HC Deb 28 May 1861 vol 163 cc199-221

, in rising to move for a Select Committee on the subject of the Education of Neglected and Destitute Children, said, that a conference had been held at Birmingham in the autumn, at which it was determined to bring the matter under the consideration of Parliament, and he was requested to submit it to the House. Parliament was in the habit of granting every year a large and increasing sum, amounting in the present year to upwards of £800,000, for the promotion of national education among the children of the poor. That sum was applied in educating children ranging from the lower ranks of the middle classes down to a certain level among the lower classes. It was, of course, distributed subject to certain conditions, with a view to prevent abuse, and those conditions were such that the fund did not reach the children of the poorer classes below a certain level. Now, how were these children provided for? Provision was made for the education of some of them in workhouses, and certain funds, amounting to £80,000, were voted annually for the education of others in reformatories, and in certified industrial schools; but these votes were on a totally different footing from those made for the promotion of national education. The last mentioned sums were granted in aid of the eleemosynary efforts of charitable persons and of certain fees paid by the poor. The State did not profess to educate anybody gratuitously in these schools. But in the workhouses the State stood towards the children in loco parentis, and both maintained and educated them, while it assisted private efforts in establishing reforma- tories with a view to prevent and decrease crime. Certified industrial schools, again, were intended for certain vagrant classes of children who might become criminals, and for whom it was thought desirable to provide in this way; and these schools stood in the same relation to reformatories as reformatories did to prisons. But in distributing the funds voted for these schools it was also necessary to attach conditions in order to prevent abuse, and it thus happened that there was a class of children who were not comprised in the reformatories, in the industrial, or in the national schools. With regard to reformatories and industrial schools, it was necessary to say that children should only be admitted there by a sentence or an order from a magistrate, and should have brought themselves within the cognizance of the law in some specified manner. But there was a large and important class of children who were below the standard practically fixed by the education grants, but who were also above the grants in aid of reformatories and industrial schools, and the question he wished to submit was, whether the State proposed to do anything for these children, and what it proposed to do? That question was one of great difficulty, and it was for that reason, and not to carry out any preconceived idea of his own, that he asked for an impartial Committee to examine into the subject. The range of its inquiry need not be very wide, and it would be easy during the remainder of the Session to condense the information which it would be necessary to obtain and to arrive at a practical conclusion. But it would probably be said, "The whole subject has already been inquired into by a Royal Commission, which, after sitting for a period of three years, has produced very recently an elaborate Report. This Report is still sub judice; the evidence on which it is founded has not yet been presented; and it is improper as yet that any one should ask for further inquiry into the subject." It might even be said that he was showing disrespect to the Commissioners by taking that course, and was casting a slur upon their labours; but to such an indictment he did not plead guilty. He had the highest respect for the Royal Commission, for amongst them were some of his most intimate friends: Sir James Coleridge for instance. It was quite certain they had conducted the inquiry with a desire to arrive at a right conclusion, and they had also produced a Report which ho did not hesitate to say was of the highest value. It was not quite clear, however, from what had occurred in "another place," that the Government were prepared to accept the conclusions of the Commission in their entirety. At present the Government had the Report under their consideration, and next year, probably, Parliament would be called upon to take some steps to give effect to the Report, or, at least, to so much of it as the Government might ultimately see reason to adopt. He was anxious, however, before those steps were taken, that that part of the inquiry should be completed which the Commissioners had left incomplete, and that the House should have before it full information as to that class of children which fell between the two classes now receiving the grant. The first point which he should have to establish before the Committee would be the existence of that class, because he had heard it said that there was no such class. The fact was that that unfortunate class were sunk into such a low state of ignorance that they were not only ignorant themselves, but the cause of ignorance in others, and there could be no more conclusive ground for the necessity of a Committee than the fact that there were persons who denied their existence. What he desired was to bring such persons as Dr. Guthrie, Miss Carpenter, and others who had gone into the large towns and brought back tales of what they had discovered there which one could scarcely believe, face to face with a Select Committee which might criticise their statements, and might say how far that class of children was a proper object for a share of the educational grant. The next point, after establishing the existence of the class—and that was admitted by the Royal Commissioners—would be to inquire what means there were for providing education for them. In the first place there were the ordinary pay schools, and it would be a question deserving consideration whether these schools were suitable to them, and whether they were able to comply with the conditions of those schools. No doubt a certain number of them might be admitted into these schools, either at once or after a certain ordeal. Some people seemed disposed to say, "Why don't they make themselves nice and tidy, and go to school like other children?" but that was very like the old story of the French Marchioness, who, when she was told that the people were starving for want of bread, said they were very silly, then, not to eat buns. Then, it was said that it was no part of the duty of the State to supply the neglect of the parents, and that if children were so unfortunate as to have parents who would not send them to school, it was not for the State to interfere with them. He, for one, was prepared to controvert such a position. The whole principle of the education grant was an