§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Sir, in asking for the leave of the House to introduce a Bill on the subject of education in Ireland, I am obliged to occupy a small portion of its time. The Bill is of such importance that I think it deserves explanation, and I will endeavour to explain it as briefly as possible, without wasting time by dwelling on the importance of the subject, or in making 519 any general observations. The Bill contains three Parts. The first Part deals with the attendance of children at school, and the keynote of this Part is contained in the 1st clause, which provides that—It shall be the duty of the parent of every child to cause such child to receive efficient elementary instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic; and if such parent fails to perform such duty he shall he liable to such orders and penalties as are provided by this Act.The Bill, in short, provides the principle of compulsory attendance. Now, I will not occupy the time of the House by speaking on the general question of compulsory attendance; but I may say that it is some personal satisfaction to myself, and also some proof that I really believe in what I am now proposing, that so far back as 1869 I put on the Paper an Amendment to an Education Bill then before the House in favour of the application of compulsion to attendance at school. That was a year before the first introduction of the principle in a tentative way into the English Education Act. With regard to Ireland, we need not go further back than three years ago. In 1883 my Friend, Mr. O'Shaughnessy, then Member for Limerick City, moved a Resolution in the House, which was carried unanimously, to this effect—It is expedient to introduce into Ireland the principle of Compulsory Education, with such modifications as the social and religious conditions of the Country require.That Resolution having been carried unanimously, it really became imperative that any large Bill the Government introduced dealing with this subject should embrace this proposal. Now, compulsion has two objects—in the first place, to bring into school those children who at present fail to come; and, in the second place, to insure greater regularity in the attendance of those who do come; and I think myself that most of those who have looked into the question of education in Ireland will be of opinion that the great evil occurs from want of a provision dealing with the latter case. I was myself startled at finding—I promise not to trouble the House with many figures —that out of the total number who attended school in Ireland during the latest year that I have seen analyzed only 19.7 per cent attended 150 times and over; 24.7 per cent attended I between 100 and 150 times—that is days 520 according to the Irish way of reckoning; 24 per cent between 50 and 100 times; while, under 50 times, there were as many as 31.6 per cent. This last degree of attendance is really so small as to produce results hardly worth considering. Apart altogether from book learning and instruction of the ordinary kind, the disciplinary effect of regular and sustained subjection to school control is most valuable; but these and other advantages are impossible of attainment by children who only give this small modicum of attendance. I will say no more as to the general necessity of this provision, but will give some outline of the particular method of the application of the principle. In the first place, as to the enforcement of the obligation. There are two modes provided—first, by imposing penalties on the parents of the children who fail to attend school; and next, by prohibiting, under penalty, the employment of such children. These are substantially the same as the English provisions. Next, for the enforcement of the Act, a Local Authority, to be called the School Attendance Committee, is created—it is impossible to introduce the system which prevails in England of School Boards— and on the School Attendance Committee will be represented the three bodies of persons who may be presumed to be interested in the subject—namely, the National Board of Education, the managers of National and other schools in the district, and the Boards of Guardians, who represent the ratepayers, and may also be taken in some degree to represent parents and employers. The next point is as to the degree of attendance required. In order that a child may become exempt, it must either have obtained a certificate of proficiency or a certificate of what is known as "previous due attendance," and previous due attendance in Ireland is stated by this Bill to mean 75 attendances at a National school in each half-year for four years, or 150 attendances in each year. In England the rule is that education commences at five years of age and continues for five years; but in Ireland, according to this Bill, it will commence at six years of age and continue for four years. It must be explained to those who are not aware of the fact that in Ireland a child can only put in one attendance in a day, and not two as in 521 England, so that the 150 attendances, of which I spoke, are really equivalent to 300 attendances in this country, and the manner in which this number of 150 is arrived at is this. If you deduct Saturdays, holidays, and vacations, you are left with a number of available school days in the year of about 200; but we must bear in mind that there are an enormous number of small farmers in Ireland who absolutely require the assistance, in seed time and in harvest time, of every member of their family, and therefore it is that we make an abatement of 25 school days in each of these two seasons, making 50 in all, and thus we arrive at the 150, which I think hon. Members will agree is not an unreasonable demand to make on children, and is really as small an amount of attendance as is consistent with proper instruction. Then, lastly—and