HC Deb 17 June 1886 vol 306 cc1749-56
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)&c.) (Clackmannan,

Sir, I propose very shortly to lay before the House some words of explanation of the Scottish Educational Estimates, and regarding the progress of education during the past year. The House will notice that the total amount set down in the Estimate is £524,263. This involves an increase on the Vote of the previous year of £21,214; and the whole amount, practically, of this increase arises from the augmented earnings of the scholars, who will, it is believed, in the year for which the Estimate is taken, earn £19,366 more than in the current year. If the cost is greater I am quite sure the House will be gratified, and will consider it exceedingly satisfactory to find that the increase goes out in increased earnings of grants. In respect of administration there is an apparent increase of cost; but it is apparent only. The salaries of the officers of the staff were previously alone on the Scotch Estimates, and on these salaries this year there is a reduction of £1,000 as the result of the reconstruction of the Office. The increase on the whole cost, or apparent real increase, is due to the fact that, the cost of the clerical staff was previously included in the English Vote. The English and Scottish branches, however, are now distinct; and the cost of the Scottish clerical staff, which is about £5,600, is now transferred from the English to the Scotch Vote, which explains the apparent increase on that head. When regard is had to the very large amount which requires to be disbursed by the Department—something exceeding £500,000 a-year—in very small sums in fulfilment of the conditions on which such grants are made, and after very careful verification, and when we consider the cost of correspondence—the grant being distributed to not fewer than 100 school boards after the necessary correspondence with the managers of more than 3,000 schools in all—and when we consider that besides there is the supervision by an inspecting staff numbering about 50, it will not be thought that the administration cost is large. It works out, I find, to about 1⅔ per cent. The business of the Scotch Education Department is now I carried on in Dover House, along with I those of the Secretary for Scotland and I the Lord Advocate; and it may be interesting to the Scottish Members to know that the number of the educational staff housed there is very nearly 50. There was recently some criticism of the expense of Dover House; but when it is I kept in view that there are throe Departments located there, and that the number in this Department alone is so considerable, I think it will be seen that any comparison between the cost of that Office and that of the Irish Secretary would be entirely misleading. In regard to the annual grants, it may be enough to say that the largest increase is in the amount which it is estimated will be earned by scholars in average attendance. This is partly caused by an increase of numbers, and I may quote one figure which I think will interest the House. In 1885 the increase on average attendance was as high as 5.12 per cent, being the highest increase from 1877 to 1883, down to which year large increases took place in consequence of the compulsory clause having only then come into full operation. It is not estimated that so high a rate of increase can be kept up during the current year—first, because it is higher than could be naturally expected to be kept up; and, secondly, because it is found by experience that there is a good deal of fluctuation. Taking the increase, then, not at 5.12, but at 3 per cent for the coming year, that would represent an increased attendance of 8,500 scholars. The Department would be glad to see a still larger increase; but it is satisfactory to find that the increase of average attendance is keeping very considerably ahead of the growth of the population, which is estimated at 1 per cent per annum. Not only has the average attendance increased, but each individual scholar has, year by year, earned increased grants, and the increase is expected during the coming year to amount to about 6d. In 1873 the grant per scholar was 9s. 10¾d., and that, recollect, was in voluntary schools, where presumably there were comparatively small numbers of the poorest class; but last year it rose to 18s.d., and for the coming year it is estimated at 18s. 7d. The average attendance at evening schools has slightly decreased. Attention is being directed to the improvement of these schools, for the Department have recognized that they are capable of improvement, and in time it may be found that they can be useful on their present footing. We hope that the decrease will not be perpetual, and the Department have endeavoured to provide a remedy for any evils they see in these schools by the provisions of the new Code to which I shall hereafter shortly refer. Another item of increase results from the attempts which have been made to improve the attendance. About £600 of the grant is paid, in proportion to the average attendance at the public schools, directly in aid of the local rates. The Department expect, an increase on that item in certain parts of the Highlands where aid to local rates is most needed; and I may mention that a considerable portion of this increase results from the operation of a Minute which, it will be in the recollection of Scottish Members, was passed in 1885 as the result of a very interesting Report by a Commissioner sent down by the Department in compliance with a recommendation made by the Crofters Commission. The pressure of the education rate in some parts of the Highlands was found to be very heavy. The Department considered the best mode of meeting that difficulty, and they made provisions under which, instead of making a mere payment by way of money irrespective of attendance, and finding that irregularity of attendance was the great evil in these Highland parishes, they made the increase of grant proportionate to the increase of attendance. It was doubted in some quarters whether, considering the circumstances of the people and the conditions of distance and weather in these districts, it would be possible for much advantage to be taken of this arrangement; but by the increased efforts of the school boards to earn the grant, and the increased zeal to diffuse education, a very material addition has been awarded to these Highland schools, and so far as it has gone the results are very satisfactory. Additional grants have been earned under the Minute by 137 schools out of 201 inspected thus far. The total number of schools in these localities is 685, and 9,425 scholars have earned these extra grants, of whom nearly 4,000 have earned the highest rate that was possible, which I consider shows a very satisfactory state of things. The whole additional grant already paid on this head amounts to nearly £1,400, and it is anticipated that the total increase of grant on this