HC Deb 04 April 1895 vol 32 cc1010-20
*MR. J. A. CAMPBELL (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)

rose to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty that Sections 3 and 4 of part II. of the Scotch Education Code, 1895, be withdrawn until further time has been given for considering the provisions as to Queen's students. He said, he owed an apology to the Speaker and to the House generally for causing a prolongation of the Sitting at that late hour, but his excuse must be found in the circumstances of the case. This was the only opportunity which could be taken of discussing the Scotch Education Code for that year. That Code contained important new provisions—especially some relating to the training of teachers—which would have deserved the consideration of the House even if there had been nothing in them calling for criticism or requiring explanation. But those provisions had raised not a little anxious criticism in Scotland. Deputations on the subject had waited on the Secretary for Scotland. Representations had been made by University authorities; and he had today presented a petition from the General Council of the University of Glasgow. Under these circumstances he trusted he should be excused by the House for the action he was now taking. He said at once that he did not propose this Motion in a sense hostile to the principle of the Code in making new provisions for the training of teachers. What he ventured to say was that the Code in itself and in the light of the circular which accompanied it, was calculated, unless satisfactorily explained, to awaken grave apprehensions as to its effect upon the existing Training Colleges—which were acknowledged to have done excellent work in the past—and apprehensions also as to its effect upon the Universities, with respect to the standard of teaching in the Arts classes. The Code proposed to add to the present means of preparing teachers, that candidates for the profession, to be called Queen's students, should attend a University or University College, under the authority of a local committee, who would be responsible for their discipline and moral supervision, for their regular attendance at professorial lectures, and for their practical training in a school approved by the Department. To this idea of connecting the preparation of teachers more closely with study at a University, there was nothing but approval expressed by all interested in education. He thought the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for Scotland, deserved the thanks of all Scottish educationists for putting so prominently-forward this connection of University education and the Teaching profession. They especially felt the importance of this development at the present time, when greater efforts were being made for the promotion of secondary education—requiring highly qualified teachers for their secondary schools, and for the higher departments of ordinary public schools. But how did the Code, as explained by the Circular, propose to carry out this idea? The Circular spoke of— Allowing the whole training to be taken in connection with the university; giving the impression that the University was in some way to have to do with all that had hitherto been done by the Training Colleges. And, again, when professional and technical training was referred to, the same impression was encouraged; for it was said that— The Universities will now have an opportunity of taking a share in the work, that was, of professional and technical training, "along with the training colleges." Here, then, there appeared to be the introduction of the Universities as competing with the Training Colleges in work proper to the Colleges, but not proper to the Universities. It was no wonder, he thought, that the committees of the Training Colleges took alarm lest they should be deprived of their students. How could they doubt that the dignity of being termed Queen's students, with attendance at University classes, under the easier supervision of a local committee, would be more attractive to the young people who had just completed their course as pupil teachers, than to become Queen's scholars under the stricter and more continuous discipline of a Training College? And the friends of Training Colleges were not alone in this opinion. Those who upon theoretical grounds are objectors to, or opponents of, the Training Colleges, took the same view. The publication of the Code made them jubilant, because they thought they saw in the new proposals the doom of the Training Colleges. And how did the matter look as viewed from the position of the Universities? Besides being called upon to join in a work which lay outside of their province, the Universities were to be invited to receive for instruction in subjects which were within their province a new class of imperfectly prepared men who should nevertheless bear the name of Queen's students. As to the preparation required for students entering the Universities, there had been an important step taken in Scotland in recent years. Ordinances had now become law which required that all students who went forward to graduation, or who entered the University with a view to graduation, should pass a certain preliminary examination or an equivalent to it, and the Universities desired that such students only should be encouraged to come within their walls. This condition, however, of passing an examination was not to be imperative, for the present at least, in the case of Queen's students. Their exemption was stated as a temporary provision, but no date was given for its removal. Those Queen's students, therefore, who did not pass the examination would attend the University as private students. Their presence there would not be very profitable to themselves if they were not sufficiently prepared to derive full benefit from the instruction given, and their presence would have a rather depressing effect on their fellow students. Their attendance would have no recognition by the University, and yet their name of Queen's students would give them a quasi University status in the eyes of the uninformed. It might be replied that Queen's scholars of the Training Colleges who attended University classes, as many of them did, were not required to undergo this preliminary examination; but, in answer, it had to be remembered that they were not allowed to attend the University unless they had attained a certain stage in the Training College, proving their fitness to profit by the University classes; and besides, they were, after all, only Queen's scholars—they had not the misleading title of Queen's students. The only safeguard against the evil to which he had referred was the discretion of the local committees, who ought, of course, to refuse their sanction to any Queen's student going forward to a University class who had not first proved his ability to profit by it; but having no information yet as to how these committees were to be constituted, they could scarcely say how far their discretion was to be trusted. A more certain ground of confidence was found, he thought, in a Memorandum just issued by the Principal of the University College of Dundee. He believed he might say it was an open secret that the appearance of these new provisions in the Code at this time had been largely owing to the desire expressed by educationists in Dundee (where there was at present no Training College), for some means of preparing teachers in that important centre. With that desire he had fully sympathised. He only regretted that in the way in which it was met in the Code there was, in appearance at least, an endangering of the good work done at present in other parts of the country. But Principal Peterson explained the views of the Council of Dundee University College in a way which appeared to him to be quite satisfactory. He said:— The essence of the Dundee proposal is to found a Normal Training Department which shall do for this district what is done by the Training Colleges in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen. And he said further:— It is not University College, as a part of the Scotch University system, that is here in question. In other words, for students not prepared to profit by University teaching, Dundee College would have a Normal Training Department. Such students would be under instruction in the College as a separate institution of itself—not as a part of the Scottish University system. One could only regret that these young men and women were to receive the name of Queen's students, before they entered the University as students passing on to graduation. For students who could pass the preliminary examination he thought there would be general satisfaction in Scotland with the proposals of the Code. He believed that the Secretary for Scotland would say there, as he had said elsewhere, that which would go far to allay the fears which the Code as introduced had undoubtedly raised. It was in order to give the right hon. Gentleman that opportunity that he begged to propose the Motion which stood in his name.


