HC Deb 01 August 1893 vol 15 cc1074-99

"That a sum, not exceeding £3,891,718, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1894, for Public Education in England and Wales, including Expenses of the Education Office in London."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Resolution be read a second time."

MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)

said, he was glad they had this further opportunity of discussing the question of educational training. This Vote dealt with a matter which more than any other affected the domestic life of the nation. Although the amount expended under this Vote was large, he ventured to say the country would not complain of the amount provided the money was well spent. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Vote told them he had no difficulty with the Treasury as regarded technical education, because that tended to improve the trade of the country and, consequently, the sources from which the income came.


said, his remarks applied to all education.


At any rate, that statement was true of technical education. He desired to point out to the House that the means of education applied to the largest industry of all— namely, agriculture, were deficient. If there was any class of people who ought to receive some agricultural teaching it was their true farmers—the agricultural labourers. At present there were practically no means of imparting to them instruction in agriculture which would prove of so much value to them. It was quite true that there were evening schools, but He did not think the right hon. Gentleman would contend that in these evening schools any large number of agricultural labourers were to be found. But, again, the class of teaching to which he referred must be imparted to the pupils when they were young, if it was to be of use to them in after-life; therefore, he contended that this teaching should be given in the elementary schools to the children when they were at an age at which they would be likely to be struck by that teaching and when it was likely to influence them. At the present time the teaching in the rural schools was too bookish. It presented temptations and inducements to the children to get away from country life as soon as they possibly could, and he believed the educational mill they had to go through tended more to the destruction of the powers of observation than a proper class of education would do. Elementary science, it was true, was taught in the rural schools, but not to any great extent. More than one Inspector complained of the mechanical fashion in which education was given under the present system. The Inspector in the Eastern Division of England complained very much of the "Bradshaw style" of knowledge given in the schools. For instance, when Dundee was mentioned, straightway a spring seemed to be touched and out came the answer, "Hemp, jute, and marmalade"; but when the Inspector went on to examine the nature of the reply, he found the idea in the child's mind was that jute was made into "brooches, marmalade, and silk handkerchiefs." They wanted to get object-lessons. If the children had got before them a pound or two of jute from Dundee in various stages of manufacture, they would not suppose it was made into marmalade. More than half of the present kind of teaching was thrown away. This criticism applied to agriculture. In the very few cases in which agriculture was taught in the elementary schools it was taught in this theoretical way, and some of the Inspectors said that, although agriculture, when well and properly taught, was an attractive subject to children, yet very frequently it was of very little use or led to very little result through the theoretical manner in which it was taught. What was wanted was a practical application of the theoretical knowledge given, and that could only lie obtained by having what he had long advocated— namely, school gardens attached to each of the rural schools, in order that the lessons might be demonstrated. There were many things, such as pruning, choice of seeds, poultry-keeping, and so on, which could not be taught theoretically or with advantage and good results. In order to bring about such good results they must have encouragement given by the Department, and then encouragement would be given by the Inspectors, who, he feared, did not give much encouragement to that particular class of schools and teaching. If they wanted to get anything good for their agricultural children they must go to Ireland for the example. In the National schools in Ireland agriculture was a compulsory subject, and so it ought to be in England. Some of the schools had gardens attached to them, in which practical demonstrations were given, and this was a matter he had always advocated. Mr. Carroll, one of the ablest men connected with agricultural teaching in Ireland, said in his Report— Every National school in Ireland should be an agricultural school if situated in a rural district, and an industrial school when in a large town. That was the sort of education they wanted; hut he regretted to say the present Vice President, whoso ability no one recognised more than he, had not that practical sympathy with this class of education that he should like to see him have. He (Mr. Jesse Collings) contended that they would not get good agricultural night schools unless they had feeders for them in the form of agricultural teaching in their elementary schools. The present teaching, which was given in a theoretical manner as a class subject, was of little or no value. Then if it were made a specific subject it must be taken by scholars when they had attained the Fourth or Fifth Standard, and they knew that the bulk of the rural children passed away from school as soon as they had reached the Fourth Standard. They really wanted active encouragement, and agricultural education should be made compulsory in the rural schools. It was said that young children could not do that kind of work; but he had some practical knowledge, and those who knew what children from eight to 12 could do in farming, horticulture, and gardening would not agree with such a statement. He readily joined in the praise given to Inspectors; but as a class they wore trained in literary education; and they did not encourage that humble scientific teaching as much as they did literary instruction. He was aware there wore some difficulties in the way of carrying out his suggestion, but these could be easily overcome by the Department. If the right hon. Gentleman would give facilities for school gardens and practical teaching in agriculture, the result would be to implant a love of rural pursuits in the minds of the children when they were at an age to receive those impressions, and they would obtain a knowledge which would be useful to them as cottagers afterwards, and make them good workmen. The Vice President would not allow any of the Goschen money to go to elementary schools for the purpose in question. He knew the allocation of that money was made by Act, but that Act could be amended by another Act if it were not for the opposition of the Vice President. Much of this money was being comparatively wasted; it would certainly do the highest form of good if Local Authorities were allowed to apply some portion of it to agricultural teaching. If we wore to compete with foreign farmers, our farmers must be as well instructed; and their education could not begin too early. Agriculture could no longer be carried on by rule-of-thumb; and we could not expect the agricultural labourer to become a practical tiller of the soil without the aids which were as yet denied him. He expressed the earnest hope that something would be done in the direction he had indicated.