this is the most critical point of all, perhaps—I will state what are the conditions as to reasonable excuses for non-attendance, and the shortest way is to read the very words of the Bill—Any of the following reasons shall be accepted as a reasonable excuse:—These, briefly stated, are the conditions under which we propose, by this Bill, to introduce the system of compulsion; and, with these guarantees and conditions, it is our hope and belief that it will involve no hardship, while it will do much to extend the blessings of sound education in Ireland. Then, Sir, I turn to the second Part of the Bill, about which I shall have very little to say in detail. It gives compulsory power for the acquisition of sites for schools and teachers' residences. If it was necessary, any amount of evidence could be produced from all parts of the country, 522 from the Reports of Inspectors and otherwise, to show how grievously the system of education has been hampered and embarrassed by a want of some provision of this kind. Sometimes from unwillingness on the part of the owners of land, and sometimes, I am bound to say, from reluctance on the part of the occupiers, but for some reason or other, there has been, in many cases, a difficulty, and the consequence is that new schools have not been built, and that schools continue in a condition which makes them unfit for the purposes for which they were built. I will not go into details, but will merely say that the removal of these grievances will be accomplished by the Bill. Now I come to the third and most important question—as to the remuneration of the teachers. I will begin by stating that I believe that we are all agreed that there is no body of men who perform more useful services for the community, and who deserve greater consideration at our hands, than the teachers in our public elementary schools. At the same time, I would say that it is allowed by general consent that the emoluments of Irish teachers may with propriety be increased. A good deal has been done in this direction in recent years. On going back to 1872 I find this—that a principal teacher of the third class received £24, and now he receives £35. Passing over to the intermediate classes, the teacher in the first class, who then received £52, now received £70. In like manner a mistress of the third class in 1872 received £20 a-year, and now gets £27 10s. a-year; while a first class school-mistress now gets £58 a-year against £42 a-year in 1872. There has thus been a very considerable increase in class salaries. It must be borne in mind that although the salaries of the lower grades are not very great, yet it has always been open to a qualified teacher to pass from rank to rank, and obtain the full privileges of the higher ranks by examination. Besides that, within the last 14 years the system of result fees has been introduced and developed. This has now reached to such an amount, owing largely to the intelligence and successful energy of the teachers themselves, that in the next year's Estimates the sum of £166,460 has been provided for this purpose, all of which is a pure addition in the last few years to the emoluments 523 of the teachers. [Mr. SEXTON: Is that for next year?] Yes; that is the Estimate for next year. In fact, it has been calculated—I think not unfairly—that the income of a teacher in 1871 amounted, on an average, to 13s. 11 d. per pupil; whereas now the average salary per pupil is 23s. 8d., or nearly double. Of course, we must now look forward to a very considerable increase under the head of result fees from the influence of compulsion. Compulsion will not only bring more children into the schools, but will make the children more regular in attendance, and thus provide more material out of which the teacher can earn his fees. I do not mention these matters to prove that the present state of things is satisfactory, but to show that there has been no indisposition on the part of Parliament and of successive Governments to recognize and meet the claims of these deserving public servants. But this system of results fees appears to deserve somewhat closer attention. I know enough of education and of educational systems to be aware that this results fees system is approved of by all educational authorities whose experience is of weight, and whose opinions are deserving of attention. It does good all round. It stimulates the energy of the teachers, it attracts the interest of the managers. It excites a spirit of emulation in the pupils, and its good practical effect can be proved by the fact that in Ireland, in the first 10 years after the introduction of this system, the attendance of children at school increased at the rate of no less than 32 percent, and the quality of the instruction increased almost in an equal degree. It is, therefore, by extending this system, and by giving a greater security for the fees given for results, and not by any addition to the fixed salaries of the teachers, that we propose to raise their emoluments. I am glad to say this conclusion, which has been the fixed conclusion of the Government for some time, has received the most striking corroboration within the last few days, in a Memorial which has been addressed to the Lord Lieutenant by the Episcopal Committee on Education acting for the Catholic Bishops in Ireland, who have most strongly expressed their opinion that this is the proper course to be followed in improving in any way the pay of the teachers.
- "(1.) That there is not within two miles, measured according to the nearest road from the residence of the child, any public elementary school which the child could attend, or any such school to which the parent of the child does not object on conscientious religious grounds to send such child.
- "(2.) That the absence of the child from school has been caused by sickness, delicacy, or any unavoidable cause.
