HC Deb 17 June 1869 vol 197 cc150-61

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, that the second reading of the Bill had been moved at one o'clock in the morning, when discussion upon its merits was then impossible; nor had his hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate given any reason why, with such a large and comprehensive measure for the reform of endowed schools in England, they should be treated with so small and restricted a measure for similar schools in Scotland. There might be some justification for this if the northern endowed schools were so much superior to the southern schools that they required less reform; but the very reverse was the case, for they were condemned by their own trustees, as well as by public opinion, and required reform of the most radical kind. The endowed schools of Scotland were proportionately fewer than in England; but, on the other hand, their wealth was much greater; for in Edinburgh alone the endowed schools had an income of £50,000, which was one-fourth of the total income of the English schools reported on by the Schools Inquiry Commission; and in all England there were only eight schools having incomes over £2,000 a year, while in Edinburgh alone there were the same number above that amount. Yet, notwithstanding this great wealth, the Scotch schools had a miserable amount of scholars—in Edinburgh only 1,100 boys were receiving education in these schools; and over all Scotland, with an income perhaps two-thirds that of England, the number of scholars was but small. Again, the educational results in Scotland were without question far lower than those in England; and if this were undeniable, then there was more necessity that the Scotch schools should come under at least equally stringent measures to render them educationally productive. It would require a very strong case to show that, while comprehensive and compulsory measures were necessary for England, contracted and voluntary measures were sufficient for Scotland. The term "hospitals" in this Bill concealed its meaning to many Englishmen. Anyone who had visited Edinburgh must have been struck by the number of palatial edifices which stud every party of the city, and force themselves on the attention of the visitor. It would be well for the honour of Modern Athens if he rested satisfied with their outward appearance of palatial grandeur, for he would not find a well-educated or thoughtful man who would praise the system pursued in them. In these "hospitals," as they are termed, though they are simply schools, 1,060 boys are immured in monastic seclusion, separated from home influences, separated from the world, which educates more than the schoolmaster, contracting habits and receiving an education which utterly unfit them for their future career. If monasteries act hurtfully on men with characters already moulded, they must necessarily intensify these evils in the case of boys, for they destroy individuality and substitute morality in theory for morality in practice. No wonder, then, that, generation after generation, these boys went out into the world pauperized morally and intellectually, and were no more heard of; for a distinguished "hospital boy" was unknown in Scotland. The parents of the boys were equally degraded by the existing system—instead of superintending the education on their children, and making a parent's sacrifice for their benefit, and bestowing upon them that vigilance which was the best part of home education, they relied on charity to do what they should do themselves. When Dr. Guthrie, so well known as a philanthropist, was asked, in his capacity of governor, to grant admission to an hospital for the son of a well-to-do father, his reply was, "My friend, were I you, it should not be till they had laid me in my coffin that boy of mine should lose the blessings of a fireside, and be cast amid the dangers of a public hospital." These unfavourable opinions were but the echo of Scotch feeling with regard to these institutions—they were the opinions of Dr. Bedford, the headmaster of Heriot's Hospital, of Mr. Lawrie, the well-known educationist, of Mr. Fearon, one of the Commissioners; and those who have read his Report would understand the full significance of the mournful complaint made by the master of one of these hospital schools, when he said—"Here we have to pour everything into the boys." The dreary monotony of their life, the annihilation of their individuality, the destruction of the obligations and supports of family life, so completely stunted mental growth that the labours of teachers were of small avail. It was the system—not the trustees, not the teachers, who were in fault—it was this monastic system, rotten at the core, which required to be rooted up. Yet this Bill was a mere permissive Bill, and offered no securities for a radical reform, either now or in the future. The principles upon which a radical reform should be based were clearly laid down in the Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission, and in the admirable speech of the Vice President of the Council when he introduced the Endowed Schools Bill. That speech must be taken as the Government interpretation of the Bill, and as the indication of the manner in which it is to be worked by the Executive. The first principle enunciated was, that admission by merit must be substituted for admission by favour. Did they find, even in distant perspective, any such leading; principle in this Bill? They were asked to intrust power to close corporations to reform themselves when they choose, and not unless they choose. Who ever heard of close corporations divesting themselves of their class privileges and their patronage, or of taking an enlarged view of the interests of the public as opposed to the interests of their constituents? The second principle enunciated by the Vice President of the Council, in his interpretation of the English Bill, was that gradation in schools must be established; so that, if there be two or more endowments in one district, they should not be mere duplicates, but each, acting in co-ordination, should supply a particular educational want of the district. And the Bill provided a double security for this—first, in the organizing Commission; and, second, in the permanent Educational Council. The Scotch Bill could not be worked in this wise way, for it was merely permissive. Each of the Edinburgh hospitals might propose if it like, and not unless it like, a scheme of reform for itself, and without relation either in time or circumstance to other schools. It was true that if any hospital should desire to initiate any reform, it was to petition the Secretary of State, who might inquire into the case by special commissioners. But the Secretary of State was not a Minister