§ MR. LOWE
Mr. Speaker—I rise to move the Resolution of which I have given notice—That this House dissents from so much of the Minute of the Committee of Council on Education as provides for an increase of the Grants now made to Primary Schools.I have to preface what I have to say upon this subject by congratulating the noble Lord (Lord Robert Montagu)—and I must also congratulate Her Majesty's Government—upon his accession to the place of Vice President of the Committee of Council. I beg further to congratulate his party and the country upon the appointment to such a position of a nobleman who holds such enlarged and liberal principles upon the subject of education. I read with the greatest pleasure the speech that the noble Lord delivered at his re-election, from which it would appear that we are at last in a fair way to have settled a question which has proved most irritating, vexatious, and difficult. I saw with much pleasure that the noble Lord intends to adhere to the Conscience Clause, which he intends shall be not only the condition upon which building grants to schools are to be made, but also the condition upon which the annual grants are to be made. I read that declaration with the most sincere pleasure, and I hope that when the noble Lord rises to take part in this debate, he will inform us what measures Her Majesty's Government propose to take in order to give the utmost effect to that most wise and auspicious declaration. I must entreat the patience—which I will endeavour not to exhaust—of the House while I draw its attention to this subject, which is of a very abstract and technical character, though I think the issue before us is one that we can all understand. The question we have to determine is, whether the Education Estimates shall be increased by the sum of ¢70,000, and I ask the House to dissent from that increase being made. I beg not to be misunderstood in making that observation. I would not grudge the sum of £70,000 per annum, or a much larger sum, for the education of the people, if I believed that the money would produces beneficial effect. I have assisted on more than one occasion in reducing the amount of the grant for public education: but on 1177 those occasions I saw that the reductions were consistent with—nay, I believed would be the cause of—the greater efficiency of the system. Therefore, I beg that the House will understand that, although I am a friend to economy, I only uphold economy when combined with efficiency. I think that no sum that this House would grant would be too large if by its aid the education of the people would be rendered more efficient. But the House should recollect that our system of education is a voluntary system, and that it is quite possible to spend large sums upon a voluntary system, not only without increasing, but actually diminishing its efficiency. A voluntary system depends not so much upon grants of public money as upon the spirit of those who volunteer, and if you overload the system by grants of public money you merely clog the efforts of those who are endeavouring to carry it out; you deaden the action of the system rather than enliven it. Now, Sir, in 1862, those who had then the charge of public education saw by the light afforded them by the Report of the Royal Commissioners that the grants were given in such a way, that they were obtained by schools, whether they deserved them or not, that they were given in such a mannner as to impede the control that the manager ought to have over his school; that vested interests were being created which it might be difficult to get rid of, that the system was altogether one of great complexity, and that it could not be expected that any ordinary person who did not devote his time to the subject could really understand it. Acting upon these views, we introduced very large and sweeping changes; we reduced the grants from a large number of heads to two. We allowed 4s. on every child for average attendance, and 2s. 4d. for every child who could satisfy the inspector in reading, the same for writing, and the same for arithmetic, making in all 8s. on each child. By this means we reduced the system of grants to something like simplicity. We did away altogether with grants to teachers, thus avoiding the creation of vested interests, and we also did away with the very pernicious practice of giving bounties to pupil-teachers. This latter part of the system then in force was likely to have had a very bad result, because while the Government paid only one-third of the salaries of the adult assistant teachers, they paid the whole of the salaries of the pupil-teachers, thus giving a premium upon the 1178 employment of pupil instead of adult teachers. It is necessary that I should state these facts in order that the House may fully understand the state of things with which we had to deal. The alterations of 1862 created a great panic among the managers of schools, who succeeded not only in frightening the public but themselves also—Scared by the noise themselves had made,and no doubt for a year or two that panic had a most injurious effect upon the extension of the system. Since that period, however, the advance that the system of education has made has shown that the plan of 1862 has worked most satisfactorily. The increase in the number of schools since 1862 has been 1,035, while the number of pupils has increased by 110,000, and this increase in efficiency has been effected with a saving of expenditure, as calculated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr (Mr. Bruce), of £400,000, but which I am inclined to place at £100,000 higher. We are now asked to add £70,000 to the expenditure, and I should be only too happy to assent to that proposal if I thought that the public would receive a quid pro quo for their money; but I am afraid that by this additional expenditure we shall not be extending the advantages of the present system or giving any real impulse to education. On the contrary, I believe that this additional grant will be wasted where its effect is not mischievous. These certainly are strong assertions, but I will endeavour to prove their truth. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Corry) in proposing this Minute said, that there were three faults in the present system—the first was that the smaller schools were unable to comply with the conditions of the Revised Code—that is, that the conditions were too hard and too stringent for these small schools to comply with them, and that they therefore lost the grant. The second objection was that too much attention was given to reading, writing, and arithmetic—the subjects beyond them of geography, astronomy, grammar, and history being much neglected, and that the pupils were not thoroughly well taught, and, in proof of this allegation, he showed how few pupils passed through the three uppermost examinations. The third objection taken by the right hon. Gentleman was that, under the present system, the number of pupil-teachers had declined very much indeed, and this he considered to be 1179 a very great blow to education. [Mr. CORRY: Hear, hear!] I gather from that expression of assent from the right hon. Gentleman that I have stated his objections correctly, and I need scarcely say that it is my desire to state them as accurately as possible. Now, with regard