- "(3.) That the child is under seven years of age and lives at too great a distance from any public elementary school which he could attend, even though such distance is less than two miles.
- "(4.) That the child is receiving suitable elementary education in some other manner."
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
But now arises the question from what source shall these additional fees be paid—shall they be paid from Imperial or in some part from local funds? The principle of the local ratepayers cooperating in paying teachers was introduced by the late Government in 1875, when they passed an Act authorizing Boards of Guardians to become contributors. Up to that time £60,000 a-year was the settled amount of the results fee; but by this Act a second amount of £60,000 was made available to be paid conditionally on the Poor Law Unions providing an equivalent sum. Comparatively few Unions, however, exercised this power. I am sorry to say that still fewer exercise the power now; and I am not altogether surprised, because when a duty like this is left in a voluntary position it is apt to be treated in that way. But in 1876, finding so few Unions availed themselves of this opportunity, the Government agreed to accept, in lieu of contribution from the rates, any bonâ fide subscription or endowment to a like amount; and in 1881 there was a further step taken, when it was allowed that even if these local contributions did not quite come up to the full amount received, so much of the contingent part of the result fees should be paid as was equal to the local subscription. That is to say, suppose the maximum result fee for a certain subject is 2.s., there is 1s. given absolutely by the Treasury without any condition whatever. Then, if it is in a contributory Union the rate gives a second 1s., and the Treasury meet that with a third 1s. so that the teacher receives 3s. altogether. Elsewhere, if the local subscriptions are equal to it, he also receives 3s. but otherwise he receives his unconditional 1s., he receives all that maybe subscribed or contributed locally, and he receives as great a proportion from the Treasury as is subscribed locally. That is how the matter stands now. Now, we have to consider whether this scheme of local contribution in one form or another is to be carried further, so as to secure the income of the successful teacher, or is the whole new 525 burden, such as it may be, to fall on the Exchequer? That, of course, raises the question, does the Imperial Exchequer already bear a sufficient proportion of the cost of Irish education? In round numbers, the Imperial Exchequer bears four-fifths of the cost of Irish education, and two-fifths of the cost of that of England and Scotland. The actual proportions are these—For educational purposes money is derived from Imperial funds; secondly, from local rates and subscriptions, and so forth; and, thirdly, from fees paid by parents. The figures from these three sources are—in England, 41 per cent, 31 per cent, and 28 per cent respectively. In Scotland 41 per cent, 29½ per cent, and 29½ per cent. In Ireland 80 per cent. 10 per cent. and 10 per cent. I am aware that a great deal can be urged in extenuation of these facts. A great deal can be said and has been said that I may be allowed to say is not very much to the point; but a good deal can be said that does deserve attention. But even making any admission you like, the figures I have quoted are awkward and stubborn facts to get over. After any deductions that can be made from the figures I have mentioned, in face of them it is impossible for the Government to submit any proposal to increase the proportion paid out of the Imperial funds as against local funds. This House will never grudge anything that is required for the true development of education; but it will be quite unfair to place upon the Imperial taxpayer a larger burden than the very great proportion of the cost he now boars of the cost of Irish education. We, therefore, propose that a sum shall be contributed from the local rates and paid to the teachers equal to half the results fees received from the Treasury in each year, so that the teachers will be in all cases assured of the three moieties of the results fees. Taking, as before, a subject for which 2s. is the maximum, the teacher will get 3s. altogether—that is, 2s. from the Treasury, and 1s. from local rates. But now we are met by the fact that if each Union is treated separately some of the very poorest Unions in Ireland will have the largest sums to raise. If over there was an object in reference to which there ought to be solidarity throughout the Island it is surely this. It is to the 526 interest, the direct interest, of every man in Ireland, that all his countrymen should be well educated, whether living in his own neighbourhood or not; and I cannot but believe that a small equal contribution to this great object would be cheerfully paid. The Bill, therefore, provides that all Unions shall contribute rateably in proportion to their valuation—in fact, that the requisite sum shall be raised by means of a national rate. It is exceedingly difficult to estimate with anything like accuracy how much the rate that may be required will be. To begin with, apart from other reasons, it is so uncertain what the result of the compulsory provisions may be; but, according to the best calculations that can be formed, it is believed that at first the rate would not exceed 1½d. in the pound, and it is to be observed that the local contribution cannot exceed one-half of the Treasury payment, and thus Parliament will control the amount of the rate by controlling the estimate for result fees. Well, Sir, these, plainly stated, without argument or embellishment, are the main outlines of this Bill. It is a measure of great importance, and if it receives the sanction of Parliament we trust that it will do much to attain that which ought to be our object in any great educational measure—namely, not only to remove a grievance, or to improve the position of public servants, however worthy they may be, but to advance still further towards the higher end of improving and developing the education of the people.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to improve National Education in Ireland,"—(Mr. Campbell-Bannerman.)
MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, he certainly would not attempt to criticize the Bill now at anything like considerable length; but it appeared to be a more extensive and enterprizing measure, whether for good or for evil, than he had expected. As to the first Part—the question of compulsory education—that was a difficult one, and would depend altogether on the way compulsion was applied. He fancied they were all in favour of the principle of compulsion; but, taking the words of the Resolution passed by the House into account—namely— 527It is expedient to introduce into Ireland the principle of Compulsory Education, with such modifications as the social and religious conditions of the Country require,it was impossible to give this part of the question any serious consideration before they knew how the compulsion was to be applied. He did not think the proposal that the increased remuneration of the teachers should be derived solely by an increased rate of results fees was at all satisfactory, and there was nothing clear as to the teachers' residences. He was told there was to be compulsory power to hire them; but they were not told how that was to be done, and how the teachers were to derive benefit. As to the proposal of a national rate, and also in the case of the compulsory principle, the measure would largely depend for its beneficial results on the way in which it was applied. Under the present circumstances of the election of Poor Law Guardians, and the manner in which the Boards were constituted, they would have to consider carefully that part of the Bill before it could be received with anything like approval. He had no intention of pledging himself or his Colleagues to support or disapprove of any of the provisions of the measure. All he would say was that it was less limited in its scope and more enterprizing in its character than he expected, and that, whatever its present defects as to remuneration and housing, he and his hon. Friends would endeavour, if they could, to make it in its ultimate shape a useful and workable measure.
§ MR. MELDON
said, he would not criticize the proposal of the Government at any length at that moment. In the first instance, he must say that he was glad, even at that late day, to see some kind of tangible proposal brought forward by the Government. There was one observation which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had made with which he could not agree—namely, that the Executive Government had by their acts shown their disposition to improve the system of primary education in Ireland. The present Government, though pled god hilt deep to do something, had taken no steps to do anything since they came into power to redeem their pledges or 'forward education in Ireland. And now that they brought forward a Bill it was exceedingly unfair to mix up in it such 528 a multiplicity of subjects. The present Government, as well as the late Government, were pledged as deeply they could be to remedy the defects of the system introduced in 1875 with regard to the Irish National Teachers. And what had they done now? Why, they had introduced a general Bill dealing with all educational questions which must necessarily, so far as he could understand it, raise many different and difficult matters for discussion, and which might very probably end in wrecking the measure. That, he thought, was not a fair thing for the Government to do. They should fulfil their pledges, and deal with the questions of remuneration and residences of teachers, without, in the same Bill, going into those vast educational questions raised in the measure—he referred particularly to the question of compulsory education. The Resolution passed by the House in favour of compulsory education was one to which nobody could take objection; but it really meant very little, for until they had a definite system of compulsion applicable to Ireland before them it was impossible for anyone to form an opinion as to whether they could support it or not. With regard to the observations of the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) on the question of tcaches' residences, so far as he (Mr. Moldon) could see, the Bill appeared to be exceedingly satisfactory. Parliament had provided very large funds indeed for the purpose of teachers' residences; and the only reason, heretofore, why the large sums which had been voted had become utterly useless, and had been retained at the Treasury, had been the impossibility of acquiring the buildings. It had been pressed on the Government, as it had been urged on their Predecessors in Office, that the only way to bring about the desired result was to render the acquisition of the residences compulsory. No ground in Ireland should be taken for school residences unless it were proved to the Commissioners that the schools to which they were to be attached were fit places to continue as schools. The Commissioners were to blame for having neglected to improve the conditions in all but one or two exceptional cases. In the future they should see that the school was a proper one, and—what was equally important—that the residence was attached to the 529 school; and if the Bill did not provide for that at present he trusted it would be amended in order to insure that it should do so. With regard to the proposal to make the Act of 1875 compulsory—as it virtually was—he approved of it. Hon. Members might differ from him, but he might mention that the plan now proposed was not by any means a new one. It was proposed to the late Government in 1875—a plan of national rating was distinctly proposed to the then Chief Secretary, and had his thorough approval; but for some reason or other was objected to by the Treasury. The advantages of that system were very great. It would get rid of a vexed and difficult question—that was to say, the claims of School Boards and Boards of Guardians to interfere in educational matters in Ireland, which, to his