, from the want of efficient assistance, it has always been done without producing any effect. The first step that was taken was to dissolve the girls' school; the proximity of the two schools, the total absence of moral training, and the habits of the boys and girls, precluding all hope of the two establishments going on satisfactorily while they remained in juxta-position. The effect of this boarding-school, for such it was, upon young females of the lower classes of society was found to be mischievous, for they contracted manners and imbibed notions which unfitted them for their proper station in society, and in too many instances they did not pursue a course consistent with virtuous poverty, and they were the worse instead of being the better for the advantages they had enjoyed. A great change had been made in the course of instruction for the boys, and the lower school now afforded as complete and satisfactory an example of a good system of education and of mental cultivation as any school in the country. But there was not much reason for congratulation with respect to the state of discipline; for a measure which had been abolished by the late Board of Admiralty had been revived by the present one—a measure of a strange and anomalous nature, and unexampled, he believed, in any country in Europe. This school was a sort of hydra, a monster having many heads. Not only had a variety of bodies control over the master, which might perhaps be proper enough, but the poor boys were subjected to the varied and often conflicting authority of different and distinct persons. The boys lived a sort of Proserpine life, living during one-half of their time with Ceres and the other half with Pluto. Sometimes they were under the control of their masters in the school, and at others under the charge of a lieutenant or a drill-sergeant in the play- ground, or the dining-room, or the chapel. The consequence was, that as soon as they left the school-room they considered themselves at liberty to disregard their master, and might snap their fingers at him, and insult him with impunity. [Lord Stanley: Till they returned to the school again.] He apprehended that the master had no right to punish a boy for what he did when not under his special control; at the same time, he ought not to escape punishment. Suppose a boy threw a stone at his tutor, he would have to go to the drill-sergeant to request him to punish the delinquent. But there was much jealousy and little correspondence between the several authorities of the school, amongst whom there ought to be as much harmony as amongst the officers of any ship in her Majesty's service. He thought it absurd that the master should not have full control over the boys. The drill-sergeants were marines, selected for their good conduct, and no doubt very competent to enforce thei orders by coercion, but utterly unacquainted with education, and unable to form the character and elevate the understanding. There ought to be a moral training, which should teach the boys to act from a sense of duty, and not from a fear of punishment. He was not a friend to corporal punishment, which had been entirely abolished, in many free schools with the most satisfactory results, the children having learned to regard the school as a home and their teacher as a friend. In the best schools of Scotland there was no corporal punishment, and the commissioners of education in Ireland had recently issued a circular, requesting schoolmasters to discontinue it. Among the ancients we had the authority of Quintilian for not using a mode of punishment which was fit only for slaves, convicts, and irrational beasts. He could not discover the wisdom of attempting to allure a child to learning by giving him blows on his back. He might, perhaps, put the matter very ridiculously; but it was nevertheless important. Coercion could only have the effect of making children hate learning. It was chiefly on account of the system of education which had been adopted in these schools that he had thought it his duty to bring the matter under the consideration of the House. He had great confidence in the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty, and his hon. Friend the Secretary of that board. If a report was laid on the Table of the House annually with reference to these schools, such a feeling and interest would be excited on the subject that the Board of Admiralty would no longer be able to resist the appeal made to it. It might be said by his hon. Friend that he would grant inspectors, but that they must be appointed by the Board of Admiralty. He thought that the Privy Council should have the power of nominating the inspectors. That would be a guarantee for their efficiency. He thought that all schools supported by a public grant of money should be accessible to inspectors. He hoped that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, who took so lively an interest in the subject of education, would exercise his influence in securing for these schools all the advantages which would result from the adoption of the motion which he had submitted to the House. It had been urged that a division had taken place in the authority of the school in consequence of a number of the boys being educated for the navy, and being subjected to naval discipline. He thought, however, it exceedingly absurd to subject the boys to a discipline similar to that carried into operation on board of ship. He hoped that his motion would meet with the support of the House.

