HC Deb 18 February 1869 vol 194 cc113-22

, in rising to move for leave to introduce a Bill to amend the Law relating to Endowed Schools and other Educational Endowments in England, and otherwise to provide for the advancement of Education, said, he did not intend to detain the House long now, but perhaps he might be allowed, in a future stage of the Bill, to enter into the matter more fully. The public had been prepared for a measure of this description by the Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission, of which he had happened to be a member. He could not, therefore, speak of its labours; but, as one of its members, he wished to be considered responsible for the whole of their Report. It was a Commission composed of gentlemen of differ- ent political and religious opinions, who had been fortunate enough to present an entirely unanimous Report. Two of the Members of that Commission, the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn and the right hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford Northcote) among them, were unable to remain to the end in consequence of their having accepted high Office; but the fact that they resigned their seats on the Commission by no means implied that they objected to the Report—indeed, he believed that if they had remained, they would have assented with the rest. The object of the Commission was to inquire into the condition of all Endowed Schools in England and Wales which had not been inquired into by two previous Commissions, the one presided over by the Duke of Newcastle to consider assisted schools, elementary schools assisted by Votes of Parliament; and the other presided over by the Earl of Clarendon, which was appointed to inquire into nine special public schools. A measure based upon the Report of the Public Schools Commission had been passed last year through the instrumentality of his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole); and the Bill which he now asked leave to introduce, carried out to a great extent in some respects, and in others almost entirely, the recommendations of the Schools Inquiry Commission. The principal object of the Bill was to reform the organization of the Endowed Schools of England and Wales. But there was one important difference between the Bill and the Report of the Commission. The Report recommended not merely that the Endowed Schools should be put on an improved footing, but that a power should be taken of inspecting, and he might say of managing, them; not merely that there should be power given to make fresh trusts, but that there should be power given to see that the trustees did their duty. The Commissioners had proposed the creation of provincial Boards throughout the country, under the control of a central authority, for this purpose. He was still of the opinion, as he was when he sat on the Commission, that very much might be said in favour of this machinery; but on full consideration the Government had come to the conclusion of not recommending the House to adopt that machinery at present, and, while taking power for the immediate reform and re-organization of Endowed Schools, they did not take any power for their inspection and management beyond the power which was at present in the hands of the Charity Commissioners. Therefore, so far as regarded the re-organization of the schools, they proposed that the Bill should be a temporary Bill. They asked for power for three or four years, to make fresh trust-deeds for Endowed Schools, which should, after approval by Government, be laid before Parliament, but should not become law if objected to by either House of Parliament. But they had seen no difficulty in providing a permanent plan for the examination of schools and for giving certificates of competence to schoolmasters, and in this they had followed the recommendations of the Commissioners. The Commissioners recommended an Examining Council, which would consist of twelve members, and as it was thought there would be more confidence in this body if it were not nominated entirely by Government, six of the members would be appointed by the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and London, and six by the Crown. This Council would have power to examine the scholars in all Endowed Schools, and to give certificates to schoolmasters based upon their own examination, or to endorse the certificates given by other bodies; it was also proposed by the Bill that all future masters should be obliged to hold these certificates; but existing schoolmasters would, of course, be held competent to teach without them. The Commissioners also desired to bring about some examination of private schools as well as of Endowed Secular Schools; and the Government felt it would not be doing its duty if it did not provide some means for improving secondary education generally. The Government was naturally very anxious to avoid any interference with the right of private schoolmasters; but felt it would be nothing less than a boon to private schoolmasters to offer them the same examination as was made compulsory in the case of masters of Endowed Schools, provided they fulfilled the same conditions as were fulfilled by the Endowed Schools. The Bill also proposed to open exhibitions under certain conditions for the scholars in private schools. It was per- haps unnecessary further to detain the House by describing the measure at greater length, as it would be in the hands of Members probably to-morrow afternoon, but certainly by Saturday morning. He pleaded for speedy legislation on the subject, because the inquiries which had been made had given the impression that some change was impending, and the variety of interests concerned, including that of the parents, demanded the immediate attention of Parliament. He, therefore, proposed to ask for a second reading on Thursday next, that the progress of the Bill might not be stopped by more urgent Business. Ample time, however, would be given for the consideration of questions raised on the second reading before the House was asked to go into Committee on the measure.


asked what authority would draw up the new trust deeds?


said, the Bill provided for the appointment of a small Commission, which, would prepare the schemes and give notice to all the parties interested, and, after the schemes were settled, would submit them to the Educational Department of the Privy Council, and the Department would, on its own responsibility, after approval, lay them before Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.


