HC Deb 15 June 1874 vol 219 cc1624-36

, who had given Notice of an Amendment— That the so-called Education Vote is ill-conceived, ill-worded, and ill-arranged, and requires thorough revision"— which he was prevented by the Rules of the House from moving—said, that the present system was complicated and cumbrous in the highest degree. For instance, in regard to teachers, he found no less than 11 different kinds mentioned in the provisions of the Code. Moreover, by Article 42 it was laid down that none but lay persons were to be teachers in elementary schools, and the Education Department, in a gloss on that Article, explained that it applied not merely to men in Holy Orders, but to persons who might in any way be authorized to take part in the spiritual ministrations of the Church. The effect of that reading was to exclude members of the Association of Lay Helpers in the Diocese of London from work in the elementary schools. Again, while Article 43 declared that teachers in order to obtain certificates must undergo an examination, Article 59 intimated that for a certificate of the Third Class no examination was necessary The Code had also provisions with regard to probationary teachers; but on inquiry, it appeared that there was no substantial difference between them and the certificated teachers, and that the distinction was a farce. With regard to the Third Class certificates which might be granted without an examination, it was a condition that the applicant should be not less than 35 years of age, if a man; and not less than 30 if a woman; and that for at least 10 years, he or she should have been a teacher in an elementary school. The result was, that a man over 35 and with 10 years' experience was put on a level with a hobble-de-hoy fresh from a training school. There was what was called a provisional certificate, but Article 62 said, it did not involve the issue of a certificate at all. Articles 63 to 66 were quite superfluous, as they were no longer applicable or in force. As to pupil teachers, the Education Department specified what the terms of agreement with them should be, instead of leaving the matter to the managers themselves; but the agreement laid down was one which in practice was found not to hold water. He strongly objected to the present system of teaching children by children. The idea of brats of 14 or 15 years of age acting as pupil teachers and teaching other children scarcely younger than themselves was preposterous, and yet there were nearly 13,000 such teachers employed in the schools. He also objected to the training given to the trained teachers, which was calculated to make education run in one groove, whereby it would fail in being made interesting to the children or useful to them in after life. The regulations as to the Parliamentary grant discouraged endowments, although there was no good reason why because a school received a small income from endowments, it should be deprived of the Parliamentary Grant which it had justly earned. The arrangement of the Code was unsatisfactory, for it was not fair to place in small print at the end of it, conditions vitally affecting the terms on which the grant would be made, and beyond that it was very loose and un-grammatical in its construction. It was time that the Department should adopt business principles; that some precision should be introduced into the requirements imposed on managers, and that certain restrictions should be removed. If the noble Lord redressed these grievances and remedied the glaring defects of the Code, he would gain the thanks of every teacher and manager in the Kingdom.


, who had a Motion upon the Paper to the effect— That it be one of the conditions of the payment of a Parliamentary Grant to public elementary schools, whether voluntary or supported by rates, that they should, if required to do so by a competent authority, receive, free of charge, a fair proportion of children whose parents, not being paupers, are too poor to pay the school fees. said, he would avoid, as far as possible, a renewal of the discussion on the 25th clause in respect of the education of the children of indigent parents. He drew attention to the strong terms of the Report of the Committee, just issued, in reference to the necessity for using every means in their power to bring the children of school age into the schools. The number of children of indigent parents who were sent to school by the operation of the 25th clause was infi- nitely small, as proved by the small-ness of the sums disbursed under that clause, and, in country districts where no school boards existed, the clause was, of course, entirely inoperative. He had it upon the authority of several clergymen, that they should wish to have school boards in their respective localities, but that they dreaded the differences and difficulties which the payment of fees by the school board would give rise to. The remedy that he proposed by his Motion originated with Sir Charles Peed, the Chairman of the London School Board. It had the approval of the Bishop of Manchester and of the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and would, he thought, meet the difficulties of the case. The course which he suggested would inflict no financial injustice upon the schools in question, inasmuch as the Parliamentary grant per head had increased from 9s. 5d. in 1866 to 12s. 5d., which was the estimated payment for the present year, the whole of which they would receive if the necessary requirements were observed, while as to any objection that might be urged on the ground of insufficient accommodation, it was shown by the Returns that the accommodation was far in excess of the attendance. He had purposely abstained from stating who should be the authority to remit the fees for those children, but in those districts where school boards were established, it would occur at once that they were the natural authority, and he saw no reason why in those places where no school boards existed the magistrates or guardians should not have the power of compelling the attendance of indigent children in the public elementary schools. That was a point, however, which he left to the decision of the Education Department. It had been suggested that the school-pence should be paid for those children out of the Consolidated Fund; but he feared that the result would be to produce a tendency on the part of local authorities to excuse payment for as many children as possible. It might be said that his plan would be only shifting the burden from the Consolidated Fund to the managers of the elementary schools, if they were compelled to take charge of those children of the very poor who were not actually paupers; but he thought there would always be such an amount of negotiation between the managers and the local authorities as would prevent any improvident use of the power conferred on the latter. He hoped, that the noble Lord would consider his proposal in the light of an attempt to solve a difficult question, and give it his careful consideration.


