HC Deb 02 June 1865 vol 179 cc1248-60

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


(In the Committee.)

(1.) £235,583, to complete the sum for Public Education, Ireland.


Sir, with the permission of the Committee, I will, as usual, state what are the main features of the Vote for which they are now asked. I am happy to be able to state that, although there is an increase in its amount over that of last year, that has arisen from an extension of the system in Ireland and an increase of the number of children who are availing themselves of its advantages. The Vote exceeds that of last year by £8,313; but there are now in Ireland 100 more national schools than there were then, and the number of teachers has proportionately increased. If I review the history of national education in Ireland since the year 1834, in three decennial periods ending 1844, 1854, and 1864, the House will see what is the progress which has been made. In 1834 the number of schools under the national system was 1,106, and the number of pupils upon their rolls 145,521. In the first decennial period from that date—namely, up to 1844—the number of those schools increased to 3,153, and the number of pupils on the rolls to 395,558. In the decennial period ending 1854 the number of schools rose to 5,178, and the number of pupils to 555,110; while in the last decennial period, from 1854 to 1864, the increase was still more remarkable, the number of schools having risen to 6,263, and the number of pupils to 870,401. It was evident, therefore, that in Ireland the population have availed themselves in an increasing proportion of the present system; and this remark applies not only to the Protestant and Presbyterian portion of it, but also, I am happy to say, to the Roman Catholic. To show to what an extent Roman Catholic children have availed themselves of the advantages of those institutions, I may mention that while in 1861 the Roman Catholic population amounted to 77½ per cent of the total population of Ireland, the Roman Catholic children attending the national schools amounted to 81½ per cent of the total number of pupils, or 4 per cent over and above the relative percentage of the entire population. We have, in the present year, an increase in several of the items in this Vote. As the Committee will observe by a reference to the tables before us, the general summary of the system of national education falls under ten distinct heads, six of which show an increase. There is an increase under the head of District Model Schools amounting to £917. We propose to open in the course of the present year a beautiful model school in Cork, which is just now on the point of being completed. That in Enniskillen was opened last year; in reference to the Cork model school I received a letter today, in answer to a request for information on the subject, to the effect that there was some little delay as to the time of opening, but that the school would be handed over to the Commissioners of education next July. The increase under the head of District Model Schools is for the purpose of opening that establishment, and I trust the population of the important city of Cork will avail themselves of the benefits which it is calculated to confer, as is done in the case of similar schools in other parts of Ireland. This establishment is designed for the accommodation of 400 boys, 250 girls, and 150 infants; in all 800 pupils. The Commissioners state that if it is successful to the extent which they anticipate a very considerable staff of teachers will be required. The staff proposed to be employed will consist of three principal and three assistant teachers, twelve pupil-teachers, and twelve monitors. Thus much for the causes of the increase under the head of District Model Schools. Under the head of Minor Model Schools the increase is £417. These schools are very numerously attended in different parts of Ireland, and the growing desire of the population to avail themselves of them, and the consequent necessity of having a greater amount of accommodation, is another reason why this Vote is increased. There are seven of these Minor Model Schools in Ireland—the total number of Model Schools being twenty-six—exclusive of those in Dublin; and in those seven schools we find that there were on the rolls, in 1864, 1,642 pupils, whereas in 1863 the number was 1484, and in 1862 only 1,230—thus showng a very satisfactory increase in the attendance. I now come to the salaries of the teachers which, as the Committee will observe, embrace one of the principal items of increase in this Vote—the increase being £10,000. That increase is accounted for in the following way:—Increase in the salaries of teachers, £7,000; of monitors, £2,500; in the charge for singing and drawing, £300; other items, £200—making a total of £10,000. It will be in the recollection of the Committee that last year an animated discussion took place on the subject of monitors. I have no wish now to renew that discussion beyond remarking that the result of the decision then arrived at has been such as fully to answer our expectations. As the Committee is aware, from the year 1845, when monitors were first instituted, up to 1864, no question was raised in Parliament with regard to the monitorial system. Last year, however, the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), brought forward the subject in connection with the employment of first-class monitors in certain schools, and I have here a Return moved for by the hon. and learned Gentleman who found fault with the system the Commissioners were establishing. This Return shows how the sum of £3,000 for this purpose had been laid out; and I must say that I think it has been most fairly distributed. The hon. and learned Gentleman was of opinion that these first-class monitors would be given exclusively to what may be called denominational schools; but, according to the Return, it appears that out of 124 only 57 of those monitors have gone to those excellent convent schools which exist through- out the country. It cannot, I think, be denied, that it is a great advantage to those schools to have the services of first-class monitors in instructing the children, who crowd to them in large numbers; and having looked through the Reports of the Inspectors, I find that all of them, Presbyterians, Protestants, and Roman Catholics, with scarcely an exception, bear testimony to the admirable management of the schools under the control of religious persons. The system having worked so advantageously, the Commissioners now ask for an additional sum of £2,500 with a view to its further extension; and I am sure the Committee will not refuse that sum for the development of the monitorial system, which never until last year was contested in Parliament. I now come to another item in this Vote, in reference to which I wish to offer a few remarks. There is, I regret to say, a reduction in the Vote for the Agricultural Department again this year, to the extent of £224, and I use the word "regret" because it has been always against my wish, and solely in accordance with the desire of Parliament, that, year by year, for the last four years, I have been obliged to urge the Commissioners to reduce this Vote. The Vote includes what is called the Glasnevin School, which has done an immense amount of good. We have used the utmost economy in the maintenance of that establishment, and since I last addressed the House on this subject, the respected chief manager of the instition, Dr. Fitzpatrick, has been obliged to retire. In the Agricultural Vote he hoped there would be no more reduction. Within the last eight years it had been reduced from a sum little short of £10,000 to its present limit of £5,000; that reduction had been contrary to the wish of the Members of the Irish Government, and he hoped the Committee would set their face against any further proposals in a similar direction. In the present state of the House (a very few Members were present), it was unnecessary to make any lengthened statement. He would merely add that the Returns, undoubtedly of much value, obtained last year on the Motion of the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly), had cost the country upwards of £400, owing to the number of additional clerks who had to be employed to prepare them.


