HC Deb 02 September 1895 vol 36 cc1491-515

On the Order for the Further Consideration of Postponed Resolution:— That a sum, not exceeding £528,807, 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 1896, for the Expenses of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland,

MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Donegal, W.)

said, he wished to ask one or two questions of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The first was as to the pension fund of the Irish national teachers. The position of these teachers had been considerably improved in recent years, but they still had many grievances to bring before the Government. The teachers did not quite know the position of the Pension Fund, and they desired to obtain information. They complained that the capitation grants for Irish pupils were under the mark they ought to stand at, and were considerably below the grants to English pupils. The discrepancy was so great that there did not appear to be any reasonable or satisfactory explanation of it, and they would be glad to hear any explanation the Chief Secretary might have to give. With regard to the retiring allowance, called a gratuity, they complained that, if a teacher died just before he became entitled to it, his family did not receive the benefit of it as they would have done if he had chanced to live a little longer. They further asked for an extension of the time for the repayment of a grant for the building of a teacher's residence. The present period was about 35 years; and they claimed that, considering how very moderate their salaries were, the period should be nearly, if not quite, doubled. With regard to the books used in the National Schools, he should like to know how they were compiled, how they were edited, and who was responsible for them. They might very well contain more information that would be useful to those who were to be employed in the handicrafts and agriculture of Ireland. At any rate, it was desirable that Members of the House should be enabled to form an opinion as to the character of these books, and therefore, copies of them ought to be placed in the Library for examination. These books were sold to scholars, and it was urged that they ought to be supplied gratuitously—certainly to the poorer scholars.

MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

said, that in the opinion of some persons the books used in the National Schools were barren reading, and contained a large amount of half digested, unpicturesque information, conveyed in the dreariest and most pedantic manner possible; and they compared very unfavourably with the books used in other schools. He desired to bring before the House the subject of free education in Ireland. The Free Education Act was passed in 1892, and should have come into operation in 1894; but in a great portion of Ireland it was practically a dead letter; and that was not a creditable condition of things. What steps was the Chief Secretary going to take during the Recess to make it operative? Something must be done speedily if the Act was not to remain a transparent absurdity. A return showed that, out of 118 places, only 29 had had school attendance committees formed; in 36, attendance officers were not appointed; and in 18, no proper arrangements had been made as to funds; so that in three-fourths of these places the Act was really not in operation. Mr. John Morley recognised the failure of the Act, and directed the attention of the Commissioners of National Education to the fact, making suggestions for their consideration. He pointed out that the comparative failure of the Act was due to the refusal of the Local Authorities to put it into operation so long as certain classes of schools—those of the Christian Brothers—are excluded from State assistance. That was in February last, and the deadlock still continued. A great deal of correspondence had passed between the Irish Office and the Commissioners of National Education; both parties seemed to have come close together. Mr. Morley laid down four conditions—namely, that schools receiving grants should be for primary education, that they should be for scholars between three and 15, that they should be open to inspection and examination, and that they should accept the conscience clause. To the astonishment and dismay of many people in Ireland, Mr. Morley, in the same letter, suggested that a smaller capitation grant should be given to those who, for conscientious reasons, were at present unable to accept State aid. That suggestion was unwise and unfair, and he hoped it would not be renewed. At any rate it upset the negotiations, and it created a strong feeling on the part of the Commissioners, who absolutely rejected it, and prepared a reasonable alternative. He trusted the Irish Office would settle this vexed question, and give fair and equitable treatment to schools which had rendered such great service to the cause of primary education, and which enlisted the admiration of all educationists who visited the country. A modus vivendi ought to be found at once. The Christian Brothers would accept the principle of classification upon the basis of examination. Upon terms understood by both sides, they were willing to accept a capitation grant coupled with results-fees, so that there ought to be little difficulty in settling the question. There were 29 places in Ireland, with a population of 1¼ millions, where no school attendance committees had been formed, and it would be practically impossible to work the Free Education Act there, unless the Christian Brothers' schools were included. Large towns like Dublin, Cork and Limerick, had protested against the exclusion of these schools, and refused to put the Act into operation as long as the exclusion was maintained. Of course, it could be made compulsory by Act of Parliament, but that would give rise to strong feeling. In these 29 large centres the bulk of the teaching was done by the Christian Brothers, and the difficulty would be to find accommodation for the children outside the Christian Brothers' schools. The National Board would have to spend enormous sums in many parts in building new schools. He hoped the Chief Secretary would pay attention to the overwhelming body of public opinion in Ireland, rather than to the views of a small section who seemed animated by a dog-in-the-manger spirit in connection with the Christian Brothers. Three months ago, Mr. Morley brought this matter up to a certain point, and it ought to be easy to settle the matter before the end of the year. According to the Report, there were 30 model schools in Ireland, and they cost no less than £28,524, while the total average attendance was only a little over 10,000. This was a serious waste of public money, for, except in a few places, these model schools had not been a success. Where they had been a success, there was no reason why they should not be continued; but where, as in Cork, they were utterly out of touch with the needs of the people the money spent on them ought to be used in a better way for educational purposes. Six years ago, the present First Lord of the Treasury said:— ''I am prepared to admit that the condition of the model schools in many parts of Ireland is not one on which the Educational Authorities hare any reason to congratulate themselves. …. We ought to consider whether this particular portion of the educational machinery commends itself to the affections and sentiments of the population. Let the Chief Secretary act up to that declaration. Where the schools had failed, they might be closed, and the buildings used for other purposes. Good use for the money could be found in encouraging the establishment of school farms and gardens in connection with the National Schools. From the last Report of the Commissioners it appeared that the total number of these farms was only 44, and of the gardens only 30; and this in a purely agricultural country like Ireland. It would be better for boys in Ireland to learn the rotation of crops and such subjects, than the geography of the Carpathian Mountains. At present a large part of the curriculum in the National Schools was faulty, defective, and most unsatisfactory. He noticed that the special payments to teachers in 50 schools for agricultural teaching amounted to only £832. The whole thing was a farce, and illustrated the manner in which Ireland was governed in absolute ignorance, or, at any rate, with indifference to the wants and needs of the people. He hoped the Chief Secretary would, in his reply, give more than a pious opinion as to the Christian Brothers, the status of the Model Schools, and the condition of agricultural training in the National Schools.

MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)

said, that although there were some parts in the wide sphere of Irish Administration in regard to which Nationalist Members came into natural and necessary conflict with the Chief Secretary, there was no reason why there should be any conflict between them on the subject of education. The Chief Secretary was a man who had some practical familiarity with the great question of education; it was a question in which he took a deep interest; and in regard to the great dividing question of denominational or undenominational teaching, the right hon. Gentleman had pledged himself to the electors in England strongly on the denominational side. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman and the Nationalist Members started on this question of education in a friendly spirit, and with a certain similarity of principle which ought, perhaps, to yield good results to the country. There were many matters connected with the system of education in Ireland in which it was absolutely necessary, if the country was not to be stunted in its intellectual growth, that some sweeping change should be made. There was a body known as the Commissioners of National Education. It contained some excellent Gentlemen, amongst others the two Archbishops, who were acquainted with educational problems. But it also contained a number of men who had no knowledge of educational problems. Some of the appointments of the late Chief Secretary had made an improvement in the Board, but there was still room for more reform in that direction; and he hoped that, in the event of vacancies occurring, the Chief Secretary would make it his first object to appoint men who knew something about education. Then there was the pressing question of the reading books of the National Schools. Year after year a protest was made in the House against the character of those books. A few books had lately been revised, but even the improved books were very much worse than the average schoolbooks used in England. The gentlemen who drew up the National School books seemed to have had no conception as to what would interest or form the mind of a child. There were extracts from the writings of Dr. Whately, which were of no use whatever to children under 12, and the pieces of poetry were deplorable. It was essential that some attempt should be made to thoroughly deal with this question at once. The late Chief Secretary attempted to deal with it, but he confessed he thought the right hon. Gentleman made the thing rather worse than before. Under the pressure of the right hon. Gentleman the Board allowed other school books to be used in some cases, but they still preserved the system of literal examination by the inspectors in the books of the Board, and in consequence there was not a sufficient independent sale of schoolbooks to make it worth while for a publisher to produce special books for the Irish National Schools. The only gain was that a small number of schools had adopted English books—books which were admirably suited for English schools, and which were slightly better than the books of the National Board, but still, not so good as the books which would be in use under a system of rational administration or a system of free trade in books. The Chief Secretary would recognise that Irish children were not altogether the same as English children; that their tastes were different in their early years, and that books suited to English children were not always suited to Irish children. What he would say, therefore, was that if there were to be books used besides the books of the Board, the inspectors should be instructed that they were not to have literal examinations in the books of the Board, but were to allow free play to other books, so that the demand for such books might be large enough to induce Irish publishers to meet it. He hoped the Chief Secretary would also be able to take a large view of the question of the Christian Brothers. The right hon. Gentleman would probably be told by a small, if noisy, section, that the present system of education in Ireland was undenominational, and that if he allowed the Christian Brothers in under the Board he would destroy that system. But a very slight examination of the system would show that there was no such thing as undenominational education in Ireland. They had there a system of denominational education in which restrictions were only placed on that denomination which taught the importance of symbols or the outward manifestation of religion. That really was what the education difficulty in Ireland came to. There were separate denominational schools which were increasing day after day, while the mixed schools were decreasing. There were separate schools for Protestants of all denominations in which there was the Protestant teaching which Protestants considered necessary. There were separate schools for Catholics, though not in all cases with that separate teaching or outward manifestation of religion which Catholics thought necessary. That really was the grievance under which the Christian Brothers laboured. In looking at this question he, himself, took the view rather of an educational reformer than of a strong enthusiast for any particular form of education. He saw that the Christian Brothers, whatever might be the justice of their demands on religious grounds, were doing the best educational work of any primary teachers in Ireland. They had established in Ireland that which did not exist in England—that which a great body of educational reformers desired to constitute in England—namely, a bridge between the primary and higher systems of education. A large number of boys, drawn from the people and brought up in the Christian Brothers' Schools, passed through the intermediate course, and were enabled to go into a University or join the professions, entirely owing to the work of the Christian Brothers, and the danger was that in the deadlock now existing this valuable bridge between primary and higher education would be destroyed. On that ground he trusted the Chief Secretary would look at the question carefully and sympathetically. Now, what was the grievance? The grievance was that because the Christian Brothers in Ireland had in their schools religious symbols which were allowed to the Christian Brothers in England, they got no grant at all. He had seen in Christian Brothers' Schools in England those very symbols which were the subject of contention in Ireland. The English education inspectors made no objection whatever to the giving of a grant to the schools in which there were these symbols, but the schools in Ireland in which there were the symbols were allowed no grant whatever. In England the grievance was that about one-sixth of the cost of education in voluntary schools was raised by voluntary contributions, but the whole cost of education in the Christian Brothers' schools in Ireland was raised from voluntary sources. He was persuaded the Chief Secretary could not fail to remove the obstacles which weighed so heavily upon the voluntary schools of Ireland, especially when he could do it by a stroke of the pen.

* MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)

thought it would be better, after the eloquent speeches they had just listened to, that he should confine his remarks to the question of primary or elementary education in Ireland, because, after all, it was amongst the poorer classes of the population that the greatest work was required, and that the greatest amount of good could be effected. No doubt considerable improvements had been made of late years in the system of elementary education, but a great deal yet remained to be done. There was an especial need of technical education in Ireland. It was of vital importance to the rising population, that that branch of education should receive the earnest and practical attention of the Education Board. He knew of many places in Ireland, in which such a thing as technical education was quite unknown. The ordinary school-boy was taught all about mountains in different parts of the world and such like things, which very probably he soon forgot, but as to technical matters, a knowledge of which would be invaluable to him when he was turned out to face the rough ways of the world, he was taught nothing. He endorsed all the remarks made by previous speakers in respect to the treatment of the Christian Brothers. It was, in his opinion, a scandal that something had not been done long since to place the Christian Brothers on a footing of equality with other teaching bodies in Ireland, because it was an admitted fact that the boys taught by the Christian Brothers were by far the best educated boys in Ireland. The Christian Brothers devoted their lives, not alone to the religious education, but also to the secular education of the youth of Ireland, and, after all, if the present framework of Society was to be kept up, the two branches of education must be linked together. He trusted that the Chief Secretary would do all he could to right the injustice under which these learned and pious teachers laboured. He thought too, it would be admitted by most people that the Irish National Teachers as a class were deserving of consideration at the hands of the House of Commons, for they had to discharge the very onerous task of moulding the minds of the young people of Ireland. He did not wish to pose as the champion of any particular class of teachers. The consideration of all such matters should be approached in the broadest and most liberal spirit, but there was much to be said before the question of the treatment of Irish National School teachers was disposed of. Some years ago there was a rule that in order to encourage the efficiency of the teachers, a good service allowance should be granted every five years; at the end of every five years an increase of £9 per annum was made to a teacher's salary, by way of a good service premium. That rule was abolished by the Education Board, without any adequate reason being assigned, and, now, if a teacher attained the age of 65 years, at which period he was retired, he found himself in the same position, as regarded salary, in which he started. It was unfair, to say the least, that some effort should not be made to keep up the standard of professional ability. Something, too, ought to be done to improve the position of the principal assistant teachers. They were an important body of officials, and yet advancement for them was reduced to a practical nullity. It was true that by the favour of managers, here and there, a few received promotion, but if there were several in one school, as there frequently were in a school in a large town, they could expect little advancement. The rule in regard to monitors operated unfairly. For instance no monitor could be appointed to a school in the year, unless the fact that a vacancy existed was notified before the 1st of July. He should like to say a word or two on the question of results. They had instituted in Ireland a system of intermediate education. No doubt for a country possessing the riches and great professional advancement which were open to the people of England, the system of intermediate education was not only necessary but highly essential. He was sorry to say that in Ireland the circumstances were different. Ireland was a poor country, with very few of the higher-class promotions open to boys. In Ireland they had instituted a system of intermediate education, and held out to boys certain rewards for the acquirement of the higher sciences and educational knowledge. At the same time, by not having provided technical education for the poorer classes in the elementary schools, they deprived them of any such reward. They thus drew the class distinction of two-pence half-penny looking down upon two-pence. They gave one class of the community rewards for learning high-class subjects, which were often of very little use to them, and they expected the pupils of a lower class, going to the elementary schools, to work whilst having no reward held out to them as an inducement to their educational progress. The system of Irish intermediate education, faulty though it might be, should to some extent be applied to elementary education. Under the present result system, pertaining to elementary education, the stupid boy and the clever boy were placed on the same level, and the boy who passed with the highest number of marks received no more recognition than the boy who just managed to scramble through. The principle of intermediate education of rewarding the clever boy should be applied to elementary education, so that an incentive might be given to these poor children to go on with their studies and furnish the ground-work on which the sounder principles of education could afterwards be applied.