, who had given Notice of the following Resolution— That, in the opinion of this House, no Parliamentary Grant should be made in respect of any voluntary school unless the Education Department is satisfied that one-sixth part of the whole expenses of the school in each year has been defrayed by voluntary contributions, said, he was aware that he could not formally propose it, but he trusted it would receive the consideration of the House and the Government. The real author of the proposal was Mr. Hibbert, a Member of the late Government, who propounded it in the course of the debate on the second reading of the Education Act, and it received the approval of the then Prime Minister. The proposal he made would, to a certain extent, solve the difficulty raised by the 25th clause of the Education Act. In all cases where the voluntary contributions now amounted only to a nominal sum, and no proportion was required between these contributions on the one hand, and the school pence and the Government Grant on the other, it was impossible to contend that the last-named moneys were not, to a certain extent, expended in providing the religious instruction of particular denominations. Mr. Hibbert's proposal, as he had said, was most favourably received by Mr. Gladstone, and for some days an Amendment to the same effect was placed on the Paper, which it was the intention of the late Government to move, but for some reason it was withdrawn. If the suggested proportion of voluntary contributions were required, it would meet the religious difficulty, as those contributions might be fairly held to cover the expenses of religious instruction, and the public grants and school pence to cover those of secular education. But there was a stronger ground for dealing with the matter. It was contrary to the traditions on which public grants were made to private individuals, that such enormous sums should be made over to private individuals in return for so small a sacrifice. A Return obtained by the senior Member for Manchester showed a number of cases where there was a ridiculous disproportion between the total amount of the grants and the voluntary contributions; other cases were given by Mr. John Morley in his recently published work on National Education. In one instance the total income of the school was £610, and the amount of voluntary contributions £16; in another the income was £717, and the voluntary contributions £66; in a third the income was £356, and the voluntary contributions £5, and in another the income was £458, and the voluntary contributions reached only the sum of £1. He had heard the objection raised, supposing his proposal became law, that in certain cases there might be a schoolmaster of special qualifications earning a large salary, and that he would not obtain such a large salary from the school board as he obtained from the school managers. But the sums paid by the school boards were not generally less than were paid by school managers. Canon Gregory, and others, generally made an opposite complaint. Again, it was said that, in most of the schools where the voluntary contributions were very small, the fees were very high, and that if the present proposal became law, there would be an increase of voluntary subscriptions and a diminution of fees in many cases. He did not consider that a very serious objection in itself, while if it had the effect of parents paying a subscription, and demanding, as they probably would, a share in the management in return, instead of paying a high fee to an exclusive body of denominational managers, that would be a positive advantage. The subject he saw had attracted the attention of Mr. Waddington, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, who stated that in the last year the voluntary contributions in his district had fallen off by no less an amount than 3½ per cent, as compared with that which preceded it. That diminution was, in his opinion, worthy the serious attention of his noble Friend the Vice President of the Council. It was no visionary or theoretical statement of his, but came from one intimately acquainted with the subject. He disclaimed having brought forward the subject in any sectarian or party spirit, and hoped it would be fairly considered by the Vice President of the Department. If, however, he found no action was taken in the matter, he should again bring it forward next Session, either as a Motion or a Bill.


