HC Deb 30 July 1879 vol 248 cc1672-93

£1,521,168, to complete the sum for Education, England and Wales.


observed, that the Committee were aware that every year it was the custom, when moving this Vote, for those who were responsible for the Estimates to make a statement, giving an account of the educational progress of the past year. He thought that every Member of the Committee who had read the Report which had been presented to Parliament for the year ending August, 1878, must admit that it contained a most gratifying account of the progress of elementary education. That Report had been most satisfactory as regarded increased accommodation in the State-aided schools. Statistics on this, as on other subjects, were somewhat dull and wearisome; but it was necessary to cite them, in order to a thorough understanding of the subject. He was sure, therefore, the Committee would excuse him, if he asked its attention for a short time while he stated the actual progress which had been made during the past few years. The practice had hitherto been to compare the progress of the year under review with that of the preceding year. Taking that test on the present occasion, the following were the results as regarded the State-aided schools:—The accommodation for the children had been increased by about 8 per cent, and it now, practically, amounted to very little short of 4,000,000 places. The number of children on the books was 3,496,000, being an increase of 11 per cent, whilst the average attendance was 2,405,197, and that also showed an increase of 11 per cent. There had been a considerable number of new schools, 506 being supplied by voluntary effort and 606 by school boards, and, altogether, the number of schools open was 16,293. As regarded the use made of this accommodation, they had evidence in the number of passes and in the payments by results, and they found that for this year there had been a considerable and gratifying increase in the percentage of passes in the "three R's." The number individually examined was 17 per cent in excess of the preceding year. In fact, whether they looked at the standard, or classes, or special subjects, they found, in each and all, a considerable increase. That was very satisfactory, because as compulsion came into operation, and a larger number of the "wastrels" were forced into the schools, it was to be feared that while the number of children in attendance might increase the examinations might not improve; but they had found the fact to be exactly the reverse. The system which had been adopted for some years past in the Education Office was to take the figures of the educational year ending in August, and on those figures to make such estimates and calculations as might enable them to lay before Parliament the sums which would be required for the ensuing financial year. The figures which he had quoted related to the educational year which ended on the 18th of August, 1878, and the Estimates he was introducing related to the financial year ending April, 1880. One of the most important features they had to consider in estimating their wants was any alteration that might be made in the Code as to the conditions under which grants should be made. Complaints had been frequently made that the Code was not very intelligibly drawn, and it had been the ambition of successive Vice Presidents to put it in a clearer and more compact form; but there were great difficulties in the way of effecting alterations. School managers and teachers had now come to understand the Code pretty well, cumbrous though it was; and he was not sure that it was not expedient, for some time to come, to make as few alterations in it as possible. This year there had, practically, been no alteration made that was worthy of the attention of the Committee, with only two slight exceptions. In the discussion which took place, some time ago, attention was called to the recitation regulation. He confessed that, for one, he did not look with favour upon the idea of children reciting long pieces of poetry, because the children mechanically repeated the words without understanding them. Attempts had been made to adapt the poem to be recited to the children's understanding; and, as a result of that effort, he found that in one town the piece favoured was "Johnny Gilpin's Ride to Edmonton." Amusing as that ballad was, it could hardly be said to be of a such a character as to justify a payment from the Consolidated Fund. In the result, the part of the Code which necessitated the recitation of a poem was struck out. The Chairman of the Cookery Committee at South Kensington had been in communication with the Department, and wished them to introduce something into the Code on the subject of cooking. Doubtless, there was no branch, of practical science in which the humbler classes more required instruction than in cooking; but the Department had not yet been able to meet the views of those who wished a course of practical cooking to be inserted in the Code. There was considerable difficulty in the way. In the first place, schools had not the necessary apparatus; in the second place, they had no proper test of results; and, next, it would be rather hard to impose upon the Inspectors the necessity of tasting every experiment of the children in practical cookery. He had no doubt, however, that in course of time they would be able to overcome this difficulty. Therefore, there had, practically, been no alteration in the Code during the year 1878. They had only now to estimate what the increase of children in attendance would be, and if the efficiency of the children was likely to improve; and they estimated that the increase would be 9 per cent, or 178,000 children, which brought up the average attendance to 2,717,800. They also estimated there would be an increase of 6d. per head