§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question (5th May), "That the Bill be now read a Second time":—
§ And which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Asquith.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question." Debate resumed—
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS
said, he would not now pursue the comments on the financial clauses of the Bill in which he was engaged on the interruption of business at midnight on Thursday. He wished now to turn to what was called the religious difficulty. The Vice President had given away his case in this matter, for he said in so many words that the difficulty did not arise in the schools, it flourished on the platforms. Why should they have such a 1018 clause as 27 imported into the Bill if the difficulty did not arise in the schools, with the teachers, or with the parents? Nothing could be more emphatic than the repudiation of the need and reason for the clause on the part of the teachers. The clause was an invitation to the elements which had produced such turmoil and confusion in these matters, and to the agency of which we owed largely the fact that we were so lamentably long in obtaining a really national system of education. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, on Wednesday, admitted the case he was now putting, for he said:—He did not deny for a minute that there might he clergymen of the Church of England who went too far in trying to push the particular views they held, but they were few and far between.They were not quite so few and far between as the noble Lord seemed to think, and it was to the clergy who desired to push their peculiar views beyond what the common sense and judgment of the people at large wished, that he was satisfied they owed the introduction of this most pernicious clause. What would be the working of it? In not a few districts a number of persons, whose conscientious convictions were not denied, would be found going round and asking the people to sign the request necessary under the clause. He did not wish to be misunderstood. He held that our standard of right and wrong was and must be based upon religion; he believed with Mr. Gladstone that religion was the true, indeed, the only treasure of mankind; but had the House studied the most interesting returns obtained by the House of Lords from the School Boards with respect to religious education? Inquiries were addressed to 2,392 School Boards, and from all of them replies were received. It was found that 2,335 made provision for religious instruction, and that only 57 made no specific provision, and they included a large number of small districts with unpronounceable names in Wales, where, as they all knew, religious feeling was as strong as it was in any part of the Kingdom. Why could not the Government let well alone? School Boards supported what he believed to be the opinion of the people at large; they did not wish for denominational religion, but they desired 1019 that the spirit of religion should prevail in the schools, and he was satisfied from experience that if this subject were only approached with the spirit of our common Christianity underlying their proceedings, and the matter were left to the good sense of the teachers, the religious difficulty would not and need not exist. But in any case, the last assembly in the world to discuss questions of religion was the House of Commons, composed as it was of Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Nonconformists, Agnostics and others. He now turned to that word "decentralisation" which seemed to play the part in relation to the Bill that the blessed word "Mesopotamia" played with a certain old woman of whom they had often heard. The Vice President of the Committee of Council gave them a most vivid picture of the Education Department. He told them it had its habitation in five separate and inconvenient places; that in certain schedules 32 million blanks had to be filled up in 54 stages; that in fact it was breaking down under the weight of details. He was not concerned to deny that for a moment. He did not put the Education Department as an educational influence quite so high as the late Home Secretary did. Judging from an experience of 25 years, during which he had been a member and chairman of School Boards, and as the manager of a school, the Education Department had meddled far too much, and had made irritating and needless regulations and restrictions. The country was deeply indebted to the late Home Secretary for the vigour and vitality he infused into some of the dry bones of our factory system, but the right hon. Gentleman should bear in mind how entirely different were the qualities which came into play in dealing with sanitation and public health and adult people employed in factories, and those which came entered into the treatment of little children in schools. They all knew what inspection was. There was hardly a word which caused so much alarm to managers of schools, and above all to teachers. They found some men dealt with children as children should be dealt with, but they found others of the high-and-dry order who hardly knew what children were. If he found in the Bill any real 1020 decentralisation in respect to inspection he should find it very difficult to resist it; but this was not the case. And as to the Code, anyone who had bad to make himself familiar with its chapters, its articles, its sections and its schedules, would agree with him, it was far too intricate and detailed. He was all for variety. He was for much less inspection, and above all for a great simplification of the Code in many respects. He was all for decentralisation in these matters, even if it involved some weakening of the central department. But he did not find it in the Bill. There was no real decentralisation either as affected the Education Department or the Code. If the right hon. Gentleman had said "I have more than 700 men under my superintendence, they cost £275,000 or £300,000 a year: I find a great deal of their work can be done better locally: I will lessen their number, decrease the estimate, and I am willing in some way to supply local authorities with funds to carry out these duties," he could have understood it. But the right hon. Gentleman simply duplicated the inspection. Still less was there decentralisation in the Bill as affecting local authorities. It was a fair time for considering the constitution of our local educational authority. In his opinion, School Boards had been deteriorated by the system of electing them. Nothing had been more productive of wire-pulling than the cumulative vote. This had been the general experience. On the first Birmingham School Board election there was a denominational majority contrary to the opinions of the electors, because of the miscalculation of the effect of the cumulative vote. But at the next election great care was taken to arrange the machinery so as to neutralise the system. Much arithmetical calculation was required to forecast the results under this system of voting. Often it happened that there was a majority of one on a School Board election, and it became apparent that none of the majority were free to take an open, fair and candid view of a subject, but were always appealed to to vote en bloc on party grounds. He need not elaborate the argument, for there was in the Library a Blue-book which was the result of the labours of a Committee that sat in 1885, and that 1021 book contained evidence establishing the fact that while theorists were on the one side, practical men were on the other and against the cumulative vote.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
remarked that every Vice President of the Council and all the heads of the Education Department were in favour of the cumulative vote.
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS
said he was speaking from the point of view of local authority. The evidence of members of School Boards having the duty of the local administration of the Education Acts was in all cases against the cumulative vote. He agreed entirely with the view that had been expressed by Mr. Bright that the cumulative vote had thrown into School Boards an element unfavourable to the honest and successful working of educational Measures. But for this evil there was no remedy whatever in the Bill. He deplored the effect the Bill would have on the School Boards. There were clauses in it which undoubtedly contained in them the virus of a deadly, creeping paralysis as regards School Board work. The Bill clothed an old authority—the Town Council—with new educational powers, and in such a way that it would be powerless for good and largely operative for evil. He had carefully gone through the clauses relating to the action of County Councils and their duties in relation to education, and could not see how anyone could pretend that those provisions could produce anything but confusion and chaos—not real decentralisation. If the Bill had put forward a clearly-defined scheme founded on principle, something might have been said for it. He was strongly in favour of lessening the number of elections for local authorities. There were at the present time very ominous signs in the steadily-decreasing number of electors taking part in those contests, clearly indicating that elections were too frequent and too complicated. ["Hear, hear!"] He was all for simplification, lessening of elections, and concentration of voting functions. He would have the School Administration and the Poor Law Administration entrusted to one body, enlarged and simplified in its elections. If that were not done we should shortly find ourselves with a number of bodies 1022 greatly wanting, as was the case with the School Boards now, in representative authority. ["Hear, hear!"] He desired to say a word with regard to the Charity Commission as affected by this Bill. There was an object-lesson in the House on Thursday night. What happened? One of those schemes, which this body had framed without knowledge of local requirements, was rejected by the House, Ministers supporting and opposing it. The Charity Commission as it existed were a body wholly wanting in authority and power, and, to quote an expression used on Friday last by the Secretary for the Colonies, although not, perhaps, well advanced as the Commission was in years, it might, he thought, well be superannuated with great advantage to the public. He stood by the recommendation in this matter made by the Committee that sat in 1894, of which he was chairman. His charges and allegations against the Bill fell mainly under three heads. In the first place, the financial provisions were insufficient, inefficient, and would be injurious. As they stood they would not do what the promoters desired, but would certainly lead to ridiculous anomalies and gross injustice in the treatment of different localities. In the second place, the promise of decentralisation was a mere "sham, a delusion, and a snare" as regarded the admittedly overburdened Central Department, and especially in relation to the local authority. The clauses in the Bill would only be productive of confusion and chaos, and would have a paralysing effect on all educational effort. Thirdly, and above all, so far as it might have any effect at all, Clause 27 invoked a spirit which all real educational reformers desired to see at rest. The right hon. Member for Bodmin had said that the Bill was extremely complicated; that it contained much that was worth saving and much that ought to be rejected. He would agree with the right hon. Gentleman if he would delete the first "much" and substitute for it the word "little," for there was little worth saving in the Bill in his opinion, and very much that ought to be rejected. In the situation in which the House was placed, hon. Members had a right to ask the Government to give 1023 ample time for the consideration of what all admitted to be a most complicated and controversial Measure. The Leader of the House read that afternoon at the Table certain figures, and he interposed a remark which he now repeated. It was to the effect that no comparison could be made between the present Debate and the Debates on the Bill of 1870, and for good reasons. At that time there was no Twelve o'clock Rule, which had effected a vital change in the procedure of the House. With no particular limit of time a clause could be completed before the Committee rose—
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said, that without regard to the Twelve o'clock Rule there were only 25 speakers on the Education Bill of 1870.
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS
said he would only add, in relation to this point, that the number of speakers must be relative to the number of Members taking part in the business of the House, and the Division List showed that the attendance during the Debates in 1870, was far below the attendance of Members in these days. He, however, deeply lamented the position in which they found themselves with a Bill of this kind before them. It had been said that it was the business of an Opposition to oppose. He did not accept this as a definition of his duty as a Member of the Opposition. He came up in February prepared to deal with the Measures of the Government on their merits, and to deal with the matter of education, as too sacred to be drawn into the vortex of Party recrimination and political strife. He thought they should have a little more consideration for the interests of those who had known nothing of religious, or political or Party strife. He had, to the best of his judgment, formed his own opinion of the Bill, and from an examination of the provisions, and the Measure being what it was, he should, with great regret, but with no hesitation, go into the Lobby against the Second Reading.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth),
who was received with Ministerial cheers, said the speech to which the House had just listened had deepened the surprise he had felt, following the course of the Debate, that the Opposition should have committed themselves to a Motion distinctly hostile 1024 to the Second Reading, because of the two main principles contained in the Bill the hon. Gentleman had declared himself in favour of one, that of decentralisation; while as to the other principle, that of further assistance to the necessitous Voluntary Schools of the country, he had said nothing.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
said he heard the hon. Member the other night, and he did not remember that he made any complaint, at all events, of further help being given to the Voluntary Schools of this country. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member did not controvert his suggestion, and therefore the two main principles of the Bill did not meet with opposition from him. On those two principles, he ventured to say, there had been a chorus of support from hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment complained of his right hon. Friend in charge of the Bill for having said that there was much common ground upon which both sides of the House could meet. Every speech that had been made from the Front Benches opposite had shown how large was the area of that common ground. [Cheers.] Looking at the Bill purely from the educational point of view, no one had denied that the Voluntary Schools ought to receive some measure, at all events, of increased support—["hear, hear!"]—not because they were Voluntary Schools as contradistinguished from Board Schools, but because they were schools which, gauged and tested by the best inspection which could be given to them, were doing good educational work for the people of this country, and were doing that work under conditions which now crippled and limited their efficiency, and put them in an unfair condition of inferiority to other schools. [Cheers.] He was amazed to see people outside talking about this being a Bill to degrade education. ["Hear, hear!"] What was the fact? Something under 2,000,000 scholars were educated in the Board Schools of this country, and 2,500,000 scholars were educated in the Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] Those Voluntary Schools, it was said—and for the moment he did not challenge it, because it was most important for the support of this 1025 Bill—were unable to give so thorough an education to the children as they ought to have. It was said, and he was sorry to say truly said, that their teachers were underpaid, and the burden of expense pressed so heavily upon their managers that many things that would improve the condition and efficiency of the schools must be left undone; that they were not able, having no large funds to which they could go, to provide that equipment for the technical and manual instruction which could be given in many Board Schools. That was perfectly true, but what was the consequence which pressed itself not upon Members of that side alone, but, by confession, upon those who were upon the Front Benches opposite? namely, that the proper thing was to bring up the educational standard of those schools—[cheers.]—and to say that in bringing up the educational standard of the schools which educated four-sevenths of the children they were depressing the educational level of the others was to make a suggestion which had not the smallest foundation. [Cheers.] It was a rhetorical figure of speech for attack upon the Government outside the House. [Opposition cries of "No!" and Ministerial cheers.] He did not think any one would get up in his place and venture to say so there. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman, in moving his Amendment, said he was prepared to give a full and large measure of relief to Voluntary Schools. In the course of his speech the right hon. Gentleman went farther than, he thought, some of his colleagues would be likely to follow him. He said that if Voluntary Schools were brought under public control he would be prepared to give them aid from the rates without the Cowper-Temple clause. He did not think all his colleagues would follow him to that extent, but he undoubtedly did say that he would be prepared to give a large and generous increase of public support to Voluntary Schools.
