HC Deb 27 February 1877 vol 232 cc1139-55

, in rising to move that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the system of apprenticeship of Pupil Teachers in Elementary Schools, and into the con- stitution of Training Colleges for Elementary Teachers, said, that by a Return presented in June last it appeared that £5,250,000 had been expended in the year ending the 31st of March, 1875, on elementary education, not by a Vote of the House alone, but by contributions from Imperial funds, from rates, subscriptions, and school pence contributed by the parents of the children. The amount contributed by Imperial taxation was £2,250,000, being an increase of £600,000 in the course of three years, at the rate of 30 per cent. If the local expenditure had also increased at the same rate, they might assume that during the year 1877–8 the expenditure of the country on elementary education would not be very far short of £6,500,000, a larger sum than was being spent by any country in Europe; but notwithstanding that large outlay the results were far from satisfactory, for he found that out of the number of children attending the elementary schools not more than 800,000 were able to pass the three lower Standards, and and not more than 200,000 the three higher, and that of those 17,000 had failed in reading, 52,000 in writing, and no less than 66,000 in arithmetic. Of all the children in our schools not more than 11,000 were able to pass in the Sixth Standard in arithmetic, or 1 in 250. His noble Friend the Vice President of the Council said last Session that the sober wishes of the country in respect to the education of the people had been disappointed, and he came to the conclusion that this was chiefly owing to irregularity of attendance. He (Mr. Samuelson) believed that that was not the only or the principal reason. He attributed it in no small degree to the deficiencies in the teaching staff. There were 21,000 certificated elementary teachers in England and Wales, 2,000 or 3,000 assistant teachers, and 39,000 pupil teachers. Thus there was less than 1 certificated teacher to every 120 children in our elementary schools. It must be acknowledged that the teachers and assistant teachers alone were not sufficiently numerous to supply the educational wants of the country. It became, therefore, necessary to inquire what was the capacity of the pupil teachers who were relied upon to supply the deficiency of the teaching staff. They were from 13 to 18 years of age, generally educated in the ele- mentary schools, superior, but not much so, to the other children, and not necessarily possessing any special vocation for teaching. It must be evident that for the first years of their career they could be but of very little assistance to the teachers of the schools. He should not, however, rely on any a priori reasoning on this point, but would show from the Reports of the Inspectors of Her Majesty's schools that the qualifications of the pupil teachers generally were so limited that their assistance in the work of education must be of very little value. The hon. Member quoted passages from more than 20 Reports of Government Inspectors in support of this statement. The pupil teachers were described as exhibiting in many instances extreme ignorance. One described Milton as "a learned Egyptian." To the question—"Who were the Roman Emperors who visited Britain?" another replied—"Julius Caesar, who converted the Britons to Christianity 45 years before the birth of Christ;" and a third said that— The Duke of Marlborough was a celebrated general who lived during the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth, and fought the battle of Waterloo. In regard to London, he had examined the detailed Reports of the Inspectors of some 12 Board schools; and of that number there were not more than four in which some grave fault had not been found with the work which had been done by the pupil teachers in such elementary subjects as reading, grammar, and composition. Another test of the efficiency of the system was afforded by the examination of pupil teachers after they had served an apprenticeship of five years, for admission into the Training College. Mr. Matthew Arnold, speaking of the grammar papers of candidates, said that at no time since he had been a School Inspector had he known them to have been worse. Great dissatisfaction was beginning to arise in the country with the pupil-teacher system, and the London School Board and the school boards of several other large towns had expressed themselves strongly upon the subject. Pupil teachers were now overworked alike in imparting instruction to youthful scholars and in attending to the claims of their own education; and that was an evil which called for remedy. It was to be regretted that in the new Code no relaxation of the rule compelling the principal teacher of a school exclusively to give instruction to the pupil teachers under him was to be found. Where class-room teaching was adopted in schools the pupil-teacher system was quite inapplicable, and this furnished another reason for an inquiry being held. Turning, then, to the instruction of candidates in training colleges, the accommodation in this was quite out of proportion to the number of those asking, and qualified by examination, for admission—and this whilst the demand for certificated teachers was far in excess of the supply. He (Mr. Samuelson) could not imagine why in such places as the metropolis it should not be possible for young persons to be trained as elementary teachers without entering into a sort of cloister, which, moreover, was a purely denominational institution. The only remedy for the existing state of things provided by the new Code, was that in future, monitors should be