seconded the Motion.


thought that the Department might congratulate themselves on the way in which the Code had been received. It contained, no doubt, changes and improvements, and it was impossible to please everybody. His hon. Friend, while generally praising the Code, expressed fears at what was, perhaps, the most important change in it. The late Government, in the year 1890, carried through a considerable, and, he thought, a very beneficent change in England, by allowing local committees to be started in University towns, and those local committees, which were of exactly the same nature and described in the Code in exactly the same language as those now proposed to be started in Scotland, were allowed to undertake the training of students in conjunction with the University or the College. To each of those students sums of money were paid. This was taken advantage of in many centres of education. In Wales especially it had caused a revival in University education as extended to the masses. In England and Wales there were now 871 students of these classes, of whom 436 were men and 435 women. The system had been a complete success, and England and Wales received considerably upwards of £20,000 a year from the public Treasury. Would Scotland remain any longer behind in this respect? The Department had extended to Scotland exactly the same advantages as were extended to England, but stronger guarantees were taken in the case of Scotland, because, in order that the most remote fear of lowering the University standard should be removed in Scotland, a condition was imposed by which each of those students had to have obtained a University mark of several passes of credit in one or another of the subjects of the examination for Queen's scholars. He had information that there was great need of trained teachers in Scotland. Out of 8,700 teachers, upwards of 2,500 were untrained, and he was very much afraid the numbers were increasing, because, out of 600 teachers who entered this year, 200—or, full one-third—had received no special training. In the other great centres there were Training Colleges, but in Dundee none; but, on the other hand, in Dundee there was a great desire on the part of young people to become teachers. The University College had long been anxious for the advantages that had been given since 1890 to England, and the local authorities of the town, the School Board and the Municipality asked that Dundee should be made a real centre for training, and another species of training from that of any Training Colleges which now exist. It was said that this would lower University teaching. Why in Scotland, if not in England? These Queen's students were not to have a degree at the University. They were to become teachers. Instead of having their degree at the end of their course, they were to pass an examination which was to be conducted by the Universities and by the local committee—an examintion of the same nature as certificated teachers pass when they come to the end of their career. The argument about lowering the standard of University teaching was not a good one in Scotland. When they considered in old days the trouble which Scottish parents took, the sacrifices they made to send their children to the University under the greatest disadvantages, he did not think they should be too ready to say that humble students ought not to attend the University, That was not all. The young men from the Training Colleges might go to the classes now without passing a preliminary examination; but they had to take the University mark. That was exactly what should have every opportunity and facility afforded them of going to the University. He was glad to see that in they proposed for the Queen's students—to place them on the same footing as those who now went to the Training Colleges which now existed, and he could not consent to place them in a less advantageous position. It was said that there was an unfair competition with the Training Colleges. That was not so. The average payment on account of the Queen's students was £32 10s. per year, and the average payment to the Training Colleges was £32 12s. He should like to refer to an important Memorandum laid before him by the deputation from the Training Colleges. Speaking in a much stronger tone than his hon. Friend, they protested against this proposal, in the first place, because it was a proposal uneducational, undesirable, and retrograde. On the contrary, he said it was a progressive and desirable proposal, and as it had been a real success in England, it should be extended to Scotland. Then it was said that the proposal "is wholly superfluous and unnecessary." But as Minister for Education in Scotland, he received on the other side complaints that the supply of teachers was steadily falling off. Again it was pleaded that— It would gradually destroy existing instistutions.…Training colleges would come to an end in a few years, and the Churches would give them up. This system, however, had succeeded in 15 centres in England, and the Training Colleges had expressed no apprehension. Then came the most important objection that no provision was made for the religious instruction of students intending to be teachers. The Government did not lay down any obligation that religion should be taught, and he thought quite rightly so, because it was not the business of the State. As no obligation was laid on the Training Colleges in Scotland with reference to the teaching of religion, no obligation would be laid on the local committee; but could anyone believe that a committee formed of representatives of educationists, municipalities and Universities would really start an institution for the training of teachers in which there was to be no teaching of religion? To the contention that the teachers of the young could not be taught religion except in a college attached to a special denomination, he, as an individual Member of Parliament, could never possibly accede; neither as an administrator could he consent for such a reason as that to forego for Scotland an advantage which had been enjoyed by England since 1890. The object of the Department was to make this new step a success, and in order to do so they proposed to observe two conditions. In the first place, they did not intend to force the scheme upon anybody who did not want it. If a University College wished to take part in the system and it placed itself in communication with the School Board of the city in which it was placed and with the municipality, and made a solid local committee to which they could safely intrust the welfare and the guidance of the young people, the scheme would be put in operation. But, on the other hand, when they had a body like that at Dundee which already was prepared to come forward, the Department wished that that body should set the new system in motion under such conditions that it might be successful, and that that body should not be hampered in any way in comparison with the existing training colleges. The Department would watch the system most carefully, and see whether it wanted relaxing or tightening in any respect to make it a success or to prevent it from being a danger; but he could not consent, under any circumstances, to go back from the proposal of extending to Scotland an advantage which appeared to him to be peculiarly adapted to Scotch requirements, to Scotch character, and to Scotch educational conditions.