I approve very much of the speeches of the two hon. Members who have last addressed the House, and I approve altogether of the Resolutions which they would have submitted to the House had its Forms permitted of their doing so. But it was in order to support the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Samuelson) that I intended to say the little that occurs to me to say on the subject. It appears to me that a mistake has been made by the Education Department, to some extent, in pushing forward too much the building of schools, and in not being sufficiently energetic in getting children to attend the schools—in short, that the compulsory power has not been vigilantly exercised where it exists; and that where it does not exist, it ought to exist, or else you never can expect to get the children to attend. The increase of accommodation provided for children is very much in excess of the number of children, taking any given number of years that may be chosen. For example, in 1868 the number of children at school was 1,033,675, and in 1873, according to the Report which we received the other day, the attendance was 1,528,453, so that there was an increase of nearly 500,000 in the number of children attending school between 1868 and 1873. When I speak of the attendance at school, of course I do not take the mere numbers on the roll, but I take the heading of the Report, which states "average daily attendance," and I include the attendance at night schools as well as day schools, so that I give every possible advantage in making the comparison. The number of children who attended school during these five years has increased, as I said, by nearly 500,000; but the accommodation provided in the schools during the same period has increased by 817,000. We had in 1869 accommodation for 1,750,000 children, in round numbers; and in 1873 we had accommodation for 2,500,000; so that if you measure the attendance by the school accommodation, you have over 1,000,000 of empty places waiting for occupants. Now, under these circumstances, if any person were managing the ordinary affairs of the world, he would say that when there was that great space empty, to a large extent, we must direct every possible effort to getting it filled; and we must not think of erecting new schools until we have got those already in existence well occupied. But, Sir, the very opposite of that is the case. By far more than one-half of the population of England have not the advantage of school boards, and therefore cannot have the advantage of a compulsory education. But in those places where compulsory education exists, it appears not to be vigorously enforced. The Report to which I have referred has this confession—a confession of a very damaging nature. Referring to the great difference between the accommodation and the attendance, the Report says— So that each school department, while providing accommodation for 162 scholars, had an average attendance of only 93. Now, suppose all the schools were of such capacity as to be fitted to accommodate exactly 100 children, the result is that every such school has only 57 children in average attendance, with 43 vacant places on an average in each; but if you take 57 as the number in actual attendance, you would require to add 75 per cent to the present number in order to fill all the existing schools. While every effort should be used to remedy this state of things, we see, on the contrary, vigorous efforts made to increase the already enormous amount of accommodation, and we see a large expenditure for that purpose without any assignable reason. For example, it is stated in the Report that in the four years ending in December, 1873, grants were made amounting to £252,935, affording accommodation for 225,814 children. Those are included in the figures I have already given, but what I am now about to state is not. Since 1870, other 1,915 applications for grants have been approved of by the Privy Council, and they say these were to provide for 300,000 children, notwithstanding the surplus school accommodation for 1,000,000 already in existence. Here was a statement that we might soon expect accommodation for other 300,000 children. Not a word said about where children are to be got to fill the schools; but this is not all the additional school accommodation that is in prospect, be- cause the Report goes on to say the Privy Council has recommended loans of £3,000,000 for additional schools. These will provide for 266,784 children, so that we shall immediately have accommodation for more than 500,000 of other children, while we have empty school accommodation already for more than 1,000,000. Now, Sir, just to give a bird's-eye view of the result of these figures, I find that we have accommodation now for 2,582,549, which is equal to 1 in 9 of the whole population of England and Wales, and in a well-educated country about 1 in 6½ ought to be at school at one time. But if you take the names on the register, the numbers are 2,218,598, or 1 in 11 of the entire population of England and Wales. If you take the average daily attendance, including night schools, the number is 1,528,453, or 1 in 15, being less than one-half the number which in a well-educated country ought to be at school. Of these, the number who made the requisite attendance to bring grants to their schools was 1,279,222, or only 1 in 19. and of that number only 888,000 had been instrumental in obtaining grants for schools on passing a satisfactory examination in reading, writing, and arithmetic, the others having been passed merely