§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON,
who had given Notice of his intention to move the following Resolution:—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in respect to the. Education Code now lying on the Table of tills House, praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to direct that regulations shall be made so as to secure the following objects, that is to say:—1. Thai scholars under seven years of age shall not be presented for examination individually, but by class; 2. That greater liberty than at present shall be given to managers and teachers to classify children according to their acquirements and abilities; 3. That a larger share of the Government Grant shall depend upon attendance, and a smaller upon individual examination; 4. That the Government Grant shall not be affected by the withdrawal of ten per centum of the scholars from examination at the discretion of the managers,said, that he intended to move the Resolution with some consideration for the state of health of Mr. Deputy Speaker; therefore, he should not enter into any technical arguments, and he should compress within narrowest limits what he had to say. He did not intend to move No. 4 of the Resolutions he had placed upon the Paper. He understood it might be ruled out of Order; and, though he did not agree that it was out of Order, he did not intend to argue the point. The basis of his Motion was that over-pressure existed, and ought no longer to exist, in the elementary schools in England. That was the substance of the matter upon which hon. Members would be asked to vote that night—namely, whether over-pressure should continue, or whether it should be abolished once and for ever. The Resolution was intended to contain, and did contain, no censure whatever upon the Government, or upon the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council. In fact, he believed, if the Vice President were to tell them his honest opinion, the right hon. Gentleman would say that he would be very much pleased if the Resolution were carried, that it would strengthen his hands, and that it would enable him to tread the path he was beginning to pursue with firmer steps and without looking back. He (Mr. Stanley Leighton) could bring, if this were the time or the 1367 proper opportunity, overwhelming evidence to prove the existence of overpressure; but he did not intend to trouble the. House with that evidence, and he asked them to accept from him the fact, which he said with the conscious conviction of the responsibility it entailed, that over-pressure existed in our schools, and would continue to exist under the Code now lying on the Table of the House, which was actually killing the children and killing the teachers. He could prove this from documents in the possession of the right, hon. Gentleman himself and his Office, which the right hon. Gentleman was afraid produce, and declared to be confidential. If hon. Members supposed that what he said was merely his own opinion, his answer was this—and he would put it against anything the right hon. Gentleman might say—that 15,000 teachers at a meeting, presided over by Lord Shaftesbury, had declared unanimously that over-pressure existed; that the present Code would not remove overpressure; and that the only way to remove over-pressure was to accept the very Resolutions which he had embodied in his Motion. He defied the right hon. Gentleman, or any manager, or any member of a School Board in that House, to place his authority against that of 15,000 teachers, who, much better than they did, knew what the effect of the present Code was. He besought the Government not to treat the question as a Party question; he, besought them not to make a Party question of it by insisting that the Government Tellers should tell against him on that occasion. He asked them to accept the three first Resolutions, and to allow them to be passed nemine contradicente.. If the right hon. Gentleman would not do that, then, of course, he must go to a Division, which would show who were in favour of over-pressure and who were against it. Of this he was sure—that the constituents of every Member in that House would show their gratitude to those who, whileover-pressed themselves, were nevertheless determined that they would, as far as they could, prevent the oppression of others. With this simple, general statement of what was contained in the Resolutions, he begged to move the three first as they stood upon the Paper, omitting the fourth. The first provided that scholars under seven years 1368 of age should be presented for examination by class, and not individually; the second, that greater liberty should be given for the classification of children; and the third, that the Government grant should depend more largely upon attendance than upon individual examination. He withdrew the fourth, which proposed to provide that the Government grant should not be affected by the withdrawal of 10 per cent of the scholars at the discretion of the managers.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in respect to the Education Code now lying on the Table of this House, praying that Her Majesty will be graciously pleased to direct that regulations shall be made so as to secure the following objects, that is to say: —
§ SIR LYON PLAYFAIR