in the grant earned, which raised the rate to 15s. 9d. per head. Those two increases, taken together, brought up their Estimate to £2,481,168,beinganincrease of £334,804 over the original Estimate of last year. Of that amount, £315,000 went directly in new grants to schools, and the remainder, £19,000, went in payments to Training Colleges and the employment of additional Inspectors, which was necessitated by the increased number of children they had to examine. Now, he had already compared the results of the examination of the school-year, ending August, 1878, with those of the preceding year; and, interesting as those comparisons were in one sense, they were, it seemed to him, a little wide of the mark; because what they had to consider was not what progress was made in one year or another, but how far the educational supply met the actual wants of the country. Probably, the first point on which the Committee would like information would be in reference to the accommodation supplied. At the present moment there was school accommodation for 3,950,000 children. The school supply in the last 10 years had increased 95 per cent, and the actual number of children who ought to be at school had only increased 9 per cent. Applying the test to the whole population of England within the area of the school districts, they calculated that 3,400,000 children ought to be in constant attendance in the schools—that was, assuming that compulsion was universal throughout England and Wales—as a matter of fact, only 2,700,000 were in actual attendance. The accommodation, therefore, already provided was 500,000 places in excess of what the average attendance should be, and 1,300,000 in excess of what the average attendance was. He mentioned these figures, because the other day, somewhat unexpectedly, a discussion came on; and when he stated that, except in certain large towns, the supply was sufficient, his contention was somewhat disputed. No doubt, in the large towns, and particularly in London parishes, fresh schools would have to be erected, because the distribution was not equal throughout England and Wales; but, still, as every year the school supply was increasing in a greater ratio than the children who had to go to school, he thought they might arrive at the practical conclusion that the school accommodation was, or very shortly would be, quite sufficient to accommodate all the children who ought to be at school. Assuming, then, that all the children were at school who ought to be, they had next to consider how many teachers were required. They estimated that 33,000 teachers would be required. They had at the present moment 28,235 certificated teachers, 5,700 students, and upwards of 31,000 pupil teachers; so that the supply of teachers was ample for present wants; and considering the number who annually applied to be admitted to the ranks of certificated teachers, he thought they might go a step further, and say they would have sufficient for all their prospective wants. This was not to be wondered at, because the position of no class of persons had been so much improved within the last 10 years as that of the elementary school teachers. In 1870, the average salary of the masters was £95 12s. 9d., and in 1878 it was £118 14s. 3d.; whilst in the same period the average salary of the mistresses had risen from £57 16s. 5d. to £71 2s. 2d. Last year, in the discussion of the Education Estimates, many hon. Members represented to him that there were great complaints made, not only on the part of the teachers, but also on the part of the managers, in consequence of the large number of Returns they had to furnish; and they especially indicated a certain Return which had to be made to the local authorities, which entailed much trouble and took up a great amount of time. He thereupon undertook to go into the question of Returns, and to reduce them as far as possible. He found that, valuable as they were, they did entail considerable labour on the teachers; and, therefore, after consultation with those who were well able to advise him on the subject, he came to the conclusion that they might altogether abolish that class of Returns. Therefore, the teachers had been relieved of the Returns of which they most complained. Well, then, as the school accommodation was in the greater part of England sufficient, and as the teaching power was also adequate, the next point they had to consider was whether the machinery for bringing the children to school was sufficient? The population of England and Wales was about 22,700,000, according to the Census of 1871, of which upwards of 13,000,000 were under school boards, and 9,500,000 under school attendance committees. As regarded the figures he had just mentioned, these, no doubt, were the figures of 1871; but in one sense that did not interfere with the effect of his argument, because the population of 1871 was divided, as it was now, into a rural and an urban population; and he was pointing out to the Committee that, assuming those figures existed at the moment, it would be found that of the population of England 16,000,000 were at the present moment under bye-laws, and that during the past year nearly 2,000,000 had placed themselves under the operation of compulsory bye-laws. Perhaps it would interest the Committee to know that the last parish which had unanimously adopted compulsory attendance was the parish of Hughenden. Therefore, at this moment there were under compulsory bye-laws no less than 70 per cent of the total population of England and Wales. The number of children, as he had before stated, who ought to be in attendance was 3,400,000, and the number they estimated who would be in attendance this year was 2,700,000; so that there was a very considerable gap between the number of those who were and the number of those who ought to