HC Deb 13 February 1871 vol 204 cc197-221

, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to amend and extend the provisions of the Law of Scotland on the subject of Education, said, that in doing so, he would not take up the time of the House in vague generalities on the importance of the subject, but would proceed at once to explain the leading provisions of the measure. He might, however, be permitted to say for himself that, in undertaking to prepare and introduce a measure on the subject of Education for Scotland, he did so under a full impression of its importance and of the difficulties he should have to encounter. He did not forget the unsuccessful result of previous attempts, made by more able hands than his; and if, nevertheless, he was not despairing, but hopeful, it was because of the changes which had been wrought in men's minds on the subject. Men's minds had become more deeply impressed with its importance, and those political and ecclesiastical considerations, which, to the regret of every good man, had been permitted to obstruct the progress of the education of the people, had been modified or moderated. Those hon. Members who had noticed the title of the Bill would have observed the contrast which it presented to the title of the measure of education for England which was passed last Session. The difference was not merely one in the point of words, but one which indicated a real difference between the condition of Scotland as compared with that of England in the matter of education. In England, as befitted so great, prosperous, and wealthy a country, there was splendid and munificently endowed provision for the higher and the highest education; but until the measure of last Session was passed, the law of England made no provision for the elementary education of all children of the country. In Scotland the matter stood very differently. There the foundations or endowments for the higher or the highest education were few in number and inconsiderable in amount; but, from a very remote period indeed, the law of Scotland had made some compulsory provision for the primary, and, to a considerable extent, for the secondary, education of the people. The burgh schools were coeval with the erection of the Royal burghs. It had ever been considered that one of the purposes for which burghs were erected, charters, privileges, and lands granted to them, was to promote the education of the community. The name given to burgh property was significant as signifying the purposes to which it was applicable; for the name by which it was legally and technically known was "the common good." He repeated that the education of the young had ever been regarded, and was now regarded, by the law of Scotland, as a "common good," to which the property of the community was legally applicable; and he would take leave to say further that any administrators of such property who were neglectful of education were neglectful of their legal duty. Burgh schools having their origin in the law to which he referred, and having, as he had stated, existed from the very earliest period—as far back as the institution of corporations and burghs—had so continued to the present time. The law upon the subject had, no doubt, been very largely evaded; but, nevertheless, in the greater number of the burghs of Scotland there was a burgh school, and in most of them some provision was made for the maintenance of the burgh schools out of the "common good" or corporation property of the burgh. As burgh schools were included in the provisions of this Bill, he might perhaps be permitted to make a few further observations in respect to them. They were not rate-supported. They were maintained partly by the contributions from the burgh funds—which, however, were very small—and partly and chiefly by fees paid by the pupils who attended them. In almost all of them—indeed, he believed with only two exceptions, the High School in Edinburgh and the Aberdeen Academy—elementary education was provided, commencing even with the learning of the alphabet. In most of them also instruction was given in the higher branches of knowledge; so that pupils were prepared to proceed even to the Universities. In fact, they constituted a connecting link between the parish schools and the Universities of Scotland. They were attended by children and young men of all classes, from the lowest to the higher middle class, and in some burgh schools—or, the High School at Edinburgh being taken to be the chief representative—the children of the very highest classes of the country attended. They were important public institutions; the only public schools in which legal provision was made for education within burghs, for the system of parochial schools did not extend to burghs. These schools were under the management of the town councils; and, judging from the Report of the Commissioners on Education, the management had, upon the whole, been satisfactory.

He had now to bring under the notice of the House the existing state of the law of Scotland on the subject of education in the country districts. In parishes, the provision was made by means of parish schools. These schools were of very ancient origin. The law of Scotland made provision for education through the country generally, by a compulsory Act, so long ago as the 15th century. That Act imposed penalties upon all parishes which did not provide a suitable education for the children within their bounds. The first statute establishing parish schools—not upon precisely their present footing, but really establishing, or attempting to establish, a school in every parish—was the Act of 1633. The subsequent Act of 1696 placed the parish schools substantially upon the footing on which they now stood. The next statute was the Act of 1803, in the reign of George III.; and to complete the statement of the legislation on the subject, the last statute ne- cessary to notice was passed in the year 1861. The parish schools, the House would be good enough to understand, were public rate-supported schools—the legal provision for their establishment and maintenance was a rating of landed property in the parishes, with a relief to the heritors to the extent of one-half from their tenants. The management of these schools was, down to the year 1803, when the statute of George III. was passed, in the rated body—that is to say, those liable to rates for educational purposes had a share in the management of the schools. By the statute of 1803, the managing body was decreased in number by a provision requiring that those admitted to the management should be possessed of a certain specified rental, though prior to that all who contributed to the support of the school had a voice in the management.

