HC Deb 24 June 1868 vol 192 cc1983-2011

Order for Second Reading read.


said, that as Her Majesty's Government had, in consequence of the pressure of public Business, found it expedient to withdraw a measure which dealt only fragmentary with the education question, the House would not be surprised at his withdrawing one which, as he conceived, dealt with the whole subject of elementary education. He was anxious, however, to offer some observations on the matter. The Government had, to a certain extent, fulfilled the undertaking entered into at the beginning of the Session, the President of the Council having introduced a measure which might have been fairly accepted as an instalment, and which foreshadowed a more comprehensive scheme. Some, indeed, of its proposals might have been carried into effect by a mere alteration of the Minutes of Council—such as the recognition of secular schools, the increased building grants, and the changes affecting the smaller country schools; but other portions of the Bill could not have been so dealt with, and clearly indicated the belief of the Government that a larger measure would hereafter be necessary. The Bill proposed the appointment of a Minister of Education, whose duty it would be to initiate elementary education where it was defective, and also an educational Census, the object evidently being that if large deficiencies were proved to exist in any part of the country Parliament should be asked for powers to supply them. Thus the measure proceeded, as far as it went, in right direction, and its ultimate objects might be assumed to be very large. He listened to the speech of the noble Duke the President of the Council in introducing it; and that speech showed a deep impression of the importance of the subject, admitted the existence of deficiencies, and pointed to further action at no distant day. The noble Lord the Vice President of the Council appeared, however, to view the matter in a very different light. He seemed to think that so much had already been done that what remained might fairly be left to the action of the present Minutes of Council and to the voluntary system. The noble Lord maintained that 10–11ths of the children who ought to be at school were already there, and that the schools at at present unassisted by the State might easily be put in a different position. This obviously signified the lowering of those conditions which secured efficiency, and which had raised the standard of education. He hoped, however, the House would pause before lowering the standard of education for the sake of admitting a certain number of country schools. The noble Lord stated that there were in England and Wales 2,670,000 children receiving education. He could not, however, suppose that those figures had been furnished by the gentlemen of greatest experience and responsibility in the Privy Council Office. The noble Lord argued, moreover, that six years sufficed for the education of children of the working classes. Now, vast numbers of children went to school at three years of age, or even earlier; and did the noble Lord mean to say that between three and nine years of age a child could receive an education satisfying the just requirements of the people? Why, in ninety-nine cases out of 100 a child leaving school when nine years old would have no firm hold of the little knowledge it had acquired, but would speedily forget it. In Prussia, which had set us so worthy an example, public education commenced at five, earlier ages being unnoticed, and continued till fourteen or fifteen, thus giving a term of nine years. That was sufficient to prove that it was at least reasonable to doubt the wisdom of confining the period of education to six years Now, he made a statement on a former occasion the greater portion of which consisted of statistics collected by the education societies of some of our largest towns, which he believed to be perfectly correct and reliable; but the noble Lord's remark upon them was that "no sane man could give credence to the reports of those societies." The noble Lord appeared to have read the attack on the report of the Manchester Education Aid Society, but not the Report itself. It was true that it had been pointed out that while it appeared from the Report of the Society for 1866 that 59 per cent of the population of Manchester who ought to be at school were really there, no notice had been taken of the numbers of children who might have been or might hereafter be at school. This defect had been admitted, and a more exhaustive inquiry was accordingly made last year which avoided the errors of the preceding Report, and presented results on which perfect reliance might be placed. The noble Lord had represented the Committee as consisting of paid officers, anxious to make startling statements in order to obtain subscriptions; but it really consisted of earnest and estimable friends of education well known and respected in their own district. Dr. John Watts, whose name nobody acquainted with the history of education could pronounce without respect, thus spoke of the inquiry— They (the Committee) came to the conclusion to take a definite district in Manchester; to canvass that district thoroughly, so as to get at all the facts with regard to education, and to put them into a shape that would bear the closest investigation. That report, which referred to a population of 92,000, or about one-fourth of the population of the borough, he begged now to hand in. All the sheets were in his possession, and he could refer to every house throughout that 92,000 inhabitants, so that the Report would bear the strictest investigation. The canvassers (who were all ex-police inspectors or relieving officers, familiar with statistical inquiries) were simply instructed to study the headings of the sheets, and to see that all the questions were answered. One of the two wards thus inquired into was St. Michael's, the population being 42,007, and the total number of children between three and fourteen years of age being 12,037. Now, of these 934 were or had been at school, 2,580 having attended less than a year, 2,409 less than two years, and only 370 having attended the six years which satisfied the noble Lord. In New Cross ward, the population being 50,510, and the number of children being 12,623, 9,549 were or had been at school, 2,623 of these having attended less than a year, 2,123 less than two years, and 480 six years. Of this population of 92,517 7,855 were children between three and six, of whom 51 per cent had never been to a day school; 8,733 were between six and ten, 12 per cent of them never having been to such a school; and 8,051 were between ten and fourteen, 8.3 per cent being in the same position. Thus, of 24,639 children between three and fourteen years of age, 76.6 per cent had been to school for a short period, and 8.3 per cent had reached fourteen years without seeing the inside of a day school. The saddest fact, however, was that, as the result of all educational efforts—Sunday schools, night schools, and literary institutes included—24.8 per cent of the youthful population were unable to read, and 58.4 percent unable to write. He quoted last year a statement based on the Report of some Factory Inspectors, and in reference to that statement The Times remarked that if such a state of things existed it was not only very shameful, but showed the necessity of great exertions; but that its accuracy was open to doubt. Now, he would read the official Report on which that statement rested— Between the 1st of September and the 1st of December, 1866, 7,948 children and young persons, under sixteen years of age, were educationally tested vivâ voce by the certifying surgeons of nineteen principal cotton works in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire; and 2,178 children and young persons were equally tested in the earthenware, colliery, and iron districts of North Staffordshire. Of the 7,948, 63 per cent could read; and of the 2,178, 26 per cent could read. Thus in one case 37, and in the other 74 percent were unable to read. In the large borough which he represented (Merthyr Tydvil) 814 children between 11 mid 16 years of age were examined between the 1st of January and the 1st of March last, the examination being very rudimentary; and the result was that 45 per cent could read and 36 per cent could write, while 30½ per cent could add three or four figures mentally, thus leaving 55 per cent who could not read, 64 percent who could not write, and 69½ per cent who could not; cipher. The noble Lord had obtained a Return showing the population, acreage, and rateable value of each parish, together with the accommodation provided by schools assisted by the State, and the average attendance. None of the columns, however, were cast up, and he was at a loss to understand the object of the Return consisting of a mass of unadded columns and undigested figures. He had himself obtained another Return which gave the net result of the noble Lord's Return, and to these results he would beg the attention of the House. The figures were favourable to our national system, the population of 1861 being given, while the school attendance was that for 1867. The population of England and Wales was 21,000,000, and the average attendance in schools aided by the State was 941,000, or 1 in 22 of the population. In Prussia, he might remark, it was one in 6¼. To show the inequality of different parts of the kingdom, he might mention that in Wiltshire the average attendance was 1 in 16, while in Cornwall it was 1 in 34. In Middlesex it was 1 in 27, and in the metropolis 1 in 24. In Newcastle-on-Tyne it was 1 in 24, in Birmingham 1 in 23, in Sheffield 1 in 26, in Devonport 1 in 32. These large towns were the most unfavourable instances, while in Manchester the proportion was 1 in 17½, in Bradford 1 in 15. and in Salford 1 in 14. Thus, in Salford, the attendance was 1 in 14, and in Devonport 1 in 32. It was evident from these figures that at present education was made to depend, not on the needs of the population, but upon the amount of voluntary spirit that might exist in a locality. Few would contend that the education of the country ought to rest on such a basis. The defect of the present system was that there were no means of compelling any district to perform its duty. His Bill was framed with a desire to interfere as little as possible with what had been done—not to interfere at all where the district was doing its duty; but where the contrary was the case, it armed the State, after due inquiry had been made, with the power of compelling the district to perform its duties. With regard to the religious difficulty, and leaving the Roman Catholics out of the question, it might be considered that, as far as Protestant denominations were concerned, the matter was one in which the people themselves took little interest. What they wanted was good education, and they turned a deaf ear to the theological difficulties with which certain persons delighted to encumber the discus- sion of a national system. These difficulties were raised not by the people themselves but by the managers of schools, many of whom seemed to attach more importance to the denomination of the school than to the instruction of the children. His right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) and others maintained that the only logical basis of national education was the secular system. It was the wish, however, of the immense majority of the people that their children should receive an unsectarian religious education. Let the nation have, therefore, a good universal system of secular education provided by the State, leaving it to the locality to decide what the religious character of the teaching should be. The Report of the Commissioners of 1859 laid great stress upon the utter indifference of parents as to the denominational character of the education imparted so that it was religious, and the Report of the last Inquiry on Education conducted by the Schools Inquiry Commission contained the following remarks:— We do not apprehend that there can be any real doubt that the great majority of parents would decidedly desire that their children should be religiously brought up. We are told 'that when boys are sent as boarders the parents generally stipulate that they shall attend church, or some other place of worship;' 'that very few express the least wish for a purely secular system;' 'that the vast majority would be unwilling to see the subject of religion, and especially the reading of the Bible, excluded from the schools.' And this evidence is confirmed by too many slighter indications from other sources to leave any doubt on our minds that, on the whole, the parents not only desire that their children should be taught religious truths, but that they should learn it where they learn other things—that is, at school. He should be sorry to enforce a general system of education by means of secular schools alone, but it should be left to the parents themselves to decide what the character of the schools, with respect to religious instruction, should be; and this was the policy of the Bill with respect to all new schools created under its provisions. The next difficulty was the appeal to the pockets of the ratepayers. It was said that the rates were so high that it was impossible to impose any more; but he denied that the resources of this country would be weakened by a rate for schools. Every pound sterling spent in education would return twenty-fold to the country by the diminution of pauperism and crime, and the increased productive power of an educated people. In every country in the world where national education flourished, local provision was made for it. This was the case in Germany, Switzerland, France, and the United States. In Scotland there was a general desire that the school rate should be extended to those districts in which it was not now leviable. In Canada an educational rating system had been voluntarily adopted. He was, however, prepared to continue, in addition to a local rate, the present aid from the State, enlarged if necessary. The expense of education per head in large schools in towns was very slight. A most experienced London clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Fowle, of Hoxton, had informed him that he maintained a most efficient school of 500 children at 22s. a head per annum; 17s. of which was supplied by Government aid and the children's pence, and only 5s. from private benevolence. In the country districts it would be a little more; but in the poorer parts of the country he saw no reason why special and larger assistance might not be given by the State. In conclusion, he hoped that this important subject would be taken up early in the next Session of Parliament, and that the Government would not shrink from proposing a sound and effective system of national education. It was not his intention to proceed with the Bill this Session, and he accordingly begged to move that the Order be discharged.


