HC Deb 29 April 1873 vol 215 cc1138-9

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether it is his intention to extend the time for admission into the "Britannia" training ship, by allowing candidates for the Navy to undergo the needful examination up to the age of fifteen, or to what other age beyond the present limit of thirteen; and, whether any regulations have been made by the Admiralty on the subject?


Sir, very great difficulties have occurred to prevent the execution of the plan which I sketched last year with regard to the Regulations for the admission of naval cadets. I have been extremely desirous to raise the age of entry, so as to secure that candidates for the Navy should remain for as long a time as possible at the general schools to which the majority of English boys are sent, and not begin too early a special technical education. This, I should add, I was anxious to effect without infringing in any degree on the time required for the acquisition of seamanship. The plan involved the abolition of the stationary training ship the Britannia, where cadets are now trained between the ages of 13 and 15, as all were agreed that it was undesirable to coop up upwards of 100 boys over the age of 15 in a stationary training ship. One of the main difficulties which have baffled us has been how to prevent boys from being taken away from the public schools and sent to special schools; for that boys should receive nothing but a special and technical education at private schools would have been as open to objection, and even more so, than the present system. There have been other serious difficulties, too, on which I will not now dilate. At the same time, the Britannia has been certainly turning out a good set of cadets. Under these circumstances I have come to the conclusion to press the experiment of taking older boys on a limited scale only, and to retain the Britannia for the majority of the cadets, fixing the age for the Britannia at 12 to 13½. I had hoped to have been able to announce simultaneously the Regulations made for the entries into the Britannia and the Regulations for the entries of the older boys; but as the scheme with regard to the latter, who in any case would not be admitted till near the end of the year, is not yet sufficiently settled, we do not like to delay any longer the publication of Regulations affecting the former. I am therefore glad of the opportunity of stating that an examination for entries into the Britannia will be held in June. The Regulations will not differ materially from those hitherto in force; but I may add that, both as regards the Britannia and boys entering at a later age, we shall endeavour so to arrange the examination that boys from the best schools should have a good chance, removing, as far as possible, the inducements to parents to interrupt the usual course of their sons' education. As regards boys successful at the examinations, we should be glad to get them from a variety of schools. As regards unsuccessful boys, we should be glad to spare the parents the additional disappointment of having fruitlessly changed the course of education which their sons would otherwise have followed.


inquired, Whether the Regulations respecting the older boys were likely to be agreed upon before the close of the Session; and, if so, whether they would be laid upon the Table of the House?


I trust the Regulations will be ready before the close of the Session. I should add that delay is so far immaterial that no candidates of the older class would, in any case, be admitted until the end of the year. I mention this because I do not wish to make a statement which might induce parents to remove boys from the special schools where they are now receiving their education.