HC Deb 13 April 1885 vol 296 cc1569-99

In the first place, I must apologize to the House for bringing a matter of this importance forward at this inconvenient hour (11.45). For that, however, I think I may ask the admission from the House that I am not personally responsible. The Easter Holidays took away a considerable portion of the time during which we were at liberty to consider the Code; and I must own that I did hesitate about telling my Friends with any certainty that I could bring forward this Motion to-night, knowing that the Government had possession of the night, and not knowing that I should really have an opportunity of introducing my Motion. I have to thank the Government, however, for allowing me to intervene at this late hour; and I promise the House that I will not detain them long. The Motion I have to make is in effect to ask Her Majesty to with- hold Her consent to the Education Act in respect of a certain Article, with a view of providing that a larger proportion of the grant now given to public elementary schools should be allotted in the form of a fixed payment on average attendance. At the outset I should like to remove a preliminary objection to my Motion. I have been asked—"Do I want more money out of the Public Exchequer?" and I say—"No; I do not." It must, of course, be admitted that as the number of the children to be educated increases, as the schools increase, so the grants will be larger, and the demands upon the Public Funds will be greater; but in asking the House to agree to this Motion I do not ask for more money, but simply for a fixed grant, whatever that grant may be, at a particular time, to be distributed in a particular way. Having removed this objection, let me say I recognize the alterations the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mundella) has from time to time made in the Code, as intended to meet the complaints made by both teachers and managers as to over-pressure both upon the teachers and the children. I feel that the right hon. Gentleman is sincere in his desire to remove this overpressure grievance; and if he will go a little further in the same line, I am sure he would attain more effectually the end which he and we all desire. Let me once more say, what I think I have already said in this House on previous educational debates, that whilst the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman and the Department are excellent; whilst they desire to remove overpressure, much is still left to the discretion of individual Inspectors, some of whom, I cannot help feeling, have rather exaggerated views as to the acquirements of children. Another objection raised to my Motion is that this is what is called a retrograde movement. I have seen it stated in the public prints that it is the duty of all true friends of education to rally their forces against this retrograde step. ["Hear, hear!"] I hear a sympathetic cheer from the opposite Benches. It has also been stated that such a Motion came from those who are really opposed to education. ["Hear!"] There, again, I hear one faint sympathetic cheer. It is not necessary for me to say anything about my past career. I think I have spent as much time, and attention, and perhaps other things, in support of education as most other men. I am not an anti-Educationist in any sense of the word. What I desire is that the education shall be of a sensible and practical kind. I am afraid it must be said that a great deal of our elementary education is not of that kind which we should really desire. What we ought to desire is that the children we seek to educate should be fit for the position in life in which they are placed; giving opportunities for those who are really qualified of rising above the position they originally occupied. But, at the same time, I do think a great error is made on the part of those who call themselves educationists in under-valuing the proper position of manual labour. There is a tendency to extol the labour of the head at the expense of the labour of the hand. That I think is a great mistake; and what I feel convinced of is that we ought, so far as we possibly can, to assist the children to take their proper position in the state of life in which they were placed, and in which they have an honourable calling, and, at the same time, so to arrange our educational system that the physical energies of children shall not be over-pressed, but that as the children grow up they shall be able to discharge the duties for which a strong physical frame is essentially desirable. Well now, Sir, having said this, let me describe the position in which we now stand. It is understood that I represent the Church of England schools. Certainly I know more about them than about other schools, and they are no insignificant part of our educational system, for I think they still form very nearly one-half of the whole school accommodation of the country. As I am the champion, therefore, of one-half of the whole elementary school accommodation of the country, it cannot be said that I am occupying an insignificant position. The total grants to elementary schools in the last Return were £1,380,572, of which it was stated on page 29 of the Return that £1,275,358 was paid for average attendance. But that average attendance, so-called, was not what we understand by average attendance—I mean it does not represent the payment for the number of children. It repre- sents a great many things besides, and though I know we must except the grants to the infant schools—of which I shall say a word hereafter, because a great part of my case rests on infant schools — making all the deductions which I think I am right in making, £855,000 still remains as earned by results. Therefore I say that a very large proportion of the grants to these elementary schools is earned by what may be technically called results. This I say is much too large a proportion, and for the reason I shall endeavour very briefly to lay before the House. What does payment by result mean? It means payment calculated by the examination of the children who are found in the school on the day of the Inspector's visit. It does not take into account all the work of the school during the past year, except so far as that work can be tested by the examination at the time. Now, I want to know, is that a rational way of examining schools? Is it a way in which we should be content to examine those schools in which our own children are educated? Of course, we feel a good deal about the result of the particular examination at the end of the particular school time; but should we be satisfied that those who inquire into our public schools should say, "We do not care how your children get on at other times; we judge them simply by the way they pass examinations on a particular day?" I say that this is not a rational or a considerate way of testing education, and it leads, I think, inevitably to over-pressure, not only to overpressure of the children, but, which is equally important, also to over-pressure of the teachers. This is, perhaps, the strongest argument upon which I shall ask the House to agree to my Motion. Well now, Sir, I ask, though of course I admit there must be a certain amount of payment by result, why is my request unreasonable? Why is it unreasonable to ask, as I do, that the larger proportion of the grants now given to public elementary schools should be allotted in the form of fixed payments on average attendance? I am fortified in my opinion that this is not an unreasonable request by some very strong testimony. I think I hinted just now that it was considered that I came forward here as a reactionary and an antagonist of liberal education; but I am going to quote the opinions of some people who certainly cannot be called reactionary. The National Union of Elementary Teachers, which is composed of the teachers of all sorts of schools, and not only of schools in which I am chiefly interested, and for which I am pleased to be chiefly speaking to-night—though I do not think the subject is one which affects only voluntary schools—the National Union of Elementary Teachers is an unsectarian body, and at their meeting at Leicester last year they resolved— In the opinion of this Conference, the system of payment by results and classification by Standards, as applied to the elementary schools under the conditions of the Education Code, is unsound in principle, is injurious to education, and productive of much over-pressure upon scholars and teachers; and a Code based upon this system cannot be deemed wholly satisfactory. That was their opinion last year. Well, now, Sir, I have the latest utterances of this Union of Teachers. Only last week they had a large meeting