said, he was sure the House would recognize both the motives and the manner in which the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton) had brought the question before them. Practically, the hon. Member's Motion was only Resolution No. 3; and he thought the hon. Gentleman had acted with great discretion in omitting the 4th Resolution, which would probably have received very little support from the House. The first two Resolutions were quite unnecessary, for it would be very easy to show that the securities desired by the hon. Member already existed. The substance of those Resolutions formed part of the present Code. He (Sir Lyon Playfair) asked the House to inquire what it was they were about to do? They were asked to pass a series of Resolutions, which might have a very simple and pure meaning in the mind of the hon. Member for North Shropshire; but which, if adopted, he thought he should be able to show the House might have considerable consequences which were not in the mind of the hon. Member. It should be borne in mind that the Code was a Code which had been brought into working order by 1369 an experience of 21 years. It, had been brought into its present state by consultation among all the Inspectors and persons most interested in education, and every part of it adhered together. It was undesirable, therefore, by a general Resolution, to give a meaning different from that intended by the framers of the Code, for they might dislocate the whole Code and produce consequences which they had not the least intention of producing. Let them see what the 1st Resolution was. The first of these Resolutions stated that scholars under seven years of age should not be presented for examination individually, but by class. But that was what was in the Code now. Children under seven years of age were not examined individually; but the grants were given by a general assessment of the merits of the teaching of juvenile children. An Inspector might say—"I. have no evidence, and I. do not understand what the merits of the teaching are, unless I take one or two children from the class and hear them read or write. Unless I do that, I shall not know how to judge or form a general opinion of the merits of the class." But there was no individual examination of each of the pupils of the class, as there was in regard to larger children who were above seven years of ago. Therefore, the intention of the hon. Member for North Shropshire was entirely secured by the existing Code. It was by a general assessment of merits, and not by the individual examination of the children, that the grant was given. He would ask the House to see what, if the hon. Member's 1st Resolution were adopted, its literal interpretation would be? Its literal interpretation would be, that no Inspector could go to the class, and pick out any child in order to consider him a type of the class, and ascertain whether he could read or write, because the Resolution said there was to be no individual examination; and, consequently, the discretion of the Inspector would be very much hampered. He would be prevented from making a true assessment of the merits of the class. Now, what was the 2nd Resolution? It was that greater liberty than, at present should be given to managers and teachers to classify children according to their acquirements and abilities. He wished to point out that manager 1370 had the greatest liberty at present to arrange and classify scholars. The First Standard ought to be passed by a child of eight years of age; but any manager might detain a child who was backward in education, having boon kept away from school, or having had no means of acquiring education, until he was nine, 10, or 11 years of age. He had power to put such a child in Standard I., and classify him in the lowest Standard. Therefore, the manager had the power at present, and the Code could not prevent him from exercising it. The manager had a perfect right to use that power, and to place the child in Standard I. There was only one thing which prevented mischievous action; and if any hon. Member said that it was not right, then he would be justified in voting for the 2nd Resolution. There was a provision that a boy or girl, having passed in one Standard, should not again be presented in the same Standard, but must be presented in a higher one. It would be absurd to allow a manager who had a child passed in Standard I. to present the same child again next year in the same Standard; and that was the whole interference with the power of the managers in regard to classifying children—namely, that when a child had passed in a lower Standard, on the next examination he must be passed in a higher one. Therefore, those two rules, as they were sketched out in the mind of the hon. Member for North Shropshire, were already in the Code, and it did not require new regulations to enforce them. New regulations might interfere with the work now going on. Then there was the 3rd Resolution moved by the hon. Gentleman, and upon that he (Sir Lyon Playfair) took issue. He contended that the 3rd Resolution was essentially a bad one, and might produce great mischief to education. Indeed, he thought he could convince the hon. Member himself that it would do so; and he hoped to be able to convince the House that it would, if passed, do more to alter the conditions of the labour of young children than anything that could be done if it were not passed. Now, what was that Resolution? It virtually said—"Let us pay more for mere attendance and less for the results of individual examination." Now, who was it that made this demand? The hon. Gentleman said that 15,000 teachers 1371 had made the demand. He (Sir Lyon Playfair) doubted whether good teachers made the demand at all. He wished to obtain some information upon the point. He had road all the speeches delivered at the deputations that waited on the Privy Council upon the subject of education; and he had not seen one case in which an educational society, whether denominational or undenominational, a school board, or a body of school managers, had gone to the Privy Council