for Education, and was not responsible to the House for the education of the country. If, again, the actual inquiry was to be made by the Lord Advocate, that official was already over-worked. Again, the Amendments proposed to refer the scheme to the sheriff. This really would result in making the Lord Advocate and the Sheriffs a cumbrous Charity Commission for Scotland, and a new irresponsible department for the secondary education of the country. The third principle enunciated by the Vice President of the Council was to abolish the powers that these schools possess of pauperizing the middle or poorer classes, by bestowing education as an alms or dole upon people who can afford and who ought to pay for it. Did this Bill in any way involve this wise principle? The only largo reform ever attempted by the Edinburgh hospital schools was in the very face of the principle. Heriot's Hospital, groaning under a wealth which it could not employ further in pauperizing the burgesses, came to Parliament and obtained power to pauperize the working classes by establishing free schools in competition with the paying schools of the district. These schools were well taught, and contained 3,000 scholars; but they tempted parents amply able to pay for the education of their children, to shirk their responsibilities and avail themselves of charity. It might be supposed that these free schools served as feeders to the parent hospital, and that, by an open competition among the children attending them, there was a limited application of the principles of admission by merit and not by favour. But it was not so; the old, dreary system of patronage still went on, and the out-door schools had no connection, except in name, with the parent hospital. Thus, then, not one of the three great principles under which the English Endowed Schools Bill was brought forward was contained or is contemplated in the Scotch Bill, which was simply permissive, and relied on the hope that hospitals would reform themselves. In justification of the hope, the promoters of the Bill pointed to two facts—first, that the funds have prospered under the management of the trustees, and the second that reforms have already been initiated by one or more of the hospitals. It was true that the funds of the hospitals had largely increased; and in some cases their annual incomes approach the amount of their original capital, or, as in the case of Hutcheson's Hospital at Glasgow, largely exceeded it. Heriot's Hospital had an original capital of £24,000; its annual income was now £16,000. But it must be remembered that, since the foundation of that insti- tution, Scotland had made enormous strides in material prosperity, and therefore it was but natural that the hospital funds, honestly administered, should have augmented in like proportion. In this respect the Scotch hospitals did not differ from the English endowed schools; but the Vice President of the Council did not on that account exempt them from the operations of his compulsory measure. The second argument—that certain hospitals showed a disposition to initiate reforms—was more to the point. It was true that the trustees of Watson's Hospital and others had shown a desire to effect reforms in their management—the former proposed to break up the monastic system, and to board the children with their own friends, and educate them at the burgh schools. This was an admission of their inability to organize an efficient system within their walls. But so limited were their notions that they still confined their benefits to a privileged class, and forgot that there was a large public without; and they had not given the slightest sign that they intended to extend the area or scope of education. On the other hand the actual proposal was to degrade respectable citizens by paying them a sum of £20 or £30 a year for the board of their own children. This was a prostitution of a moral duty in a very barefaced fashion, yet these reforms were probably quite as much as could be expected from close corporations. There might be the desire, but the reforms could only be efficient when submitted to one common organizing Commission, such as the Scotch National Board would be. The sweeping away of class privileges, the abolition of the charity system, the gradation of schools, and their correlation, were reforms that could never be obtained from close corporations themselves. The wants of secondary education in Scotland had been clearly made out by the School Inquiry Commission, and they could only be supplied by adequate organization and simultaneous action of all the endowed schools of a district. "While not neglecting the education of the middle classes who could pay for it, they should send their roots down into the primary schools, so as to draw out of them, by an open competition, the âlite of the poorer classes, and advance them by an education suitable to their future occupations; and they ought to throw out their branches into the Universities, so as to knit together the lower and higher education of the country. Instead of being stereotyped in one common mould, they should glory in distinctive character by establishing special schools fully appointed and equipped—such as trade schools, schools of commerce, schools of science, all properly graded, and coordinated, so that pupils might pass from one to the other. A good deal of this might be obtained by persuasion and not compulsion, if the Lord Advocate would consent to postpone his measure and place the hospitals under the Scotch National Board which they were to be asked to create. He did not expect that he would agree with the promoters of the English measure in thinking that the hospitals might, with advantage to themselves and the public, have reforms wholly initiated by an outside independent body. But if the latter were intrusted with the restricted powers recommended by the Scotch Commission, and the initiation for a limited period were left with the hospitals themselves, a much better result could be secured for the education of Scotland than can be expected from the Bill in its present shape. He, therefore, appealed to the Lord Advocate to go into the Committee on this occasion pro forma, and delay the prosecution of the measure for a few weeks, until he saw whether the Scotch Board would be created, so as to enable him to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission, of which he was such a distinguished and efficient member. He was quite sure that his learned Friend had brought in his Bill in the conviction that it opened up the path of reform. He (Dr. Lyon Playfair) was equally convinced that it would block up the path of reform with crude and disjointed schemes, and that Scotland would by it be thrown many years behind England in its educational progress.