to the first of these objections, I am not sure that the fact upon which it is founded can be considered an evil. I believe that whatever grants are made they should be uniform, and that if the grants are to bear hardly upon any schools, it should be on the smaller ones, as there is a tendency in the denominational system under which education in England is regulated to make schools small. Each denomination likes its own school. Where there should be only one school there are two or three. I cannot think that that is an evil which counteracts this spirit of subdivision and dispersion, and induces the denominations to coalesce in schools where the education will be better, and where the money will go much further. For the sake of argument, however, I will admit that the regulation upon this point is an evil, and I will presently proceed to show how the right hon. Gentleman proposed to remedy it. I do not see that there is any force in the right hon. Gentleman's second objection, which alleges that reading, writing, and arithmetic are attended to, to the neglect of higher branches of study. This system of education is not intended to apply to the upper or the middle classes, hut to those who are too poor to pay for education themselves. It is a very anomalous system to say the least of it, and I think that we cannot too firmly direct our view to its essential portions, disregarding that which I may, perhaps, describe as its ornamental features. There can be no doubt that an enormous number of children leave school before they are twelve years of age, and if we can teach them to read with facility, to write legibly, and to cast accounts, I think we do a great deal. It is more than we have been able to do up to the present time. My right hon. Friend, however, while complaining of neglect in this direction, complains also that the higher subjects are not sufficiently well taught; but it seems to me that one objection answers the other, for if they cannot teach children to read and write during their school life, what chance have they of teaching them grammar or geography? Then, as to the decline in the number of pupil-teach- 1180 ers. The number of pupil-teachers was artificially increased by the determination of the Privy Council to pay the whole of their salaries from the public money, while a third only of those of the adult teachers was so paid. That policy, of course, gave an enormous bounty upon the employment of pupil-teachers, and it always appeared to me that that was a false principle, contrary even to the very rudiments of political economy. It must also be remembered that until 1862 the teachers received a grant in augmentation of their salaries. This augmentation was then withdrawn, and it was determined that the money should be paid to the managers to do as they pleased with it—a course by which the Government and the teachers were no longer brought into contact with each other. That course was, no doubt, necessary, because vested interests, which would have been intolerable, were growing up under the old system. Having taken the teachers, however, from the hands of Government, and having handed them over to the iron laws of political economy, we now, when the bitterness of grief is past, begin again to tamper with those laws of political economy in a contrary direction, and after throwing the teachers upon the market we now proceed by our bounty to create an artificial supply of competitors. I have been no advocate of certificated masters; it has been my misfortune before now to give them great displeasure; but I cannot conceive greater injustice to that class than to send them into the market, and then artificially to glut that market with competitors, who but for our conduct would not be there. I entirely dissent, therefore, from my right hon. Friend's statement of grievances; and, so dissenting, I cannot be expected to assent to the remedies he proposes. I will, however, for the present, waive all question of assent, and proceed to inquire how far his proposals will remedy the evils of which he complains. I will state what I regard as a crying evil. The crying evil is not, I think, the inevitable fact that while small schools are more expensive to maintain than large ones we are obliged to apply the same measure in all cases. That fact is inseparable front the principles of rendering Government assistance, and the adoption of any other course would give rise to endless disputes. That is not the difficulty of the system. The difficulty is that, being a voluntary system, it is liable to break down for want of volunteers. There 1181 are many parishes in the country where persons will not come forward to assist schools. Consequently those parishes whose inhabitants contribute to the taxes, as well as others, and who have children to be brought up by the State, see this golden river of the Privy Council flowing past them without leaving any of its wealth on their shores. If my right hon. Friend had come forward to supplement what has been done without destroying the system as it exists, I should have thought £70,000, or even a much larger sum, a very small amount to pay for such an object. But the fault of the system does not lie in the direction that my right hon. Friend, from the short time that he has had experience of the office, has not unnaturally supposed it to lie. Now, I come to see how far the remedies which my right hon. Friend proposes are calculated to attain the object for which they are intended. He lays substantially two minutes before us—the one addressed to the question of pupil-teachers, and the other to the question of capitation. At present the school has to employ one certificated master or assistant teacher for every eighty children after the first fifty, and in the new grant he proposes to reduce the number of pupils from which you are to take the departure from fifty to twenty-five. He then proposes to give a grant of £8, I think, for every pupil-teacher who passes a first-class examination in a training college, and £5 for every pupil-teacher who passes a second-class examination. I may inform my hon. Friend (Mr. Stuart Mill) that this ungallant minute refers entirely to the male sex, excluding the female pupil-teachers altogether. Now, this grant will, no doubt, be very acceptable to those schools which by means of capital, energy, and enterprise have done well, and which are well furnished with pupil-teachers, but it will not afford any stimulus to schools which do not possess these advantages. This is a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence. The cost of a pupil-teacher we assumed to be £15 a year, and consequently those who do not already employ the pupil-teachers will not be induced to do so by this grant, because by doing so they will sustain a heavy pecuniary loss. They will have to advance the salary of the pupil-teacher for several years, amounting to perhaps £50, and will receive perhaps £8 at the end of them, perhaps nothing. Now, a grant of that kind I call a waste, because it will be given to 1182 those whose present arrangements will entitle them to it, while, owing to the great discrepancy between the amount of the grant and the expense which would be incurred to obtain it, it will not stimulate the employment of fresh pupil-teachers. Even admitting, therefore—a thing that