be regularly at school. That might, undoubtedly, be accounted for by various reasons. Certain of his hon. Friends suggested last year the expediency of passing a short Bill by which compulsory attendance should be enforced throughout the whole of England. No doubt they would gain something in point of uniformity and symmetry if they adopted that course; but, on the other hand, hon. Gentlemen must recollect that the main cause of the success of the Education Acts of 1870 and 1876 was that they had been able to carry local opinion with them, and the local authorities had worked with them, and not against them. At the present moment, no doubt, there was a certain repugnance in certain rural parishes against the adoption of compulsory bye-laws; and if the House were to attempt to enforce compulsory attendance by Statute there would be very considerable difficulty in carrying it out. Therefore, he thought it was preferable to wait, in the certain hope that year by year the number of parishes in which compulsion was not in force would diminish. He thought he might say that as they had accommodation, teaching-power, and local organization, the account he had given was satisfactory. He believed they had made greater progress in developing their system of elementary education during the past few years than had ever been done by any nation before. But, of course, that had entailed a certain additional expenditure; and he now asked the attention of the Committee for a moment or two whilst he placed before them what that expenditure was. In the year 1870, previous to the introduction of the Elementary Education Act, there were 1,225,000 children in average attendance. In the year under review there were 2,560,000; so that the average attendance had more than doubled in eight years. The expenditure connected with the maintenance of schools in 1870 was £1,525,000. In 1878, excluding all expenditure connected with the interest on loans and the expenses of the administration of school boards, the expenditure connected with the maintenance of schools was £4,354,000. Dividing those amounts by the numbers of children in average attendance, they found that in 1870 the average expenditure per child was £1 5s., and in 1878, £1 15s. The Government grant, eight years back, was 9s. 9d. per child in average attendance; last year it was 15s. 3d.; in the present year it would be 15s. 9d. In the discussion on the Estimates last year, certain hon. Gentlemen, and, he believed, two right hon. Gentlemen opposite, impressed upon him the necessity of economizing, as far as possible, the grant annually voted to education by Parliament, and of considering the expediency of placing some limitation upon the amount which was annually so voted. Now, there were two causes for the rapid increase of that Parliamentary grant. The first was, that every year there were more children to be educated. They knew the number who ought to be at school; they knew the number who were there. Every year the margin between the two was diminishing; so that he had very little doubt that in a very short time they would, practically, have at school all who ought to be there. Then the growth of the grant would practically end, except so far as the increase of the population was concerned. The other main cause of the increase of the grant was the abolition of the limitation that was imposed in preceding Codes. His noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Viscount Sandon) removed that limitation, and at the present moment, provided after 15s. per head had been earned by the children in average attendance there was a certain income derived from substitutions for fees, there was, practically, no limitation to the amount they could obtain from the Parliamentary grant. How rapid the growth had been of the sum annually earned by the children was instanced by the figures he had just given, which showed that in the nine years—1870 to 1879—the annual grant per child had risen from 9s. 9d. to 15s. 9d. In the Report they had issued this year there was one paragraph which he believed had caused great concern to the managers of the board schools— The time has possibly come when it may be necessary for us, in certain particulars, to revise a part of the annual grant. The annual grant, as at present payable, might be divided into two heads. Previously to the Revised Code of 1862, the grant was, practically, a capitation grant, and then it was converted by his right hon. Friend the Member for the Uni- versity of London (Mr. Lowe) into a system of payment by results. Still, a considerable portion of the capitation grant remained; so much was paid on average attendance. Now, that seemed to him to be the part of the grant to which it was necessary to direct their attention, if any reduction was to be made. He thought it would be hard at present, when there was so much distress in the country, and when there would naturally be great difficulty in raising the necessary subscriptions, if they were to permanently, with a stroke of the pen, diminish the income of the voluntary schools. On the other hand, they ought to let school managers know that they must not imagine, as a matter of course, that they were every year to obtain more money from the Parliamentary grant, and that the conditions were in no way to be altered. It seemed to him that, as regarded that part of the grant called the capitation grant, the course they ought to adopt was to apply some test to the children before it was paid. He could illustrate what he meant by referring to the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke), which proposed to reduce the grant by £100,000, referring, no doubt, to the sum that was paid for teaching music. He would suppose that all the schools claimed this part of the grant to give instruction in music, and, as a matter of