HC Deb 19 July 1872 vol 212 cc1443-54

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

£1,146,560, to complete the sum for Public Education in Great Britain.


, in rising to move the Vote for Public Education, said, he had to trouble the Committee with some dull and dry figures, which, however, as had been before observed, made up a very large bill. The Elementary Education bill this year was more than £1,500,000 sterling, the net increase over the Vote of last year being £93,158. This increase was made up of an increase in salaries to the amount of £354, of an increased expenditure of £2,000 for extra copying in working the Act, and of £1,413 for Inspectors' salaries. This last increase was not owing to an increase in the number for the inspection of day schools, but it was found desirable to have the examination of night schools by unauthorized Inspectors replaced by authorized Inspectors. Then there was an increase for Scotland in the salaries of teachers of £8,520. That arose from there being more schools, necessitating the employment of 99 additional certificated teachers and 376 additional pupil teachers. There was also an increase of £30,956 in the annual grants to day schools, and of £5,192 to night schools, making for those two items an increase of £36,148. In building grants there was an increase of £80,000. This year £160,000 were asked for, and last year the sum asked was £80,000, but the actual payments were only £45,607. He had only to say with respect to the building grants, that that was no real saving, and that there was no reason to alter the estimate of February 15, of about £400,000 for 2,400 schools, providing for 400,000 children. Out of 3,330 applications 2,281 had been approved on fulfilment of the conditions, 293 had been refused, 223 had been withdrawn, and 533 were undecided upon, and, he believed, in most cases given up without the Education Department being informed of the fact. The grants, however, actually paid were 365, and in the case of 1,123 an actual promise had been given. The items of increase in the Vote made up a total of £128,000. There was a decrease of £2,272 upon travelling allowances to Inspectors, owing to the abolition of denominational inspection, and there was a decrease of £3,000 in training schools, though the number of students had very much increased. At Christmas, 1863, there were 3,107 students in the training colleges, in 1867 the number fell to 1,922; but it was now increased to 3,347, the largest figure at which it had ever stood. The female schools were quite full, and the male schools very nearly full. The reason of the decrease in the Estimate was that the cost of the scholars had not risen to the amount that was anticipated. Then there was a decrease in the cost of the working of the Act. Last year that item was put down at £70,000, and the actual expenditure was £29,809. The Estimate for this year was £49,000. The items of decrease showed a total of £35,000, making the net increase in the Vote £93,158. The annual grants to English and Welsh schools were for close upon 1,600,000 children in day schools at an average cost of 12s. 2d. a-child, and about 83,500 children in night schools at an average cost of 9s. a-child. The actual grant last year was, in day schools, upon an average of 10s. 4¾d. a-child, and night schools 6s. 7¾d.; but the night schools were upon the Old Code, whereas the present at 9s. were upon the New; and the day schools were 8 months upon the Revised Code and 4 months upon the New Code, The change which had been made in the Code prevented his entering with any advantage into any comparison between the number of children presented and the number who passed, because the conditions of presentation and passing were both different to what they were under the old system. For a child to be brought up for examination 250 attendances were now required instead of 200, and the test of examination had been also somewhat raised. The old 1st standard had been got rid of, the standards had been rather strung up throughout, and a considerable change had been made in putting the infant age up to seven instead of six. The first effect of these changes had been to some slight extent an apparent hardship to the schools; but, notwithstanding, they had earned considerably more than they did under the Old Code. Compelling a larger number of attendances had resulted in a more constant attendance, and the Government had done no more than their duty—if they had done their duty—in the stringing up of the Code. In spite of the difficulty in making comparisons to which he had alluded, it was in his power to give the Committee a comparison of the actual number of children whose education they had aided. In the year ending 31st August, 1871, there were present on the day of examination 1,509,000 children in day schools as against 1,434,000 the year before, being an increase of 75,000, and in night schools 86,000 were present as against 78,000, making an increase of 8,000. The average attendance in day schools was 1,231,000, as against 1,152,000, being an increase of 79,000. As regarded the future, he must prepare the House for a very considerable increase in the bill, and he believed that in a year or two it would quickly increase. The amount of the grant depended upon two conditions—the number of the children who attended, and the number of children who passed. And with reference to the latter he must here repeat the warning, which he had already given to managers and teachers—that there was not the least intention to make the examination less perfect. In fact, they must be prepared for a greater stringing up of the examinations, for it would be the duty of the Education Department to make them more and more difficult as soon as the children could bear it. They must insist upon the children being taught all they were able to learn; and the teacher, therefore, was in the unfortunate position that the more he did the more he would have to do. The difficulty of the larger attendance would, he believed, be comparatively little felt next year, and more children would be found attending 250 times than attended 200 times under the old system. There was one difficulty in which they must sympathize with both managers and teachers, and that was in the bringing into the schools by the by-laws and by the attention given to education, children who had been utterly neglected till now; and, undoubtedly, it was a hard task to teach them. The Marquess of Ripon and himself, therefore, had agreed to postpone the time at which it should be compulsory for children to be examined at a certain age. They had not, however, given up the principle. It was important that teachers should not be tempted to keep children to a lower standard, and it had been determined to lengthen the time by about a year and three-quarters, in order to give the country time to solve the problem of compulsory education. He fully believed that under that system