HC Deb 19 July 1869 vol 198 cc158-62

said, he rose to call attention to the higher Government Schools of Science in the Metropolis in connection with the Science and Art Department. He considered that a growing interest and importance attached to this subject. From the manner in which the Estimates were prepared, it was difficult to ascertain what amount was given to Science and what to Art. The sum allocated to education in Art had produced the most excellent results. That which had been devoted to the Department of Science had scarcely received proper consideration from the House. It was most desirable that attention should be called to this subject. The Vice President of the Council (Mr. W. E. Forster) would probably himself confess that he had not given to that Department the amount of attention which it deserved. Its administration had, he believed, been almost wholly left to the Secretary of the Science and Art Department, aided in respect to science by an officer of Engineers, who could—though a man of considerable scientific attainments — not efficiently direct education in science so far as the Government were concerned. The amount of the Vote which was to be taken that evening was somewhat over £230,000, but that by no means covered the whole annual expenditure for Science and Art. Besides this, there were the sums for buildings—for the University of London, and for the Scotch Universities. He was not going to criticize the Votes in detail in all its ramifications; it would be admitted, he thought, they were all in the right direction. It might, however, be doubted whether more consideration should not be extended to the provinces. The Science and Art Department had made grants to elementary science schools and the grant to teachers, about £25,000, was increasing, he was glad to find, year by year. The elementary science schools, intended for the industrial classes, were doing an excellent work, only retarded by two causes, which it would take some time to remove. The first of these was the want of adequate preparation in the pupils, for almost all the examiners complained of the want of elementary knowledge on the part of those who came up for examination, some of them being scarcely able to spell correctly. The other was, that the instruction given was too much of the nature of "cram." This arose partly from the incomplete character of the education of some of the teachers themselves, and partly from the insufficient means at their disposal for imparting sound knowledge. The want of teachers had been felt and acknowledged, and to meet that want he was sorry to say the qualification of the teachers had been reduced. What, in his opinion, was required, was the institution of a normal school for science teachers, similar to that already in existence for Art teachers. There were nominally two, but really three superior schools of science existing in London. There was the Mining School in Jermyn Street, which comprehended the College of Chemistry, and the School of Naval Architecture at South Kensington. What was called the Mining School was, in reality, something very much beyond that. It included classes in natural history, in mechanical drawing, and other subjects, and was what he might denominate an imperfect Polytechnic School. It was to be regretted that it included no department of mathematical instruction. The discoveries made at the Chemical School far more than repaid any cost involved in its maintenance, whilst the School of Naval Architecture at South Kensington rendered services to naval architecture, not only in England but throughout the world. These three schools had all received considerable sums of money from the Estimates; but they were all in some points defective. The School of Chemistry in Oxford Street was altogether too small; its laboratory was about the size of an ordinary London drawing-room. He had compared the School of Chemistry at Oxford Street with the College of Chemistry at Berlin, and he found that the space available for laboratories at Oxford Street was 1,000 square-feet, or about one-fortieth of the area available for similar purposes at the German Schools— about the size of the coal cellar of the laboratory at Berlin. At present there were about forty pupils receiving instruction there, and from fifteen to twenty pupils had been refused admission in the course of the present year for want of room. With respect to the school in Jermyn Street, it had greatly encouraged a taste for scientific study among the working classes. Lectures to working men were given there from time to time, about 600 tickets being issued, and the theatre on these occasions was always filled. But anything like consecutive or detailed instruction could not be obtained at these lectures. The laboratory of Dr. Percy, who was one of the greatest metallurgists of the age, and whose work on metals had been translated into every foreign language, was in the small back yard of a tailor's shop, while Professor Goodeve, the lecturer on mechanics, was obliged to keep his models on a range of shelves from which they could not be removed without the greatest risk. The anatomical preparations of Professor Huxley were made in a dark closet about eight feet square, and so low that a man can scarcely stand upright in it. That was the state of the School in Jermyn Street. But while this was going on he found that a very noble building was rising up in South Kensington, of which the House and the country knew very little. It was referred to in the Treasury Minute of December 5, 1865, signed by the present Secretary of State for the Home Department, and he understood it would cost £190,000, of which £25,000 had been spent. But from that time to the present very little had been heard of it. The accommodation for students would be about 34,500 feet, or thirty-four-and-a-half times that at the disposal of the College of Chemistry. What he wished to ask his right hon. Friend now was to state to the House what was their present intention with regard to the application of that building. It was clear that the schools in Jermyn Street and in Oxford Street could not remain in their present condition. The building in Jermyn Street, which was occupied by the School of Mines, was partly devoted to the Geological Survey, but the officials engaged upon it had not there sufficient space for the duty assigned to them. If ever the School of Mines were removed from Jermyn Street, the building would not be too large for the Geological Survey. If he might be allowed to make a suggestion it would be this, that an amalgamation of the different schools should take place. He would not remove the lectures to working men from Jermyn Street. It was of great importance that these lectures should be given in the most central part of the town, and besides, there was a theatre in Jermyn Street which was exceedingly well adapted for the purpose of these lectures, and which he would be sorry to leave unused. It was also necessary that certain lectures should be illustrated by the admirable geological collection in the Museum at Jermyn Street, and these he would propose to continue at that institution. But with these exceptions, he would recommend that the whole of the Government science schools should be concentrated at South Kensington. The result would be a great economy both in time and teaching power. This was the case in foreign countries; and it was the more necessary, because at present the School of Mines—which was also a department of engineering —had no means of teaching mathematics, which the school for Naval Engineering and Architecture was ready to supply, and the want of which was greatly felt. The question was whether, if this amalgamation were effected, any additional expense in buildings must be incurred in order to accommodate these three schools. He was inclined to think that, with a proper economy of space. the buildings, now in course of erection at South Kensington, would afford all the accommodation that would be required for some time to come for a Polytechnic School. He believed this institution might also be made to supply a want that was much felt as to the deficiency of scientific training on the part of the teachers in our elementary science schools. South Kensington might be employed, not only for the instruction of the general public, but also for training science teachers. He had thought it right to call attention to this matter, not because he doubted the zeal and ability of his right hon. Friend (Mr. W.E. Forster), but because he thought the House ought to take a deeper interest than they did in scientific education. Whatever had been done hitherto had been done by the Government itself; but public opinion was now sufficiently alive to the importance of scientific education, and it was the duty of the House to support the Government in the matter.


said, the hon. Gentleman had made a speech full of valuable suggestions, but it was difficult for him to reply to them, as they referred to a Vote which followed the one he was about to move on Elementary Education. He must either therefore discuss this question twice over—both now and when it came in its regular course, which he thought was very unreasonable—or he must postpone it till they arrived at the Vote, and. he hoped his hon. Friend would agree to that being done.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.