I entirely dispute—that it is right and proper to spend the public money in turning the market against the certificated masters whom we have deprived of their augmentation, the money would, I believe, still be wasted. I now come to the more important and the more complicated part of the matter. At present 2s. 8d. is granted to the managers of the schools for every child who passes in reading, writing, and arithmetic. This grant my right hon. Friend proposes to increase by 1s. 4d., but he attaches to the payment of the grant to a school the condition that the passes in reading, writing, and arithmetic must exceed 200 per cent of the annual average number of scholars in attendance who are over six years of age—a condition which I take to mean that the passes must be twice as numerous as the pupils above that age, or that each pupil above six years old must pass in two subjects. He then says that the school must have at least one-fifth of the scholars above six years of age passed in the three upper standards, and he says, moreover, that there must be one subject besides reading, writing, and arithmetic in which the inspector shall report the children to be proficient. Now, I would not grudge this or any larger increase if I thought it would do good; but let us take my right hon. Friend's own showing that this is intended to benefit the small schools. Observe, we begin by paying to all schools, small or great. My right hon. Friend will not dispute for a moment, I am sure, that the larger schools are amply paid under the present system. The large schools already get quite as much as we should wish, and perhaps in some cases more. Where a school is in a town and is attended by the children of respectable people who can pay, and pay handsomely, it is in a prosperous state and can afford that tuition which enables it to obtain large grants; but where a school is small and in a remote locality it cannot afford to do so. What, then, does my right hon. Friend propose? He says he wants to help small schools, and in order to help them he gives a grant, 99–100ths of which will go to the large schools which do not want it, while 1183 the small schools can only get the remainder by complying with very strict and difficult conditions which they are notoriously unable to comply with, for they are the very schools which, as he himself admits, are unable to satisfy the existing requirements of the Privy Council. So that the course we are asked to pursue is to make a grant for the aid of small schools, the lion's share, and much more than the lion's share, of which shall go to the large schools, which do not want it: and as to the remainder, to clog it with conditions which shall prevent the small schools getting even that. And that is what is called stimulating and assisting small schools! Sir, if that is not a waste of public money, I do not know what is. It is doubtless desirable to assist small schools if possible, but the difficulties are great. In assisting small schools there are two principles upon which we may proceed. If we are to give grants for efficiency, it is impossible to assist small and poor schools to the same extent that we do large ones. If we are to give it for need, we may indeed do that, but it will break down the whole system. Between these two alternatives we are placed, and what I submit is that my right hon. Friend has not extricated himself from either. He has not broken down his system by giving to poor schools, but what he has done is this—while he has had in view giving assistance to small schools, poorly supported and weak in their staff, he has really given a quantity of prizes to large schools that do not want it. I do hope, therefore, that the House will pause before they grant £70,000 to be expended in this manner. As I said before, it is not here that the shoe pinches; it is in a different direction—it is in the inability of the voluntary system to extend itself all over the country. I think my right hon. Friend has turned his attention in the wrong direction. The problem he had to solve was not to give more grants to schools that do not want it, in the vain hope of giving it to those which do, but to extend the system and make it pervade the country. Education I know has an all-atoning sound, and it appears very invidious to refuse anything that is asked for in its name. If my right hon. Friend can show us that this money will do any substantial good to the cause of education, by all means let us vote it; but, till I am answered, I shall maintain that I have shown the House that the objects which my right hon. Friend wishes to attain are not objects which it is 1184 peculiarly desirable to attain, while even assuming that they are desirable his means entirely miss the end he has in view. They would not in reality largely increase the number of pupil-teachers, they would not give any impulse to studies beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic, and would not do anything worth speaking of towards helping small schools; for, while my right hon. Friend makes grants and spends an enormous sum of public money to be able to include them, he annexes conditions which would effectually exclude them. It is like the old story of the man who could not think of any way of roasting his pig except burning down his house. I beg to submit this also—that having got a system which works efficiently and economically, we should do wisely for the present to let it alone; and for this reason—that such is the feeling of nervousness and anxiety all over the country from the changes that have been made, and made under the compulsion of the Report of the Commission, that even a beneficial change—a change by which more public money finds its way to managers of schools—will be looked upon with jealousy, because it will shake the feeling that this matter is not likely to be tampered with. I think managers of schools are entitled to this security as long as the system under which they act does really perform what its projectors contemplated. As long as schools go on increasing, and the attendance of children becomes larger year by year—as long as the grant is kept within reasonable proportions, we should not interfere with it and alter the conditions, because the inference is obvious, that the same interference which in a hot fit adds to these grants, may, in a cold fit, take away from them. Nothing is more desirable than that those on whose money we count to support the schools should feel that they have something permanent and definite on which they can count, and adapt their arrangements to it. I am quite sure that the changes which were made in 1862, however much they were repined at at the time, have given the present system a new lease and a new chance. I do not regard that system as abstractedly right, and I have never concealed that opinion; but I should be most unwilling to see it swept away, because before a new system could be organized on its ruins—and it has struck deep roots into the country—the education of one generation of Englishmen would be nearly lost in the course of the transition from the old to the new. Try, therefore, 1185 by all the means you can to extend the system where it has not yet reached; keep it economical, that it may be popular and tolerable; above all things, look carefully to its efficiency, and then I think we shall be in a condition, when some few years have passed, to see whether the system can be moulded or extended so as to be worthy to be a national system, or whether it must give way to something more logical. Of this I am quite sure, that those are the worst enemies of the system who, for whatever reason, tamper with it—whether from feeling the difficulties which managers have to contend with, or perhaps from a feeling of the great popularity to be gained all over the country by undoing changes which were wrought out with so much unpopularity to those who made them. If once it is understood that he who tries to economise the public money and to secure efficiency is only labouring to give some one else a douceur to give away and so acquire popularity, the death knell of the system is sounded, and it must make way for something which, whether more efficient or not, will be more in accordance with the feelings of Parliament and the reasonable wants of the country.