HC Deb 22 April 1884 vol 287 cc361-90

, in rising to call the attention of the Government to the scale of remuneration allowed by the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland to the teachers of Convent National Schools in that country; and to move— That, in the opinion of this House, it is just and expedient that the teachers of Convent National Schools in Ireland lie dealt with, as to remuneration, on equal terms with those applied to other teachers of primary schools in connection with the system of Irish national education. said, this case was only another illustration of the unfortunate position in which they were placed in Ireland by being governed by those Gentlemen who did not understand, and who in some instances, indeed, did not wish to understand, the peculiar characteristics and requirements of the country. The Gentlemen sent over from England, Lord Lieutenants and Chief Secretaries for Ireland, seemed to think that the system of education which suited England should also suit remarkably well for Ireland, and because they were not satisfied with their condition they were told they were very unreasonable people. The position and ideas of the two peoples were exceedingly different, and some gentlemen seemed to forget that matters which might be of very small weight in England were to Ireland often of very grave importance. The nuns had not up to the present, so far as he was aware, had anyone of influence to endeavour to obtain a removal of the grievances under which they laboured, and it was merely by accident he had learned the state of affairs. Their case was different to that of the National School teachers, who had also grievances to complain of, but which certainly were not greater than those of the nuns. They had ably stated their grievances, and had got the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) to use his influence with the Government on their behalf. The nuns had, however, no one to advocate their claims until the matter came to the knowledge of some of the Irish Members, when the Irish Party thought it desirable that their case should be brought before the attention of the House, in order to see if the Government would not afford them some redress. They did not ask any special favour, but only that the nuns should get fair play. It seemed to him from, the short investigation he had made that a plainer case could not be imagined. The nuns got a very much smaller amount of remuneration for the same amount of work than the National teachers. He could not understand why these ladies should not get the same remuneration as that of National teachers. The excuse made by the Government was that these ladies did not get classed as teachers, because they did not pass the examinations. He had no great opinion of competitive examinations, his own experience being that, as regards practical work, those who passed them successfully were often of very little use; but there were excellent reasons why these ladies should not undergo that test. In the first place, the Bishops had passed a Resolution forbidding them to do so; the Rules of their Order in other cases precluded them; and when they did not, the teaching of children formed a small portion only of their duties; so that if a certain number of ladies passed from any convent, they could not devote themselves wholly to teaching, but would have to share it with the remainder of the nuns. The result of their teaching was very successful—

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


, resuming, said, the case of these ladies was a hard one. Whilst the nuns were only allowed 4s. for each pupil whom they taught, teachers in other schools were allowed 16s. 8d., or four times as much. This was a glaring, gross, and monstrous injustice. He must also complain of the inadequate capitation grant allowed to the nuns. In the other schools where there were 40 pupils the teacher received £24 10s. per annum in the second class schools, between which and the £8 received by the nuns there was a large difference. The outside teachers were allowed £25 for the annual rent of each school, and £125 for the building of a teacher's residence; but the nuns were granted no part of these advantages. Further, they got no pension whatever, whereas in the other schools the teachers received a substantial pension when disabled by age or illness from their duties. The Reports of the different Inspectors in different parts of the country were exceedingly favourable to the convent schools. Looking at the number of passes, the Reports showed a considerable percentage to the advantage of the convent schools as compared with the others. As regarded monitors, the convent schools were placed at a considerable disadvantage as compared with the National Schools, because while the monitors from the latter were educated at the training school in Dublin for their examination, owing to Catholic rules those from the nuns' schools had to go to it directly from those schools. But in spite of this the Reports showed a superiority on the part of the convent schools even as regarded the monitors. He thought that he had made out so clear a case on behalf of these convent schools that he could not see how the Government could refuse to adopt his Motion. At present the nun's schools were the best schools in Ireland; but, at the same time, they were the worst paid. Whether such a state of matters was to continue for any length of time he could not say; but he knew that if not remedied now it would be discussed again, and he was convinced the result must be, at no distant date, that the nuns would get all they asked. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.


, in seconding the Motion, congratulated the hon. Member for Cavan on his great moderation, and the admirable array of statistics which he had presented to the House. He expressed the hope that the Chief Secretary, who had been obliged to rub against so many corners in the case of Ireland, would now find some means to apply balm to the feelings of the people of Ireland on a matter which deserved so much consideration at the hands of the Government. The great interest felt in this subject was shown by the large attendance of Irish Members; and he could imagine no argument which the Government could oppose to the Motion except the mere argument of non-presentation for examination. After all, that was not so great an obstacle as it might at first sight appear. The main object of examination of the teachers was to insure that the pupils should be properly taught; but if by another piece of machinery it was proved that the pupils were so taught as they had it proved by the exceedingly favourable results which statistics showed the nuns obtained, what, then, was the necessity of insisting upon examination in the case of the convent schools? It had been properly pointed out that the object of the institution of the religious orders was not in the first instance that of teaching; but, owing to the secular system of education which the Government imposed years ago upon the Irish people, it was seen fit in the wisdom of the directors of these religious Bodies to take up the subject of education, and having taken it up and succeeded in the remarkable way that they had done, the Irish people had a fit and proper case to ask this House to grant some better remuneration than hitherto. It was simply absurd that while the schools taught by nuns produced 8 or 10 per cent better results than the ordinary National schools, the nuns were paid only £8 as against £34 10s. to the National teachers. The nuns produced 10 per cent better results, and they got 300 per cent less salary. That was a glaring anomaly, which should at once commend itself for correction to the minds of Her Majesty's Government. He did not desire to decry the National school teaching of Ireland, for everybody must feel gratification at the way in which the National teachers had done their duty, when they considered the small salaries which even these teachers received, and the bad way in which they were housed, and the poor system of education which they received in their training schools; but, at the same time, the House must consider the great fact that the nuns gave something else to the country besides mere secular education. While agrarian crime in Ireland in the last few years had achieved an unfortunate pre-eminence, yet, if they turned to the statistics of morality, and went into America, and even in England, and examined the percentages amongst the Catholics of illegitimacy, or any unfortunate statistics of that nature, they would find there was a bright page in the records of the female Celtic population of Ireland. It had been shown over and over again that as regarded the percentages in which morality was concerned the Irish had a remarkably bright pre-eminence; and he had no doubt it was owing to the teaching received in the convent schools. Fortunately the day had long passed when Motions were made in that House with regard to the inspection of conventual institutions in Ireland; and he was glad to have heard last year from the hon. and much-respected Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) that he had laid aside the prejudices, at least so far as their outward expression was concerned, which in former times he had been imbued with in regard to these institutions. He (Mr. Healy) noted that to show the advance of liberality which the House had made; and therefore the Chief Secretary would seek in vain—