mind, was a thing as detrimental to the interests of education in that country as anything could possibly be. The establishment of a system of rating would obviate that difficulty, which was a more important point than that called attention to by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary—namely, that the heaviest rate would be on the poorest Unions, which would be the least able to pay it. The question as to residences and national rate for supplementing the fund for paying results fees appeared to him to be, as far as they went, satisfactory. But he regretted to hear that there had been any decision come to upon the great question of results fees itself. That system was introduced in 1872 as a novel one, and he thought he might say that it had not worked satisfactorily. But in 1875 it was demonstrated that the system had been carried far enough, and that any further help to the National teachers must, in the future, be effected by adding very substantially to their salaries. He hoped that it was not because an opinion was expressed in some Memorial to the Government that the position of the teachers should not be improved by direct additions to their salaries that the course proposed had been decided upon. In regard to the payment of teachers by results there were considerations of the utmost importance which should induce the Government to abandon, at any rate, to a great extent, the development of a system which was injurious to the cause of education in Ireland, and was certainly 530 most unjust to the very class of teachers in primary schools who most wanted help—namely, those who were most unsatisfactorily situated as regarded scholars, and to whom it was most difficult to obtain result fees. Those were the teachers who required the assistance most, and would get it least, if the system of result fees was extended. On those heads he had thought it only right to express his views to the House, in the hope that hon. Members would not make up their minds to pass the Bill in its entirety without necessity being shown for it in Committee, and without its being altered in some most material points.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he thought the last remark of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down was one which deserved the best attention of the Government. This was a very serious Bill—it dealt with some very grave and contentious matters, and it was indispensable that the Government should refrain from obstinately or stiffly making up their minds not to accept Amendments. If there was to be any hope of making progress with the measure, they must be prepared to accept such modifications as might be shown to be desirable. He agreed with the hon. and learned Member, when he called in question the conduct of the Government in mixing up in the Bill the question of the remuneration of the teachers with questions of a contentious character. The Government had acted in regard to the Bill pretty much as they had acted in regard to a Bill which was lately the subject of discussion in the House—that I was to say, they had given a pledge that they would deal with one question, and had then brought in a Bill dealing with several. The Irish Members had expected a measure dealing with one subject; but they now found that the right hon. Gentleman not only proposed to legislate in the matter of the salaries of teachers, but to ask the assent of the, House and the public to a proposition which certainly would not command the same general approval as that which had been made the subject of the pledge. He spoke in unreserved commendation of that part of the Bill which proposed to make compulsory the giving of sites for the residences of school teachers. Unquestionably, the absence of good schools and residences for teachers had been a great drawback to the cause of 531 education in Ireland; and if the provisions of the Bill in that respect answered the words of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), and if the provisions were properly carried out by the Department in Dublin, much good would result. He thought, however, that it was a thing of evil omen for the future of the Bill that the essence of it was compulsion. Both as regarded attendance and the other objects of the Bill the method it was proposed to apply was force. Now, the principle of compulsory attendance was well, perhaps even requisite, in this country; but in a country like Ireland it would be found that the success, and even the practicability, of the principle would depend upon the discretion and the good judgment with which it was applied and worked out in the various localities. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) had quoted the Memorandum addressed to the Lord Lieutenant by the Bishops, in which document the Bishops expressed their approval of the system of payment by results. He (Mr. Sexton) would like to know if, before the Bishops sent the Memorandum to His Excellency, they had had laid before them the scheme which had been announced at the Table that night; did the Bishops know it was proposed to compel parents to send their children to school on 150 days in each year? There were only about 200 school days in a year, and the right hon. Gentleman would compel attendance on 150 out of that number. Did the right hon. Gentleman imagine that the agricultural operations in the spring, and in the harvest and potato seasons, would be covered by seven weeks? He (Mr. Sexton) ventured to say that 150 attendances in Ireland was in excess of the figure at which there was any hope of arriving. The people of Ireland were poor; they needed the assistance of their children in their fields; and therefore the figure mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman was in excess of the figure which could be applied. Moreover, if the compulsory system was to be successfully applied, or rather if they were to procure regular attendance at National schools, the system of