§ MR. RATHBONE
said, he had never been quite able to see the difference between the poor children paying 2d. per week for their education and those who went to Oxford and Cambridge, and paying £20 a-year in fees, receiving their education and even their maintenance at considerably less than cost price. There was as much inconsistency in that as in what the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) had just complained of. Leaving this, however, he wished to call attention to the inadequate special training given to Inspectors previous to their being entrusted with the inspection of Elementary Schools. On former occasions he had drawn attention to the subject, and no objections had been offered to his contention, except that there was to be no money expended in the direction he indicated. That, in his opinion, was a false economy. Inspectors, to be efficient and successful, ought to be carefully trained after leaving college for the special duties they would have to perform. Under the present system, young men fresh from college who knew nothing about the capabilities of children were sent to 823 inspect schools, and upon their report the Government grant depended. The result was, that one man fearing to be unjust was too lax in his inspection, and lost the respect of the school-master, while another was perhaps more stringent in his examination, and in consequence there was either a relaxation of discipline in their schools, or else a sense of injustice was entertained by the teachers. There was also a great want of uniformity in the rules laid down by them, and this led to a deterioration of the standard of education. He suggested as a real, practical, and in expensive remedy for the evils he had pointed out, that candidates for the Inspectorships should undergo a year's probation. About 10 Inspectors were appointed annually, and his proposal was that they should at once appoint 10 of the best candidates on the list, who should accompany 10 of the best Inspectors on their rounds, and thus qualify themselves for the positions they were to occupy. Their main object should be so to raise the standard, as to be able to compare favourably with other countries in the matter of elementary education; and that could be done at a small cost, as the men were waiting for their appointments as Inspectors, and would not refuse a low salary while they were learning their business. The whole cost of the plan he proposed would be £2,500 a-year. As things were, the sum spent was £118,000 on inspection, including Inspectors' travelling allowances, and £2,149,000 on the whole work of elementary education; and this additional £2,500 would be well laid out. That was no great price to pay for having the whole work of education done more efficiently than at present, and with less friction to the Department; while it would be of equal service to the junior Inspectors themselves by enabling them to approach their work, not as tyros, but as men of experience. He trusted that his suggestion would be carried into effect, particularly as it involved no considerable financial difficulty.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that in the course of the evening the attention of the House had been called to a variety of subjects, but only four strictly educational matters had been under consideration. His hon. Friend who had just sat down had not been satisfied with the special training that 824 Inspectors underwent at present. As the hon. Member was aware, every person who was appointed an Inspector served a certain period of probation with one of his seniors, who was duly informed of the appointment of the junior who would be for a time associated with him. That was the existing system, and it would be seen that every newly-appointed Inspector underwent both probation and instruction in his duties. His hon. Friend had suggested that the work of education would be much more efficiently served by a few more appointments, and he had declared that a satisfactory arrangement might be made at a cost of £2,500 per annum. Well, if the hon. Member could persuade the Treasury to supply the money, he for his own part would be quite ready to adopt the plan suggested. The next topic was also one of importance, and had been brought before the House by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell); but the Notice had only appeared on the Paper the night before, and he was not acquainted with the particular schools to which the hon. Member drew attention. But, speaking generally, it was certainly not right that the education of some children should be almost gratuitous, and that they should, at the same time, be contributors to savings-banks. He could, of course, express no opinion on circumstances with which he was not conversant, but he would consider the question, and if his hon. Friend would communicate with him, he would endeavour to give him all the available information on the subject. Then, the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) had brought to the notice of the House the condition of the Code which required a certain number of attendances as a necessary preliminary of examination, and he had proposed to abolish that condition. Now, the Government grant, which was partly dependent on the requisite 250 attendances of each child, was a compensation to the managers of the school for certain educational work, and, if that attendance were dispensed with, children might be brought from one school to another to earn the grant. He was sorry to say that several instances of sharp practice that had been brought under his notice made his fears not wholly imaginary. As to the school book being a sufficient substitute if a definite number 825 of attendances were abolished, their abolition would do away with the very first column of the attendance book. No doubt the present system did present some temptations to teachers to which they occasionally succumbed, and some distressing cases of wholesale and systematic fraud had come before him; but the persons who would commit such frauds were not fit to be entrusted with the moral education of children. With regard to the subject introduced by the hon. Member for the Wigtown Burghs (Mr. Mark Stewart), he must say he sympathized with the School Boards that had erected large schools believing they had to provide for a certain number of children and then found that some parents preferred to send their children to other schools; but in giving grants to such schools, the Education Department had strictly acted in accordance with the intention of the Act of Parliament. If the hon. Member would look at the discussion which took place on the Scotch Education Bill he would see that a clause had been inserted which required that regard should be had to the religious belief of the parents, and stated that the Scotch Department might give grants after due inquiry. If the Department had not given an annual grant to the schools so established there would have been great difficulty in enforcing attendance. He was sorry to be somewhat abrupt in his replies on the subjects to which attention had been called, but the time that it had been hoped might be devoted to a discussion of the Education Estimates had been so much curtailed that he trusted the House would consent to go into Committee at once.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he was sorry to stand in the way of the noble Lord, but it was really unprecedented to go into Committee on this most important question at midnight. He was very anxious to hear the noble Lord; but although the noble Lord might make his statement, it was almost impossible to give the attention to it that would be desirable. To make the statement and then to adjourn the debate, would be leaving the House in a very unusual position, and he hardly thought the Government would think of going on with the statement at that hour.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought there was time to make the statement, for which the mind of the House had been prepared by the subjects that had occupied their attention most of the evening.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
thought there would be no advantage in making the statement, seeing that it would be impossible to take a vote.
§ MR. PEASE
said, the situation furnished a striking illustration of the great inconvenience of the Standing Rule that enabled them to discuss many minor questions while the great object for which they had assembled had to be postponed. He hoped this matter would not escape the attention of the Committee on Public Business. He feared that if the statement were made tonight, it would, practically, have to be made over again.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and negatived.
§ Committee deferred till To-morrow.