said, he very much regretted that it had been necessary to withdraw the Bill, which was of a much more complete character than the measure of the Government. The great importance of the subject was being more and more recognized by those in whom the wisdom of Parliament had decided that the greatest portion of political power should he vested. The working classes were beginning to consider in what manner they should use that power in regard to education us the very first question. There was no doubt that the principle of local rating for educational purposes would receive their most cordial support. There was some diversity of opinion about the value of statistics on this subject; for there might be a large number of children at school in a given locality, while the education received might be of a very defective character. Following the example of Manchester, the people of Birmingham had instituted a searching investigation into the education enjoyed by nearly l,000 young persons between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one who were employed by the manufacturers of that town. The results of the investigation, which was conducted by Mr. Long, under the direction of the Rev. Canon Gover, Principal of the Training College at Saltley, were startling. It was found that of these young persons, who fairly represented the average of the working classes of that town, only 56 per cent could read, only 46 per cent could write, and only 20 per cent could be described as being in possession of any amount of general information. Great pains were taken to employ impartial agents to conduct this inquiry, and the results might be relied upon. This investigation bad been carried on at the instigation of the Birmingham Education Society, a society formed for the promotion of education where the instruction of the children had been neglected on account of the poverty of the parents, and 5,000 children were now being educated at Birmingham out of the funds of the society. The work was, however, so great that, although meeting after meeting had been held, it was doubtful whether the association could continue to provide the means for educating these children. The statistics of the Manchester and Birmingham Societies had proved most conclusively the lamentable state of ignorance which prevailed at present, and he deeply regretted that the Vice President of the Council—the very man who of all others should be well-informed on the subject, and whose opinion naturally was of great weight in the country—should have been so rash as to impugn them. It appeared that the noble Lord had never read the Report of the Birmingham Society. Although the noble Lord seemed to wish it to be inferred that his remarks had no reference to that Society, yet it was impossible for any impartial reader of what the noble Lord said to come to any other conclusion than that he was referring to the Society in question. The Education Society of Birmingham comprised most of the educationists of the town, headed by leading clergymen and Dissenting ministers, and supported by many of the principal inhabitants. The statistics collected by them were entitled to quite as much confidence as those of the noble Lord himself. Instead of speaking as he had done, the noble Lord ought rather to have expressed his great respect not only for the Birmingham Education Society, but also for the Manchester Aid Society, and to have admitted that the results of their labours were entitled to weight in this House. The blow which he had dealt at these Societies was not deserved, because they were offsprings of that voluntary system, which was advocated by the noble Lord. But it was well known that that system had failed in the large towns. It was because towns like Manchester and Birmingham had tried so earnestly and with such partial success to supply their educational deficiencies that men who were not originally in favour of rating or compulsory education were being driven to the conclusion that in these districts voluntaryism was inadequate to the great and growing task, and must be supplemented by the rates of the town and assisted by Government aid. When a local rate was established it would be necessary to pass a measure of compulsory attendance, so that there should be no residuum left; for it would be unfair to ask the town to rate itself unless there were also given the power to make that rate effective by providing that all the children should go to school. He believed that in Birmingham and other large towns a great deal would be heard about education at the coming election, and he trusted that Parliament would not be satisfied to allow sectarian jealousies and religious bigotries to stand, as they had stood too long, in the way of the education of the children of this country.