Mr. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

supported the views put forward by the hon. Members for North-East Cork and Derry City, and expressed the hope that before the next Session of Parliament opened the Chief Secretary would settle the question of the Christian Brothers. Whether he could see his way to solve the other problems which had been raised in relation to Irish education, the right hon. Gentlemen, belonging to the Party he did, would have little difficulty in settling the comparatively narrow question of doing justice to the Christian Brothers' schools. In a letter written by Mr. John Morley on May 13, 1895, the then Chief Secretary for Ireland proposed a settlement by way of capitation grant similar to that which prevailed in relation to denominational schools in England. In the letter the following paragraph occured:— The amount of the capitation grant should be so fixed on this plan that these schools (the Christian Brothers'), in consideration of the fewer restrictions imposed upon them, would receive a smaller sum in aid voted by Parliament, and administered by the Board, than they would if they subjected themselves to all the standing rules and regulations of the Board. This would include the removal of religious emblems, which the Christian Brothers could not see their way to consent to. He would urge the right hon. gentleman not to approach the consideration of the question on these lines, but if he was going to settle it he ought to do so in such a way as would satisfy public opinion in Ireland. For the right hon. Gentleman, or any man responsible for the government of Ireland, while recognising the value of the work done by the Christian Brothers and agreeing that their schools should receive aid from the State, to place the invidious distinction of giving them less aid than was given to other schools would not achieve those good results which would accrue from a more generous settlement of the question. ["Hear, hear!"] Every one who had gone into the schools of the Christian Brothers had admitted that there was not a body of teachers in the whole world who had so successfully solved the great problem in education of securing the devoted attachment of their pupils and the most extraordinary discipline without punishment of any kind. ["Hear, hear!"] The Christian Brothers had suffered a very cruel injustice from the State by being, as it were, outlawed and denied all recognition of the good work they were doing with the greatest unselfishness and most self-sacrificing patience. They had done enormous work both for Ireland and the Empire by rearing up tens of thousands of men who had made the best of citizens. ["Hear, hear!"] In point of teaching and the knowledge they imparted of the ordinary subjects taught in elementary schools their educational establishments would bear comparison with any others in the world. Nothing had created greater irritation in Ireland than the delay of the late Government in settling this question. The present Government, however, were confronted with none of the difficulties which the late Government had to face, and the Chief Secretary would do a good stroke for Ireland and his own Government in that country if he distinctly settled so much of the Irish educational problem before Parliament met again. ["Hear, hear!"]


observed that the hon. and learned Member for Derry City had truly said that it was in the power of the Chief Secretary to make this alteration by a stroke of the pen, because under the Charter of the National Board no recourse to Parliament was necessary in order to secure the changes demanded. Whatever might be the wisdom of making any or all of these changes, he certainly should be glad if some arrangement could be arrived at. It could not be denied that they were matters of very great importance and they might, if carried to the extreme length some hon. Members desired to carry them, constitute a reversal of the deliberate policy of the educational establishments in Ireland which had been in existence for 60 years under the sanction of Parliament. They had had a pledge from the late Chief Secretary, Mr. Morley, to the effect that no decision would be arrived at without Parliament having a full opportunity of canvassing and discussing the arrangement, and he should be glad if they could receive some assurance in the same direction from the right hon. Gentleman. Though he did not propose to go into the merits of the question, he would point out that the matter was not quite so urgent in one respect, as it would appear to be from what had been said by some of the hon. Members opposite, because, although it was perfectly true that the Christian Brothers had declared that it was not their intention to allow a Compulsory Education Act to come into operation unless they were met in a particular way, it was not the fact, as some hon. Members had led them to suppose——


That is not true. It is not the Christian Brothers, but the people of these cities themselves, who have placed themselves in opposition to the Act.


remarked, that in Cork there had been an opposition which was, no doubt, based upon the fact that the Christian Brothers had a conscientious objection to accept the terms offered to the elementary schools under the National Board, and would only come under a scheme of compulsory education if these terms were conceded. The rules of the Department did not exclude to the extent suggested, for there were nearly half a million children in Roman Catholic schools where the teachers had found it compatible with their religious views to administer education in compliance with the rules of the Education Board.


