HC Deb 18 March 1862 vol 165 cc1831-4

, in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill to make further provision for the education of people in Scotland said, that at that late hour (twenty minutes past twelve o'clock) he would confine himself to a brief statement of the general principles of the measure. There had long been a feeling in the North that the Privy Council system, however necessary for England, was in many respects unsuitable for Scotland. The measure passed last year for the latter country was as successful as its warmest friends could desire, and what he had now to propose, was an extension of the old national education of Scotland, on a system commensurate with the wants of the country. The first object of his measure was to ascertain what schools were required on the basis of the national system, and the next was to provide for the maintenance of these schools, at the same time withdrawing Government aid from any schools except those so established. As matters were, it often happened that two schools, both receiving Government assistance, stood side by side, and each merely withdrew scholars from the other, while at the other end of an extensive parish there might be no school at all. The result was that they got no adequate return for the public money expended on education. He proposed to nominate a commission composed of the leading officials of the Universities, sixteen in number, with four names added by the Crown, making twenty in all. These commissioners would have the power to go over the whole of Scotland, and to decide what schools were necessary, where they ought to be placed, and of what character they should be. The schools established under the Bill would be rural schools and district schools. The rural schools would relate to country parishes, and would be a mere extension of the parochial system. In no part of the Bill did he propose that the burden on the heritors should be greater than the maximum salaries now paid to schoolmasters; in fact, the burden would be in many cases alleviated, for where two schools now existed one would often be sufficient. As he proposed that the Government should pay half the entire expenses of the schools established under the Bill, in cases where only one school was found necessary the heritors would be relieved where two schools now existed from the payment of half the present salaries. The district schools would be established in populous districts (not being Royal burghs) where schools were required. The commissioners would say where these schools should be placed. The sheriff would call a meeting of the rate-payers, and if two-thirds of the rate-payers present at the meeting, and half those who were upon the valuation, objected to the school, it would not be established. If otherwise, the school would he immediately founded. In regard to the Royal burghs, they would have power to assess themselves to the amount of a halfpenny in the pound, and the Government would contribute a sum proportioned to that raised by the district. The expenditure of that money would be placed under the control of the town-council, because the members, being elected by the inhabitants, were the best judges of what the localities required. The government of the schools, with the exception of parochial schools, would be placed under the University Courts, which should have complete power over the masters. With respect to the Episcopalian and Roman Catholic denominations, it was not proposed to include them necessarily under the Bill; but it was believed that, with certain provisions inserted in the measure, those denominations would not be unwilling to come within its scope. The proportion of Episcopalian and Roman Catholic schools, however, was not large, as would appear from the fact that £80,000 were paid to the Presbyterians, and only £6,000 to the Episcopalians and Roman Catholics taken together. Then it was proposed to take less money than what was now granted, because by good management it was believed that £75,000 would suffice, which was £5,000 less than was paid to the Presbyterians under the present system. With that explanation he would conclude by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.


said, he wished to inquire if the Commissioners were to determine whether the schools In a particular district were too many or too few; and whether, where there were two schools, they would have power to say that one of them would be the parochial school?


replied that there would be a provision in the Bill which would regulate that matter.


inquired what provision was made for inspection?


asked, whether the principles of the Revised English Code would be applied to the schools In Scotland; and whether Episcopalian and Roman Catholic schools would be allowed to draw the Government money under the existing system?


said, he entertained great doubts whether the mode in which the learned Lord Advocate proposed to proceed would be sanctioned by that House. He understood the Commissioners were to inquire into all matters connected with education, and were not to submit the result to Parliament, but to have the entire jurisdiction. That £75,000 should be handed over to the Commissioners for distribution, and that they should have absolute control over the schools, was a proposition which Parliament ought not to sanction without great consideration.


said, that it was a mistake to suppose that the money was to be entirely at the disposal of the Commission.


said, he had no doubt that the Bill would afford the people of Scotland great satisfaction, because it would put an end to the denominational system, which they felt was inapplicable to their country. He did not think that any inquiry into the general education of Scotland was necessary—all that was wanted was an investigation into mere matters of local detail. He thought the proposed Commissioners were well selected and trusted they would form a body well qualified for the duties they would have to perform.

Leave given. Bill to make further provision for the Education of the People in Scotland, ordered to be brought in by the Lord Advocate, Sir GEORGE GREY, and Sir WILLIAM DUNBAR.

House adjourned at One o'clock.