and made this demand. The demand came from the teachers; but he thought he could show that it would not be for the benefit of the teachers to concede it, and it would certainly be to the detriment of the scholars. In the present state of the question, it was the crudest possible way of disposing of the matter to put it upon the teachers. He had the greatest respect for the teachers, and this was simply a crude method of saying—"Give us more of the public money on easier conditions." That was what was asked for in the Resolution, and he invited the House to sea how it would operate. The average schools throughout the country received 16s. 8d. per scholar. How much of that 16s. 8d. was obtained by individual examinations? It might be supposed that a great proportion of it was obtained in that was but, on the average, a school only got.6s. 8d for individual examination. The rest of the payment was for attendance, and for class subjects such as English and geography, which were not taken by individual examination at all, and the final portion of it was secured by the general merit of the school. Therefore, all the 3rd Resolution would effect would be the sum of 6s. 8d. given for individual examination, and applicable to the mere elements of education—reading, writing, and arithmetic. The object of the Resolution was to take away, say. 2s. from that gum, and to add it to the4s. 6d. now given for attendance. In fact, by giving attention to this Resolution the House would take away the great impulse of the teacher, not in regard to larger subjects, such as English and geography, but in reference to the elementary education of young children—the very essentials of education which a child must have—namely, reading, writing, and arithmetic. Was that what the hon. Member intended to do; and if it was, what would be the result? It would, 1372 as he had said, take away a great deal of the impulse from the teacher in teaching the mere elements of education—reading, writing, and arithmetic. Class subjects did not come by individual examination; and the effect would, therefore, be to diminish what they desired to have in the school—namely, good reading, writing, and arithmetic. The consequence of that would be very, serious in the eyes of hon. Members opposite, who often complained in that House, and probably with great justice, that the labour tests, as now applied, did not enable children to obtain employment while sufficiently young. This Resolution would largely postpone the time for passing the tests now imposed. At present they were not allowed to employ children who had not passed Standard IV., and in some cases Standard V. was enforced by bye-laws and some Acts; but if they took away the impulse to make the children pass the Standard when young, they might not be able to pass them until they were 12 or 13 years of age. While, therefore, it was desired to liberate the children in order that they might add to the earnings of their families, the House, by passing the Resolution, which they were asked to do, would do that which they did not wish to do—namely, diminish the efficiency of the elementary teaching, and make the poor children lag a long time behind before they would be able to pass the labour test. There might be, though be did not believe it, some interest to the teachers in the proposed change; but it was certainly hostile to the interests of the children. The State, which had imposed the labour test on children, was bound to see that it should press upon families as lightly as possible. He had tried to convince the House that, with the best intentions in the world, the hon. Member was not justified in proposing these Resolutions. The first two were in the Code already, and therefore, the insertion of them in a different form of words would only injure the Code and produce difficulties. The 3rd Resolution would not do what the hon. Member intended in regard to over-pressure, because, if there was over-pressure at all, it was in the higher subjects, and not upon the mere elementary education—reading, writing, and arithmetic. He thought the hon. Member was wise in not having attempted 1373 to raise a debate upon over-pressure. He (Sir Lyon Playfair) could only say, from his own experience, that he had seen the Code and watched its operation during the 21 years it had existed. There had been continued attempts to modify and remove the evils of over-pressure, and no Code had been so satisfactory in that respect as the present one. The Code very largely removed the danger by giving to the schoolmaster an excuse in almost every direction he might desire. He could make an allowance with regard to the children on account of illness, on account of inevitable absence, and for mental or bodily defects. The schoolmaster was entitled to make an allowance on all those matters, in order that a boy should come up for examination without detriment to the grant to the school; and, as a matter of fact, there never was a Code which could be less the subject of attack on account of overpressure than the Code now under consideration. He would not, however, discuss that question, as he had no doubt there would be full discussion upon it hereafter. He was quite satisfied that the hon. Member, when he considered the effect of his Resolutions, would see that they would not carry out the object he had in view. He was quite sure it would not be of benefit to good teachers, and he was equally certain that it was not for the benefit of the State that any indifferent teachers should be withdrawn from that control which the House of Commons and the Education Department had hitherto exercised over the £3,000,000 of public money which was now annually voted for education.