fact, the Returns laid before Parliament showed that this grant for music was, practically, a capitation grant, as nearly 99 per cent of the children attending obtained it; and he thought it was a very fair matter for consideration in subsequent years whether or not they ought to attach some condition to the payment of that particular part of the capitation grant, by which the children should be required to have really some musical instruction and knowledge. That was the direction in which he thought they ought to go. He did not think they ought summarily to reduce without notice the grant which was payable to the managers of the different schools. At the same time, it should be distinctly understood that the Department considered themselves at liberty from year to year to make such alterations as they chose, and as might affect the sum previously obtained by any school. He knew that certain hon. Gentlemen thought they could not spend too much on education; and, therefore, any proposal by which a reduction or limitation of expenditure might be effected would necessarily lower the efficiency of the education given. To those who held that opinion there was a very instructive little paragraph in the table of statistics published annually by the Education Department. It might be found on page 10, and it was, perhaps, the most compact and informational paragraph in the Return. They would there find what the expenditure per child of the different classes of schools was, and what fees were paid by the children attending them. The cost of maintaining a child in a board school throughout England was £2 1s. 10d. That rate was abnormally raised by the expenditure of the London School Board, which amounted to £2 13s. 5d. per child, whilst the average expenditure of other school boards was £1 17s. 4d. But the cost under any of the school boards was considerably in excess of the cost of maintaining children in any of the voluntary schools. The schools connected with the Church of England expended £1 13s. 10d. per child; the British, and other schools unconnected with the Church of England, £1 14s. 11d.; the Wesleyan schools £ 1 13s.; and the Roman Catholic schools £1 10s. Therefore, the first fact brought prominently before them was that the cost of maintenance in board schools, and particularly in the London board schools, was very much in excess of the expenditure in voluntary schools. The second fact, which was also made very apparent, was that there was a great difference in the fees paid by the children in these different classes of schools, taken in relation to the contributions which were made in support of these schools. The sources of income of all schools were—first, the Parliamentary grant; secondly, the school fees; and, thirdly, the voluntary subscriptions or contributions from the rates. Excluding for the moment the Parliamentary grant, they found, taking only the fees and voluntary contributions, the following results:—The fees paid by children in Church of England schools were, as near as possible, equal to the subscriptions and the endowments of those schools. The fees paid by Roman Catholic children were, to a very small fraction, identical with the subscriptions and endowments of those schools. The fees paid by British and Wesleyan scholars were more than double the subscriptions in support of those schools. On the other hand, the fees paid by children at board schools were very considerably less than half the contributions from the rates to their maintenance. Therefore, they found, first, that the cost of maintenance in the board schools, particularly in London, was far in excess of the cost of maintenance in other schools; second, that the fees paid under the more costly system were far less than under the more economical. But when they came to test results they did not find that the more expensive system was better than the less expensive one. The competition was very remarkable. In 1877 it was very close, and the board schools beat the voluntary schools by 1d., earning a Government grant of 14s. 5d. as compared with 14s. 4d. earned by the voluntary schools. In 1878, the voluntary schools turned the tables on the board schools, and beat them by 1d., having earned 15s. 1d., to 15s. 1d. There was another fact, which was rather remarkable, with reference to the expenditure in these different schools. As might have been expected, owing to the exceptional distress in all branches of trade, the subscriptions to the voluntary schools had greatly fallen off. There was only one denomination whose subscriptions had not fallen off—namely, the Roman Catholic. Considering the poverty of the population they had to educate, it was greatly to the credit of the Roman Catholics that they were able to return such good results for so moderate an expenditure. He wished now to point out what, in his judgment, were the defects in the present system of education. His noble Friend the present President of the Board of Trade very properly, some years ago, provided a Schedule of special or specific subjects to be added to the voluntary subjects taught in the elementary schools—those were the subjects in Schedule 4. So long as they had a system of voluntary education there could apparently be no objection to adding any number of special subjects to be taught in schools, because, if the results justified the extra expenditure which was incurred, the managers of schools would continue that expenditure. They would say—"We will only teach those sub- jects when we can afford to do so." They considered the subjects indicated by the Education Department as subjects for instruction when it was possible to give it. Therefore, they had to consider whether or not they could afford it; and, if they could, they made provision for that instruction. But in the case of particular school boards, like