at Norwich, and their President, who is a teacher in a London School Board school, and, therefore, cannot be said to have any reactionary or clerical proclivities, said— The Union has consistently and persistently maintained that over-pressure is an inevitable consequence of the system of payment by results; indeed, long before the Union was founded the effects of the system were confidently predicted; and I think we should be wanting in our duty if we failed to continue to point out the fundamental error of our present system. And though, when doing so, we are met by the evasive reply that payment by results is practically universal in all professions, or, on further insistance, are told that to change the system is impossible, we cannot forbear to repeat that, granting the difficulty of retracing our steps, yet it is absolutely impossible that the education of the country can be what all true friends would like to see it until it is administered in an educational spirit; now it is almost wholly pecuniary. It is, practically, not an Educational Code, but a system for distributing grants, and is drawn up and administered in that light, and from that arises the evils we so much deplore. Now, Sir, I say that these two statements, if I were to rest upon them alone—if I had no other argument—would be a pretty strong argument in favour of what I have been endeavouring to put before the House. They show that, in the opinion of men and women—because a lady followed the President, and spoke even more strongly than he did—they showed that, in the opinion of men and women engaged in the daily work of education under the conditions that the Government imposes, and engaged, some in voluntary schools, some under the School Board system — under all these qualifications the deliberate judgment arrived at year after year—last year at Leicester, this year at Norwich—was that the system of payment by results, as now administered, is a most fruitful source of that over-pressure which we all deplore. I am not standing alone in this matter, therefore; nor can this, in any sense, be called a Party question. In that sense, I am sorry that I am the spokesman on the present occasion. We are all known to belong to Parties in this House, and I am supposed to be a strong Party man; but I would ask hon. Members to divest themselves of all personality as regards myself on this occasion, and to look upon the matter from its own standpoint, and not from the point of view of the person who advocates it. If hon. Members will do that, I think they will find that there are strong arguments in favour of my proposal. If payment by results be as I describe it, it is clear that it leads teachers to think chiefly of the results of the examination day, and not so much as they ought of the general well-being of the school, and of the children committed to their charge. And this really affects board schools, and schools of that kind, just as it does schools most intimately connected with the Religious Bodies. I pray in aid, as the lawyers say—the Government themselves—because I say that they themselves, by the way they deal with the infant schools, admit the principle for which I am contending. In regard to the infant schools, they do precisely what I ask thorn to do in regard to all schools—that is to say, they examine the schools when the Inspector goes round; and they say—"We will give you a grant for every infant here present," if they were in a satisfactory condition. That is what I ask them to do for every child presented, because, in that way, they would be encouraging the general well-being of the schools. The Government are not pressing upon little children now in the same way that they are pressing upon older boys and girls, because they conceive it to be necessary that they should be brought up to a certain standard of education on a certain day of examination. I go a step further than that even; and I ask the House to consider whether it is not a strong argument in our case that in every foreign country the system of payment by results is unknown? [Mr. MUNDELLA: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman admits that. Then, if that be so, the request I make cannot be an unreasonable one. It may be said—"Oh! but the genius of the English people demands this special stimulus—Englishmen and Englishwomen cannot be brought up to the sticking point unless you put this tremendous screw upon them"—of making everything depend upon the examination of a day. That statement is unsupported, and I do not think it is one that is likely to be maintained. I think that our system is a system that is condemned by educationists, and it is also condemned—or, at least, partly allowed to be defective—by the Government themselves. It is condemned by the practice of foreign countries; and I maintain that I have made out a very strong case in support of the matter being taken into the favourable consideration of the Government, though, of course, I am not sanguine enough to believe that I can persuade the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council (Mr. Mundella) by a single speech. I hope, at least, that, if I do nothing more, I may succeed in getting this matter considered a little more in the future than it is at the present time; and that, if we do not get any redress now, we may get it at some future time. I shall ask the House to listen to another quotation. I would give the opinion of a gentleman who, I am sure, is known to the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council as one of the ablest and most intelligent of the Church Educationists—I mean Canon Daniel, of the Battersea Training College. In a speech made last year he said— The ultimate causes of over-pressure are to be mainly sought for in the abuse of the principle which underlies the Code—the principle of payment by results—a very good principle so long as we are dealing with results embodied in brute matter, but a most dangerous principle when indiscriminately applied to results produced in living children for the benefit of others than the children themselves. Pay a brickmaker for his tale of bricks, and you will not do much harm; bricks have no organization, physical or mental, to injure. Pay a body of managers, or a teacher, for a tale of passes, and there is a risk that in the process some of the children operated upon may suffer irreparable injury of body and mind. I am far from thinking that the principle is inapplicable to elementary education in State-aided schools. Indeed, I do not see how public grants of money could otherwise he made to such schools at all. I quite admit that. I am not asking for the abolition of payment by results, but for a limitation of it, and I call upon Canon Daniel as an authority to support me, because he is not an out-and-out opponent of payment by results, but a moderate man who takes the thing fairly all round. He goes on to say— The business-minded British public will never be content to spend its money without being assured that it gets a satisfactory equivalent. But it is evident that the principle should be applied with the greatest care, both by the Department and by managers and teachers. By all means let payment be regulated by results; but let us be sure that the results required from each individual child are not unreasonable, that educational results are not purchased at the expense of health and life, and that children are not ruthlessly exploited for the sake of large grants. I do not at all believe that the requirements of the Code are excessive for the large majority of children, and I should be extremely sorry to see the general standard of elementary education lowered; but I am satisfied that the Code demands and teachers teach a great deal more than certain classes of children can safely learn. That, I think, is a very moderate statement of the view I wish to put before the House. I should be content to leave that statement of the case—so much better expressed than I myself could express it—for the consideration of the House. I would conclude as I began by stating that I am not an opponent of education in any sense; that I am not an opponent even of the present system, taken as a whole; but that what I am in favour of is the adaptation of the Code to the capacities of children and of teachers, so that it will not bear hardly or injuriously upon either the teacher or the taught. I am desirous that it should be such as to attain the results we all profess to desire, and I trust all do desire — namely, the bringing up of children in the soundest way as regards both body and mind, and in the manner best suited to fit them for their future careers. In conclusion, I move the Resolution which stands in my name.