asked if the hon. Member could say where these schools were?


said, he had in his hand the last Report which gave the schools exclusively Roman Catholic and exclusively Protestant, but he believed the number in the exclusively Roman Catholic schools was 460,000. He would not, however, commit himself to the figures, he only wished to point out that there was no paralysis of education in the schools. Whether or not it was expedient to make the extension, it was possible to carry on education in accordance with the rules of the National Board. The matter would have to be discussed, too, from the point of view of Roman Catholic teachers in elementary schools, who had, as hon. Members knew, rather strong views as to the advisability of admitting the Cristian Brothers into competition, they not having conformed to all the previous requirements of the Department; and the proposal had been made, he did not know on what authority, that the Christian Brothers should satisfy all the requirements that certificated teachers have to satisfy. But what he now wanted to ask was some sort of pledge, in view of the fact that the question was by no means so simple and so small as some hon. Members opposite, in rather too sanguine frame of mind supposed, that no such promise as that suggested by the hon. Member for Derry City should be given, but that the change, great or small, should be submitted to the House before it became operative.


said, much of the contention of the hon. Member would be a splendid answer to the Church party in England who were asking for increased grants. In England the friends of voluntary schools were not satisfied with a purely secular education. It was absurd to say as an argument there was no paralysis of education. No, there was not of secular education, but that was not the kind of education the people of Ireland wanted and were determined to have. On this line they practically were at one with the Church party in England. It was a much greater hardship to the poor man than to the rich man to be deprived of this religious education for his children. The rich man could send his children where he pleased, but the poor man must take the education the State gave him, and it was a poor argument to him to say there was no paralysis of education if his children were brought up as Anarchists, with such results as France presented.


asked, was it the hon. Member's contention that the children did not in Ireland get religious education?


said, certainly not in National schools. His recollection of the system was that in Catholic schools there was, at the close of the afternoon school, when the Protestants had gone, some half an hour's examination in the Catechism, but this was entirely optional on the part of the teacher, and it must not be supposed that that was what he understood as religious teaching. His view was that education should be given in a religious spirit, treating of secular subjects in some kind of religious spirit, the distinction would be appreciated though it was difficult to lay down a definition. In reply to what had been said by the hon. Member for West Belfast, it was to be observed that Parliament had already decided in a sense hostile to his views. When a Bill was brought in by the noble Lord the late Member for North Tyrone (Lord Frederick Hamilton) to prevent this thing being done without the authority of Parliament, the late Lord Randolph Churchill opposed it, and the House by an enormous majority rejected the Bill—the majority including the late Lord Randolph Churchill, the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Sir J. Gorst) and a large section of the Conservative Party. On the general question he supposed the Chief Secretary must be allowed to have consultation with the Irish officials. Comment had been made of an unfavourable nature upon governing a country on this basis. An English Minister had not to go here and there to gather opinions, he had to make up his mind. A Foreign Secretary would not say he must go to Mekong or Madagascar before he could reply upon a matter touching these localities, he would have to decide the question on his knowledge when in office. It was no answer for the Member to say he had not made up his mind. When a man had been eight or nine years in Parliament he was supposed to have a fair knowledge of public questions, and practically might deal off-hand with a question in which his office was concerned. At the same time he could quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman took a more moderate view of his own competency. But this question of the Christian Brothers was one that had been solved in England, because practically the Christian Brothers—he would not say in every detail—only desired what voluntary schools in England had had granted to them. Consider the absurdity of the rule. You may have a picture of a crucifix in a National School and get a grant from the National Board, but if the crucifix were in relief the school would be disabled from getting a grant! You may have a picture of the Mother of our Lord, but not a statue of the Mother of our Lord! On a miserable point of this kind the Compulsory Education Act had been stopped for three years, while Nationalist Members had been endeavouring to bring about a solution of the difficulty. The Chief Secretary should get up and make a speech on religious education, just as he would on the hustings at Leeds, speaking in favour of assistance to voluntary schools. Let him imagine they were Members of the Established Church whose votes he had to win, and let him deliver the same kind of speech he would deliver to a congregation of parsons on religious education. It was not enough to say he would go to Ireland and study the question. No doubt he would seek information upon details, but he was quite capable of settling the question. It was due to the Christian Brothers, as a body, to say that the spirit of the education given in their schools was entirely free from intolerance of all kinds, it was entirely free from religious ascerbity, entirely free from controversial spirit; it was given in a spirit of charity, brotherhood and toleration. They gave a practical education, not limited to grammar and spelling and subjects that occupied the time of children to no useful purpose; the Christian Brothers devoted themselves to questions affecting the life and work of the people; and supported only by the pence of the poor had competed successfully with the State-aided schools. He desired to refer to some of the grievances from which the National school teachers suffered. The first of these was felt, not so much by the teachers themselves as by their widows and families. There was a Treasury rule that if a teacher died when he was on the point of retirement, the allowance to which he would otherwise be entitled was not paid to his widow and children. He had seen the rule departed from, when the applicant was a Tory, or was supported by a Tory Member of Parliament, but when similar cases were brought forward by Nationalists, the Treasury always said they were debarred by Statute from granting these allowances. He thought that if the right hon. Gentleman would inquire into the point he would find that there was a substantial and standing grievance. He desired to raise another question of detail. There was a considerable feeling among the general body of National school teachers that there was some inequality on the question of the percentage for passes. They said that the Resident Commission had become much more stringent upon this point, and from the letters he had received during the past few months, he was inclined to think there must be something in the matter. The teachers also complained that the payments for the results examination were inordinately delayed. This was properly due to the fact that Parliament had not voted the money, but the delay was severely felt by teachers of small means, and the Treasury would do well to see that there was always sufficient money in hand to provide for the payments being regularly made. The hon. Member proceeded to say that there need be no jealousy between the National teachers and the Christian Brothers. They should be able to work cordially hand in hand and in some large towns he believed there would be a generous competition, in which the Clergy would be the stimulating parties, between the National schools and the Christian Brothers. He would say to the Nonconformists of England that the same reason which induced them to insist on secular education—namely, the fear that if the State gave religious education it would be of a Church character and would practically amount to the proselytism of Nonconformist children—induced the Catholics of Ireland to insist on religious education. They were both against proselytism, but took different means of preventing it. Accordingly, he hoped there would in this matter be no jealousy between any class of persons, seeing that what they were all anxious for was that decent Christians should be brought up in the faith of their fathers; and that should be done without giving any sect or body an opportunity of bringing undue influence to bear upon youth.

