HC Deb 15 February 1872 vol 209 cc462-7

asked the Vice President of the Council, Whether he will inform the House of the number of Boroughs and Parishes in England and Wales respectively in which School Boards have been formed; and, of the number of School Districts in which there exists a deficiency of educational provision, exclusive of those where School Boards have been formed, and in how many of these deficient districts the Department has taken steps to cause the formation of School Boards?


These two Questions of my hon. Friend go over so much ground that I fear I must ask the attention of the House while, as briefly as possible, I give a full answer to them. With regard to the first Question, I may state that school boards have been formed in 88 boroughs in England and in 11 boroughs in Wales; and as regards parishes not boroughs in 120 in England and 125 in Wales. The House may like to be informed what proportion these numbers bear to the total number of boroughs and parishes. There are 224 municipal boroughs and about 14,800 parishes not boroughs in the kingdom; so that, taking together England and Wales, there are 99 out of 224 boroughs and 245 out of 14,800 parishes in which the compulsory formation of school boards has been anticipated by local action. These figures would, however, by themselves give a very unfair impression, and merely mislead the House and the public. If, instead of the numbers of boroughs and parishes, we take the population, I find that the population of these 99 boroughs in which there are school boards is about 5,200,000, while the population of the 125 boroughs in which there are no school boards is only about 1,200,000. Again, while the total population of the 14,800 parishes not boroughs is about 13,000,000, the population of the 245 in which there are school boards is more than 1,100,000. The average population of the 245 parishes with school boards is about 4,550, while the average of the large number of others is only 820. The fact is, the larger the school district the larger in all probability the school deficiency, and therefore the greater the difficulty of its provision without the assistance of the rates. The inhabitants of a large town, or borough, or of a populous manufacturing village, seeing that a rate is inevitable, ask for it at once, while in a small rural parish there is a hope and an effort to avoid a rate by voluntary subscription. But in either case, there is a most praiseworthy desire to make the needful provision to meet the educational wants of the district without waiting for the central office to compel such provision; and I feel sure that the House will gratefully acknowledge the general and, I may say, the wonderful response which has been made throughout the kingdom, not only in the towns, but also in the rural parishes, to the measure which we passed only a year and a-half ago. Adding the metropolis, which, as the House is aware, is under a school board by the Act, the total population in England and Wales already under school boards is 9,550,996, or about three-sevenths of the population of England, and about one-third of the population of Wales. This difference between England and Wales is not because school boards are less popular in Wales—the contrary is the fact; but because in Wales the agricultural districts bear a large proportion to the towns. I must take this opportunity to state another fact which will interest all those Members who are watching the experiment of compulsory attendance. When I had charge of the Education Bill I ventured to prophesy that such compulsion would be tried in several large towns, and I also ventured to state that the opinion in favour of compulsion would be found throughout the country to be much stronger than was generally supposed. My expectation has been more than confirmed by the experience of the last few months. The school boards of London, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, and of almost all the large towns, and of several of the smaller districts, have bravely grappled with this difficulty, and bylaws for compulsory attendance have been already passed by 119 school boards, having within their districts a population of about 8,000,000, more than one-third of the population of the kingdom. I come now to my hon. Friend's second Question. He asks me in how many school districts, where there are no school boards, there is educational deficiency? To this Question I can give him no definite answer to-day, although I hope to be able to do so in a few weeks. The reason is, that the educational survey of the country is not yet quite completed, and I think hon. Members will not be surprised at this statement when they remember that this survey has to be made over more than 15,000 districts, and that our officers have not only to ascertain the number of schools and children, but whether these schools are or are not efficient and suitable, and—a most difficult question—whether parishes should or should not be grouped together. Our Reports are, however, now quickly coming in; and, though the Department is hard-worked in meeting the require-is already under school boards, we shall, I hope, very soon begin to compel the supply of that school accommodation which may be proved to be deficient in the other half. As yet we have issued no orders for school boards except under Section 12 of the Act; but before the end of next month we expect to begin to issue our notices of deficiency of school accommodation under Section 9.


asked the Vice President of the Council, If he can state,—The number of Denominational Schools to which Building Grants have been made since August 1st, 1870, and the amount of said grants; the number of applications for Building Grants still under consideration and the estimated amount of grants still to be made; and, the number of such applications which have been declined?


The number of schools to which building grants have been made since August 1, 1870, is 999, and the amount of such grants is £168,131. Of these, 948 are denominational schools, with an amount of £160,850. When I say that these grants have been made I do not mean that they have been paid, but that the proposals of the managers have been accepted, and that payment is promised on the buildings being completed. There are still 1,901 applications in progress. Of these, 1,287 have been approved by the Office, subject to the fulfilment of conditions as regards plans and other details. There remain 614 which have not reached the stage of approval or disapproval, chiefly because their promoters have not given the necessary information. The number of applications which have been refused is 243, and 194 have been withdrawn. My hon. Friend asks me the estimated amount of grants still to be made? To this Question I can give him no precise answer, as every one of the applications which is not passed is subject to such deductions as may result from inquiry by the Department. As, however, the building grant bill is a matter of much interest, I will endeavour to make a guess at its amount. No money, as I have stated, is actually paid until we have a certificate of the completion of the building. It is possible that of the 999 schools for which we have promised payment, on completion, some will not be actually built. It is probable that this will be the case with a still larger proportion of the 1,287 which we have approved; and I expect to hear nothing more of a large number of the remaining 614. Taking into account all these probable deductions and estimates, the grants still to promise at £168 each, the average of the 999 already promised, I think I shall make an outside guess if I estimate the total building grants to be paid in respect of applications since the passing of the Act at about £400,000 to about 2,400 schools, and, taking a rough average, providing school accommodation for about 400,000 children. This £400,000 may appear a large sum out of the taxes; but it must be remembered that it will be a much larger saving to the rates. We find, taking the average of the last four years, that the Parliamentary grant is slightly less than one-fifth of the total cost of building a school. We shall therefore, if my estimate be correct, finish up our building grant system by a grant of £400,000, to which private individuals will have subscribed £1,600,000, and we shall have provided schools for 400,000 children, which, without this grant and this voluntary subscription, would have required an outlay of £2,000,000 out of the local rates.


asked whether questions of this nature and answers of this nature might not more properly be given in the shape of Returns?


A Member is at liberty to seek information, either by a Question to a Minister, or by moving for a Return. The Question asked by the hon. Member covered a great deal of ground, and very naturally the right hon. Gentleman found it necessary, in his Answer, also to travel over a great deal of ground. But much of the information asked for might, perhaps, have been given by a Return, as the hon. Gentleman has suggested.


inquired whether it would be possible to give the proportion of grants to denominations?


replied that the Return of last year, giving such information, could be carried out; and added that he was sorry he had been obliged to give such long Answers to the Questions of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon), but they referred to matters of great interest; and a mere statement of facts, without exments of that half of the kingdom which planation, would have misled the House and the public.