, in seconding the Motion, said, that what appeared to him to be the great objection to this Bill was the fact that it was suited only to those institutions which were willing to reform themselves. Some were anxious to reform themselves and others were not. If the Bill passed into law, there would be spasmodic efforts enough, but no uniform system of administering the funds. The whole circumstances of the case were such as to render obvious the ne- cessity for immediate inquiry; and he should have been glad if the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Lanarkshire had been agreed to. If the right hon. Gentleman would permit the insertion in this measure of clauses such as had been suggested by the hon. Baronet and other Members, it might be made more effectual in developing those great forces that were latent in Scotland for informing the ignorance, and, to a certain extent, relieving the necessities of the people.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Dr. Lyon Play fair,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, his impression was that every Scotchman owed a debt of gratitude to the Lord Advocate for introducing this Bill. He would himself have been willing to see a larger measure; but there was no reason why they should not accept a smaller measure, if it were directed to a good end, as he firmly believed this was. His hon. Friend (Dr. Lyon Playfair), in order to depreciate the hospital institutions, had represented that the funds had increased merely because of the material increase of the wealth of the country; but he (Mr. M'Laren) maintained that the funds of these institutions had increased because they had been well invested and economized. His hon. Friend had spoken in a manner not quite respectful of the sheriffs of Scotland. These gentlemen were important legal functionaries, who, from the different powers which they combined in their office, were peculiarly qualified for the part they would have to take under the Bill. The function of the sheriffs in this matter would be, not to propose a scheme for the management of these institutions, but to hear evidence, to digest it, and report their opinion to the Secretary for the Home Department and the Lord Advocate. To join with them members of the Universities would be a useless incumbrance, and add to the expense without a corresponding benefit. The main argument in favour of the Bill was its expediency. The question had been argued somewhat as if the House were entitled to take all these funds, belonging to private endowed hospitals, and throw them into the hands of some managing body, who would deal with them as they thought fit, disregarding altogether the wishes of the original founders; but he contended that they could not deal with the funds of such institutions as Donaldson's and Fettis' Hospitals, the first of which had been founded within the last half-century, and the last not yet finished, in such a manner without plainly setting aside the intentions of the founders. By so doing they would, in the case of Donaldson's, and other such hospitals, deprive the poorer classes of the benefit the founders intended for them, and divert them practically to the rich and prosperous. In short, he believed that these institutions were most admirably managed as they now were, and what was wanted was that they should have power, which they had not at present, to extend their operations, to establish outdoor schools, and reform themselves. In this way the Lord Advocate might do a great deal of good by carrying the Bill he had introduced.


was willing to do full justice both to the intentions of Her Majesty's Government and to the desire of the managers of these institutions, to administer their funds to the best advantage; but as regarded the Bill, it was obvious that a mere permissive measure would not meet the requirements of the case. He felt convinced that the only effectual way of dealing with the question was by a measure which would give to Scotland the same advantages as those which would be conferred by the Bill for England. But if this could not be done, they should make full and immediate inquiry into the subject, with the view of making the Bill for Scotland more efficient.