* MR. HEMPHILL (Tyrone N.)

said, he did not intend to take up the time of the House by any lengthened observations, but he wished to express his entire concurrence in what had fallen from hon. Members below the Gangway. He did not wish to detract from the weight of the arguments that had been advanced by those hon. Members by a recapitulation of them. He rose merely to join in the appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, to settle before the next Session of Parliament this vexed question of the Christian Brothers' schools. He wished, as an Irish Protestant with considerable opportunities of forming a judgment, to bear his testimony to the vast benefits which had been conferred on the Irish youth by the system of education adopted by the Christian Brothers. ["Hear, hear!"] This desire to have the Christian Brothers included was not confined merely to the Roman Catholics of Ireland. He hoped there was no difficulty in the way of the Chief Secretary of conferring on the Christian Brothers the full benefits of the Act of 1892—an Act passed by Lord Salisbury's Administration. As an hon. Member below the Gangway had said, this could be done by a stroke of the pen on the part of the Chief Secretary. One of the rules of the Board was that certain religious emblems should not be admitted to these schools. He believed that this was the whole difficulty that had been supposed to stand in the way of the Christian Brothers in sharing in the benefits of the Act. It was quite evident that the circumstances of the time in which these rules were made, were quite different from the present. They were not immutable; these rules were not like the laws of the Medes and Persians, and there was a power of altering them according to the exigencies of the day. They were made about 60 years ago, when quite a different state of feeling existed and when the idea was dominant to promote secular education as much as possible. The necessity for such restrictions as were then imposed had now ceased, and he would appeal to the Chief Secretary to take into account the great benefits which the Christian Brothers' schools had conferred upon Ireland and to declare that they should no longer be precluded from securing the pecuniary aid which Parliament had conceded for the promotion of Irish education. It was for the sole purpose of paying his tribute to these schools, and of expressing his anxious desire that this question should be settled in the direction indicated by the hon. Members below the Gangway, that he had now obtruded on the patience of the House. [Cheers.]