said, he was quite as much in favour of popular education as hon. Gentlemen opposite. He certainly heard with surprise that the districts which returned leading Members to Parliament were in such a state of utter darkness with respect to elementary education. He believed that the Government Bill was in the main founded on a right principle, and that it would be necessary to have a different system for the manufacturing districts to that which they had for the agricultural districts. In the country districts, where education was attended to by the proprietors of the soil and by the clergy, it might require some supplementary aid, but it would not require to be compulsory. He held in his hands a statement referring to nine parishes in his part of the country, containing a population of 4,947, and it appeared that of the children over ten and under fifteen there were not twenty who could not read and write. There was great misrepresentation abroad as to the state of the agricultural districts; and hon. Members opposite no doubt believed that every other part of the country was as dark and as uneducated as that to which the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) had referred. [Mr. DIXON: No, I hope not.] Why could not the manufacturers do as much for their working people as the landowners and employers in the country had done for theirs? With regard to secular education, he believed that the day in which education without religion was established would be a dark day for England. In the town he represented, where there were schools for the children of the gentry, the tradesmen, and the poor, it would be unfair to apply the principle of rating, because the funds were already supplied voluntarily or by endowment. In order to show that in the agricultural districts education was not neglected, he would ask, where did the majority of the police and railway porters, who were required to be able to read and write, come from? The country districts. He hoped that in the coming Parliament—that astonishing Parliament, from which he did not expect any more enlightenment than from the present one—the subject would be approached in a spirit of fairness. It did not follow that the legislation which was suitable for the districts that were in the dark and heathenish condition described would be fitting for the rest of the country. He agreed that the condition of things described as existing in the manufacturing districts was a disgrace to those who had made large fortunes out of their working people; but he would not admit that either a system of rating or compulsory education was required in the country districts, where the landowners had done their duty in regard to education.


said, he had not heard any one complain of the peculiar darkness of the agricultural districts; and he could not therefore understand the protest of the hon. Member who had just addressed the House. Where due provision was made for the education of the children in the agricultural districts it was not proposed to force upon them either a system of rating or compulsory education. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bruce) had withdrawn his Bill, because it either went too far or not far enough. In his opinion, it did not go far enough. He thought there were two conditions on which they might fairly insist—first, that no locality should be called upon to make an educational rate without having power to enforce the attendance of the children at the schools; and next, that no child below a certain age—say ten or eleven—should be allowed to go to work in any factory unless it could produce proof of its having received some amount of elementary instruction.


said, he believed the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Greene) would find that the educational condition of the agricultural districts generally, was very different from that which appeared to prevail in his own neighbourhood. It was a very general impression that the efforts on behalf of education which were made in the agricultural districts came rather from the clergymen than the owners of the soil; and as it was well known that the resources of the clergy were somewhat crippled, their efforts must be proportionately small. He believed, at the same time, that there were no towns in the country more destitute of educational means than the large towns of Lancashire; and that a larger proportion of their people were either imperfectly educated or not educated at all than in other large towns in England. He was sorry to say this: but all that he cared for in this matter was the truth, The explanation was not difficult. The manufacturing towns of Lancashire were of very rapid growth, and they contained a vast proportion of people depending on weekly wages, and education had not kept pace with the increase of their population. If there was this educational destitution, it might naturally have been expected that there would be efforts to remove it. There had been such efforts, and for the last twenty years educational societies of great influence had existed in Manchester; each with its plan, every one doing the best it could to enlighten public opinion on this question, and engage the attention of the Legislature. Six months ago an Educational Conference of a very influential kind was held in Manchester, at which many Members of Parliament, many ministers of religion, and gentlemen from all parts of the country were present. The opinion not only of that Conference, but of the whole of the great constituency of Manchester, so far as he could ascertain it, was in favour of the Bill of the right hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Bruce). It was desired that each locality should possess the power of rating itself; and this, he understood, was the principal feature of the Bill. No doubt most communities throughout the country felt themselves heavily enough rated already; but there was a general belief in Lancashire that they would effect great good if they rated themselves for educational purposes, and that they would be recouped, because there would be lighter prison charges, and the general property of the country would he made more valuable, in consequence of the diminution of the poor rates. If there was a sacrifice to be made, the people were ready to make that sacrifice. The noble Lord the Vice President of the Council had spoken disparagingly of societies which he said obtained subscriptions from silly women. There were, no doubt, in this as in most countries silly persons; but if their silliness exhibited itself in the form of contributing towards the promotion of popular education he hoped the number of such people would increase. He was surprised that the noble Lord should attempt to discourage societies of this kind. Scarcely a great measure had been passed by that House—Free Trade, household suffrage, the removal of the newspaper stamp duties—which had not been helped forward by the assistance of voluntary societies. He hoped they would continue and increase, and he was sure that not only the noble Lord but future Vice Presidents of the Committee of Council would encourage their proceedings and acknowledge their usefulness.