eleemosynary one. The parent paid something, but the State paid a great deal more in order that the child might have an education worth having; not for the sake of the parent but of the child, and because it was thought important for considerations of State that the children of the State should be well educated. For that purpose the State stepped in and gave double or treble the amount paid by the parent; for out of the annual cost for educating each child the parent was only called upon for 6s. 6d., while the State paid about 10s, and private persons about 11s. per annum. Surely, therefore, if that eleemosynary principle were adopted in one case, it ought to be applied to that unfortunate class of children out of which our criminal population was recruited. If the parents of these children were unable or unwilling to give anything, that did not discharge the State of its duty. But then it might be said that these children might be sent to certified industrial schools and other schools conducted on that principle. If the country were ready to make education compulsory, then that course might be adopted; but it would be some time before that principle could be adopted here, and until it was so, the schools in question would no meet the wants of the class, since they were open only to children who were in some sense offenders against the law. To return to the question whether the pay schools were fit for that class of children or the children fit for them. On that subject be trusted hon. Members had read the Report of the Commissioners. These children did not want a high-class education in matters of literature; but they wanted the rudiments of education—reading, writing, and arithmetic, and sound, moral, and religious training. No doubt the pay schools were exceedingly well managed, but they did not supply the particular kind of education which these children particularly wanted, and the whole tone of the Report of the Commissioners showed that such was the case. The Commissioners reported that the children did not remain at such schools sufficiently long in some cases even to be able to read and write; and that the religious instruction in them was non-intelligent, and the lessons imparted to them not calculated to form a religious character. These schools did not supply that sort of moral and religious training which, in the case of the lower classes of children, was the one thing they wanted. The teachers were generally very young men who had received an education of a refined character, and they naturally shrank from contact with ragged and dirty children. They had not the knowledge of, and sympathy with, human nature, which alone enabled the masters of ragged Schools to deal with outcast vagrant children, and to reclaim them. The pay schools were not the proper schools for these children even if they could get in there, and, if they did get in, they would disarrange and do a great deal of mischief to those schools. He made those statements partly on what he found in the blue-book, partly on what he heard out of doors, and partly on what had fallen under his own observation. He did not want them to take his statements for granted. He was asking for a Committee to examine into the whole subject, and he indicated what his views were, because he thought no one ought to move for a Committee who was not prepared with some views to lay before it, but he was ready to enter into a fair and impartial investigation of the whole matter. In answer to the objection that these children were so ragged and dirty as to be unfit for the better class of schools, it was suggested that benevolent persons might give them good shoes and clothes, and the necessary pence, in order to attend; but it was perfectly well known that in too many instances the good shoes and clothes would be turned into gin, and drunk by the parents. The Commissioners pointed out that a considerable number of these children might be provided for in pauper schools. The claim of the children to consideration was not denied, but each department in turn said it was not its business to provide for them. The Poor Law Board might admit a certain number who were the children of out-door paupers, but a great many were not the children of paupers, and it would be said that it was contrary to the principle upon which the Poor Law was administered to assist them. Some proposals of the Commissioners with regard to those children who fairly came within the pauper class would, if adopted, lead to a great improvement in the mode of providing education for them. But those proposals would necessarily give rise to considerable discussion, and very possibly the House would not adopt them; but, even if they did adopt those proposals, the whole class would not be provided for, and the Committee might inquire how they could be provided for if that plan were not adopted. A great deal had been said with regard to the certified industrial schools. No man looked upon those schools with more interest than he did, as, in conjunction with a right hon. Friend near him, he introduced a Bill to extend to England the system which prevailed in Scotland. He believed that the certified Industrial Schools were immensely valuable, but at the same time those schools had their limits, and it was impossible to extend them so as to take in all these children without serious inconvenience. As to expense, he was not bringing forward the question with the view of throwing any additional expense upon the funds of the country. He was anxious to see how they could most economically deal with these children, for deal with them in some way they must, and he believed that the certified industrial schools would be very much more expensive than other schools which would be found more efficient. A very excellent Bill was before the House, which he hoped would pass, but it must be remembered that that Bill authorized the Treasury to pay 3s. per week in respect of all these children. He did not say that it was an unnecessarily heavy charge, but he wished the Committee to inquire whether the education of these children could not be provided at a much loss expensive rate? On the ground of expense, therefore, the certified industrial school was not the proper mode of dealing with these children; and, besides that, it was necessary, in order to prevent abuse, to have some safeguards which partook of a penal character, which introduced the interference of a magistrate, and which, to a certain extent, infringed on the liberty of the subject. They might say that any child who did any of certain acts should be sent to those schools, but unless they said that every child whose parents did not give it education should be sent there they would not reach the whole class. He had now spoken of the pay schools, the workhouse schools, and the certified industrial schools, and had endeavoured to show that none of them would meet the wants he had described.