the London School Board, these specific or special subjects were regarded from an entirely different position. The school boards, having the rates behind them to meet their expenditure, provided masters competent to teach these subjects at great cost. But it must be apparent to everyone that it was absolutely impossible that the vast mass of children attending their elementary schools—whether voluntary or board schools—could have either the time or the capacity to pass through the special subjects which had been added to the compulsory subjects in the Code. That fact was very clearly illustrated by some figures contained in the Report. If the children were to learn as much as they could under these optional subjects, each child would obtain 8s. per head; whereas, in point of fact, the highest earning hitherto had been 11 ¼d. per head. There was also another objection which must be apparent to those who had considered the letters which had been written in reference to the proceedings of the London School Board and other large school boards. Those school boards, of course, obtained the best teachers that they could. Many of the teachers were placed in schools where the fees were very low on account of the poverty of the district, and where they depended for a large proportion of their salary on the various examinations which were held. Consequently, it was to the interest of the masters to bring into the schools children of a higher class, for whom those schools were not intended. The question which they had to consider was, how to remove those defects? He thought that it would be very unwise to prescribe any wholesale remedy. It seemed to him that they ought, if possible, to bring a perfectly sound but, at the same time, a compact elementary education within the reach of every child, that they should, if possible, apportion the cost of that education to the means of the parents, and also that they should give ample opportunities to those children who, either by their industry or their capacity, or by their aspirations, might wish to avail themselves of a more advanced or higher education. It did not, however, appear to him to be reasonable to expect that every child who attended an elementary school should pass through all the subjects which had been added to the Code. At the present moment their system of secondary schools was rapidly improving; and, in his opinion, they ought to endeavour to grade their elementary schools, and to make the character of the elementary education given in them dependent, so far as possible, upon the fees paid. In the majority of school districts in England there were only one or two schools; and the character of the instruction given in those schools, as well as the class of children educated, would be so similar, that it would be difficult to grade these schools. But in the large towns, like London, Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham, where they had the advantage of very able school boards, it would be possible for them to move in that direction if they only received encouragement from the Education Department. They would be able to grade their schools to a certain extent, and to give opportunities to the poorer children to pass from the cheaper into the more expensive schools. In the past year a remarkable feat was performed by a boy who had been in an elementary school, and who in the course of a very few years passed through the school, and obtained a Scholarship in one of the older Universities. That fact seemed to him rather to indicate the direction in which they ought to go. Of course, they ought not hastily to attempt to proceed in any wholesale manner; but if those interested in educational matters would carefully consider the suggestion he had thrown out, and would endeavour to secure co-operation in that direction in the various great centres of population in England, he did not believe that the task which he had somewhat briefly indicated would be beyond their power to achieve. He begged to thank the Committee for having listened to him with so much patience; and he would only, in conclusion, say that it seemed to him that if they could work in the direction he had indicated he believed they would secure the most efficacious means of making their elementary schools lead to their Universities, and would provide a thoroughly sound system of national education in all its branches and in all its phases.


said, that the noble Lord had instituted a comparison between the results obtained that year and the preceding year. He thought that to obtain a proper comparison he should go a little further back, as it would be interesting to the Committee to know what had been the effect of the legislation. While the accommodation and the number of children upon the register had both increased 123 per cent in 10 years, the average number of children in attendance had only increased 127 per cent. The result of that was, that the average attendance had only just kept pace with the increase of accommodation in the schools. It was a satisfactory thing to find that they had 127 per cent more children in average attendance than they had 10 years ago. But it was not so satisfactory when they remembered that the attendance had increased only in the same proportion as the accommodation. It should be remembered that they had introduced compulsory bye-laws, and it was confidently expected, that larger numbers would be driven into the schools, which had proved to be the case. The noble Lord had astonished him by saying that, at the present time, the amount of accommodation for children exceeded by 500,000 what it need be.


wished to explain that what he had said did not refer to the populous localities or large towns. Taking the total amount of accommodation throughout England, the result would be as he had stated.