more children would be found to attend the schools; partly because parents were getting more alive to the importance of education, and partly from the success which had already attended the compulsory system. A large part of the country was under compulsory by-laws, and generally speaking they were working better than he had anticipated. The hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) and his colleagues were engaged in almost the most difficult task that anyone could undertake in relation to this subject—namely, in applying the principle of compulsion to the metropolis. He did not in the least degree find fault with them, because they had not yet been able to carry out their theory, as the danger of making a false step was great; and he thanked them with all his heart for having laid down the principle that compulsion should be applied throughout London. They might take comfort from what was being done in other large towns. In Liverpool, as he was informed by the chairman of the school board, they had increased the attendance at the schools by 10,000, and they had done so at a considerable diminution in the payment of fees from poor children, while a great number of those formerly assisted by the Education Aid Society were now able and willing to pay for their own teaching. In fact, they had laid down the principle of only helping those who were in absolute destitution. They had not brought the Act into operation throughout the whole country for two reasons—first, he did not believe it was possible for them to do more than they had done; and, secondly, what they had not done other people had done. They had gained by leaving the country to work voluntarily. He, indeed, believed they would have hindered the work if they had interfered more quickly. Of course, this work must depend on the permanent officials, and no one could have been more devotedly assisted than he had been by the permanent officials of the Department, from the Secretary downwards. He might illustrate the difficulties they had to encounter by referring to a Bill which had occupied much of their attention this Session—the Scotch Education Bill. The Committee might take this rule-of-three calculation. He had been asked the question—if a body of Commissioners having nothing else to do would take from three to five years to bring the Scotch Education Act into operation in 500 parishes, there being already some sort of school board in the remaining parishes, how long would it take the Education Department, with a great deal else to do, to introduce school boards into 15,000 parishes? His answer was, that he believed it would be brought into operation in five years, if not in less. He would now say a few words as to the position in which we were as regards the working of the Act. The Census of 1871 gave the English and Welsh population at 22,704,108, of which the metropolitan district was 3,265,005; the 224 municipal boroughs 6,524,899; 15,119 civil parishes, 13,000,000. The London School Board was prescribed by the Act, and in the same position as Scotland; they had to rely very much on its members, merely seeing that they did their duty, and giving them any assistance in their power. In the 224 municipal boroughs, 100 had anticipated the Act establishing school boards, with a population of 5,212,093. In the 15,119 civil parishes, 279 had done the same, and though that was but a small portion of the whole, reckoning them by their size they were not unimportant, containing as they did a population of 1,234,000. So that rather more than 43 per cent., or 9,711,667 of the population, were under school boards; leaving, without school boards in boroughs and parishes, a population of 13,000,000. But were they in that large population which was without school boards doing nothing for education? He ventured to say there was hardly a village in the country in which attention had not been called to the subject, and in which they were not endeavouring as best they could to fulfil their duty. But the time had come when they should put the provisions of the Act into operation, and he would give some statistics collected chiefly from the counties of Dorset, Northumberland, and Sussex. Their first notices were sent out on May 16, 1872, and by the 22nd of last month they had dealt with 1,412 parishes, and the Committee would be glad to learn the result of their inquiries as to those parishes. In 637 parishes they found sufficient education, but a deficiency, which he hoped might be supplied, in 775 parishes. In 381 of these they had given notices for union with other parishes. He would only further give one or two figures in relation to statistics. They had got experimental school boards beginning to build to a large extent. Applications for grants by the Loan Commissioners, which had been approved, had been made by 36 boards, amounting to £353,726. Undoubtedly, that sum would be very largely increased. Then, with regard to the extent to which compulsion had been enforced. On the 1st of May, 1872, there were actually sanctioned by-laws not only in the metropolis, with a population of 3,265,005, but in 65 boroughs, with a population of 4,267,642, and 41 parishes, with a population of 608,010, representing in the whole 8,140,657, or 35 per cent of the whole population, and more than 65 per cent of the borough population, The work was done better in the manufacturing and mining districts, where the schools were in existence before the passing of the Act; but they must look for improvement most in the agricultural districts. Although much had been done and much more was being done, he was aware as much as his hon. Friend that there still remained a great deal more to do. He had given all his abilities, any experience he possessed, and almost his undivided attention to this work for some months past, and he should be at all times happy to give assistance with the experience he had gained on the subject under discussion. There were some very difficult problems to solve—how to meet the large demand for teachers, how to keep up the standard, and even to raise the standard of teachers; the great problem, however, was how to raise the standard of education in schools themselves—giving more knowledge on advanced subjects, without diminishing the amount of elementary teaching. These might be easy problems on paper, but they were most difficult in practice. There was also another most difficult problem which presented the apparent key of the whole question—how to solve the attendance difficulty, and apply the stimulus of compulsion throughout the kingdom. He could only repeat he never was more conscious of the difficulty of solving these problems; but he thought the general conviction throughout the country that that was the case was the most favourable feature of the present position of the question. He had now to move that a sum to complete the Vote of £1,551,560 for Education in Great Britain be granted to Her Majesty.