§ MR. A. J. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
He said with the Scotch system of universal School Boards.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary was asked by the Secretary for the Colonies "without the Cowper-Temple Clause?" and he replied "Yes." 1026 The declaration of support of Voluntary Schools, and of willingness to give them large local assistance was made, not only by the late Home Secretary, but by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division, and also by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, so that upon the first proposition of the Bill they were all at one. He agreed they were not all at one on quite the same grounds. The right hon. Gentleman who stated the case for the Bill, he thought, put the claim on a somewhat lower ground than many of them would be disposed to put it. His right hon. Friend put it on two grounds—first, that the presence of the Voluntary Schools gave a variety and competition to their system; and, secondly, that the extinction of the Voluntary School system would mean an expenditure of £25,000,000 at once by the country, and an annual expenditure of perhaps £3,000,000 a year. He confessed that he did not think those two grounds fully represented what the feeling on that side of the House upon the matter of Voluntary Schools was. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped Members opposite were sincere in their declarations of willingness to assist Voluntary Schools. He was quite sure they were prudent. [Cheers.] No one could possibly have watched the expression of public opinion in the election of Members of Parliament during the last few years without seeing that the people as a body were determined not to suffer the extinction of the Voluntary School system. [Cheer.] They did not want to defend it only because it gave variety to education, nor did they desire to defend it only because its extinction would bring a large burden upon them. He believed it was of value to the country—[cheers]—and he thought the great majority of the people believed, as he did, that the education which it was worth while for the country to get, and for which it was worth while the country to pay, was not merely the education that resulted in a certain proportion of the children being able to go out of school at 12 years of age with a capacity of doing vulgar fractions and with some knowledge of the islands of the Southern seas, but was the education in that larger sense which included the moral and 1027 religious training of the children as well as their instruction in secular subjects. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought hon. Gentlemen on both sides should be aware of the strong feeling there was on this matter throughout the country. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last expressed, on Thursday, some surprise, and, he thought, some disappointment that, after 25 years' working of the Education Act of 1870, they should find four-sevenths of their children, in Voluntary Schools. It was somewhat surprising when they knew the legitimate use that had been made of the provisions of the Education Act. [Cheers.] When that Act was before the House, the Leaders of the Party who proposed it were as loud as the Leaders of the Party now were in their declarations that they did not desire to attack the Voluntary School system; but in many places, certainly in London, the School Board which was instituted was most wrongfully and unrighteously worked with a, desire to attack and to extinguish the schools of the Church in London. [Opposition cries of "No!" and Ministerial cheers.] He knew well enough of what he was speaking, because he had been associated with questions of this kind for many years. During the whole of the 25 years there had been a competition between the Board Schools, with far more highly-taught children, far better-equipped schools, and large public funds at their hands, and those Voluntary Schools which the people desired to have. The fact that after 25 years of that unfair competition they still found 2,500,000 childen in the Voluntary Schools, and 2,000,000 in the Board Schools was the best possible proof, he thought, of the judgment the people formed with regard to the two systems of education. [Cheers.] It was said for the other side that the School Board system was the best part of the education of this country. He did not believe it, and he he did not think the majority of the people believed it, and the School Board system could not exist if they had not in this country large numbers of Voluntary Schools where Christian parents could send their children. [Cheers.] During the Debates of 1870 the mischief that was coming was pointed out, and Mr. Gladstone since 1870 had expressed his belief that what was done in that 1028 year was not absolutely right, and that the system introduced for Scotland two years afterwards was much better. He was not surprised that the people of this country did not like Board Schools, because the system of education provided therein was repugnant to the feelings of a very large number of parents. [Opposition cries of "No!"] The religion taught was a spurious religion—[Opposisition cries of "No!"]—which did not exist outside the school walls, and consisted of what was called moral teaching illustrated by passages read from the Scriptures, passages which might be explained by teachers who did not believe the narrative of what was being read, and looked upon the doctrines derived from that narrative by Christendom with indifference or contemptuous unbelief. It was not wonderful, therefore, that the people of this country had stood by their Voluntary Schools, and had shown at the General Election last year that they were determined that these schools should be protected. The financial provision made in the Bill for Voluntary Schools he did not regard as altogether satisfactory. The assistance proposed to be given was not sufficient to meet the present difficulties experienced by the schools, and he failed to find in the Measure anything to protect them against the unfair competition to which he had referred. The educational efficiency of the Voluntary Schools was, no doubt, to some extent lower than that of the Board Schools, but it was wonderful that it was not very much lower, considering that the average expenditure per child in a Board School was 10s. higher than in a Voluntary School. In London there was nearly £1 more per head spent on teachers in the Board Schools than was spent in the Voluntary Schools, The proposed 4s. grant, therefore, would not be adequate assistance even in the present state of things; but they must remember that alterations had been made in the Code, by which from the 1st of next August an increased teaching staff would be required in Voluntary Schools—a staff increased by 16 per cent. That change would absorb practically the whole of the assistance given by the 4s. grant. Then, under the Bill School Boards were to have power to give £1 per head for maintenance, and 1029 as against that figure 4s. was all that was given to Voluntary Schools. That was not establishing equality; it was not putting the Voluntary Schools in a position to meet the educational demands that were made upon them. But even if the sums granted to Voluntary Schools were such as to do away with the present inequality between them and the Board Schools, that inequality could be set up again unless some limit were put to the sum that the School Boards could raise, or some other precaution taken. He should not like himself to limit the rate, although he recognised that in many parts of the country the money raised by rates had been most extravagantly and wastefully spent. He thought that a plan might be devised under which, when a certain limit of rating had been reached and there still remained educational needs to be provided for, an extra grant would be given and distributed equally among the Voluntary and Board Schools of a district. A plan of that kind would relieve the necessities of the Voluntary Schools, and would provide against the competition of School Boards with its resulting wasteful expenditure. It was possible that the figures produced by certain right hon. Gentlemen opposite, to show that the proposals of the Government would involve an inequality of treatment between schools, proved their case, although he did not think they did; but he felt sure that if it was shown in Committee that capricious inequalities would be caused, the Vice President of the Council would be quite ready to consider the representations made to him. The way in which the Bill was being denounced outside that House was too bad. Even when an election was pending in Wiltshire the late Home Secretary ought to have refrained from telling the people there that the Government were proposing to give ten times as much to the Voluntary Schools as to the Board Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] If a man were to offer to give an equal grant to 100 poor persons—90 men and ten women—he supposed the ex-Home Secretary would denounce the donor as hard-hearted, on the ground that he gave nine times as much to the men as to the women. He thought it right to protest warmly against misrepresentations of this kind, and they were not 1030 consistent with the declarations made in that House by right hon. Gentlemen opposite as to their willingness to assist the Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] On the question of decentralisation, he agreed with the Government that there ought to be some devolution of power from the overgrown and overworked Education Department. In many cases there had been much to complain of under the present system, and numberless questions now came before the central authority which any sensible man would at once say ought to be settled by the local authorities on the spot. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not believe that under the scheme of the Government there would be any duplication of inspection, as some hon. Members feared. Devolution was also desirable, because it was not only in connection with elementary education that they were confronted with a problem requiring immediate attention. The School Boards of this country, with the same lax regard which they had shown for the limitations by statute of their duties with respect to money, had been extending their prerogatives into the domain of secondary education—[Opposition cries of "Oh!"]—and they were proud of it. In Sheffield, for example, a great building had been erected at a cost of £30,000 for the purposes of secondary education. The funds to pay for the teaching in that place when built would no doubt be drawn from certain Parliamentary sources which would properly be used for secondary education; but the £30,000 which went to pay for the building came from funds supposed to be allotted to the teaching of young children in elementary schools. It had been said that if Parliament would only leave secondary education alone for ten years, the elementary teachers and School Boards would have got the whole system into their hands. He did not think that the control of secondary education ought to be allowed to drift into the hands of bodies established for another purpose, and which were to some extent transgressing and exceeding their powers in the work they were doing in this respect There was at this time a fund of £2,400,000 a year for the purposes of technical and secondary education. That was administered by six local and 1031 four central bodies. Thus it came under the control of ten different administrative bodies. Surely it was time to simplify these arrangements, and to provide that that money should not be spent by different bodies with overlapping powers and competing ambitions, but should be in the hands of one responsible and authoritative body. ["Hear, hear!"] The case for decentralisation was complete. The Education Department, overburdened as it was, ought to have relief. There ought to be taken from it and given to some proper body a power of dealing with local needs. The simplification of this curious system was surely an imperative matter of social reform. ["Hear, hear!"] If decentralisation was to take place, was there any real difference of opinion as to the body to which local authority ought to be committed? He should have thought not, for the proposal of the Government substantially harmonised with the very words of the Report of the Secondary Education Commission, which was drawn up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen. He did not profess to attach much respect to that Report, because he thought the terms of the reference to the Committee were badly drawn and the Commission most imperfectly constituted; but there were two passages in that Report which might have been drawn from the speech of the Vice President of the Council. Both the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen and the Member for Nottingham signed that Report. They had to consider the authority to which the future direction of secondary education was to be committed, and whether it should be elected directly or indirectly. They came to the conclusion that indirect election would be the best. One of the worst and weakest of popular delusions was that an administrative body could be best gathered together by direct election. ["Hear, hear!"] If the Cabinet were elected by the people we should have a very different one—[Opposition cheers and laughter]—and we should have a very much worse one. [Cheers.] If the Cabinet were elected by the constituencies of this country, he doubted whether our Imperial existence would be prolonged beyond a generation. ["Hear, hear!"] He would read the words of the right 1032 hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen:—We have no alternative save to confine ourselves to the question whether the local authority for secondary education ought to be constituted by direct election. However abstractedly desirable direct election may be, the practical objections to it are inevitable. The electorate is already overburdened with elections and is growing restive under their combined annoyance and expense." [Cheers.] "In rural areas parish, district, and County Councils, Members of Parliament, and occasionally School Boards, in urban areas, vestries, boards of guardians, councillors, School Boards, and Members of Parliament make up, especially when taken along with their different electoral areas and modes of election, a rather anxious burden for both electors and candidates. And it becomes us to consider well before adding another item to his over-full programme. This is the more necessary, as it is certain that the increase in the number of elections tends to beget carelessness in the electors, who begin to feel that what comes so often requires little thought when it does come. Then the law of parsimony, the need for doing with the least expenditure of energy and resource what has to be done so often, tends to throw all these varied elections into the hands of single organisations, which are inevitably the organisations of the great political Parties, and so it directly results in turning a question which ought to be in its essence non-political into a distinctly political question.