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

said, he listened to the Debate on the previous night, and he did not think any of the speakers touched upon a subject on which he was desirous of saying a few words. He wished to refer to one paragraph in the Vice President's Report. He was glad to see the progress that was being made in the teaching of drill in elementary schools, because he believed that drill led to the moral and physical improvement of the boys, and, speaking as a public schoolman and a public school teacher, he would like to see it made an essential part of the curriculum of every school in the country. He was glad also to notice that the Savings Bank system was extending, and he did not know why they should not have such an institution in connection with their schools. He hoped the increase would be more rapid. He had also to express satisfaction at the establishment of libraries in connection with many elementary schools. This was a question of great importance, because not only was good done to the children themselves by the circulation among them of good, healthy books, but much was done through the agencies of the libraries in their influence on the homes to which the books were brought. A great deal of the controversy bad raged round the part which religious education should play in schools. He strongly protested against the assumption that it was impossible to associate religious feeling and religious teaching with Board schools. The people of Cornwall were as religious as any in the Kingdom, and yet in that county they had the highest development of the School Board system. St. Austell was the first to establish a Board school when the scheme was established, and since then the county had been covered with Board schools. The objection was with them not to religious teaching, but to dogmatic and sectarian teaching, which was a system they would never consent to have imposed upon them. Another point was that he would gladly see the Vote increased in the direction of giving further help to secondary education. They devoted vast sums to the Army and Navy; and while he did not object to that, he thought they should spend an equally large sum on the important question of the education of the people. He wished also to see an improvement in the teaching of languages in the schools, and he would direct attention to what was done on the Continent in this direction. He hoped this question would not be neglected, as it was of vast importance to their commercial interests. He would, further, urge the desirability of introducing into the regular curriculum of the elementary schools systematic instruction in physiology and hygiene, with special reference to the effects of alcoholic drink, stimulants, and narcotics on the human system. Such a system existed in nearly all the States of the American Constitution, where scientific temperance was part of the elementary school training. Out of 18,000,000 children in the United States nearly 13,000,000 were being taught in these important lessons of hygiene and health. In this country they were sadly deficient in this matter, the Code containing no provision of the kind. It could not be alleged that there were no proper text books for teaching this subject in the elementary schools. He saw that a book giving the views of their own eminent authority, Dr. W. B. Richardson, was used in the States. The views were set forth hi the form of lectures. It appeared to him that, as a general principle, all their temperance legislation was, to a large extent, wasted effort if they did not begin at the beginning—that was to say, with the children in the schools. This kind of teaching based the character of the children on a proper foundation from the beginning, and the recognition of such a principle would prevent a great deal of misdirected effort on the question of intemperance and its results. He pressed this question very strongly on the Government, and trusted they would be prepared to do something giving direct sanction to the principle of temperance education. Something might be done towards dealing with the problem while the present Government remained in Office, and he had no doubt, if his suggestion were adopted, the result would be satisfactory in the direction of diminishing this evil of intemperance.

* MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

said, the Debate on this question having been closured last night, there was nothing for him, and those who thought with him, but to debate the question now. It was stated as a reason for the Closure last night that the Debate on this Vote had never occupied more than one day; but he could point to an occasion, in 1890, when the Debate was adjourned the first evening the Vote was proposed, and resumed and continued on a subsequent evening. The circumstances of that time and the present, moreover, were totally different. In that year the Vote was for £3,900,000; this year it was for £6,200,000. Surely they were entitled to discuss the question involving such a vast expenditure, and to discuss it thoroughly! The Vice President (Mr. Acland) occupied nearly two hours yesterday—




said, he was right. The first speech lasted for an hour and a quarter, and the second for half an hour. And yet they heard of closure and of waste of time! A great number of hon. Members—quite within their rights—got up as a chorus of flatterers to praise the right hon. Gentleman. He had no objection to that; but as soon as the noble Lord had made his speech, which was a very powerful one, the Debate was closured. Well, it was no use mincing matters. He had some distinct statements to make which would go to prove that the Vice President of the Committee of Council was doing everything he could to injure voluntary schools, and especially the schools of the Church of England.