Now, in order to put the House satisfactorily in possession of the condition of those schools at the present time, it was necessary he should explain the area of rating or assessment for their support. This rendered it necessary to explain an expression frequently heard in the discussions on Scotch education—he alluded to the expression "valued rent." That had become a technical expression, having a technical meaning. Originally, it had no other meaning than the words express; it signified the real value or rent of every man's estate. But the valuations in Scotland were somewhat numerous at first, but had subsequently been discontinued, or renewed after a very long lapse of years. The first valuation of which they had any account was in 1280, the next in 1327. It was doubtful if there was any revision of this last in 1365; but there certainly was in 1424. The next notice they had of a valuation of the lands in Scotland was that in the time of the Usurpation. In the year 1656 the land tax was imposed upon the landed proprietors according to the value of their estates; and there was some reason to suppose that there was at that time a revision of the valuation. In the year 1667 there was another law imposing the land tax in Scotland, which required that it should be imposed according to the former valuation, where equal and just, with power to the Commissioners to rectify it where they considered rectification necessary. He believed there was no rectification at all; and the rolls made out with a view to the revision of the land tax under the law of 1667 had continued in operation for the collection of the tax ever since, the estates which were entered in the year 1667 standing there still at the value or rents originally set down. So in process of time the valuations entered in the rolls came to be called the "valued rent" of the land. It was hardly necessary to say that these could not in the present day be regarded as anything approaching a just valuation of the lands. In the first place, the rolls did not include all the lands in Scotland, because there had been parts of estates sold, and the "valued rents" not divided, although there was provision made for division as between the different proprietors; and the result was that a large amount of the landed property in Scotland was not on the rolls, or, to express it technically, was not "valued rented" at all. Nevertheless, the valuation contained in that roll—the "stent" roll as it is called—had continued down to the present day from considerations of convenience, and, in order to avoid expense and the other unpleasant incidents of re-valuation, it had been adopted as the rule for the imposition of a great variety of assessments under the local taxation system. It had not been adopted upon any other principle or from any other consideration that he was aware of. This state of things continued with respect to a great variety of taxes down to the year 1854, and continued now with respect to the assessments for the maintenance of the schools, churches, manses, and other matters subject to parochial taxation of that kind. In the year 1696, when the statute was passed placing parish schools upon their present footing, the heritors were directed to assess themselves according to their "valued rent"—that is to say, according to the rental value of their respective properties; and the ancient valuation was taken as the rule, and had unfortunately continued to be the rule of assessment from that time to the present. So, as he had said, the term "valued rent" had acquired a technical meaning; the result being that only those proprietors whose estates were upon the stent roll were subject to the assessment for the purposes of education, although undoubtedly it was a tax intended to be imposed upon all, the principle being equal contributions for the common benefit. As it was, however, those only contributed whose estates happened to be upon the ancient roll for the land tax. The inequality of its operation was illustrated in every county and district. He had obtained some Returns for the purpose of enabling him to judge of the unequal operation of the assessments imposed according to this antiquated roll, and he would mention one or two instances which might be taken as fair specimens of the whole. In the county of Forfar were two estates, one of the real value of £670, and the other of the real value of £345, yet each paid the same amount of rate, the "valued rent" of each estate, according to the old valuation roll, being the same. In the county of Perth were three estates—the first of the rental of £490, the second having a rental of £734, and the third a rental of £800; yet all paid the same amount of rate, the "valued rent" of these estates, which are of so different values now, being originally the same. In the county of Dumfries, again, were two estates—respectively of the rental of £551 and £3,823, which paid within a fraction the same amount of rate, the valued rent of the two being the same. In the county of Aberdeen, one estate, with a rental of £455, paid the same rate substantially as another estate with a rental of £964. In the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright were three estates noted—of the respective rentals of £126, £239, and £405; but they are all rated at the same amount within a trifle, that which was rated highest being the estate of £126 a year. That seemed an altogether unjust, inequitable system, and the marvel must be that it should have been permitted to last so long. He had mentioned that by the Act of 1803 the number of the managing body had been reduced by a provision to the effect that only those heritors whose estates were valued at not less than £100 Scots should have a voice in the management of the schools. The operation of that provision was also very capricious. In the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright there was an instance where the proprietor of a real rental of £405 a year had no voice in the management, because his ancient valuation was under £100 Scots; while another proprietor, with a rental of £126, had a share in the management because his estate was valued at over £100 Scots. In Dumfries a proprietor with a rental of £563 had no share in the school management, while another with a rental of £350 had. As he had endeavoured to explain, while the rating or assessment for the support of parish schools was confined to those heritors whose estates were on the stent roll, they had a reasonable claim to have the management of the schools in their own hands. But if they were to have anything worthy of the name of a national system of education, it was impossible that this ancient rule of rating should be continued.