head alone for the year will be about £4,000. The Minute also offered certain other advantages to schools in the Highland districts which give higher instruction. So far only two schools have availed themselves of these advantages, and they have earned the higher grant to the amount of £40. The Minute also gave an extra grant to outlying boards to enable them to give to the more promising pupils the opportunity of taking advantage of such higher teaching as would enable them to rise in life. As regards the teaching of Gaelic and the employment of Gaelic speaking pupil teachers, the Minute has not had sufficient time to show any results; but the necessity, of course, of this provision for Gaelic teaching must be tested by the results it produces. When we turn to the results of the examinations during the past year one very satisfactory feature that we find is the increasing number of children over 10 years of age who are presented in the Standards suitable to their age. In 1875 only 34 per cent of those over 10 years of age were presented in the fourth and higher Standards, the other 66 per cent being presented in the lower Standards. But we find that in the nine years since that time there has been a steady rise in this respect, and last year 74.01 per cent passed in the higher Standards of those whose age was suitable for those Standards. So that, on a comparison with the English Estimate, I may mention that we can boast of a very considerably higher passing in that grade than in England, where the percentage is only 61.09. There is, therefore, a very considerable difference in favour of Scotland in this matter; but, on the other hand, it is only right to say that about 44,000 children pass the third or a higher Standard before they are 10, and it is feared that this may hold out some temptation to put many children on half-time work before they otherwise would. It is these quicker children who derive most benefit from remaining at school; and the Department hope that any success in passing those higher Standards before the children reach the age of 10 will not be too largely used to remove the children from school, except in cases of pure necessity. In this connection it is hoped that a good deal of provision for higher education will be found in Scotland, as in England, in the endowments which are being put under schemes by the Educational Endowments Commission. There are one or two other points not so entirely satisfactory as we could desire, although not controlled by the Department. It may now be said that there is a complete equipment for educating all children of school age in Scotland, and there is a school place for every child in the country who ought to be in attendance. Of the children of school age about 84 per cent ought to be in attendance; but we find, in fact, that at present there are only about 60 per cent in attendance. Now, that difference is thought to be too large, and every effort on the part of those who are locally administering the Acts should be directed to bringing the actual attendance up to what it ought to be. The defective attendance is found chiefly among the younger children. That is, no doubt, greatly to be regretted, because they are just at the age when they would profit most by education and by the formation at school of habits which would stand them in the best stead in after-life. Experience proved that where proper advantage was taken of the provision for the teaching of the younger children the results were seen afterwards throughout their whole educational course, and also throughout their lives. An item of £300 appears for the inspection of higher schools. This has been placed on the Estimates for the first time to enable the Department to carry out the provision of the Act of 1878. The matter was strongly pressed by various school boards; but difficulties were felt until last year by the Treasury, and were only partially overcome then. The Department has now entered upon the work, and about 20 burgh schools and some voluntary schools will be inspected under the direction of the Department during the coming year. The Department anticipate much benefit from this scheme, especially as the scheme has been very cordially received, I think, in all quarters; and they hope that it will lead to a better organization and a more satisfactory arrangement of the existing resources for higher education in Scotland. The scheme is one to be carried out gradually, and, therefore, this very moderate sum of £300 has been placed in the Estimate this year. To summarize the results of the operations of the Department down to this time, I may say that, on the whole, over £3,000,000 have been spent in providing schools, of which the rates have paid £2,100,000, and Parliament about £700,000. The annual expenditure in public schools amounts to £2 2s.d. per child, or £952,950 in all the schools, of which Parliament provides about £400,000, the rates about £206,000, and school fees about £267,000. That works out thus—Of the sum of £2 2s.d., the rates provide 10s. 11¾d.; the school fees 13s.d.; and the grant 18s. ½d. In conclusion, I desire to make a very few observations upon the Code of 1886. The changes in the Code are as follows:—The first substitutes class for individual examinations in Standards I. and II. This will allow greater freedom of organization, and lessen an irksome pressure both on teachers and children. It covers about 40 per cent of all presented. The second change consists of extending the class subjects. This will give to the scholars generally a better chance of getting more than the elements merely, and it will be better than specific subjects which affect only a few. The third alteration is the offer of a special grant for needlework, which has certainly suffered in some districts from neglect. The fourth change has for its object the improvement of evening schools by giving an opportunity to those attending them of taking the higher subjects in these schools. And the fifth group of changes consists of certain detailed changes in the subjects for examination, especially as regards history, geography, and arithmetic—changes which seem calculated to make the school curriculum have a more direct bearing and effect upon practical life. All these changes have been very carefully considered, and seem likely to meet many of the complaints which have been made to the Department. In regard to the work of; the Educational Endowments Commission, that work has been proceeding rapidly and satisfactorily. Of all the schemes submitted by the Commissioners to, and approved of by, the Department, only three have been challenged, and none has been rejected by Parliament. In all, nearly 130 schemes have been approved by the Department down to the present time, and these schemes deal with an approximate annual income of more than £70,000. About 50 more schemes, dealing with an approximate annual income of about £26,000, have been submitted to the Department, and now await its approval.

DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

said, that, on the whole, the statement of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate was satisfactory; but he thought that a great deal might be done for the advancement of education in Scotland if greater attention were paid to the infant schools. The attendance at these schools was small as compared with England. The Lord Advocate had observed that a great deal had been done for education in the Highlands. A great deal, however, remained to be done. A beginning had been made, and that being so, he trusted that the educational needs of that part of the country would be met. He was glad to hear that no bad effect on the education of the Highlands had arisen from the difficulty, of which so much had been made, with regard to the payment of the school rates.


said, that though the Scotch and English Departments were divided into two branches, under two heads, yet the fact of there being one head over both showed that there was room for effecting greater uniformity in the Reports to Parliament than had existed that evening. To that end he would suggest that the form of the detailed Tables used by the Vice President for the English, but not for the Scotch Reports, should be made similar to that of the English. He complained of the frequent change of school books, which entailed so much expense on the parents of the children, and hoped something would be done to remedy the grievance so greatly felt by the removal of children from one school to another. Further, that the marks gained at one school should be allowed to accompany children going to another school.

MR. JOHN WILSON (Edinburgh, Central)

said, he did not think they would ever have infant education on so large a scale in Scotland as in England, because in the English manufacturing towns there were dense populations who were unfit to attend to the education of their young children, and the consequence was that the infants were sent to school, not merely to get education, but to be out of the house, and out of the way. In Scotland, the schools being widely apart, young children could not be sent to school so regularly, as in the populous towns of England; nor did he regret it much, because many of the children he had seen at school would be all the better for another year of play in the open air. The earlier loss would be compensated by the later gain. The Lord Advocate had made no reference to higher and scientific education; but in Scotland they did not require such education less than in England. He would like to see established in the large towns such well-equipped technical schools as would induce working lads and apprentices to attend them in the evening; and he hoped the Scotch Education Department would do all they could to stimulate that kind of education in Scotland.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.