The major part of this Debate has been concerned with the question of the Christian Brothers' schools. I propose dealing with that question before I sit down, but meantime I wish to refer to a few minor points of considerable importance which have arisen in the course of the discussion. The hon. Member for West Donegal asked me some questions, of which he was good enough to give me warning. First of all, he desires to know what the position of the Teachers' Pension Fund is at the present moment. I regret to say that the position of that fund is very unsatisfactory. I will offer to the House a very brief account of its history and the present condition of the fund. Until 1880 the Irish National school teacher had no pension, but in 1879 an Act was passed creating a pension fund. It consisted of a sum of £1,300,000, taken from Irish Church property and annual deductions from the teachers' salaries—an inquiry to be made every five years. The inquiry made in 1885 resulted, in the opinion of the Actuary, in showing a surplus of £196,000. In 1890 the Report of the Actuary showed a large deficiency. The Report then made was submitted by the Treasury to a committee of Actuaries, and the Report made showed that the position of the fund was more serious than was suspected in 1890. So that at the present time I am afraid that if all the claims on the fund were satisfied it is doubtful if any of the fund, which was apportioned from the Irish Church fund, would remain over for the benefit of other teachers who might come on the fund. This is a very serious state of things and one that it is necessary to deal with. The whole scheme of pensions will have to be subjected to examination, and legislation will be necessary; and while the vested interests of existing teachers and pensioners ought not to be interfered with, care must be taken to prevent the creation of any further vested interests. ["Hear, hear!"] I now pass to the second point touched upon by the hon. Member. He asked me about the amount for Irish pupils, urging that it should be advanced to at least 6s., the grant for England amounting to 10s. There appears to be a misconception here. It is impossible to compare the capitation grant handed over to Irish schools with the fee grant in England. The capitation grant in Ireland is the residue of a grant on which other claims have to be satisfied before the capitation grant itself can be distributed. The way in which the Irish grant is distributed is set forth in the fourth schedule of the Irish Education Act of 1892, and it is not until the claims there laid down have been satisfied that it would be possible to distribute the residue as a eapitation grant. I believe that the claims there made upon the fund absorb something like one-half of it, and that only the other half remains for capitation grant. In order, therefore, to form a fair comparison between England and Ireland we must consider not merely the half grant which is distributed by way of capitation, but the whole of the grant, half of which is employed in satisfying these higher claims. The Vote of the present year, which has to bear a certain proportion to the English free grant, amounts to some £224,000, and though the average attendance in Irish schools has not yet been ascertained, the probability is that, if you were to divide the total grant by the number of children in average attendance, you would find that the total grant per head in Ireland was something very nearly approaching 9s., as against 10s. distributed in England. I think that it is not altogether a satisfactory arrangement which makes the amount of the grant of Ireland depend not upon the circumstances of Ireland; but, sooner or later, probably the whole subject will have to be reconsidered. With regard to the gratuities paid to the retiring teachers, I would point out that the gratuities paid to teachers in Ireland are of two kinds; under the old system they were gratuities for long service; under the new system they are merely sick gratuities, and no gratuities for long service are paid, only pensions. Under the old system, if the teacher died before the payment of the retiring gratuity no payment was made to his or her representatives, but under the new system the gratuity is to be paid to the family if the teacher dies after the Education Department has given its sanction to the payment, although it may be before the payment has obtained the further sanction of the Treasury. I am at present in communication with the Treasury on the question as to whether those teachers who are entitled to a gratuity under the old system should not be placed in a corresponding position—["hear hear!"]—in other words, whether the gratuity should not be paid after it has received the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant, although it may not yet have received the sanction of the Treasury.


Do not they say that it requires a statute?


I am not sure that they make that assertion, but I rather hope that I shall be able to secure for teachers under the old system terms similar to those under the new, ["Hear, hear!"] The limit of 35 years in regard to the repayment of the grants for teachers' residences is fixed by statute, but, as a matter of fact, the Commissioners of Education in Ireland make the terms for the teachers very much more easy than it would appear from the question as it was put by the hon. Member for West Donegal. They make special provision in their annual estimates to relieve the managers of schools to the extent of one-half of the rent-charge, and the amount for this provision in 1894–95 was £3,740, which was payable by the Commissioners on behalf of the managers to the Board of Works. The managers are thus only called upon to pay £2 10s. per cent. per annum instead of 5 per cent., and that payment, together with the contribution of the Commissioners, discharges both the interest and the principal in 35 years. The rule regarding the use of books in Irish national schools is that the books specified are not compulsory, and therefore the books disused by the National Board need not be used in the national schools. The rule laid down is given in an edition of the rules and regulations of the Commissioners, published in June, 1890, and I can hardly think that it was introduced during the administration of the late Government. I think that it would be advantageous that the national schools should be as free as possible in this matter, provided always that the books received the sanction of the Education Commissioners. I will Inquire whether the financial difficulties which have been suggested really exist, to what extent, and how far they can be remedied. The arrangements made by the Commissioners are such that at the present time the pupils are supplied with books at something like half-price; but the question whether poor children should not be supplied with books free of any charge at all is really, to some extent, one of funds. I find that a sum of something over £30,000 would enable all children in the national schools of Ireland to receive their books free of charge, and the expense would be under that if the poorer children alone were given this privilege. But, at the same time, I may remind the House that it is rather difficult to distinguish between the children who can and cannot afford to purchase school books, and that any arrangement of that kind would have the inevitable result of placing upon the Commissioners a charge probably not very much less than the maximum, say, of £33,000.


Would it not be a test if the children were barefooted?