said, he would not have risen on that occasion had not the right hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Bruce) thought fit to lecture the farmers of England for their presumed neglect of duty in the matter of education, and for showing an unwillingness to accept the principle of a compulsory education rate. The farmers of England were quite prepared to bear, with every other portion of the community, their fair share of any burdens which the Legislature in its wisdom might impose upon them; and they would certainly never be found backward in supporting any movement that would be really beneficial to the poorer classes. But they would expect that, in respect to general taxation, the scales would be held evenly between the different interests of the country. It ought not to be forgotten that at that period, when the farmers were supposed to be best able to contribute to any educational funds—harvest time—70 per cent was levied on one of the most important productions of the soil.


said, he hailed with the greatest satisfaction the declaration made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr (Mr. Bruce), that in the opinion of the parents of England the great object was to give their children ft religious education. He entirely concurred in that opinion; and if that point were kept steadily in view the House would not be likely to run astray into the legislation which that Bill proposed. The right hon. Gentleman had explained the deficiency in the educational means that existed in this country, or, as he would rather say, the deficiency in the education accepted—because it was one thing to take a horse to the water and another to make him drink. They had been favoured with many figures and comparisons on that matter; but he believed they were not yet in possession of those statistics which would enable them correctly to estimate the educational power of this country. The inquiries instituted, not only by the Government but by the National Society, promised to remove the deficiency, and in another Session they might hope to possess this information. He was, however, willing to take it for granted that they did require greater educational means. Still the right hon. Gentleman might, he thought, be a little merciful to this country for producing no more satisfactory Returns than it did. Why, he asked, had the schools throughout England and Wales, conducted on the voluntary system, with subsidies from the Government, not made a greater progress? The introduction of the Conscience Clause had proved a sensible means of diminishing the grants given by the State for the assistance of these schools. That unfortunate invention required what was repugnant to the feelings of school founders, and the grants had in consequence fallen from £144,000 to £18,000. He could not admit that the voluntary system had had a fair trial; and what were they to substitute for that system? The right hon. Gentleman said his Bill would not supersede the existing means of education, but would supplement them by a rate. Now, a Bill for the abolition of compulsory church rates, with the principle of which he entirely agreed, would shortly become law. Why were compulsory church rates to be abolished? Because neither the mode of applying them nor the matter to which they were applied was one of universal agreement. [Mr. BRUCE: Universal interest.] Universal interest and universal agreement came to much the same thing. It was impossible that henceforth they could raise rates for any but national objects—objects so national that the whole nation agreed in their propriety and in the mode of attaining them. Now, in regard to an education rate, there was no such general agreement. Some persons still contended that education given to the labouring classes was a disadvantage to them rather then otherwise, A far greater number, agreeing in the advantage of educating those classes, disagreed as to what education was, and as to the mode in which it ought to be administered. The great body of Churchmen held that education was the training of children as immortal beings, both for time and eternity, while other persons regarded education as a mere question of imparting secular knowledge. He entirely dissented from that second estimate of education, which, he maintained, had never been recognized in this country. The right hon. Gentleman wished to induce them to make grants for purely secular schools. That was at once revolutionizing their system. He did not say he opposed that; for he believed that education, whether taken solely in its secular features or in connection with religion, must be good in itself; that to subject children to training, discipline, and control must have a good effect on them; and he considered that the State was justified in assisting education, even though conducted only on the secular system. But the voluntary system owed its success mainly to the religious element which had hitherto been inseparable from it; and if they trampled on that element they would destroy the whole stimulus to voluntary effort, and extinguish that principle of religious education which now so happily overspread the whole country. Again, the rating system would involve them in the necessity of compelling parents to send their children to school. Now, whatever might be done in Prussia, in this country it would be impossible to impose an absolute personal compulsion of that kind. Could they go to an English labourer with ten children and say to him, "Your eldest boy shall go to school, and you shall pay 2d. a week for his instruction?" The man might reply, "My boy drives the farmer's team and gets 2s. a week, which pays my rent, and I can't send him to school." Would they put the man in gaol and starve his family because he would not do so? If the employment of a boy under a certain age by the farmer could be made contingent on his education, he should be very glad indeed; but he feared a limit must be put on the principle of compulsory attendance. In his opinion, the proper housing of the agricultural poor was far more important to their moral and material welfare than reading, writing, and ciphering. These without moral training might prove mischievous. In numberless small lollypop shops halfpenny papers were sold in tens of thousands to our juvenile population, in which horrors were portrayed by pictures and described in language calculated not only to destroy the happiness of those who read them, but to incite them to every kind of vice and dishonesty. No wise legislator, therefore, ought to be satisfied with encouraging mere secular instruction unaccompanied by religious teaching among the labouring classes. He did not think they would ever have an education rate; but he would not grudge the money if the Education Department cost them twice as much as it did, They spent infinitely more upon gaols, reformatories, and police, and for the repression of vice, than upon the education which ought to keep their youthful population from becoming vicious. It was to be regretted that a spirit of ill-judged economy should have been introduced into the Education Department. He trusted that the Government would adopt a liberal policy; that they would increase their grants; that they would give that which was even more precious than grants—namely, a sympathizing welcome to those who endeavoured to promote the work of education; and that, under their fostering influence, the present system of voluntary education might be found taking deeper root, and spreading its branches wider than it had hitherto done throughout the country.