There remained yet another class of schools—the ragged schools. He had avoided any mention of ragged schools in his Motion, and did not wish to bring that part of the question particularly before the House. He was bound, however, to express his opinion that much more use might be made of these schools than was done at present. It was said that they were disorganized and ill-managed, that they were draining the paid schools, and receiving children whose parents were able to supply them with education, and, in short, doing a great deal of mischief. Now, without questioning the conclusions of the Commissioners, he held that their own evidence showed that there was a strong case for inquiry into these schools, and for an effort to turn them to better account. For instance, in the Report of the Commission a broad distinction was drawn between the ragged schools in Bristol and Plymouth. Those in the former city were described as generally well conducted, and doing a great deal of good, and those in the latter town as ill-conducted and productive of evil. That was a conclusive reason for an inquiry into these schools, to ascertain why there were such differences among them, and whether those which were doing badly could not be assimilated with those which were doing well. The Report of the Privy Council, which had been just presented to the House, contained a passage from the pen of Mr. Ruddock, the Inspector of Schools in Gloucester, in which he spoke of the great care which was taken by the different committees of ragged and industrial schools in that city to confine them to the class of scholars for whom they were intended; and expressed his conviction that, as far as the schools which he had visited were concerned, few of the children in them would obtain any education whatever but for their existence. That was the evidence of an official and impartial authority, that some of these schools were doing good. The children were there, and something must be done for them. Did any one believe that, because there was no place for them in the official system, the class would therefore cease to exist, or that benevolent persons would not endeavour to deal with them? It was not right that a stain which they did not deserve should be thrown upon the character of the ragged schools, and that the education of the unfortunate children should be left to private charity, because it happened to be a difficult question how to treat them. If it could be shown that the ragged schools were doing only harm, then let the Government come boldly forward and suppress them. On the other hand, if the truth was that, although some of them might be bad, all were not so, then an earnest effort ought to be made to convert the worst of them into what the best were now. He trusted he had not said anything to give offence. Nothing was further from his wish than to cast any reflection on the Commissioners, but he felt strongly on the subject, and entreated the House not to say "Because there are difficulties in the way we will throw the thing overboard." All lie sought was an inquiry; and if the House would agree to his Motion he would endeavour to procure as fair and impartial a Committee as possible. He felt that he might look with confidence for support from many Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench. He might appeal to the noble Lord the Member for the City, who had always taken a deep interest in the education of the lower classes. He entreated the House seriously to face the question boldly, and at least to respect the feelings of those who, like Dr. Guthrie and Miss Carpenter, had been labouring in the cause for many years, and who thought that justice had not been done to their efforts.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire, how the funds voted by Parliament for the promotion of National Education may be most efficiently and most economically applied, in the case of neglected and destitute children.