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House dissents from so much of the Minute of the Committee of Council on Education as provides for an increase of the Grants now made to Primary Schools,"—(Mr. Lowe.)
Although I am no longer connected with the Department which this Minute concerns, yet as the author of the plan on which it is founded, I think it right to say a few words in its defence. My right hon. Friend has stated that while he regarded it as a great mistake to add £70,000 to the Education Vote, he would not complain of that large expenditure if he believed it would conduce to any useful purpose; but that not believing it would do so, he felt it his duty to oppose it. I quite agree that if this additional expenditure would not serve any useful end the House ought to refuse to grant it; but I am convinced not only that it will be usefully employed, but that the state of education in some of the schools receiving a public grant is becoming such as to render it absolutely necessary. My right hon. Friend has remarked that one of the objects of the Minute is to give assistance to 1186 small schools, which is quite true. But he has added that he does not look on the exclusion of small schools from sharing in the grants as an evil. My right hon. Friend stated on a recent occasion that his position was one of isolation, and that he could not get any one to agree with him. But in this instance he does not even agree with himself; because in 1862, when he explained the Revised Code to the House, after having enumerated 964 parishes, in five counties only, having a population of less than 600, which derived no assistance from the State, he said—These districts contribute to the revenue equally with others; and it is exceedingly desirable, on the ground both of justice and policy, that they should receive back some share of the money."—[3 Hansard, clxv. 199.]Yet my right hon. Friend now thinks the exclusion of small schools is not an evil.
I am glad to find that my right hon. Friend admits the exclusion of small schools to be a great evil. It must, therefore, be desirable to give them some assistance. My right hon. Friend went on to state that although it had been complained that under the existing system the education given in schools was almost exclusively confined to reading, writing, and arithmetic—grammar, English history, and geography being neglected—he did not think that that was an evil, because the great object in educating the children of the poor was to teach them reading, writing, and arithmetic. On a former occasion I quoted the opinions of some of the most intelligent of the inspectors of schools, who agreed in regretting the practical exclusion of higher subjects. I do not want to introduce any very ambitious system of education; but I certainly think it desirable that children should know something of the country in which they live, and something of what its history has been. During the autumn I happened to be in a country town, in which there were several Protestant schools and one Roman Catholic school. I happened one day to meet a respectable looking boy and got into conversation with him. In answer to my questions he told me he was eleven years old, and had lately left 1187 school, that he had never learnt anything of geography, and had never heard of such places as Dublin, or Edinburgh. I then asked him whether he had been at the Roman Catholic or at a Protestant school? He said a Protestant, and when I further inquired if he knew the difference between a Protestant and a Roman Catholic, he said, "Oh! the Roman Catholics are people who burn candles in the daylight,"—which this intelligent youth considered a convincing proof of the errors of Popery. I am not quite certain whether the boy's answers may not have put it into my head that this was a common case of neglect in all schools, and so have led to the inquiry which resulted in the framing of this Minute. My right hon. Friend alleges that if the reading, writing, and arithmetic are not in a satisfactory state it affords a conclusive argument against teaching boys grammar and history; but I remember quite well that when I proposed my Minute, some weeks ago, my predecessor in the office of Vice President of the Council (Mr. Bruce)—for whose ability and judgment everything that I saw when I was in that office inspired me with the greatest respect—agreed with me, and disagreed with my right hon. Friend; for he stated that, in his experience, in whatever schools the higher subjects were successfully taught, there also reading, writing, and arithmetic were also found to be most carefully attended to. Therefore, my right hon. Friend (Mr Lowe), I think, fails to make out his argument that teaching the higher subjects tends to weaken the instruction in the elementary branches. With regard to the number of children examined and their proficiency, I will again state what the latest statistics show. The average attendance of children in England and Wales for the year ending the 31st of August was 863,240, of which number 566,371 were presented for examination. 284,027 of these passed the three lower standards, and upwards of 80,000 in the fifth or higher standard. But the number of those who passed Standard VI, or the highest standard, was 13,000 only, out of a total of 566,000. My right hon. Friend stated, not in a speech, but in a much more formal manner—that is to say, in the Report of the Committee of Council for Education for the years 1861–2, drawn up by himself and by my noble Friend Lord Granville—We regret that our first proposal to examine 1188 children for grants according to their age had to be withdrawn. We cannot think that the opposition which this measure, adopted upon the recommendation of the Royal Commissioners, encountered rested upon good grounds. The school itself, for the purpose of instruction, must, of course, have continued to be organized according to proficiency; but age and proficiency coincide, in fact, far oftener than not. The change of arrangement for examination (supposing such a change to be necessary, which it is not) would have been partial only. The reason for examining according to age was this; the amount of proficiency required by Standard VI. represents the minimum of book instruction which can be put to practical use in life. Less than this is almost sure to