said, that he rose to second the Motion. He himself had had a Notice on this subject on the Paper as follows:— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty that She will be graciously pleased to direct that the Elementary Education Code, as now laid upon the Table, be so amended as to afford adequate security against the continuance of over-pressure on children and teachers. At that hour of the night it was quite hopeless to expect anything like a separate discussion upon that individual Motion; and therefore he begged now to second the Motion of the hon. Member who had preceded him. At the outset he wished to say that he was one of those who were entirely in favour of a complete system of elementary education. He had read with the greatest satisfaction the Annual Report; and he gladly recognized, from the figures sot before the House, the steady progress in elementary education. He was desirous of seeing the efficiency of the elementary education of the country increased; and this particular Motion had been brought before the House, not with a view of hindering or obstructing education, but rather with a view of improving it, and freeing it from some of the unnecessary restrictions and features which, in his estimation, served now to hamper its action. The system of payment by results had been condemned in moderate and effective language by the hon. Member who had moved the present Motion. It seemed to him (Mr. Paget) that the system as it stood was one which contained all the objectionable features of the Dual Control. It was, so to speak, a Dual Control of the Education Department and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the Treasury. They might have a most enlightened Minister of Education, anxious to spend more money and to attain higher results; but he was constantly restrained and hampered by the Treasury. If he (Mr. Paget) were in the secrets of the Office over which the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council so ably presided, probably he should find from time to time anxious inquiries from the Treasury to this effect—"How comes it that you are spending so much money? How is it that your Estimates this year are £250,000 higher than they were last year? Do you not think that if your examinations were more difficult, if some little hint were given to your Inspectors in the matter, something or other could be done to decrease your Estimates, so that we might not be called upon to find so much money for you?" He did not know whether he got an absolute assent from the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President upon this point; but he thought there was a great deal in what he was putting before the House, and that the right hon. Gentleman would not venture to express a decided dissent from that proposition. If not, why was it that the recent additions to this Instrument with which they were presented from year to year had seemed to offer to all schools an opportunity of earning larger grants under the merit grant system; and yet, when he came to examine the application of this system, it was found that, so far from increasing the grant, it gave with one hand and took away with the other? The schools that suffered most under this system were not those where the school pence could be obtained in fourpences and sixpences, and larger sums, but the poorest of all poor schools, and in the poorest places of all poor places, where the system, if it was to be efficient at all, should offer the largest donations where education was mostly required. In places where the children came of the poorest parentage, and where the educational requirements were the strongest, and where the parents could not afford the least possible help for education, what did the Education Department do? Why, they offered a merit grant, which said—"If you can obtain a standard of 'good' or 'excellent,' the result will be paid you in £ s. d.—you will get your pound of flesh." But mark what happened. Simultaneously with the offer of the merit grant, the Department stepped in with Article 214, which was known only too well to those interested in education, and came down on schools that might have arrived at the highest pitch of excellence it was possible to arrive at and curtailed the grant, simply and solely because it had been too economically earned. If the school accounts of the year could have proved that the expenditure had been a little higher, the grant might not have been cut down; but there was an absolute penalty upon efficiency which was imposed upon schools of the poorest class, and on which it fell with the greatest severity. He knew that in answer to this argument he might be told that this was an evil which, if it was to be remedied at all, could only be remedied by legislation. He was quite aware of that; but he merely gave this as an illustration of the system of payment by results of which the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Talbot) had, to his mind, so rightly complained. They did not desire that the system of payment by results should be entirely abrogated; it was too deeply engrained in their educational system to give way at once to a single attack. Hon. Members were not there to ask that the Government should entirely destroy and upset the system; but what they did ask, and asked with reason in the interest of education itself, and in the interest of the parents, of the teachers, and of the children, and of all who were connected with or interested in education, was that there should be a modification—a reasonable modification—of this system of payment by results. They were of opinion that it had been proved, to a sufficient extent at any rate, that overpressure existed in their elementary educational establishments. It had been denied, but it had been re-asserted, and he thought it would be generally recognized, that the first Report which appeared on the subject from Dr. Crichton Browne, although containing some statements with which hon. Members might not be disposed to agree, yet had not been without some substantial foundation in fact. What was going on at that moment? They were told that an investigation into the matter was taking place at the instance of the London School Board. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had not himself thought fit to have a general investigation into the matter, and had left it to the London School Board to take the initiative. Until their Report was received of course the House would not know what view the London School Board would take; but it was well known that that Body had already made some substantial modification in their system of education. They knew that opportunity had been allowed by the London School Board to parents to refuse to permit their children to have home lessons if they thought fit. What was that but a distinct concession? Previous to this action on the part of the London School Board home lessons were often insisted upon. It would be found, too, he thought, that from time to time additional school hours had been insisted upon. There was great straining for results to be obtained by the system of examination on which the whole principle of the grant hung. The system was one which must of necessity impose a great strain on all who were connected with elementary schools at the moment of examination. The prospect of the teacher in life, as well as his reputation for the time, depended upon the result of the examination; because if an insufficient grant was earned a reflection was cast upon him. The very revised system of the present year was an admission to some extent of that, because it contained a power to the managers of schools to withhold certain children from examination if they thought fit.


The hon. Member means the Revised Code of last year.