Sir, I have no doubt there is a strong desire on the part of many hon. Gentlemen that an inquiry of the nature proposed by the hon. Baronet should be granted, and if it can lead to any good I shall be very glad to see it instituted. It is no part of the business of the Education Department to stand in the way of any investigation of the kind which the House may desire. The subject is an exceedingly interesting one, and has been treated with great ability and candour by the hon. Baronet. I may say in limine, that as far as the Government is concerned, there is no objection to an inquiry on the subject. I must, however, take the liberty of objecting to the terms of the hon. Baronet's Motion. That Motion is to inquire— How the funds voted by Parliament for the promotion of National Education may be most efficiently and most economically applied, in the case of neglected and destitute children. My first objection is that it assumes that the Commissioners were wrong in their recommendations. The Resolution is not merely a notice of inquiry by a Select Committee, but implies the proposition that the funds voted by Parliament for national education ought to be applied to the purposes of educating neglected and destitute children. I am not going to deny the truth of that proposition. I only ask the House not to assume it prior to the inquiry. I entirely deny that we ought to assume that the funds applicable for national education are the only funds applicable for the purposes mentioned in the Resolution. I deny it, because I find that the assumption is altogether opposed to the Report of the Commissioners. That Commission has certainly been one of the most laborious on record. It sat for three years, and the amount of attention and labour it has bestowed on the subject has been enormous. The arrangement of the Report is most admirable, and it is drawn up in so masterly a manner that, I believe, no one ever read a Parliamentary document which was less wearisome. It has thrown a flood of light on a difficult and complicated subject. No one except those who have the labour of conducting the department can do justice to the insight which it affords into many confused and perplexing matters which are obscured under the forms of routine. I entertain, therefore, the greatest respect for the Report and its framers, and I feel sure it will not be the wish of the House to throw my slight either on it or them. The recommendation of the Commissioners on the subject may be stated briefly as follows:—They think, whether rightly or wrongly, that to keep poor children for three or four hours a-day in a ragged school, and then to leave them for the rest of the day in the hands of vicious parents, is not an efficient way of educating those children. They hold that the better plan would be to remove the children during twenty hours of the day from the contaminating influences from which they are at present preserved for four hours in the ragged school; and they propose, with that view, an extension of the district schools, by which the children may be kept apart from their parents. It is not my business to assume that the recommendation is right. Indeed, I have not had time to study the subject sufficiently to pronounce an opinion on it. All I say is that it would be premature for the House on the present occasion to assume that the Commissioners are wrong. In consequence of the attack which has been made upon the Commission in "another place," I think it right to read the passage with which they conclude the part of their Report which refers to this subject. At page 404 they say— In order to avoid the appearance of ingratitude for services of the most valuable, disinterested, and self-denying character, we conclude our observations on this head by recording our strong opinion that no class of persons interested in popular education have conferred greater services upon the public, or services involving greater sacrifices of personal convenience and inclination, than the managers of ragged and industrial schools and similar establishments. We think that the time may come when these generous and charitable efforts may advantageously be replaced by a general system; but the fact that they first directed public attention to the subject, and that their labours showed the extent and urgency of the evil to be met, and the proper means of meeting it ought never to be forgotten. Language was used in "another place" which seemed to imply that the Commissioners made a dead set against ragged schools, and that they were incapable of doing justice to the admirable motives of those who had called them into existence. I think that the passage which I have read shows that such an accusation is entirely unfounded.

The second objection which I have to the wording of the Motion of the hon. Baronet arises from the structure of my own department. I apprehend that what the hon. Baronet desires is, that if the Committee should be convinced that these schools ought to receive public aid such aid should be extended to them in the manner least injurious to the public service. I do not ask the House to prejudge this point; but I must state that it is my strong conviction, confirmed by the opinion of every gentleman in my office, that if aid is to be given to these schools there are probably no hands in which you could place the duty of affording that aid so unfit to discharge it as those of my department. The main objects of the Educational Departments have hitherto been to raise the standard of education, to create a class of schoolmasters who are adequate to the task of popular instruction, to encourage parents to take an interest in the education of their children, and to contribute something towards it, and to treat the school not merely as a place where children receive intellectual instruction, but also as a place where they may learn order, cleanliness, respect, and the manner proper to beings who have to live in society. The plan upon which we have acted has been that, in exchange for the grants which we have made out of the public purse, we have bargained that those who received them should satisfy our inspectors upon these points—namely, that the masters were equal to the work of instruction, that the schools were well-built and ventilated, and the children cleanly and orderly. Now, it may be necessary, for I prejudge nothing, to have side by side with this system one of a totally different character. It may be necessary that the school should be brought down to the child, because the child cannot be raised to the school; that we should have schools in which much shall be tolerated which would be most disadvantageous to a school conducted according to the Government pattern, in which the children shall be dirty and offensive in their habits, and rude and uncultivated in their manners, for ragged schools exclude none of these. At present we deal with such schools to this extent—that we make them capitation grants, allow them to have masters of a lower class than are required in other schools, and exempt the parents of the children from the payment of school pence; the result being that these schools receive a smaller portion of the public money than do the ordinary educational schools. What is anticipated from the recommendations of this Committee is that the grants to these schools should be made rather in proportion to the necessity of the case than to the degree of progress, cleanliness, and good instruction which is secured in them. It may be right to make the grants upon such a principle, but it will never do for the Privy Council to make them. It will never do for the same department to have two systems, and for the Privy Council to say to the public, "If you have a school of a good class, which secures cleanliness, order, and right instruction, we will pay you so much; but if you open a school of an inferior class for poverty, misery, dirt, and destitution, with inferior instruction, little order, and rooms not half so well adapted to the purpose, we will pay you more." It will never do for us to go into opposition against ourselves in that manner. If we take such a course we shall break down our own system, and undo in a few years all that we have done by twenty years' successful operation upon the public, by means of which we have gradually screwed the system up to its present very creditable pitch. It may be necessary that this should be done, but ours is not the hand that ought to do it. When, in the year 1856, large grants were made to these schools, symptoms existed which showed that the new system was sapping the vitals of the old one. We had nothing but complaints from the inspectors and from the Committees of the Pay Schools that children were enticed away from them to these inferior schools, and it was on account of the deep sense which was entertained of the evil which this was doing to the system of elementary schools that the minute of 1857 was passed which altered the system. I do not ask the House to take the same view of that matter. Let this also be inquired into by the Committee. But if the words of the Motion are retained as they now stand, requiring that ragged schools should be supported out of the funds voted for national education, the Committee will have no alternative but to impose the duty of forming and managing the new system upon the Committee of Council. If the hon. Baronet will alter the terms of his Motion so as, while embracing the system of the Privy Council, not to confine the Committee to it, I see no objection to this inquiry. The words which I should suggest would be "to inquire how the education of destitute and neglected children may be most efficiently and economically assisted by any public funds."