on account of their attendance. Now, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury, very effectually I think, urged that all the poor children—whose parents not being paupers were too poor to pay the school fees—might be provided for without difficulty out of the surplus amount of accommodation in the existing schools. Then, Sir, referring to the last point upon which I shall trouble the House—namely the income of the schools—I find that in 1873, the Government grants were 12.9; paid out of the rates, 32.1; school fees, 9.7; loans for which the rates are liable, 45 per cent.; and the other sources only 3. My hon. Friend lamented this falling off of their resources, and the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) in his admirable speech on the subject, urging that one-sixth at least of the expenditure of voluntary schools should be provided by subscription, called attention to the fact that the subscriptions from voluntary sources had greatly fallen off. Now, in the preceding year—namely, 1872, the voluntary subscriptions from England and Wales came to £2 6s. out of every £100. That was received by the schools from voluntary sources, and during last year the whole sum received was only 6s. out of every £100, thus showing that as Government steps in with its largesse, the benevolent people recede and discontinue their subscriptions. The real remedy for that state of things is to establish school boards and compulsory education in every parish in England. You will then fill the million of empty places that now exist. The system that is now pursued seems to me to be very much like as if the Secretary of State for War, with barrack accommodation for 100,000 soldiers, and not having soldiers to fill them, solely occupied himself in devising schemes for additional barrack accommodation; or if the Admiralty, without being able to get sailors to man the existing Fleet, were yet lavishly expending large sums of money in the construction of other ships. That is precisely the course we are now pursuing in regard to schools, and it behoves this House seriously to consider whether that is the right course. In Scotland there is not a parish that has not a school board, and if it were so in England, there would be good opportunities for getting the children educated. I am sorry for having taken up so much of the time of the House, but I thought it right to call attention to these facts.


said, with reference to the Motion of his noble Friend the Member for Calne, he should not be able to follow him fully in his remarks, but, with the main portion of his Resolution he fully agreed. It seemed to him that it was not a wise and proper thing, scarcely, he might say, in accordance with constitutional rules, that they should permit a large number of public elementary schools to be managed by committees who did not subscribe anything, or who subscribed a small sum, towards the maintenance of those schools. That view was supported by the highest authorities. They had no means of ascertaining what the exact state of the schools might be, and it was impossible at present for the public to gain any accurate information. He had himself asked his right hon. Friend the late Vice President, if some means could not be devised whereby the information sought might be obtained, and he was informed he could not see how it was to be done. Information was in the possession of the Department, but it was considered private. He did not agree with that view. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER dissented.] He saw his right hon. Friend shake his head, but he imagined he had stated the facts correctly. The accounts which the public desired to obtain were in the hands of the Department, and he thought the taxpayers, who had to provide, very frequently indeed, the one-half of the total sum spent in these schools, had a right to know how the money was spent in elementary schools under the management of private committees. The knowledge would, he held, not only benefit the particular school, but the district at large in which it was placed. School boards had very little power in the matter. A full representation of how the money was spent ought to be made to the taxpayer. He was aware that the answer to that was, that payments were made only by results, and that the Department had Inspectors' Reports on the schools. He thought the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) showed that the results so obtained were of the most unsatisfactory character; and with reference to the inspection, that was really most inefficient. The number of Inspectors was entirely insufficient, and quite unequal to the duty that had to be performed; and, in fact, it scarcely came within the duty of the Inspectors to report on these schools in the manner that they now required. He submitted to the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) whether the time had not now arrived when the question might be taken into consideration, and whether he might not throw open to the public in each locality some means by which the accounts from the denominational schools might be obtained.


hoped the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council (Viscount Sandon) would take advantage of the great opportunity now afforded to him of acting in accordance with the spirit of the Motions made by the hon. Members for Banbury and Calne, and further that he would consent to an alteration of the 25th clause of the Education Act, so as to save the country from the turmoil which it created in every town in England.