education must be made one that would command the confidence of the people. He was bound to say that the two methods which the right hon. Gentleman proposed for the pur- 532 pose of procuring regular attendance at school were two of the most questionable that could be suggested. If it were not that he was desirous of avoiding extreme language on this subject, he might employ a much stronger phrase. Now, with regard to the improvement of the condition of the teachers. It had always been contended by the teachers, and the associations of teachers, who had spoken upon this question for years past, that the one method of improving their condition was that of increasing their salaries. They were now told that that was the one method the Government would not adopt—that the result fees were to be increased. The right hon. Gentleman said it was always open to teachers to improve their rank by examination. He (Mr. Sexton) had shown that the system of examination for promotion was so surrounded by the interference and red tape of Marlborough Street, and so impeded by humiliations, that many a teacher who, by his own voluntary act, had presented himself for examination with a view of improving himself had retired, heartbroken, from the contest. They had not been told to what extent the emolument of the teacher would be improved—it might be little or more. The proposal was so vague that it was impossible to see to what extent it would meet the right of the teacher to a decent living. They were to have compulsion with regard to the local rate. While they were to have that compulsion, the question of results was to be governed by a Committee composed partly of the Board of Works, partly by managers nominated by the Government, and partly by the Board of Guardians. It was not known to what extent the Government proposed to give the ratepayers control over the system of education. He must say he was extremely surprised that, although lately an Irish Member of the House suggested a national rate of 1d. in the pound for a purpose more urgent than the present—namely, for keeping the roofs over the heads of the labourers of Ireland, and although a Select Committee was induced to assent to the proposal, the Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Banner-man) made no reference to the proposal. If the right hon. Gentleman thought that a rate in aid was not a suitable proposal for improving the wretched homes 533 of the labourers of Ireland, his refusal on that subject would not recommend his present proposal. He (Mr. Sexton) stated frankly that upon the whole his first impression of this Bill was that the clause respecting compulsory attendance would not commend approval in Ireland, but would be regarded as arbitrary, injudicious, and ill-judged. He believed that until they brought the whole system of education in Ireland into accord with the popular sentiment of the country, and under popular government, a proposal to levy 1½d., or oven ¼d.,in the pound on the rates of Ireland, would not only be received with discontent, but would raise a storm of disapprobation, which it would be impossible to withstand. He had no expectation whatever that the Bill would be treated as a serious attempt to approach the solution of the Education Question; on the contrary, he thought the Bill would be immediately signalled out by public opinion of Ireland as adding to the long list of failures to legislate on the question.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
regretted very much the tone of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton). Having taken much interest in this subject for many years, and knowing something of the opinions of those most concerned in education in Ireland, he (Colonel Colthurst) believed there was a great deal of good in the Bill. He regarded the measure as an honest attempt to deal with some of the difficulties of the Irish National teachers. If they were establishing a new system some of the remarks of the hon. Member (Mr. Sexton) might be apposite; but this Bill, on the contrary, was merely intended to redress some of the grievances existing in the actual system. Now, as to the compulsory clauses of the Bill, he believed that a great many of the managers of schools in Ireland, especially in towns, wished for a modified compulsion, In the Irish towns there were many children running about the streets. Although there were schools in accord with their religious convictions, parents would not take the trouble to send their children to school, and therefore it was that the managers would welcome some compulsion. He was sorry to differ from his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Meldon), who he knew had greatly interested himself in this subject. He (Colonel 534 Colthurst) believed that the addition to the teachers' salaries by result fees was a proper system. Seven or eight years ago the Bishops, or, at any rate, a great many of thorn, deprecated in the strongest terms any addition to the class salaries, but recommended the adoption of the system of results fees. It was incumbent upon the Government and upon Parliament to see that the teachers were in a position to earn their salaries, and without compulsory education he did not see how they could. As to the question of sites for residences, he believed the payment of £5 was but a very small burden to put upon a parish. As a matter of fact, the teacher was always very willing to bear half the burden—in some cases, even the whole of it. He (Colonel Colthurst) was sorry that the Bill had excited so much opposition as had been evinced that night; and he hoped that when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) and others came to gauge public opinion they would be inclined to look at the measure in a more favourable light.