said, that he was quite willing to accept these words.


said, I rise to support the Motion made by my hon. Friend, and I wish that the duty I have to perform had fallen into abler hands, though I will yield to no one in the deep interest I have for many years past taken in the cause of destitute children. Whatever may be the result of the Motion just made I am sure the House and the country will feel grateful to the hon. Baronet for the ability and moderation with which he has dealt with the important subject before us. I will briefly state my reasons for the course I am taking on the present occasion. At the beginning of this year I was present at the Conference which was held at Birmingham for the purpose of discussing the subject of the present Motion, and I was much struck with the want of information manifested by many persons who attended that Conference. No two seemed to agree as to what was really wanted, or to have a clear idea of the nature of the institutions which ought to be assisted by public money.

"Ragged Schools" was the subject under discussion. In Scotland they are known as "Ragged Industrial Feeding Schools." In London such institutions are termed Refuges, Homes, or Industrial Schools. Ragged Schools in London are simply Educational Schools. In Scotland, and in some of the provinces, they are industrial likewise. I merely mention this to show how little the subject is understood even by those who are supposed to be fully conversant with its details. Surely a Committee of Inquiry would be most useful in order to ascertain the character of the institutions which are established for the benefit of the vagrant and destitute, and also fully to ascertain the nature of the class who are received into them. Various objections will, doubtless, be raised on the part of Her Majesty's Government; amongst others, it will be said that the Estimates will be increased to an unlimited extent if we begin to subsidize such institutions. This is far from our intention. I believe a considerable amount of money might be saved by a more judicious distribution of the educational grants. Many schools might be found at the present time receiving far more assistance than they ought, and the children who attend such schools are in many instances of parents fully able to pay for the education they obtain. On economical grounds it would be worth while to assist ragged schools, for it is quite evident their influence has contributed very materially to the decrease of crime. Is it not cheaper for the country to pay £10 to prevent a boy from becoming a criminal than £50 or £100 to punish him when he is become one? It will next be urged that the character of the schools would be entirely changed if they are assisted by grants. I cannot see how this will be. Our object always has been and is still to keep down as low as possible—and not in any way to raise the standard of the schools or the object we have in view would be entirely defeated. The inspectors (and I think these schools would be benefited by full and ample inspection) would be able to prevent this from being the case. The Government will, perhaps, say it is unwise and unfair to grant this Committee before the Commissioners have issued their last and final Report. Now, with regard to that Report, I do not wish to make a hostile attack upon it. It contains most valuable information, though I am not prepared to endorse all the recom- mendations I find there. Still, I venture to say it does not appear to me that the cause of ragged schools have received so full and impartial a treatment as they deserve—I do not think that evidence was taken from those most qualified by experience to give it. I think the House will be in a far better condition to legislate if it possesses the evidence which I believe would be brought before the Committee we seek. One word as to the good ragged schools have effected: Upwards of 300,000 children have passed through their purifying influence, and if it is not too much to suppose that 10 per cent have derived benefit, the result is far from insignificant. In page 382 of the Report I find it stated that 100,000 children receive no education. From this class juvenile criminals spring. How is it then to be accounted for that during the last five years there has been such a reduction in crime? In Mr. Sydney Turner's Report for 1859 he states there were 5,000 less commitments than in 1856. May we not infer that ragged schools have been partly instrumental in this great change? I firmly believe that ragged schools have been the indirect means of originating almost every institution in the United Kingdom during the last fifteen years for the prevention of crime and the reformation of the criminal. I am borne out in this assertion by reference to the document I have in my hand—a classified list published by the authority of the Reformatory and Refuge Union. I find there 175 such institutions accommodating upwards of 15,000 inmates—only fifteen of these were in existence previous to the ragged-school movement. In all large towns we find the ragged schools to be the pioneers of refuges, homes, penitentiaries, and reformatories; in fact, of all institutions for the mutual aid of the destitute and degraded. I feel we owe a deep debt of gratitude to the promoters of ragged schools for their noble self-denying-efforts. Who can estimate the good they have done? It cannot be ascertained in this world. Although there is a great decrease in crime the number of destitute and vagrant children is not so great as formerly; yet my experience leads me to believe there are still thousands of children who can alone be reached through the agency of ragged schools. I wish to state that the voluntary refuges in the kingdom, institutions receiving this very class, the destitute and the vagrant, have been sadly crippled by the withdrawal of the 50s. a year Capitation granted by the Privy Council in 1856, and withdrawn in 1858. Many of these Institutions, from my own personal knowledge must he closed, or else will have to admit children of another class, unless something is done to assist them more fully than at present. These Institutions are doing a great work, saving hundreds of children from being a burden to the country by training them to habits of morality and industry. It would, I know, be said, that if these Institutions were certified under the "Industrial Schools Act," they would be entitled to receive considerable assistance from the Home Office. In theory this is true; but unfortunately that Act has hitherto been almost inoperative, and either owing to a defect in the drawing up of the Act, or to public feeling being opposed to its principles, it has been found almost impossible to get children committed under it; the result has been that Institutions have had all the trouble of obtaining a certificate without receiving any advantages to which it entitled them. I heartily trust that the amended measure now before the House may remove some of these difficulties, but I feel however perfect the Act may be, there will always remain the necessity of our voluntary refuges. The Prince Consort stated some time since that there were "no less than two million children in England and Wales who were not at school at all, and whose absence cannot be traced to any legitimate cause. Can it, then, be said or thought there is little to do, or that there is any shortness of material? for surely it is but fair to infer that by far the larger proportion of these two millions of children belong to a class for whose benefit ragged schools are specially designed." If these cannot be found in ordinary schools, or in private schools, where are they receiving education? If not in ragged schools they must be in the streets. Believing, as I do, that ragged schools have done a great work, and are the only agency by which the destitute and vagrant can be properly reached, assured that they well deserve every possible encouragement and support, from public money as well as private benevolence, I have much pleasure in supporting the Motion, and earnestly hope that Her Majesty's Government will grant the Committee.