said, he did not mean to offer any opposition to the Motion for the introduction of the Bill. He believed, indeed, that, after the Report of the Commissioners, it would be idle for any one to attempt to place himself in antagonism to such a proposal. But he did not think they should make good speed by having re-course to the great haste which the right hon. Gentleman recommended. When it was proposed to deal with interests so complicated as those involved, extending as they did to every parish throughout the country, he thought a week hardly sufficient to consider the measure. He should therefore suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the second reading should be postponed until that day fortnight.


said, he hoped the second reading would not be pushed on so rapidly, because all Members who were managers of Endowed Schools would like to see their co-managers, and hear their opinions of the measure before it was read a second time. He wished to know whether, according to the right hon. Gentleman's scheme, if an Endowed School was already under the inspection of Government, it was intended to take it away and place it under the inspection of the Council it was proposed to establish; and, secondly, whether the Council would be able to make grants such as the Government Inspector now made?


, while ready to give his hearty support to the Bill, and most anxious that it should have the fullest possible consideration, suggested that Her Majesty's Government would do well to make a division of labour between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, by introducing a larger number of non-political and party measures like this Bill of the right hon. Gentleman and the Bill for the reform of the Law of Bankruptcy in the other House, where there were many noble and learned Lords who would devote an amount of attention to them that could not be given in the House of Commons. Unless some arrangement of that kind was made it would be quite impossible for the House of Commons to give the proper time and consideration to the important measures which the Government had taken in hand.


added Ms protest to that of other hon. Members against the course which it was proposed to adopt with respect to this Bill. It was of great magnitude and importance, and if it were to have any effect at all it would determine the character, and therefore the future history, of the people of this country. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, what was the object of the Bill if it was not to improve, or to alter the character of the people? What was the meaning of it, if not to improve and extend education throughout the country; and what was education, but a raising of the character and enlarging of the mental capacities? The Bill would thus affect the whole country, and yet it was attempted to hurry it through for weal or woe, with not more than a week's consideration; although in the case of measures of much smaller importance, and which only partially affected the country, time was always demanded and freely given for their consideration. He protested against such a hurry. This was a most com- plex and difficult measure, and yet only a few of its points had been explained by the right hon. Gentleman. He had argued that the proposed scheme was only to be transitory, and that, therefore, it would be not injurious to arrive at a hasty conclusion upon it. The same argument might, with equal force, have been applied to the Bribery Bill of last year. That measure was only passed for a few years, and yet the House took much time to consider and debate its provisions. Besides, though the Bill be transitory, its effects would be permanent, and would spread through the whole country from north to south. They ought to be very cautious therefore how they passed the Bill, for once passed it would cause weal or woe, and its results could not be recalled. The right hon. Gentleman said that the principle of his measure was merely that something must be done, and that this had already been affirmed by the Public Schools Bill. Certainly it might be said that the principle had been conceded, if the only principle of the Schools Bill was that grammar schools required some reform. But the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do much more than ever had been conceded. He proposed to erect a Council, to have a body of Examiners, and to issue a paid Commission, which was to roam over the whole country and visit every school, and prepare and impose large schemes of reform. Besides all this there were many details connected with the measure which had not been explained, but which the right hon. Gentleman had promised to explain in a long speech on the second reading. These details might very seriously affect the character of education; yet they could pronounce no opinion upon them for lack of information as to their character. He maintained that every facility should be given to the trustees of these schools to consider what was to be done before any action was taken. It was not the custom of Parliament to meddle with any interests, however small, without giving ample opportunity to all who were to be affected to express their opinions upon the subject. And yet what was the right hon. Gentleman going to do in this, which was one of the most important of all cases? Why, he was going to organize grammar schools throughout the country. What did that mean? It meant that grammar schools belonging to the first grade might be turned into schools of the second or third grade, or vice versâ. It meant further that these same schools might be removed out of the boroughs in which they were situated, and placed in the counties. He had no doubt that all this would be done by the paid Commission which was to be issued. Upon these subjects the trustees might have something to say. What was to be the size or the expense of that Commission were points upon which they had no information. He must beg, therefore, a little longer time from the right hon. Gentleman—a fortnight at least. There was one other point worthy of consideration. His right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) had said, the other night, he thought it a great pity that a general scheme of education had not been brought in. In that opinion he entirely agreed. The education of boys was essentially the same, in whatever grade of life the boys might happen to be born. These grades were merely an arbitrary classification, very useful no doubt for explaining the views of the Commissioners, but there was no reality in them, and therefore nothing could be built upon them. What were those grades? The Commissioners explained them in this way,—they put those boys in the first grade who left school between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, boys in the second grade who left school between fourteen and sixteen, and those who were taken away between twelve and fourteen in the third grade. But he did not see why a boy who did not leave school until a month after sixteen should be in a different grade from one who left it a month before, or if the grades were anything, they might just as well be extended downwards throughout the education of the poor. Some boys were taken away at twelve, in order to go to labour; some as early as six or seven, and thus the question was exactly the same whether it was secondary or elementary education. These grades were merely another name for that which had always been spoken of as the effect of "labour claims." He did not see why the Government should attempt to deal with secondary education on a different principle from, elementary education. But, however that might be, he would not urge these considerations in a carping spirit, but he would urge on the right hon. Gentleman that he should not take the second reading of the Bill that night week, but should give at least a fortnight before proceeding further with the measure.