admitted at the age of 12 years, and that if they pursued their studies satisfactorily for two years they might then be apprenticed as pupil teachers. He did not know that he was bound to state what remedies he would suggest—he would much rather they should be suggested by persons more qualified than himself—a Committee of the House or a Royal Commission. He would, however, say that he had formed some opinion on the subject, and he thought if nothing more could be done the English Code should be assimilated to the Scotch Code, so that the Colleges should cease to be exclusively boarding houses. They might also offer every inducement to University graduates to become elementary teachers. By that means they would raise the standard of the whole body of elementary teachers, and so an important point would be gained. Still, he did not think when all this was done they would have done enough. He was anxious to see power given to the school authorities of a districts to combine for the purpose of establishing preparatory Training Colleges. No doubt the expense would be considerable at first; but in the long run he thought it would result in a great saving to the country, because an efficient system was cheaper than one which, however cheap, failed to effect its object. He disclaimed any idea of casting a reflection upon the elementary teachers, who as a body he believed to be very zealous in their calling, or on the pupil teachers who were already doing much more than could be expected of them considering their youth. The whole system at present existing was unsatisfactory and unsound, and no matter what were the numbers of children brought into our schools our elementary education would never be satisfactory until those children were placed under the care of a greatly increased number of thoroughly qualified elementary school teachers.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the system of apprenticeship of Pupil Teachers in Elementary Schools, and into the constitution of Training Colleges for Elementary Teachers."—(Mr. B. Samuelson.)


said, anybody who had watched the course of the hon. Gentleman who had introduced the Motion could not help being aware of his full right to bring a question of this importance before the House. Though he might not agree with all the opinions the hon. Gentleman had expressed, he was bound to listen to them with every attention. The hon. Gentleman had gone over a very wide field of observation on the present occasion, and he had touched upon some very large topics; but in the course of his reply he would confine himself to the two leading points which appeared on the Notice of Motion. The hon. Gentleman had quoted very largely from the Reports of Her Majesty's Inspectors of schools. He did not find fault with him for doing so; but he must remind him that Her Majesty's Inspectors did not all take the same view as those whom he had quoted, and some of the others had modified those views with the observations with which they had accompanied them. He thought all were agreed as to the desirability of securing as good a staff of teachers as could be obtained. As to the failures of pupil teachers at examinations, the hon. Gentleman had quoted some observations of his friend, Mr. Matthew Arnold, on the subject. They must all know that anyone of the great attainments of Mr. Matthew Arnold must have suffered untold torments in the ordeal of wading through the com- mon-place papers which various pupil teachers must produce. They should, however, remember that they must not press too hardly upon poor children of 14 or 15. He dared say that Mr. Arnold would bear in mind his own University, where many hon. Gentlemen had taken distinguished honours, and where probably they had produced comparatively as bad answers as those which had been quoted as showing the extremely degraded intellectual condition of the pupil teachers of England. The hon. Gentleman went on to allude to the strong representations which had been made by the School Board for London on the subject. It was quite true that the London School Board did ask the Education Department to sanction a very great change of system; but the Department could not comply with the request because it would have been in direct dereliction of the Code, and the Code having all the authority of an Act of Parliament, they had no power to go beyond it. The London School Board had complained especially of their disadvantages in regard to the training of pupil teachers, referring to the difficulty of instructing one teacher in half-a-dozen subjects; but the London Board had many large schools and able teachers, and they should have been the last body in the world to complain of not being able to allot different groups of teachers to their different schools. The whole subject was no doubt a very serious and important one; but to ask for a Committee of the House to investigate it would, to his mind, imply that there was a distinct current of dissatisfaction with the present system. If such dissatisfaction did not exist he thought the House would agree with him that it would not be wise to imply distrust while great changes were going on in the educational system. It was not quite clear that the pupil teacher system was so rotten as the hon. Member seemed to imply. The underlying thought in the hon. Member's remarks apparently was the supercession of pupil teachers by adult teachers; but the Government of Holland was again expressing its assent to the pupil teacher system, though raising the age to 16; while authorities in America—men who were favourable to advanced education—were expressly regretting that the system did not exist there, and attributed many failures to the absence of young teachers. Again, the pupil teacher system