Yes; of last year. This was often referred to by the Education Department. They declared that the teachers now were free, and could withhold children from examination, and that in that way they could get rid of this over-pressure. But what was the action of that Department? What took place was really this. If a teacher attempted to withdraw anything like a substantial number, say from 3 to 4 per cent of children from the examination, the Inspector would make an adverse Report, and the reputation of the teacher was injured, and suffered, and the grant to the school suffered also. This plan of withholding children from examination, of which so much had been made by the Department, was a plan which the teachers themselves would tell them was more of a sham than a reality. The system of payment by results was responsible for most of their difficulties, and anything that would tend to mitigate its effect would be beneficial to the real interest of education. It led to a system of constant cram for examination. Everything that one could do to mitigate its effects he believed would be for the benefit of education, for the benefit of the children, and for the benefit of the teachers, and would insure a satisfactory state of things. There was one other remark he wished to make. This system of examination, which was such a constant cause of worry, trouble, and axiety to the teachers, was not equally harassing to the teachers of all schools. That worry and anxiety did not arise so much in the case of the board schools, in regard to which the financial question did not arise. They had the inexhaustible rate to fall back upon. Possibly the aggrieved ratepayers, particularly the ratepayers of London, began to see the objectionable side of this arrangement, as the rates were mounting up 1d. by 1d. until they became 8d. or 9d. in one year. But the unfortunate ratepayer's voice was not much heard. The board school would go on, however much the grant was reduced; but the case was different in regard to the voluntary schools, whose very existence depended upon their receiving such an amount of the grant as would enable them to pay their way, and the teachers of which were, therefore, much more harassed than the teachers in the board schools were. The very existence of those schools was rendered a matter of difficulty. He contended that they had no right to have to meet a difficulty such as that. Voluntary schools, it should never be forgotten, were in existence and doing a great deal of good work when there were no other schools in the country. That work had been well and thoroughly recognized by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) in his Act of 1870. They were told that the system of more complete education was to supplement, and not to supplant, those voluntary schools; and they had a right to ask, not for an exhibition of favour or affection for those voluntary schools, but that they might have some reasonable chance of existence, as was promised to them from the first, in consideration of their long services in the past. He hoped that that which they had a right to demand now would not be denied them. The system which at present existed required modification. All the children having passed the infant stage were usually bound to advance from Standard to Standard year by year. Otherwise the grants were reduced, and the efficiency of the school was held to be failing, and the teachers were liable to be under some kind of slur. Once the infant stage had been passed there was little possibility of classification left for the teacher. It was thought that in that respect modification should be made. They thought that amongst the children of the poor it was impossible, any more than among the children of other classes, that they should find the same capacity of advancing from Standard to Standard at the same rate of progress. [Mr. MUNDELLA dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council dissented. But within the very small limits of variation permitted by the Department it was impossible. He thought that the limits of variation the Department permitted were entirely insufficient to meet the innumerable cases of difference of intellect and capacity amongst the children who had to pass through the schools. He did not desire to detain the House at that late hour. The one remark he should like to make was this. They had a system to which they were used; but the evil effects of which they were beginning to-day more completely and thoroughly to recognize. This system was an English system, which was to be found in no other country in the world. It was absolutely unique. He was told that one of the teachers in one of the London schools had recently made a most able Report on this matter. And what did he say? That gentleman, Mr. "Wild, had visited a great many schools in Europe, and had come back with a great deal of information. He said— The whole system abroad is purely educational, not in the slightest degree pecuniary. Nowhere did I find one single 1d. depending on any examination. Nowhere did I find anything like our system of individual examination. Nowhere did I find any but adult trained teachers. Nowhere did I find any striving after percentages, or after that miraculous accuracy, to attain which costs English teachers and scholars so much weariness and painfulness. Nowhere did I find any signs of worry and anxiety. If those schools could be maintained elsewhere without the anxiety and trouble which existed in this country, why should they not modify their system so as to get rid of those anxieties and worries? It was because he believed that the Motion of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford would tend to effect that by providing that a larger proportion of the grant now given to public elementary schools should be allotted in the form of fixed payment on the average attendance that he was prepared to support it. They did not ask the whole grant to be given in that way; but they asked that a larger proportion of it should be given in order that the worry and anxiety might be diminished. They could not expect at the present moment entirely to got rid of it; but they hoped to diminish it, and in diminishing it they hoped they would get greater efficiency of education. They had acquired for the children of the country proper school accommodation, well ventilated, lighted, warmed, and adequately supplied with all kinds of educational apparatus, and with efficient teachers, who had proved by examination that they were perfectly able thoroughly to undertake the duties confided to them. Why, then, should they not believe that they possessed the means that would give good results, by increasing the grant in the form of fixed payments on average attendance, and so getting rid of this unnecessary worry, harassment, and over-pressure on children and teachers, which was one of the crying defects of the present system acknowledged by everyone outside those walls, and which it was the hope of those who made this Motion to mitigate?

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty that She will be graciously pleased to withhold Her consent from the Education Code in respect of Article 109 (a), with a view of providing that a larger proportion of the grant now given to public elementary schools should be allotted in the form of a fixed payment on average attendance."—(Mr. J. G. Talbot.)


said, that the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. J. G. Talbot) had deprecated the impression that he might be considered a reactionary in educational progress. No one could believe that of a University Member, who had so much interest to raise the level of education. But the question was—what would be the real effect of his Motion? It was an extremely vague Motion; the hon. Member had given them no figures, and he had spoken not of anything new in this Code, but of a provision which had existed for many years. At the present moment, out of 17s., the average grant, 4s. 6d. was for attendance. How much did the hon. Member propose to raise it? In the time of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) it had been 6s., and then it had been reduced to 4s. by Viscount Sandon, being finally raised by the present Government to 4s. 6d. The hon. Member did not say to what sum he proposed it should be raised; but he would presume that the hon. Member wished it to be raised to 10s., as had been recommended by the teachers themselves. At present, 4s. 6d. was given for average attendance, and 12s. 6d. for educational effort throughout the country. If the sum for mechanical attendance were raised to 10s., it would represent nearly two-thirds of the whole, while only one-third would represent educational effort. That was the way in which an hon. Member for a University proposed to improve the education of the country. The effect of the proposal would be greatly to increase the remuneration of bad schools, and largely to decrease the remuneration of good schools. ["No!" and" Hear!"] That was obvious, because with only one-third for educational effort there would be much less for good schools to win, while the bad schools would have two-thirds already secured. In Scotland, where national education had been much longer established and was of a higher kind than in England, and where there was also more educational effort, who ever heard of over-pressure? Some 84,000 school children died every year. Out of that number he should expect to find that 200 or 300 died from over-pressure. But only 20 or 30 were alleged to have died from that cause; and when the facts were inquired into, the allegation, except in four or five cases, completely failed. There was from 32 to 33 per cent less mortality in schools now than in 1870, when his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford got his Education Act passed. Undoubtedly there were weaklings and diseased children to whom any amount of school work would be injurious; and it would always be a duty of managers of schools to take advantage of the provisions of the Code and prevent them being taxed beyond their strength. A Code, as long as it existed, must provide for the capacities of the great bulk of children, while it also protected individuals who were exceptionally incapable of any mental exertion. To legislate for those exceptions to the detriment of the vast bulk of school children was an extraordinary policy. The House must recollect that it had provided Standards of education before children were allowed to enter labour; and if they diminished the ability to pass these at an early age they would dislocate the whole conditions of labour in the country. He objected to the Motion, because it would depress educational effort and substitute mere mechanical conditions for that healthy independence which now induced school authorities to bring their schools to a high standard of efficiency.


said, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Lyon Playfair) had made a very strong speech against the Motion of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford, and had it not been for that speech he should probably not have intervened in the discussion. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had much overstated the practical effect of the proposal of his hon. Friend; and it appeared to him that he had contrived to misunderstand what were the objections which many on that side of the House, himself among the number, entertained to this rigid system of payment by results. This system, which was established by Viscount Sherbrooke, was never intended, and he never wished it to be applied in the manner it was now applied in elementary schools. It was a system for testing the acquirements of children in reading, writing, and arithmetic in elementary schools. He admitted that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had done a good deal of good, and he thought that the tendency of the alterations made in the Code had unquestionably gone in the direction of the proposal contained in the Amendment of his hon. Friend. But there was a widespread feeling amongst teachers and others that this system of payment by results was neither fair to the teachers nor to the children themselves. He had heard it said that the system of payment by results gave each locality more or less the opportunity of selecting subjects which could be best taught in that locality. But he would point out that the locality had nothing to do with it, because every subject was prescribed by the Education Department, and the only choice which the teacher had was to select one or two class subjects. The question they had to consider was, whether those who took an interest in education were thoroughly satisfied with the present system. He did not think that many were quite aware of what payment by results implied. Let the Committee consider for one moment that there were millions of children in the schools — infants and otherwise, for whom payment by results was obtained in proportion to the number of subjects in which they were examined. That meant that there were millions of children for whom 10 to 15 payments might be gained in reference to the different subjects in which they were examined; and the Committee would be able from that fact to realize something of the amount of trouble that resulted to the teachers and children, as well as to the Education Department, in checking the claims. It was too late to argue the question at that hour (12.50) at any length; but when the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Lyon Playfair) stated that elementary education in Scotland was in a most satisfactory state, he should remember that it was not arrived at by payment by results, which had been engrafted on the system of education in that country, and was not originally part of it. Again, in his opinion, many of the best Scotch teachers did not at all approve of the system. Since the time at which the system of payment by results was established, a very great improvement had taken place in the social status of elementary school teachers. If those teachers were subjected to a most severe test before they could obtain certificates of competency, could not the Department be assured that the outcome of their work was more or less good? But, having tested them by that severe examination, the Education Department proceeded to test every individual child which those teachers taught. He thought there might be some modification of that practice; indeed, he should like to see the system of payment by results swept away, and something in the nature of a capitation rate, to be regulated according to the efficiency of the school by inspection, substituted in its place. And he believed it would come to that, because the present system was so unpopular, and entailed such an enormous amount of trouble on the Education Department, that sooner or later some alteration must be made. He had come in contact, perhaps as much as had the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education, with elementary school teachers, and he thought that all must be struck with the manner in which they performed their duties. There were, of course, some exceptions; but he thought that the great mass of them might safely be allowed some latitude in the matter of teaching. Under the present system, every child in a class was examined, and there was no regulation requiring that the child should have been in that class for a certain period—number of months. He always felt that they subjected the children of the poor to a test which they did not like their own. children to be subjected to. No doubt the over-pressure existing in elementary schools was to some extent exaggerated; but he thought that everyone knew in the case of their own children, and in the case of the children of their friends, that their little brains were easily overworked, and that it was necessary to remedy that—a thing easily done by taking them away from school or getting them change of air. But the poor could not do that; and that fact alone ought to make them very careful not to over-press the children in their schools. Although he believed that something might be done to mitigate their condition by the supply of cheap and wholesome food, yet he did not think that the House ought to turn a deaf ear to the allegations made with regard to over-pressure. He quite admitted that the right hon. Gentleman had made some alterations in the Code, which were both generous and impartial, and he could quite understand his opposing or not giving his assent to a suggestion like that. He was bound to say that he could not indicate the precise remedy to be applied to the evils in question. It was no easy matter to do so in the face of the many complicated details involved; still he thought that they would be forced sooner or later in the direction pointed to in the Motion of his hon. Friend. He did not believe that, as long as they continued steadily to improve the social status of the teachers, and to subject them to a severe test, any such proposal as that of his hon. Friend would at all tend to the deterioration of their system of education. If he did, he would not give even a qualified support to his hon. Friend's Motion; and had it not been that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Edinburgh had cast upon hon. Gentlemen upon those Benches the charge of wishing to retard instead of advance the education of the people, he should not have intervened in this discussion.