["Hear, hear!"] Admirable philosophy on the part of the right hon. Gentleman! [Cheers.] An admirable declaration of opinion from which, at present, he had heard no dissentient voice from the Bench on which the right hon. Gentleman usually sat. [Cheers.] If it was decided to constitute a body by indirect election, what should that body be? With regard to this matter, the Commission advised that the control should be given to a committee appointed by the County Council from its own members, with or without an addition from outside—the very body suggested in the Bill. [Cheers.] In the only other passage he would quote they went on to show how valuable this body would be. They said:—It is perhaps unnecessary to say in conclusion that an authority constituted mainly, or even solely, by indirect election, is yet an independent authority. It would not in this case be a mere creature of the principal electing body, whether council or School Board, but would have an existence and executive powers of its own, with its province, powers, and functions defined and secured by statute. The power to elect would not involve the right to control the policy, or to throw out the Measures of the 1033 educational authority. It would be a body elected for a specific purpose, able to accomplish its purpose, but steadied throughout by the sense of its responsibility to the ultimate source of its being. The ratepayers would have control over it through the council or Board they returned; the council or Board would have control over it through the persons they elected; and thus the ancient relation between representation and rating would be maintained. … A body so constituted would seem to have the promise of fitness for the work to lie laid upon it.He thought the House could now understand the absence of objection to decentralisation. [Cheers.] The opponents of the Bill were reduced to saying that this body, which the Secondary Education Commission declared would be capable of administering this large fund and of directing the future of secondary education, would not be capable of acting as the local inspecting authority over the Voluntary and Board Schools. That only needed to be stated to be answered. [Cheers.] If a committee appointed by the County Council was able to undertake the responsible duties of managing the new system of secondary education, a fortiori it would be able to discharge the duty allotted to it under this Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] For these reasons it amazed him that a directly hostile attack should be made on the Bill. Up to the present the work of promoting education had not been the property of either one of the two great parties. Prior to 1870, mainly by the devotion of Churchmen and the clergy, there had been built up a great system of education, under which 1½ million children were educated. The Bill of 1870 was not a Party triumph. No doubt the extraordinary Cowper-Temple Clause, the meaning of which no one had ever been able to understand—[Cheers and Opposition laughter]—was forced on the Conservative Party in spite of the protest made then by Mr. Disraeli; but at the close of the discussion on that Bill the Minister in charge of it gratefully recognised the services of the Tory Party. [Cheers.] The next step in education came from the Tory Party in 1876, when they extended the principle of compulsion to the districts outside the areas of School Boards. The next contribution came from the other side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield was, he believed, the author of the Bill 1034 of 1882, which rendered education compulsory. Then, again, the next great step was taken from the present Government side of the House, and in 1891 it was a Tory Minister who, without being actuated by any party motive, gave that free education which was the natural complement of, and which might most properly have preceded, compulsion, as it had done in some other countries. Then, he asked, why should the two sides of the House now part company in regard to this Bill? ["Hear, hear!"] Why should hon. Members opposite oppose this Bill with the main objects and principles of which the Leaders of the Opposition said they sympathised, and had no quarrel? ["Hear, hear!"] Of course, they were entitled to find fault with the details of the Measure, which they would have every opportunity of discussing in Committee. He could wish that it was not yet too late for them to reconsider their position, to desist from their opposition to the Bill, and to allow the Measure to go forward as other educational Measures had done, as the work of both sides of the House, and with regard to which each party could share the responsibility. ["Hear, hear!"] But, if the militant attitude and the high and heroic sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary were to be taken as representing the views of the official Opposition, those who supported Her Majesty's Government would, at all events, have nothing as a party to regret, because they would have the great satisfaction of knowing that the Ministers whom they trusted would, with the most hearty support of the great body whom they led, place upon the Statute-book an Act which would redress the injustice of the past, not by injuring, but by improving education—["Hear, hear!" and cries of "Oh!"]—by raising the level of the education given in Voluntary Schools to that which had been attained in Board Schools by means of public money. ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill would, he believed, tend to do away with the religious differences and difficulties which had divided parties in this country by putting an end to unjust competition, which in the past had produced extravagance on the one side and on the other an abiding sense of injustice. [Cheers.]
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that it was with great pleasure that he had listened to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, because it was impossible to do otherwise in view of the hon. and learned Gentleman's great forensic power and eloquence. ["Hear, hear!"] Whether hon. Members agreed or not with the hon. and learned Gentleman, it always delighted them to hear him speak on any subject. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. and learned Gentleman had asked those who sat on the Opposition side of the House why, having worked together so long in the cause of education, they now sought to part company with those who sat on the Government Benches in relation to this Bill? He should like to ask the House to consider the nature of this Measure. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said that it was only natural that, after the result of the late General Election, the Government should have introduced some such Bill as this, dealing with education. But was there at the time of the General Election any question raised of introducing a Measure which would have the effect of degrading the School Board system, and of placing limits on grants for educational purposes? ["Hear, hear!"] He had been glad to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman state that he objected to limits being placed by statute upon grants for education, and in that remark, he entirely concurred. ["Hear, hear!"]. For the last 25 years, the system of education which now existed had been loyally carried out by both parties, and the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Council in Lord Salisbury's last Government used to assure the House that the last thing in the mind of the then Government was to disturb the settlement that had been arrived at in 1870. It was because this revolutionary, reactionary, and insidious Measure had been introduced by the Government, that those who sat upon the Opposition side of the House had parted company with them. ["Hear, hear!"] He had accepted the Voluntary Schools as part of the educational system of the country, but he thought that this insidious attack upon the Board Schools was most unjust. He denied that there was any foundation for the statement that the School Boards had endeavoured to injure the Church Schools. It had 1036 been stated that the London School Board had built Board Schools side by side with Church Schools, but he might remind those who took that view, that no new Board School could be built without the sanction of the Education Department having been first obtained. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies that he was mistaken when he said that the Nonconformist organisations had condemned this Bill before it was born, and that as soon as it saw the light it was doomed to death by a purely partisan opposition. These organisations were not called into existence to oppose the Bill, but the demands made by deputation after deputation on the Government, and to be watchful and ready. One was called an Emergency Committee, and the other was a revival of the old Birmingham League. The head and front of both organisations was the hon. Member for Edgbaston, than whom there was no more honest friend of education in the House. Often, when Chairman of the Birmingham School Board, had he put his hand deep into his own pocket to keep Voluntary Schools alive when their subscribers had neglected them. Condemning the Bill beforehand was the last thing anyone dreamed of. But no one anticipated a Bill like this. The Chancellor of the Exchequer went to his constituents and said, in effect:—Don't you believe what you hear about our intentions against board Schools. Wait till you see the Government Bill, and you will find that what we want to do is to take care of the Voluntary Schools and preserve them from extinction.But the grant of 4s. per head would not preserve them from extinction. It was pouring water into a sieve to give 4s. a head if they did not at the same time insist, as the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested, on a certain limit of subscriptions in every case. Let there be no statutory inequality between Voluntary Schools and Board Schools. Let both be treated alike, and let them take care that what was poured into the lap of the Board Schools was not lost by a deficiency of subscriptions towards Voluntary Schools. It was grievous that they should be discussing a Measure dealing with secondary education which was so 1037 complicated and embarrassed by provisions which provoked bitter controversy. Nothing was more needed in this country than the organisation of secondary education. It was the teaching of Matthew Arnold's life. Mr. Forster attempted it in 1869, but had to abandon it, and it was now high time it was done. But was the way to get it done to mix it up with so much bitterness and contention, the natural result of a Bill like this? Even now, at the eleventh hour, a good secondary education Measure might be passed this Session. The clauses relating to secondary education might be detached from the rest of the Bill, amended, and passed with very brief discussion. Then, in the smallest number of clauses necessary they could deal with the question of saving the Voluntary Schools from extinction. Such a Measure would be more likely to commend itself to the House and the country than the action already taken. They saw before them a prospect which he hoped they would never see again—of the revival of the old controversy about the religious difficulty; and controversies they believed were dead and buried, all to be fought over again with the greatest disadvantage to education. He hoped the Vice President of the Council would adhere to 12 years as the age of compulsory attendance at school. We should never have an educated peasant or artisan class in this country when children left school as soon as they had reached the 4th standard and in a few years forgot the little they had learnt. He had not the advantage last week of hearing the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary for India, but he had read it with care. The noble Lord indulged in bitter attacks on the School Board system. He insisted that there should be additional control over the expenditure of School Boards, and adduced statements to show how extravagant it was. He said (to quote The Times report):—Had hon. Members opposite the slightest conception of the cost of our system of primary education? It was by far the most expensive system in the world. At the present moment the Board Schools, according to the last Return of the late Government, were spending £9,000,000, and if they added the cost of maintenance alone of Voluntary Schools there was an expenditure during the year to which the Report related of £14,000,000.1038 This was absolutely incorrect. According to the Report of the Education Department for 1895, giving the aggregate expenditure of all School Boards in England and Wales for the 12 months ending September 29, 1894, there was spent on capital account, land, and buildings, £1,885,702 17s. 9d.; furnishing, £57,844 0s. 2d.; repayment of principal of loans, £547,252 6s. 3d.; interest on loans, £758,652 1s. 10d. The money borrowed and spent on capital account was accounted for by the last two items. So the noble Lord had counted the sum twice over. The real annual expenditure was not £9,000,000, but exactly £6,766,000, and the average cost of maintenance per child in average attendance (including London) £2 8s. 9¾d. This was what the noble Lord called the most extravagant system in the world. On what authority did he make that statement? To begin with, all the schools of all the English-speaking people in the world were more expensive than our own. He found, for instance, that in the United States the total expenditure for common schools—elementary and higher elementary schools—for 1892–3 was over £32,600, whilst last year it was £34,000. The cost per pupil in the elementary schools in the United States was £31 3s. 9d., as against £2 1s. in England. ["Hear, hear!"] He could not understand the noble Lord's statement, nor from whence he got it. In the same speech the noble Lord said that our system relatively was the most expensive of any in Europe, and that on primary and secondary education combined we spent more per head than any other country. They had, he told them, a limit of 49s. under the Bill, experience having shown them that some check was absolutely necessary,because, as far as he knew, the highest expenditure in Europe upon secondary and primary education was only 38s. per child in average attendance.He should like to call the attention of the House