HC Deb 17 March 1893 vol 10 cc464-72

2. £102,000, Supplementary, Public Education, England and Wales.

SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)

said, he wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to some figures given in the Return supplied to Members of the Committee. He confessed he could not understand these figures as presented to them in support of the Vote. He had high confidence in the right hon. Gentleman, however; and he was sure he would be able to give them an explanation before taking the Vote. A sum of £22,000 was asked for in respect of the scholars whose fees were remitted under the new system of free education. This meant that 44,000 additional children had come under the free system. That was not a great addition. They had now an average attendance of 95,000. The figures as given in the Papers did not seem to him to agree. They did not tally as between the average and the increased attendance and the cost to the country. If not now an explanation could be given on Report. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the present Government had made the free system a reality, but there had been no shortcomings or failures on the part of the late Government as compared with the present Government on this point. The Returns showed there had been a normal increase in the free attendances under the present Government, but nothing more. The number of evening scholars was put down in the Returns at 65,000. He would like to know whether that number showed any great increase during the present year? because this was one of the matters in respect to which the system did not seem to produce the results that might be expected. The great desideratum at the present time was a more rapid rate of progress in the evening school. [Cries of "Divide!" and "Order!"] Not at all. He was strictly in Order. It was the duty of the Committee to understand the figures which wore presented in the official Returns, and upon which were based the Votes now before the Committee.

SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)

There are just one or two questions in regard to the working of the Act of 1891 to which I would refer. I am delighted that the Vote under the Act is so large, because I had the honour of passing it through this House. It. was said at the time that cheap education would be spurned by the people, and that this scheme would be falsified. That has not been the case; and what is being done under the Act is practically our (the Conservative Party's) success. I learn that the average increase of the number of children attending has gone up from 30,000 to 120,000. That is, so far, satisfactory. But I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could give the Committee any information as to the age of the children entering the school, whether they are chiefly infants or elder children, and also whether the increase in attendances is largely in the agricultural districts or in the towns?

MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)

said, he would like to ask just one question with regard to a matter about which he had received complaints. He wanted to know what was the cost of school books, especially in voluntary schools; and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman who was about to reply would state what orders the Education Department had issued in regard to the cost?


With regard to the question put by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Temple), of course, Sir, the figures in the Returns to which he refers are made up early in March, and those now before us to the end of the month. The hon. Baronet has dealt with the advantages we enjoy from free education, and that we do enjoy advantages is shown by the Return of average attendance. But surely the hon. Baronet does not say that there has been any shortcoming or apathy on the part of the present Government in the matter of the Act of 1891. I hope it will not be taken that there is any shortcoming in the administration of that Act. The present Government has had this difficulty to face: We have had to administer the clauses dealing with free education, which came into operation in September last. That administration is one of very great difficulty, and I can only say that we are doing our best to carry it out fairly and to the best of our ability. The hon. Baronet has stated correctly the number of the increase that has taken place in the schools since the Act came into operation—since free education was granted. It is because of that increase that we ask for a Supplementary Vote. The right hon. Gentleman asks me to say a few words about the ages of the children. There is a great deal to be said with regard to the increase last year. The increase in attendances in 1889–90 was 35,000. For 1890–91 it was 32,000; but during last year it suddenly bounded up to 120,000. There was also a very large increase in the attendance of the older scholars. The 120,000 general increase is made up by an increase of 58,000 in the infants and an increase of 60,000 in the older scholars. That, on the whole, may be considered very satisfactory. The increase of infants is larger in proportion than that of the older scholars, but the increase in older scholars is infinitely larger than in former years. The passing of the Act has had the effect of increasing the attendance generally of children up to the age of 13, but I cannot say whether the increase is greater in towns or in the rural districts. The right hon. Baronet asked me a question that at present I am not able to answer, as to whether the increase was more in the towns or in the agricultural districts. It is in that respect that we have not yet got full and complete statistics of the working of the Act, but I hope that by the time the Estimates come on I may be able to give the right hon. Baronet information on that subject. A question was put to me with regard to the rule as to books. Well, there is no doubt that since we came to administer Clause 5 of the Act and to impress upon school managers that they must, unless they wish the work to be done by School Boards, provide free education for those who ask it, the conditions under which free education is given have been matter of discussion between the Department and the managers. Amongst other questions the subject of books has come up. It is clear that in the Code managers and Boards are obliged to supply to children who attend the schools among other requisites books, and it is, therefore, clear that parents cannot be told that as a condition of their children entering the schools they must pay a weekly charge for books. Managers are bound to provide a proper supply of apparatus, including books, and they cannot compel parents to provide books either by periodical payments or purchase. But if a parent desires to buy the school books, so that they may become his or her property, there is no reason why such an arrangement should not be made. We have no duty to interfere with that. But free places must be unconditional, and must not depend upon whether the parent is willing to pay for anything. I can say, generally, that by degrees parents are learning what is their right under Clause 5 of the Act, and I hope the Department is doing its best to meet the parents without any hardship either upon Boards or managers by trying to bring about a reasonable agreement between the parents, who have the right, and the managers, who ought to endeavour to meet them as far as they can.