Everything he can?


Yes, pretty well everything he could. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman had not got to the extreme limit yet, but there were many ways of injuring them besides putting an immediate end to them. There was such a thing as harassing, and starving, and hampering them in many ways. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman's position was a difficult one, and no doubt he had strong opinions of his own; but he was bound to carry out the spirit of the Education Act, which was that the voluntary schools should be maintained. There was a feeling spreading in all parts of the country that it was the intention of the Education Department to injure voluntary schools, and that was causing considerable irritation throughout the country. The action which had been taken against the London School Hoard had been a most extraordinary one, and the answers given on the subject by the Vice President of the Council were most peculiar. The reason for harassing the London School Board was that it was a Sectarian Body, but it was elected entirely by the ratepayers just as freely as any other Body. But other cases had been cited in addition to that of the Loudon School Board, and no answer had been given. He himself was going to bring forward four cases which had occurred either in, or close to, the district he represented, and which showed the same spirit of animus throughout. First of all, as one strongly interested in voluntary schools, he must say they did not object to have pressure put upon the voluntary schools to make their buildings and educational appliances and machinery better. But inasmuch as these schools were the pioneers of education before modern ideas on the subject were as ripe as they were now, it was contended that it was never intended when the Free Education Act was passed that this drastic system should be applied to them. The first case near his own district to which he wished to call attention was that of St. Paul's, Canonbury. This was a largo and extremely well-conducted school, upon which a good deal of money had been spent during the last two years on improvements, and it had just been threatened with an entire loss of the grants unless provision was made for infants' hats, and that in spite of the assurance to the Inspector that the alterations would be effected. Surely this was not the spirit of the law—that the grant should be withdrawn and the school stopped because the accommodation for infants' hats was not all that it might be. It was plain that the Department desired to inflict injury on that particular school. The next case was that of St. Philip's, a Church of England school in Islington. It was as efficient in every respect as could be desired, and was admitted by the Inspector to be one of the best as regarded accommodation and appliances, but it had been warned because the infants' cloak-room was not considered large enough. St. Bartholomew's, Islington, which was close to his district, was the third case. The buildings of this school occupied every square foot of the available site, in a densely-populated district, and it was threatened with extinction unless classrooms and cloak-rooms were immediately provided. That meant that the school would be shut up if the order was enforced, because it could not increase its space. The fourth case was that of St. Matthew's, Islington, the class-rooms of which were deemed to be too small, although the school was built only a few years ago, with the full approval of the Department. In order to do what was now required within a limited space of time the managers would have to raise not less than £500 or £600. The managers were unable to do this in their poor parish within the short time specified. He held that to treat these schools —all of which, he need hardly say, were Church of England schools—in this way was not carrying out the spirit of the law. There was another case which was not in his district, but some distance away, and in that case the school buildings were reported as being "malodorous," and immediate re-construction was ordered. Plans were submitted to the Department, but were sent back for alteration, and the grant was withheld till the order was carried out, notwithstanding that the delay was occasioned by the Department itself. From the Return for 1890–91 it appeared that 110 or 112 schools were warned in that year that the grant would be withheld unless certain things were done; but from the latest Return it appeared that in the 12 mouths to which it referred more than double that number of schools were warned—namely, 277.


All of them during the tenure of office of the late Vice President.