to a little report issued by the Foreign Office on Saturday, on "the various institutions and agricultural development of Switzerland" prepared by Her Majesty's representative there, Mr. St. John. In his report, which should be read by everyone who cared 1039 about education, or who was engaged in agriculture or industry, Mr. St. John said:—In 1893 there were 8,390 primary schools in Switzerland, with 469,800 children and an average of 50 pupils per teacher, of whom there were 6,290 masters and 3,180 mistresses. The expenses of the cantons were, on an average, 50f. (£2) per pupil, or 6s. 8d. per inhabitant.Whilst in this country we spoke of average attendance, in Switzerland and other countries they always spoke of every pupil in the school, which would raise the £2 per pupil to 48s. or 49s. ["Hear, hear!"] In the same report Mr. St. John said there were485 secondary schools with 31,800 pupils; an average of 22 pupils per teacher, costing the canton an average of £6 6s. per pupil.He went on to say that there were commercial schools in six cantons which cost £18 10s. per head; and he added in a subsequent page: "There are 16 agricultural schools, with 400 students at, £16 a year each. Last year the expenditure averaged £46 for each student, the difference being made up by the cantonal and Federal subventions, amounting to £8,750 and £4,300 respectively." He should like to ask where the noble Lord got his 38s. from. ["Hear, hear!"] He had shown, in one of the countries which was naturally the poorest in Europe, which had no resources in coal or iron, but which had obtained marvellous industrial achievements, which had exported more manufactures per head than England herself—sending to this country very nearly £750,000 worth of condensed milk last year—they could afford to pay all this for education, whilst England, which spent so much less, was reproached for her gross extravagance. ["Hear, hear!"] The two reports from which he had quoted, relating to the United States and Switzerland, could be perused by hon. Members desirous of seeing them, and who would be able to judge for themselves—first, whether, as the noble Lord said, we were the most extravagant people in the world in education; and secondly, whether in Europe only 38s. per head was spent upon both secondary and elementary education. The right hon. Member for Dartford, speaking the other night, said that School Boards having the rates behind them had overstepped the limits 1040 of elementary education and trespassed upon the field of secondary education. That was a statement that had been, constantly made, and the hon. and learned Gentleman who had last spoken had dealt with the Central School at Sheffield. He should like to deal with that question. When Sheffield got into good working order they found they had at the Board schools a few boys of bright parts who could get through their standards very easily, but who were kept back and hindered because they had to wait for other boys. It was found more economical to combine these brilliant boys into a higher-grade elementary school and give them a somewhat better teaching. A scheme to this effect was submitted to Lord Sandown, who heartily approved of it. The noble Lord, the Secretary for India succeeded Lord Sandown as Vice President, and when he (Mr. Mundella) entered into that office in 1880 the first matter that came under his notice was the fact that the noble Lord before he left office had sanctioned the scheme of instruction for this Central School. He spoke to the noble Lord on the subject, who told him he was glad to approve of it as a good scheme, and one that was likely to tend to economy. That school had been going on with marvellous success from that time to this. It taught something more than the three R's, imparting instruction in science, in drawing, commercial subjects, bookkeeping, and higher arithmetic, qualifying students for counting-houses, warehouses, and mills in the town The scholars included many poor boys. There was, for example, the son of a widow who got her living by turning a mangle. Some were enabled by an allowance of 2s. a week to remain at school till they were 14 or 15. They were making themselves more useful to themselves and their families than they would have been if they had gone to the grammar school till they were 17 or 18. The right hon. Member for Dartford (Sir W. Hart Dyke) visited that school, and afterwards, addressing a great public meeting, he stated the numbers of students earning science and art grants and other grants, and the number of Queen's scholars, and he added,These figures are all-important; I have read them not only to encourage you, but with another special object; I should like to say to 1041 many other large communities, Go you and do likewise and support central schools of this kind. I do trust that before long the excellent example you are setting will be followed by other towns and will bring prosperity to other trading and industrial communities.[Cheers.] Several inspectors had casually referred to these central schools and had urged that similar schools should be set up in other districts on the ground that they were economical when tested by results, and particularly by the stimulus they gave to all elementary schools in the town, both Board and Voluntary. The schools were not confined to Board School children; Voluntary Schools sent to them their best scholars; and it was pleasant to see bright lads, the sons of the poorest workmen, receiving an education which they were qualified to turn to good account. ["Hear, hear!"] The only thoroughgoing support of the Bill had come from the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (Lord George Hamilton). The hon. member for West Ham (Mr. Gray) was going to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, which he reduced to a mere skeleton and framework, while the hon. member for Nottingham (Mr. Yoxall) tore the Bill to shreds. The noble Lord said the Cowper-Temple Clause could never have worked except with the common consent of every member of a Board; but the House contained many members of School Boards who knew they had never experienced the slightest difficulty in working it. As to the Jews being "bought off with a syllabus," two-thirds or three-fourths of the teachers in the great Jews' Free School were Christians, Churchmen trained in Church of England training colleges. [Cheers.] The scholars, children of the poorest Jews in the East-end, many of them refugees from persecution—the poor children, 90 per cent. foreign-born, and knowing little or no English, made 95 per cent, of possible attendances, and in two or three years they made remarkable progress. Surely the London School Board did not commit a great sin in appointing a few Jewish masters for these children. [Ministerial cheers.] As to the syllabus, immediately it was discovered it was contrary to the rules of the London School Board it was withdrawn. He was astonished at the noble Lord asserting that a Unitarian teacher gave religious 1042 teaching which was repugnant to a clergyman who heard it. The supposed teaching was allowing a child to say that Joseph was the father of Jesus. The clergyman at once published the statement that the doctrine of the Incarnation was being improperly taught. It turned out that the schoolmistress was a Wesleyan from the Wesleyan. Training College in Westminster, yet the incident had led to two years' wrangling in the London School Board, and now the noble Lord appealed to it as showing the difficulty of working the Cowper-Temple Clause. When the children were in the schools all the difficulties disappeared. He spoke with a good deal of experience of the School Board Schools. Anyone who visited these schools at morning service would find the children reverently taught the Scriptures, and joining reverently and orderly in the prayers. Why, then, did they propose this 27th Clause? The effect of that clause would be to take religious teaching out of the hands of the teachers, thus depriving them of great influence with the children in teaching morality and higher things; and then they would sort the children into this class or that class in order that they might learn a little Wesleyan, or Baptist, or Church doctrine. He trusted they would hear no more of this—[cheers and cries of "Oh!"]—on the Second Reading of the Bill. Most of them had received a circular signed by Cardinal Vaughan, but all he had to say was that Roman Catholics were treated with greater consideration than they were in any Catholic country in Europe. They were the only country which gave large grants to Voluntary Schools, whether Catholic or Protestant, which were under private management. There were no such grants given in France, not a farthing in Italy, and the same was the case, he believed, in Bavaria and Prussia. He always recognised that they never could enforce compulsion in this country without allowing the Catholics to teach their own faith in their own schools. He did not believe that they, as Protestants, ought to make the difficulty that they did make about children assembling together reverently to be taught the Holy Scriptures without any particular doctrine. On the other hand, he thought they should all be 1043 thankful that so much had been done, and he was at a loss to understand how any clergyman of the Church of England could do other than rejoice at what was done in this direction in the Board Schools. Why, 25 years ago more than half the population was outside the schools—in the streets and gutters, most of them; and as to the religious teaching, it was a farce. ["Hear, hear!"] Let them examine the reports, and they would find that it was a farce. ["Hear, hear!"] There was very little religion indeed. What was it to-day? Everybody knew what it was. He had received, as, no doubt, other hon. Members had received, a circular signed by Cardinal Vaughan, who said that they—the supporters of the present system—Hoped that a system of undenominational instruction given in the Board Schools by teachers whose religious belief might not be inquired into and ascertained, will lead by degrees to the dissolution and final disappearance of Christianity as a definite system of faith and conduct from amongst the masses of the English people. … Another quarter of a century will well nigh complete the de-Christianising of the great majority of Englishmen. Under cover of the School Board method, considerable progress has been made already in this direction.This circular contained language as to Bible teaching which he should not use in reference to any Catholic publication that he ever saw. He asked leave to read an eloquent passage from one of the greatest Cardinals the Roman Church had had in modern times—Cardinal Newman, who said:'Bible Religion' is both the recognised title and the best description of English religion. It consists, not in rites or creeds, but mainly in having the Bible read in Church, in the family, and in private. Now I am far indeed from underrating that mere knowledge of Scripture which is imparted to the population thus promiscuously. At least in England it has to a certain point made up for great and grievous losses in its Christianity. The reiteration again and again in fixed course in the public service of the words of the inspired teachers under both covenants, and that in grave majestic English, has in matter of fact been to our people a vast benefit. It has attuned their minds to religions thoughts, it has given them a high moral standard, it has served them in associating religion with compositions which, even humanly considered, are among the most sublime and beautiful ever written; especially it has impressed upon them the series of Divine Providences in behalf of man from his creation to his end, and, above all, the words, deeds and sacred sufferings of Him in 1044 whom all the Providences of God centre. What Scripture especially illustrates from its first page to its last is God's Providence; and that is nearly the only doctrine held with a real assent by the mass of religious Englishmen. Hence the Bible is so great a solace and refuge to them in trouble. I repeat, I am not speaking of particular schools and parties in England, whether of the High Church or the Low, but of the mass of piously-minded and well-living people in all ranks of the community.It was not often they discussed the religious question, and therefore he desired to add that only on Saturday last he received a message containing a resolution passed by the Sunday School Union, which represented 200,000 children and 2,000 teachers, in favour of the maintenance of the Cowper-Temple Clause, and expressing the unbounded blessing that the teaching in the Board Schools had been to the Sunday Schools of the country. A few months ago he made inquiries following up some he made when he was Vice President of the Committee of the Council, and also President of the Sunday School Union, as to the progress of religious teaching in the Sunday Schools of England, and the statistics he collected were obtained from all denominations. When Mr. Edward Baines was a Member of the House he ascertained—it was about 1860—that there were two million children attending Sunday Schools. The return for 1892–3 showed that there were 37,201 Sunday Schools in England and Wales, 585,457 teachers, and 5,976,000 children on the rolls. There were really several thousands more attending Sunday Schools than Day Schools. Respecting the special-aid grant, he thought it ought to be administered by managers who owed some responsibility to the public. It was time we had a better insight into the working of the Voluntary Schools than we had at present. Finally, he asked the House whether this was not a time when we ought to be building up both our primary and secondary education, so as to equip our people for the battle of life. He agreed entirely with the Bishop of Durham that the object of education was not merely to make men bread-winners, but to make noble men and women; but still, they must not lose sight of the fact that, if we made noble men and women, it was also to the utmost degree desirable to enable them to meet all the opposition opposed to them with 1045 all the ability and equipment they could be given. It was necessary, surely, in these times, having regard to the competition in our industries, that our people should be abreast in the matter of education of any people in the world. We did not limit our expenditure by statute in respect to any other branch of the public service; why limit it in the case of education? He appealed to the House so to deal with the Bill that all the mischief it contained should be eliminated; to try not only to maintain the position we now held, but to attain a higher and better position, so that it could not be said that the English people were amongst the worst educated people in Europe. [Cheers.]