I understand that in Scotland it might be, but in Ireland, perhaps, it may be different. I am quite ready to communicate with those in charge as to the supply of the school books to the library of the House. The difficulty in regard to education in agriculture in the Irish national schools is to some extent a legal one. The Irish Education Acts of 1892 and 1893 provide for the compulsory acquisition of sites for schools or residences but not for gardens or areas, and it would be probably very difficult even for the most competent teacher to teach agriculture unless a garden or area for agricultural operations adjoins the school-house. I may refer the House to the annual Report of the Commissioners for 1894, in which this question is dealt with, and in which it is suggested that it is desirable that the Acts of 1892 and 1893 should not be confined to the sites, so that a statutory area of land might be provided for this purpose. If I have, in the course of the coming Session, to introduce a Bill amending the Act of 1892, I trust that one of the provisions of that Bill may be a provision dealing with this very necessity. ["Hear, hear!"] I think that that ok hausts most of the questions which were raised in the course of the discussion, apart from the important subject of the Christian Brothers' schools. The hon. Member for North Cork pointed out that at the present time the compulsory education provided by the Act of 1892 was a dead letter, and he gave certain figures in connection with his statement which I am not able to follow altogether, though I think they were not very far from being accurate. According to the Reports of 1895 the number of schools where the Act was in operation was 43 out of 118, and of those where the Act was not in operation 75. It may be interesting to the House to know that causes which have been assigned for the non-enforcement of the Act are the exclusion of the Christian Brothers from the benefits of the Act and the want of funds available to pay the expenses of the Attendance Committee. This latter cause is responsible for the failure of the Act in 36 localities. It will appear that, though the exclusion of the Christian Brothers' schools from the operation of the Act has been a most important cause of the failure of the Act, so far the principal difficulty has been the want of funds in connection with the administration of the Act. It will be clear to the House that, if the intentions of Parliament cannot be carried out, it will be necessary to deal in some manner or other with the difficulties which have arisen. The hon. Member for North Cork and others seemed to think that it would be possible for me to decide this question during the Recess, and another hon. Member suggested that I could settle the question with a stroke of the pen. While I approach this subject with the most earnest desire to include the schools in the National system of education, I consider that I am bound by the pledge given by my predecessor—that, if rules which had the effect of bringing the Christian Brothers within the system should receive the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant, this House should have an opportunity of expressing its views before they were finally incorporated within the rules of the National Education Board. In my judgment, I am not merely bound by the pledge of my predecessor, but I think that it would be undesirable that so important an issue as this should be decided without the House having an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it. But I do trust that during the Recess the Irish Government will be able to come to an arrangement on this subject. I trust that when Parliament meets again we shall be able to announce that we have successfully grappled with the question, and that what the hon. Member for North Cork has suggested as a modus vivendi has been arrived at. At all events, no effort on my part will be spared to bring about that extremely desirable result. The hon. and learned Member for North Louth suggested that I ought not to have taken office without having come to a decision on this matter.


I hardly said that.


Well, very nearly; but I am by no means willing to press him on the subject. Other hon. Members were, however, more conciliatory. The hon. Member for North Cork merely urged upon me that I should ascertain what the Christian Brothers were prepared to accept or what the National Board of Education were prepared to recommend. I shall endeavour to do so. I believe that a solution is possible, and I shall do my very utmost to bring such a solution to a satisfactory result. ["Hear, hear!"]

Resolution agreed to.

On the Resolution That a sum, not exceeding £666,100, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge for the Royal Engineer Superintending Staff, and Expenditure for Royal Engineer Works, Buildings, and Repairs, at Home and Abroad (including Purchases), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1896,

MR. T. M. HEALY rose to call attention to a question of public right of way over a piece of land in Dublin County which Her Majesty's Government had purchased, on the advice of the Royal Engineers, from Mr. Jameson, who had previously allowed the public to roam over the place at will. Mr. Jameson offered to pay the Government the sum of £50 if the Government would exchange another strip of land for a strip he desired to transfer to them. The Royal Engineers, to whom the matter was referred, recommended that the Government should accept the interchange of strips, and accordingly the interchange was carried into effect, but the Government had never insisted upon the payment by Mr. Jameson of the £50. As soon as the interchange of strips was effected, Mr. Jameson served a notice to have a declaration of title, including the strip of land he had got from the Government, freeing his land from all public rights of way. What he wanted to know was, whether the strip of land which the Government had thus obtained from Mr. Jameson, over which the public had a right of way, was to be freed from that right of way, or whether that right of way was to be extinguished? He could not understand why Mr. Jameson should have been let off the payment of the £50 which he had undertaken to pay in consideration of the exchange between himself and the Government of these strips of land. He made no objection to the recommendation of the Royal Engineers that the strips should be exchanged, but what he wanted to know was, whether the Government, when they accepted Mr. Jameson's terms, were aware that the strip of land which he offered to exchange for their strip was subject to a public right of way, and whether Her Majesty's Government were willing that that right of way should be preserved?


said, that this matter had not been brought under the attention of the authorities at the War Office, but he would make inquiries with regard to it, and, if possible, give the hon. and learned Member the information that he asked for to-morrow.

Resolution agreed to