be forgotten, because it cannot be used with pleasure or profit.Only 13,000, therefore, out of 566,000 have attained the standard which my right hon. Friend thinks the minimum amount of book learning that can be of practical use to a child. When it became my duty to consider these things I came to the conclusion that it was absolutely necessary to give some further encouragement to education, and to raise it from the state of stagnation in which I found it. With that view I recommended to Her Majesty's Government, by whom it was adopted, the Minute which I had the honour to propose some weeks ago. My right hon. Friend refers to pupil-teachers, and considers there is no necessity for encouraging an increase of their numbers. But men who know as much of education as my right hon. Friend himself—Mr. Tuffnell, for instance, in his evidence before the Education Committee, and nearly the whole of the twenty-three inspectors of schools in England, whose general Reports are appended to the last Report of the Committee of Council—allude not only to the decline in the number of pupil-teachers, but express the greatest alarm at the growing deficiency. I will not trouble the House with quotations; but the deterioration in the character of the education given in some of our schools is almost universally attributed to the falling off in the number of the pupil-teachers. My right hon. Friend talks of this attempt of mine to increase the number of pupil-teachers as inconsistent with the principles of political economy. I do not care what the principles of political economy may be; but this I will say, that, as the Minister charged with the education of the people of the country, when I found a great falling off in teaching power, and by the reduction in the number of pupil-teachers a great injury resulting to the education of the children, and when 1189 I found, moreover, a great diminution in the supply of candidates for the certificate, threatening to break down the whole system of certificated teachers, it appeared to me that my duty was clear to take immediate action, and I lost no time in submitting the outlines of the Minute for the consideration of the Cabinet. I do not care whether I violated the rules of political economy or not; my object was to improve the quality of the teaching in the schools by increasing the number of pupil-teachers; and, notwithstanding the sinister auguries of my right hon. Friend, I have no doubt that the Minute will effect the object at which it aims. My right hon. Friend says that before the introduction of the Revised Code, the salary of a pupil-teacher was £15 on the average of the five years of apprenticeship. But at that time the State paid the salary of the pupil-teacher, and the State always pays more than persons in private life. I inquired a short time ago from a very intelligent diocesan inspector what was the average rate of payment to pupil-teachers in his district, and he told me about £9 a year. That was in a rural district; in an urban district it would undoubtedly be higher. But, at all events, the rate of £15 put by my right hon. Friend is far above the present average even in large towns. As to the cost of an extra pupil-teacher, you must remember that additional teaching power can hardly fail to produce additional results of teaching; and that it must, therefore, be assumed that the number of passes would be increased by the employment of a greater number of pupil-teachers. In looking over one of the Inspectors' Reports recently received, but not yet presented to the House, I found a particular school mentioned, in which a pupil-teacher having been dismissed, through the poverty of the school, there had been a falling off of 30 per cent in the number of the passes, and, of course, the payment on results to which the school was entitled was diminished in proportion. It may naturally be inferred that if, under this Minute, a pupil-teacher is again employed in this school, the payment on passes would be restored to its former amount, which would be a further contribution towards the salary of the pupil-teacher. My right hon. Friend is of opinion that the educational conditions required by the Minute are too stringent, and that few schools will be able to fulfil them; but they were very carefully con- 1190 sidered by my right hon. Friend the President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Gathorne Hardy), by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for India (Sir Stafford Northcote), by Mr. Lingen, and by two of the inspectors of schools, and they all came to the conclusion that they were not too severe. In point of fact, the conditions, in general, require less than what the average of schools now accomplish—our object being to place the increased rate of payment within the reach of indifferent schools, and thus lead to their improvement. One of the points made by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe) was that this additional grant of £8 would be mainly for the benefit of large schools which did not want it, to the exclusion of others by which it was really more needed. But I can assure my right hon. Friend that he is quite wrong in that respect. He says all these large schools are very rich. I believe a great many of them are very poor. A clergyman—the incumbent of a parish in London—told me some time ago that the managers of the school in his district were obliged to work it at the minimum cost possible—which he explained to mean that, whenever the limit as to numbers prescribed by the Code was reached, they suspended the further entry of children, as their funds could not afford the expense of an additional pupil-teacher. That is a state of things far from satisfactory. The effect, then, of this Minute will be not only to give assistance to necessitous small schools, but also to such large schools as may require it. I should have thought that my right hon. Friend would have been the very last person in the House to object to the Minute, because its objects are in strict conformity with the views which he himself expressed in the year 1862, but which the Revised Code has in some respects failed to realize. It offers some assistance to small schools with the view of helping them to fulfil the conditions which would entitle them to a public grant—and this my right hon. Friend stated to be in accordance with every principle of policy and justice. It holds out inducements to improved teaching, and I have shown that, under the existing system, the results fall far below the minimum which my right hon. Friend considers indispensable. It encourages the employment of a pupil-teacher where there are sixty-five children in average attendance, instead of ninety, as at present, and the original draft of the Revised Code, as prepared by my right hon. Friend, pro- 1191 posed that there should be a pupil-teacher for every thirty children. If you are of opinion that one unassisted teacher can be capable of instructing eighty-nine children of various ages, vote with the right hon. Gentleman—if not, vote with me. If you consider the results of the examinations, as shown by the statistics I have quoted, to be satisfactory, vote with him—if not vote with me. In short, if you wish to discourage education you will vote with him, but if you wish to encourage it, you will vote with me.