§ MR. JEBB (Cambridge University)
asked the indulgence of the House while he dealt with the principles rather than with the details involved in the Bill. The first principle was, of course, devolution. For that there were two reasons. First, that the Education Department was now overburdened with detail; secondly, and this was the greater reason of the two, that, within such measure of uniformity as elementary education demanded, there was still room for a better adaptation to the varying needs of the different districts. The other night his hon. Friend the Member for East Somerset pointed out, not only that County Councils were perfectly fitted to deal with the question of elementary education, seeing that they were already dealing successfully with the far more difficult problem of secondary education; but that some such devolution as was proposed was absolutely necessary if education was to be carried on successfully in many counties, because only a local authority could properly organise that grouping of country schools which was so requisite for peripatetic teaching as well as for other purposes. Now, the result of this measure of devolution would be, in his opinion, not to weaken the central control of the Education Department, but to strengthen it. The hon. Member for North West Ham had said that, judging from his long experience, a large devolution of the powers and functions of the Education Department had become a matter of absolute necessity. But they had been told that this new plan would bring sectarian strife into the election of municipal 1046 bodies. It ought to be noted that in constituting the new local authorities it would be absolutely necessary to place on them persons not members of the municipal bodies, who had a competent knowledge and experience of education. ["Hear, hear!"] Amongst those persons should be representatives of the teachers, including women; and he, personally, would not object to have upon the new authorities some direct representatives of School Boards. The Vice-President indicated how these objects might be secured—viz., by the County Council submitting to the Education Department a scheme for the constitution of its education committee, subject to modification by the Department itself. It was said there would be danger of sectarian strife in the election of these new educational authorities. But surely that danger would be modified by the presence on those bodies of persons, conversant with education, who did not belong to the County Councils. And might it not be said also that the election of School Boards had not always been ideally tranquil? He might quote a few words on this subject of a distinguished Anglican clergyman who was unfavourable, on the whole, to the Bill, but who was speaking of the proposed local authority as it would be with the modifications just suggested.It would consist," he said, "of representative men, elected, not as our School Board is elected—in a torrent of misrepresentations and on purely sectarian grounds—but with a view to general public interests, and enlightened and moderated by the presence at their board of men who may be presumed to be above the influence of Party.They had just heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield a renewal of the charge that the Bill was hostile to the School Boards. It was admitted by every one that there was no direct attack upon the School Boards. ["No, no!"] Well, it was generally admitted; but it was held that the School Boards were indirectly threatened. How were they threatened? In three ways, it was said. In the first place, because the formation of new School Boards would be discouraged. But Clause 6 merely gave an option. If the district to which the Education Department had given notice under Clause 6 did not apply for 1047 a School Board, the presumption was that the conditions in that district were such as would render the School Board, if formed, weak and inefficient. Such conditions had surrounded many rural School Boards, as was generally admitted. The Report of the Education Department for last year stated that the climax of inefficiency was sometimes found in the country Board School. The greater School Boards in the large towns had done admirable work—["hear, hear!"]—but it was clear that the smaller School Boards in rural districts had not, as a rule, been successful. In the next place, it was said that Clause 8 would lead to the dissolution of many School Boards. Very probably; but the question was whether the School Boards likely to be dissolved were such as the more enlightened friends of the Board School system would wish to continue. They would be some of the Boards in districts with small populations. According to the Report of the Education Department for 1893–4, page 33, there were then 142 School Boards with less than 250 population, 387 with between 250 and 500, 312 with between 500 and 750, and 184 with between 750 and 1,000. Those who spoke of the School system as if it were equally applicable everywhere, forgot that its successes had been won with the large populations; its failures had been with the small populations. The districts in which School Boards would be dissolved under Clause 8 would be of the same kind as those which, under the option given by Clause 6, would not choose to have School Boards at all. But the strongest objection was taken to Clause 26, under which the School Board rate could not be raised above 20s., or the amount of the rate for the year ending 1896, whichever was the higher, without consent of the local authority. The real question here was whether, after 25 years' experience, the ratepayers had not some right to be consulted before the expenditure was allowed to overstep a limit representing the maximum hitherto found requisite. If the ratepayers, speaking by the new education authority, decided that the rate ought to be so raised, then it would be raised notwithstanding the limit, for the new authority had the power to go beyond the limit. They had been told by a former chairman of a great School 1048 Board (the Secretary for India) that the control exercised by the finance committees of the School Boards sometimes left much to be desired. He wished it to be distinctly understood that he was not accusing the School Boards of extravagance. He was prepared to assume that they had generally, if not always, got their money's worth from them. ["Hear, hear!"] What he did protest against against was this—assuming that the veto in Clause 26 was vested in a body which would have no interest in the welfare and progress of education. That seemed to him to be an altogether unwarranted assumption. On the contrary, if the local authority should be constituted as he hoped it would be before the Bill passed out of Committee, and provision made for an adequate representation upon it of persons with knowledge and experience of education, then there would be ample security that if a really good case existed for passing beyond the limit set by Clause 26, an increase to the rate would be granted. There would be on the local authority persons competent and desirous to urge any considerations which the School Board might have to urge in favour of such a course; and, further, the body as a whole would be one disposed to give all due weight to any real and strong reasons that could be urged in favour of such a course. He could not, therefore, see how the Bill would even indirectly injure the operation of the School Board system in any place where that system was now really valuable, or in any place where it had a fair prospect of becoming so. If he thought that the School Board system would be injured, he should consider that a most serious defect in the Bill, he might say almost a fatal defect. (Opposition, cheers.) He was prepared to stand by those words because, though he thought Voluntary Schools were indispensable, every one knew that Board Schools were also indispensable. ["Hear, hear!"] As to the aid to Voluntary Schools, they were pretty well agreed that the 4s. grant would be a valuable boon to some of the Voluntary Schools, but he thought there was also a general agreement that to many or most of those schools the grant would be totally inadequate. [Cheers.] The deduction of the whole endowment would at once cancel even this small help in 1049 many cases where it was most needed. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought, therefore, that the provision as to endowments would have to be reconsidered in Committee. It seemed to him that the root of the whole matter as to Voluntary Schools was to bear in mind the broad distinction between Voluntary Schools in non-School Board areas and those in areas with School Boards. Where there was no School Board there was no education rate, and therefore there was a stronger ground for keeping up the subscriptions. But in School Board districts, where the same people to a great extent paid both the rate and subscription, he thought it was impossible for Voluntary Schools to compete with Board Schools. The strain was greatest in the poor districts of large towns, especially in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Voluntary Schools in Manchester had to compete with Board Schools receiving £300 to £900 of public money; or, in London, £1,000 to £2,000. Suppose a subscription of 5s. per child to be required. A Voluntary School of 100, where there was no School Board rate, might raise the £25. But a Voluntary School of 500, in a poor urban district with a heavy rate, could not raise the £125, and would be extinguished. ["Hear, hear!"] The Free Education Act of 1891 was a gain to some Voluntary Schools in non-School Board areas, because the 10s. fee grant brought in more than they had been taking in fees. But in the urban districts of the north the Act of 1891 had been most disastrous to Voluntary Schools, to which fees had been a large source of income. There was no help in the provision that they might charge the difference over the 10s. as a fee. For the parent was entitled to free education somewhere, either in the Voluntary School or the Board School. A fee-charging Voluntary School had no chance against a free Board School. So far as concerned Voluntary Schools in poor urban districts, it seemed impossible that they should compete with Board Schools by means of State grants plus subscriptions. He agreed with those who thought that the final settlement must be found in rate aid coupled with local control. [Opposition cheers.] State aid in grants carried with it central control. This central control was already secured. There was the 1050 supervision of secular instruction by the Department, and there was the audit of accounts. To this, Voluntary and Board Schools were alike subject. But aid from the rates would involve further some control by the locality in which the rates were raised—as Board Schools were controlled by the School Boards. If Voluntary Schools received rate aid, what should the local control be? He should say, give the local authority representation on the managing body of every Voluntary School that received rate aid. This would be analogous to the representation clause in the Technical Instruction Act of 1889. Let the secular instruction be controlled by the whole managing body. Let the religious instruction be controlled by that element in the management which represented the denomination to which the school belonged. The essential condition was that the denominational character of the school, which was its very reason for existing, should be preserved, and that there should be no alienation of trusts. With reference to the teachers, it was evident that in a Voluntary School some at least of the teachers, always including the head teacher, must belong to the denomination. But it was undesirable that Nonconformists should be excluded from all share in the teaching of Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] In small Voluntary Schools that might be hardly avoidable; but in large Voluntary Schools it might be arranged that some places among the pupil-teachers and assistant teachers should be open to Nonconformists. The opinions of Anglicans were very much divided on this matter of rate-aid with local control. Some weighty men were for it; many were against it. The local control they feared, might end by subverting the I distinctive basis of the schools. He did not think so In the first place the preservation, of that basis would be made a first condition; secondly, public opinion would act as a strong restraining force, both generally, and especially within the Nonconformist bodies. An aggressive policy would be liable to reprisals, and would discredit the body which adopted it. The ratepayer, it might be added, would have a compensation in the great impulse which this system would give to the building of denominational schools at private cost. 1051 In his judgment a defect in the Bill was that the Education Department could forbid the establishment of a new Voluntary School, if they thought it unnecessary. Now, the judgment as to the necessity should be left to the denomination concerned. What was wanted was a clause like Section 67 of the Education (Scotland) Act, of 1872. No school was to be deemed "unnecessary" which supplied education, otherwise not available, in accordance with the religious belief of parents. As to Clause 27, he agreed with those who thought that it would require, if it became law, care and self-control. The late Home Secretary quoted some words spoken on this subject by the Bishop of Durham, to the effect that the clause would be seldom exercised. But the Bishop added some words which were not quoted by the late Home Secretary last week. The Bishopsaid:—There are some exceptional cases on both sides, and here the Bill brings a necessary relief.The right hon. Gentleman gave the extract correctly as to its purport, and as far as it went, but the words he had now added involved an important condition, because in some cases this relief would be necessary. [''Hear, hear!"] As to Clause 27, he thought it was right in principle. The terrible pictures which had been drawn of its effects by some hon. Members presupposed two things—that it would be largely and constantly pressed into use, and that the persons who worked it would be destitute of common sense and good feeling. ["Hear, hear!"] If the principle of rate aid for Voluntary Schools were adopted as he had indicated, the need for such a clause would rapidly tend to disappear. [Hear, hear!"] With regard to the so-called settlement of 1870, he had not heard any statement on the point which represented the facts as they appeared to himself. One great merit claimed for the settlement was that undenominational religion was taught under it upon ground common to all Christians. He would admit that the religious teaching in many Board Schools had been excellent, and that it had received the approval of several Bishops of the Anglican Church. Large numbers of Church people were content 1052 with it. The hon. Member for Flintshire had said that it satisfied all Protestant Nonconformists. The Cowper-Temple Clause had worked smoothly, on the whole, for 25 years. At the same time, a vast number of people could not accept the religious teaching of the Board Schools. If there were no such objection, four-sevenths of the children would not be in Voluntary Schools. ["Hear, hear!"] There were many persons who thought that religious teaching divested of doctrine was not religion in the full sense of the word. All Roman Catholics, and a large number of Anglicans, held that view. The right hon. Member for South Aberdeen had asked what distinctively denominational doctrine could be profitably taught to a child. The answer was manifest. It was true that particular doctrinal subtleties could not be understood by children. But it was equally true that the teaching of every doctrinal system of belief exercised a certain moral influence inseparable from its collective body of doctrine. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman himself expressed this fact when he admitted that Roman Catholics might justly be dissatisfied with the measure of religion taught in the Board Schools, because, said the right hon. Gentleman, their faith surrounded them with a certain atmosphere. Well, the Church of England had its atmosphere too—[cheers]—and though the child might be unable to analyse the constituents of the spiritual air which he breathed, he felt its influence none the less. [''Hear, hear!"] But the Cowper-Temple Clause was not absolutely efficacious, even for its own purpose. It forbade distinctive catechisms and formularies. It did not forbid distinctive doctrine. When Mr. Forster's Bill was being discussed in 1870, it was proposed to insert the word "doctrine," but it was rejected, because it would pass the wit of man to define it. [Laughter.] This inevitable laxity of the clause was one reason why it had worked so smoothly. But there was another and a greater reason—he was surprised that it had been ignored—and that reason was the existence of the Voluntary Schools. [''Hear, hear!'] People who did not like the Cowper-Temple Clause had an alternative. If no such alternative had been open to them, did anyone imagine 1053 that the clause would have worked so smoothly? The compromise of 1870 was confessedly illogical. But that was nothing against it. In this country we were not governed by logic. The real blot on it was twofold. First, it gave no security for any religious teaching at all, while it left any religion taught to be regulated by the municipal standard. Secondly, a fallacy underlay it, namely, that if you substract from religious teaching every tenet distinctive of each particular denomination, the residuum was a religious basis acceptable to all. That was not the case. And the practical outcome of this fallacy was that multitudes of people who paid the education rate were confronted with a dilemma—either they must surrender their liberty of conscience, or they must lose all share in the benefit of the rate which they paid. That was a violation of justice. There were some who objected to public aid for Voluntary Schools not merely because certain conditions are not attached to it, but mainly on the ground that no public aid should be given to any denominational teaching. But it had already been pointed out that in Industrial Schools, Reformatory Schools, Poor Law Schools—all rate supported—the right to distinctive teaching was recognised. [Cheers.] And the Blind and Deaf Children Act, passed by the late Government in 1893 contained these words:—A child shall, so far as practicable, have facilities for receiving religious instruction and attending religious services conducted in accordance with the parents' persuasion.But he could give another and perhaps more striking instance. Did hon. Gentlemen opposite remember that the Act of 1870, in its original form, recognised the same principle? Under the original Clause 25 of that Act very poor parents could apply to the School Board to pay the fees for their children in Voluntary Schools. That clause was repealed in 1876, but the five years of its existence remained on record to show that the framers of the Act of 1870 held no such dogma as had since been formulated in the interests of a particular view. [''Hear, hear!"] Indeed, they might be content to found themselves on a definition of religious equality given by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of 1054 the Opposition in the Debate on the Second Reading of Mr. Forster's Bill in 1870. He said:—As regards any funds raised either directly by the State, or indirectly under its authority, one form of religious opinion has as full a right to share in the appropriation of such funds as another.That statement, then, included rates as well as grants. Not long ago—on November 9, 1894—in a letter to a leading journal, Mr. Gladstone said:—I will not undertake to say what precise system as to religious instruction was in the contemplation of the Act of 1870. I have always thought, however, that the Act for Scotland, which soon followed, was more wisely framed.The Scotch Education Act of 1872, it would be remembered, left School Boards entirely free as to religious teaching. The Bill gave to the new local authorities large powers in respect to secondary education. They could inspect such schools (other than the non-local schools), they could help such schools, they could set up new secondary schools. The whole of the beer money was most wisely appropriated by the Bill to secondary (including technical) education. But there was here a great defect in the Bill, which would have to be remedied, if they were to make any real progress in organising secondary education. There was no provision for a central authority to supervise it. The control of secondary education was left by the Bill, as it was now, divided among several independent agencies. The Charity Commission could deal with only certain endowed schools. The Science and Art Department had cognisance only of certain subjects. The Education Department was confined, in respect of secondary education, to those of its own schools in which some higher work was done, and to certain relations with the University colleges and the day training colleges. The late Commission recommended a single central authority which should survey that field as a whole. [''Hear, hear!"] Its business was to strictly limited—not interfering with a free and spontaneous variety—only seeking to bring about harmony and co-operation among the local agencies. This central authority was to consist of 1055 two elements—an administrative department and an independent professional body. The administrative department was to be a distinct branch of the Education Office. The professional body was to be an educational council of not more than 12—one-third to be appointed by the Crown, one-third by the Universities, and one-third to be co-opted, or, when a register of teachers should have been formed, to be nominated by the registered teachers. This council should be available to advise the Minister of Education on certain judicial questions, such as appeals, and on certain professional questions, such as regulations for examinations. Acting alone, the council should form and keep a register of teachers, and decide what schools were non-local. Now, the need for such a central authority was all the greater since, under the plan of this Bill for the local authorities, there was less security than there would have been under the plan of the Commission for the presence on local bodies of persons specially conversant with secondary education. With the present Bill before the House, then, what could be done? The Committee of the Privy Council could, of course, establish in the Education Department a branch specially devoted to secondary education. They could also transfer to that Department the educational functions of the Department for Science and Art. Those were purely administrative matters. But an Act of Parliament was required to transfer to the Education Department those powers of the Charity Commission which concerned educational endowments. The Vice President told them that in a Bill so complicated as this he rather shrank from taking up that matter. One could easily understand that; still, it seemed worthy of further consideration. If it could be done by a new or amended clause in the Bill, it would mark a long step forward in delivering secondary education from that conflict of controlling agencies under which it now labours. ["Hear, hear!"] Then, in order to complete the central authority for secondary education, nothing would be lacking but the educational council, and to create such a council by a clause in this Bill would be all the easier, since, in another Bill before the House—the Teachers' Registration Bill—it is already 1056 proposed to constitute a council, very much on the Commissioners' lines, though larger, to form and keep the register. If this Bill gave to such a council the function of advising the Minister and of deciding what schools were non-local, those two functions could be discharged by the same body which was to form and keep the register. He ventured to press this matter of the central authority on the attention of the Government, for he could assure them it was one on which there was practical unanimity among people interested in secondary education. [Cheers.] The other day they had a conference at Cambridge on secondary education, attended by some 200 delegates from bodies of all kinds directly or indirectly connected with education, and a resolution in favour of such central authority, such as he had sketched, was carried without one dissentient voice. If this matter was neglected it would be a grave omission; if it was looked to, it would enormously increase the effective value of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] He would sum up in the fewest words the merits which, from his point of view, the Bill possessed. It applied the principle of devolution in a sound way, without weakening the central control. It did not tend, directly or otherwise, to injure the School Boards where they possessed, or could expect, a true vitality. ["Hear, hear!"] It affirmed the principle—recognised in the Act of 1870 as originally passed, and also by subsequent legislation—that parents had an indefeasible natural right to have their children taught that definite form of faith which they approve. [Cheers.] It gave a small measure of sorely-needed aid to that class of elementary schools, provided largely at private cost, which educated four-sevenths of the children of this country. In doing this it did not more, but far less, than might justly be claimed by ratepayers who subscribed to those schools, for such ratepayers were paying a Board School rate from which they could not conscientiously derive benefit. ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill tended so far to avert the extinction of the Voluntary Schools—an event which would throw upon the ratepayers a fresh capital expenditure of at least £28,000,000, and a fresh annual expenditure which could not be put at less than £1,500,000 to £2,000,000. 1057 The Bill was also fraught with good to secondary education; it promised to improve the organisation; to complete the supply where it was defective; to keep schools of different types within their proper spheres; and to delimit the province of secondary education from that of primary. Incidentally, the Bill did these among other things—it raised the school age from 11 to 12, and it removed from destitute children the stigma of the workhouse and the prison, placing these children of the State under the care of an educational authority. [Cheers.] Those were some of the merits of the Bill. The Bill had also some defects, which he hoped would be amended in Committee. But the merits enormously outweighed the defects. ["Hear, hear!"] He could assure the House that he looked at the Bill not as an advocate for Voluntary Schools, but as a man interested in education. [Cheers.] If he thought that the Bill was going to help the Voluntary Schools at the cost of injury to the education of the country he should not have a moment's hesitation in going into the Lobby against it. It was because he believed that the Bill was really beneficial and progressive that he should vote for the Second Reading. [Cheers.] There were many hon. Gentlemen opposite, he was sure, who had a sincere desire to consider this Measure on grounds raised above those of Party or sect—an obligation which was imperatively laid on all of them. He earnestly appealed to them to hold the balance with an even hand. He appealed to them, seriously and confidently, to ask themselves whether it could be denied that, when this Bill was so weighed, its faults were far lighter in the scale, and far more accidental in their nature, than those substantial, permanent, and far-reaching advantages which the Bill undoubtedly secured. [Cheers.]
