HC Deb 08 June 1869 vol 196 cc1439-45

rose to move an Address for the issue of a Royal Commission to inquire into the endowment and administration of Endowed Schools and Hospitals in Scotland. The question was one which had been much neglected in recent inquiries into the state of education, but it was too vitally connected with that great question, upon which Parliament would shortly be called to legislate, to be altogether passed over. The problem of dealing with educational endowments in England was one which had been the subject of inquiry after inquiry. It was one of a most large and difficult character; for while, on the one hand, they were bound to respect the wishes—almost the caprices—of the founders, they had also to regard the interests of the public, and to take measures for the effective administration of these institutions. In England the question was ripe for legislation. In Scotland it was far otherwise. The public knew little or nothing of the property or administration of these institutions—there was a comfortable sort of feeling that they did a great deal of good. Even as to their funds very little was known, except that their value was probably much undervalued. In the neighbourhood of Edinburgh in particular, there were large endowments, partly for the purposes of education and partly for purposes analogous to the charitable institutions of this country. At the head of these was one which gave tone to the rest. He meant Heriot's Hospital. The revenues of these institutions were very large, and it was most desirable to ascertain that they were justly administered and applied in the most beneficial manner. "What he desired was to know something definite as to the existing resources of Scotland in this respect. The case of Scotland was peculiar: educational means were swept away at the Reformation. The difficulty had existed ever since, but more in the towns than in the country districts. The Education Commissioners had pointed out in their Report upon burgh and the middle class schools that the working classes found more difficulty in obtaining good education for their children at a reasonable rate in towns than they did in the rural districts. The difficulty arose not because the working classes in towns were less anxious for education than elsewhere, but because the means of obtaining it were less available in towns than in the rural districts. The information which Parliament now possessed in regard to these institutions was derived chiefly from scattered notices in the Reports of the Scotch Commissioners on Education. The existing educational endowments necessarily came under the inquiries of the Commissioners, but unfortunately not as a primary and special duty. They were— In particular, to report your opinion as to whether the funds voted by Parliament are applied to Scotland in the way most beneficial for the interests of the people, and to make any suggestion in regard to the application thereof, or in regard to the state of the said schools and the management and emolument thereof, which may appear to you calculated to improve the education of the people in Scotland. Although thus only incidentally mentioned, the question was not to be ignored, and there were important passages in the assistant Commissioners' Reports which bore on the subject, but it was almost entirely ignored in the General Report of the Commissioners. It was, in fact, only forced upon them in connection with, the financial question. In the Report of the Assistant Commissioners there is the following passage:— There is yet another source from which aid might be obtained, to which we have referred both in our general and special Reports—namely, hospital funds and endowments. Could any portion of these be made available for the encouragement of the higher or secondary education, the question of funds would be very much simplified, and the demands either on local rates or the public purse would be greatly reduced. But the whole subject which this opens up is one on which our information is as yet so incomplete and inexact, that it is impossible to form even an estimate of the aid that might be expected from such endowments. There is no doubt, however, that the hospital revenues and mortifications throughout Scotland are of enormous value. Some of them, as at present administered, are of little use, and the number of persons that they benefit, when compared with their pecuniary value, is ridiculously small; And they cite the case of Stirling, where there were hospital funds to the amount of £5,400 a year. The third Report of the Commissioners makes this recommendation, that— Without prejudice to the present powers of the trustees of hospitals, it shall be the duty of the General Hoard to examine the statutes and rules of their foundations and, subject when necessary to the approval of Parliament, to make alterations therein, with a. view to the extension of education. Inquiry was thus shadowed forth by a high authority, and whether it was to be conducted by an independent Commission or not was of little consequence. There were many allusions in the assistant Commissioners' Reports in proof of the importance of the inquiry; but they all showed that the Commissioners themselves laboured under the impression that the question did not come under the special reference. Mr. Lawrie, one of the Assistant Commissioners, summed up his Report with some striking1 general remarks. He said— They are not based on perfunctory observation, or the result of hasty inference. Since I received your instructions, the question of the hospital system has never been out of my thoughts. I have been led to conclusions even much larger and more antagonistic to the present constitution of things than I have felt myself hero at liberty to record. These conclusions, too, have been reached in spite of the fact that the funds are so well administered and the hospitals as a whole are so faithfully and anxiously conducted as to defy animadversion from the most hostile. I have confined myself, however, to such recommendations as tend in the right direction, and do not involve changes which might stir opposition by exciting alarm. And when Mr. Lawrie was consulted on a kindred point—namely, the existing means of maintenance) for schools in burghs—he said— It will one day probably be a question to what extent the large funds mortified for hospital purposes may be turned to the general use, without detriment to the interests of the persons whom the founders specially intended to benefit. In the case of many of these institutions, especially with regard to bursaries, there was a difficulty owing to their being in the hands of private patrons; and it was no disparagement to say that they were slow to move, and required the influence of public opinion to encourage change. The boys were not stimulated as the day scholars were in burgh schools, by extended competition and the study of subjects which were of their own selection, but were isolated by a kind of monastic life. With very little effort a scholar of the hospital was sure of a bursary. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would take the question into their serious consideration, and that some action would be taken in the matter.