said, he wished to point out certain shortcomings in the Bill; before them. Compulsory attendance and compulsory rates must be inseparably associated; because, without the former, the latter would not be accepted by the country, nor would the educational deficiencies of the country be really supplied. He thought that no one could deny that there was a great educational deficiency in this country; for, comparing the population of both nations, there was not one-third of the number of children at school in England that there were in Prussia. Prussia was not now over-educated, and it could not be doubted that if England was equal to that country in education, her people would be happier, better, and wealthier That in some of our wealthiest districts not more than half the labouring population had even the first rudiments of education was not due to an inadequate supply of schools, so much as to the fact that they had no power to enforce the attendance of the children. In Wiltshire one out of every sixteen of the population was at school; but in no district of England was the state of education more lamentable and deficient, and that, although there was a school in almost every village in the county, and although the clergy there showed the most extraordinary zeal in the cause of education. Speaking from his own experience of one village in particular, he could state that the boys of the labouring class left school to go into the fields when eight years old, and there was hardly a lad of that class who could read well enough to take an interest in an English newspaper. By combining compulsory rates with compulsory attendance they would be able to convince the people that the rate was only a temporary infliction, which would be removed by the diminution of the general rates, and by increased prosperity resulting from education. It might be said that the whole instinct of the nation was against compulsion in matters of education; but it should not be forgotten that we had already adopted that principle in the case of almost every industry except the agricultural, and if his right hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil(Mr. Bruce) were to extend the scope of his Bill so as to make the attendance of children at school compulsory, he believed he would be supported by the great majority of the people throughout the country. When a parent neglected to give his child an education he was neglecting his first duty, and in such a case it was the duty of the State to become the child's protector.