§ MR. R. B. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
said, the House had listened that afternoon to two speeches from the Benches behind the Government. Both of them were made by remarkable men; both of them were characterised by unusual felicity of diction and both were in defence of the Bill, though in somewhat different ways. The speech to which they had just listened was that of an hon. Member who represented a 1058 University constituency—the very hotbed of the old Toryism—but the speech was one which might, in the language of the hon. and learned Member for Warwick, have been the speech of an old Liberal. It was a speech in defence of the Bill, but of a most Liberal kind. It abounded in criticism. It contained things which were astonishing to listen to as coming from a supporter of the Measure. First of all the hon. Member put in a plea for School Boards; then he proposed to introduce into the governing bodies of the Voluntary Schools a representative, though not a directly representative element, and he wound up his speech by a scathing criticism of the secondary education provisions of the Bill by reason of the absence of a central and controlling authority. The other speech, with which he would contrast that just delivered, was that of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth. The hon. and learned Member represented a more Democratic constituency, but what was his line of defence? He said that he objected to the School Board system in toto, because in that system there were facilities for what he called spurious religious teaching, teaching by men who might be unbelieving teachers. One asked what the hon. and learned Member meant? Was that kind of high Toryism to be preached at this time of day? One would like to know how far the hon. Member would follow up his doctrine. Were they to go to a system of tests for School Board teaching; were they to be chosen for their religious qualifications in the first place and in the second place because of their learning and ability? And was the principle to which he referred to be applied to Universities, because contamination might come in there just as much as it might in the schools. One wondered whether the hon. and learned Member talked language of that kind at the late election in Plymouth. His majority was not a very large one, and he ventured to think that if that sort of language had been talked more at the late election, if they had known that they were the real issues involved in this Bill, the attitude of the House towards it would have been somewhat different. The Debate had now run into its fourth day, and they were in a 1059 position to assume pretty well the currents and tendencies of opinion which were to determine the fate of the Bill. It seemed to him there were three attitudes, and three attitudes of a very remarkable kind. First of all, there was the attitude of the Party on that side of the House. The Radical Party found itself in the position of defending existing institutions against revolutionary attack for the first time, so far as he was aware, in its life. It was endeavouring to retard an attack made, not from outside, but from within the fortress. The defenders of the garrison were admitted by the constituencies in the belief that they were to keep things as they were and to go on in the way of reasonable and moderate reform. The first thing they did, being admitted into the institution which, perhaps, the country valued more than any other—the religious settlement which was made in 1870, the whole system of education which was reared upon that basis—was to propose, not merely to disturb that settlement in one or two particulars, but to undo it down to its foundation; to repeal the controlling authority; to delegate the local control, not to the people in the parish who were directly affected, but to an outside, independent body; and to alter the whole basis of the compromise which was come to for the purpose of averting the keenness of the religious controversy of 1870. They on that side of the House were in an attitude of resistance. On the other side of the House there were two distinct currents of opinion. There was for instance, the noble Lord the Member for Chichester, the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, and the noble Lord the Member for Rochester. They defended the Bill upon grounds which went far beyond anything in the Bill, and at the same time took occasion to pronounce the Bill wholly unsatisfactory from their point of view. Then there was the attitude of the Government as repeated by the Vice President of the Council, who had defended the Bill simply on the ground of expediency, and put forward its provisions or what he was pleased to call a remedy for an existing condition of things which required amendment. How were they to balance their minds in considering these attitudes? He would at once respond 1060 to the appeal of the hon. Member who had just spoken. He would admit that there were good things, very excellent things, in the Bill. There was the control of the Poor Law and Industrial Schools, though one would have been glad if in that control, in the case of girls who attended those schools, they could have had a body on which there could have been representation for women; the provisions for higher education, bad as they might be in the absence of a central authority, and the raising of the age. All these were things which were good in their kind, but one had to weigh the good against the evil. What was the evil which they had to consider? The treatment of the Education Department under the Bill was very remarkable. If he were asked the true meaning of it, he should call it the "De-Aclandising" of the Department. It was an attempt to make impossible that vigorous and spirited policy which had been infused into the department under the late Government. Of course such a policy could not be pursued without friction; but there was the testimony of the Archbishop's Committee that the requirements of the Department had been reasonable, and such as the Schools ought to conform to. At the present time the Education Department was in a position to command the best talent of the country. It had an enormous sphere of influence; and its machinery for the spread of secondary and technical education was moving rapidly. But with an Education Department shorn of three-fourths of the people who were on its staff, and with a sphere so greatly limited, it would not attract men of the same eminence. Men like the late Matthew Arnold would not consent to be inspectors of schools to a County Council. Not only was the efficiency of the Department being crippled, but large sums of public money, at present administered by a Department of the State, presided over by a Minister of the Crown, were to be handed over to bodies not directly responsible to Parliament. In future Parliament would have no direct control over Education, and those grievances involving questions of principle, which arose from time to time, would no longer be discussed by Parliament. Then as to the School Boards. He agreed with what the hon. Member for West Ham had said, that 1061 in future no self-respecting man would remain on the School Board. The policy of the Bill was to make the School Board a less important body, and to alter its whole relation to the ratepayers. The reason no doubt was that, in the minds of the real promoters of the Bill—the clergy of the Church of England—the School Board meant Nonconformity. Delegation was a good thing in the right place; but there was bad delegation; and why should the County Councils have been chosen as the bodies to which the elementary education of the county was to be delegated? Why not the Parish Councils, which were directly elected by the localities? In Scotland there was a universal system of School Boards, which gave more and more satisfaction every year. And why? Because power and responsibility had been placed on the same shoulders. Did hon. Gentlemen opposite, who undoubtedly represented a large majority of the electors, really think that the country gave them a mandate for this Bill at the General Election? The principles of the Home Rule Bill were before the country for six years, and yet hon. Members opposite complained that the details within those principles had not been sufficiently brought forward. If hon. Members made that objection in respect of the Home Rule Bill, why was it not good in respect of this Education Bill? Was it not unjust to spring upon the country a Bill which went far beyond what was discussed on any platform last July? At that time every speech of the Duke of Devonshire asserted the principle of the maintenance of School Boards. He said that under no circumstance would he be a party to the destruction of the School Board system, and that any alteration must be on the basis of preserving the general principle of the Act of 1870. Instead of accompanying the additional support to the Voluntary Schools by the infusion of a popular element into the management, the proposals of the Government reopened old differences, and let loose a flood of controversy and bitterness. In a recent speech at Bristol the First Lord of the Treasury had referred to Scotland as affording an example of the way in which the religious difficulty might be treated. But Clause 27 had no analogue In the Scotch Act of 1872. That Act 1062 left to the School Boards complete control of the religious teaching. The present Bill proposed to override the School Boards by enabling a minority of the parents to compel the Boards to give religious teaching whether they liked it or not. In Scotland there were no creed controversies between the three Presbyterian Churches. Their differences were about Church government, and it was possible to give religious instruction in the schools without offence to the consciences of the parents. But there were cases of hardship in Scotland in respect to the Roman Catholic children. He had seen a number of them sitting apart from the rest during the Scripture lesson; and the manager told him that, though by law they were compelled to separate the Roman Catholic children, they kept them in the same room in the hope that some ray of truth might reach their souls. So that the Scotch system was by no means perfect. The First Lord of the Treasury was a distinguished Scotchman, but he brought to the consideration of Scotch matters less of the enthusiasm with which he informed his mind on other subjects. The right hon. Gentleman was not keen in his support of the spirit of Scotch institutions. The right hon. Gentleman as a distinguished Scotchman was imbued more with the spirit of David Hume than with the spirit of John Knox. [Laughter.] But he could not help thinking that, in connection with this Bill, the arguments derived from the Scotch educational system were misleading. He believed that if the Government proposed, so far as Scotland was concerned, to go back on the system of 1870, and introduced instead the system of this Bill, they would be met by a storm of popular indignation which would make it impossible for them to proceed. They proposed different treatment for different kinds of schools in the interest of a particular religious denomination. It was quite true that to-day religious controversy was not so strenuous as it once was, say in the days of Knox. But there was evidence, at any rate, that religious storms were not altogether passed; signs, indeed, that the torrent of religious passion, which made life so intolerable in the old days, might be brought back again. There was the case of Canada. In Manitoba there had been 1063 established a system under which there was no support given from the rates for denominational schools. There was free education, but, so far as the schools were concerned, there were no contributions by the State to any form of religious teaching. But there was a clause in the British North America Act which gave to Roman Catholics the right of appeal against the provision of any Act which disturbed any older system. There had been an older Act by which rates had been applied to assist denominational teaching, and the Roman Catholics successfully appealed against the more recent Act, which, as they said, deprived them of this ancient privilege. The Government of Canada felt themselves bound to act on the decision of the Privy Council, which confirmed the right claimed by the Roman Catholics; and they endeavoured to bring matters back to the old condition of things, by which taxes were to be used in a modified form for the use of secular schools. Canada was, in consequence, convulsed by a tumult such as it had not known for years. The same thing might occur here, and would occur here, if the Government persisted in this Bill. He would like to know how far the Conservative Party supported the sentiments of the hon. Member for Plymouth, who had spoken that evening. He would like to know whether the First Lord of the Treasury took the view that the religious teaching in the Board Schools was ''a spurious religious teaching," and whether the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of tests for teachers in those schools. He would like to know how far the general body of the Conservative Party held those doctrines, because, if they were well brought out before the country at the time of a General Election, they would arouse—no matter what other issues there might be—the keenest and strongest feelings, which would show that the vast majority of the people adhered, at least in those matters, to the older principles of the Liberal flag. The Government had got a large majority. But why had they got it? Because the country had pronounced against the late Government, and in favour of a change to another political Party. It was intended that the new Government should make a steady progress with social reforms which all 1064 Parties agreed should be carried to some extent further. But the Government was not returned because the country wished them to undo all things which had already been ccomplished. Yet, to undo, in the interest of sections, was the principle of all the legislation introduced by the Government since the opening of the Session. That principle pervaded the London Water Bill, the Cattle Bill, and the Agricultural Rating Bill. It was legislation, not in the interests of the great mass of the people, but legislation primarily inspired by the demands made upon them by sections. He knew that there were many high-minded men in the Conservative Party who believed that the question of religious teaching in schools outweighed everything else in the political horizon. But, on the other hand, they should not allow the intensity of their convictions to mislead them as to the wishes of their constituencies; and he was convinced that the mandate which returned the Conservative Party to power with a majority of 150, was a mandate that did not permit them to give, as he feared they would, their assent to the Second reading of this Bill.