§ MR. R. H. PAGET
said, that the regard he had for the health of Mr. Deputy Speaker would prevent him from entering into anything like a prolonged debate; and he felt bound to express his regret that the question had not been reached at an earlier period of the evening. The House was now in this position—that instead of commencing the debate at 11 they had not commenced it until after 12 o'clock; and they were, consequently, much hampered in discussing it. In his opinion—and he knew he spoke the feeling of the entire House—they were extremely unwilling to do anything that would subject the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair, on any account, to personal inconvenience. 1374 He felt himself called upon to take exception to the speech which had just been addressed to the House by the right hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Sir Lyon Playfair). These Resolutions were asked for not only by the 15,000 teachers to whom reference had boon made, but by the great majority of the managers of the elementary schools throughout the country. In point of fact, there was a general consensus of opinion among the teachers and managers who were thoroughly and practically acquainted with all the details of the matter, and assuredly there was much to be said for that which they demanded. He would very shortly deal with the throe points raised by the Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House told them there was nothing in the first point, as to undue pressure on scholars under seven years of age, because the Inspectors had met and consulted together, and because it was the intention of the Education Code that the children should not be so presented for separate examination. That might be the intention of the Code; but that intention was certainly not expressed in it. [Sir LYON PLAYFAIR: Yes; in Article 116.] The right hon. Gentleman said the intention was expressed in Article 116. That was one of the difficulties hon. Members were met with at that moment. The Code had only been recently laid on the Table; it was full of minute and intricate detail; but, on reference to it, he certainly failed to see anything in Article 116 which affected the question, or in any way justified the contention of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said that the First Standard ought to be passed by every child of eight years. The whole system of the present Education Code was to regard all the children of the nation as so many feet pounds of engineering science. But the intellectual abilities of children could not be so defined. There were differences between the town and rural children. For instance, with regard to the possibility of attending school their positions were very different. In the case of thickly-populated districts, the school was generally within a few hundred yards or so of the place whore the children lived, and everyone of them, therefore, could easily attend; but in 1375 rural districts the child had to go miles to school, in all seasons of the year, and sometimes under circumstances attended with the greatest difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman said that all that the Education Code laid down was that the managers had no right to put a child into lower Standard who had once passed a higher Standard. Now, that was the great ground of complaint. Children, by over-pressure, were forced to present themselves for examinations, which possibly by good luck they might scrape through, and were then put into a Standard for which they were unfitted, and for which their mental capacities might be unequal. But having scraped through a certain Standard in one school, and subsequently being transferred to another school, the manager of the latter, instead of placing the child in his proper position, was unable to do so, because the child had been forced into a higher Standard than he was fitted for in another school. If he believed for a moment that the 3rd clause of the Resolution of his hon. Friend would have the effect of removing the impulse to teachers of getting their children through the elementary stages of rending, writing, and arithmetic, he would not for one moment think of voting for the Resolution; but he believed there was no ground whatever for the assertion of the right hon. Gentleman that this impulse would be destroyed. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that the teachers and manager had no interest in developing the intellects of the children under their charge, and seeing that they were taught in the best possible way during the limited number of years they were to remain in the elementary schools? Surely the right hon. Gentleman could not mean that, and therefore he (Mr. R. H. Paget) said he had no right to make an assertion of the kind unsupported either by facts or argument. The right hon. Gentleman assumed that it was a matter of the greatest ease—that all the children who had passed through the early Standards in reading, writing, and arithmetic, had done so without any difficulty whatever. But he (Mr. R. H. Paget) knew, by the admission of those who had had opportunities of forming an intelligent opinion on the subject, that the Arithmetical Standards were so high that they were clearly above the average intelligence of 1376 the children as a whole who attended the elementary schools. He was told that if they took the average of those who passed through the schools it would be found that the Arithmetical Standard, as at present fixed, was too high to be demanded as a necessity of the whole class of children who passed through the schools. In conclusion, he said that his hon. Friend who had brought forward this Motion deserved the thanks of the House. The question of overpressure was one which was gradually ripening in the opinion of the public, and it was to that question that the Resolutions which had been brought forward were chiefly directed. The proposal of his hon. Friend for dealing with the over-pressure of which intelligent teachers universally complained appeared to him perfectly reasonable, and he trusted it would be acceded to. He believed that the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education was himself ready to lend a willing ear to the suggestions made to him in the interests of education; he believed he was the last man to do anything unreasonable; but the Department over which lie presided had rules and precedents, and his hope was, nevertheless, that the right hon. Gentleman would have the hardihood to tear himself away from the rigid rules of the Department, and accede to the very reasonable proposals which had been put forward.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