called attention to the provisions in the New Code requiring children to be taught the advantages of the metric system of weights and measures, and to the instructions to Inspectors on the same subject. He maintained that a great constitutional principle was involved in this matter, Parliament never having sanctioned the abolition of our present units of weights and measures. It was very questionable, indeed, for the Department to require elementary schools to take one side of a question so complex in its nature, on which men of the highest scientific authority were divided. Against the metric system he might quote the Astronomer Royal and also a gentleman who was at the head of one of our training colleges, and who complained that managers were called upon to run the risk of sacrificing a portion of the Government grants if they did not give attention to this useless subject. The metric charts which managers were recommended to hang up in their schools also illustrated decimal coinage, and explained the relative value of imaginary coins, such as cents and mils, which were utterly unknown to the law and practice of this country. If any chart were to be hung up in schools, surely it ought to be one illustrative of our own standard weights and measures, respecting which much useful and interesting information might be given, such as that a half-penny of our new bronze coinage was just an inch in diameter; that an English cubic foot was practically the measure of 1000 ounces of water; that a pint was the measure of 20 ounces of water, and so on. What was the use of teaching children facts respecting the French system, and omitting to teach them corresponding facts connected with our own system? It was a serious matter that enthusiastic doctrinaires should have the opportunity of putting forward their doctrines through the powerful medium of the Education Department. In the inaugural address given by the President of the Society of Civil Engineers, Mr. Hawksley insisted that the English system was as capable of being referred to natural standards as the French system, and, naming the nations which used the English system, deduced the important fact that four-fifths of the commercial business of the world was carried on in them. It was no part of his case to prove that decimal subdivisions were practically worse than binary and duodecimal, though he thought he could do so; and he quite approved of children being taught to manipulate our units decimally. It was quite enough for him to show that the Education Department was requiring children to be taught systems which were not legally established in this country; and in doing that he thought the Department had very much exceeded its duty.