said, the noble Lord who had just spoken had stated that they subjected children of the class which attended the elementary schools to an examination to which their own children were not submitted. He was not quite sure of that. In his own class he knew that the examinations to which children were subjected were much of the same character. But it was most important that hon. Members should bear in mind that they had not yet got education in this country into such a position that they could say that they had arrived at the point at which the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic was secured to the general body of the population; and unless they secured by the payment of Government money that these should be taught, reading, writing, and arithmetic, he feared, would not be learned. When they had the same scale of education as they had in Germany, it might be possible to dispense with examination in elementary subjects; but if they got rid of it now, he believed they would soon return to that state of things which was in existence before Viscount Sherbrooke made his Code, when, although many in the elementary schools were well instructed, many were neglected, and the final result was that the elementary subjects wore, by very many children, not learned. He did not believe that they could get rid of individual examination, which he had always regarded as an evil to which they were compelled to submit, inasmuch as the advantages overbalanced the disadvantages of the system. He had, by moving an Amendment at the time, endeavoured to modify to some extent Viscount Sherbrooke's proposal; but he was convinced that examination could not be got rid of, and that, so far as he could gather, was very much the object of the present Motion. At all events that was the general impression, because an educationist in his own district with whom he was acquainted had asked him to go down to the House and "vote for Mr. Talbot's Motion for the abolition of payment by results." That was the light in which the present Motion was regarded. But he had another objection to urge—namely, that if they were able to make the change, and he was not sure that in a few years hence they might not be able to do so, he should certainly not be in favour of making it in the form which the hon. Member for Oxford University proposed—namely, That a larger proportion of the grant now given to public elementary schools should be allotted in the form of a fixed payment on average attendance. That, he ventured to think, would not be the right mode of proceeding. If there were to be a change, it should be a change from individual examination to an estimate arrived at in the best manner possible of the general character of the school and the general result of the teaching. And on that account he was exceedingly glad that his successors had found themselves able to introduce a merit grant. It was in that direction, he thought, that in the future they might be able to make changes. Although he might appear to be rather contradicting himself, he must make one further remark before he sat down, and it was this. Although he had looked forward to that being the future mode by which they should find out what they got for their money, he thought it would be well that for some time they should let the Code alone. He thought that the vexation and the uncertainty of these constant changes of Code were evils which were not compensated for by any little improvement that was obtained; and he hoped his right hon. Friend (Mr. Mundella), if he remained in his Office—and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman might do so, for if they searched through the country they could not find anyone more earnest or more capable of doing his duty—he would turn a deaf ear to the little improvements and little reforms, and let managers have some notion of the stability of the Code for two or three years' time.


asked the indulgence of the House while he explained very briefly how it was that with much regret he was unable to support the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Talbot). It appeared to him that in the course of the discussion the question had become somewhat involved. Much had been said about the evils of overpressure, and, of course, he felt that those evils were not small. And they had heard of objections to the present system of payment by results. He did not deny that in some respects the present system was most unsatisfactory; but, at the same time, the question now before the House was whether in future they were to give a greater grant for mere attendance, and a smaller grant for what he might call ascertained efficiency. The modes adopted for ascertaining efficiency might be open to question; indeed, it was with regard to those modes that the difficulties to which reference had been made arose. In his opinion, the Motion rather suggested that less attention in future should be paid to ascertaining the efficiency of the schools receiving grants, and that more attention should be paid to the simple fact that there were schools to give grants to. He thought that if the Motion were adopted, there would be a danger of taking away from school managers a great stimulus to make their schools efficient. On that account he was unable to support the Motion.


I cannot help but be satisfied with the tone which has prevailed in this debate, and I am very grateful to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House for the very fair manner in which they have recognized my desire to relieve the teachers and the children from anything like worry, strain, and over-pressure. I must at the outset, however, say to my noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton) that he must have been looking at a Code of his own, and not at mine, when he said the teachers have no choice of curriculum. As a matter of fact, there are no obligatory subjects now except reading, writing, and arithmetic. These are the only subjects that are compulsory in any school, except that the girls must be taught needlework. It is said that a teacher has absolutely no choice. Well, drawing has been added to the Code; but I think no Member of this House will quarrel with the necessity of taking in what I may call industrial drawing, and that is the drawing which we have now before us. It is not ornamental drawing, it is not drawing introduced with a view of making artists, but with a view of enabling the scholars to make accurate calculations so that the eye and hand may work together, and that our working classes may draw and appreciate with greater accuracy the manual labour in which they are engaged. But when my noble Friend says—"If you have tested the teacher's certificate what more do you want?" I can only ask my noble Friend to refer to the Duke of Newcastle's Commission, and he will find that in some of the schools where there were the best children there was the worst teaching, because there was no proper test of the result. There must be a test of results, and, after all, the best test of results was an examination. I believe that the annual examination is the very essence of our system, and I do not care what system you have; it will fail if there is not a particle of examination. The American system is mainly defective on that account, and so are many other systems. But at this time of the morning it is quite impossible to answer a tithe of the arguments that have been advanced, and I hope the House will bear with me a few moments while I just refer to the main points brought forward. I may say at once that the Code on the Table is no new departure; there is no change of principle whatever, and there is none in detail. I quite agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) when he said—"Let the Code alone as far as possible; when you have got a good working Code keep it steady, and do not disturb it any more than you can help." Now, there is no change in the Code of to-day, even of detail, except this—a recognition that small school teachers may group their children into three grades for teaching purposes, as much for their convenience as the children's, and that in all schools we have got the consent of the Treasury—a consent for which I cannot be too thankful—that we may teach drawing as a class subject from one end of the school to the other. Now, I say, no Code was ever so threshed out as the Code we are now working; it was laid on the Table a year in advance; it had the full consideration of this House and the country; it was considered and debated by everybody interested in it; it was brought in in one Session, and in the next it was sanctioned without a single condition of it undergoing the slightest change or modification, so there can be no complaint that the Code has not been well and thoroughly considered. Now, whatever may be the defects of the pro-sent Code I may