§ MR. POWELL
said, that on former occasions he had made complaints of the continual changes of the system, on the ground that they produced uncertainty and prevented its extension and expansion. But the difficulty arose to a great extent from the fact that all the changes had been in the direction of economy. It was rather surprising, in the present state of politics, to find the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) such a persistent advocate for fixity and permanence of system. The right hon. Gentleman looked upon the Revised Code with the view of some ancient law-giver, who desired that his laws should remain in a state of fixedness. The right hon. Gentleman himself stated, before the Committee on Education, that he—Considered the Minutes as they then existed did very well, and felt like Lycurgus did when he made the Spartans promise to keep his laws until he came back again.But even Lycurgus was a benevolent man, and would have had no objection to an improvement of his laws to meet an altered state of society. He (Mr. Powell) hoped that means would be found to improve our educational system which would be consistent with perfect efficiency. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to underrate the difficulty of school management; and he had not borne in mind the necessity for a high standard of teaching. The children of the working classes came from homes where books were rare, and the faculty for using them with advantage rarer still; and this rendered it necessary that they should have a much more powerful teaching staff. No doubt there was a great diminution of pupil-teachers. This would cause in time a reduction in the number of masters. Therefore, the Government were bound to take into consideration this state of things. The deficiency existed more with 1192 regard to males than females; and therefore he thought that the Government had done right in giving the greater stimulus to male teachers. No doubt with regard to small schools the great difficulty had been that they did not receive sufficient assistance from educational grants. In many small parishes there did exist schools; but the education was of a very defective character, and he understood that it was the intention of the Government gently to draw these schools within their influence, and to supply them with a higher class of teachers, in the hope that education might receive a corresponding advance. He believed that under the proposed system a considerable number of small schools would be drawn within Government influence. The right hon. Gentleman omitted to consider that as schools increased they would require an increased number of pupil-teachers; that they must increase the number of pupil-teachers to supply the place of those who passed into training colleges; and that inducements must be offered to managers to effect these objects. He (Mr. Powell) thought that it was a wise and just provision that children must pass a higher standard in a greater proportion before the schools could derive advantage from the increased grant; for there was reason to suppose that the children were too often kept within the lower standard. He believed that the absence of teaching in the higher subjects was a great deficiency of our present system, and that they should teach reading and writing with a double object—first, that of merely teaching it; and secondly, that of impressing the minds of the pupils with higher knowledge. In some parts of the Continent education had been narrowed, as with us, to its very elements; but last year a proposal was made to improve education in France, and part of the plan was to teach geography and the history of the country. The Minute appeared to him to be beneficial.
said, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe) had divided his attack on the Minute into two parts. In the first place, he said that nothing was required; in the second place, he argued that if anything was required the present attempt to overcome the objections to the Revised Code was ineffective and futile. Great as had been the exertions of his right hon. Friend, great as had been his courage, and great as had been his public virtue in passing that Code, still he (Mr. Bruce) was far from saying that 1193 the system was perfect and could not be improved. What had been the immediate effect of the Revised Code? All must agree that it had pressed very heavily on the resources of the managers. He had stated the other day, and he adhered to the calculation, that the schools were now receiving two-fifths less than they would have received under the old Code—namely, £622,000 instead of £1,000,000. Economy was a great advantage; but his right hon. Friend had himself said that if it could be shown that the schools had suffered by an excess of economy he should be the first to sanction a larger grant. His right hon. Friend had referred to certain defects as being inherent in the voluntary system.
said, his right hon. Friend in his last speech on the subject had warned the House against the patching-up of the system. It was, indeed, a defective system; but whose fault was that? Over and over again Parliament had been asked by statesmen of the greatest eminence to endow the country with a system which would be adequate to its wants, and to supply it with a really national system of education. Earl Russell had asked Parliament to lay down the principle that every district should be obliged to supply itself with schools. A proposal had also been made by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Pakington) that such districts should be at liberty to levy rates to defray the cost of schools. The House, however, refused to adopt either principle, and the result was that the Committee of Council on Education were compelled to adopt the present system, which, he admitted, was a wasteful one. He stated the other day that a small school ordinarily cost from 35s. to 45s. per head on the inhabitants of the place, whereas a large school could generally be conducted at a cost of between 18s. and 25s. per head. Those figures showed plainly enough that, if possible, more assistance should be given to small schools than to large ones. But when the attempt was made to remedy the defects of the system, which was less generous to the poor than to the rich districts, it was met by the opposition of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe). The practical difficulty was to define what were large and what were small schools. At present about 9s. per head was given to all scholars alike by the Government, 1194 and the consequence was that the small schools laboured under difficulties unfelt by the larger ones. Unfortunately, too, financial difficulty meant imperfect teaching. Nobody had been more strenuous than his right hon. Friend in asserting the principle that a school depended upon the teacher, and that a certificated teacher was essential to a good school. He (Mr. Bruce) went even further than that, and maintained that a sufficient staff of masters was more especially essential in small schools. The difficulties encountered by small schools in reference to the subdivision of classes were very great indeed. Having but few masters it became necessary for them to group together children of very different attainments, and the consequence was that the progress made by the pupils was less than in the large schools. When he held office in connection with the Committee of Council on Education, he felt that the small schools were suffering on account of their not possessing a sufficient amount of teaching power, and his noble Friend (Earl Granville) and himself accordingly tried to devise means for remedying the evil. Without saying that the proposals which they would have brought under the notice of Parliament were identical with those submitted by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry), he must at least admit that they would have been similar in principle. In regard to this matter he felt bound to say that the Revised Code was partly to blame. Under the old Code, after the first fifty children a pupil-teacher might be employed for every forty children, and, being paid by the State, he always was employed. The result was that there was always a staff of teachers adequate to, and sometimes in excess of, the requirements of the school. Under the Revised Code it was not necessary to employ a second teacher until the number of children reached ninety, and the result was that the minimum number of teachers required to obtain the grant were almost invariably engaged, to the manifest injury of the school. No doubt great benefits had been derived from other parts of the system, such as the scheme of individual examinations; but those benefits had been diminished in consequence of there not being sufficient teaching power. In 1861 the number of pupil-teachers was about 16,000; but now, when there were about 350,000 more children in the schools than there were then, the number of teachers was reduced to about 11,000. Yet at this very 1195 time Parliament was engaged in considering measures to compel children to go to school under the half-time system, the effect of which would be to send hundreds of thousands to schools. Should it, then, be to good or to bad schools? In his judgment, it would be well to insist that children employed on the half-time system should be sent only to such schools as were provided with certificated masters. When they were about largely to increase the number of schools there was no fear, in this country at least, that the position of the certificated masters would be injured by an excess of supply. The evidence of the representatives of the British and Foreign Schools, before the Select Committees which sat in 1865 and 1866, was in favour of certificated masters, and they said that the reason why they were debarred from receiving assistance from the State was because they could not get a sufficient supply of such masters. Such being the case, was it not the duty of the State, which had undertaken so much for the education of the people, to provide also for the supply of sufficient and competent masters? His right hon. Friend had said that if any schools were to suffer it was well that the small schools should, because their smallness was owing to the denominational system which multiplied schools unnecessarily. But surely his right hon. Friend must be aware that the fact of a school being small was generally owing to the thinness of the population, and that the small schools were ordinarily to be found in the rural districts. Therefore, they had a primâ facie claim for a special amount of assistance. But the right hon. Gentleman said that the effect of giving increased assistance would be not that the small schools which required it would receive it, but that some large schools which were already more than sufficiently paid would receive in most cases this assistance, without wanting it. It was undoubtedly true that large schools in flourishing districts might often do without State assistance at all; but that was the result of the existing system, and Parliament had over and over again refused to adopt a wiser and more elastic one. At the same time there were many large schools, for the maintenance of which the necessary funds could not be at all easily raised. In the East of London, for instance, and in the outskirts of all our populous towns, it would almost be impossible to obtain the requisite funds without raising 1196 the fees, and the effect of raising the fees would obviously be to keep the poorest children away from the schools. He was far from finding fault with the Minute of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry), because it was too liberal; indeed, as the right hon. Gentleman had undertaken the task of dealing with these defects in our system, he wished he had been more liberal. Instead of the 800,000 or 900,000 now at school in England and Wales, there ought to be 2,000,000. A great many schools were kept from receiving State assistance because they were unable to comply with the pecuniary conditions required by the Government. By the proposals of the Government the grant to a school of 100 children could not exceed £8, and this could not be earned except upon conditions which, however wholesome in themselves, were difficult to comply with. It was proposed that an additional grant, which certainly would not have the effect of choking and overwhelming the voluntary system, should be made to all schools with an average attendance of sixty-five children. Even that additional grant, however, could not be made without conditions. It was certainly right and desirable that every child on leaving school should know reading, writing, and arithmetic, and, indeed, in his opinion, they ought also to know something of geography, history, and other subjects. He repeated the assertion he had made on another occasion, that where these subjects were taught best the lower branches of instruction were also best taught. The results desiderated could be attained only by increasing the teaching staff; and vast numbers of schools were at present unable to employ certificated masters. The new Minute had in view the double object of increasing the teaching power in our schools and of raising the standard of elementary education. Whether the measures proposed were sufficient or not, time would prove. But they were in the right direction, and had therefore his sympathy and support.
said, he had listened with great interest to what fell from the right hon. Member (Mr. Lowe) in the attack he made on the Minute. Having heard the answer, he could not say that the attack had been sustained. There could be no doubt that when the Revised Code came into operation, there was a tendency to a great redundancy of pupil-teachers: but that tendency had been checked. It would be interesting to learn 1197 from figures, which must be accessible, the number of certificated masters that would probably meet the wants of the country; and the average yearly number of pupil-teachers it would take to supply that want. The matter was one calling for nicety of calculation, which, perhaps, Do one official person alone could make. He would not venture to express an opinion as to whether a surplus was being created; but he was quite disposed to bow to the authority of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Corry), who had the best opportunities of forming a judgment; and both the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Bruce) seemed to consider that there was a falling off, and that something was required to bring the number up again. There could be no reasonable objection to that part of the Minute which related to the aiding of the smaller schools. He hailed it as a pleasing symptom, and as an evidence of an indisposition to be bound by cast-iron rule. It must be remembered that the Privy Council really aided the voluntary effort of the country; that there was no system apart from that effort; and that the Government simply afforded in grants a limited amount of public money, to supplement the still greater voluntary contributions of the public. Sometimes the Privy Council was disposed to look too closely into the circumstances of a case which might greatly need their aid, and which their system did not reach. He had never spoken on this subject without expressing his regret that the Privy Council did not think that it came within the scope of their duty to endeavour to reach many of those forlorn children which in all great centres of the population were left untouched and without any assistance at all. They were the most needy, and yet they never had anything. He was consoled, however, by the fact that the Privy Council, taking a step towards those whom hitherto they had not reached, were in the right path. Therefore he would be sorry to express an opinion hostile to what the Privy Council were doing, and would give his support to the Minute as far as it went. The subject was a difficult one, and no doubt involved an enormous amount of official trouble. It was a great advantage in a public office to lay down a strict rule, and not to deviate from it; but the consequence of that must be that while spending enormous sums in aid, those who most needed aid were not reached. The 1198 Minute evinced a disposition to act upon rule, because it had been framed to meet the wants of the smaller schools only; but if some of the larger schools reaped any advantage, he, for one, should not grudge them it. He hoped that those for whom it was primarily intended would be able to take advantage of it.
§ MR. PUGH,
who rose amid cries for a division, said, he would be very short. He knew what time it was, and what hour it struck last—Uteroque recussoInsonucre cavæ gemitumque dedêre cavernæ.He wished to state briefly that he cordially supported the policy of the Government as indicated in this Minute, because it showed their desire to remove some of the difficulties of the rural districts, and to render assistance to their schools. He had no wish to undermine the Revised Code, of which the principle was good—namely, payment for results, and he did not believe the Government wished to undermine it. They were too wise in their generation; but it could not be denied that, while the old Code had ignored the rural districts, the Revised Code had, from the difficulty of the subject, or from other causes, continued the ignoramus. The rural districts had long reminded him of a celebrated character of former times, of mournful celebrity, who said that he came asking but little, and getting less than little, and that sufficient for him; and he went on to say—and the parallel still held good—that his adversities, his antiquity, and the nobility of his nature taught him to be contented. The rural districts had not murmured, had not made themselves heard, had sounded no note of expostulation; but they thought that, in comparison with towns and other highly favoured regions, they were to a certain extent left out in the cold.Unconscious they in waste oblivion lie—In all the world of busy life aroundNo thought of them.And yet it would be unjust to say that their case had not often engaged anxious attention. After a diligent consideration of the question for many years, he was unable to point out any party, or any section of any party in that House, from which there had not at some time proceeded a cordial admission that the Codes, however beneficent in their action in other quarters, had failed to benefit the rural districts.Quæ regio in terris nostri non plena laboris?1199 But he had a confidence in the wisdom and justice of Parliament that induced him to believe that for Parliament to know of a grievance, to be conscious of its existence, was, sooner or later, effectually to redress it. He believed that the Government were anxious to take a step in that direction, and he thanked them for their good intentions.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, it would have been far better to have left the question of education in the hands of the people and intrusted it to their voluntary action, than to have deranged the taxation of the country by the making of grants in aid. Many of the young persons who had been trained as pupil-teachers at the expense of the State had turned clerks or adopted some other profitable occupation. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) had done himself great honour by his attempts to stem the flow of money from the Public Exchequer for the purpose of education. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) would take the sense of the House; and, sooner or later, it would be proved that he was right.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 203; Noes 40: Majority 163.
§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."