HC Deb 07 March 1895 vol 31 cc631-46

On the Vote for£136,199 for Public Education in England and Wales,


said, he desired to move a reduction of this Vote, in order to call attention to what was, he thought, a real grievance. They would see that the first item of this Vote was for an additional sum in respect of the annual grant for the day scholars. The annual grant was nearly 4 millions, so that the total amount of this grant was very large indeed. Now this grant was paid to the voluntary as well as to the Board Schools. In many places there were only voluntary schools, and many of these, to the credit of the Church of England be it said, were voluntary schools of the Church of England. Nonconformist children had to attend these voluntary schools, but they were protected by the Education Act of 1870. But when any of these children from time to time desired to become pupil teachers, there was no protection in the shape of a conscience clause, and they were obliged to conform. They were selected by the managers, and in many instances a candidate was not chosen if he did not conform. The practical result was that if they wanted to become pupil teachers they must, at least for the time, give up their Nonconformity. This, it had been represented to him by many Nonconformists, was a real grievance. It was represented to him that this grievance had a bad effect on the younger people whom it concerned. He was told that in order to become pupil teachers some Nonconformist children affected to give up their Nonconformity and affected to conform to the Church of England, though in many instances he was told that this was not by any means a real conformity. But whether it was so or not he thought the Committee would agree that the State, which was giving to the Voluntary Schools those large grants for day scholars, should see that there was no injustice inflicted on any of the children of the State, whether Church of England or Nonconformist. He concluded by moving the reduction of the Vote by£189, in order to call attention to the reality of this grievance.


, said, on behalf of his fellow Nonconformists throughout the country, this was really a larger question than he thought his hon. Friend had realised. There were 10,000 parishes in the country where only Voluntary Schools existed, and where therefore it was practically said to every Nonconformist at the present time, "you are debarred from looking to education as one of the means of earning your livelihood." He thought that this was a great injustice to the Nonconformists of the country. It was besides inimical to the best interests of education. There were in a large proportion of those 10,000 parishes young men and women growing up who would be glad to serve the Voluntary Schools loyally under a Conscience Clause in connection with the education of those schools. There were many young persons of good education who would be glad to have the opportunity of employment in their own districts. Having served in a district of Essex for 12 years on a School Board, where they had taken over in a perfectly friendly way, several Voluntary Schools, he knew some of the difficulties which Voluntary Schools suffered in obtaining the services in many country districts of sufficient teaching power, If they could allow the Nonconformists to have a Conscience Clause with regard to teaching, not only would a great injustice be removed but it would be a distinct benefit to the educational system of the country.


said, that in one respect he agreed with the hon. Member. No doubt there was some difficulty on the part of the Voluntary Schools of the country obtaining sufficient teaching power; but this defect was due rather to the want of money, which was so lavishly squandered on the Board Schools, and with which the Voluntary Schools competed. He acknowledged, however, that the Vice President had done them a good turn in the Code with regard to tests. But he contended that the remedy was not to be sought in the direction which the hon. Member had indicated. The hon. Member pleaded that the Nonconformist children were not protected by a Conscience Clause. The great mass of the children in country Voluntary Schools, however, were Church of England children. ["No, no."] He would leave Wales aside, but, taking England as a whole, he asserted that the vast mass of the children attending country Voluntary Schools belonged to the Church of England. The schools existed for the children, not for the teachers. The teachers were there to bring up the children, the most important part of whose education, as every one admitted, was the religious education. This being so, it naturally followed that the teaching staff should belong to the same denomination as the children who were taught; and that was the system on which they had hitherto proceeded in their schools. He desired at the same time to extend the same measure of justice to the schools of every other denomination. Take the Roman Catholics, for example. Did anyone believe that any hon. Member from Ireland would allow the Roman Catholic children to be taught in the Irish schools by anyone but Roman Catholic teachers? No; they would resent it in the highest degree. What, therefore, was true of the Roman Catholic Church was also true, though not to the same extent, of the Church of England schools. So long as Church of England schools taught Church of England children, so long ought the teachers to belong to the same faith. If there was any large portion of Nonconformist children in those districts by all means let them have schools of their own. Indeed, he would be prepared to advocate an advance of public money being granted in order to assist the Nonconformists to build their own schools.