He would now proceed to state to the House the extent to which the parish schools—supported by the rates imposed upon "the valued rented" heritors, and which are managed by a select number of their own body, in conjunction with the parish ministers—contribute to the education of Scotland. In the whole country there are on the rolls of the schools 424,360 children. He had taken the numbers with respect to the country districts—that was to the whole country, excluding the 17 larger towns—from the Report of the Commissioners; but he had been under the necessity of making an estimate of the number attending in the towns, there being no precise statistics which enabled him to make a statement with perfect confidence. That number he estimated at 88,183, leaving a balance of 336,177 in the country schools. Speaking with accuracy from the statistical information given by the Commissioners there were on the roll of country schools 312,795 scholars. Now, there ought to be educational provision in Scotland for about 500,000 or rather more than 500,000 children. There were upon the rolls of all the schools taken together, 424,360, leaving a deficiency, according to the Report of the Commissioners upon Education, of children not on the roll of any school of 75,640. Now, it was necessary that provision should be made by law, if they were to have an efficient system of education at all, and nothing was to be left to chance or charity, for the education of all the children in Scotland. He did not mean to say that schools were to be provided for all that number of children; but that the State must take cognizance of the number requiring education, and must provide for those not already pro- vided for. Of course, the existing parish schools, which had been reported upon by the Education Commissioners, must form part of any national system; but the question they had to consider was, whether they could, with any propriety, be dealt with separately, and maintained as distinct schools upon their present footing, or something resembling their present footing, the new schools being under a different system of maintenance and management, or whether it would not be more satisfactory, and more conducive to the end in view, to institute one efficient system of maintenance and management for all the schools which are to be denominated public, and of which the law was to take cognizance? For his own part, he had never seen any advantage likely to arise from the double system. It was therefore intended that there should be no distinction. The new schools and the old schools would be of the same character, and there could be no reason why they should be differently managed or maintained. That being so—if they were to have only one system for all the schools which were to be provided under the national system, and which must necessarily be much more numerous than those which existed at present, he had to consider further whether the system he had described as existing with reference to the existing parish schools was such that it could be adopted as the one system of management for all the schools to be provided. He owned that without difficulty or hesitation he had arrived at the conclusion that it would be impossible, and certainly impolitic, to impose the rates necessary for the support of the schools upon a certain class of heritors only, and according to a valuation so capricious as that which he had explained; nor could he see any good reason in support of the proposition that the management of the schools should be vested in a select number of the valued rent heritors. He had, therefore, to propose to the House — and the measure which he was now asking leave to introduce contained a provision to that effect—to extend the area of rating for the support of the public schools to all lands and heritages whatsoever, to abolish the valued rent as the rule of rating, and substitute for it the real rent—so that the proprietors and heritors, without exception, should contri- bute to promote the education of the country according to the actual value of their possessions. There was no reason now, nor had there been since 1854, for having recourse to the valuation roll, because in that year an Act was passed in which the actual valuation was made up of the whole of the lands and heritages in the country. The proposal, therefore, he had to submit on this subject of the area of rating was, that it should extend to all lands and heritages, and that the rule should be the real valuation—thus bringing the whole within the operation of the rate assessment. In that case there could be no longer any reason for confining the management to the heritors, or to a select number of their body. The real idea of the Scotch Legislature was to impose the rate on all, and to give the vote to all who paid the rate. How it came to be modified he had explained. He was now only recurring to the ancient principles of the law in giving a voice in the management to all who contributed to the rate. Of course, such a body would be far too numerous to be practicable as a managing body; but there was a way of reducing them, that was approved by modern experience, and that was to make the ratepayers electors, and enable them to elect a managing body; and accordingly the provisions of the Bill in respect to the managing body was, that the ratepayers in each parish or district should elect the school Board in the same manner, substantially as was provided for in the English Act. This applied not only to parishes in rural districts, but to all burghs. Indeed, the greatest destitution in the means of education, according to the Report of the Commissioners, was in the burghs. There was comparatively little destitution in the parishes, and none that called for any special remark in the Lowland parishes. There was greater destitution in country districts in the Highlands, and the greatest of all in the large towns. The Bill proposed that in every burgh there should be a school Board elected by the ratepayers—the rate again being assessed upon the occupiers of all lands and heritages, and the rule of assessment under the Poor Law being taken substantially as the assessment for that of the school-rate. With a view to save the expense of a double assessment and double collection the school rate would be added to the poor rate, assessed upon the same data and collected at the same time. The duties of the school Board would be to ascertain, each Board in its own parish or burgh, the educational requirements of the parish or burgh, the existing supply of education; and to determine whether any, and if so, what aid was necessary. Of course, the school Board was to supersede the existing managing bodies of public schools—they came in place of the managers and heritors in parishes and burghs. In their hands would rest the selection of the masters of the schools, and they would have the general charge of the educational requirements, and the provisions to be made for them in the various districts. In the Bill that was laid before the Parliament and indeed passed this House, in 1869—in that Bill, after it came down from the House of Lords, provision was made for a temporary Board in Edinburgh, with a view to set the machine in motion. It was not proposed by that Bill that the Parliamentary grant should be handed over to the Board in Edinburgh, or should be administered otherwise than hitherto by a Department of the Government directly and immediately responsible to Parliament. The share of the Parliamentary grant which Scotland now received was £80,000 a year. Under the present measure, if it became law, that grant would be largely increased—indeed by several-fold. He would not indulge in any expectation that the administration of so large a sum would be handed over to any permanent Board to be constituted in Scotland, or removed from the Department of the Government hitherto entrusted with that duty, and immediately and directly responsible to Parliament for it; but it was undoubtedly well worthy consideration, whether the example set by the provision of the Bill of 1869, to establish a Board in Scotland for the period of three years, in order to set the new system going, and determine where new schools were wanted, and the particular situation in which they ought to be established, ought not to be followed. He confessed he was not himself partial to a temporary Board. He should have the greatest possible difficulty in agreeing to it—a difficulty which was strongly felt in 1869, in proposing a satisfactory constitution for such a Board; and it was to be considered whether it was really necessary to the attainment of the end in view, or whether a Department to be constituted with a view to education in Scotland would not be able to exercise efficient supervision and control over the local school Boards, so as to see that, on the one hand, they did not neglect their duties, or, on the other, that they did not exceed them. By the provisions of the Bill, the duty of determining, in the first instance, whether any, and what additional provision was required, and how it ought to be supplied, was laid upon the school Boards. Now, surely, all that remained to be done, in addition to that, by any sensible body was to see that they were attentive, and not negligent or perfunctory in the performance of their duties; and that they were not extravagant nor yet over-parsimonious.

Now, the proposal which he had to submit to the House was, that Her Majesty should appoint a Committee of the Privy Council for Education in Scotland, and that that Committee, which in the Bill was denominated the Scotch Education Department, should have, as a Government Department necessarily must have, the administration of the Parliamentary Grant; and that they should also exercise that supervision and control over the local Boards to which I have referred as necessary. Provision was accordingly made for the discharge of those duties by the Department, which would be found defined in the interpretation clause. These were the main provisions of the Bill which he now laid on the Table. He abstained from entering into the details, which would be more satisfactorily communicated by the circulation of the Bill itself. The idea on which the measure was based was, as the House would perceive, this—We take the existing provisions of the law of Scotland on the subject of education in the parish schools and burgh schools as the foundation. The burgh schools had no aid from rates at present, and where they were insufficient to meet the educational requirements of the burgh in which they existed, there was no legal provision for extending their parochial system into burghs. The consequence was strikingly manifested in the case of Glasgow. There, there were 291 schools altogether, a very large proportion of them being indifferent, and a considerable proportion of them altogether bad; but of the 291, only one of them is a public school—the Burgh School of Glasgow. Therefore the parochial system had, in reality, to be extended, as it had not hitherto been, to the burghs. In so far as public schools were to be multiplied in rural parishes, the Bill made provision for that being done; and further for extending the system into burghs, but under the management of the school Board of each burgh. That had been done, not with the view of reducing the standard of the present burgh schools, which was generally above that of the elementary schools, but with the view of increasing the standard of the only public schools in Scotland providing for the secondary education of the people. The area of the rating being extended, the managing body was accordingly extended, but reduced to a convenient number in the manner provided by modern experience—namely, the electoral system.

He had omitted to state directly and distinctly—though it might have been implied—that any remaining connection between the public schools and the Church of Scotland was now entirely severed. Indeed, the only connection subsisting between them since 1861 was the presence of the parish minister on the board of management. He believed Presbyteries claimed the right of periodical visitation and examination; but the Royal Commissioners had reported that, in their opinion, their visitation was of no practical benefit to the schools. It was impossible that these schools could now have any communication with any particular Church, and accordingly the Bill provided that they should have no communication with any denomination whatsoever. He had said nothing on the subject of the religious difficulty—perhaps it had not been pressing so much on his mind, because, so far as he had been able to ascertain—and he had been at some pains in making inquiries in all directions on this subject—the religious difficulty had not, and never had, any practical existence in Scotland. There had never obtained, by any provision of law, a conscience clause in any public schools; nevertheless, they had always been conducted as if a very precise conscience clause had been in operation. He believed it to be a fact that in every parish school in Scotland — and he thought he might extend the statement to all Church schools (with the exception of the Episcopal and Roman Catholic)—in the Free Church, the United Presbyterian Church, and the Independent, the conscience clause was practically operative—that was to say, religion was taught in a certain specified part of the day, when, those children whose parents desired them to attend might be instructed; but the secular teaching was so consecutive that the teaching of religion was no interruption to the education of any of the pupils. The fact was, that among the various denominations of Presbyterians there was really no preference on the part of the parents for any one school rather than another, because it happened to belong to a particular denomination. That statement was fully borne out by the Report of the Commissioners with respect to the whole country, with the exception of three districts, which they stated were in a worse condition, so far as education was concerned, than any other part of Scotland. The children belonging to the Established Church attended in great numbers the free schools and vice versâ: and he had had deputations of masters of parish schools and Free Church schools, who all concurred in saying that no religious difficulty was ever experienced.