said, that the Report which contained the figures had been only just issued. It was a remarkable thing that a Return should be published a year late. He should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give them the figures for the past year. He regretted that he should have made an error, but he ventured to affirm that when the Return for the past 12 months was published it would be found that the number of schools warned had further increased. The matter, after all, was only trifling; and the cases he had already mentioned conclusively proved that there was a system abroad of harassing and doing their best to destroy the voluntary schools. There were one or two other matters to which he wished shortly to refer. First of all, as to musical instruction, about £200,000 a year was spent on it, and there was only one Inspector to look after the whole matter. That was at the present time anything but satisfactory. He had no time to refer to the Reports, but all who had studied them would acknowledge that they were not at all satisfactory. In the same way, with regard to needlework, there was only one directress for both England and Scotland. In many schools needlework was not taught at all, and in many others it was not taught in a satisfactory way, and yet a knowledge of needlework was much more necessary than parsing and grammar, which was dwelt on to a large extent in the Code. He had no hesitation in saying that this teaching was one of the subjects which affected the well-being and the comfort and the happiness of individual people of this country more than many others of a more high-sounding character. Then as to cookery—which had been referred to yesterday—the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President had acknowledged that the subject was not in the position he should like. The right hon. Gentleman had said that 90,000 girls had been brought under instruction; but the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged that there were 2,000,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 17 in the country, and that the number under instruction in cookery should be 500,000. As had been pointed out by the Inspectors, cookery was a question which affected the health of the community, and he did not hesitate to say that it had a direct bearing on the question of temperance. In the homes of the poor cookery was carried on in such a way as to make food very often repulsive, and this led, in a great measure, to the bad habits of the people. He considered that the question of encouraging education in cookery was far more worthy of the attention of the Vice President of the Council than the destruction of the voluntary schools. Another question referred to yesterday was that of evening schools. To his mind these schools were a grotesque failure. From the way the Vice President talked about them one would imagine that a great deal was being done. He had told them that there were only 65,000 pupils in our evening schools at the present time, while 25 years ago there were more. No doubt the Evening Code was a step in the right direction; but there were items in it which were open to objection. There were, at the present time, at least 2,000,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15, and 500,000 left our elementary schools every year. Under these circumstances, to talk contentedly about having 65,000 children in our evening schools was to be living in a fool's paradise. He thought that if compulsory education wore necessary at all, it was more necessary to secure evening school attendance after a child left school at the age of 12 than at any other period of its life. This was the most vital period in its education. He believed there were only about 8,000 pupils in the evening schools in London, when there ought to be 40,000. There were 60,000 or 70,000 children in the streets of London every night. Education in this country must be a sham, unless they could carry it on longer than the age of 12. The work and condition of the poor rendered it necessary for children to be employed at an early age, but these children, after they left the day schools, ought, for two or three evenings a week, to be under some higher culture. The next question which he wished to refer to was that of Training Colleges. A whole evening might well have been devoted to the subject of Training Colleges. They all knew that more teachers were wanted. They had something like 50,000 trained teachers—trained more or less—and the waste in that number was 6 per cent.— that was to say, it was necessary to train about 3,000 a year. Scotland was in advance of England in this matter, because they were rapidly introducing there a system by which the teachers went to the University classes for certain parts of the curriculum and training. Now, it was desirable to train our teachers on far broader principles than those at present adopted. Our present system made them very narrow-minded. He was quite sure that the time had arrived when the teaching in our elementary schools should be widened in a proper way. At present a child entered the elementary school, became a pupil teacher, went to the Training College, where he mixed with persons of the same class as himself, and returned to the work of teaching. This system tended to make the teachers narrow-minded, and to form them into a clique; and he thought the time had come when the profession should be widened, and when some teachers should be taken from a more cultured class than was at present the case. They did not want to do away with the Training Colleges, but they wanted to leaven the whole teaching staff with a more cultured class of teachers, both men and women. That question should be carefully gone into in discussing the subject of the Education Vote. The last question which he wished to deal with was that of the fee grant, and on that question he must find fault with the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council. The right hon. Gentleman, in his Report, said there was reason to believe not only that the number of children on the register had largely increased by the abolition of school fees, but also that the attendance of the older scholars on the register had materially increased; and on May 7 he said that the number of school children had increased by 70,000 or 80,000. The right hon. Gentleman gave it generally to he understood that the result of the Free Education Act had been largely to increase the number of scholars.


Yes; that is the result, so far as we can judge.


But what did the Inspectors say? Page after page of their Reports stated distinctly the reverse. One of the Inspectors said that the figures indicated a diminution in the regularity of attendance, both on the part of the older and younger children. Another—Mr. Coles—said that after the novelty of free education had worn oil the attendance fell off. Mr. Green reported that there was a growing indifference on the part of the parents to send their children regularly to school. He confessed that attendance had increased, but said that the percentages of average attendance had fallen off. Mr. Sewell said that free education bad not contributed to improved attendance in any sensible degree, and Mr. Fowler said that the introduction of free education had caused a large influx of children, especially of the younger ones; the average attendance had risen, but bad fallen off after a short time. Page after page of the Reports were to the effect that free education had not tended to increase attendance or regularity of attendance.


The statistics prove the case.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had said that the increase in the number of school children was between 70,000 and 80,000. Half of that increase was of infants under five years of age, who were not sent to school for education, but to be looked after. What did it mean then? Why, that 40,000 children over five years of age had been added to the register. And at what cost? Why, at a cost of £2,250,000 —that was to say, every extra child which they got to school was costing the country at the present time £60 a year per head. He maintained that no one realised, when the Act freeing education was passed, that this would be the result. In conclusion, he protested against the notion that in voting £6,250,000 on a matter so closely affecting the well-being of the country they were only to be allowed a few hours for discussion, and that Debate was to be stifled by the Closure. Every one of the subjects be had referred to was worthy of the attention of the House—much more worthy than the subject to which they had been devoting months.