say this for it—that better work has been done under it, better attendance has been secured, better grants have been earned under it, than under any previous Code we have had in this country. All the Motions which appeared on the Paper of tonight respecting the Code were meant as attacks and assaults upon the system of payment by results. That principle has been adopted now for a quarter of a century. It was adopted after the system of capitation grants; practically capitation grants in aid were proved to be an absolute failure. If hon. Members would only turn to the evidence of the Bishop of Manchester given before the Royal Commission, they would find there the statement that out of 300 schools examined, less than 100 did their work properly, and that only one-ninth of the children turned out of those schools were as fairly educated as could be desired. That statement alone was sufficient to show what was the success of the antecedent of the system of payment by results Whatever may be the merits or demerits of the system of payment by results, it has given a very powerful stimulus to education in this country; it has secured an honest equivalent for the vast expenditure of the State; it has enabled the Education Department to give to all schools, whether under private management or public control, pecuniary aid proportionate to the efficiency of the school. We are told that that principle is not in operation on the Continent. That is quite true; but why is that so? The conditions on the Continent are altogether different to the conditions in this country. There is no other country that I am aware of in which the State stands in the same relation to education that it does in this country. Payments are not measured by results on the Continent, because, as a rule, the State makes no payments. The payments are in the great majority of cases made from local sources to Local Authorities. Wherever grants in aid are made in France they are made exclusively to Public Authorities, and those Public Authorities work under State supervision and central control. In most Continental States there is a bureau of education, and the bureau of education lays down regulations to be enforced in all schools; it prescribes the methods to be pursued, it prescribes what the time table shall be, and it has a large share in the appointment, in the dismissing, and in the payment of the teachers. Its members are very often ex officios of the Local Governing Bodies, and its control is one of the most severe and minute that can possibly be devised. I am quite sure that Englishmen would not submit to such a centralized system as that which prevails in France and other countries on the Continent. We have an illustration of it in the story that the Minister of Education in France could take out his watch and say at any given moment what so many millions of children were then engaged in. We are told, too, that the Minister of Education in Prussia has recently issued a list of 3,000 words assigning the orthography in the Prussian schools, dropping all the superfluous letters. I should be very sorry, as an English Minister, to have to send out such a list, Americanizing, so to speak, the English language. I am sure that any attempt on the part of an English Minister to require our language to be taught phonetically would not meet with any approval in the country. In Prussia the whole cost of education is paid by local taxation; but in this country the Education Department is charged with distributing a large amount of grant to aid local effort, and to secure the most efficient education possible for the mass of the population. You can only do that by laying down certain conditions, and those conditions take the form of a Code. No one can dispute that the money paid is paid very largely to private persons. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. G. Talbot) has admitted that one-half of the sum paid by the Treasury goes to the managers of the Church of England schools, who are, after all, private gentlemen, and who are not under any supervision whatever, and are only subjected strictly to the conditions laid down by the Act. Well, surely a vast expenditure such as is made upon education in this country must be subjected to some condition to secure that it is properly applied, and that there is no abuse of it. We are not dealing with a small sum of money. In 1860, when the Revised Code was introduced, the amount was something between £500,000 and £600,000 a-year. But what is the amount now paid for educa- tion in Great Britain, paid actually upon the system of payment by results? Including, of course, the South Kensington grant, it is over £4,000,000 a-year, and, with the payment to Ireland, it will be very little short of £5,000,000 a-year. In 10 years hence I believe it will be more than £7,000,000 a-year. Surely we must insure that a vast sum of money like that should be properly applied, and only be meted out for the purpose of good and successful education. We have endeavoured to distribute the fund so as to secure the greatest benefit to the children with the least possible strain on the teacher. I can say that, for my part, I have done everything I could to secure the teacher immunity from any unnecessary labour; I believe I have relieved them from every unnecessary Return—every Return that could possibly be dispensed with I have dispensed with. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. G. Talbot) says the present system stimulates too highly, and that, notwithstanding the relaxations we have made, there is too much left to the discretion of the Inspectors—young Inspectors. Now, so far as I am concerned, there has been no patronage exercised during the whole time we have been in Office. I believe that during the five years we have been in Office we have only appointed two Inspectors, and both of them have been most experienced men. We have opened the door to the teachers, we have taken the most capable and the most experienced men from the ranks of the teachers and made them Sub-Inspectors. We have thrown the door open to the whole teachers of the country to enable them to come in on their merits as Inspectors' assistants, with a chance of rising to the higher grade. We have not appointed, since we have been in Office, a single inexperienced man to inspect schools, and I think we have done the best we could to secure the teachers immunity from persons utterly untried and without any knowledge of the work of teaching, and without any sympathy with child life and the position and work of the teachers. The hon. Gentleman says that if we raise the fixed grant we will diminish over-pressure. Well, how does that appear? What statement has he made to support that proposition? I know what will be the result of raising the fixed grant. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) has said, the more you raise the fixed grant the less you have to distribute to schools for good educational results. The fact would be that if you raise the fixed grant to 10s., instead of having a larger sum to pay to encourage good educational results, you will only have less than half the sum; and as a result the poor schools—and by poor schools I mean, of course, poorly taught schools—would get more money, and the good schools would get less. I have taken 10s. as a basis of the fixed grant, and worked it out so that the whole grant should be what it is to-day. I have applied this test to a number of voluntary schools, omitting altogether board schools. I have taken some that are below fair and some that are fair, good, and excellent. Now, those below fair ought not to exist. There are too many of that class, and there are too many that rank as fair that are not by any means fair, and our children ought not to be compelled to attend such schools. Now the schools below fair will get an advanced grant of something like 10 per cent, and the best schools will get a diminished grant. You bring the two classes of schools so near to an approximation that there would be a great temptation to voluntary school managers all over the country, who are not thorough educationalists, to have poor staffs, poorly paid teachers, poor schools, and small voluntary subscriptions. Now, I put it to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. G. Talbot), is that the result he wants? I do not believe that such a result would be to the interest of the voluntary schools. I know there are voluntary schools in all parts of the Kingdom that are as good as schools can be made. Because voluntary school managers make great sacrifices and spend a large sum of money per head on the children, it would be hardly right to deprive them of the grant they got in favour of the miserable schools in the country of which there are too many. We want to encourage better attendance; we want to require from the children