You misrepresent MR. I never repented of what I had done.


said, he should be sorry to impute any repentance to the hon. Gentleman. He merely stated that, in deference to feelings expressed on the Irish Benches, the hon. Gentleman had withdrawn the Motions which had previously been annuals in his hands. The Chief Secretary could not now appeal to any prejudice with regard to conventual institutions. They noticed there tonight hon. Gentlemen like the hon. Member for Fermanagh (Mr. Archdale), Protestants, and others, coming to assist in making a house for the nuns of Ireland, also some Scotch Members assisting in that course that showed a desire for fair play and justice. Even in foreign countries—he had known it to be the case in Belgium—the Freethink- ing fathers of girls sent their daughters to convent schools to receive their education. In some instances in Ireland he had known Protestants so imbued with a consciousness of their superior moral and religious instruction, and knowing that no dogmatic teaching was to be intruded, that they sent their daughters to the Catholic schools. He trusted the Chief Secretary would not attempt to pay the nuns off with antique compliment, but that they should have something solid in his statement. In every way, except that of non-presentation for examinations, the nuns had a complete case, and there were sufficient reasons why the nuns should not present themselves for examination. They should bear in mind the large sums which the nuns had saved with regard to school endowments. All the convent schools of the nuns had been built at the expense of the Catholic parishioners; whereas in 80 cases, or even 90 out of 100, the local National Schools were built at the expense of the State. The State was not charged a penny for the erection of the nuns' schools, or for the training of their monitors or teachers. When they remembered that fact, and also that the nuns turned out 5 to 10 per cent better results than any other schools in Ireland, saving alone the model schools, it would be the merest technicality if the Chief Secretary should rest himself upon the non-presentation for examination. He hoped those religious ladies would be enabled to carry on with still further vigour and efficiency that teaching which had done so much for the moral life of the country.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, it is just and expedient that the teachers of Convent National Schools in Ireland be dealt with, as to remuneration, on equal terms with those applied to other teachers of Primary Schools in connection with the system of Irish National Education."—(Mr. Biggar.)


said, the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) was entitled to the thanks of his countrymen for having brought forward one of the greatest unredressed grievances in Ireland. What was the reason given for its not having been redressed long ago? The only answer given was that the teachers in the schools of the religious orders did not present themselves for examination, and were, therefore, deprived of every chance of remuneration in the way of salary. But was there any reason in this argument? The sole object of examining teachers was to secure that they should be thoroughly efficient. Therefore the only question to be discussed was whether the teachers of these schools had proved themselves to be efficient teachers. The last Report of the Commissioners on National Education showed that the convents continued to maintain their high character for usefulness and efficiency. Considering the higher education possessed by the nuns, he thought it was no wonder that Roman Catholics parents preferred those schools to others. There was a great deal of work done in those schools beside the mere communication of the elements of education. There was the moral training which the pupils received. He would like to refer to one or two figures in order to demonstrate that the efficiency of the teachers in the convent schools was beyond all doubt. The last Reports of the Commissioners respecting these schools were most favourable. There were 217 of these schools upon the roll of the National Board at the present time, and the number of scholars amounted to 105,453, while the average attendance was 52,424. The convent schools thus commanded an average attendance per school of 241. The House knew the great difficulty which existed in getting children to attend school, hence the clamour for compulsion; but the convent schools showed an average of 241, while the average attendance in the other schools was about 50. He found, further, that 20 per cent of all the girls in the entire country were educated in these schools, and that 95 per cent of the pupils qualified to be examined presented themselves, of whom 75.8 per cent passed. In the 208 convent schools, of the 46,366 scholars qualified to be presented for examination 100 per cent were actually presented, and 37,929, or nearly 82 per cent of those presented, passed. It was plain, therefore, that these schools were thoroughly efficient, and that the teachers brought about all that the most rigid examination of teachers could accomplish. The State paid, not because a teacher was examined, but for results, and it had been over and over again urged in that House that the State was willing to pay pro- vided they got good value. It might be asked what value, and his reply was—"In the education of the children." If, as had been demonstrated, the highest results were obtained by teachers in these convent schools, why was nothing virtually being paid for the work so satisfactorily done? A similar school, where the attendance averaged 100, was entitled to a sum of £103 10s. for the expenses of the principal teacher, the assistant teacher, and the monitors; but a nuns' school, with better attendance and better results, was only entitled to capitation grants amounting to £47. In fact, while the position of National School teachers had been improving progressively since 1855, the position of convent school teachers had gradually become worse than it was at that date, for privileges which they then possessed had been taken from them.