, although anxious that the Education Department should keep a stringent control over the denominational schools, as well as over the board schools, was not prepared to believe that that object could be accomplished by giving the boards power over the denominational schools. As far as official tests went, the school board schools were at present inferior to the denominational schools, and as an instance of that assertion, the Manchester school board had passed a resolution to the effect that it was desirable to raise the efficiency of the board schools to those of the denominational schools. Although he trusted that in time that inferiority would disappear, still he should be sorry if the former were to entirely supersede the latter. It was the duty of the Government to enforce efficiency in the denominational schools as well as in the school board schools, but not to fetter them in any way by harassing restrictions.


observed that a wide surface had been covered by the subject which had been brought before the House. With respect to the assertion to which his noble Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lord Francis Hervey), sought to commit them, he could scarcely be expected to say that "the so-called Education Code is ill-conceived, ill-worded, ill-arranged, and requires thorough Revision." He was not responsible for, and was not, therefore, bound to defend, the Code, but he could not lose sight of the fact that it was the growth of the experience of able and thoughtful men who preceded him in the office he then held. He must therefore, decline to condemn the Code in so very hasty a manner as his noble Friend suggested. With respect to the proposals of the hon. Member for Banbury and the noble Lord the Member for Calne, the Government could not approach the subject from the same point of view as hon. Gentlemen opposite. He, therefore, thought there ought to be no mistake about what were the sentiments of the Government, and he at once said that the Government could not agree that the principle of the 25th clause was wrong. Their position as a Government ought to be clearly understood on this matter. The Government could not consent to the condemnation of that principle, because by so doing they would be committing themselves to a disapproval of grants to denominational and other schools. Of course, the Government were not so bigoted as not to receive with great satisfaction the contributions of all sensible men who had spoken on a subject which had agitated the public largely, but they also had to consider whether the proposals now brought forward would do away with difficulties which existed in the minds of many good, excellent, and distinguished persons throughout the country, amongst whom there was a great divergence of opinion, and who had brought forward several schemes upon the subject. He must, therefore, express his entire dissent from the views expressed the other day by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London, to the effect that the 25th clause was a barrier to the cause of education. With respect to the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for Calne, he thought he need only point to the fact that the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) had expressed a doubt whether it would to any great extent meet the difficulties of the case; and the hon. Gentleman gave no opinion as to the proposal of the hon. Member for Banbury, which was in itself quite distinct from that of the noble Lord. But it was plain that the proposal in question would be a breach of the contract with the voluntary schools which was contained in the 97th clause of the Elementary Education Act. It would place the voluntary schools at a great disadvantage as compared with the board schools, as the latter could fall back upon the rates, while the former could not. Again, in the event of a school being fully attended, were they to turn out the paying children in order to make room for the non-paying? And who was to determine the proportion of non-paying pupils a school should receive? Those children belonged to the very poorest class, and were sometimes unacceptable for physical reasons. He gave his hon. Friend every credit for his effort to solve the difficulty, but he could not admit that his proposal was a solution of it, for those were questions which should and must be answered before the House could think of accepting the proposal. Then, with respect to the suggestion of the noble Lord the Member for Calne, he would remind him, taking the gross income of the State-aided schools at £2,100,000, the voluntary contributions were £540,000, or more than 25 per cent. The Government Grant was 37 per cent; so that very much more than one-sixth was contributed by voluntary schools in the gross. The noble Lord forgot that after all, these voluntary schools had a good right to charge the State with the interest upon the large building expenditure they were put to. In the past few years, they had spent nearly £4,500,000 in answer to £1,600,000 contributed by the State. Had his noble Friend, moreover, quite got over the difficulty as to the mode in which his proposal would affect the highest class of artizan schools? Would he be prepared to pauperize those schools for the sake of the experiment he proposed to make? The schools most affected by the proposal would not be those of the Church, nor those of the Roman Catholics, but of the British and great Nonconformist Bodies. The suggestions made, conflicted the one with the other and had met with little support. As a Government, they took their stand upon the two principles which they regarded as fundamental—namely, the right of the parent to choose the school to which his child should go, and the necessity of paying the school fees for the children who were not themselves able to pay. He denied that any real grievance resulted from the operation of the 25th clause, or any grievance which would induce the Government to accept the proposals which had been placed before the House. He thanked hon. Members who had spoken, for their contributions, which he thought were of great use, but he regretted that he could not see his way to adopt them.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.