HC Deb 23 February 1871 vol 204 cc751-2

asked the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education, Why, in the New Code of Regulations laid upon the Table of the House, and based on the consideration of the various sections of "The Elementary Education Act, 1870," an alteration has been made in the syllabus of study in Training Schools in Scotland; and, whether he has considered the inconvenience that may arise inasmuch as that Act does not apply to Scotland, and the arrangements for teaching in such schools for the current year have been made according to the regulations now in force, and are already in course of being carried out?


said, in reply to the first part of the Question of his hon. Friend, that the alteration which had been made was not in the Code, but in the syllabus of training schools, and this had been laid on the Table. The Elementary Education Act of last year had no direct relation to training schools; but it became necessary for the Government to consider the position in which they were placed in regard to those schools, and especially they had to consider the question of religious instruction that might be given therein. Hitherto religious instruction in the training schools in Great Britain had been inspected by the Inspectors appointed and paid by the Government. The opinion of Parliament had, in the view of the Government, been clearly declared during the passing of the Education Act last year to be that while on the one hand opportunity should be given for religious instruction, on the other hand there should be no payments out of the taxes towards religious instruction in schools, and although there was no mention made of training schools in the Act, the Government felt it was their duty to carry out these principles in the mode of distributing the grants for training schools. Consequently, towards the end of the year information was sent to the training schools throughout England that, in future, there would be no attempt on the part of the Government to inspect religious instruction or to pay for that instruction in the future. They had then to consider how Scotland should be dealt with. Bearing in mind that up to the present time there had been no difference of opinion in Scotland with regard to the religious question, the Government had to choose between two courses—either to treat different parts of Great Britain differently, and ask Parliament for a grant for the inspection of religious instruction in Scotland while refusing it in England, or to apply to Scotland the same principle as that adopted for England, and strike religious instruction out of the syllabus. Although the Government were sorry to appear to anticipate legislation with regard to Scotland, yet they felt it would be anticipating legislation if they decided to make a difference; and they had in their best discretion come to the conclusion to strike religious instruction out of the Scotch syllabus. With reference to the second part of his hon. Friend's Question, the arrangements in England for religious teaching had been made under the sanction and instigation of the Bishops, by which the religious instruction would be conducted and inspected by gentlemen appointed by the promoters of the training schools, as well as by the clergy themselves: and probably the same course would be taken in Scotland. In conclusion, he might state that this step had been taken, not with any intention of applying an English Act to Scotland, but in consequence of the clear opinion of the Imperial Parliament on the general question, as expressed in the Elementary Education Act of last year.