MR. J. W. SIDEBOTHAM (Cheshire, Hyde)

said, lie wished to bring forward a matter to which he had directed attention earlier in the Session—namely, Petitions under the Act. The right hon. Gentleman had given him a courteous but a most unsatisfactory answer. He bad said that, no matter how the signatures were obtained to a Petition, it was the duty of the Department to take action on it. The question was, whether a single dissatisfied or evil-disposed person in a district should have the power to alter the whole of the existing school arrangements in that district, and to force a School Board upon it?


said, that when a Petition was received, lest they might be acting on bogus signatures, they sent the document, or a copy of it, to the managers of the school concerned; and if it was found (as sometimes it was) that certain signatures were not bonâ fide, they wore struck off.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had informed him that the Department did not consider the manner in which the signatures were obtained. He was not going back to the question of Clause 5 of the Act of 1891. When that clause was under consideration, many of them saw what would follow. They felt absolutely certain that for every case where there was an honest, genuine, demand on the part of the people for free education, they would have a large number of cases in which there would be no genuine demand— cases where he might say the demand would be spurious. Petitions were sometimes due to single individuals who, for political or personal reasons, wished to upset the existing arrangements. These individuals were in evidence in our largo towns immediately after the Act came into operation. The first device they resorted to was to send out circulars to the school managers demanding free places for the children. He bold in his hand one of these circulars which were taken to school by the scholars purporting to be signed by the parents. It was a printed paper addressed to the school managers, expressing a desire for free places in the school. These circulars were not given to the children by the parents to take to school. The whole thing was the work of one individual who, carried away by mistaken zeal, wished to upset the existing school arrangements. One of the masters had made a statement from which it appeared that he had received one of the circulars from a child whose father's signature was appended to it, and that the child's father, on being questioned, declared that he had not signed it, that he knew nothing about it, and that that was the first time he had seen it. The father stated that he did not want free places, and added—"The bit we have to pay now will hurt nobody." No doubt the object of the circulars was to obtain from the managers the refusal of the demand for free places, so as to enable a Petition to be presented. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would attach any great weight to a Petition obtained by such means? He happened to be Chairman of the managers of one of the voluntary schools in the district represented by the hon. Member for the Gorton Division of Lancashire (Mr. Mather), and presided over a meeting of all the school managers in the district, when the Act was first passed. It was found impossible to free the schools entirely, but fees were very materially reduced, and the meeting arranged to provide 10 per cent, of free places, it being anticipated that this would satisfy all the reasonable requirements of the place. No complaints were heard until, in September last, the gentleman to whom he had referred took it into his head to get up a Petition. He sent the Petition to various houses, and had it exhibited at the Co-operative Stores, with the result that 155 signatures were obtained, and free places were demanded for 380 children. An inquiry revealed the facts that in two cases the husband and wife both signed, in two cases nobody resided at the address given; that one person who had signed did not live in the district; that in some cases the people who signed were ignorant of the object of the Petition, and that those who signed at the Co-operative Stores thought the Petition was one in favour of building central stores in connection with the Co-operative Society. Eighty of the persons who had signed subsequently withdrew their signatures, and sent a counter-Petition to the Education Department. The right hon. Gentleman had said that, whatever the manner in which signatures were obtained, it was the duty of the Department to take action upon them. He (Mr. Sidebotham), however, did not think that those who had signed a Petition in absolute ignorance of its prayer came under the description given in the Act of persons who "desired" free accommodation. Of course, if the right of petitioning were fairly exercised nobody could reasonably complain; but he did ask the right hon. Gentleman to secure fairness, and not to allow any abuse of the power of petitioning.


said, he had endeavoured to discover from the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Sidebotham) whether he was attacking the authors of the Free Education Act or the right hon. Gentleman who had to administer that measure. The hon. Member could not be aware of what had to be done at the Education Department on receipt of the Petition. As soon as a Petition reached the Department an impartial investigation always took place, and a Return was made to the Department as to the result of that investigation. It appeared to him that, under these circumstances, the hon. Gentleman had not any grievance at all. The hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) had indulged in some somewhat acrimonious observations. He had complained that he was not heard last evening. He had, however, the consolation of knowing that he had repeated his arguments three times tonight. First of all, the hon. Member told the House what he was going to say, then he laid before the House the evidence he had as to what he was going to prove, and he wound up by telling the House what, according to his view, he had proved. Therefore, the House had an opportunity of hearing all his arguments three times over.


No, no!


The hon. Member who interrupts was probably bored, and did not listen.