said, that, of course, he made allowance for that. He found that, from the Report of the Education Department in 1878, it was calculated the total number of children for whom it was necessary to provide accommodation in elementary schools was 4,899,000; and the Report went on to say that it was not to be expected that all these children would be put to school; and allowing, therefore, for that fact, seven-tenths of that accommodation would be sufficient. He ventured to say that was not the case; for if they turned to the Report of the Committee of 1878, on the first page would be found the statement that, whereas the average attendance during the scholastic year was 2,405,000 per diem, yet that 2,944,000 children were present on the day of examination. It was obvious that they ought to provide accommodation for the maximum number that might be present on any one day, when the number was greatly in excess of the average attendance. He hoped that the noble Lord would not rest satisfied with the present proportion of attendance. He found that at present they had accommodation for 3,492,000 children, whereas they had an average attendance of 2,405,000 children. The result, therefore, showed that if they were speaking in a manufacturing sense they would say that the schools had been working little more than half-time, and he did not see why they should not express in that manner their sentiments with regard to education. He wished that the noble Lord would look a little more kindly at the proposal to draw more children into the schools than could be done under the present system. The noble Lord seemed to throw every obstacle in the way of trying an experiment in the direction of increasing the attendance of children, and had, on the contrary, spoken of still further raising the school fees. Was it not worth while to consider whether the result they desired to bring about could not be achieved by lowering or abolishing the fees altogether? He did not, however, suppose that there would be any chance in that House of establishing universal free schools; but where the local authorities were willing to try the experiment they might do so. He thought that the Department should promote this, and not, as at present, reject all such proposals. Why should the country pursue a course with regard to education which no other country pursued? In all other countries, both Transatlantic and Continental, the tendency was either to lower or to abolish the fees altogether. He thought that the same experiment should be promoted in the education of this country, wherever such a thing was possible; but now, whenever a school board proposed to establish a cheap school, objection was at once raised, because it was supposed that the interests of the denominational schools would be injuriously affected. He was convinced that if the fees were generally reduced it would draw children into the schools, and, at the same time, the average attendance would come up in a much greater degree to the total amount of accommodation. He would now pass on to consider the results which had been already achieved. He always looked at the Return which gave the number of children passing Standards 4 and 6 as very important. The education obtained by children who did not come up to Standard 4 was not of a very high character. He confessed that it was a somewhat humiliating thing to find that during the last 18 months only 218,000 children passed in these Standards, being only 6¼ per cent of the children upon the register, and only 9 per cent of the children in average attendance at the schools. Assuming that the same number would ultimately pass in future years as in the years he tad quoted, the fact would remain that less than one-fifth of the total number of the children on the register would receive any education worthy of the name. He was glad to find—and in that he differed from the noble Lord—that the educational results in the board schools were better than the results in the ordinary Church schools. The noble Lord had told them that the board schools were more expensive than the Church schools; but the excess of expenditure on the board schools was only about 10 per cent over the expenditure of the denominational schools. As almost the whole of the board schools were in towns they, of necessity, cost much more than the denominational schools in the country. Taking that into account, the difference of 10 per cent between the cost of the two kinds of schools was very trifling, and was nothing more than might be expected. He thought the result showed very great economy in the administration of board schools. The noble Lord had also told them that the more expensive system of board schools did not give better results than the voluntary system. He tested the system by the results as shown in the earnings of the two classes of schools; but to depend upon the savings only as a test of results was not fair to the board schools; because, assuming that they were new schools, in the first year or two of their establishment they might not obtain a very large attendance. It was only after two or three years that the test of attendance became fair. The noble Lord would find that the total percentage of children who passed in all standards had risen since 1872, 15.09 per cent in the board schools, and were now. The per centage in the Church schools had, on the other hand, decreased in the corresponding eight years, and stood now at 9 per cent. He did not mean to say that the Church schools were less efficient than they were in 1871; but the examinations were more stringent than they were, and it was the fact that they had not shown any marked advance at all, while the board schools were advancing, and had shown better results than the denominational schools. The results of the board schools, according to these calculations, were 10 per cent better than those of the denominational schools; and if they cost only about 10 per cent more than the denominational schools the country might congratulate itself upon getting a fair return for its money. The noble Lord had