It appears from the observations made by some hon. Members who have preceded me that they anticipate that I shall pursue a course dictated by prejudice with respect to the Motion now before the House, because it relates to schools connected with convents, and because the House of Commons thought fit to appoint a Committee to inquire into Monastic and Conventual Institutions existing in Great Britain on my Motion during the Session of 1870. That Committee reported in 1871. One of the principal objects I had in view in moving for that Committee was the establishment of a system for the inspection of convents similar to that which exists in most Continental countries. I have always been at a loss to understand why the Irish Roman Catholic Members of this House have always been so much narrower, and so much more exclusive in their views than are the Roman Catholics of the other nations of Europe. Why should hon. Members imagine that I was a party to doing them or their conventual establishments—nay, doing even the monastic establishments, which are illegal in this country—any injustice by having promoted inquiry by a Select Committee of this House in 1870? No legislative enactment ensued upon the Report of that Committee; but I am inclined to believe that it had a very useful operation as a warning. 1870 was a remark able year at Rome; it was the year of the Papal Council, and the States of Europe from that date appear to have found it necessary to take action for the expulsion of the Jesuits, and for the control of some other monastic and conventual orders. Germany took action in 1872, Italy took action in 1873, Switzerland took action in 1874, Austria took action in 1876, and France took action in 1880. These conventual institutions, like the monastic institutions, are exaggeratedly Papal in their constitution, and it is to be presumed in their teaching. I do not wish to see Ireland more Papal than she is. I remember Mr. O'Connell as a Member of this House. Long since his death I became possessed of a laudatory History of the Jesuits, first published in America, and afterwards republished in Paris by M. Crétineau Joly. In this work it is declared that the late Mr. O'Connell was a pupil of the Jesuits, and that throughout his life he co-operated with the Jesuits in all matters relating to Ireland. I do not consider that Mr. O'Connell was a benefactor to Ireland, either as a promoter of her internal peace, or as an advocate for the unqualified repeal of the Corn Laws. Far be it from me to say anything disrespectful of the ladies who inhabit the Irish convents, and who find a natural and innocent gratification in the education of Irish children. The Committee of which I was a Member was limited in its inquiries to conventual and monastic institutions within Great Britain. I know nothing, therefore, directly with respect to Irish convents; but this I know—that a considerable number of the convents in Great Britain are wealthy. An Act was passed in 1860, with clauses enabling these convents to arrange their property. I therefore presume that some, at all events, of the Irish convents must have property. I remember that in 1874 the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) moved that the position of the Irish National School teachers ought to be improved. Again, in 1878, the hon. Member moved that means ought to be adopted for relieving the poverty of the Irish National School teachers; and I was quite prepared to vote in support of that hon. Member had he found it necessary to take a Division. I have, however, reason to believe that the convent teachers in Ireland suffer under no such poverty as the National School teachers endure. I hope, therefore, that since the convents all refuse even such qualified inspection as the examination of their school teachers might involve, the Irish Government will consider the necessities of the National School teachers, who are exclusively dependent on the Government before they increase the grants to the convent school teachers, who are comparatively well to do.


said, that, however others might differ from the views the hon. Member who had just spoken had advanced, no one could doubt the perfect honesty and sincerity of purpose he always displayed. As to the question before the House, he thought the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had done good service in bringing it before the House, and that his criticisms had been characterized by very great moderation. He considered the question one of very great importance; and he (Mr. Russell) thought that the Government might, with good grace, and with every prospect of desirable results, yield to the proposal. The consensus of opinion in Ireland was to the effect that the convent schools did admirable work, and work of a higher degree of excellence than any other class of schools in Ireland. If there was an exception it was the model schools, which had cost the country a great deal of money. The results of the convent schools had, however, far exceeded those of the model schools. He did not know that the question need be argued as a matter of principle, as for a great many years past the State had on principle recognized it as its duty to advance the primary education of the people of Ireland, and had also recognized the claims made upon it to pay for work done in that direction. The simple claim which was made on the part of the religious teachers in these convent schools was that they should be paid for work which they did for the State upon the same terms of remuneration as the like work was paid for in other schools. As to the question of the superiority of the convent schools, Sir Patrick Keenan, the head of the Irish Education Department, had said in his evidence before the Powis Commission that, taking the different results averaging over a number of years, and taking the convent schools in one category and all other schools in the other, the convent schools showed greatly superior results, On the same occasion, that gentleman had pointed out that the convent schools also gave valuable education in industrial training. He (Mr. C. Russell) had received a letter from a Lady Superior of one of the convent schools, in which she stated that she received 14s. for teaching a pupil for four hours each day during 52 weeks in the year. She wondered what other teachers would do if the3' were only assisted to this extent. Of late years the result fees increased somewhat; but it had been no personal benefit to them. They devoted their school funds to the support of orphans and the relief of the poor visited in their homes. It would be the poor who would reap the benefit; they wished they could receive more orphans. Comparing the state of things as regarded the maximum results under the present Code of the National Board, they found that the nuns were paid less than one-fourth of the rate paid to secular teachers, and that, too, for equal, if not superior, tuition. These were examples, he thought, sufficiently glaring. But what were the reasons given for this state of things? They were that, according to the 57th Rule of the Board of National Education, the teachers who were non-certificated were treated differently in point of payment from those who were certificated; and as certification followed upon examination, and the nuns did not submit to examination, they were not certificated. How was this? Practically speaking, it was enough to say that the Bishops in the Synod held at Maynooth some years ago—for reasons which, no doubt, were sufficient in their judgment—came to the conclusion that the ladies in these convents ought not to submit to allow themselves for examination. In the case of many of those teaching and religious communities the members belonged to orders known as "inclosed orders," by whose rules they were not supposed to go outside the establishments to which they belonged except for special reasons. Therefore, the Bishops had thought it right that none of these should submit themselves to classification. But when, in 1871, the State recognized a more important and valuable test—namely, the test of results, and payment by results—the fact of non-certification ceased to have any force as a reason for reduced payment to the non-certificated teachers. But, in fact, examination could not determine the existence of some of the most essential qualifications in a teacher. It seemed to him that the most important qualification of the teacher was his or her ability to impart to others the information which he or she possessed. More than that, the exercise of powers of self-control, the power of governing others, and the power of influencing others were properties which could never be accurately tested by an examination. But these might be carefully gauged by results, and in the case of the convent schools the Reports frankly avowed over and over again the marked superiority of the religious teachers. The influence of the convent teachers upon their pupils did not end with their convent pupil life. It followed the pupils through their after life. He thought he had shown some reasons why the injustice in the existing state of things should be remedied, and also that no adequate reason had been adduced to justify its continuance. He hoped, therefore, that the Government would see its way, either by increasing the capitation grant or by increasing the payment by results, to equalize the payment of the convent and secular teachers.