On the contrary, I listened to the whole speech, and I thought it a very concise and admirable speech.


said, if the hon. Member had listened to the speech he could not have understood it. The hon. Member for North Islington was evidently annoyed because the tone and tenour of the speeches last night had been in approbation of the policy of the Vice President of the Council. This, apparently, had rankled somewhere in the form of the hon. Gentleman. No evidence whatever had been offered by the hon. Gentleman to establish the charge he had made that the Vice President of the Council had made an attack on the voluntary school system. He (Mr. Lockwood) could give the House an instance of the right hon. Gentleman's interference, which certainly justified all the approbation he had received. A requisition was sent up from the City of York for free places for 5,000 children. That requisition was investigated by an impartial tribunal, with the result that the 5,000 was reduced to something over 2,500; hut the right hon. Gentleman had ordered that in that city 3,000 free places should be provided for children whose parents desired that they should have free education, and he (Mr. Lockwood) was glad to know that two schools were in course of construction which would meet the views of his constituents in this respect. For himself, he could only say that he was very thankful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he had done for the City of York. These criticisms on free education came with very bad grace from hon. Gentlemen opposite. During the last General Election they told those whose suffrages they were seeking that it was the Conservative Party who had given the nation this great boon of free education. He was not surprised that right hon. Gentlemen at the head of the Opposition were now conspicuous by their absence. Of course, they did not wish to listen to criticisms on a policy which they claimed as their policy upon the hustings. But why should fault be found with the present Government for carrying that policy into effect?


As a matter of personal explanation, may I point out to the hon. Gentleman that he has made a mistake concerning myself? I spoke against, and divided the House against, free education at every stage.


I at once apologise to the hon. Member. I was not aware that he had taken up that attitude, and I withdraw my observations so far as he is concerned.

MR. W. SIDEBOTTOM (Derbyshire, High Peak)

said, he wished to draw the attention of the Vice President to a matter in which some of his constituents were deeply concerned, and he promised that his remarks would not be characterised by any bitterness. In one of the villages in Derbyshire there was a Wesleyan school which supplied the educational wants of the population, and that school had recently been condemned by the Inspector under very harsh circumstances. The school was opened in 1871, and since then it had been the only school in the district. A few years ago it was structurally altered in consequence of directions issued by the Department, and the alterations and improvements suggested by the Inspector himself wore carried out. And now the school was condemned because of the alleged unsuitableness of the accommodation for infants. The objection to the room set apart for infants was that it was only 10 feet high, and not sufficiently large. But the room was the best one in the building: being under the chapel, it was the coolest in the summer and the warmest in the winter, and it was perfectly well ventilated. The Inspector had also ordered the removal of the offices to another part of the premises. Surely it was harsh that one Inspector should condemn a school which had boon altered a few years previously to moot the requirements of his predecessor, and should insist on either a complete alteration of the premises, and the practical rebuilding of the school, or the establishment of a School Board with a Board school? The rate-able value of the district was only £2,000, and the erection of a new school would entail an expenditure of a rate of at least from 3s. to 6s. in the £1, while the maintenance of the school would also throw a serious burden on the owners of property, all of whom—except the chief landlord, who was a Roman Catholic—wore poor people. The population was only between 400 and 500; and between 1871 and 1891 it only increased by seven. If the Vice President would kindly look into these facts he would realise the hardship of the action being taken by his Department. The present trustees of the school were already in debt to the extent of £200 in connection with the former alterations, and they were totally unable to go to the expense of erecting a new school. Might he point out that Lord Cross's Committee suggested that when alterations wore ordered to be carried out in a school the Department might very well consider the making of a grant in aid of the work? This was a case in which a grant might well be made. He ventured to think that the hon. Member for the City of York (Mr. Lockwood), who, as a lawyer and a good speaker, was so well able to make the best of a bad case, had misapprehended the meaning of the hon. Member for the Hyde Division of Cheshire (Mr. Sidebotham), who was not condemning the Vice President, but was simply pointing out the bogus character of some of the Petitions on which the right hon. Gentleman was called upon to act. He was aware of the case of a Petition sent from Gloucester, and returned in consequence of some informality. It was only signed by about 90 people, and two-thirds of those signatures wore obtained by misrepresentation. The Petition which was substituted for it had only from 50 to 60 signatures; and such a document, coming from a place with a population of 20,000, ought not to have undue weight with the Vice President. The right hon. Gentleman ought to consider, not merely the bonâ fide character of the signatures, but also the number in proportion to the population of the district from which the document was sent to him.