said, that in reviewing the practical operation of the Education Act the increase, however satisfactory, had not been so large year by year as it had been in former years, but it went to show the work and labour which fell on school boards, the magnitude of which could scarcely be comprehended. The voluntary efforts of the country had been great and earnest; and before the passing of the Education Act the zealous friends of education used every exertion to induce parents to send their children to the schools they had provided for their training. In London the School Board had to deal with a careless, dissolute, and almost criminal class, and great difficulties existed in inducing them to send their children to school. It should be recollected that the metropolitan district extended over an area of 35 or 40 miles; that its population exceeded that of the whole of Scotland; and dealt with difficulties greater than those presented by that country. The parents of the children were not amenable to that discipline which the Scotch people exercised over each other; and they disappeared when called on by persons who presumed to exercise a little authority over them. The School Board of London had, therefore, owing to the great difficulties they had to contend with, to ask for the forbearance of the public in the discharge of its duties. They had to establish schools and enforce compulsory by-laws, besides having to contend against a multitude of details almost overwhelming. The difficulty of erecting schools was greater in London than in the provinces, owing to the value of land, and then when they were established a complaint was made that they interfered with voluntary schools, and that by so doing the School Board was damaging the cause of education. All the London School Board asked for, was time in order that they might show that they were only doing a necessary work, and that the evils complained of would adjust themselves. The Report that had just been issued stated that the average attendances were less than 70 per cent, and it was the irregularity of attendances which interfered with the training of the children in the elementary schools. It behoved all to endeavour to persuade parents to send their children constantly to school, and it would require but little to show them that it was to their pecuniary advantage, that they should let their children regularly attend school. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the great demands that would have in a few years to be made on the public income in order to carry out and sustain the operation of the Act. He (Mr. W. H. Smith) trusted that the demands on the public purse for education would continue to be large, for such expenditure should contribute only to the security, prosperity, and wealth of the country; and he was certain they would be most readily met by both that House and the country. The Department had, from year to year, con- sistently, though sometimes rather hardly from the managers' point of view, raised the standards and requirements; but in everything it had aimed at efficiency, which could be attained only step by step; and from that point of view, he believed the Department had exercised a wise discretion in postponing the application of the Act of last year, so far as the examination of children in the 2nd standard was concerned, for another year. The difficulties which would have to be encountered in board schools in dealing with destitute children would be enough to appall any schoolmaster. On that account, and for that reason only, and not because he desired to see a low standard of examination, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had exercised a very wise discretion in postponing the application of the change until the result of compulsion had been to some extent ascertained, and until these poor children had been subjected to some amount of training and discipline. In conclusion, he thanked the right hon. Gentleman for the statement he had presented to them.


said, it was quite true that the number of attendances did at the first sight appear to be smaller than was expected, but the statistics only extended to the 31st of August, 1871, at which period the school boards had not got to work. He believed the number would be much larger in proportion next year. With regard to the metric system, he might remark that a Committee of the House of Commons in 1862 unanimously recommended it to be taught by means of tables and diagrams in all schools receiving grants from the public funds. In 1864 both Houses of Parliament passed by large majorities a permissive Bill on the subject, and in 1868 the second reading of a Bill for the compulsory use of the system was carried in that House by 217 votes against 65. Still more recently, in 1869, the Standards Commission expressed approval of the system. Now, the metric system was a decimal system, and the best way to teach it to the children was by grounding them thoroughly in decimals. The charts complained of by the hon. Gentleman were simply object lessons for the decimal system, and were found very useful to the children, though they had French names.


, supplementing and correcting the history given by his right hon. Friend of the metric war, reminded the Committee that last year the House, which was then for the first time brought face to face with the question, rejected the Metric Bill on its second reading. In 1868 he, as the principal opponent to the measure, went to a division under many disadvantages. The metric system was not only decimal, but every dimension, weight, and area in it differed from the old English system. Indeed, the only good that could result from teaching the metric system to children was that for the rest of their lives they would be thoroughly disgusted with its semi-scientific gibberish. He pitied the poor little children puzzled to death with terms half Greek and half French, and believed the result would be that they would be more than ever in love with the old-fashioned weights and measures of this country.

Vote agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £176,312, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1873, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Science and Art, and of the Establishments connected therewith.


asked the Government to postpone it, as it could not be properly discussed at that hour—6.40 P.M.


, on behalf of the Government, said, he would accede to the request.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £73,601, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1873, for the Salaries and Expenses of the British Museum, including the amount required for Furniture, Fittings, &c.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Sclater-Booth.)

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

House resumed.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next;

Committee to sit again this day.

And it being now five minutes to Seven of the clock, the House suspended its Sitting.

The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.

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