He had further to state that provision was made in the Bill whereby the school Board of any parish or burgh might take over any existing school—that was to say, if they were satisfied that education would be promoted by taking over the particular school buildings, masters, and scholars, and placing it under their management; and then they would become public schools in all respects under the management of the Board, maintained and dealt with by them in precisely the same manner as the parish schools. The Grants, it was further provided, much in the terms of the Bill of 1869, might be given to all the existing schools conforming to the regulations under which alone a Grant was to be given; but there was a provision with respect to future schools of a denominational character—that a Grant should not be given unless, in the opinion of the Scotch Education Department, there were exceptional reasons for arriving at the conclusion that such a school was necessary in the particular locality in which it happened to be called into existence. He need hardly state that all schools under the operation of the Bill would be subjected to undenominational inspection. It was only necessary to refer quite generally to the Report of the Commissioners in order to determine the value of inspection. The percentage of good schools, as compared with the percentage of indifferent and bad schools, was very large; and nothing had surprised him more than to find the small extent to which at present advantage was taken of inspection. At present the inspection was denominational, and that led to wonderful anomalies and expenses—there were Church Inspectors, Free Church Inspectors, and Roman Catholic Inspectors, all travelling together to examine three or four schools in the same locality. Even with that denominational inspection, out of 1,133 parish, side, and Parliamentary schools in Scotland, only 337 submitted to inspection. The Commissioners stated that they were unable to account for that otherwise than by what they had been told, that many clergymen in the Church of Scotland, had so great an aversion to Government inspection, or interference of any kind, that they were willing to sacrifice the Government Grant rather than submit to it. The provision contained in the Bill on this subject was similar to that contained in the English Bill. These were the principal provisions of the Bill which he asked the leave of the House to lay upon the Table. He did not flatter himself for one moment that the Bill would not be sharply criticized. He was not even sanguine that he had succeeded in realizing his own conception. That conception was large, for it proposed no less than this—to present to this House a comprehensive and efficient scheme of national education, thoroughly national and entirely undenominational; such a scheme as, according to the best of his belief and judgment, the country for which it was designed was prepared to accept, and which he hoped Parliament would sanction.


said, it could not be expected that the proposals of the Bill could be discussed at any length on this occasion. He should therefore content himself with observing that the measure, as described by the Lord Advocate, contained some proposals which were certainly new, and had not been contained in any of the former Bills; and which were at variance with the unanimous recommendations of the Commissioners—men of all parties and all Churches—who were appointed to inquire into the subject of Scotch education. At the same time, he would refrain from expressing strong opinions on the subject until he had read the Bill. So far as regarded the schools he should be most happy to assist in any way for the purpose of securing a better remuneration to the teachers engaged in education; but he did not exactly understand from what source the funds were to come, and it would give him great pleasure to do anything to effect an improvement in the condition of the burgh schools. With regard to the parochial schools, it was now proposed that they should be entirely "disestablished"—disconnected from the Established Church. That was a proposition which certainly had not received the concurrence of any of the Commissioners, with the exception of one, and he qualified his opinion. What the Commissioners suggested was, that the parochial schools should be continued upon their present footing. Now he (Mr. Gordon) would go further, and would have the management extended, if the Government chose so to term it, liberalized. His feeling was strongly against destroying those schools, which had done admirable service to the cause of education in Scotland, and which had been the object of envy and admiration amongst all nations; and he regretted exceedingly that it should be thought necessary, with a view to carry through what was called a national system of education, to abolish those schools, and place them entirely in the position of the new schools. Those schools had been successful, and the schoolmasters were exceedingly anxious that they should be preserved, if it were only as standards up to which the new schools should attempt to raise themselves. He must say that he considered that this subject was well deserving of reflection and consideration so as to determine the propriety of discontinuing them, after having rendered so much useful service to the cause of education. There was another proposition contained in the Bill completely at variance with the views of the Commissioners, as well as with the Bill of 1869. It was a point which would excite a good deal of attention in Scotland. There was to be no School Board for the management of schools there. Now, if there was one question more than another as to which the people of Scotland were jealous, it was that their schools should be under the management of a Scotch Board, and not under the management of the Privy Council. The Privy Council was, no doubt, entitled to great consideration; but there was a material difference in the system of education which was proposed for Scotland and that which was now about to be given for the first time to England. The parish schools in Scotland had hitherto combined both the position of elementary and secondary schools, and had been of the greatest service as affording a means of enlightened and liberal education to those who evinced abilities which rendered such education useful; and he could give no better illustration of this than by stating that something like 60 per cent of the students who present themselves at the Universities of Scotland had been educated at the parish schools. Those schools, therefore, fulfilled a purpose in Scotland which was not expected of the elementary schools in England. It was therefore most desirable that they should not be linked to the Privy Council, which had to deal with the elementary education of England, and which had not hitherto been called upon to deal with such a system as that to be proposed for Scotland. This, he thought, was a matter with regard to which there was a very strong feeling in Scotland. It was possible that some provisions might be framed which would tend to soften the proposal made by his right hon. Friend; but until he had seen the Bill he could not speak as to that. When it was said they should not have an Education Board in Scotland, had not Ireland its Board of Education? Why, then, should not Scotland have one also, for the purpose of managing a system entirely different in its principle from that which existed in England? The Lord Advocate was quite right in stating that the religious difficulty did not exist in Scotland. But why? Because, while the Church had the management of the schools in that country they conducted them on the most liberal terms; they instituted a conscience clause, and gave instructions to the schoolmasters that any child objecting to receive the religious teaching imparted in the parish schools should at once be relieved from attendance; and they had evidence from the Roman Catholic priests and others that they were so satisfied that no attempt was made at proselytism that they freely permitted the children of their creed to attend the parish schools. It was therefore quite right that it should be understood there was no religious difficulty. But then he had not found that the Lord Advocate in his statement admitted any recognition of religion. It was proposed practically to abolish the parish schools. In those schools there had been a "use and wont" of religious instruction as contained in the Shorter Catechism and the Bible; and that had not been objected to by any person, as his right hon. Friend had stated. They were going to create new schools without giving any recognition to the subject of religion. As far as teaching the Bible itself in the schools went, he knew there was a strong feeling in Scotland in its favour; and when they were legislating on the subject of education, were they prepared to ignore the general feeling on that subject? If the Catechism were abolished in the schools, let not the Bible be excluded from them. Let them not be deterred from recognizing the Bible by any idea that they were establishing religion by doing so. He should regret if they could not find a concurrence of opinion among different religious denominations that the Bible should be taught in the schools. The difficulty was not to be got rid of by sending it to the Parochial Board to be decided, because the Parochial Board was just as much the State power as that House itself. If the parish schools were to be abolished, where an admirable system of religious teaching had been carried on without the least injury to the consciences of those attending them, it was most important that the people of Scotland should consider whether in the new system that was to be introduced they did not wish that there should be some recognition, of religion. He was not arguing for sectarian or denominational education in Scotland, but only for the great principle that the Bible should be taught in the schools, and he was surprised to find that no reference had been made to so important a matter. In conclusion, he trusted that when he saw the Bill there might be in it some provision that would obviate some of the objections he had indicated, and it would be his endeavour to do everything in his power to expedite the passing of a measure to settle the question of education in Scotland.