said, he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion. He most heartily concurred in the proposal, and believed that if a Royal Commission were appointed great good would result. The hon. Baronet had made allusion to the great institutions in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh—particularly in reference to Heriot's Hospital. Some of the points in connection with that institution were not fully understood. Connected with Heriot's Hospital there were out-door schools, which were supported from the surplus funds of that hospital, under an Act of Parliament obtained thirty-one years ago. There were altogether nine schools, attended by about 3,300 children, and their education was entirely free. It might be supposed that this led to a system of waste, but the fact was that the children got an excellent education at the rate of £1 7s. 6d. a year; and the governors of the local institution had refused to accept Government aid for the erection of the schools, or for the payment of any part of the expenses. Then there was 186 boys within the walls of the hospital receiving not only their education, but their food and their clothing, and when they left the institution, apprentice fees for live years in order to maintain them until they were able to support themselves. Besides these advantages, all the boys who were fit for a University education received £30 a year as bursars. Heriot's Hospital was founded on the model of the Blue Coat Hospital in London; and he would venture to say that if they would inquire into the expenses of the two institutions, they would find that one master in the Blue Coat School would, get move money than all the masters in Heriot's Hospital, and that, the average espouse of educating the boys would be more than double, He stated these things not to find fault with the Motion, but to prevent the impression that there was a latent fund existing which might be made to a large extent available for other purposes. No doubt if the Bill of the Lord Advocate; were passed some good would be effected. The Acts of 1853 and 1856, which enabled the Charity Commissioners to reform those institutions that applied for changes, did not extend to Scotland, and up to this time there never had been an inquiry into these institutions. Another point he desired to mention with reference to Heriot's Hospital free schools is as to whether an entirely free education was a good thing or not. It had been said that the poorer classes of Scotland did not value anything unless they paid for it—that they despised education which was entirely free, and that the children consequently did not attend so well those free schools as schools for which they would have to pay. He had taken sonic trouble to test that allegation. It had been made for twenty years, and no statement was ever made more totally destitute of foundation. The facts were directly the opposite. The attendance at the Heriot schools, day by day, where no fees are charged, is about 85 percent of those on the roll. Over the schools in Edinburgh, where weekly fees of 2d and 3d. are charged, the average percentage of attendance is less. The explanation was this—If a boy was absent, the teachers made inquiry, and if he was absent three times without any good reason, he was dismissed from the school; and the privilege of getting an excellent education free of expense was so highly valued, that they dare not stay away.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the nature and amount of all Endowments in Scotland the funds of which are devoted to the maintenance or education of young persons; also to inquire into the administration and management of any Hospitals or Schools supported by such Endowments, and into the system and course of study respectively pursued therein, and to report whether any and what changes in the administration and use of such Endowments are expedient, by which their usefulness and efficiency may be increased."—(Sir Edward Colebrooke.)


said, he was far from denying the general importance of the subject which was dealt with by the Motion of his hon. Friend. There could be no doubt that the endowed institutions of Scotland were very large and very extensive, and that the rules under which many of them are administered were not in accordance with the present state of society, he entirely agreed that these foundations were not beneficial to the public to the extent intended by the founders— and, indeed, he believed that in some cases their effects were decidedly mischievous. The hon. Baronet had thrown some blame upon the Commissioners for Education in Scotland, and seemed to think that they had not properly inquired into this part of the subject committed to them. He (the Lord Advocate) did not think they were at all liable to that censure. Their main duty was to inquire into elementary education in Scotland. That was the matter for which they were appointed, and was a matter into which they did most carefully inquire; but they thought it was their duty not to relinquish the inquiry altogether until they had made some investigation into the middle-class education of Scotland. That was not the main subject upon which they were appointed, but they thought that their Report would be imperfect unless to some extent they dealt on that matter. Accordingly assistant Commissioners were appointed to inquire into the state of the burgh schools, and into the general state of middle-class education, and they had furnished a very elaborate and useful Report. But it appeared to the Commissioners—and it truck him (the Lord Advocate) very strongly indeed—that until you had settled the question of elementary education—until you had decided on what foundation the education of the country was to be built—it was premature to proceed to deal with the question of middle-class education. It was for that reason, and not because the Commis- sioners were not conscious of the importance of the question, that the Royal Commissioners did not go at length into the question of middle-class education, or into the question of these educational endowments. On the other hand, he was strongly impressed with the importance of having all information upon the matter, and for that purpose the Government had proposed to introduce into the Bill now pending in the other House a clause enabling the Education Board, appointed under that Bill, to make inquiries into and to deal with these endowments. But the trustees of some of the most important of these institutions made a representation that a measure might be introduced by which they might be enabled to reform themselves. This seemed a very reasonable and creditable proposal; and, accordingly, the Government have introduced a Bill, which is now before the House, and has been read a second time, and would probably come on for discussion in Committee on Thursday. His hon. Friend (Sir Edward Colebrooke) now interposes the proposal for a Royal Commission. He (the Lord Advocate) thought this was premature. What he proposed was that the debate should be adjourned to Thursday, when the Endowed Schools Bill would come on, when they could discuss the provisions of the Bill he had himself introduced as well as the general question. It might be that the Education Board would be found capable of conducting the inquiry satisfactorily.


said, he would assent to this proposal.

Debate adjourned till Thursday.