MR. J. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)

did not think anyone could challenge the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that there was great need of fresh and additional teachers in Scotland, and that it was desirable those teachers a good many respects the Code made more attractive in one way or another the profession of the teacher and facilitated the training to fit him for his profession. But the great claim the right hon. Gentleman put forward was that the Code was to add largely to what Scotland drew from the Treasury for the purpose of training. He did not see where that came in except in one particular case; Dundee wanted an opportunity of training teachers. It was quite right Dundee should have that chance. By all means let the University College of Dundee have every opportunity of training as many teachers as it could. That was wanted, and no one would grudge that to Dundee. But he would like to know what chance there was that the other Universities of Scotland would fall in with the plan of the right hon. Gentleman. What were they to gain by it? They could gain nothing under the Code except in regard to teachers who remained in a course of training for a third year unless they formed a local committee. What form of local committee were they to have? The right hon. Gentleman had said he did not intend to force a local committee on anyone who did not want it. He was glad of that; but what sort of local committee would there be? Supposing, for example, that in Glasgow the training colleges now existing, together with the University and the School Board, desired to form themselves into a local committee. Of course the Department would have to judge of the fitness of the local committee. Would that he had mentioned be the kind of local committee the right hon. Gentleman would approve of? Would the right hon. Gentleman in that way give Glasgow and Edinburgh and Aberdeen a chance of benefiting by the scheme? The great objection that was felt to the scheme as it stood was that it admitted to the University students of too low a standard. The language that the right hon. Gentleman used about humble students seemed to him wide of the mark. It was not a question of the humbleness of the student, but of his fitness to benefit by University teaching. Just lately in the Scotch Universities they had made a great step in advance by imposing a preliminary examination. He contrasted the tone of the circular of the Education Department with that now used by the right hon. Gentleman. He quite agreed with the view expressed in the circular, and that was the view which had been expressed strongly by the University of Edinburgh, the Educational Institute, and by various training colleges. It appeared to him that to go back on the step they had just introduced of having a preliminary examination was unnecessary to prevent what was an evil to Scotch Universities in times past, viz., that they contained students whose knowledge was so elementary that they could not benefit by their position in the Universities, and who ought rather to be taught in schools. That would be a very great flaw in what otherwise he should consider a great improvement to the scheme. He did not think it was correct that under this scheme the Queen's students were to be exactly on the same footing as the Queen's scholars, because the Queen's students were, when they passed in the first or second class, to be admitted to University lectures, while the scholars only got their fees paid when they passed in the first class. The Queen's scholars who had passed the first class were on the whole undoubtedly fit to benefit by University training. He thought it would be bad for Universities, and also for students, that they should encourage people whose training and knowledge was not sufficient to benefit by the University to go there; they ought to leave them to be dealt with in other institutions such as training colleges, schools, and University colleges which did not give a degree. The education of all these more backward students ought not to be thrown on the University. On the whole, the extension of the supply of teachers and the association of teachers more closely with the Universities was a thing that would be welcomed throughout Scotland. He only regretted that there were the drawbacks he had mentioned in regard to it.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at Twenty-two minutes before One o'clock.