said: I do not like to pass over the introduction of such a large and obviously carefully-considered measure for reforming our system of national education in Scotland without some general expression of appreciation. But I have a lively remembrance of the chorus of applause which greeted the Vice President of the Council when he introduced his English Bill last year, and the opposition which it afterwards excited from the very men who had applauded it at the outset. I would, therefore, speak with full reserve as to the conclusions which may arise in my mind on a deliberate consideration of the provisions of the Bill, for my right hon. Friend has kept his counsel so well that I do not think any independent Scotch Members had the slightest idea what was to be the nature of his Bill until he spoke to-night. But I can have no hesitation in saying that I think he has grappled with the difficulties of the subject boldly and with knowledge. In one respect the Bill differs from its numerous predecessors, in dealing with burgh schools as well as with primary schools, and, in this respect, I can have no hesitation in expressing a warm approval. It is difficult for Englishmen to grasp the difference between the Scotch and English system of schools; for, until last year, there was no true national system of education in England, while Scotland has enjoyed that blessing for several centuries. Our religious reformers extended the system which existed in practice at their time, and recommended a chain of schools, beginning with the primary, passing through secondary grammar schools, then through preparatory colleges professing the usual trivium of the dead languages, logic, and natural philosophy, until finally the platform of the national Universities should be reached. The scheme was only partially carried out, the colleges never having been organized; but the secondary or burgh schools exist in every Royal, municipal, and Parliamentary burgh in Scotland, with the exception of three small ones. Most of these—indeed, all but two—have lower primary schools attached to their secondary schools. These burgh schools furnish 42 per cent of the students of the Universities, while the parochial primary schools, which still give secondary education in a less organized way than the burgh schools, yield the chief part of the remaining 58 per cent of students. Primary and secondary education are thus so thoroughly ingrained in Scotland that you cannot deal with them separately, nor would Scotchmen give one farthing for a system of national education in which they were separated. The great Napoleon used to say that every soldier carried his Marshal's baton in his knapsack; so every Scotch peasant, when he goes to school, carries in his satchel a minister's gown, or other emblem of a learned profession, and it is his own fault if he lose it. I congratulate the Lord Advocate on having maintained this inherent difference between the education of the Scotch and English people by having, for the first time, provided for it in one measure. I have a little regret that he has taken those schools from the management of the town councils, who have done their duty well by them. This course was, perhaps, unavoidable. Certainly, in a money point of view, they contribute only slightly to their maintenance, for of the £50,000 which these schools cost annually, £42,000 are derived from fees, and £3,000 from endowments. Whether he has done wisely in not having a National Board of Education to preserve these peculiarities is a serious question, and one upon which I desire entirely to reserve my opinion, not only till I study the Bill, but also till I see the Revised Code from the Education Department. I think the Bill is wise in retaining as a burden on the land the present amount of between £40,000 and £50,000 expended on the parochial schools. But, in doing so, it was right to render their management more popular. The educational management of these schools was, in reality, a popular one, vested in all heritors till 1803, when it was unwisely restricted to large landowners. No scheme could be satisfactory that did not restore their popular character, and open up the management of these schools to all who are interested in their maintenance. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Glasgow (Mr. Gordon) is wrong in saying that the Lord Advocate proposes to abolish parochial schools. On the contrary, as I understand him, he only proposes to develop and extend them by the aid of a larger area of taxation. With regard to the plan for creating new schools, and adopting the existing denominational ones, it is unnecessary at present to express an opinion. The question which has wrecked all previous Scotch Education Bills in Parliament has not been the religious, but the ecclesiastical difficulty. There is positively no religious difficulty worth speaking of in Scotland. When you have a whole nation, with few exceptions, worshipping in a common faith, and even in a common ceremonial—separated into sections not by questions of doctrine, but only of Church polity—surely, it will be a scandal to my country if this Bill be again wrecked on shoals of ecclesiastical jealousies. In the progress of this Bill, there will be no discussions, such as those of last year, upon conscience clauses. These have been long in operation by custom, most efficiently preserved in all schools in Scotland, and there will be no objection to give them a legislative sanction. The real fight will be as to how far the different Churches are to superintend the common religious instruction of the schools. One Church, indeed—the United Presbyterian, supposed to contain about a fifth of the people of Scotland—are of opinion that religion should not be superintended or paid for by the State in any way, and, in fact, desire that it should be relegated to the parent and the minister; but this is by no means the general opinion of the Scotch Churches, which would desire to see religion an integral part of school education, under effective inspection and supervision, if not by the State, by the authorities of the Church. Yet if, with a common religious faith, the Churches cannot come to some agreement as to how they can mutually assist each other and the school Board in the religious upbringing of the youth of Scotland, then this House and the country will, no doubt, think that the Churches value more their slight ecclesiastical differences than the religious and social welfare of the people committed to their charge. A truly national system of education ought to be much more easily attainable in Scotland than in any other part of the United Kingdom; and, if it were not for our past unhappy experience, every one would congratulate my right hon. Friend in his honest endeavours to settle this question. The right hon. and learned Member for the University of Glasgow complains that the Lord Advocate ignores religious instruction in the schools. I apprehend that he entirely mistakes the tenour of his observations. What I understood was that he relies on the spirit of the Scotch people, as represented by the school Boards, and he knows, as we all know, that the wish of the people is that there should be religious education in the school. He did not mention a single religious inability, such as we find in the English measure, and thinks we may safely leave this question to the people of Scotland. For myself, as a lover of education, I can promise to give a careful and impartial consideration to his measure, in the hope of being able to give to it a general support.