said, the Government was to be congratulated on the fact that the attempt made at an earlier hour of the debate to count the House had failed, because if a count had taken place on this subject, it could not but reflect grave discredit upon the Government, whose duty it was to keep a House for the purpose of discussing a grievance of this character. That debate was a very remarkable one; for every Member who had spoken agreed that the convent schools of Ireland were labouring under a grave disability. There was one exception, an exception that was to be expected by everyone acquainted with the proceedings and the history of the hon. Member (Mr. Newdegate); but even he admitted that his conscience was satisfied. His Committee, of which he was so proud, had quieted his soul; but he said the Committee of Inspection proved that the English convents were wealthy, and from that he drew the extraordinary inference that the convents of Ireland were wealthy also. Well, even admitting that they were wealthy, which they were not, was that any reason why they should not be paid for doing the work for the doing of which others were paid? The hon. Member (Mr. Newdegate) asked how he would support a Committee of Inspection? Was the hon. Member so ignorant or so inattentive to that debate as not to know that these schools were at present inspected by a Government Inspector? In 1831, when the National system was established, teachers were paid £10 per cent on the number of pupils on the roll. In 1855 that was changed, and it was £20 per cent. But what was given by one hand was taken away by another; for it was made £20 per cent on the average attendance instead of on the number on the roll, which was found to be about one-half. He did not see why the convent teachers should be classified, when in 1871 the Government admitted the principle of payment by results. The Government could meet this difficulty in many ways. They could give the full amount of the salaries to the convent teachers whose schools were above a certain standard, and cease to pay it when the schools fell below that standard. He hoped the Chief Secretary, for the first time during his holding of Office, and not, he hoped, for the only time, would remove this crying grievance, which was felt by a large portion of the Irish people. England still owed something to Irish Catholic education, and the time had been when they were taunted with their ignorance, which had been owing to the fact that the means of education had been denied the people. He believed that if the grievance which they were now calling attention to were not removed, the people would regard the treatment of the nuns as a sort of remaining shred of the penal spirit which forbade education to Catholic Ireland. If the Government did not concede the just claims of the convent teachers, it would be impossible to remove from the minds of the great bulk of the Irish people the suspicion that the penal times were not dead yet in that House. If this concession was not granted, the Government would be undoubtedly curtailing the means at the disposal of the great mass of the Irish people of obtaining a sound education for their children. It was the duty of the Government to afford them every possibility of advancing Irish education amongst the lower classes of the Irish people. They often heard the aspirations and hopes expressed by Members of that House that the Irish people would become less violent and more peaceable, and look with greater hope and confidence to that House. Well, if ever the Irish people looked with confidence to an English Administration—he confessed he never would—that day would never come while they met refusals to requests of this kind. He thought it was an insult to these ladies who did the noblest work that could be done by mortal hands or brains in educating the children of the poor of Ireland to ask them to come out of their cloisters to submit to an examination side by side with, perhaps, pupils from their own convent schools, in a public room conducted by examiners chosen haphazard. There were 200 convent schools in Ireland, towards the erection of which the Government had not contributed a farthing, so that from this cause alone they had saved from £300,000 to £400,000 to the State. He thought, therefore, under all these circumstances, they would be met with no plausible refusals, but that the Government would take a just and generous view of the question.


said, he thought the advocacy of this cause should not be left entirely to the Catholic Members. As a Protestant, he endorsed all that had fallen from hon. Members as to the services these ladies rendered to education in Ireland. These ladies were of the highest moral character, and had received a much higher scholastic training than the teachers in the National Schools. He held a memorandum in his hand, drawn up, he understood, by Professor Kavanagh, from official sources; and the result left on his mind after perusing it was that the justness of their demand was indisputable. The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell) had placed before the House the cardinal point—results; and it was too late in the day for the Government to insist on any rigid rule of examinations. It was his (Mr. M'Coan's) conviction that higher moral tone and discipline was given to the pupils attending the convent schools than to those of any other.


said, he wished to bear testimony to the intense interest taken throughout the county he represented in the claims of the nuns to fair remuneration for their valuable services. The rules with reference to examination stood in the way of an admitted grievance, and there could be no good reason for insisting upon rigidly enforcing them. The nuns were bound to obey the Church to which they belonged, and that Church forbade them to submit themselves to these examinations. At the same time, the feeling in Ireland was unanimous in favour of the concession of their claims. It was admitted that the results shown by their teaching were most satisfactory; and there could be no reason why the opinion of a few Commissioners in Dublin should be permitted to outweigh the unanimous wish of the country. The present proposal was made without opposition from any section of the Irish Members. It was a matter of right, and he could not conceive the Government longer refusing to do the justice demanded.