said, he had heard with great pleasure the unexpected answer given by the right hon. Gentleman, for he had understood from what he thought good authority that it was the intention of the Government to resist the Motion. Indeed, he was not sure that it might not be inferred from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that on his part at least there was not some disposition to oppose the Motion. But he hardly thought it possible that the Government would have refused so fair and moderate a proposal, and he did not believe they would have been supported by the House had they adopted such a course. In admitting the necessity of some further action with regard to ragged schools it was not, however, to be supposed for a moment that he intended to throw the slightest disrespect on the valuable Report of the Education Commissioners. The House might recollect that the Commission was appointed in consequence of a Motion which he felt it his duty to submit; and on that occasion he received most valuable and efficient support from the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, who at some time—at no very distant period, he trusted—would find leisure to look into the book, and would, doubtless, derive much satisfaction from having been concerned in its production. In every word of praise which had fallen from the lips of the right hon. Vice-President of the Council he fully concurred; he believed the Commissioners were deserving of every gratitude for issuing a most valuable and interesting compendium of the great subject of national education, and he hoped it would not be suffered to remain long without leading to practical results. But, as one part of that Report was directly at variance with the minutes of the Council, and went to prove that a class did not exist which was not only recognized but defined by minutes of Council, it was evident that inquiry must take place.


said, he hoped it would be distinctly understood that the Committee were to finish their labours this year, so that the House might again have the opportunity of considering the subject. The report revealed a new and unexpected fact—that there was hardly a child throughout the whole island who did not receive an imperfect education. The system had been brought so far that nearly every child received some education; the next step should be to improve the quality of that education, and he fervently hoped no obstacle would be thrown in the way of taking it. It was most essential that a year should not be lost, and before the end of the Session he hoped the Government would be able to state whether, and how far, it was prepared to carry out the views of the Commissioners. Nothing had been more misrepresented than the views of the Commissioners with regard to ragged schools. He thought their views could hardly be controverted. If aid was required let it be given; but if a new principle was to be introduced it should not be done on the authority of the Council of Education alone, even if the proposed Committee reported favourably on the subject, the proposal should be first submitted to the House.