said, that as he had understood that the Bill was to be withdrawn, he had come down to the House without any expectation that he would he called upon to address it. Nor would be now trespass on the time of the House, had not the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil thought proper to attack with some acrimony a speech which he had made about three weeks ago. At that time the debate lasted many hours, and the right hon. Gentleman took part in it. Yet instead of impugning his position at that time, he took three months' consideration before he thought fit to do so. And to what did this long premeditated attack amount? Did he attempt to show that a single position or a single figure was erroneous? Did he dispute the basis on which he had proceeded, or the conclusion at which he had arrived? By no means. The right hon. Gentleman in carping at the estimates of educational destitution which he had then laid before the House had commented merely upon the circumstance that they had not been furnished by Mr. Lingen. This was no argument against the estimates. It was only a question of authority. He could assure him he had received them from persons on whose authority he could place at least equal reliance. Those estimates spoke for themselves. He had fully stated the ground on which he had proceeded, and showed the means by which he had arrived at the results. The right hon. Gentleman had had ample time to consider them, for they had been fully published in the Times newspaper; yet he had failed to pick a flaw in them or to detect a single fallacy. He had taken the number of children in England and Wales of school age—that was to say, between 3 and 15 years old—as amounting in 1868 to 6,849,128; the number between 3 and 12 in 1861 was 4,250,294; the number according to the Prussian standard of school age—that was to say, between 6 and 14—would be 3,562,730; and the number according to the French standard of 6 years—namely, between 7 and 13, would be only 2,667 737. But then the right hon. Gentleman had found fault with him because he had fixed the average length of the period during which a child might be expected to attend school in this country at six years. That was a point, however, which he must settle with the Commissioners, from whose Report it would be found that that was the average time time for which the attendance of a child at school was to be expected, and the duration of schooling for the labouring class with which everyone ought to be satisfied. It had been said that he had spoken disparagingly of the Manchester Aid Society. It was true that he did not place much reliance upon the statistics they had given, nor did he believe the case they had got up. They, in the first place, had, in their Estimate, supposed that the children of the labouring classes should all enter school at three years old and remain at school nine years, and that anything short of this was educa- tional destitution. Yet, if they were at all cognizant of educational matters, they must know that the children of the labouring classes very seldom went to school until they were six years old, and that they seldom remained beyond ten years old. As many as 46 per cent did not go to school until they were nearly seven. They never, he believed, remained at school until they were twelve. It was therefore ridiculous to estimate the time which they spent at school as extending from the age of three to twelve; and the statistics which were intended to prove educational destitution on such an assumption were utterly fallacious. The Manchester Aid Society, nevertheless, by their own statistics, proved that the average duration of the attendance at school of all the children in that city was four-and-a-half years. They not only proceeded in their calculation on the fallacious ground to which he had just adverted, but they moreover had actually left out of account some of the townships of Manchester—as, for example, Newton and Bradford, and Harpurhey, with a population of 20,000 souls. Besides, there were some parishes—such, for instance, as St. Saviour's (Chorlton-on-Medlock), which they had credited with only one private school; and St. Stephens, to which they had ascribed no school at all; and yet they had fourteen schools. He was speaking now from recollection of the documents on which his remarks were based; but if he had known that the right hon. Gentleman intended to make an attack upon him in connection with that subject he should have brought those documents down to the House. He had, moreover, been attacked by the hon. Member for Birmingham for what he had said twenty days ago with respect to educational societies in general. He had informed the hon. Gentleman, however, that his remarks had no special reference to the Birmingham Educational Society, of which he at that time had not heard; and if he had referred to the report in The Times he would have seen that such was what he had stated at the time. Nevertheless, some new grounds for distrusting the action of such societies had that day been stated. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) had furnished him with one. He was not now alluding to the fact that they employed officers, paid out of the funds which those societies could extract from the people in the form of subscriptions, whose interest it was to keep the society going and to obtain large subscriptions. The hon. Gentleman had compared those societies to that by which the agitation in favour of Free Trade had been conducted, and to the association by which the reform in the representation of the people had been forced upon the House and the country. If such was their character they must be regarded in the light of political bodies. They were, according to that view, no longer societies, formed with the single object of promoting education; but bodies who had been constituted in order to force some preconceived theory of education upon the House and the nation, and whose weapon was to be n wide-spread and irritating agitation. He, however, did not feel disposed to look upon them in that light; but he preferred to regard them in the light of societies established with the bonâ fide object of promoting education throughout the country, All he contended for was that their statistics were fallacious, and tended to make out a sad case of educational destitution, in order to found on it an effective appeal fur subscriptions. He had received, since he last addressed the House on the subject, the Report of the Birmingham Society, accompanied by a letter, couched in terms which were not very courteous. His remarks on the previous occasion had had no special reference to the Birmingham Society, of which he was then ignorant; but he would, he thought, now be able to show the House that their figures were in more than one instance fallacious. There were, they said, "1,027 streets in the borough," and before going further he must observe that in order to compare fairly the figures of the Birmingham Society with those furnished by the Commissioners of Popular Education—they must be framed on the same basis. Hence it must be borne in mind that the latter took into account not only the children of the poor, but those of the middle and higher classes also, and then came to the conclusion that six years is the standard average of attendance, or that one in 7.7 of the population should be at school at the same time, in order that every one might receive some education. The Birmingham Society employed eight young men to make a house-to-house visitation, and those men visited only 754 out of the 1,027 streets, omitting to visit 273 because they happened to be streets which the middle and upper classes inhabited. How, he would ask, were statistics thus compiled to be compared with those supplied by the Commissioners, who, in arriving at a conclusion as to the proportion of the population which should be at school, counted rich and poor together, while the Birmingham Society excluded the upper and middle classes? The children of those classes raise the average of attendance very much; for the parents compel them to attend school daily, and keep them at school until much later in life. The Society also omitted the workhouse schools, which raised the average still more, for there every child was at school daily. This therefore was one fallacious basis of their Report. Again, it appeared that the visitors of the Society visited 15,847 families, of which 10,227 were in the receipt of an income on the average of 20s. 9¾d.; 2,811 in receipt of an income of which the amount was not known; 1,587 being widows and deserted women, and 1,222 the number out of work. And now for the harrowing tale of educational destitution which was made up. The Report of the Society stated that of 300 families taken indiscriminately from the visitors' books containing 1,842 persons, the average earnings were 1s. 6½d. per head per week. Of 300 other families, "also taken indiscriminately from the visitors' books," eighty belonged to widows and deserted women, the earnings of each person being 16¼d. per week; while of 300 additional families "taken at hazard" from those books each person earned 2s. 3¾d. per week, and in each case they make a piteous statement as to the number of children who do not go to school. It was quite clear, he thought, that those 900 families must have been "taken at hazard" from the very lowest and poorest portion of the population. Those figures, therefore, proved nothing beyond that which was already known. Everyone was aware that the children of a family bordering on starvation, were made to work, in order to keep the family from sinking in ruin. Everyone knew that the children of the poorest parents cannot in the nature of things he diligent in attendance at school unless the parents receive nutriment gratuitously. There were other fallacies, or at least anomalies, which became apparent if the boys and girls in the tables which they had given were added together and accounted as children, without reference to sex. It must be borne in mind that the number of children between the ages of three to four exceed those between four and five, and so on. This is so, because children die off at various ages. Yet, what do we find in the tables of the Birmingham Society; they give the numbers of children between three and four as 3,868. Those between four and five are given as 4,066 in number; those between five and six as 4,354. The numbers then decrease down to the number 3,807 of children between nine and ten years old; they continue to decrease to 3,046 the number of children between twelve and thirteen; and then the numbers increase again. This is at least remarkable, even anomalous. The Report then states that 1,136 children between the ages of