alleged that the increase in the Government grant was due to the increase being made upon the capitation grant. [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: The abolition of the capitation grant.] Including the amount for infants, the capitation grant now amounted to about 8s. on the total amount per head, the increase in the total sum received being in the grant for examination, which had risen from 4s. 10¾d. to 6s. 10¾d. He thought they had some reason to congratulate themselves upon the results already achieved, although he thought that they might be more satisfactory in many respects. He was bound, however, to say that he did not think the Department had any right to take credit for the results that had been effected; for some of their recent actions had been rather in the direction of obstructing where they ought to have promoted, and of promoting where they ought to have rejected. If the present policy of the Education Department were continued, it would become the most doctrinaire and the most centralizing of all the Departments of the Government. There seemed to be an attempt—though he would not lay it upon the shoulders of the noble Lord—to stereotype education throughout the country; and he could not conceive anything which would be more fatal to the interests of education. He would only give one or two illustrations of what he had advanced. In the case of the Birmingham School Board they wished to employ female teachers. The Department at first refused to allow them to do so; but, eventually, the noble Lord consented, and since that time female teachers had been employed by the Board. Although the Birmingham School Board was able, from its size and importance, to obtain the reversal of the decision of the Department, yet the small boards throughout the country would no more think of resisting the decree of the Department than of flying, and thus the Department would destroy all that liberty and that freedom in education which would produce the most beneficial results. He was very glad to find that the Birmingham School Board were not only permitted to employ female teachers, but had converted the Education Department to their views. In the Report of the Department, they stated that there were at present a large number of school mistresses employed in elementary schools who were at once the most suitable and most efficient teachers for two-thirds of the children attending those schools. It was also said that the Department most entirely sympathized with the remarks recently made by the Minister of Education in Japan. But he should like to know when the Department was converted to the views of a Minister of Education in Japan, and what made them now entertain his opinion that it was a desirable thing to have as many women teachers as possible in elementary schools? How was it, if they entertained those views, that they objected to the employment of female teachers by the Birmingham School Board, although they now alleged that the proposal had met with their entire approval? The questions in which the Department chiefly interfered were those concerning the building of schools; and the views there put forward were of the most absurd description. While he had the honour to occupy the position of Chairman of the Birmingham School Board, they proposed to build an infant school with a semi-circular bay, as being the most convenient form for the teachers to observe and direct the school. The Education Department said that they could not permit a school to be constructed with a semi-circular bay, and that it must be a square bay. He could not conceive the policy which dictated that sort of interference, and which re- fused to permit experiments which might be continued to very useful results. Recently the Department had also interfered in a more serious manner. They had interfered in what they styled "the interests of economy." He wished to put it to the noble Lord that he had no business to interfere between the ratepayers and their authorized representatives. The whole principle of the Education Act of 1870 was, in his opinion, that education was to be carried out, within certain limits, by boards representing the majority of the ratepayers in each district. If the boards incurred an excessive expenditure, the ratepayers had their remedy, for they could, turn the board out, and supply its place by men of more economical views. But if, on the other hand, the expenditure met with the approval and consent of the ratepayers, why should the noble Lord come down and reverse the decision of the majority of the ratepayers? In Birmingham a strong contest had taken place with respect to the action of the School Board; and the ratepayers, by an overwhelming majority, had expressed their approval of the action of the Board. With the full consent of their ratepayers, they had built schools which would be a credit to any school board in the Kingdom. They had not wasted the money of the ratepayers; but they had thought it right that the schools should be ornamental, and they had also thought it right to provide a fitting home for the work which they were to carry on. Their work had been submitted to the public, and in the election the ratepayers of Birmingham, by an enormous majority, had given their entire approval to the action of the board. To take another instance, he would draw attention to the architect's department. Of the gentleman who occupied the position of architect to the Education Department he wished to say nothing ill; but he did not think that he was likely to be a person whose practice or experience was likely to be greater than that of the local architects employed by the different boards throughout the country, who were generally gentlemen at the head of their Profession. It was too much to expect gentlemen of that kind to submit their plans to the official who undertook to be the architect of the whole Kingdom. A plan of the architect to the Birmingham School Board was submitted to the architect of the Department, who said that he would not approve of it, because the design was too expensive. He