a longer attendance, and to require from the managers of schools that the schools shall be better staffed than at present. It is all very well to tell us that payment by result does not exist on the Continent. There are some other things that do not exist on the Conti- nent; there are no pupil teachers on the Continent. Mr. Wild told me the other day that he had been all through Europe and had not seen a pupil teacher. He said that in some schools he had found an adult, a fully certificated teacher, at the head of every class. I do not think that we exactly wish to come to that state of things in this country. I hope the voluntary school managers will see the necessity of keeping a better staff; and the effect of the present Code is to reward their staff properly. Is it desirable that we should take away the stimulus, or diminish it in the least degree? Well, now as to the fixed grant. Mr. Lowe's fixed grant was 4s.; my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) raised it to 6s.; and when Viscount Sandon came into Office he reduced it from 6s. to 5s., and then from 5s. to 4s. What have we done? We have done exactly what the teachers asked from us. The teachers, in a Memorial which they presented to me soon after I took Office, said— Tour Memorialists are of opinion that by abolishing the payment per pass, and by substituting a payment on the average attendance according to the success at the annual examination, a great evil of the present system will be reduced, while, at the same time, the area of good instruction will be extended. Your Memorialists are also of opinion that while abolishing the payment per pass, the individual examination of scholars and the return of the Examination Schedule should be maintained in order to secure thoroughness of instruction and inspection, and to preserve a record of the result. That is exactly what we have adopted in the Code; we based our own Code on average attendance; and I should like the House, for a moment, to consider what has been the result. The result has been that during the present year I have had to come down to the House—so rapid has been the rise of average attendance—for an increase of the grant by nearly £200,000; and I shall have to ask the House, when I bring in the Educational Estimates, for an additional £300,000. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Somerset (Mr. E. H. Paget) said that what we were doing was not fair to the voluntary schools. He maintained that payment by results worked with extraordinary hardship upon voluntary schools. I really cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman in that respect, and I would like to show exactly what was the position of the voluntary schools when Viscount Sandon's Act was passed in 1876. I will not go back to 1870, because that would make the contrast infinitely greater; but I will show what is the contrast between 1876 and the present day. In 1876 there were 12,677 voluntary schools, whilst in 1884, last year, there were 14,580, so that they had increased by over 2,000, and the average attendance had increased by 400,000. But while that increase has been going on, the voluntary subscriptions have decreased by £30,000 or £40,000. That is a remarkable fact. Whilst the number of schools has increased by 2,000, and the attendances by 400,000, the voluntary subscriptions have absolutely decreased by that large amount. And what has been the consequence? Why, whilst in 1876 each child cost £1 13s.d., in 1884 the cost was £1 15s. 2d., or an increase of 1s.d. In 1876 the voluntary subscriptions were 8s.d., whereas in 1884 they were 6s.d., and they were 4½d. less at the present moment. According to last year's estimate the voluntary subscriptions had diminished 23 per cent per child; and while that reduction has been going on the annual grants have risen from 13s. 0¾d. to 16s.d., the cost now being 16s. 9d.—or an increase of 23½ per cent; so that whilst there has been a diminution in the cost of 23 per cent, there has been an increase of grant of 23½ per cent during the past eight years. With these facts before us, how can my hon. Friend (Mr. J. G. Talbot) make this appeal for voluntary schools, which he says have suffered through the system of payment by results? To say that they have, suffered by that system is contrary to experience. My experience is that these schools are daily growing, and the need for subscriptions is daily growing less. I am perfectly satisfied that the voluntary schools will, in the future, earn more and cost less to voluntary subscribers. With respect to the over-pressure question, I could deluge the House with evidence which I think would drive it outside the doors of this Chamber. My right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh (Sir Lyon Playfair) has spoken of Scotch experience. How strange it is that Scotch experience should be so different to English experience, and the hon. Member opposite says it is. They have the same system of payment by results in Scotland that we have in this country; and why is it, then, that there is not the same cry of over-pressure? The matter has been considered in Scotland, and Dr. Tuke, of Edinburgh, an authority far higher than Dr. Crichton Browne, has examined the schools in the Scotch capital, and I should like hon. Members to take the trouble to read his reply to Dr. Browne's Report. He speaks of it as like reading a chapter in Mark Twain, and that there is nothing in common sense or reason to justify his statements. We are told there is no freedom of classification, and we are told that although, according to our Minutes, it is possible to withdraw children from a day examination, yet, by other Regulations, we render it impossible for the teachers to avail themselves of that power. But let me tell the hon. Member opposite that during the past year 150,000 children have been withdrawn, and have been paid for, because it has been found that they were not fit to attend the examination. Nearly 6 per cent have been withdrawn—5.60 per cent of the whole number of children. As a matter of fact, instead of there being a cry of overpressure, I am beginning, at the Education Department, to experience an exactly opposite complaint—a cry of under-pressure. Parents are continually saying that the teachers pass over their children. They say—"We want our children to pass the Standards in order that we may have their services—so that we may avail ourselves of their labour." Seldom a week passes that I have not a complaint from one or other of our Inspectors—something like this—"If you do not look very carefully into this you will have a cry of under pressure from the parents of the children." Let me read the hon. Member a letter which I have received on this subject. This document has come to me since this Motion has been on the Paper— National Union of Elementary Teachers, New Courts Chambers, 57 and 68 Chancery Lane, W.C. March 25, 1885. To the Rt. Hon. A. J. Mundella, M.P. SIR, At the last meeting of the Executive of the National Union of Elementary Teachers the following Resolution was unanimously adopted:— 'That the best thanks of this Executive he, and they are hereby, given to the Rt. Hon. A. J. Mundella, M.P., for the abolition of the Age Clause and the Examination Schedule in Infant Schools.' I was instructed to forward a copy to you, which I do with much pleasure. No single step previously taken by the Department will do more to diminish the over-pressure on dull, delicate, and backward children. I am, Sir, Your obedient servant, THOMAS E. HELLER, Secretary.


Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the Circular of the 8th of April?


Yes; I have seen that, and I know exactly how to estimate it. I never quarrel with a little strong language that is used occasionally by teachers, because I know exactly how difficult it is for them on all occasions to appreciate the arrangements that are made, and besides I have been accustomed to dealing with large classes of employés for 25 years. I take it, on the whole, the teachers are a class worthy of all respect; and however little they may know it or appreciate it, I have done my best to secure them against the grievances that induced them to use that language. I am sorry to have intruded upon the House for so long; but the fact of the matter is there is so much to be said on this matter that I have been hardly able, consistently with coherence, to compress my observations into the small space of time at my disposal. If we have another opportunity of taking this discussion we shall be able to debate the subject with the Estimates before us, and we shall have a much better opportunity than we have now of going through all the details.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 53; Noes 117: Majority 64.—(Div. List, No. 99.)

House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock.