HC Deb 18 August 1848 vol 101 cc259-63

House in Committee of Supply.

On the question that 125,000l. be granted for public education in Great Britain,


was understood to complain of the new system of encouragement for schools in Scotland, as tending to promote sectarian differences—the very thing the State should prevent.


considered that all religious tests should be removed from the business of education. The great universities of this country ought to be open to all Her Majesty's subjects. The Government appeared to be unconsciously following a track loading to the establishment of the French system of education, which was a gross violation of the rights of parents. The great danger was, that the Government might interfere more than was proper in this matter of education.


conceived that many of the points referred to by the noble Lord were deserving of the consideration of the Education Committee of the Privy Council.


agreed that Scotland had overgrown her system of parochial instruction; he conceived that the various suggestions respecting retiring allowances and other points would be duly considered. He wished the members of the Established Church of Scotland would bring their minds to the consideration of the important point, whether, as the great body of Dissenters in that country did not materially differ from the Established Church, they would not do well to open the parochial schools by removing the test which, under the present law, applied to the admission of schoolmasters. If that were done, they would immediately bring into one harmonious national system the education of nearly the whole population of Scotland, and there would then be experienced very little difficulty with respect to increased local taxation, which would be willingly submitted to by all parties, for extending the national and parochial system of education.


inquired whether the learned Lord was prepared to advocate the abolition of tests for professorships in universities? [The LORD ADVOCATE: For Scotland and lay chairs.] He considered that the education in Scotland had been good, because it had been founded on religion. He desired to know in what state the question stood between the Church of England schools and the Education Committee of the Privy Council, in respect to the condition offered to the former by the latter. The opinions of the Government being in favour of a combined system of education, led men's minds, justly or otherwise, to mistrust any condition which hereafter might give power to the Government to go further than the condition seemed to warrant. He therefore wished to know whether the Homo Secretary could give the House any information as to how this question stood, and whether any progress had been made in the settlement and arrangement of it?


said, a good deal of communication on the subject had passed between the Education Committee of the Privy Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the President of the National Society; and with respect to the observation of the hon. Gentleman, that many members of the National Society would not be bound by the rules it might adopt on this subject, he could only say that the most rev. Prelate might be supposed to represent their feelings; and he was not aware of any organ that could be taken as a more satisfactory exponent of their wishes, as well as of the wishes of all other members of the Established Church. He hoped that the result of the communications going on would be the introduction of such qualifications in the management clauses as might be satisfactory to all reasonable men, without sacrificing the principle which the Education Committee of the Privy Council had thought it necessary to insist upon.


thought that the question put by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire was one of great practical importance; and he was sincerely rejoiced to hoar that there was a probability of arriving at a satisfactory conclusion on the subject. He could not find fault with the Government so far as the principle of those management clauses was concerned. He thought that they had good ground for taking security for the bettor constitution of the Church schools; and if those clauses were better framed, and with a regard to the just jealousies of the members of the Church, he believed the adoption of them would confer a very great and substantial benefit. Although arrangements with the National Society did not bind the Church, yet he might express a confident opinion, though without authority, that if the terms—modified as he believed they had been by the National Society, in order to meet the views of the Government—could be accepted by the Government, the vast majority of the clergy of the Church of England at once, and ultimately, he would venture to say, the entire clergy, would be contented with the system that should be so agreed upon between the Government and the National Society. There were real difficulties connected with the subject, arising chiefly out of the ambiguity and latitude attaching to the expression, "members of the Church of England." He believed that, in nine cases out of ten, the complaint of the clergy was, that they could not get the laity to take interest enough in the management of these schools. They were anxious to court, not what was called interference—that was an injudicious term, and tended to prejudice the case—but the assistance and co-operation of the laity in carrying on these schools. Leaving everything to turn on mere pecuniary qualification, they would open the door to faction where local heats prevailed, and introduce the greatest confusion in the management of those schools; but if they could adopt regulations by which in every case persons qualified, members of the Church, that is, living in the actual use of the ordinances of the Church, should be associated with the clergy, a great benefit would be con- ferred on the Church, which would be readily acknowledged by the clergy. He was bound to admit that the assistance of the laity in some remote districts was not always employed for the purpose of promoting education. If they succeeded in making an arrangement of the kind indicated, it would be accepted not as a compromise, or a choice between greater and less evils, but a very great increase of valuable assistance would be given to the Church in the matter of education, and a very great benefit conferred on the whole of the people.


I agree with nearly all that has been said by the right hon. Gentleman. I am happy to say that the correspondence which has taken place between the Committee of Council for Education, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and others acting with him on behalf of the National Society, has been nearly brought to a close—I trust, satisfactorily to both parties. The difficulty with regard to this question was not of our raising; it was a proposition of the Committee of Council for Education before we belonged to that Committee. The difficulties, however, have not been captiously raised on either side. They belonged to the subject. The chief of these was that mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, namely, the vagueness of the term, "members of the Church of England." I think the National Society has done very fairly in asking that greater stringency should be given to that definition. There has been some correspondence as to the proper mode of obtaining that stringency; but I believe that part of the correspondence is now even in such a state that no actual differences exist; and I may say that part of the question has been settled. Two points were left on which there was scarcely a shade of difference between us; and I trust these also will be brought to a satisfactory termination. I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he thinks it desirable that the laity should take part in the management, and wherever it is possible they should form a portion of the governing body of these schools; on the other hand, I entirely agree with him that the difficulty has been, not in obtaining the admission of the laity—on the contrary, the great anxiety of the clergy has been that upon them rested not only the greater part of the pecuniary burden, but nearly the whole of the labour and management was left on their hands, in cones- quence of the lack of a similar zeal and anxiety with reference to education on the part of the laity; but I trust that this difficulty may he overcome, and that we shall make progress in this respect. The Committee of Council have not the least wish to impose any terms which will give the Government further power of interference with these schools. With regard to the subject of education in Scotland, I can only regret that at this period of the Session it is quite impossible to enter into the various important questions adverted to by my noble Friend. It is much better to reserve the matter till auother Session. With respect, however, to the conduct of the Committee of Council, they certainly did not wish to aggravate any difficulties that might exist with respect to combined education.

Vote agreed to.

House resumed. Committee to sit again.

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