wished to be informed whether there was any limitation on the election of the school Boards, or any qualification of the electors required? As the right hon. and learned Gentleman was doubtless aware, the masters of the parish schools in Scotland were in many cases Masters of Arts—men who had taken their degree, and who occupied a high social position, and it would not be right that they should be overruled by school Boards composed of members of less learning and an inferior social position to themselves. He should, therefore, be glad to know what provision had been made respecting the qualification of the electors. He further wished to know whether the school Boards, which, as had already been pointed out, would be elected chiefly by Presbyterians, were to have the power of forcing the children of Episcopalians and of Roman Catholics to attend religious instruction to which their parents might object; and whether schools which professed the doctrines of the latter denomination would still receive some support from the State? He asked these questions not only for his own information, but also for that of the country, in order to prevent the intention of the measure from being misunderstood.


said, he should reserve the remarks he would otherwise have made upon the able statement of the Lord Advocate until he had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the details of the measure through the medium of the Bill itself. He could not, however, refrain from saying that there were one or two points in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's scheme which he (Mr. Anderson) was afraid would give considerable dissatisfaction. One of them was the relegation of the control of the local school Boards to a department of the Privy Council in London. He was sure that that proposal would be received with the greatest disfavour in Scotland; and, unless it was found when they came to look at the Bill that the proposition would be more advantageous to Scotland than had appeared from the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he did not think that it would be approved of. With regard to the question of compulsion, he had hoped that the Lord Advocate would have moved a little further. He (Mr. Anderson) was quite convinced that they were ripe for a more complete measure in that direction than had been obtained in the English compulsory clause. Had the Lord Advocate proposed to go beyond that he (Mr. Anderson) believed he would have carried it, and the people of Scotland would have been grateful for the boon. As regarded the religious difficulty, he would only say that, while he quite agreed with previous speakers that it had hitherto not been a great practical difficulty in the schools themselves, there was undoubtedly in the country a very strong party who would demand that catechisms and formularies should be excluded from all rate-aided schools. That being the case, he did not see how it would be possible to exclude from the Bill all notice of the religious question.