was not to be lightly dismissed as one of a trifling or indifferent character. Surely the hon. Gentleman had not forgotten that it was introduced by the eminent and gifted Sir James Kay-Shuttle worth who had observed the use of it in Holland, and to whom they were so largely indebted on all educational matters. There was also a very considerable mass of testimony in favour of the system. To show that he had not overlooked the importance of the subject he might mention that during the winter they had taken the opportunity of consulting many of the leading Inspectors in regard to it. He found the general opinion to be that there was a steady and marked improvement of the pupil teachers; but certain recommendations were made which he thought worthy of all consideration. It was thought very important that they should gradually raise the age at which children should be allowed to teach, particularly in the case of girls; that they should gradually raise the standard and establish something like a probationary class from which pupil teachers should be taken. After full consideration, they had agreed to make those changes in the Code. The hon. Member had passed rather cursorily over what was considered of great importance by leading educational authorities. Only three instead of four pupil teachers would be allowed for the future; but when schools averaged above 220 there might be an additional adult teacher. There would also be two supplementary monitors of 12 years of age instead of a fourth pupil teacher, and they would teach three hours instead of five. No pupil teacher hereafter would be qualified till 14 years of age, and they must pass the examination which had hitherto been passed at the end of the first year. The effect of this would be that the pupil teachers would be an elder class, and therefore more able to go through the labours of their position. There would also be probationers from 12 to 14, so that teachers and managers would be able to select from them those who should fill the higher office of pupil teachers. He mentioned this for the purpose of showing that he was not unmindful of pupil teacher apprenticeship, and that the best steps had been taken to improve their position, acting on the principle that these changes should be gradual. With regard to the present position of the teachers in this country, it was supposed by many that teachers were only supplied from pupil teachers and Training Colleges; but a very considerable number come from outside. What were the advantages of the present pupil teacher system? Its advantages were very great, quite independent of any matter of expense. It was a great advantage to have even children teachers for elementary teaching. He was confirmed in that by the remarks of a very experienced man, Dr. Eigg, the head of the Wesleyan Training College, and a man of large experience, who was entirely of that opinion. Pupil teachers were invaluable, provided they were constantly under the superintendence of adult teachers. If they got rid of this youthful system of teachers they must fall back on a great system of adult teachers, and the expense would be perfectly enormous. The expense was becoming a very serious matter, both locally and Imperially; and if they could get as good results from the present system they were bound to adhere to it. Then if they gave up pupil teachers they must fall back on very large classes; and nothing, he believed, could be so bad for elementary teaching as very large classes. One advantage of the present system was that we were able to pay children from 13 to 18 years of age for their work as pupil teachers; but if we were to establish a college pure and simple for those between 13 and 18 years of age, that would be attended with a most serious expense. There was another advantage in having a great staff of pupil teachers, for it enabled them to pay greater attention to the schools. An additional advantage of the present system of pupil teachers was the tie established between the master and the pupil teacher, for it kept the pupil teacher up to the mark and obliged him to polish up his weapons. Suppose in answer to the proposition of his hon. Friend, you were to destroy the present system, you would thereby destroy the tie between the head teacher and the pupil teachers. He held that in the training of the character of the future teachers of the country nothing could be so important as the tie—a very close one it was known to be in many schools—between the head teacher of the school and the pupil teacher. The head teacher had watched that child almost from infancy through all its different stages, and he felt almost a paternal interest in it. The breaking of that tie by establishing a central system would, he believed, be a very great blow to the national teachers of the country. If you once embarked upon a centralizing system, the responsibility of the head teacher for that child would be absolutely gone. Suppose that child as a pupil teacher gave bad lessons, how was he to blame that child for doing so?