Sir, I may state at once that I entirely agree with the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton) on one point—namely, that the question of education is one which, above all others, ought not to be made a political question, but dealt with as one affecting the intellectual and physical welfare of the children of the nation. It is a question in which every Member of this House ought to be interested; and we ought, therefore, one and all of us, to be ready to do anything which shall tend to the improvement and preservation of the health of the children from whatever side of the House the proposal may come. Now, the hon. Gentleman, in moving his Resolution, has given an example of a rather inconvenient practice —namely, of moving a Resolution without advancing any reasons in support of it; whereas it is incumbent upon me in my reply to find some reasons for differing 1377 with him. In the first place, I must point out that both the hon. Members who have spoken in favour of this Resolution have in their minds not the present Code, which we have to consider, but the Code of the last 10 years. The hon. Member who has just spoken can, I think, hardly have read the present Code, because he spoke of cast-iron rules, and of the children being expected to pass all the Standards at one time. Sir, there is not one word in the Code which justifies that statement. On the contrary, we have swept away—we have entirely abolished—the age clauses of the former Code: age is scarcely mentioned in the Code, and even where it is mentioned, there is the greatest amount of elasticity associated with it. It does seem to me, therefore, that hon. Members who have put forward and supported this Resolution are placing on this Code the sins of its predecessors. Now, I have no hesitation in declaring that the first two objects set forth in the terms of the Resolution are perfectly reasonable, and that I quite agree with them. But, Sir, it was expressly to accomplish those objects that we revised the Code. The former Code required children to be classified according to age, and also to be individually examined; whereas we have abolished the age clause, and determined that children under seven should not be examined individually. The instructions to Inspectors have been laid upon the Table; and I think the House will perceive from them that an Inspector who should examine the children individually would be acting contrary to those instructions. I will not say that this has never been the case, but it is contrary to the instructions; and if managers will make us acquainted with cases of the kind they will find the Department ready at once to deal with them, although, as hon. Members will be aware, it is no easy thing to bring into conformity with a revised practice the practice of those who, for 20 years, have been a law unto themselves the House will see, under Article 106 of the Code, that the grant for infant schools would be computed on the average attendance—And not, as heretofore, on the number of children presented at the examination. … The children above six, however, should be individually examined1378 That was the position last year; and the directions to the Inspectors were now, that a sufficient number of children above six should be examined to satisfy them that the necessary condition have been fulfilled. Does the hon. Member moan to say that the Inspector is to judge of a child without asking it to open its mouth; is not the child to point out letters on a card; or, in short, to be examined at all? What would be the use, of Inspectors under such circumstances?
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
I complain that three-fourths of the children presented at examinations are to be examined individually.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
Exactly. But that only applies to upper schools. We began last year by saying that only children above six years of age should be examined individually. We have put a Code on the Table much more elastic; and we are resolved this year to give exact expression to the wishes of the hon. Member. As stated in his first Resolution—namely, that children up to seven years shall not be presented for individual examination, but shall be examined by class. What can be more reasonable than that concession? And it is a concession on our part, because it was in our minds before these Resolutions were brought forward. In the interest alike of public economy and of the children themselves, the Department wants to get rid of this system of individual examination of children under seven years of age. Having reduced individual examination last year, I pledge myself to this House that not only shall there be instructions given that the individual examination of children under seven years of age should cease, but I will insist on these instructions being carried out; and will repress, as far as possible, any attempts which may be made to break through them. Then let me say something upon the second part of this question. I quite agree that children who enter the schools should be classified according to their abilities. But, Sir, is not that already the case? I have visited a hundred schools within the last six 1379 months, and I can affirm that if the children of any particular Standard are asked to stand out, that Standard will be represented by children of various ages; there will be a certain number of 10, 11, 12, and 13, years of age. How, then, can hon. Members come down to the House and say that there is a cast-iron rule by which children are bound down to one Standard? We have provided an abundance of excuses, in order to enable teachers to with hold from examination, or not to put in the higher Standards, scholars who are obviously, intellectually and physically, deficient; and, again, if a scholar has failed in two subjects, or twice in one subject, he may be re-presented in the same Standard. Surely hon. Gentlemen do not want more than that; they cannot desire that children should be presented over and over again. I want to know what the parents would say if that were done? I have promised the House I will not detain it long. I hope there will be other and better opportunities than this for hon. Gentlemen to bring forward not only the present question, but also the question of over-pressure. I should like to have the last-named subject discussed, as the Education Department have taken precautions to guard against the evils which are dreaded—precautions which have never been taken before, and which may fail more seriously on the Treasury than hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House may be disposed to allow. I come now to the third provision in the Motion—That a larger share of the Government grant shall defend upon attendance, and a smaller upon individual examination.The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanley Leighton) proposes to change the incidence of the grant. Now, is it really reasonable, considering how large is the proportion of the grant now given for average attendance, to demand that a still larger proportion shall be given for merely having the children driven into the schools? We must remember that we are no longer under the voluntary system, under which children are very often brought to the schools by something like missionary effort on the part of the school managers. The compulsory system has taken the place of the voluntary, and children are now forced to enter the schools under a penalty for disobedience. It is necessary to give 1380 every inducement we can to teachers to instruct the children well. The hon. Gentleman has quoted the grant to infant schools. It is only fair to say to hon. Members who are interested in small schools that, in the change made this year, I have done everything I could to take care of those establishments. The large schools I have always felt can now take care of themselves; it is the small ones in the rural districts that form the difficulty, and I have increased the grant to them, giving them now. a-head, in order to encourage them. This increase, however, is not given for individual examinations. The;9s. per head is to be paid on average attendance only, and5d 6d. is to be awarded for the general merit and efficiency of the school. Not one farthing is to be given for individual examination, and no more than that 14s. 6d. is given in the case of any infant schools in the country. My right hon. Friend (Sir Lyon Playfair) has said that 16s.2d is the grant for higher schools. That is the calculation which the right hon. Gentleman has made; but I am afraid the grant will come out this year more like 16s. 6d 4s. 6d. being given for attendance, 3s. for singing and class subjects, 2s. for merit dependent on efficiency, not on passing at all, and 7s., out of the total, for individual examinations in reading, writing, and arithmetic. If we are to reverse that order of things, and give 7s. for attendance, instead of 4s. 6d., and 4s. 6d. for individual examinations in reading, writing, and arithmetic, we shall be doing everything we possibly can to discourage the children in that standard of work which is the first essential to them in enabling them to pass from half to full time labour. I think I have given the House all the information I can on this subject. I should be very glad if the hon. Gentleman, on the Education Estimates or on some other occasion, would take an opportunity of bringing before the House the question of over-pressure. "With regard to the fourth recommendation—That the Government grant shall not be affected by the withdrawal of ten per centum of the scholars for examination, at the discretion of the managers,if the hon. Member means to move it, I shall be glad to discuss it; but I will say this—that not one of the 15,000 school teachers who have been quoted, 1381 not a single school board out of the 3,000 in the country, and none of the Educational Societies—such as the National and the British and Foreign—have asked the Education Department for the change.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
I presented a Petition from some of those the right hon. Gentleman has named only yesterday.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
At any rate, so far as I am aware, from not one of the Educational Societies of the country, and from not one of the school managers, have we had any Petition or Memorial in favour of such changes as the hon. Member advocates. I trust the House will not, in a matter of this grave importance, endeavour, for the first time for 20 years, to disarrange the Education Code, which hangs together in all its branches, and to settle not only the amount of the grant, but the incidence of it by an act of the House. Before sitting down, I should like to make just one more remark, and it is this. I am sure, if there had been anything in the proposals of the hon. Gentleman, they would have found the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) in his place to support them. It is very significant that the noble Lord is not present. The noble Lord has had experience at the Education Department, and has always discussed these matters in a fair and straightforward manner in the House; and there can be no doubt that we should have seen him in his I place had it not been for the fact that he knew the Resolutions, the third particularly, to be fraught with danger, and I therefore to be such as he could not support.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he owed an apology to the House, and a special apology to the Deputy Speaker, with whom the House must feel great sympathy in the trying circumstances under which he was presiding over the House, I for intruding any remarks of his at this time. The fault that he rose at this late I hour, however, was not his; and he would; remind the House that it had been understood that the debate was to begin, as I nearly as possible, at 11 o'clock. It was owing to circumstances, over which they 1382 on the Opposition side of the House had no control, that the debate did not begin until 12 o'clock; however, he would not waste further time by following that point up. The intentions of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mundella) in the matter of the Education Code were, no doubt, excellent; but it was a pity his action was not so excellent as his intention. The right hon. Gentleman told them he was going to do what the hon. Member for North Shropshire asked the House to ask him to do; and, that being the case, the House might as well adopt the Motion.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he trusted the instructions to the Inspectors would be observed this year better than they were last; because, if the House would bear with him for a few minutes, he would be able to show that these officials had acted in a manner directly contrary to the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman said they ought to have acted. One of the Inspectors in June last, at a large meeting of school teachers and managers, said—"With regard to infants"—and the House would remember they were talking about infants—Every child in the six-year old class would be examined individually, and would be expected to write all the letters, large and small, to read two easy primers, to add numbers from one to 20 mentally, and to subtract numbers from one to 10 menially. They ought also to have regular lessons in form, colour, and on familiar objects—vegetable, animal, and mineral. Below this age the work should be preparatory, and for those under four"—remember, he was reading the words of an Inspector—he thought they should be taught to speak English.He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman had a child of his own under four; but if he had, all he (Mr. J. G. Talbot) could say was, the right hon. Gentleman must have forgotten the circumstances when he road those remarks, if it had not caused him to change his opinion.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he was referring to what had fallen from Mr. Rooper, Inspector of one of the Yorkshire 1383 districts. The Inspector had used those words in his private capacity—that was to say, when not, at the moment, acting under instructions. The instructions given last summer were in Circular 212 (Instructions to Her Majesty's Inspectors). In them it was stated—The children apparently above six should, however, be individually examined, and a sufficient number of the others to satisfy you that the elements of rending, writing, and arithmetic are properly taught.["Hear, hear!"] He was sorry to hear Liberal Members cheer such a sentiment as that. He hoped the cheer would be confined to the Liberals, how ever—that no Conservatives wished children under the age of six to be separately and individually examined. All he could say was, that if hon. Gentlemen would go into the crowded districts of this great city and examine the sort of children under the age of six who were brought into the Board and other schools, or go to Manchester and Liver pool and see the children under the age of six who were subjected to individual examination——[Laughter]
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, that if hon. Members could only see the children who were examined in this way they would find nothing in it to laugh at. The instructions issued to the Inspectors last year were that a sufficient number of children under the age of six should be examined to show the Inspectors that the elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic were properly taught. [Mr. MUNDELLA: No.] And the instructions also said—When not less than three-fourths pass the individual examination well, the mark 'good' should be awarded.Although there was nothing in the Code, or in the Instructions, with reference to the classification of children by age, it was well-known that many Inspectors had a distinct syllabus for children above three, above four, above five, and above six respectively. Liberal Members were ready that these poor, unfortunate children of three, four, and five years should be individually examined, ["No, no!] Yes, that was so; in order that Her Majesty's Inspectors might be satisfied that the elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic were properly taught to them. [A laugh.] Hon. Gen- 1384 tlemen laughed—he said, again, that that laughter came from only one side of the House. The mark "good" was to depend on whether three-fourths of the children in infant schools passed the individual examination. He did not want to labour this matter further. If the House were not satisfied with what he had read, nothing, he was sure, that he could say would satisfy them. The right hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Sir Lyon Playfair), who was not now in his place, had, in defending the conduct of the Education Department, said that the unfortunate children were not examined individually. How could the right hon. Gentleman know that the children were not examined individually? All he (Mr. J. G. Talbot) knew was that last summer these instructions were issued to Inspectors. It might be that it was the intention of the Vice President that children under six years of age should not be subjected to individual examination in the time to come; but what he (Mr. J. G. Talbot) wished to say that night was that hon. Members were so dissatisfied with the way the matter had been managed hitherto that the House of Commons should say that there should not be a repetition of the old state of things. They feared the right hon. Gentleman would not be able to have his good intentions carried out. As to the request made in the second section of the Motion, the right hon. Gentleman told them that that was practically done at the present moment. Well, no doubt the right hon. Gentleman wished it might be done; but, as a matter of fact, it was not done. The children were forced up from Standard to Standard, independent of their attainments and fitness for promotion. He appealed to Gentlemen who had children themselves how they would like those children to be pushed up from form to form in the public schools to which they were sent, whether they were fit for it or not? The teachers, it might be said, would take care that no harm came to the children in this matter; but he asked the House of Commons to do for the poor children of the country what well-to-do parents did for their own children. The third part of the Motion asked—That a larger share of the Government grant shall depend upon attendance, and a smaller upon individual examinations.1385 They knew that 4s.6d. was the only fixed grant that depended upon attendance, and they asked that that should he increased. Why did they ask it? Because up to this time it was found that the extra pressure put on children had largely resulted from the teachers having been running a race, as it were, one against the other to obtain high results of teaching. What hon. Members wanted was that the main object, the main reward, which was given by the State to the schools should be given for the hum-drum which did not make a bright show in the public eye, but which was the real, sound substratum on which education should be based. He and his Friends had felt that in discussing this matter at this hour, and under these conditions, they were under the greatest possible disadvantage, because it was impossible for them to urge all the arguments they might wish to urge. If the right hon. Gentleman meant what he said, that he was going to meet hon. Members by due instructions to the Inspectors, and by carrying out those excellent intentions he had expressed in his speech—which he had put into words, but which had not been hitherto put into action——