wished to say a word with regard to evening schools. This Vote was not only for day schools, but it had reference also to evening schools, of which he wished to know whether there had been a large increase?


An increase of £400.


said, that was what he wanted to get at. He wished to draw the attention of the Vice President of the Council to the most unsatisfactory condition of this most important branch of our educational system. The night schools, which he had always held to be about one of the most important sections of our elementary instruction, had from year to year been becoming less and less important. It was an extraordinary thing that in proportion to the enormous increase made in education, evening classes appeared to be getting less important and efficient. The number of evening schools 12 or 13 years ago was considerably greater than it was at the present time. In 1870, although there wore under 2,000,000 day scholars, there were 2,504 night classes, with 78,000 pupils; but the last Report of 1891, 21 years later, showed that, although there were something like 5,000,000 pupils in the day schools, the evening schools had gone down in numbers to only 1,388, with only 47,000 pupils. It must be clear that the condition of our night classes was a grave matter as affecting the educational efficiency of the country. There were something like 500,000 children leaving the elementary schools every year at the age of 13, and of those only about 10 per cent. ever attended evening classes. He had spent 20 years of his life in the Education Department, and he had no hesitation in saying that there was no part of the education of the child in a certain class of life more important than that received after the age of 13, after work had commenced. He did not suppose the Vice President of the Council was blind to this matter; but whether it was that the machinery of the Education Department was of too rigid a character and not elastic enough for the requirements of the different localities, or whatever the reason we, the fact remained that in spite of all the efforts made to promote really efficient education, the period after 13 was being less and less availed of for evening instruction. He had, years ago, in evidence given by him as to the working of the School Board system, stated that in his opinion it was more important to poor children to attend evening schools after the ordinary school age than it was for them to attend school between the age of 5 and 13. If they could secure that all children devoted two evenings a week, after the age of 13, to some reasonable educational system, he was convinced that it would be an enormous benefit to the real education of the people. They must remember that, after all, what children learnt in elementary schools was but the rudimentary use of the tools of knowledge, and that the learning subsequently acquired, when intelligence was developing, was of much greater advantage to them. He hoped they would all live to see the day when the great educational palaces they had built in all large towns would be brilliantly lighted up at night, and would be used by older children for the purpose of obtaining reasonable and recreative education in night classes. If they could supplement the education of both boys and girls in continuation schools of an evening much would be done to make elementary education of more practical use, and to make it fit the wants of the people and train them for their everyday life. Therefore, without wishing to trespass on the time of the Committee, he hoped that the Vice President of the Council would be able to say a word or two of encouragement in regard to this important branch of educational work.


asked whether he understood the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council to say that there were over 1,000,000 children still paying the school fees?