—seeing that the responsibility had been shifted to another person, under whose roof that child spent a very great part of the day. Moreover, a centralizing system would destroy the respect for the teacher. A child would naturally expect that a teacher was fit to instruct him in all the various subjects which came within a school life; but the child would be told that he must go to this person for history, to that person for geography, to another person for arithmetic, and at last he found that there was hardly a subject in which his master was fit to teach him. When respect for the teacher was destroyed, subordination in a school was absolutely ruined. The proposition of the hon. Gentleman came to this—an attempt to substitute a professorial for a tutorial system. He acknowledged and admired the zeal displayed by the hon. Gentleman for the pupil teachers; but he said, without doubt, that for these children between 13 and 18 a tutorial system was ten times better than a professorial system. Everyone of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools complained of the great pressure upon these young children. They all said the pressure was too great. The pressure would perhaps be ten times greater if a centralizing system were established, and they had to go for instruction to different parts of the town. It would be very unwise to subject these children at a most critical age to the excitement and competition of the proposed centralizing system. A bad effect would also be produced upon the teachers, who would be taken away to deliver lectures in those central schools. Moreover, it would tend to aggravate the evils of "cramming," from which children already suffered sufficiently. From his official experience he held most strongly that it was safer in the interests of these children, as the future teachers of the land, to leave them to the more substantial teaching of their own masters and mistresses in their own schools than to expose them to the keen competition of centralizing schools. Many of the leading educational authorities looked upon the scheme of his hon. Friend with the very greatest fear. His hon. Friend would perhaps say that the present system was a narrow one. It was not narrow. There was immense elasticity in it. Under the present system there was perfect freedom and elasticity; and provided that the tie was maintained between the pupil teacher and the head teacher of the school, and that the head teacher gave the pupil teacher five hours' instruction per week—surely not too great an amount to insist upon—there was nothing to prevent the grouping of pupil teachers together for teaching on Saturday afternoons or evenings. The Liverpool Board was now trying that experiment, which might be made in other places with great facility. He would next refer to the question of Training Colleges, to which his hon. Friend had alluded. It was true that the Scotch had Training Colleges; but it must be remembered that the case of Scotland, which had its own advantages, was different from that of England in many ways, and that the advantages of the English training system were very great indeed. The more he looked into the matter the more he saw that the character of the school must depend upon the character of the teacher, and the more anxious he was to secure that the teacher should not only be good intellectually, but also fitted by character to be entrusted with the care of children. It was absolutely necessary, as far as possible, to keep as close a watch over the character of the teachers of the future, as over their mental attainments, for the character of the children would in future depend on that of their instructor. All would admit that the charge of children between the ages of 14 and 18 years was a very different thing from that of mere day-school children up to 14; and he hoped that the House would hesitate for a long time before they got the mass of their teachers from other sources than they did at present. Their existing Training Colleges did not belong to one denomination only. The Church of England, from its position, naturally had a large number, including that of St. Mark's and others, whose excellence was well known and recognized. The Wesleyans had also a Training College at Westminster; other religious Bodies had their Training Colleges, as, for example, those at Borough Road, Stockwell, and Homerton; the Roman Catholics having theirs at Liverpool. He trusted, therefore, that the House would pause before it rashly interfered with that system. It was often forgotten that there was not the least reason in the world why people should not enter the teaching Profession from outside; and, in fact, there was nothing now to prevent anybody from establishing a subsidiary system of that sort. Persons over the age of 21, if they had only shown teaching capacity by working for six months as assistants in an elementary school, would find the teaching Profession open to them, and might pass into the ranks of certificated teachers, so that different views on that subject might now be perfectly well tried by experiment, and it would be much the best course for those who thought the existing system was not satisfactory to let that experiment be made, as it easily could be at present. He was not anxious that there should be one rigid, uniform system in that respect; it was much healthier that there should be various avenues and means of access to the teaching Profession; and that was the case now. But he put it to the House strongly, in the interests of education itself, whether it was not most undesirable at the present moment to make any more great changes in the existing system, which nobody could say had broken down. They had already made great changes with the assent of both sides, not only by legislation, but in the Code; and his experience of his present office made him believe that they ought now to try to get a period of rest, and that the minds of teachers, of managers, and of school beards should not be distracted for the next two or three years in their important work. Everybody, he thought, would also allow that they had a good series of school subjects in their Code; and they had succeeded in getting the children into the schools. The work of education might be watched as closely as they liked, but no step ought to be taken which might disturb the teachers' minds and distract them from the difficult problem which they were now solving with such satisfactory results.