said, he regretted that he was obliged to differ from the rest of the House on the question before them, but he wished to enter his solemn protest against the appointment of the Committee, that would overlay an investigation just completed by a fresh inquiry. The Report of the Royal Commission had just been presented, and before they had read that Report or even received the evidence on which it was founded, they were going to embark in a new inquiry. He protested against that course. It was a question of common sense. A Royal Commission had been instituted on a large scale and at great expense. They should, at least, read its Report before reinstituting an inquiry upon any part of the same subject. The Report contained 600 or 700 pages, it had only been published about ten days, few Members could have read it, and the evidence, filling five volumes, had not yet been distributed. The Commission must have cost altogether £40,000, and they were now going to institute another inquiry into the same subject again. He did not support the constitution of the Commission when it was proposed; he never thought it likely to effect much good, or to do more than make an historical digest of the subject, very interesting to read, but not likely to lead to any practical result. And the recommendations of the Report bore obvious marks of several contradictory opinions on the subject, and very little actual recommendation that would be practicable or possible to adopt. The evidence he would leave to the future consideration of the House. But he would ask the Government when that system of inquiry was to cease? He had observed that men generally came out of Parliamentary inquiries with exactly the same opinions as they had when they went into them; and under a cloud of inquiry the existing system would continue for a series of years. Continual inquiries were, however, very objectionable, and he hoped the House would insist on something like an end of them. What was to be the nature of the proposed inquiry about schools for destitute children as distinguished from the one just completed? The Royal Commissioners had taken Bristol and Plymouth as sample towns, and had reported that in the one case the ragged schools had worked well, and in the other badly. What could a Select Committee do more? They might, indeed, take twenty towns instead of two, and examine Miss Carpenter, Dr. Guthrie, and Lord Shaftesbury, but the only result would be that the evidence would be ten times as much as was produced before the Commissioners, though in kind it would, no doubt, be identical. For his own part, his views were more favourable to the conclusions of the Commissioners than to those of the lion. Baronet. The Commissioners said of ragged schools that they were to be considered an exceptional sort of institution, and that they were only useful in the nature of feeders to the national schools. The hon. Baronet allowed that there must be conditions attached to grants of public money in every national system, and the children attending the ragged schools were exactly outside the line of conditions which could be laid down in any organized system of schools whatever. He begged the House to bear in mind what had fallen from the right lion. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe), that it was impossible for any department of State to be worked upon two diametrically opposing systems; and if in this case there was a higher and a lower standard the latter would become the ruling standard, and the exception would shortly become the rule. The present system of education was not an eleemosynary but a voluntary system, supplemented by State funds, and if the Government once allowed it to be understood that upon the failure of voluntary efforts the State would supply what was needed they would soon destroy the whole voluntary system throughout the kingdom. The inquiry contemplated could not, he feared, do anything but harm; at all events, the House sought to discuss the Report of the Royal Commissioners before authorizing a further investigation even upon a single branch of the subject. But it was a mistake to suppose that ragged schools were not at present aided by the State. They came within the terms of the public grants; they had the same claims as other schools, and practically they also had received the public money. Miss Carpenter's ragged school had a total income of £200 a year and received £50 a year from these Parliamentary grants. With regard to certificated industrial schools, the whole of them were dealt with by existing Acts of Parliament, and if it were wished to alter the terms of the grants to those schools, the proper way to do so would be to raise the question by means of amending Bills instead of by a vague, roving, interminable inquiry into the whole subject. The Government themselves had an amending Bill on the subject now before the House. He regretted that they had consented to a fresh inquiry.


I am unwilling to trouble the House; but after what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, I wish to make an observation on one point. It is not my business to defend the course taken by the hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford Northcote) but the proposal he has made seems by no means an unreasonable one. A Royal Commission was issued to inquire into the whole system of education in this country, and there was no exception, as far as I know, to the scope of its inquiry. A Report has been presented, written in a most lucid and comprehensive manner, containing an exposition of all the different branches of our popular and elementary teaching, and deserving all the commendation bestowed on it. The ragged schools and the other schools for neglected and destitute children, however, form but a very small part of the subjects discussed in this Report. The hon. Baronet differs from the recommendations of the Commissioners, and he disputes the correctness of the elements by which they are supported, and he asks the House to grant an inquiry. I cannot see that there is anything very unreasonable in that. My object in rising, however, is to observe that, as the hon. Baronet proposes only to institute an inquiry into the schools for neglected and destitute children, and does not wish to include those schools of which the character is mainly criminal, I trust that when the Bill which I have introduced for the amendment of the law relating to the Industrial Schools is brought forward, no objection will be made to that Bill on the ground that the subject is under investigation before a Committee. In giving my vote in favour of this Motion I wish it to be understood that I do not feel myself precluded from proceeding with that Bill.


said, he was glad that the right hon. Secretary of State had agreed to the Committee. It had been said that Parliament gave £800,000 a year to raise the standard of education. He thought it ought to be given only to promote the education of the poorer classes, and that those who could afford to provide a better education for their children should do so at their own expense. He hoped this point would not be lost sight of by the Committee.


said, that in reply to an observation for the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Danby Seymour) he would refer him to the last Report of Mr. Morrill, one of the Inspectors of Schools, who showed that a large number of the poorest class of children still eluded the efforts made for popular education. That would form a very fitting subject of inquiry before the Committee.