admitted that the Agricultural Department, properly carried on—and he admitted that the Glasnevin School was well managed—was calculated to confer great benefits on the country. But it was notorious that the minor agricultural schools were complete failures throughout Ireland, and all the Commissioners to whom he had spoken agreed that the sooner they were got rid of the better. The Glasnevin Schools, on the contrary, ought to be fostered and encouraged, and he should like to see an acre of ground added, wherever this was practicable, to every ordinary school, in which the elder pupils might receive a certain amount of agricultural instruction from the master. As regarded the proportion paid to monitors in certain schools, it would be desirable to receive a little further explanation from the right hon. Baronet.


said, he rejoiced to hear that the national education system was bearing good fruit in Ireland. As to the agricultural Votes, it was his experience in Ireland that any agriculturists who were particularly well trained had received their education at Glasnevin. He did not desire, however, to see the district agricultural schools superseded, for he believed that what was good for the metropolis would in time prove to be good for the provinces also. As regarded the suggestion that agricultural training should form a part of the education given in every school, he hardly expected much benefit from it practically, seeing that it was easier to be a good schoolmaster than a good agriculturist, and the combination of these qualities would be rare indeed. The national system of education in Ireland was very good. The excellent character of the education given in the humbler schools was a just source of pride at this moment to Irishmen, but he believed one fact lying at the bottom of much of the emigration constantly going forward was that the people were educated somewhat above their class. The natural result was that they endeavoured to better their condition by going to countries more wealthy and prosperous. He was not one of those who considered emigration such a serious evil to Ireland. Education, however, was attended with other effects, for it had materially increased the tranquillity of the country, and nearly put an end to those agrarian outrages which once were the national disgrace. Faction fighting, also, and other practices only found in countries occupying a low position in the scale of enlightenment, were disappearing. He looked, therefore, on the excellent education which the Irish people were now receiving, coupled with their natural readiness to avail themselves of all advantages, as one of the most hopeful features in connection with that nation.