expressed his astonishment at the remarks of the Vice President of the Council, because three-fourths of those remarks were not in the slightest degree pertinent to the Motion now before the House. But the speech would have been extremely pertinent if the Motion had been that, in the opinion of the House, it was desirable at once to abolish the pupil teacher system. If he (Mr. Fawcett) had thought that was the object of the Motion which he had seconded he would not for one moment have given it his support. The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Samuelson) and himself did not wish the House to prejudge the system or say one word against the pupil teacher system. He believed in the system. His motive was simply this—that they believed if certain changes were carried out the system would be rendered more efficient. The noble Lord had not only been guilty of inaccuracy with regard to the import of the Motion, but he had contradicted himself. How did he reconcile the vaunted elasticity of the present system with the statement he made at the beginning of his speech, to the effect that he would not discuss the proposed recommendations of the London School Board because he was tied hand and foot both by the Act of Parliament and by the Code? He (Mr. Fawcett) supported the Motion principally because he most heartily and cordially endorsed every word that had been said by the Vice President of the Council against the serious disadvantages which resulted from the employment of pupil teachers between 13 and 18 years. That seemed to be one of the most important points for inquiry, and it was exactly a question which the House would do well to investigate. The present system had so enormously overworked the pupil teachers, that it was detrimental to their health, and so exhausted their energies, that it was not only injurious to them as long as they were pupil teachers, but most grievously interfered with their efficiency in after life. He was quite aware that the legal time during which they might give instruction was five hours; but there was evidence showing that they often taught for six or seven, and in some cases even for seven and a-half hours a-day. The work of teaching was pecu- liarly exhausting, but the labour of the pupil teachers did not end there, for it was necessary that they should prepare themselves for examination, and for this preparation some two or two and a-half hours daily were required. Altogether those young persons had to work harder than he had known the most industrious competitors for honours at the University to do. It was a mistake, however, to suppose that those who supported the present Motion were anxious to abolish the pupil teacher system. Their contention was simply, that from evidence obtained from the London School Board, from Liverpool, from a great body of teachers throughout the country, and from numerous Inspectors, it appeared conclusively that the present system was not efficient. Without presuming to say in what particular way the system ought to be improved, they merely submitted that an inquiry would show what were the defects, and what remedy was needed.


observed, in justification of the tenour of the speech of the noble Lord, that there was ground for supposing the Motion to mean more than appeared on the surface, the hon. Member who brought it forward having suggested in his remarks that there ought to be something better than the pupil teacher system. As to the operation of the London School Board, in London there were one or two schools on the German system, one of which—a school of about 1,000 children, with adult masters—he had visited. It did not earn in proportion so much as other schools of the same size on the pupil teacher system. He was not entirely satisfied with pupil teachers. They had to educate themselves and qualify themselves for examination and to carry out the work of education, which was an enormous pressure on them at their time of life. The fault was not so much in the system as in the way in which it was worked, for by crowding so much into one syllabus it was made more laborious than it ought to be. What was wanted was to provide a machinery for the education of children, nine-tenths of whom would have to earn their living by mechanical labour. They were, in fact, far below the mark in what were popularly called the three R.'s, more particularly in arithmetic, whilst they were cramming and killing their pupil teachers with work which they ought not to be compelled to do; but if they were less ambitious in their syllabus, and more moderate in their requirements, the pupil-teacher system might yet be worked successfully and well.