said, he had only to deal with the law as it stood—which was that if in any given school district, where there was a single, or a couple of schools belonging to the same denomination which were sufficient for the wants of the district, practically there could be no other schools. He reminded the hon. Member for Monmouth that the whole of the arrangements of the Education Department were based on the condition that the managers, whether of Voluntary or Board Schools had still power to appoint teachers. It would be almost impossible to carry on our educational system if that were altered, because it would it would involve the Education Department stepping in and saying that a certain class of teachers should be forced on the managers. Although he fully sympathised with the difficulty, everyone would regret that any promising boy or girl who wanted to enter the teaching profession should be prevented from doing so, and staying at home, which was what they desired in the earlier stages. Still he was afraid the difficulty was almost inevitable however regrettable under the present law and arrangements in regard to the schools.

MR. J. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts., Mansfield)

said, he did not know where the noble Lord obtained the statistics on which he based the statement that the vast majority of the children attending the schools belonged to the Church of England. He forgot that the schools existed in 10,000 parishes where there were no other schools and where Nonconformist children had to attend. It did not follow that the vast majority of the children belonged to the Church of England and not to the Nonconformist bodies. But he wished to call the attention of the Committee to the extremely sectarian view which the noble Lord took of the functions of the Voluntary Schools. They had been led to suppose that they existed for the benefit of the villages in which they were provided. Instead of that it was now asserted that they had been erected simply for the benefit of the Church of England.


I expressly said these schools did not exist for the Church of England, but for the children belonging to them.


But it had always been supposed that these schools existed for the benefit of all the children of the village. If not, how was it they had to deal with the fact that there were no other schools in the village? The root of the evil lay in the fact that the Education Department would not recognise the existence of any other school in a parish in which there was a denominational school. The object of the hon. Member for Maldon Division could not be secured until this monopoly for the benefit of the Church of England had been, abolished, and the right of all classes in the villages was recognised to have schools provided for them by the State in which their conscientious convictions would be respected.


said, that if he understood the hon. Member correctly he said that if Nonconformists desired to build Voluntary Schools where Nonconformist children were to be taught they would be unable to get a site, would the Minister for Education tell the Committee whether this was so? He himself believed it was the direct reverse of the case. He did not know why the hon. Member for Mansfield should attack the sectarian views of his noble Friend. He put forward the natural and common sense view that the schools existed not for the benefit of the teachers but of the children. It was a most ludicrous idea that these schools should be looked upon as primarily for the purpose of raising teachers. They were primarily for the teaching of children. He should like to have an answer from the Minister for Education as to whether the statement of the hon. Member for the Mansfield Division was correct—that Nonconformists, if they desired to build a voluntary school in a parish, could not obtain the same facilities from the Department as could the Church of England.

MR. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk, N.)

said, that that the hon. Member for the Mansfield Division had argued that the real root of the grievance was that in districts where there were voluntary schools the Department would not recognise additional school accommodation. The fact was the other way about. All Governments, in administering the Education Act—and particularly Sections 18 and 98—interpreted it to mean that in a School Board area no additional accommodation could be recognised, though it were provided by a voluntary school, unless it were sanctioned by the School Board. Therefore, the grievance was in the other direction to that asserted by the hon. Member.


said, that he had found the Article in the Code which bore on the question. It stated that in a district not under the School Board a school was not deemed to be unnecessary if, during the twelve months preceding the date of its application for an annual grant, it could show an average attendance of not less than 30 scholars. The only exception was with respect to a special grant. Therefore, in a voluntary school district any denomination could set up a school if they could get 30 scholars.


said, he understood that, as the law stood, the managers had the absolute right to appoint the teachers. It was obvious, therefore, that on his present motion he could effect no useful purpose, and he begged leave to withdraw it.

SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)

said, that lie was rather astonished at the attack which the hon. Member for the Mansfield Division had made on his noble Friend, Viscount Cranborne. The hon. Member seemed to have sadly forgotten the whole history of this great educational question. When he complained of the existing system, the hon. Member forgot that the whole elementary education of this country from 1808 to 1870 was carried on solely and entirely by those who introduced the voluntary system at immense cost and sacrifice. In this, the eleventh hour of the educational system, the hon. Member made a violent attack on the noble Lord because he had stated his view of the present state of affairs As to the grievance in regard to pupil teachers, many would be glad to find some solution to the difficulty. If there were a good pupil teacher in any village or town it was a great pity that by a technical objection his services were rendered unavailable. But it was not for the Department to interfere, and if it were to begin taking such action in the appointment of teachers, &c., the gravest difficulties would arise. Having said so much, however, he must add that he regretted the tone of the hon. Member's speech. He forgot the sacrifices which had been made in the past—sacrifices of money, lands, and church buildings—to keep up the voluntary schools; and he forgot that the change, made by Mr. Forster s Act of 1870 was to supplement voluntary effort by the Board schools. With regard to these educational questions, whatever difficulties might arise, he hoped that for the future they would he discussed in the House without Party heat and feeling.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. H. S. FOSTER moved a reduction of the vote by£500. He wished to enter a protest against the system of pressure which had been adopted by the Department under the administration of the present Vice-President towards the largest and most important branch of elementary education—that which was in the hands of the voluntary schools.


The hon. Member must confine himself to the annual grants for the day schools and day scholars. The general policy and administration of the Department will not come under the Vote.


said that the Education Vote was generally put off till the end of the Session, and passed absolutely sub silentio. As he understood that he was precluded from discussing the general policy of the Department, he would content himself by saying that on every occasion that the forms of the House would allow he and his friends intended to raise these questions. There had been the deepest interest excited by this particular Vote, which was the largest in the Supplementary Estimates. An original Estimate of "£5,900,000 had been exceeded by£136,000, and he should like to know what proportions of the excess were on account of payments to Voluntary Schools and Board Schools respectively, and how far the excess in the expenditure over the Estimates was on account of grants due to schools withheld from them, kept out of the original Estimate, and which it had not been possible any longer to withhold. That some of the excess had arisen under this head he was certain; and he would adduce facts which would show it. According to a statement published in The Times, the federation of Voluntary Schools for Northumberland had recovered£900 which had been improperly withheld from 28 schools in 1894; and he should be glad to have official information of the circumstances under which it had been possible to recover£900 that had been improperly withheld.


said the hon. Member was going into questions that were beyond the Vote. It was concerned with the annual grant for the average attendance and the fee grant for day scholars.


said the action he was speaking of, was that grants earned had been withheld and subsequently paid. He had no doubt that the Supplementary Estimate was in no small measure due to the withholding of grants which had been ultimately paid through the increased activity of the supporters of Voluntary Schools. By exerting pressure in and out of Parliament, they had recovered grants which had been wrongly withheld. Two or three cases had occurred in the Lowestoft Division. [Cries of "Order."]


said the policy and action of the Administration were not under discussion.


said he felt the great difficulty of discussing a single topic without dealing in some measure with the policy involved in particular acts. He was speaking of the money grants to these schools. They were asked to vote a further£136,000, spent by the Department in grants to schools. [Cries of "Order."]


said the Supplementary Estimate was due to an under estimate of average attendance and of the rate of grant payable thereon.


said he was discussing the rate of grant and that was just where he submitted he was in order. The grant earned by sume schools had been improperly withhold from them. These were inconvenient facts for hon. Gentlemen opposite who desired to avoid discussing them, as they had shown by closuring an Amendment to the Address and secondly by failing to keep a House. The cases he was going to cite, and which he submitted to the Chairman was absolutely in Order upon this Vote, included instances in which the grant was earned and would have appeared in the original Estimate if the Department had sanctioned it; but sanction was refused. It had relation to schools at Lowestoft, and feeling it his duty to bring the circumstances under the notice of the House, the present offered the most fitting opportunity for doing so. The first instance was that of the Christ-church Infant School, at Lowestoft. This school down to the time of the accession of the present Vice-president to Office had always been regarded as an excellent school——


I must request the hon. Member not to continue that line of argument.