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he quite agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend who had just spoken in his views upon compulsion; and he thought his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Soxton) was expressing what was really public opinion on the subject, when he said the principle of compulsion must be safely guarded where large masses of people were engaged in a deadly struggle with the severest forms of want, for that was no exaggerated description of the position of the population in Ireland. The Bill, universally acknowledged to be one of very great moment, was much more ambitious than he and his hon. Friends had anticipated; and they were entitled to make some complaint that matters that wore still contentious were mingled in the Bill with matters that were thoroughly ripe for settlement. The Bill was ambitious, he said; but where he thought the Government were to blame was, that the Bill being so ambitious in one direction should be so abortive—so feeble in another. He would not go into the general question; but it was perfectly well known what was the real cause of the disinclination of the Irish people to compulsion, and he must say it seemed a very curious thing, that when the Government were making up their minds 535 to take so long a leap in the dark as to take up this question of compulsion, they did not at once decide to make the system of education more national, and governed by a body more representative of the people of the country. He was sure, if the Government were to take another step and make the Central Board of Education for Ireland a Board in which the people of Ireland could have confidence—he would not say now whether an elective Board or not—but, at any rate, a Board such as the people could accept as fairly representative of National instincts, then the feeling of all Ireland would be that they would more cheerfully subscribe the money for schools and teachers than for any other purpose to which the ratepayers were called upon to subscribe. He feared the Bill contained principles that would not work well together. But he would not commit himself to an opinion now—he and his hon. Friends would give to the measure that frank and honest consideration it deserved.
§ MR. KENNY
said, he approved of a system of compulsory education, and would be glad to see the principle applied in Ireland; but there were a great many circumstances in Ireland that prevented the application of the compulsory system in the same organized manner as in England. Not long since he had had the advantage of a conversation with a reverend gentleman, a friend of his, and a high authority on educational matters; and he expressed a decided doubt as to enforcing a system of compulsory education. He was a gentleman of whose judgment the Government would have a very high opinion; and in his view a Government system of compulsory education would have to be surrounded with many safeguards, or it would press irksomely on the people, and raise a feeling antagonistic to education. In Ireland everything was done to make it unpopular; whereas in England everything was done in the other direction, by such means as breakfasts and dinners for the children of the destitute poor. In Ireland, on the other hand, the comfort of the children was not consulted. In the depth of winter they had to travel miles to school sometimes, and they might often see the children carrying sods with them to keep up a fire to warm their schoolroom during the day. It would be almost impossible to enforce 536 a system of compulsory education unless it were modified in accordance with the circumstances of the case. It was also an important matter to take into consideration the position of the assistant teachers. There were 2,000 or 3,000 of these, and they constituted an important element in the question, and something would have to be done to improve their condition. When did the Chief Secretary propose to circulate the Bill, and ask for the second reading?
said, he would not enter upon the Bill in detail; but he wished to express agreement with his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), that the provisions in reference to compulsory education would meet with very grave and close scrutiny and suspicion in Ireland until they had a National and truly representative system. As to the unworkable character of its provisions he need only point to the West Coast, where for six months in the year the people were so miserably poor that it was perfectly idle to expect parents would send their children half-starved and half-clad along two miles of road to the schoolroom. The Chief Secretary would have to add insufficiency of food to the reasonable excuses for non-attendance. As to the provisions for improving the condition of teachers, he thought they would be received with hearty disfavour by teachers and ratepayers in Ireland. The proposal to confine the improvement in their condition to results fees entirely was flying in the face of all the National teachers had been demanding and agitating for years. The proposal to lay an enormous burden on the local rates was certain to meet with fierce resistance. There was a storm of indignation rising in Ireland at the extent to which the local rates were burdened and overloaded. The people were crushed—the ratepayers were crushed—with all sorts of taxes, the Blood Tax, the Extra Police Tax—the charges for Parliamentary registration, and all the rest of them, and public opinion in Ireland would be directly opposed to the proposal. The Irish people paid something over £8,000,000 a-year in taxes, besides the millions that found their way to England in the way of absenteeism for rent. With this constant drain, and considering the vast sum paid for dragooning them, the people might fairly ask the Government to 537 expend something like £700,000 on education, instead of laying £100,000 a-year additional charge on the ratepayers.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN, Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL for IRELAND, and Mr. HIBBERT.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 111.]