HC Deb 03 July 1868 vol 193 cc644-53

My original purpose was to have called the attention of the House at some length to the Report on Scotch Burgh and Middle Class Schools, which has been laid on the table this year by the same Commissioners who last year reported upon elementary schools in Scotland. When I put my Notice on the Paper, however, hoped that, before my Motion came on, we should have had the advantage of listening to a full discussion of that very remarkable document which the Schools Inquiry Commissioners for England have recently given us—a document which will, I am sure, as soon as the country has got its mind sufficiently clear of electoral cares to give an earnest attention to it, be recognized as a most valuable contribution to the better ordering and happiness of this great nation. In that hope I have been disappointed, if, indeed, I can say that I really am disappointed that a Parliament—wearied with the agitations of a Session during which Members have been morally tossed in a blanket, to a degree which the nerves of few can stand—should not have its last hours embittered by being questioned as to its opinion on the details or even the principles of secondary education. Feeling, however, as I do, that Scotch educational reformers will have their hands greatly strengthened by the noble Report of the English Commissioners, and believing that the Scotch Commissioners would have given us a Report of somewhat wider scope and range if they had not known that the whole subject of secondary education was being concurrently considered in England, I have abandoned my original purpose, and shall confine myself to a very few remarks on matters with regard to which I should like to elicit the opinion of the learned Lord opposite (the Lord Advocate). I turn, then, to the recommendations of the Commissioners, printed at the end of their Report, and to these I shall confine myself. They occupy little more than one widely printed octavo page. The first two of these, relating to superannuation allowances and giants for building, do not call for any special remark; for everyone will, I think, agree in the policy recommended, at least everyone who knows that the total endowment of all Burgh Schools under the partial or exclusive management of Town Councils does not exceed £3,000 a year, while the fees amount to £42,000. Then comes the 3rd— In consideration of the aid thus contributed, all Burgh Schools and the buildings and offices of such schools should be examined every year by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, who should report both as regards the efficiency of the teaching and the state of the buildings and offices. The Inspectors should have like access to Burgh Schools for these purposes, as is possessed in relation to elementary schools. Now, this recommendation seems to me the most important of all, because, although our Burgh and Middle Class Schools are most terribly in want of money, they are even more in want of guidance—guidance from persons who, being thoroughly familiar with all that is being done in those countries where secondary education has been brought to its highest pitch, can aid find co-operate with those whose experience has been, from the nature of things, confined to a narrower field. It is infinitely to the credit of the masters of Scotch Burgh and Middle Class Schools that they should have thoroughly recognized this. Here is the passage from the Report of the Assistant Commissioners which the Commissioners incorporate in their Report with regard to this subject— In the notes of Particulars of Inquiry, which we were instructed to distribute among the teachers in the different schools, the question bearing on this subject is in these words— 'Would it in your opinion be an advantage or otherwise if the Burgh Schools were examined annually, and reported on by independent examiners?' To this question we have received 105 answers from teachers in all the important schools in Scotland. Of these answers, 84, or 80 per cent, are in the affirmative, 11 are in the negative, and 10 are doubtful—that is to say, 80 per cent of the best teachers in the Public Middle Class Schools consider that it would be of advantage to their schools if they were examined annually, and reported on by independent examiners. Nothing can be more satisfactory than this result, and there is no feature connected with the inquiry which reflects greater credit upon the teachers throughout Scotland than this desire which they have expressed to exhibit the true condition of their schools, and to secure the benefit of independent examination. It is of a piece with the perfect courtesy with which they received us when we visited the schools, and with the liberal manner in which they gave us every assistance in arriving at an estimate of the work done in the schools. It will be remarked that there is no mention of any recompense or return in exchange for the liberty of examination. They say simply and definitely it will be of advantage to the schools if they be examined. Then we come to recommendation No. 4, relating to tenure, which I pass by for the present. The 5th recommendation is as follows:— In cases where, from the want of a Burgh School, the Parochial School discharges the functions of a Secondary School, we recommend that special grants should be made to the master by the Treasury in order to encourage the study of the higher subjects. Now, I think one may safely say that, without some such arrangement as this, it will be found impossible to devise a system of education which will satisfy the people of Scotland. The Commissioners most properly point out that the theory of our school system, as originally conceived by Knox and others, was to supply every member of the community with the means of obtaining for his children not only the elements of education, but such instruction as would fit him to pass to the Burgh School, and thence to the University, or directly to the University from the Parish School. They observe at page 10 of their Report— The connection between the Parochial and Burgh Schools and the University is therefore one essential element in our scheme of national education. The only way in which this clement can be preserved is by insisting that the teachers in every Burgh or Secondary School, and many of the Parochial Schools, should be capable of instructing their pupils, not only in the subjects common to all Primary Schools, but in the elements of Latin, mathematics, and Greek. To be satisfied with any standard of competency inferior to this would be to lower the character of education which has hitherto prevailed in this country, to deprive meritorious poverty of the means of gratifying a legitimate ambition, and to destroy the link which has hitherto united our schools with our Universities, and which, according to universal consent, has proved of the utmost value to the people of this country.": I do not think that our educational system in Scotland will be put on a satisfactory footing until the highest authority in matters of education—that is to say, this House—thoroughly accepts the sentiments conveyed in this extract. Of course the first thing to be looked to is that every child in the country shall have an opportunity of receiving the very elements of education—shall be put in a position, that is to say, to be a real human being, as distinguished from a featherless biped. That end would be to a great extent accomplished if we passed the Bill which the Commissioners suggested last year. If we passed that Bill, or a Bill pretty like it, for there are numbers of details connected with this subject which, for all I care, may be settled in any one of half-a-dozen ways, if only something substantial is done for widening the area of education and undenominationalizing it. If that, I say, were done, the next thing to he attended to is this excellent recommendation of the Commissioners about favouring by public grants the teaching of the higher branches. These grants to the elementary schools should be liberal. We are quite in favour of the thoroughness of the Revised Code, and its payments by results properly estimated, We do not want schoolmasters to slight the lower part of their work, under the plea that they are attending to the higher part of it; but then we say a good man can perfectly attend to both, and we will not have the narrowness of the Revised Code forced upon us. We are not at this time of day going to put the ship about, and go off in a direction opposite to that in which we have been sailing for three centuries. Now we come to the 6th recommendation, with which I entirely disagree, and which is as follows:— Excepting in these particulars, we do not recommend that further grants of public money should be made on account of Burgh Schools in Scotland, nor any other alteration in their management or superintendence. I think, Sir, that the Commissioners have left out two most important suggestions, which they ought to have included in their recommendations, and which are strongly urged by their Assistant Commissioners at page 146 of their Report. The first of these is, that there should be established in parts of Scotland where the Burgh and Middle Class School accommodation is insufficient, district schools, to which all boys might go when they had passed through the elementary school, if they could afford it; and to which boys who could not afford it from their own resources might go by the help of small exhibitions, gained by competitive examination at the elementary schools. These district schools should give a thoroughly good education to boys up to sixteen or seventeen, and should have both a classical side and a modern side, so as to prepare at once for the Universities or for active life. Without these the giants for advanced teaching to elementary schoolmasters would not be enough—although, as I have said, very valuable. I do not want very many of these schools to begin with—four or six in the whole country, perhaps, to act as models; but then they should be first-rate of their kind, as good, say, as the Zurich secondary schools, and that means, as hon. Gentlemen who have seen these remarkable institutions will know, something very good indeed. With regard to the exhibitions, I think it would be quite fair if the Committee of Council were only to meet local benevolence half way. The creation of small exhibitions—bursaries we call them—to support young men at the University, has long been a favourite object of Scotch benevolence. We have quite enough of these for all purposes—nay, some might say, too many; for they are constantly given away by mere favour, and not as the result of competitive examination. If the Committee of Council were to lead the way, it would soon find people ready to follow it on this road. The 7th and last recommendation relates to the great educational foundations, known in Scotland as Hospitals, which possess about £50,000 a year; but about them I shall say nothing, preferring to wait, in the hope that public opinion, and the opinion of those connected with these institutions, will be gradually led to see means for rendering them more generally useful than they now are, by the educational discussions which are sure to occupy a very large share of public attention from 1869 onward. Before sitting down, I have only to add that I have read with great pleasure the interesting and remarkable Report of Messrs. Harvey and Sellar. Some controversy is going on in various parts of Scotland as to the accuracy or inaccuracy of various parts of it. That of course is inevitable, and the result will no doubt be to sift their statements, and enable each locality to know the exact state of affairs. One thing is sufficiently clear, and that is, that between the Report to which I am alluding—the Report of Mr. Fearon—and the Report of Messrs. Demogeot and Mantuci, we have really got as complete a picture of our Scotch secondary education as we need want. One word as to the Report of Mr. Fearon. It is an excellent Report, but, in reading it, we should bear in mind that it was addressed for English purposes to an English Commission. It was intended to show to inefficient masters of well-endowed schools in England how much is done with comparatively slender appliances by many schoolmasters on the other side of the Tweed. It made me think of the Germania of Tacitus, which was, we are told, intended not only to set forth the virtues of the barbarians, but to satirize the vices of Rome. Good as it is, it would do positive harm in Scotland, if it led our schoolmasters to try themselves only by an English standard. Luckily, it is bound up with Mr. Arnold's Report upon Foreign Schools, so that our Scotch schoolmasters may work out a higher ideal for themselves by the study of his pages. Give the Burgh and Middle Class Schoolmasters of Scotland good pay, honourable treatment, good models, and the constant disinterested advice of men whose abilities and profound knowledge of education they cannot fail to recognize—and no others should be appointed inspectors—and you will soon have a corps d'elite which will hold its own with any similar body of men in the world.


said, that the questions to which the hon. Gentleman had called attention were of great importance to those interested in education in general, and in Scotch education in particular. As, however, no measure founded upon the Reports of the Commissioners and sub-Commissioners had been introduced this Session, and as a great deal of other Business was now before the House, he would not enter into the subject at any great length. The Reports presented last year on elementary education disclosed a state of affairs in the urban districts with which he should have attempted to deal this Session had not the House been so fully occupied with other questions. They showed, however, that in the rural districts elementary education, so far as regarded quality, was in a very satisfactory condition, though there might be room for some improvements. This year's Reports had been presented on secondary or middle-class education, and he thought there was reason for congratulation on its very satisfactory state, whether as regarded quality or quantity. One in 205 of the population of Scotland attended the secondary schools, exclusive of private ones, whereas in Prussia, which was esteemed the most advanced country educationally, the attendance was 1 in 249, and in France 1 in 570. He would not state the proportion in England for fear of exciting sectional prejudices, but secondary education was certainly in a more gratifying position in Scotland than in any other country in Europe. It appeared, moreover, from the exhaustive and instructive Reports of the sub-Commissioners that 71 per cent of the teachers had received a University education, 36 per cent having graduated at Universities. This showed the intimate connection between the Universities and the secondary schools. He looked upon it as a fact of great importance that 1 in 1,000 of the population of Scotland went to the Universities, whereas in Germany the proportion was 1 in 2,600, and in England only 1 in 5,800. Moreover, 58 per cent of the students at the Scotch Universities came from the elementary schools. It was very desirable to maintain and strengthen the connection subsisting between the Universities and the teachers in the elementary and secondary schools. The system of education in those schools was very different from the English system, and in any future legislation that difference ought to be kept in view, for it would not be wise to assimilate the Scotch elementary schools to the English schools as at present constituted. The gross estimated attendance at the secondary schools was 16,000. The endowments, he was sorry to say, were very small, amounting only to about £3,000 a year. The fees were about £42,000, and, taking into account the assistance given by public bodies, the entire cost of secondary education was from £45,000 to £50,000. The average cost per pupil, girls being included, was £3 11s. 6d., a rate about equal to that of England; but in this country there were very large endowments, the revenues of Eton and Winchester alone exceeding the entire receipts of the Scotch secondary schools and Universities put together. The educational giants from all public sources, national and municipal, amounted to about 16s. for each pupil, whereas in France the amount was 37s. and in Prussia 41s.—namely, 21s. from the State and 20s. from the municipality. These facts showed that Scotland was entitled to some credit for turning such narrow resources to the best possible account. The efficiency of the Scotch schools materially depended on the masters, and on the liberal education many of them had received at the Universities. To obtain that education they underwent, he might almost say, privations; and the benefits of it were not confined to themselves, but were shared by all with whom they were brought into contact. Care ought, therefore, to be taken not to deteriorate but rather to improve their position. With regard to the recommendations contained in the Reports, he could not at the present time give any pledge on the part of the Government, but could only indicate what steps ought, in his individual opinion, to be taken. It had been urged that there should be a retiring provision out of the public funds for teachers in the secondary schools, who, from old age or other circumstances, became disabled. To that proposition he was inclined to accede. But with reference to the buildings, he thought that a more doubtful question, ft was a matter for those interested in the locality to attend to the buildings, whether in the way of erecting new buildings or maintaining old. There was a great deal to be said for annual inspection. He thought, moreover, that if any concessions were made on the part of the Government to maintain secondary education it was but right that there should be some Government supervision, in order to insure that the schools were properly conducted. He was glad to see that nearly 80 per cent of those interested in secondary education were desirous that there should be Government inspection. Then as to supplementary schools in those districts whore the population was very sparse, that was a question which deserved serious consideration, but with respect to which he would rather not express a definite opinion at present. With respect to the creation of exhibitions he would be happy to see them conferred upon deserving pupils in the important schools. But from his experience of official life he knew there was a body called the Treasury, which exercised a strict supervision over these matters, and it would be improper for him to express any further opinion on the subject. The only other matter to which he would refer related to the Hospitals. Certainly while the funds for the support of education in Scotland were in general very limited, as far as the hospitals connected with Edinburgh were concerned there was a superfluity, or, in other words, there was upwards of £40,000 a year derived from foundations, which were called in Scotland "mortifications," commencing at the time of George Heriot, the goldsmith, in the reign of James I of England. Now, that was a matter which was really of very great interest to the inhabitants of Edinburgh. The consideration was always forced upon them that this £40,000 a year was not probably employed in the most beneficial manner. The children were lodged in hospitals, where they acquired habits, not of luxury, but of comfort not altogether consistent with the position in life which they might afterwards hold, and it was a question whether that almost monastic life was the best fitted for preparing young people for the world. The funds for those foundations had increased very much owing to improvement in the property; but the will of the testators must to a great extent be respected, and it was only where the funds had been increased very much that they could be applied to any new purposes. The funds of George Heriot's hospital had been applied to the extent of £3,000 or £4,000 to the support, not of in-door but out-door pupils, and a great deal of good had been done in that way. The whole question was one which deserved the attention of the public, and would probably come before that House. In all other respects Scotland was badly off for educational funds. The people of Scotland contributed largely towards the support of the public Exchequer, while they did not derive very great benefit from the expenditure of the public money. If, therefore, the Treasury should see their way to making concessions in the manner suggested by the hon. Gentleman and recommended by the Commissioners, he would be happy to do anything in his power towards that end. He could not, however, express himself very definitely on a subject upon which he had not had an opportunity of consulting Her Majesty's Government.


said, the salaries of the schoolmasters in Aberdeenshire were exceedingly low, ranging generally from £40 to £70 a year, even with the forty-five teachers who participated in the Milne bequest; and in November, 1866, in forty parishes where the teachers did not parti- cipate in the Milne bequest, the maximum salary was £50 per annum, and the minimum was £20, in the parish of Culsamond with a population of 1,165 souls! He had presented a petition some years ago from seven schoolmasters of Aberdeenshire, five of whom were Masters of Arts. Two of them were receiving £24 a year, and yet they were doing their duty zealously, honestly, and ably. How did they obtain the education that enabled them to fulfil their duties so well? In this way: the sons of small tradesmen, or small farmers, went to a parochial school; the master, having obtained a University education, was able to teach them Latin, extending even to mathematics, Greek, and French. They were thus enabled to go to the University of Aberdeen, and compete for bursaries of £10 or £20 per annum, and thus to pursue the same career as those from whom they had received their instruction. From such a source came men who had gone through a most honourable career in various parts of the world. It had been justly said that there was no part of the world in which you would not find a Scotchman; and it was equally true that you would generally find him successful in life. What was that success attributed to but to the education which he had received in early life at his parochial school? The schoolmasters felt some alarm at the change which was about to take place by the substitution of national for parochial schools, which bad existed for 300 years. They said that if they were to be controlled by a central body in Edinburgh, at least they should have some representatives in that body, and that seemed to him to be a reasonable demand.


said, he hoped that next Session the learned Lord Advocate would bring in a Bill which would meet the educational requirements of Scotland. Though, on the whole, the people of Scotland might be better educated than those of England, yet one-tenth part of the population in the rural districts were very imperfectly educated, the parochial schools being quite inadequate to meet the wants of these parishes. The average pay of the schoolmasters in the Highlands did not exceed 10s. a week.