HC Deb 07 August 1860 vol 160 cc844-7

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Powers of the Committee of Council on Education under 20 and 21 Vict. c. 48, transferred to the Secretary of State).


said, he should like to hear from the Government the reason for the provision in the Bill which would transfer the superintendence of these industrial schools from the Education Department to the Home Office. Why was this, and why had the Bill been brought in at so late a period of the Session? The only reason that he could see as possible to be alleged for the transfer was that the reformatory schools were under the Home Office; but the distinction between the two classes of schools was a wide one. Those industrial schools were in reality the ragged schools of the kingdom; but a severe blow would be struck at the system if they were put on the same footing as the reformatory schools. He objected to the poor children who attended these schools being classified with children of the reformatory schools. The. children of the industrial schools had committed no crime greater than vagrancy, and he protested against their being stigmatized as attending a penal institution. He thought a great blow would be struck at the moral usefulness of these schools, if poverty was confounded with crime. He wished to know, also, why the control over national education should be thus divided and scattered? Measures like this complicated the already complicated machinery of our educational establishments, and would increase the number of Inspectors, who were already much too numerous. He had seen as many as three Inspectors arrive in a small village to inspect as many schools; and he did not wish to see the advance of such a system as that.


said, the object of the Bill was very simple. It originated in a proposal sent from the Privy Council Office to the Home Office, to transfer the schools to the latter Department, on the ground that they were schools having a penal character. The children were admitted after being convicted under the Vagrant Act, and when inmates of the school they were subjected to rules of a very stringent character, which took them out of the category of common schools. It was, therefore, thought advisable to transfer them to the Department of the Home Office, but there was no intention to add to the Inspectors or to the expense of super impendence in any way.


said, he had thought the purpose of the original Act was merely to provide for vagrant children who had not committed any crime.


said, that the object of the Legislature in sanctioning the industrial schools was to prevent children from getting into the class who were sent to reformatories. It was to be regretted the magistrates did not make use of the industrial schools to the extent that had been contemplated; and if the transfer to the Home Office took place, he trusted the magistrates would be instructed to send children to them. He had given notice of a clause which had for its object to secure payments from parents for the instruction given to their children in those schools. There was a difficulty in assimilating the education given in the industrial schools to that given under the education system of the Privy Council, but he hoped a sound moral education would still he given to these children under the superintendence of the Home Office. He (Sir Stafford Northcote) did not like the use of the word "penal" in reference to either those schools or the reformatories.


said, he did not wish to quarrel about words, but he thought no one could read the words of the 5th Clause of the Act of 1857, and not see that these schools must be regarded as penal schools. The children were actually under restraint, and to all intents in prison, and he could see no harm therefore in looking the thing straight in the face and calling the schools penal schools. They were not schools which the Privy Council Committee could well deal with, and it was very advisable that they should he brought under the superintendence of the Home Office, especially when it was considered that it was through the magistrates that the schools were supplied with children.


said, that the real question was whether these schools had more relation to crime or to education. He thought that the words "taken into custody on a charge of vagrancy under the Vagrant Act," intimated that the children so taken into custody had not committed any other crime than vagrancy, and, therefore, that their only crime was poverty. He thought it better that these schools should be placed under the Department which had the superintendence of education rather than under the Home Office.


said, this was a very simple question. The Government themselves were of opinion that this class of business could be better performed by one particular Department than another. These schools themselves were originally an extension of the reformatories. The children were kept there in restraint, and he certainly thought they would be better under the management of the Home Office than of the Privy Council.


thought there was a misapprehension regarding the character of industrial schools,—at all events as they existed in Scotland,—and he should regret to think that anything like crime could be attached to them. The children got a good and solid education to fit them for being tradesmen, and they were taught industrial habits. Children were sent to the reformatory for some criminal act, and on their arrival there was a brand upon them; but the children in the industrial schools were preserved from a position that would cause their committal to a reformatory. He had never thought of regarding the children as criminals.


thought that there could not he too broad a distinction drawn between poverty and crime, and it appeared to him that the two had been rather confounded in the present discussion.


said, that the commitment by the magistrate was the process, but education was the essence of the Act.


said, the object of the Bill was to give to the Home Office the same powers as were now possessed by the Privy Council. The children sent to the industrial schools must be charged with vagrancy. That charge did not merely mean that the child was a wanderer, but that he had subjected himself to a criminal charge under the Vagrant Act. The Bill was intended to create a class of schools subsidiary to the reformatory schools for the reception of children who had brought themselves within the provisions of the Vagrant Act. Should the House pass the Bill, that was the spirit in which he would carry it into effect.

Clause agreed to.

House resumed. Bill reported, as amended, to be considered To-morrow.