said, he did not desire to oppose the grant to the National Board in the present state of the House. It would not be denied that a Board presided over by Commissioners of high rank and position and administering funds to the amount of £325,000 a year conferred a great amount of good upon the country. Yet he, and those who thought with him, had some reason to complain that a favour was granted to one portion of the population which was denied to another. The Protestant clergy of Ireland were not able, on conscientious grounds, to partake of this grant, and he concurred in their objection. They were bound to instruct their flocks in the Holy Scriptures, and many of them, being men of straitened means, deprived themselves of the comforts of life to support their schools, which ought to receive a portion of this grant. The Protestants of Ireland could not accede to the present system, and the House ought to make such changes as would enable them to participate in the grant. He could not concur in the grant of £2,000 to the teachers in convent schools. In the county of Cork there were nineteen of these convent schools which were receiving that favour from the State which was denied to others on the ground of peculiar teaching. The Return moved for by the hon. and learned Member for Belfast, which had been laid upon the table within the last few days, showing the distribution of the £2,000, gave him reason to feel that the apprehension of his hon. and learned Friend with regard to its distribution was correct. One of the Commissioners (he did not know whether he was a Commissioner at the present moment) was strongly opposed to the transfer of popular education to monastic teachers, and another high authority, Mr. Sheridan, stated that in the Killarney district no day school by lay teachers would be tolerated. It happened, however, that a considerable number of Roman Catholics could not be induced to send their children to convent schools, and when the lay schools were abolished they could get no education at all.


said, he did not intend to offer any opposition to the Vote, though he could not admit that the increase in the number of pupils was to be accepted as a proof of the success of the system. It might be accounted for by the fact that the Irish people had no other schools. He was convinced he spoke the opinion of the great majority of the people of Ireland when he said that they were not entirely satisfied with the system. He should not say that he was satisfied that the grant had been increased for the higher class education, because he could not concur in the opinion that it was the duty of the State to provide for the people anything more than an elementary education, or to give an education to those who were able to pay for it for themselves. The increase in the Vote which had been referred to was principally due to the model schools; but he understood that a guarantee had been given by the right hon. Baronet last year that there should be no increase in the grant to these schools. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lefroy) had quoted Mr. Sheridan's authority against the convent schools; but it had been clearly proved in the debate last year that Mr. Sheridan had been under a mistake when he reported, for he admitted that he made his Report without having inspected the schools, and the sub-Inspector who had really inspected them had reported that Killarney possessed ample educational facilities.


agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Lefroy) in thinking it a great hardship that the schools connected with the Church Education Society, in which the Bible was taught, should receive no grant. The late Mr. O'Connell subscribed largely to one of the schools of the Society in his neighbourhood, and continued to do so even after the Government grant had been withdrawn. But would his hon. Friend agree with him in thinking that it was a hardship that the schools of the Christian Brothers should receive no grant? Ireland ought to be treated like England, where grants were given to the denominational schools. When the clergy of the Established Church in Ireland and the Catholic clergy were both opposed to the present system, it was strange that Government should take no steps to meet the wishes of those two great bodies. With regard to the convent schools, it had been reported by the Inspectors, many of whom were Protestants, that they were the best in Ireland, and that circumstance was owing to the superior manners and education of the ladies who conducted them. The people of Ireland preferred to send their children to the convent school because they believed them to be denominational. The best schools in Ireland were the schools of the Church Education Society, of the Society of Friends, and of the Christian Brothers.


thought it would be a most unfortunate thing for Ireland if these grants became denominational. Such a change would destroy the whole system of education in Ireland—a system which was gaining on the confidence and affection of the people, and which was likely to be of great advantage to the country. He trusted it would go forth that there was in this House a general concurrence as to the value of the existing system, and that the wish to disturb it was only shared by a email minority.