Mr. S. Herbert

concurred in the statement which had been made with reference to the inefficiency of the system of education which had been adopted in the schools attached to Greenwich Hospital up to 1829. The facts had not been exaggerrated. The two schools ought not to be confounded with each other. In the upper school the boys were instructed in mathematics, and, so great was their proficiency in this science, that great credit was due to the gentlemen who presided over their education. A feeling of jealousy had been excited with regard to the school, and certain allegations had been made respecting the inefficiency of the system of education adopted. On that point he must state that an examination had been instituted by the present Board of Admiralty. Two professors had been sent down to the school, one from King's College, and another gentleman from the London University, and they reported that the method of teaching pursued was highly satisfactory. The Board of Admiralty had done its best to obviate all those feelings of jealousy which unfortunately had prevailed. The error committed by the Privy Council was in introducing new masters among those who had been for some period associated with the school. That circumstance gave rise to the feelings of jealousy alluded to be could assure the hon. Member that arrangements were now being made to secure the services of masters of high attainments, with the view of fully educating the boys connected with the school. The hon. Member had referred to the existence of two separate authorities, and had stated that it was difficult to ascertain which was the supreme one. It was thought better for the interests of the school to have two authorities, each exercising a separate jurisdiction. With reference to the subject of harsh treatment, he must assert that there had been no complaints on this ground. No master was allowed to subject the boys to corporal punishment on his own responsibility. If a complaint was made against a boy it must be brought under the notice of the head master; if he thought necessary, the boy accused of the offence was punished. With reference to annual inspection, he would make a few observations. The Admiralty proposed to have a regular annual inspection—the inspection, of course, would be made by a competent person, and he might be one under the Board of the Privy Council, but he would be required to make his report to the Board of Admiralty.

Sir C. Napier

said, it appeared that in the upper school at Greenwich 450 boys were educated, only 100 of whom were the sons of warrant officers in the navy, the other 350 appointments being the patronage of the Admiralty, and of course very useful to hon. Members who represented the outports. In the lower school the boys were not required to belong to men in the navy, and he confessed that since the sixpence a month had been done away with he did not see what right the sons of merchant seamen had to be educated at the public expense, or at the expense of the hospital, which was the same thing. There were 1,500 warrant officers in the navy, yet only 100 boys belonging to them were admitted, by right, into the school. It appeared from the returns that between April, 1840, and April, 1842, 91 boys who left the schools had entered the royal navy, while 159 had entered the merchants' service. Now he could not see why all who were educated at the public charge should not be obliged to enter the naval service of the country. He would like to see such a regulation made, and would hail it as one step taken towards doing away with the evil of impressment. It ought to be an understanding that they were admitted to the benefit of the schools upon the sole condition of serving in the navy. They might be allowed to serve in the merchant service for four years, but they should also be required to serve in the Queen's service for a period of three years, as payment in some sort for the benefits which they had received. That would only be a return to the practice under an act of Queen Anne, which rendered all boys brought up at the public expense-liable to the merchant service, and the merchant sailors were bound to receive them. Since 1841 he was glad to learn that the boys were taught to row boats and something of seamanship, for before that period they might as well have been brought up in the interior, for all they were taught of the profession they were expected to follow. He could see no ground of exception to the examination of the boys by the inspector of the Privy Council; he thought that would be better than that two or three of the Board of Admiralty accompanied by their secretary should go down in their state barge. He never knew much good come from examinations made by boards—one competent person was much better, and he could see no reason why the report of such a person should not be made to the Admiralty.

Mr. J. Parker

conceived that it would be more satisfactory generally to the service that the report should be made to the Board of Admiralty rather than to the Civil Board. The difference was very small between the proposition of his hon. Friend and that of the Secretary to the Admiralty; therefore he trusted the motion would not be pressed.

Sir R. Peel

thought that it was most desirable the connexion between these schools and the Admiralty should continue to exist, but that such an arrangement should not interfere with a proper inspection of the system of education. It was proposed to place the lower school under the periodical inspection of officers acting under the authority of the Privy Council, from whose experience great benefit would undoubtedly be derived. The Privy Coun- cil was "not, he thought, a high authority of questions connected with nautical affairs; but the Council would be enabled to employ inspectors conversant with nautical matters to conduct the inspection of the upper school. At the same time it was, he conceived, most desirable to maintain the connexion between the nautical department of the school and the Board of Admiralty.

Mr. Cowper

hoped that, if properly qualified inspectors were appointed, there would be no objection to place the schools under the inspection of the Privy Council. He considered that by such a step the Board of Admiralty would not be deprived of any authority, nor would any authority be conferred on the Privy Council. After the statement of the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty, he would withdraw his motion.

Motion withdrawn.

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