said, he did not wish to travel into the details of the Bill, but he also desired to enter his protest against proceeding so quickly with it. An appeal for delay had been made on behalf of the school trustees—a large body of men of very various social habits and difficult to bring together—but there was another class of men who would perhaps be even more vitally affected by the measure, and that was the schoolmasters, many of whom were gentlemen and men of high education, graduates of the Universities. He would like to appeal on their behalf. He thought it very unfair that a body of men like the schoolmasters of these Endowed Schools should not have ample time given them to consider the Bill and confer with the trustees, and then communicate with such Members of this House as they had a right to look to to watch their interests. Any alteration in the system of Endowed Schools would deal with the interests of both these classes, not to speak of that their greatest class the interests of the people at large, and therefore they should be given ample opportunity to consider what was proposed to be done.


ventured to add his protest to those already expressed by hon. Members, and to request his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) to give them more time to look into that subject before the second reading of the Bill. He did so on a ground which had not yet been urged. There were a great number of new Members in that House—about 200, he believed—and of those Gentlemen probably a large proportion had not had time to read the Report of the Commission of which his right hon. Friend was a member. On the principle of "the more haste, the less speed," it was very important that Gentlemen who took an interest in education should approach that subject with some considerable knowledge of its bearings. In order to do that, it was very necessary that they should have read the Report, which, with the accompanying volumes of evidence, formed a very bulky series of works. It would be as well for hon. Gentlemen who had seen the Report to look over it again and refresh, their memories; but to do that in a week was more than was possible. He had not a word now to say against the Bill, for he had not the smallest idea of what its provisions might be; but this they knew, that there was to be the element of compulsion in it, and the mere use of that expression rendered him very anxious to make himself pretty well acquainted with the merits of the subject before they went to the second reading. His right hon. Friend proposed to bring a considerable amount of compulsion to bear both upon the scholars and the teachers of these institutions. That might be very necessary; but, undoubtedly, it was a very important alteration in our scholastic system, and it formed a sufficient reason why a fortnight should be given them to look over the volumes to which he had referred, in order that they might come to the discussion of the question with some accurate knowledge of its details.


suggested whether some of the inconveniences that had been alluded to might not be obviated if the Government were to send down a copy of the Bill to the head masters and trustees of these schools.


, in answer to his noble Friend (Lord Henley), explained that it was simply proposed that there should be an examination of the scholars and also of the masters for a certificate of fitness. It was not proposed to extend the operation of the Bill to any Endowed School which was at present in receipt of any assistance from the money annually voted by Parliament, With regard to the representation made to him by hon. Gentlemen on both sides that he ought not to attempt to take the second reading so early as next week, after conference with his right hon. Friend (Mr. H. A. Bruce) he wished to yield to that representation. He hardly did so, however, on the ground given by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Robert Montagu), who seemed to suppose the Bill would have a greater effect than he himself ventured to expect from it. The noble Lord said it was "to improve the character of the people," a work which, even if begun next week, would not be disadvantageous. But it was exceedingly to be regretted if the persons likely to be affected by the measure—and he hoped beneficially affected—should imagine that there was any attempt to carry it through suddenly and without due consideration. In moving an early day for the second reading, he had done so with the full intention that ample time should be given before the next stage was taken, and it would really be convenient to all interested to allow that course to be taken, on the understanding that the House might consider its views before the Bill went into Committee. He wished, however, to yield to the desire of hon. Gentlemen present, and he hoped the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) would induce all his friends to study the Report of the Commissioners, though it was to be feared even the time he had mentioned would not be sufficient to read all the twelve volumes. With the permission of the House he would put the second reading for Monday, the 8th of March.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to amend the Law relating to Endowed Schools and other Educational Endowments in England, and otherwise to provide for the advancement of Education, ordered to be brought in by Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSTER and Mr. Secretary BRUCE.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 3.]