said, the convent schools were popular because they contradicted in the most positive and express manner the principles on which the National Board was founded. That principle was to assist schools in which persons of all religions should be taught. This sounded well; but the result of it would be to exclude the religious element from education altogether, which was an impossibility. The convent schools were frequented, as the hon. Member (Mr. Hennessy) had said, because everybody knew that religion was taught there. Having assisted the convent schools, how could the Government justify the refusal even of a book to the parochial schools in Ireland connected with the Church? It was an absolute impossibility to continue the system upon the principle on which it now was said to rest. The English system would be a much more honest and satisfactory one. It was a peculiarity of the National Board that they never reasoned. Archbishop Whately tried to reason with them; but he failed and retired. He belonged to a society in the schools connected with which—perhaps he ought to be ashamed to mention it in this assembly—they were so imprudent as to allow the reading of the New Testament. This fact ruined their character with the National Board; and the consequence was that there were 1,500 or 1,600 schools which got no assistance from the State. Anything more ridiculous he could not imagine. The National Board said, "It is impossible to aid you; we act on principle in refusing aid in such cases." And yet aid was given to the conventual and monastic schools, while it was refused to the parochial schools of the Church. The Secretary for the Colonies was a sa- gacious, intelligent gentleman, and if he had the charge of this question and had five minutes' conversation respecting it with him (Mr. Whiteside) it would be settled in five minutes. In speaking of these denominational schools, he did not say that the State should give money without receiving value for it; there should be a certain standard of information in the schools which they assisted. But what he contended for was that if Parliament obtained what it wanted—namely, a certain amount of secular education—it ought not to refuse to those who contribute to the taxation of the country a fair share of the public funds for promoting the education of the people. By denominational schools he meant schools in which the State should receive full value for their money grants. As to the model schools, he believed they were excellent; but what was the state of affairs respecting them? He had looked into one which cost £1,100 or £1,200 a year, and had found that there was not a single Roman Catholic pupil in the school; while there were a number of persons educated who possessed very good means of their own. The education given was so good that these schools had destroyed the ordinary schools of the country, and persons were sent to them to be educated at the expense of the State who were well able to pay for it themselves. His own opinion of the system was that it could not last. If the Roman Catholics and the Protestants were both serious in the work of education, and if both were attached to their religion—as there could be no doubt they were—why not settle the question, as sensible men, in a manner which would produce the greatest good for the country? He had come to the conclusion that, after maintaining a civil warfare for some twenty years, the upshot of the matter would be that the State would demand a good secular education, proportionate to the money it granted, and would leave religious education to be attended to by the different denominations.


said, he had followed the system now for some years, and was convinced that it had been of immense use to the country. Year after year the number of children attending the schools increased, and that was a proof that the system was making great progress in the country. As to one class only being admitted to the schools—which of course the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) meant was only the Roman Catholics—nothing could be further from the true state of things—the right hon. Gentleman would find by turning to the analysis of the children attending the schools, that whereas in 1861 the Protestants of all denominations in Ireland were 22½ per cent, the number of Protestant children attending the schools was 18 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman said that £2,000 was granted last year for monitors in convent schools; but of the total number of schools that had first class monitors appointed, only fifty-seven were convent schools; and, therefore, it was not true to say that the grant was exclusively to give first class monitors to convent schools. When he spoke last year of the grant to the first-class monitors in convent schools, though he expressed some doubt whether it might not be prejudicial to the general education of the country, he was anxious then to give the system a fair trial. Though the system of education) in those schools might be somewhat exclusive, there was no doubt that the education was of a very superior character, and he saw no reason why the system should not receive further expansion. They had accordingly this year taken £2,500 more than last year, in order to give fuller development of the system. He denied altogether that the Board was opposed to the general feeling of the country. It was composed of men of all denominations, and though they might have differences of opinion, they worked harmoniously together and in unison with the feelings of the country. As regarded the question put by his right hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) in reference to the monitorial system, the number of monitors connected with all the schools in Ireland was last year 3,400, and this year 3,600, Last year the grant was £20,000, this year it was £22,500. There was only one monitor to every national school in Ireland, consequently it could not be maintained that the system was not capable of still greater development. As regarded the agricultural schools, there was no doubt that the model farm at Glasnevin had worked a great deal of good, though there might be something wanting in the management of the agricultural schools to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred, A great many of them were let to agriculturists, who paid a certain rent, and who received in addition £30 from the Board for giving agricultural instruction to the boys of the National Schools of the neighbourhood. If any improvement could be made in the system he should be glad to lend a hand. The actual receipts of the Albert Model Farm last year were £1,802 6s. 11d., and the probable receipts were estimated this year at £1,700, which was deducted from the amount granted by Parliament; so that he did not agree that this part of the system required revision. Upon the whole he felt justified in saying that the National system had taken deep root in the country—the annual increase in the number of children attending the schools was a proof that the system was working well, and he could not but believe that the spread of education must be effecting the greatest good in all parts of the country.