I think the hour has arrived at which I ought to reply to the criticisms which have been directed against the Department I have the honour to administer. I am glad to find that to the charges of severity made against mo by hon. Members opposite—and the accuracy of which I have already denied—is not added the allegation that my action is directed solely against the Church schools. The hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) would apparently have the House believe that I and my Department are engaged in a personal crusade against Church schools. That I deny absolutely, and I am glad to hear that my sympathy is asked by the Member for the High Peak Division of Derbyshire (Mr. W. Sidebottom) for a Wesleyan school. We are trying to raise the sanitary condition of the schools, and we try to do it all round. I can only say that if particulars are given to me in regard to this Wesleyan school I will carefully look into them. It seems to be thought that because a school has been once approved of, therefore it is not to be afterwards touched. If that principle were acted upon we could not have any improvement at all in the buildings; and it is perfectly obvious that we must, from time to time, make further demands, in order to meet modern requirements, and to act in accordance with the general feeling of the country as to the way in which children should be housed in schools. The hon. Member for the Hyde Division of Cheshire (Mr. J. W. Sidebotham) spoke of the way in which Petitions are got up. Of course, the Department have nothing to do with the Petitions sent to managers of schools; but when they are forwarded on to the Department then we do our best to investigate them, and to eliminate from them any bogus element. I do not gather that the hon. Member for the Hyde Division levelled any real charge of unfairness against the Department in this respect; but I may point out that if a Petition has upon it only half-a-dozen bonâ fide signatures, the signatories' demand to be allowed to avail themselves of the advantage of free education is one which ought not to be ignored. I believe that our action, on the whole, in regard to Petitions, has worked very satisfactorily. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir J. Lubbock) insisted on the desirability of getting out the Report earlier; and I can only reply to him that, if I have an opportunity of doing so, I will endeavour next year to issue it a month or so earlier. The hon. Member for Thirsk (Mr. J. G. Lawson) alluded to the Pocklington case. It was not until a late stage in the negotiations that we learned that the Trustees of this school were not persons closely connected with the parish. Mr. Forster specially provided for cases such as this in his Act, which directs a summary process in cases whore managers say that they cannot carry on a school any longer. The words are— When the Education Department is satisfied that the managers of any elementary school in any district are unable or unwilling any longer to maintain such school, and if, on the school being discontinued, the amount of accommodation is insufficient, then a School Board shall be set up. The Department were in correspondence with the managers of the school, who wrote that they intended to shut up the school. We at once replied indicating what would be the consequence of that action, and were again assured that they were quite determined to close the school. Then it was that the School Board was set up. The case was considered so essentially an ordinary case under the Act that it was not even brought to my notice until the hon. Member put a question in the House in regard to it.

MR. J. G. LAWSON (York, N.R., Thirsk)

Did not the managers in their letter of the 10th of February, some days before the School Board notice was issued, offer to carry on the school temporarily while other arrangements were being made?


Yes; but the question then was as to the permanent and not a merely temporary supply of school accommodation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) spoke strongly on the question of agricultural education. I dealt with that subject in my speech yesterday, and urged the importance of the subject, going so far as to admit that in order to encourage the teaching of elementary science we might diminish the time now devoted to some other branches of education. I think if anyone will refer to the Schedule he will see that considerable advances have been made in that direction; but if the right hon. Gentleman wants us to find money to provide schools with gardens for the purpose, I must tell him I think that neither the Treasury nor the Government would consent to such additional charges. So far as County Councils are concerned, I think the late Government were well advised in their Technical Education Act in directing that the special grants should not be used for standard subjects. The hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Conybeare) spoke on the subject of thrift, and urged the importance of teaching hygiene and physiology, especially with regard to the effect on the system of alcoholic drinks. I may say at once that I am carefully considering this subject, and before a new Code is drawn up I hope to make some changes in the suggested direction. The hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) made allusion to the time occupied by the Education Vote Debate in 1890. What I said last night, as to the Debate having always been completed in a single night was based on information supplied to me by my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury. But what was the case in 1890? The then Vice President did not get up to make his statement till 7 o'clock; he spoke for two hours, and it was really half-past 9 before the Debate itself commenced. On the next day the Debate began at the ordinary time, and lasted seven hours. I think that, adding to the time devoted to the Debate last night the two or three hours we are setting apart for it to-night, it will be found that the period allowed for dis- cussion is quite as long as in any previous year—at any rate, no great disparity will be found. The hon. Member for Islington cited the case of several schools. He had not given me notice that he was going to mention them; and, as the Department has to deal with thousands of schools, I think he will admit that I can scarcely be expected to carry in my head the details as to particular cases, many of which do not come under my personal notice. Had the hon. Member warned me I would have been prepared with all the information required. The hon. Member took exception to the action of the Department in threatening to withhold the grant unless proper cloak rooms were provided. He seems to think the deficiency a light matter, but he is wrong. When many wet hats and wraps are hung up in a schoolroom we know that a close atmosphere is created, and that the health of the children is likely to suffer. Cloak rooms, especially in large schools, are an absolute necessity; and then, as to the size of classrooms, the Department do not insist that every schoolroom shall be 18 feet by 15 feet, but are ready to take a reasonable view of the circumstances of each case. We know that small rooms are apt to be unhealthy, and we do our best to put an end to the evil where it can be done. The hon. Member further touched on the necessity for more attention to be devoted to instruction in needlework and in cookery, and complained that there was not adequate inspection in regard to the former subject. I can only say that, personally, I should not be sorry to see more female Inspectors appointed for that purpose if Parliament will only grant the money; as to the need for a broader curriculum and better opportunities for instruction in many of our Training Colleges, I quite agree with him. Now I come to the question of free education. The statistics show that, whereas in former years there was an increase of 30,000 children in attendance at the public elementary schools last year the increase rose to 160,000, of whom a large number were infants. I do not agree with the hon. Member when he said that the sole result of the Free Education Act passed by the late Government was to bring 40,000 more children into the elementary schools. I think the relief given to parents in agricultural districts and in the poorer parts of towns, where they have been saved the necessity of paying 2d., 4d., 6d., and even 8d. a week, has been very great indeed; and I am sure that most of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues, during the General Election, claimed the credit of that relief for the late Government. In conclusion, I can only again repeat what I have had to say on previous occasions. We are making no attack on Church schools. We are considering the, general welfare and the healthy condition of all schools alike. We make no distinction of creed; the advances we are making are careful, reasonable, and but gradual, and I challenge any hon. Member to point to any Church school which is well built, well supplied, well managed, and where the teaching is good, which has suffered the smallest harm since my accession to Office. In all matters which conduce to the welfare of Church schools I have acted exactly as my predecessor acted.

* MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)

said, that although he had ample materials in his hands, he would not, at that hour of the night, enter into the many questions which he had been anxious to lay before the House. But he was bound respectfully to enter his protest against the way in which this subject had been treated by the right hon. Gentleman. He cordially agreed with the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Department that there was no sum of money more cheerfully granted by the House than the Education Vote; but that was no reason for stopping the mouths of whose who wished to discuss the Vote and the action of the Government. But last night the Debate was closured by the V ice President, and that evening the right hon. Gentleman had answered some of the remarks then made. That this was necessary showed that the action taken by the right hon. Gentleman in closing the Debate was too summary. Why did not the Government look at this matter from a broad and common-sense point of view? Why did they not see that it was not one of those questions which could be forced down the throat of Parliament? Up to this time there had been nothing but harmony on the subject of education, and the Vice President was the first to disturb it by acting as the mouthpiece of a system which, no doubt, in his heart he condemned. The Act of closing the Debate last night was not only ungracious, but it was accompanied by an inaccurate statement. The Vice President said the Debate on the Education Vote had never exceeded one night, and he now admitted that he was wrong. His suggestion was that never before had the Education Vote lasted more than a single night, and they now knew that in 1890 it ran into two nights. The Debate on this Vote had been perfectly bonâ fide, and certainly there could be no suggestion of obstruction. The previous night every speech delivered from the Opposition side had been balanced by a speech from the other side, and to call the action of the Opposition obstruction was an abuse of language. And what had occurred that very night? The hon. Member for Camborne, acting within his undoubted right, spoke for three-quarters of an hour.


Excuse me, I spoke for less than half-an-hour.


continuing, said, he accepted the correction. And later, the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Lockwood) had taken part in the Debate, so that it could not be said that the time had been monopolised by the Opposition. Now, he did not intend to make a speech, for the double reason that it was too late, and that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President could not reply to it; but he did protest, in the presence of the Speaker and of the House, against that important subject being dealt with as it had been by the Government, for points were involved which deeply moved the heart and conscience of the country.

* MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)

said, he also desired to make a protest against the manner in which the Debate had been conducted, for it was most injurious to the interests and character of the House thus to silence hon. Members on subjects in which they and the outside public were deeply interested. He had desired to point out that an Article had been introduced into the Code for evening continuation schools called "the moral and civic duties of the citizen," which had been taken almost word for word from the aggressively secular Code of the French, entitled "Instruction civique et morale."


I never saw it, and I drew up the Code myself.


said, the repudiation reminded him of the story of the boy who asked a schoolfellow to write him a copy of verses, and was supplied with some lines from Virgil, which the master recognised. Of course, the boy who asked for the verses did not know what was given him, but the boy who wrote them did; and in the same way, although the right hon. Gentleman might not be acquainted with the French Code, the person who prepared his Code for him knew well the source from which this particular Article was derived. Like the hon. Gentleman who last spoke, he protested against the Closure of last night, and against the practical Closure of that night, by the right hon. Gentleman rising to reply before hon. Members had finished their criticisms.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution agreed to.