The number of free scholars last August was about 3,800,000, and the number of scholars still paying fees in schools taking the free grant, and in schools not taking the free grant was somewhat over 1,000,000—about 1,020,000. With regard to evening schools, I quite agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Bartley) that we waste a great deal of our money unless we can carry on the education of our children to an older age. We are alive to the need for making a more elastic free evening Code to encourage an attractive system of evening schools. We propose to lay an evening Code on the Table, following the example of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who laid one on the Table last May. I hope, when we have produced it, it will be found more attractive and elastic than any hitherto submitted to the House. Though there are only 60,000 evening scholars now, we hope to be able to make provision next year for 80,000. That shows that we are getting on.

Vote agreed to.

3. £30,000, Supplementary, Science and Art Department.

SIR H. MAXWELL () Wigton

said, the only way in which they could estimate the results derived from this expenditure was by having regard to the artistic productions of the country. Well, the only result we had this year was the new coinage.


That subject does not come within the limits of the Vote, which has reference to grants for drawing in elementary schools, and so forth.


As I am aware that the Government are anxious to make progress with the Votes, I will put off my remarks on that subject until the Education Votes.

Vote agreed to.

4. £5, Supplementary, London University.


wished to point out that the total expenditure of the University during the year was £14,000, and the excess, together with the original Vote, would be more than covered by the increase of fees. The whole receipts amounted to £16,000, which he regarded as a singularly unsatisfactory state of things. Either the fees asked of students were too high or else the fees paid to the professors were too low. It had always been understood that the University should be supported, to some extent, by the State, and he desired to know whether it was intended to so arrange the fees as to carry out that understanding?


regarded it as a highly satisfactory state of things that the revenue of the University had reached its present proportions.

Vote agreed to.

5. £250, Supplementary, National Gallery, &c, Scotland.

6. £157,500, Supplementary, Public Education, Ireland.

MR. JACKSON (Leeds, N.)

I think the 1st of October was the date when the schools were to be freed in Ireland. As there was considerable interest taken in the subject last year it would be interesting to the Committee to know if the right hon. Gentleman can tell us whether the school attendance has improved during the five complete months that have elapsed since the schools were freed? We have heard what has been the result of freeing the schools in England, and we desire to know if a similar result, or anything like the same result, has been attained in Ireland? If the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is not in a position to answer the question now, perhaps he will be able to do so on the Vote on Account or when the main Vote comes on.


The right hon. Gentleman does not ask an unreasonable question. He says we have had figures for England, but he forgets that the schools have been freed in England for 18 months, whereas in Ireland the Act has only come into operation since October. We shall be able to give the figures relating to Ireland, I hope, on the Vote on Account or on the original Estimate.


regretted that none of this money went to the best schools in Ireland—namely, those conducted by the Christian Brothers The Irish Members were put off from time to time when they called attention to this subject, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary telling them that there was no immediate prospect of their wishes being carried out.


The enormous and complex question to which the hon. and gallant Member refers does not arise under this Vote. There was not time between the passing of the Act of 1892 and the closing of the Session to obtain from Parliament the money necessary to carry out the purposes of the Act. We resorted to such devices as we could so that the teachers should not be disappointed in the reasonable expectations they had formed of the Act. It is now for the Committee, by voting this sum, to make good what we did. What we did we were obliged to do in consequence of the action of the last Parliament.


Was I right in stating the other day, in reply to a query, that it was the intention of the Government, immediately the money was placed at their disposal, to pay the teachers the balance of the sum due to them on the capitation grant either before the 31st March or about that date?


The right hon. Gentleman is quite right.


I had wished to say a few words on this Vote, but I will postpone my observations to the Report stage.


said, the schools had only been freed since October, and yet the whole of the increase in the Vote was for the year. What did that mean?


A certain sum of money was due to Ireland, as a corresponding grant to that made to England. This is the sum that represents Ireland's proportion of the grant.

Vote agreed to.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next.

Committee to sit again upon Monday next.