three and four were at school. And yet the average attendance of all the children in Birmingham between the ages of three and four is given as nil. Such a result could be arrived at only by omitting from the calculation all the fractions of years. For instance if a child attended school for only nine or even eleven months in the year, he would be counted as not having attended at all. If this be so, we should increase the estimate of average attendance by perhaps 40 or 50 per cent. He need not say that the average attendance was arrived at by dividing the "time in years at school," by "the total number of children." He found similarly that taking all the children in Birmingham, between the ages of eleven and twelve, they all attended school on an average of nearly four years. But the average attendance of all the children who have been at school, was nearly five years for the children between 11 and 12; 4½ years for the children between 12 and 13; and 1.23 years for the children between 4 and 5, and the same length of time for the children between 5 and 6. It was quite clear, therefore, in his opinion, that those figures were fallacious. But, taking them even as they stood, not a very bad case was incidentally made out for Birmingham; for he found at page 22 of the Report that nearly three-fourths of all the children of that town had been at school, and that on the average all those above the age of 12 had attended 3¾ years. The Society professes to include all private schools, and even dame schools in their return, and enumerate only 92 schools with an average attendance of 18,531. Yet there are in Birmingham 66 aided Parliamentary schools, with an average attendance of 13,790. He must moreover remark that if the school ages are supposed to lie between 3 and 15 years old, and if six years' schooling is the average which is to be looked for, it is easy to get up a harrowing tale; for this means that half the children of those ages may be at school and half not at school at any time, although all of them may receive six years of schooling. Having said thus much with respect to the case of Birmingham, he should briefly advert to the return called "Parishes," to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had drawn the attention of the House. The smaller abstract for which the right hon. Gentleman had moved involved a fallacy which was avoided in the larger Return. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of so many parishes as being destitute of education., Those were not ecclesiastical parishes. If he would consult the larger Return he would find enumerated among the parishes (which were in fact only Poor Law districts), a mountain in Cumberland, Castle Ashby, Chats-worth, Belvoir, Lincoln Palace, the Castle Inn at Brecknock, Ludlow Castle, Lewes Castle, Blenheim, Durham University, Durham Cathedral, and a number of dukes' palaces and parks were enumerated, and these were triumphantly pointed at as parishes which were destitute of schools. Thus, no less than 467 so-called parishes were Poor Law districts, with less than 20 inhabitants, and 1,864 had less than 100 inhabitants. There was a fallacy also at the other end of the scale. For Liverpool, with its 32 parishes and 92 aided schools, was accounted as only one aided "parish." Most of the large towns are similarly affected by this fallacy. Thus, of an immense number of aided parishes no account whatever was taken. Thirdly, a number of rural parishes were accounted as twelve or even fourteen Poor Law districts, which were called "parishes." So that such an ecclesiastical parish, with its aided school, would appear in the Return as one aided parish on one side of the account, and eleven or even 13 destitute parishes on the other side. Passing from that point, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would pardon him if he pointed out what he deemed to be some imperfections in his Bill, so that he might have an opportunity of considering whether it would not be desirable to remove them should he bring forward a similar measure next year. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to erect school districts all over the country. In towns he proposed to take the whole of a town as a school district, while in counties he proposed to take unions for that purpose. He did not, however, altogether abide by that arrangement, because he also proposed to constitute special districts. In rural unions alone, and not in towns, one-twentieth of the inhabitants in number or in rateable value might apply to the Privy Council to have a parish cut out of a union for the purposes of this measure. That was to say that a certain number of persons who were not even rated to the poor, or even one person, if he owned one-twentieth of the property in the union, might get his parish exempted. It puzzled him for some time to discover the reason for this provision. It seemed to him that it was to evade opposition to the Bill. If three quarters of a union were well supplied with schools, they would object to come under the Act and pay for erecting schools in the destitute quarter. Hence the destitute quarter was to be exempted, and the Act was to apply only where it was not required. Then, as to the adoption of the Act, it was proposed that they should be adopted at a meeting at which certain persons were to vote. In a county, any occupier having any holding whatsoever might vote, if he were rated to the poor, whether he was a householder or not. In towns, only owners or burgesses might vote. The right hon. Gentleman did not proceed upon the principle that a man entitled to vote for a Member of Parliament might be considered sufficiently competent to vote under his Bill. For in towns he refused to let nearly all the Parliamentary electors vote for the adoption of the Act, while in counties a great number to whom Parliament refused to entrust a vote concerning legislative matters, were allowed by the right hon. Gentleman to vote for the adoption of the Act. In each case a bare majority in numbers was to be sufficient to decide the question. Again, with respect to the election of the School Committee; in towns it was to be elected by the Town Council or by a system; of double representation; for a Town Council was elected by those who were rated at more than £6, and then this Town Council was to elect the School Committee. And why, he would ask, was a different plan to be adopted in counties, in which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to have only a single representation by a bare majority of every person who was on the rate book? Then as to the compulsory adoption of the Act, one-twentieth in number or rateable value of the inhabitants of a district might apply to the Privy Council to make the Act compulsory; but there was nothing in the Bill to prevent twenty paupers, or to prevent one man of property from making an application to have the Bill forced upon the population of a whole union. Last year the right hon. Gentleman had introduced a Bill for the education of the poor, but the present was not a Kill of that character. Every expression which limited the Bill to the education of the poor had been studiously omitted from the Bill of this year. It was a measure providing simply for elementary education in England and Wales, and it might be taken advantage of by the middle classes. [Mr. BRUCE: Hear, hear!] That being the declared object of the right hon. Gentleman, he must say he differed from him as to the wisdom of the course which he was pursuing. What the right hon. Gentleman sought to accomplish was to impose on one description of property—namely, real property—the expense of educating the various strata of society, leaving a vast amount of other property throughout the country altogether unburdened. The right hon. Gentleman, moreover did not make a fair division of the burden as between the landlord and the occupier. According to Clause 73, if the rent of certain premises were £200 a year, the rateable value being £160, and the rate being £8, or 5 per cent, the landlord would have to pay £5 and the occupier £3; but this fair division would not last. For every occupier would take the rate into account in agreeing upon the rent of his holding, so that the whole expense would eventually come off the landlord. This was unfair. Again—Let him take the case of a millowner whose mill was worth £1,000 and was rated at £800. Such a man might be making £10,000 a year, and might like to build schools for the education of the children of those in his employment. He would go to the School Committee for his district with the view to carry out that object, and the result might be that every householder and landowner would have to pay for those schools, while his £10,000 a year remained untouched, with the exception of the rate on the £800. It would also happen that those districts in which education was most required were those which were least able to raise a rate for the purpose. Taking the parish of St. George's in-the-East, for instance, he found that the population amounted to 49,000; the number requiring school accommodation to 8,166. The minimum yearly charge for that number under the Bill would be £8,166, besides £2,041 for grants on passes, taking the grants at 5s, instead of 8s. a year,; making a total of £10,207 a year. Now, the gross estimated rental for 1865 was £221,000, so that, taking the minimum educational rate it would amount to 5 per cent, or 1s. in the pound; and the poor rate now was as high as 2s. 2d., so that there would be a total of 3s. 2d. in the pound, irrespective of the cost of inspectors and other officers. In Devonport the rate would be 1s. 10d., in Plymouth 1s. 5¼d., in Leeds 1s. 1d., in Oldham the same. The education rate for the whole of England would be £4,000,000 a year, which at 3 per cent would represent £134,000,000 taken off real property. And what good, he would ask, was it proposed to effect by the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman did not even require that there should be a certificated master appointed under its operation. This was evident from Clause 40. It was a matter which he left to be decided entirely in accordance with the ignorance or the prejudices of the ratepayers, and it had been shown by experience that the Boards of Guardians always appoint the cheapest masters they could get. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman did not require that there should be an examination in reading, writing, and arithmetic, but only in one or more of those branches of education. This would be seen by a reference to Clause 60. Hence the Bill would not even provide that a good education should be given, while creating a large expenditure, all of which was to be borne by real property.