said, that before the House could sanction the appointment of the Committee asked for by his hon. Friend it should be satisfied that the subject was sufficiently important to justify such appointment; that the inquiry was not likely to do more harm than good by unsettling the present system, by making its administration difficult; and that there was good primâ facie ground for the inquiry. The importance of the subject all would acknowledge, and if the appointment of the Committee was likely to, as his noble Friend (Viscount Sandon) appeared to think it would, unsettle the present administration of education throughout the country, it was a very good reason why the Committee should not be appointed. He could not support a Motion that would have the effect of getting rid of pupil teachers and Training Colleges, because they were so completely a part of our system that it would be wrong to attempt to get rid of them. He understood that the object of the Motion was not to get rid of them, but whether they could improve both. That there were primâ facie grounds for inquiry was shown, he thought, by the fact that the London School Board had come to the conclusion that they could best get through their most difficult work by grouping their pupil teachers and sending the children to teachers specially trained in particular subjects. At any rate, the question was well worthy the consideration of a Committee; as also the one of how far we were overworking the pupil teachers, and whether we were injuring their health more than improving their minds. The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Samuelson) did not dwell as much upon the Training Colleges as upon the pupil teachers; but it must be acknowledged that the Training Colleges had done a vast amount of good, and that but for them education would not have been in its present position. But the fact remained that they did not train all the teachers. His noble Friend had rather congratulated himself and the House on the fact that there were some thousands of teachers who came into the profession from without. For his own part, however, he did not think it was an advantage in itself to have any teachers who were not trained. Much might be said in favour of taking a University training in England, as was done in Scotland, but that there must be some kind of training everybody would admit. Notwithstanding the enormously increased demand for teachers, scarcely any fresh Training Colleges had been established. These institutions were very costly, and he approved the suggestion of the hon. Member for Banbury that, in addition to the bearding Colleges, day Colleges should be founded. Training Colleges were required in order—first, that young men and women might acquire in them the secular knowledge which they would hereafter have to teach; secondly, that they might be under moral and religious superintendence; and, thirdly, that they might be well trained in the practice of teaching. In his opinion, all these advantages might be obtained at a very much less cost in large towns. He did not wish to get rid of the Training Colleges, which would still be useful, but he would suggest that in addition to them there should be erected in the large towns training halls. Pupil teachers ought at a certain age—say from 16 to 18—to be allowed to attend the lectures which would be given in these halls, and he proposed that the Education Department should acknowledge a new class of teachers, who, for distinction sake, he would call student teachers. If his suggestions were adopted the student teachers would teach in the schools, but not for so many hours as the pupil teachers. Care would also be taken that they should attend the lectures, and they would be under the control of the managers of the schools. Looking forward, as he did, to a very large increase in the number of teachers, and hoping they would all be trained, he ventured to submit this suggestion to the consideration of his noble Friend. When the attendance difficulty had been met, the next great thing would be to improve the quality of the teaching.


said, that before the House went to a division, he wished to state in a few words the way in which the Government looked at this Motion. It had been said by both the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Samuelson), and by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr Fawcett), that this was not a Motion brought forward for the purpose of overthrowing the system of apprenticing pupil teachers, and they had asserted that his noble Friend's (Viscount Sandon's) argument in favour of that system was altogether beside the question. He must, however, remark that, if a Committee of that House were appointed to inquire into this subject, it would be guided in its inquiries not by the opinions of those who moved for it, but by the terms of the reference; and it would be seen by the first reference proposed that the Committee would enter on its labours in a much more inimical spirit to the system of apprenticeship of pupil teachers than hon. Members anticipated. The proposal was to appoint a Select Committee to inquire, not how the system might be approved, but "into the system of apprenticeship of pupil teachers in elementary schools." When a Committee proceeded to inquire into a system, it meant that the system was to be put on its defence. If, however, the Committee were to be limited to an inquiry as to the best manner of improving the system, then ho replied that the Department represented by his noble Friend was charged with the particular business of seeing how the whole of this system of education worked, including the duty of watching the working of the apprenticeship of pupil teachers. It would be, therefore, a reflection on the Department to appoint a Committee to inquire into the details of a system which the Department was constantly watching and endeavouring to improve. His right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) admitted that after the agitation which the educational mind of the country had undergone for the past few years, it was desirable that a period of repose should be granted to allow of the fair working of the system; and considering that the system was being worked under the cautious and attentive eye of his noble Friend, and that, as all admitted, it was worked in a spirit of fairness, he thought the Government were not unreasonable in asking for time for the development of the whole system, before any attempt was made to cut it up by the roots. The Government thought it would be very undesirable, in the present state of the educational question, to appoint a Committee which might lead to bringing up the whole subject again; and personally he might add that he should look with alarm upon the appointment of a new Committee now when the expenses of the Department were increasing so rapidly, because these Committees, whatever else they did, almost invariably ended in an increase of expenditure.


, in reply, disclaimed all feeling of hostility to the Department, and expressed his opinion that the Motion which he had proposed would, if carried, result in great benefit to the country.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 46; Noes 104: Majority 58.—(Div. List, No. 18.)