said, he thanked the hon. Baronet for having brought forward his motion. He agreed in the commendation which had been bestowed on the Report of the Royal Commissioners, but there was so much contradictory matter in the way of opinion brought into it, that until the evidence was published it would be difficult to understand what it was that brought them to the conclusion at which they had arrived. They complimented the authors of these industrial schools highly, but then, in return, they gave them a slap in the face by wishing them to be snuffed out altogether. That was a specimen of the way in which most of the matters contained in the Report were handled. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Educational Committee, said his department was much too high up in the clouds to have anything to with these schools, though they received the most necessitous of poor children, the very class who wanted most looking after. He could not help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) had rather begged the question when he wanted to alter the terms of the Motion. The ragged schools, if he understood aright, already received some assistance from the State. The right hon. Gentleman, however, urged that the Commissioners in their Report declared that the ragged schools ought to have nothing, and, by his Amendment, called upon his hon. Friend to stand in the same position as if these schools were now receiving nothing, and as if the Committee were to go into a fresh case. That seemed to him to be rather hard upon his hon. Friend. He could not help remarking that nowhere in the recommendations of the Commissioners was there the least shadow of reference to the necessity of religious teaching in schools. He could not help regarding that as a capital defect in what was, doubtless, a very able Report.


I will not discuss the Report of the Commissioners, for I must confess I have not had time to read it. The question, however, now before us is not the merits of their Report, but the appointment of this Committee, and it is, therefore, important to understand what it is to inquire into. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) appears to think that the duty of the Committee is to inquire in what manner the funds voted by the State are to be distributed. That, however, is not the object of the Committee. If that were the proposal before us, I should say let us by all means first study the Report of the Commissioners. What, however, the hon. Member (Sir Stafford Northcote) wishes to do is to inquire into the operation of the present system as it affects the education of neglected and destitute children. It is urged on one side—and that view is supported by the Commissioners—that the children who are sent to ragged schools are, in fact, the children of parents who can very well pay for sending them to other schools, but who are tempted to send them to ragged schools by the absence of the necessity for sending them clean and in decent clothing. On the other side it is said that a certain number of the children taught in these schools are the children of destitute parents who would not receive any education at all if it were not for the voluntary and charitable efforts of the promoters of the ragged schools. For my own part, I am inclined very much to agree with the hon. Baronet. I believe that where these ragged schools are conducted by persons who are careful in what they are about, and who take precautions in regard to the means of the parents, they afford an education to children who would not otherwise attend any school at all. That will be an important point in the inquiry, and connected with it is the ability of parents to supply their children with proper education, but who prefer rather to spend the surplus of their wages in gin. If the result of the Committee is to show that these schools are worthy of encouragement and support, another question will be in what way that encouragement and support ought to be given. I concur with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe) in thinking that in such an event it would not be expedient to place under the same body two different systems—one a superior and another an inferior system of education. If these ragged schools are to be encouraged, it will, perhaps, appear that they ought to be conducted by some other machinery, and connected with another kind of management. When the Committee of Council of Education was established, I may say, as I took a considerable part in the arrangements then made, that one primary object was to improve the quality of education rather than to increase the numbers educated. That object has been answered. The standard of education has been greatly improved, and I should consider it most disastrous if the effect of any inquiry which we may now enter upon should be to lower that standard. Concurring, therefore, in the appointment of the Committee I think we should watch with jealousy any changes which would have the effect of deteriorating the quality of the education now given in the schools under the Committee of Privy Council.


said, it was quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) had pointed out, that the Report of the Commissioners contained no reference to the subject of religious education in schools. The reason was that the Report was founded on the present basis laid down by the Committee of Privy Council, and it assumed that all the regulations of that system had been and would be observed.


That is not stated in any part of the Report.


said, he felt bound to thank the Government for the kind reception they had given to his Motion. He cheerfully assented to the alteration suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, believing that the wider the scope of the inquiry, and the less the Committee were bound down as to the particular mode in which, or through which, aid should be given, the better. He had refused to bring the subject before the House until both the Report of the Commissioners and the Industrial Schools Bill were before the House. He found that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in his excellent Bill on Industrial Schools, did not touch the class of ragged schools, and as the Report of the Commission also left these schools on one side, he thought the time had come for bringing the matter before the House. He could only say he should go into Committee entirely unprejudiced. As to the object to be attained he had a distinct impression, but in regard to the best mode of attaining it he had not yet made up his mind.

Select Committee appointed, To inquire how the Education of destitute and neglected Children may he most efficiently and economically assisted by any public funds.

House adjourned at Nino o'clock till Thursday.