said, of course, he was bound by the Chairman's ruling. If it was the ruling that he would not be in order in alluding in any way to the policy of the Department—[Cries of "Order "]. Hon. Members would, perhaps, allow him to finish his remarks. He ventured to say that hon. Members who continually shouted "Order" were themselves most disorderly. If he was not in order in alluding to the policy of the Department, then there would be no failure of duty on his part if he merely protested against the injustice meted out to Voluntary Schools—[Cries of "Order"]—while he was denied the opportunity of raising a discussion. [Cries of "Order, order."] Labouring under the difficulty of being pulled up at every sentence—[Cries of "Order" and counter cries of "Progress."] For the purpose of putting himself in order, and as he did not wish to place himself in the slightest degree in antagonism to the Chair, he Moved to Report Progress.

Motion made, and question proposed "That the Chairman do Report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."


said, on this Motion it would seem to him very difficult for Members to discuss the Education Votes if they were not allowed to consider any question concerning the policy of the Department. For two years there had not been a proper discussion of the Education Estimates. Last year these Estimates were put off to the month of August. Several points of great interest arose, and it did not seem unreasonable that this, the only opportunity that had arisen for a long time, should be used to discuss the policy of the Department in connection with education. [Cries of "Order."] Of course, he would not attempt to discuss that policy now; but inasmuch as the Estimates were brought on last Session at a time when there was not the opportunity for considering them, it might be fairly asked that some attention should be given to matters that had throughout the country caused considerable excitement. (Cries of "Order.")

MR. W. P. BYLES (York, W. R., Shipley)

On a point of Order, Sir, may I ask what is the Question before the Committee?


The Question is that I report Progress, and the hon. Member will confine his remarks to that.


said, he was endeavouring to show that it was important now to report Progress in order that fair opportunity should be given for proper discussion. [Cries of "Order," and a hon. Member asked: "Is this not disputing the ruling from the Chair?"]


I do not think the hon. Member meant to do that.


said, certainly not, but inasmuch as the House of Commons in Committee of Supply afforded the means for discussing the grievances of the people, those who were interested in the national education desired this opportunity of raising questions of administration connected with this expenditure of ten millions, affecting vast numbers of the population. With this object in view he strongly supported the motion.


assured hon. Members that neither now or at any time was he unwilling to defend the policy of the Education Department and he did not think that the Committee could charge him with having shown any reluctance in this direction. He would not enter upon that now. This Supplementary Vote arose out of the fact that the attendance of children had improved beyond expectation. He only wished to say that he had no desire to shirk a fair, full and free discussion of the Estimates for the year. He, reminded hon. Members that in the first year after he entered office there was a whole night's discussion, and, though subsequently the Debate was closured, there were several other opportunities for discussion availed of. If last year a fuller opportunity was not given, it was through no fault of his, and he reminded hon. Members of the subsidiary Debates on the Vote on Account. He only wished to assure the Committee that, on his part, there was not the slightest intention or wish to evade discussion.


said, he had no intention to discuss the ruling for which, no doubt, the Chairman had good reason, that discussion on this Vote must be limited. What was now best for the Committee to do? No doubt, in recent years, they had been very severely treated by the Government upon Educational Questions, and he certainly had the hope that hon. Gentlemen would have given some little indulgence which, then, the Chairman would have been not unwilling to recognise. Of course, there would be another opportunity on the Vote on Account, and if the Government wished them to use that opportunity they would do so; but he should have thought the better plan would be to use the present opportunity, hon. Gentlemen putting some restraint on their impatience and allowing others a little latitude. Under the circumstances, if his right hon. Friend went to a Division, he should not vote with him. If, on other hand, they did not succeed reporting Progress, they would, of course, carry on the discussion, but they would be obliged to raise all the points over again.

MR. C. DIAMOND (Monaghan, N.)

said, hon. Members had an opportunity of raising the question of Voluntary Schools at a recent evening Sitting, which was counted out. On that occasion, the Opposition Benches were singularly deserted, and hon. Members could not complain now, seeing they had failed to take advantage of their opportunity.


asked whether any hon. Member would be out of Order if he referred to any matter which had not strict reference to an increase in average attendance or to an increase of grant for scholars?


in reply, laid it down that the Estimate being a Supplementary Estimate, the discussion must be confined to certain definite points.


asked whether the Chairman's rulings came to this, that because this happened to be a Supplementary Vote, the rule was more strict?


thought there was a broad distinction between an ordinary and a Supplementary Estimate. As a rule, unless a Supplementary Estimate was of an extraordinary or excessive character, the general discussion of policy should be confined to the first and main Vote. The present Supplementary Estimate was not of such a character, and accordingly it seemed to him a general discussion of policy would be entirely out of Order.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 46; Noes, 98.—[Division List, No. 23.]

SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)

said, he rose to ask a question. He need hardly say that he accepted loyally the ruling given by the Chairman, and the object of his question was to ask to what extent discussion within the ruling might proceed? He understood the ruling to be that in a Supplementary Estimate it was not open to hon. Members to discuss the main question or the main policy of the Education Department, but must confine themselves to the discussion of all the causes which had lead the Department to come to the Committee to ask for an increased Vote. Anything which had given rise to the necessity of asking for more money would be germane to the discussion. The grounds stated in the Paper for the necessity of asking for more money were three: The first, that there had been an excess in the average attendance of day scholars; the second, that the scholars who had attended had earned a larger grant than was expected: and the third, that there had been a greater claim for free places than was expected when the original Estimate was prepared. What he wished to ask was, would it be in Order, in discussing these Supplementary Estimates, to discuss all the causes and circumstances which had either given rise to the increase in the nnmber of scholars who had attended schools, or to the capacity of those scholars to earn a larger grant? He——


Order, order. If the right hon. Gentleman will proceed with his argument on the subject, I will endeavour to put him right if he exceeds the ruling I have given. But I decline to give any further explanation.


desired to continue to discuss the Vote within the limits of the Chairman's ruling. It was said on the. Paper that the reason for asking for this extra money was the excess of the average attendance over what was expected. That question raised a very important point. Article 73 of the Code defined the number of children for whom one teacher would he considered sufficient by the Department for the purposes of the efficiency of the school. That number of children was described in a very ambiguous phrase to which he desired to call the attention of the Committee. The average attendance had been miscalculated by the Government. That might happen every year, and whenever it was miscalculated it might appear that the teaching staff was below the proper standard. In these circumstances if the average attendance was larger than the Government expected, and thereupon the teaching staff dropped below the standard, it might be necessary for the Government to increase the grant. Therefore, it became very important to know exactly what Article 73 meant. Every teacher on the staff was considered efficient to teach a certain number of children. Last year it was found that the number of children for which every teacher had been so considered efficient had been largely diminished. That was looked upon as a hardship by the Voluntary Schools, and the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council agreed to modify the Article. In accordance with this promise he replaced the Article which had been originally laid upon the Table by a new Article, in which a most peculiar phrase occurred. It was stated that the number of children in one class must not exceed by more than 15 per cent. "the number of children habitually present at any one time." A number of questions were put in this and the other House, on the subject. He understood the Vice President to say last year that by this particular phrase he meant something different to average attendance. But he found that in another place Lord Playfair stated that the expression "habitually present at any one time" probably meant average attendance. Thus the responsible Minister of the Crown, speaking for the Government in the House of Lords, did not know what the Article did mean, but said that it probably meant average attendance, which was exactly what the right hon. Gentleman opposite had denied in this House. Were they to understand the Department did not really know what the Article did mean? Would the right hon. Gentleman repeat Lord Playfair's words and say "it probably meant average attendance?" It was important that an undiminished number of children should be allowed each teacher in struggling Voluntary Schools. They had great difficulty at present in making the two ends meet; and if they found that a smaller number of children was allowed per teacher than they expected, they would be placed in a very extremely difficult position. He admitted that the right hon. Gentleman, since he had been Vice President, had done his best to meet the difficulties and questions put to him in that House, and he would now ask him to give them a definite explanation as to what "habitually present at any one time" meant? They understood what average attendance meant, and if habitually present at any one time meant the same as average attendance, they should know where they were, but the expression was perfectly new to the Code. It was absolutely necessary in this matter to be explicit, and he would, therefore, urge that a full explanation should be given by the right hon. Gentleman of the meaning of Article 73.

It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

The House resumed.