was asked what alteration he would suggest, and thereupon he took a ruler from his desk, and ruled off every projection from the school building until he had left it a brick block. Then he said—"That is the plan for an elementary school." In his opinion, such conduct as that was insulting to the architect, and insulting to the school board of Birmingham, and it was also insulting to the ratepayers, who had approved of the action and conduct of the board. He had one other representation to make against the Department over which the noble Lord so ably presided—namely, that the Department had interfered in numbers of cases where it ought not to have done so, and had not interfered in many cases where it was their duty to do so. The other day a Question was asked of the noble Lord with reference to the Horley school board, which was presided over by the vicar of the parish. The board refused to appoint the only candidate for a female teachership, on the ground that she was a Baptist. The noble Lord, from his answer, wished the House to infer that there was no general bann against the employment of a Nonconformist by the Horley school board; he also said that he had so many complaints with regard to that particular matter that he did not think it right to interfere. He (Mr. Chamberlain) would have thought that if he had had so many complaints he ought to have interfered. He would challenge the noble Lord to produce one case in which a school board, where there was a Nonconformist majority, had refused to appoint teachers who were not Nonconformists. Of course, such instances might exist in the annals of the Education Department; but no such case had ever come to his knowledge. In the case of the Horley school board it was admitted, by all the members of the board, that the female candidate was well qualified for the position; but the vicar of the parish objected to a Nonconformist being appointed. It was observed that if it had not been intended to appoint a Nonconformist that should have been mentioned in the advertisement, and he fully agreed with that. As it was, the unfortunate girl was sent back to her parents on account of her religion; and the same board also rejected a youth who was a candidate for a pupil scholarship on precisely similar grounds. If it had been intended to make religious belief a disqualification for the appointments, then that should have been indicated. He thought that wherever instances of the rejection of candidates on the ground of religious belief occurred the noble Lord would be justified, by common sense and by the good feeling of the country, in interfering to stop them. He sincerely hoped that the noble Lord would take the remarks which he had made in good part, and that he would allow school boards as much liberty of action as possible, as he believed that in that way the real interests of education would be best served.


said, that at that hour it was utterly impossible to discuss in an adequate manner the very important questions raised by the speech of the noble Lord. He hoped, therefore, that the Committee would not be taken to have assented to all the proposals of the noble Lord; but, at the same time, he did not wish it to be understood that he expressed his disapproval of them. He agreed with the noble Lord that economy ought to be considered as well as the improvement of education; but he would remind the noble Lord that, in 1876, the Government gave up what he believed to be the greatest safeguard to economy, as they would find day by day and month by month—namely, that each locality should find as much money as the Department. He was aware that that had been given up, because it had caused a good deal of difficulty to the noble Lord. With regard to the question of fees, he agreed that there would be a great advantage in grading schools in large towns; but it would be utterly impossible if the noble Lord carried out the intention he had foreshadowed in the debate upon the London School Board. He believed that by grading the schools what they wished to see would be accomplished; and the whole of the middle and working classes would be willing to send their children to the board schools, and pay for the better education of their children. They desired to provide a better education for the children as far as possible; but he agreed that it should be paid for by the parents. He had no further remark to make, except to express his concurrence with the views of the hon. Member for Birmingham, that the Education Department was not working as well as could be wished. He thought that it was in danger of becoming too much doctrinaire. It seemed to him that there were two points to which special attention was required in the conduct of the Department. He did not wish, in any way, to blame either the permanent Chiefs or the noble Lord; but he was only pointing out the difficulties they had to contend with. In the first place, be doubted whether inspections were as carefully conducted, or the Inspectors so carefully chosen, as they might be. The noble Lord should remember that inspection was becoming more difficult by the progress of education. They required the schools to be better inspected, both in knowledge and in educational teaching, than they were before. He thought also that, speaking generally, the Department was interfering with school boards and with the managers of schools more than it might. He hoped that the Department would not throw difficulties in the way of the labours of the school boards by seeming to think that it was necessary for them to decide whether any new school was necessary or whether it was not.

Vote agreed to.

Resolution to be reported.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £266,766, 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 1880, for Public Education in Scotland.


objected to so important a Vote being taken immediately before 6 o'clock, and moved that Progress be reported.

House resumed.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow;

Committee also report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.