said, he rose only to make an appeal to Her Majesty's Government to press the further stages of the Bill at an early date, so that its provisions could be fairly and fully discussed. It was chiefly owing to the fact that it had been brought in at so late a period of the Session that the measure on the same subject which had been introduced two Sessions ago by the predecessor in Office of the right hon. and learned Gentleman had been lost. He thought the jealousy likely to arise from the control of the school Boards being placed in the Privy Council in London would vanish when the large and liberal scope of the measure came to be properly understood. Upon the question of the religious difficulty he thought good counsel must be taken in order to avoid the numerous pitfalls that beset all attempts to deal with the question. The right hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to have forgotten that the Roman Catholics formed a large proportion of the population in some districts in Scotland, and were opposed to the religious principles held by the great body of the community. His predecessor had been prepared to allow separate Grants to their schools; but his right hon. and learned Friend had not stated whether he proposed by his Bill to allow similar-Grants.


said, that he was prepared to allow Grants to such schools.


said, that in that case many of the difficulties in carrying out the Bill would be removed. He foresaw that the question of giving such large powers to local Boards would be regarded with great jealousy; but, at the same time, he felt bound to offer his congratulations to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the ability with which he had introduced the measure, and pledged himself to give it a general support.


said, he desired to draw attention to the question of the dismissal and superannuation of schoolmasters.


observed that any person acquainted with Scotland must know how much the working classes in the rural parishes desired to see their clergymen have a voice in the education of their children. As it was, however, possible that in some cases the clergymen might be excluded by the popular vote, he should be glad to see some provision by which the clergymen connected ex officio with parish schools should have a seat at the school Board.


joined in thanking the Government, and in particular the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate, for bringing in this Bill, and doing it thus early in the Session. He was sure that the proposition for a Scotch Committee of Privy Council would excite in Scotland a feeling almost of indignation. The Scotch liked Boards—Boards constituted of numerous members and meeting in presence of reporters—not Committees, that were not really Committees, nor did not act as such, but were in fact the Chairman. He would like to know who the Chairman of this proposed Committee was to be? Was he to be a Scotchman? Were the Committee to be Scotchmen? If so, they would no doubt work, and not let themselves be ignored by their Chairman. But there should be a Board—one meeting in Edinburgh. It was cruel to bring all the way up to London parties who might have business to do with the Committee or Board. He was in favour of undenominational unsectarian education. All the more did he set a high value on the character of the teachers. They should be men of piety and religious character. He hoped some means would be adopted—some provisions be contained in the Bill—to ensure that the religious character which hitherto Scotch schoolmasters had borne would be maintained. He also trusted some means would be presented for maintaining their connection with the Universities. The tendency of such teachers was to raise the standard at which their scholars aimed, and to which they would be brought. The recognition and extension of burgh schools was an excellent feature of the Bill. Such schools, brought under a Scotch Board, would become patterns which English educationists would imitate. On that account, also, he pleaded for the management of the Scotch schools being left to be carried out in Scotland according to Scotch ways.


desired to enter his emphatic protest against what he could not help conceiving was a breach of that principle which ought, on all occasions, to be supported by the present Government—a principle, however, which was violated in the Education Bill of 1870, which was now to be violated in the Bill brought forward for Scotland, and, in all probability, would be violated in the consideration of the measure which should be applied to Ireland—by the especial favour shewn to the Roman Catholics. He thought that the measure as at present framed would give great dissatisfaction throughout the country.


, in reply to the questions of the noble Lord (Lord R. Montagu), said, that the only qualifications required for the school Board was that the persons elected and the electors should be ratepayers. The noble Lord had asked, secondly, whether, under the provisions of the Bill, any child could be compelled to attend religious instruction, though such religious instruction were distasteful to its parents or its guardians. The answer was, that the provisions on that subject were in accordance with those of the English Bill; and under these provisions no child whatever could be compelled to attend religious teaching against the wishes of its parents or guardians. There was a provision in this Bill, as in the English Bill, that parents might select the school at which to place their children. The noble Lord had also assumed that, hereafter, under that portion of the Bill, no school would be allowed to participate in the Grant if it did not put itself under the school Board. That, however, was not so. He also desired to inform the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) that there was no exceptional treatment accorded to the Roman Catholics. It was, perhaps, unnecessary for him to say anything on the subject, but he wished to assure hon. Members that nothing that had fallen from him would warrant the impression that it was intended to destroy the efficacy of parish schools.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to amend and extend the provisions of the Law of Scotland on the subject of Education, ordered to be brought in by The LORD ADVOCATE, Mr. Secretary BRUCE, and Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSTER.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 17.]