said, he did not wish to protract the debate; but he desired to point out that there were some minor considerations in favour of the proposal which had not yet been brought to the notice of the House. One of these was the rule of these establishments which precluded them from taking any fees from the parents of the children. This was a source of emolument to the National teachers, and he thought that it was another reason why State aid should not be denied them. It should also be borne in mind that the nuns were precluded from making any appointment of monitors or work mistresses from their own community, and thus a source of income was lost to them. It was clear that the miserable stipends offered to the convents were no remuneration whatever for the services they gave to the State. The grievance brought forward by the Motion was one not of a particular section, but of the whole people of Ireland. The nuns devoted their lives to the poorer classes of Ireland, and their desire was not that their convents should be enriched, but simply that the scope of their labours should be extended, and that the duties to which they gave their lives might be productive in good results. The only difficulty in the way of recognizing the claims of the convent schools seemed to be the question of the examination; but he thought that that was an artificial difficulty which could be easily removed. Even in the case of the ordinary National teacher his examination was not the chief element in fixing the salary. No matter how satisfactory might be his examination from a literary point of view, unless his school was in a certain state of efficiency he did not get the class for which he might have passed. This itself was a proof that even the Board of Education did not look to his examination as the proper test of the value of the services which a teacher might give to the State. After all, the state of efficiency in a school was to every reasonable man the proper test of the value of the teaching; and it did not follow that those teachers who passed the best examination necessarily kept their schools in the highest state of efficiency. Both as regarded the regularity of attendance and the proficiency of the pupils, the convent schools stood far above the National. It was only fair to the National School teachers to say that this was owing to the fact of the communities of the convents having a larger staff in the working of their schools. That, however, did not at all diminish the claim of the nuns to proper remuneration from the State. The difficulty of examination was one which might be easily disposed of; and in disposing of it in a satisfactory manner, so as to remove the soreness felt on this question in Ireland, the Chief Secretary would find himself in collision with no class in Ireland. The unanimity exhibited in the House to-night went to prove that on this question the whole Irish people were practically agreed.


said, he rose, as an Irish Protestant Member, to give his hearty support to the Motion of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar). When the National School system was founded in 1831, the Commissioners, at one of their earliest meetings, consulted the Irish Government as to the propriety of giving aid to Monastic and Convent Schools, and the proposal was warmly supported, approved, and acted upon. Up to 1837, the original scheme proposed, which was the grant of gratuities of £8 or £10 to each school for every 100 pupils on the roll, was carried out as regarded all schools, whether convent, monastic, or secular; but in that year a change was made, and permanent salaries founded on classification were first introduced. These salaries, small at first, had been increased from time to time until they now stood thus:—Masters, first class, £70, £60, and £53, according to grades; second class, £46 and £44; and third class, £35. Mistresses, first class, £58, £50, and £43; second class, £37 and £34 10s.; and third class, £27 10s. These schools conducted by the religious communities being opposed to the principle of individual examination of their mistresses, and to class certificates, the original capitation allowance made to them of £10 for every 100 pupils on the roll was changed in 1855 to £20 for every £100 pupils in average daily attendance. This was substantially the same, as the former was nearly double the latter, so that the religious schools were now exactly in the same position they were in 30 years ago. In 1871 the scheme of payment by results was introduced, under which the teachers of secular schools derived two-thirds of their State aid from personal salaries, and one-third from results; while the religious schools, which were subject to the same test, obtained a very much smaller proportion of aid through the miserable capitation grant of £20 for every 100 pupils in average daily attendance. There could be no doubt that results were the best of all tests of the efficiency of the teachers; and, judging the religious schools by this standard, they stood in an excellent position. He quoted figures to show how well the convent schools did their work both from a literary and industrial point of view. In fact, these schools were in the van in the matter of industrial education. Furthermore, their teachers were trained at their own expense, and while the secular teachers received pensions from the State, the nuns sought no pensions, and never had. Why, then, when the cost to the State was so much less in many respects, had not the State been more liberal to those who had done and were doing such excellent work? He would, no doubt, be told that if the nuns chose to undergo the examination necessary for classification they would be entitled to the benefits of the recent increase granted to classified teachers; but he presumed that they were precluded by the Ordinances of their Church from submitting to such an examination. He would ask why should not a feeling such as this be respected, and justice done to these schools by an increase of the capitation grant, which in the case of the religious schools had the same relation as the salary of the lay teachers? The nuns had shown unmistakably that they both possessed the knowledge and the power of imparting it by the results which their pupils had attained. Why, then, should there be such a disparity in rewarding services in all respects similar? He was afraid that the answer must be that the nuns had either no Parliamentary influence, or they did not make effectual use of it. He had great pleasure in supporting the Resolution.


said, it appeared to him that the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward this question had proved to demonstration the justice of the claim now made. That claim might be summarized in a few words. It had been admitted that the teachers of these schools were competent and proper teachers. Their schools were under Government supervision and inspection; and the ladies, as was shown by the Reports of gentlemen appointed by the Government, produced the very highest and most excellent results. The Inspectors admitted the superiority of the nuns' teaching over that of the ordinary National Schools as well as of the model schools. It was, therefore, reasonable, looking to the educational results produced, to ask that these convent schools should have the amount of grant increased. Every class teacher under the State, both in England and Ireland, had within the last few years demanded and received fitting recognition for their labours in augmented salaries and a right to pensions. But though each year the Inspectors under the National Board testified to the excellence of the educational work performed by the teachers in the convent schools, yet these teachers had been treated with shameful neglect by the Government. Indeed, instead of augmented aid, they had suffered diminution, because the building grants which they were formerly allowed in aid of schools had been of late withdrawn. He hoped that the Chief Secretary would give a favourable answer to this Motion. As far back as 1878 the National Board in Ireland felt so convinced of the justice of the claim of the nuns in respect of this matter that they recommended they should get a large increase. The Chief Secretary would find from documents in his possession that the recommendation was made alike by Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Catholic Members of the Board; and he must say, in justice to the late Conservative Chief Secretary for Ireland, that after his attention had been directed to the matter by means of Questions, he showed a desire to meet the demand then made in a fair and equitable way. This was shortly before the right hon. Gentleman left Office; and he believed that if the Conservative Government had remained in power the convent teachers would not now be waiting in vain to have their just claims redressed at the hands of the House.


I may say, at the outset of the remarks I have to make, that the Resolution in the shape in which the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) has moved it, is one which it would be impossible for the Government, and perhaps impossible for the House, or any part of the House, to adopt. It is a very difficult Resolution. There are, no doubt, some words in the Resolution which the hon. Member has moved which justified the remarks which have been made by hon. Members who have followed him, all of whom have spoken in strict accordance with the spirit of the Resolution: but I can hardly think that the hon. Member for Cavan would wish the House to set the seal of its approbation on the opinion that— It is just and expedient that the teachers of Convent National Schools in Ireland be dealt with, as to remuneration, on equal terms with those applied to other teachers of Primary Schools in connection with the system of Irish National Education. The rules of the Commissioners of the National Education in Ireland on this point are absolute; and, so far from being the worst treated, as far as the rules can define that treatment, teachers of the National Schools are better treated than any other teachers in Ireland. Rule 57, which is the cardinal rule in this case, was quoted by the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell), and quoted quite correctly. The amount of salaries in the Convent National Schools is exactly the same as that allotted to teachers of other schools, if they were only willing to adopt the principle of classification, and submit themselves to classification. ["Oh, oh!"] I am not trying to bewilder hon. Gentlemen, but I am simply speaking to the terms of the Resolution; and if those schools object to that principle, and are unwilling to submit themselves to examination, then they are not left as other teachers would be, to what they can get by result fees, but they are allowed to take a capitation grant of 4s. for the number of children educated. Therefore, if the Resolution of the hon. Member for Cavan were carried exactly as it stands on the Paper, I conclude that the only result would be that the teachers would be deprived of that privilege of being able to get the capitation fee, where, in a great number of cases, they refuse to subject themselves to examination. I gather from the speech of the hon. Member for Cavan, and those of other hon. Members, that they do not suggest to the Government any cut-and-dried or any unelastic principle, and that their object in the debate to-night is to impress upon the minds of the country and the Government that teachers in convent schools are under disadvantages which ought not to exist. Now, it is important to consider what those disadvantages are. I must say that, in some respects, hon. Members have only stated one-half of the case to-day. The hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. J. E. Redmond), putting the case in somewhat more animated language than it was put by other hon. Members, but still speaking in exact accordance with their views, said it was a remnant of the old penal statute, forbidding the teaching of Irish children by Catholics, or words to that effect. Now, the grievance under which the Catholic convent children are labouring is one that is peculiar to Ireland; and, so far from the assertion of the hon. Member being correct, Ireland is the only country in Europe where nuns are permitted to teach in a public school, and to obtain any State aid for their teaching without submitting to the examinations demanded from other teachers. I will not enlarge upon that statement. It is sufficiently strong in itself to refute, and refute absolutely, the idea that, in this case, there is any special disadvantage placed upon Ireland. It is difficult to argue this as a question of principle, when we are arguing it with reference to such a Church as the Roman Catholic Church—a Church which I conclude does not know any difference in right or wrong in different countries. In England, all the teachers of the Roman Catholic denomination are included, so far as the statistics of the Education Department are concerned, in the general body of certificated and assistant teachers. There were, and no doubt are, some convent schools in England which refuse to submit to the examinations demanded by the Department; but the teachers in those schools have, at the same time, to submit to the disadvantage which that refusal brings with it, and they do not share in any respect in any of the advantages which the certificated teachers receive. Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom, and the only country in Europe, in which members of religious Bodies, whether male or female, are allowed to share in any of the advantages of public subsidies, unless they submit themselves, in the first instance, to a public examination. And now in regard to this question of undergoing a State examination. I think some words have been used which convey an inaccurate meaning to the House. We have heard of these ladies being obliged to come out from their cloisters, or of their being obliged to expose themselves to the indiscriminate contact of a public examination; but it must be remembered that these examinations are written examinations only. There is no oral examination whatever, so these ladies are perfectly free from the embarrassment which might attend a vivâ voce examination at a distance from their own establishment. Nor is it the case that the objection to undergo these examinations is universal among these ladies, and among the members of religious houses of the other sex in Ireland. There are, if I recollect right, 224 schools attached to convents and monasteries. Of these, 20 schools have submitted to a system of examination and classification; and of these 20 schools the nuns receive as much payment as if they were lay-trained teachers. In fact, they receive more; because there is one point in which I can most heartily agree with every hon. Member who has spoken on the subject; and that is that, in regard to these payments, which depend upon the efficiency of the teaching, the amount of money earned by the convent schools is very much in excess of that earned by any other schools, although it falls short, at the same time, of that which is earned by the smaller number of model schools.


Have any teachers been qualified in these schools since 1875?


I conclude that that is so; but I am unwilling to speak positively. From information I have received. I believe it is the case; but I cannot say positively whether the members of these religious Bodies have been qualified or not. They certainly were between 1873 and 1875.


Can the right hon. Gentleman refer to any case?


I can only say that it is not a question of any particular diocese, but that these certificated teachers connected with the convent schools are scattered throughout 10 of the Roman Catholic dioceses of Ireland. The hon. Member for Cavan, when he introduced this question, referred to what he considered to be an unfair distinction which the Government drew between the teachers of convent schools and the teachers of the lay schools with regard to the amount of the capitation grant. The hon. Member said the teachers of convent schools were rigidly confined to 4s. per head for the children; whereas in lay schools, where the capitation grant was given, that capitation grant was as high as 16s. 8d. per head. The hon. Member spoke quite correctly; but he did not apprehend the circumstances under which this grant is made to the lay schools. There is a rule that, in schools in which the children in average attendance are under 30, the teacher shall not be allowed to obtain a grant certificate; and, under those circumstances, in order to provide that these small schools are not stinted in regard to public money, a capitation grant is given to the amount of 16s. 8d.; but that capitation grant is given only in the special case of a small school, which, otherwise, could not be maintained at all. It is given as a pis aller; because there are no other means of seeing that such schools are properly endowed with proper money. But in the case of the convent schools taught by the nuns, the number of children are large, and there is no cause that they should come under the same head as these small schools, where it is necessary to name a certain sum of capitation grant in order that they may get a share of the public funds at all. The hon. Member likewise spoke of the disadvantage under which the nuns stand in regard to monitors. I did not take down his words at the time; but they amount to this—that they did not get sufficient pay for their monitors. Now, I cannot say that is a fair or a just statement according to the views of the Education Commissioners. In addition to the capitation payments, and the result payments in the convent schools, they receive a sum of about £10,630 a-year in payment of their monitorial staff, and also premiums for instructing those monitors, which places them on equal terms with the lay teachers. In that respect, again, they are better treated than similar schools in England, because the same class of teachers in England who receive capitation grants are teachers who were permitted, during a very short period after the passing of the Education Act, to be paid by capitation grants, because the demand for teachers was so great in England at that time that they were unable to get a sufficient number of certificated teachers. But capitation grants under these circumstances were made during a very limited period, and there was an express stipulation that no teacher paid by capitation grant and who was not a certificated teacher should be qualified to have a pupil teacher under him or her. In the case of these ladies the Education Department showed that amount of confidence in them that it allowed them to teach and have the care of monitors, while it paid those monitors by exactly the same rate at which monitors under certificated teachers were paid. Under those circumstances, I think it must be evident to the House that there are two sides to this question, and that hon. Members have dwelt far too much on the one side, while they have neglected the other; but I do not, at the same time, say that there is not another side. I think that the principle from which the Government cannot possibly depart is the principle that as an element in the efficiency of the schools it is very important to have a Government test in regard to the efficiency of the teachers. One hon. Member says that the teaching of the children is really subsidiary to the other work that the nuns have to do, and that they have other things of greater importance to occupy themselves in, and that it would be very hard to call upon them to present themselves for public examination. Not in their capacity of sisters of a religious Body, but in their capacity of teachers, in which they are distinctly public servants, we have a right to call on them to subject themselves to the conditions to which other public servants are subjected. Therefore, Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that they cannot depart from this principle. In every possible way we must encourage the teachers of the public schools to present themselves at these examinations in order to test their efficiency as teachers. The Government certainly cannot act as far as the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Gentlemen who have spoken this evening would be prepared to go, in placing these ladies who have not passed an examination on exactly the same level as the lay teachers who have passed an examination. On the other hand, there is a great deal of truth in what has been stated by several hon. Members that what the House has to look to is the results, and that if it can be satisfied that it gets a very good article, it should pay the money which that article is worth. The Irish Government have for some time past had this question under their consideration. I regret that these convent schools, or, indeed, that any schools, should have been dealt with under the principle of bold and downright capitation. It seems to me that is dealing with human heads in the school in almost the same manner in which you deal with cattle in the market. It is a principle which, in my opinion, is an exceedingly false one. I have been sorry to hear it started, and I certainly shall not, as far as I am concerned, carry it any further; but I must say I think it is worth while to see whether there is not some middle course. I think, as I have said already, that the Government would not be justified in placing these members of religious Bodies in exactly the same position pecuniarily as the lay teachers who possess certificates, and I see an argument against it in the extremely eloquent speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. Charles Russell). As far as I can fol- low the passage of his speech to which I refer, he appealed to us on the ground of the very great extent to which these ladies involved themselves by the charitable works in which they engaged. Now, it is no part of the business of the Government to help these ladies in their charitable works. The Government fully admire their zeal in that respect, and warmly appreciate the sacrifice they make in the work of education; but it is no part of the duty of the Government to provide them with money for that purpose. It is one of the conditions of their life that they are able to give some of their spare time to the teaching of the children; and I think for that reason, among others, that they can hardly complain, if they do not find themselves, they having as it were abandoned the world, in exactly as good a position as teachers who have taken up professional teaching in order to live by it. They cannot expect to be paid exactly as if they were in. the open market competing with teachers, who are compelled to live by their teaching, and to make a profession of it for their wives and families. For these reasons, the Government still wish to give great encouragement to these ladies as to other teachers to submit themselves to Government examinations, in the belief that, as time goes on, the feeling against submitting to these public examinations will die out. The Government, therefore, intend to keep up, whatever else they may do, the distinct difference between lay teachers and the teachers in the Convent schools; but, at the same time, the Government are considering, with an earnest desire to come to some satisfactory solution of the question, whether some means may not be found, dependent upon the efficiency of these Convent schools, to enable the grants from the Exchequer to approach somewhat nearer than they do at present to the desires of these Convent schools.


said, he had to complain that while the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland admitted, as a universal proposition, the efficiency of the teaching in the Convent schools, he refused to the nuns the remuneration given to the lay teachers who failed to produce the same excellent results. Now, what was the whole business of education? He was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Minis- ter of Education and some other Ministers, although it was past midnight, entering the House for the first time to take their places on the Treasury Bench and listen to the discussion. Only a few minutes ago the Treasury Bench had been entirely denuded of all the responsible Ministers of the Crown. The Committee of Education, of which he (Mr. Dawson) was a Member, was now sitting; and although, from private reasons, he had not been able to attend the sittings, he entertained deep sympathy with the object, and had carefully studied the reports of the proceedings. He repeated that the Chief Secretary had entirely admitted the whole of the case attempted to be made out by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) and those who supported him. Now, what was the aim and object of education? It was not to produce teachers, so much as to produce an educated people; and it was admitted that the nuns had preeminently distinguished themselves by the efficiency of their teaching. It mattered not how the results were attained, if the people were educated in a successful manner; and he regretted to see the Government turning round upon some quibble, and refusing to these ladies, who had produced such satisfactory results, the remuneration to which they were fairly entitled. The right hon Gentleman said, in one breath, that the Government would make no distinction, and, in the very next, he proposed to make a very serious distinction. The right hon. Gentleman said the complaint of the hon. Member for Cavan was against the 57th rule. Now, the Irish Members found fault with no rules; but they found fault with the terms on which the Convent schools were paid, not only for the same, but for better results than those produced by the lay teachers. He (Mr. Dawson) thought that too much stress could not be laid upon that point. He was himself altogether in favour of a system that would secure that, when the State paid for education, the country should really get it; and he thought that the State ought to pay for it all the same, whether it was supplied by Convent schools, or in, any other form, if the results were satisfactory. In this case, however, if there was any choice between the two, the results in the case of the Convent schools were better than the results in the case of the other schools. Where, then, was the consistency of the right hon. Gentleman or of the National Board of Education? It was not a question of principle, but a question of degree. The Government abandoned the principle when they gave a capitation grant. Why did they give a capitation grant at all? Why did they give £20, or £10, or any sum whatever? It was a salary, and why did they give it? In giving it, they at once abandoned the principle. They only gave it, however, to a small and restricted extent, and refused to extend it any further. There was no principle in such an argument. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or the Minister of Education, to stand up in that place and say why it was that they gave a capitation grant at all. On what ground did they give £10, and refuse to give £40? They ought to act upon some principle of logic, in order to show that they properly appreciated the question. There was another thing he wished to mention. Why did the hon. Gentleman the Member for New Boss (Mr. J. E. Redmond) assume that, if they cut down the nuns' well-earned fee, those ladies would gladly continue to give their services in the cause of education? There was no compulsory system of education in Ireland; that was, it was alleged that because compulsory education did not exist there, that the nuns were to be defrauded of their remuneration. He protested against the starving of the Convent schools. It was said that in England the school rate was supplemented largely by voluntary contributions, and that that was not the case in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman having granted the general proposition, as if he were trying to make the case still stronger, went on to quote the advantages afforded by the schools. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that the Convent schools had a much larger number of children in proportion than the National Board schools. Did the right hon. Gentleman not know that that fact produced a saving to the Board of Education, and that more largely a school was attended the less expense was incurred in inspection and other respects? These Convent schools, therefore, gave advantages to the National Board, for which they ought to be recouped. It had often been urged that it was the nuns alone in religious orders who carried out the work of education in Ireland, and he had not only seen it stated in the Press, but had read it in evidence, that the people of Ireland would not contribute anything to the work of education. He asserted, on the contrary, that a much larger proportionate amount was contributed voluntarily for educational purposes in Ireland than in rich England. It was a fact that the Convent schools of Ireland had been built at a cost of £400,000, and that altogether more than £1,000,000 had been contributed for educational purposes in that country during the last few months. Nevertheless, hon. Members opposite turned round flippantly, and said the Irish people did nothing. The nuns of Ireland sprung from the laity, and they expended their fortunes without remuneration in works of education and charity. All that was asked was that the Government should treat the Convent schools on the same principle as the National schools. They did not ask the Government to maintain them. The nuns maintained them themselves through the resources they obtained from the Irish people. Therefore, they had an unanswerable claim upon. Her Majesty's Government to take their case into consideration, and to see that the country really got what they paid for. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to what was done in foreign countries; but he (Mr. Dawson) contended that no parallel could be drawn between the systems pursued abroad and in Ireland. In every other country education had been raised, whether lay or clerical, to a dignity and position which it did not occupy in Ireland. At present there were two systems pursued in Ireland, and he called upon the Government to abandon one of them, and retain the other. If they were to pay the nuns by results, let them be paid by results; and if they were to be paid by salary, then let them be paid by salary. Unless some such principle were adopted by the Government, it would be almost preferable to go back to the system by which education was made to depend upon the love of learning, without being undertaken for any kind of remuneration whatever. On the Treasury Bench education was rapidly becoming to be regarded as a mere mecha- nical and trade matter. The Government admitted the overwelming efficiency of the Catholic schools, and because they were efficient, and had produced wonderful results, they ought not to be deprived of the fruit of their labour, while others were rewarded who had altogether failed to produce the same results.


said, he wished to say a word or two as to the two ways by which the Government sought, to a certain extent, to meet the question, without giving salaries, where a public examination had not been passed. One mode was suggested by the Commissioners of National Education in 1878. When £60,000 a-year was given towards the increase of national teachers, the Commissioners recommended that it should be given for results; and, if their advice had been followed, the Convents would have had a fair share of the Vote. But the Government of the day, no doubt, for sufficient reasons, elected to give the money in another way, the consequence of which was that the payment by result fees did not apply to the Convent schools. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, on referring to the Reports of the Commissioners on National Education, would be able to put his hand upon that scheme; and if he would adopt it now, or an alternative scheme submitted about the same time for a special scale of result fees to schools paid by capitation grants, a great deal of what the Irish Members had been asking for would be effected. There was another way in which considerable assistance might be given—namely, in regard to the question of building. There had been, as several hon. Members had observed, an enormous expenditure on the part of the Convents in the shape of building schools out of their own resources. If a system of building grants, or building loans, were introduced in reference to non-vested schools, the Convents would be able to take a share of it. At present, no assistance was given to building, except to schools which were vested in Trustees. As it was impossible for Convents to invests their schools in Trustees, they were, therefore, excluded from the building grants. He believed that, if building grants were given to non-invested schools, they would be largely resorted to by Convents, and, in addi- tion, those Convents which had already private schools should be allowed to recoup the expenditure they had incurred by obtaining loans to pay off the debt upon such schools. He submitted these points to the consideration of the Government, because his right hon. Friend had frankly and completely admitted that there was a grievance. He certainly did not take the unfavourable view of his right hon. Friend's speech which the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Dawson) did; and he thought that a more liberal system of result fees and building grants would get over the difficulty.


said, that if grants of public money were given to Convent schools, they ought also to be given to the Church schools.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 44; Noes 71: Majority 27.—(Div. List, No. 67.)