said, he wished the monitorial system to be extended, but was anxious to know why the money voted by Parliament had not been applied. He denied the accuracy of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside) as to the practice of the National Board and the Church Education Society. The distinction between the National Board and the Church Education Society was that the former did not force any child to receive any religious instruction to which the parent of the child might object. On the other hand, the Church Education Society refused any child the benefit of secular instruction unless that child received their religious instruction, to which the parent might object. There were now 15,000 Roman Catholic children in those schools receiving religious instruction from persons not of their own persuasion. He protested against the introduction of such a system into Ireland. The first principle of any national system of education which would work in Ireland must be to avoid the suspicion of proselytism (to use the expression of Lord Derby), and therefore he protested against the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had misunderstood him. He did not argue that the parental authority should be set aside; but contended that those who thought with the right hon. Gentleman defied the parental authority. They called that "liberty" which said "If you agree with us we will give you assistance; if you do not we will give you none." His complaint was that if a parent chose to send his child to a school where the Scriptures were taught no assistance from the State was given. The Church Edu- cation Society did not force anybody into its schools, but it announced beforehand that in the schools a portion of the Scriptures were read every day. That was not proselytism. He believed that not one of the 15,000 Roman Catholic children mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman as attending those schools bad changed his religion because the Scriptures were read in them.


said, that the two rules governing the national system in Ireland were plain. One was that in school hours the teaching should be of such a character that all Christians might partake of it; and the other rule was that when religious teaching of a peculiar character was given children whose parents objected should not be compelled to attend. If the schools to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Whiteside) had referred would conform to those simple rules they could receive the benefits of the public grant, but, if they did not, then no amount of eloquence or mystification would entitle them to those advantages.


thought the best way to prevent proselytism would be to introduce the denominational system into Ireland. The national system was calculated to make people believe that religion was a secondary consideration.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £730, Commissioners of Education (Office Expenses), Ireland.

(3.) £6,773, to complete the sum for University of London.

(4.) £14,485, to complete the sum for Universities, &c. in Scotland.

(5.) £2,372, Queen's University in Ireland.

(6.) £3,150, to complete the sum for Queen's Colleges, Ireland.

(7.) £700, Royal Irish Academy.

(8.) £3,400, National Gallery of Ireland.

(9.) £1,500, to complete the sum for Belfast Theological Professors, &c.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £13,336, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1866, for the Expenses of the National Gallery, including the purchase of Pictures.


expressed a hope that the Government would not proceed with the Vote at that hour (twelve o'clock).


said, that Her Majesty's Government had thought it right to give effect to the Vote which the House of Commons had arrived at last year, and they had, therefore, been engaged in framing plans for the enlargement of the National Gallery upon its present site, and the work could be executed from time to time as necessity should arise. The House would have an opportunity of considering the question at the proper time; but the Vote at present before the House was simply for the purchase of pictures and for the ordinary maintenance of the establishment.


hoped some intimation would be given when the Vote would be proposed. The state of the House at the present time warned them that unless the Vote was brought in immediately after the recess there would be little chance of having a House to consider the subject.


said, the House could not be much worse than at present, but there was a hope that after the Whitsuntide recess it would revive; the Vote would be laid upon the table immediately after the recess.


thought the Vote too important to be at once proceeded with, and he should, therefore, move that the Chairman report Progress.

Motion agreed to.

To report Progress.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported on Thursday next.

Committee also report Progress; to sit again on Thursday next.

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