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he wanted to see them somewhere else, because Inspectors hitherto had not acted on the instructions contained in the Code. The hon. Member for Cornwall (Mr. Acland), he saw, had the Code in his hand, and no doubt he was satisfied that Her Majesty's Inspectors would act on it. He (Mr. J. G. Talbot), however, could not have the same confidence in the matter as his hon. Friend. He wished to see in black and white that the Inspectors, in the future, should not act on their own whim and fancy; but should be bound by a Resolution of the House of Commons, expressed in the very moderate terms of the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Shropshire.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I am not going to detain the House more than one or two minutes. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down says it makes very little difference whether this is in the Code or not. I understood the real reason why we have the debate under difficult circumstances so late at night, and without the possibility of the sub- 1386 ject being thoroughly examined into, to be because it was thought desirable that the House should express an opinion which would alter the Code. It appears clear that individual examination of children under seven is no longer to be made. Notwithstanding what the hon. Gentleman has said about his desire that no Members on this side should express approval of individual examination of children under seven, I must say this—that I think any Inspector would fail in his duly if he went into an infant school and was to give an opinion of that school without finding from the examination of any of the children how they were taught. That is a very different thing to the individual examination of each child; and I should like to ask, from persons with any experience whatever in education, how the Inspector is to give any notion whether or not any education is given—whether elementary teaching of children under seven is or is not carried on—if he is not to examine any of the children? "What is objected to, and I think quite rightly, is the actual examination of each child. If this Motion is accepted, a much more important decision must be made than anything affecting the first of the Resolutions, and that is as regards the third. The third is of immense importance, and it is that a larger share of the Government grant shall depend upon attendance, and that will involve a great change in the expenditure of public money, and, I believe, also a great change in the results, and we ought not to agree to any Resolution of this House without far more reasons than the hon. Member has felt himself able to give to-night. I have never been so much in favour of making the payments of grants depend upon results as some other persons of great experience have been; but the whole tendency for the last few years has been to make the grants depend less on results. We may very well go too far in that direction, and may get back to the state of things existing before the Code was passed. My opinion was that Lord Sherbrooke went too far; but if we do not take care that there is a good deal of individual examination in reading, writing, and arithmetic, we shall get back to a state of things in which the masters must look merely to the clover children, and the great body of the children will not be taught reading, writing, and 1387 arithmetic, which is what we most care for. It would be a most serious thing; for the House in this hasty manner to assent, to this great change. We Might to give the question a great deal more consideration; and hon. Members opposite, quite unintentionally, would find that they were doing great injustice to children, and causing a great waste of public money.
MR. LYULPH STANLEY
said, he should be very glad to make one or two remarks if the House would allow him to proceed. He wished to point out that a larger share was given under the new system for attendance than was given under the old system. When it was remembered that the Code of last year was regarded on all sides as a great concession to the teachers, he was surprised at what was now said, when the Code had been made more indulgent. Reading, writing, and arithmetic were the only three subjects which were paid for on individual examination. It might be possible to give a larger share on the class grant, or on the merit grant; but that would tend to increase, not diminish, the amount of instruction, and so the hon. Member who brought forward this Motion might apprehend an increase of over-pressure. If the Code were altered so as to pay more, independent of examination, the Department would have to take other securities for efficiency in return for public money by increasing the staff and otherwise.
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
said, it seemed to him that Resolutions 1 and 2 were perfectly legitimate, because they pledged the House to do nothing whatever except what the right hon. Gentleman said he wished to do. But he had great doubt as to the propriety of the 3rd Resolution.
§ VISCOUNT EMLYN
said, he would appeal to the hon. Member not to press this matter to a Division, for if a Division were taken he should be obliged to vote against the Resolution. So far as this debate had gone, he thought the charges made against their educational system had entirely broken down. No answer had been given to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Sir Lyon Playfair), which seemed absolutely to destroy the argument of these Resolutions, especially the third, which was 1388 the one the House would have to vote upon. The House was asked to upset the Code on the case presented to the House by the hon. Member; but he I would ask those who had listened to the debate whether a case of any sort had been made out for so grave a step as that? It might be that there was overpressure; but he was not satisfied that the charges had been proved. They might be capable of proof; but they should be clearly proved before the House voted upon them, and upon the I showing of the hon. Member himself he had not, on this occasion, had an opportunity of fully stating his case to the House, He wished to press it upon his hon. Friend that no good purpose would be served by voting upon this subject now; and he must, at any rate, vote against the Motion.
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
wished to know whether these three Resolutions ought not to be put to the House separately? He could support the 1st and 2nd; but not the 3rd and 4th.
§ THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Sir ARTHUR OTWAY)
The articles of the Resolutions are embodied in the Address to Her Majesty; and, therefore, they need not be put separately.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 135; Noes 184: Majority 49.—(Div. List, No. 54.)