said, he entertained no doubt but that the managers of these institutions—those who had the administration of the endowments—were desirous of turning them to the best advantage. He felt scarcely capable of giving an opinion on this Scotch measure; but he had had an interview with those managers who had been to London in connection with the Bill, and he was gratified to observe how anxious they seemed to be to reform these institutions, and open them up generally for the benefit of the people of Scotland. He had ventured to propound some ideas to them, and they seemed to receive his suggestions with the greatest possible readiness, showing the utmost desire to effect such improvements as were calculated to render the institutions efficient. He could well understand the objection of the Member for Edinburgh University, thinking that, if this scheme were adopted, a great and comprehensive measure of reform might be indefinitely postponed; but that objection was entirely removed by the last clause of the Bill, which makes it simply a temporary measure only continuing in force, until 31st December, 1871. He could not but think that the Bill afforded a fair opportunity of testing whether the managers of these great institutions were not willing to do what many of them stated they desired, by putting them in a position in which they might carry out the reforms required.


said, many Members seemed not aware of the fact that this Bill did not profess to be a comprehensive measure, dealing with the whole question of secondary education in Scotland. It was one urged upon the Government, in the first instance, by some of the managers of those great hospitals, and taken up by the Government, in order that those trustees might have granted to them the facilities for improving the institutions which they required, and would not interfere with a more comprehensive consideration of the question whenever circumstances would permit. In his opinion they were very much indebted to the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair) for having enforced upon them the importance of introducing a Bill for Scotland resembling that for education for England, which had been so rapidly carried through the House. When such a measure should be introduced, it would, no doubt, have due regard to the principles which the hon. Member had laid down. It seemed to be supposed that no legislation on a larger scale was undertaken, because there had been no inquiry into middle-class education in Scotland. But he held in his hand two volumes—one entirely devoted to the Report on middle-class education, the other containing the Reports of the Assistant Commissioners. He would refer to the first volume and to the Report of Mr. Fearon in the second, to show that there already existed ample materials for legislation. The fact was that in Scotland they had done precisely the opposite to what they had done in. England. In Scotland they had commenced with primary education, and he hoped to see it extend to the middle classes; and in England they had begun with middle class education, and he had no doubt it would there have a good effect upon primary instruction. Taking all the obstacles together that stood in the way of education, both in England and in Scotland, he might say that they were all comprised in the term, "want of organization" in relation to the powers which would have to work in unison for the attainment of the common end. This he wished to say—The minds of the poorer classes in Scotland were fully occupied by the idea that not only was a good primary measure of education the great thing wanted, but that an arrangement was very much needed, which would allow them to rise from grade to grade as their abilities might fit them, and that they might ascend from the primary school, making their own way, until they reached to the University to receive the reward of their own exertions.


said, that the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair) seemed to misunderstand the object of the Bill, and what it professed to accomplish. It was not intended for the reform of the hospitals upon a large and sweeping scale; for it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to deal with the question of middle-class education—they were not in a position to do so. They felt that, until the elementary education of the people of Scotland was established on a basis on which they could rely, they could not effectually deal with middle-claass education. The Universities had been greatly reformed, and they hoped to effect a great improvement in the primary schools; but until this was done, they could not attempt to fill up the gap. He should like to see a full system of education supported by the public property, beginning with the lowest step and ascending up to the Universities, and these endowments would be a magnificent foundation for such a scheme. The object of this Bill was to relieve the trustees of the large institutions from the difficulties in which they were placed. They felt that the present system was full of faults, and they were unable to remedy it; they asked therefore for power to be granted them to make these schools more effectual. When that application was made it was not thought fit to reject it, for it was felt, that when they asked to revise their own foundations, it would be very desirable that they should be helped in doing so. If they should neglect to perform their duty, the Bill still retained to the Government the power of dealing with the question. Should the Bill of the other House be found to be a good and effectual measure, he should have no objection to engraft this Bill upon it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said, that the justice done to Scotland by the Bill was of a very mild description, but it did not seem to be very agreeable in certain quarters when it came to be applied.

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

Bill considered in Committee, and reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next.