, said, he would be glad to give his support to the Bill of his right hon. Friend; but he was quite satisfied that the ratepayers in the larger towns of this country would not submit to an educational rate, unless Parliament compelled the attendance at school of those for whom the rate was most specially needed. There existed an appalling amount of ignorance, which could only be removed by a compulsory system of education for the labouring classes. Such a system would enable them in manufacturing towns to get rid of the half-time system, which was, in his opinion, most ineffective, and which he had heard described as a perfect sham. Compulsory education probably meant secular education; but if this were given, religious education would surely be brought in to supplement it. He hoped his right hon. Friend would consider the various points to which his attention had been directed, and introduce next year a bolder and more extensive measure than the one under discussion.


said, that a fact which proved more clearly than the number of attendances at school, that education in this country was not in a desirable state was, the number of persons signing the marriage register with a mark. Twenty years ago the males so signing were in the proportion of 32 per cent, and the progress since made had only reduced that proportion to 21 per cent; so that one-fifth of the population were unable to write their names. Within the last few years great attention had been directed to what was called technical education; and the reason why mechanics' institutes had entirely failed to give that species of education was because the young men attending them, instead of being qualified to learn science, had to learn to read and write and to acquire the rudiments of education. The present condition of things being thus unsatisfactory the question arose, what was to be done. For his own part he did not think that they could attain the end in view by an extension of the present system. They must, he thought, look to a system of local management and local taxation. The difficulty was that in many places where education was most wanted, the rates were so high that it was almost hopeless to look forward to the imposition of an additional rate; but, as it was to the advantage of the employers of labour that the employed should be educated, he would suggest that the former should defray one-half of the cost of education and that the other half should be defrayed by the ordinary ratepayers. It seemed to him that the religious difficulty was very fairly and fully met by the present measure, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would take the first opportunity of again introducing his Bill.


said, he would not weary the House with any opinion of his own as to the extent to which education might more or less be wanted; but he thought that the constant increase of education from year to year showed plainly that there was a field yet to be occupied. The real question was in what manner was the desired extension of education most likely to be accomplished. For many years they had bad the voluntary system, aided to a limited degree by the State, and he was one of those who believed that the present system could not co-exist with the rating system. He had a very strong opinion that if they introduced the rating system they would for a time paralyze and check education, for, while the voluntary system would fall off, the rating system would not for some time be able to supply its place. In country districts, where the population was scattered, they would have district schools at such a distance from the dwellings of the children that they would not attend If a more liberal use had been made of the means at the disposal of the Government; and if, instead of resorting to vexatious restrictions to prevent people from coming for aid, the hand of assistance had been more freely held out, the increase of education would have been greater at the present time than it actually was. He hoped to see the present system not destroyed, but fostered, being of opinion that any rating system would knock it up many years before supplying its place.


said, he was satisfied that the present system to which the country was now accustomed, if carried out and supplemented, would give all that was required in the way of national education. He was indeed surprised that the existing system had done so much, considering how it was administered. The factory education system was about to be extended in all directions, and when that was done there would be a good education provided for all the labouring classes of the country. He should object to any proposal to educate the children of the well-to-do labourers and working men out of the rates, and he believed that these classes themselves would scorn being assisted by any such means in educating their children. He believed that a compulsory system would be totally inoperative. With respect to one class, however, he would not object to the application of compulsory provisions. There was in all large towns a population of children who were left to wander the streets uncared for. He thought that this class of children should be compelled to go to school; that they should be educated at the expense of funds supplied by rates, and that the money should be administered under local authority. There was only one other class whose education should come upon the rates, and that was the class composed of the children of out-door paupers. The children of in-door paupers were now educated at the cost of the parish; but the children of out-door paupers were not at present sent to the workhouse to be educated. The Guardians had power to send them but the permissive Act was really inoperative. He believed that when the things to which he had referred were done the rating system would have been carried as far as it need be.


said, the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) had stated that the effect of the Bill would be to break up the present system, Now, the promoters of the measure believed that it would have a totally opposite effect. They knew that in our large towns especially, and to some extent in country districts, the present machinery of education did not keep pace with the demands upon it, and that it was beyond voluntary effort to provide for the education of the large populations which were growing up. The supporters of the Bill were, however, aware that these efforts had effected the greatest possible good, and they desired to supply the want which existed without interfering with the benefit which was at present accomplished by the voluntary system. They considered that this Bill would accomplish several good objects and would do no injury to any class of the community. He did not think his noble Friend (Lord Robert Montagu) had read or studied the Bill, or was aware of the great public meetings which had been held in support of it. The conditions of the Bill could scarcely be objected to. One condition was, that inasmuch as those schools would be supported by the public money—all the children in the country should have free access to them. Another condition was what was called the Conscience Clause—that was a clause which not only respected the conscientious feelings of the parents and guardians, but also those of the managers and schoolmasters. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Bruce) was right in not attempting to push the present measure any further this Session; but if there was one thing more likely than another to follow from a Reformed Parliament, in which the best of the working classes would have great influence, it would be the adoption of some national means to meet the great evil of want of education. An enormous population could not be allowed to grow up and he left to the chance action of voluntary aid. If the principle were acknowledged that the children of the poorer classes should be taught, then in no more considerate manner could that principle be carried out than by the present, Bill. As its promoters were quite aware that it would be a great disadvantage even to put in force a better system at the cost of staying the action of the present system, they did not look forward to spreading over the country at once a system of rating. It was proposed that every borough should have an opportunity of rating itself and performing its part of this great national duty; but when, after careful inquiry, it appeared from the report of a responsible Government Officer, that there was educational destitution in any district—that the children were untaught—that the parents were unable or unwilling to provide them with education—that the neighbours were apathetic, and that voluntary efforts were not sufficient—it was proposed that then a rate for education should be compulsorily made. The more attention was attracted to this subject the more surely would there be a national system of education, and the disgrace would cease to attach to this country of being almost the only civilized nation which did not acknowledge it to be the duty of the State to provide for the elementary education of the people.


said, that the question of compulsory education had been much under consideration in Scotland, and the Reports laid before Parliament threw great light on the subject. In 1859 the Scotch Commissioners of Education sent a gentleman to make inquiries respecting the Prussian system, and it did not appear from his Report that he was at all of opinion that compulsory education at school was secured by legal enactment. He rather came to the conclusion that the efficient attendance at school was the result of the sentiment of the people. With regard to America, Mr. Fraser said that the law to secure compulsory attendance had been totally inoperative. There could be no doubt that in this country also any law of that kind would be inoperative, because the people were not accustomed to such interference on the part of the State with the duties of parents.


said, he believed that in this country compulsory attendance would be supported by the hearty good-will of the parents. Much good would result from compelling the children who might be seen thronging many streets, utterly abandoned by their parents, to go to school. He regretted that it should have been necessary to withdraw the Bill.

Order discharged.

Bill withdrawn.