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ MR. A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
said, that what had struck him most in the Debate had been the extraordinary character of the opposition. Each speaker who had risen on the other side of the House seemed to try to discard something which he had always understood to be a principle of the Liberal Party. The late Home Secretary tried at great length to show what a bad thing decentralisation was, and he had to invent a new definition of decentralisation to make it applicable to the present Bill. If there was one thing to which decentralisation was eminently applicable it was education. He could imagine nothing worse than trying to apply some sort of education by an absolutely rigid procrustean rule to all parts of the country. The last speaker had absolutely contradicted the whole spirit of the speech of the late Home Secretary, because, so far from objecting to decentralisation, he proposed that instead of the County Council they should 1065 take, for this purpose, the Parish Council. He confessed he never heard a more ridiculous suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill spoke of the Committees of the County Council as the paramount education authority in the county, and it was objected to that by the late Home Secretary, that he would be setting up something like 160 paramount education authorities in the country. But what would be the result if they substituted the Parish Council? They would be setting up something like 12,000 paramount educational committees. The proposal seemed to him as extravagant as anything he had ever heard. The right hon. Member for Sheffield had indicated his fear that the School Boards would be utterly destroyed by the provisions of this Measure. For his part, he saw nothing in the Bill to destroy School Boards. It was true a limit was placed upon their rating power. He asked why not? Why should the Birmingham Town Council not be allowed to say whether in their opinion the School Board was or was not spending too much money? Why was there this extraordinary fear of the Town and County Councils on the part of hon. Members opposite? They were popular bodies elected by the people, and it was perfectly reasonable they should have the power of saying when a School Board was spending too much. When the right hon. Member for Sheffield spoke of the School Boards and Board Schools, and his fear of their extermination, he would ask had hon. Members on the Government side no right to have fears for the Voluntary Schools? He admitted the excellence of many of the Board Schools, but he must point out that the Voluntary Schools had been in existence for years before the School Board system was started, and whereas he saw nothing in the Bill to destroy the Board Schools, he said that unless this Bill or something like it was passed, and passed quickly, the Voluntary Schools would be destroyed. They were now being destroyed by the unequal competition to which they were subjected, and when the right hon. Gentleman asked what was the necessity for the Bill, he had to reply that something must be done if Voluntary Schools were to be preserved, to get rid of that absolutely 1066 ruinous competition. It was said that the Bill gave a grant to Voluntary Schools, while it gave no grant—or a very small grant—to Board Schools, and that this was not only unfair but unequal treatment. He said that, so far from its being unequal treatment, it was an attempt at equality. The proper way to regard this was not as a grant to Voluntary Schools, but as a payment to them for the immense amount of additional expense to which they had been put by the ever-increasing demands of the Education Department. It now cost the Voluntary Schools £1 per head to educate children more than it did in 1870, and the additional grant was only 4s. That was a very small pittance, and much less than the Voluntary Schools were entitled to for the work they were undertaking at the bidding of the State. Hon. Members opposite were constantly arguing the question as if they thought that Members on the Government side of the House were the enemies of secular education. He ventured to say nothing more untrue could be uttered. He recognised as fully as anyone the paramount importance of providing efficient education for all children if they were to compete with foreign nations. The difference between them and hon. Members opposite was not so much that they on the Government side denied the importance of secular education, but that hon. Members opposite denied the importance of religious education. ["No, no!"] He could only refer those who cried "no, no!" to a body which, he supposed, was more or less in line with the opinions of the Party opposite—namely, the London Liberal and Radical Union, which, in 1891 made it part of their programme in the School Board elections that there should be no religious teaching in the schools at all. His own opinion was that, important as secular education was, the most important part of education was religious education. He could conceive nothing more terrible to contemplate than that the children of this country should grow up and be educated without a knowledge of those great truths of religion and morality contained in the Bible, inculcated by definite religious teaching. He had seen the results of purely secular education in other countries. In 1067 America they had got what was, perhaps the finest system of secular education in the world, but it was generally an education where religion was neglected altogether. And what was the result? He spoke with hesitation because he did not wish to say a word against the country and against the people, amongst whom he had many friends; but the result was, as every educated and enlightened American would admit, a lower standard of politics and of commercial morality than existed, he thought, in almost every other civilised country. He was recently travelling in America, where he had a conversation with a most enlightened and educated American. They were discussing the wholesale system of corruption which prevailed upon a certain trunk railway, from the President down to the meanest official, and this American used some words which, to his mind, were so important that he wrote them down. He said:—All this sort of thing is the result of our system of education. There is no school-attendance difficulty over here. Every parent is anxious to send his children to school, and the children are anxious to go, knowing that they cannot get on in the world without education. Each one, in fact, wishes to become a little bit cuter than his neighbour. The result is, we are bringing up the sharpest people on earth, and each one learns to play for himself, and himself alone. As to religion or morality, or the good of the people as a whole, they are never taught anything of that kind in the schools, and they know absolutely nothing about it.And he concluded:—I think the end will be we shall come to a bad smash commercially and politically.These were the opinions of an educated American on their system of education. They had in America, he repeated, probably the best system of secular education known in any part of the world; but one which absolutely neglected those religious and moral characteristics, with the result he had indicated, and disastrous consequences would ensue here if they were to adopt any similar system of education. The question he desired to ask was—Were they not in this country travelling to some extent along the same road which was being travelled in America and other countries, in the direction of making their education purely secular? Under the present system it was left to a chance majority of the 1068 School Board to decide whether there should be religious teaching or not, and if they decided in the affirmative it was left to the discretion of the teacher to teach what sort of religion he liked. Could that be considered a satisfactory system? It imposed no test upon the teacher for the purpose of finding out whether he was competent to teach the Christian religion. [Mr. DAVITT: "What Christian religion?''] That was, no doubt, a very difficult question, and it was the question which the teacher ought to be asked. Could a system be satisfactory under which no inquiry was made as to the religious belief of a teacher? At present a teacher might be a Jew, Turk, or heretic, and yet children were, forsooth, to be taught Christianity from him. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] What safeguard was there? [An HON. MEMBER: "There is the certificate of character."] At any rate it was left to the School Boards to say whether any religious teaching should be given in their schools, and the result was often that no such teaching was given. In Wales there were 347 School Board districts. Of these 21 had no schools. Of the remaining 326, 34 had an efficient syllabus of Bible instruction; 62 sanctioned the reading of the Bible and some instruction thereon; 113 sanctioned the reading of the Bible, but had no instruction thereon; 62 did not even sanction the reading of the Bible, and 50 had no religious observance of any kind. Hon. Members opposite said that they did not wish to drive the Bible out of our schools. He asked how there could be a guarantee under the present system that the Bible would not be driven out of our schools? He supported the 27th Clause of the Bill, believing it to be the best in the Measure. It would be an efficient guarantee that in every school the religion which the parents approved would be taught. It was a natural sequence to the Conscience Clause, but it was a splendid advance upon that clause. The Conscience Clause said that no child should be taught religion if the parents did not wish it; the 27th Clause secured that every child should be taught religion if the parent desired it. The parent and child had as much right to protection against a School Board, which might be a godless body, as they had 1069 against a Church of England clergyman, who might be over-zealous in his teaching. It would be an advantage to Nonconformists in a district where there was only a Church School, to be empowered to demand that their children, instead of having no religious instruction or Church instruction, should have that form of instruction which they, the parents, approved. The working classes specially ought to approve this clause. The rich man could send his child to a Church of England School, a Wesleyan School, a Congregationalist School, or to any school which he chose to select, but a poor man was compelled to send his child to the nearest village school, which might be a Church of England School, a Roman Catholic School, a Wesleyan School, or a Board School where no religion whatever was taught. But this clause would place the poor man in this matter on precisely the same footing as the rich man. He supported the Bill not only on account of the 27th Clause, but on account of the general support which it gave to Voluntary Schools. These schools had afforded hitherto the only effective guarantee for religious instruction in this country, and they had been subjected to ruinous competition, and unless something was done to assist them they must disappear, and a universal system of Board Schools must take their place. The 4s. grant was not as large a grant as he would like to see provided, and he should not think that it would protect the Voluntary Schools from the ''intolerable strain" imposed by the competition of the Board Schools. He suggested that the present standard of efficiency in all schools should be stereotyped, except where the State was willing to pay extra for any additional demands that were made by the authorities. When further efficiency was demanded by the Education Department, as was constantly the case now, the Department should supply the funds necessary to defray the cost. Voluntary Schools were to be allowed to federate, and he was of opinion that either the 4s. grant should not be paid unless schools federated, or that there should be a larger grant for schools that did federate. In that way they would compel federation, and thus make the richer schools contribute to the expenditure of the poorer. The result would be 1070 that the 4s. grant would go further. The new limit which it was proposed to introduce, and which had been described as imposing a degradation on School Boards, was to his mind not nearly rigid enough. It would, he believed, be frequently overstepped by permission of the Town Council. If the School Board for Birmingham, for example, were to ask to be allowed to exceed, the Town Council would probably say: "We suppose it is necessary." and grant the request. The Bill was, in principle, a thoroughly good Bill. He approved without reservation the proposals for decentralisation, for the orgnanisation of secondary education, for the extension of age from 11 to 12, for the abolition of the 17s. 6d. limit, and for relieving Voluntary Schools from the liability to contribute to the rates. There was only one thing in the Bill to which he took objection, and that was the proposal for deducting from the special grant the amount of any endowments that a school might have. He could not understand why such a proposal as that was made. If a man subscribed £20 a year to a school, or capitalised the money and gave £500 at once, it was equally a gift. It seemed to him that there was no more reason for deducting the proceeds of endowments than there was for deducting voluntary subscriptions made every year. Generally speaking, he believed the Bill was a good one, and had been, brought in, firstly, to improve the educational system, and, secondly, to do justice to Voluntary Schools. Because he looked upon it as a Bill that would mark a great step forward and would be for the benefit of all classes in the country, while reserving his right to criticise some of its details in Committee, he should give it his most strenuous support and should hope soon to see it carried into law.
§ MR. J. J. CLANCY (Dublin, N.)
desired, as an Irish Catholic, to state the course his Party intended to take with regard to the Bill. So far as he could recollect, he had never before taken part in the discussion of an English Measure, and he regretted the necessity for doing so on this occasion, but there was a special reason for it. The policy of Parliament had driven from Ireland into England a large Irish Catholic population, and that population was to a large extent a poor one, and practically unrepresented in 1071 the House. He ventured, therefore, as an Irish Catholic, to say that his Party most cordially supported the Second Reading of the Bill, for the reason that, to some extent, it would remove the gross inequalities between Voluntary and Board Schools. He was astonished at the arguments by which the demands for further assistance for Voluntary Schools were met by the advocates of the secular system. Could anybody deny the right of the Christian parent to have his child educated in the definite truth of the Christian faith? It was no use to admit that right in the abstract without giving the means of enjoying it. The fact was that every Catholic looked upon the unsectarian system as a Godless system. That caused them to regard it with distrust, a distrust which had been only too well founded by the experience of Godless education in other countries. The advocates of the un-sectarian system objected to the teaching of definite Christian truths in the public schools; but that system was itself a religion. It taught the religion of in-differentism. ["No, no!"] He might be wrong, but that was the view of the Catholics. He would like to say a word on the principal defect in the Bill as he regarded it. He referred to the fact that unequal treatment was meted out, even by this Bill, to the Voluntary Schools. Board Schools had sites provided for them at the public expense, but no sites were provided for the Voluntary Schools. Buildings were provided for the advocates of the secular system, but no buildings were provided for those who favoured denominational education. Administration in Board Schools was provided for at an excessive public cost; but there was nothing of the kind in the case of Voluntary Schools; and when they came to the only matter in connection with which public money was allowed to be given, namely maintenance, even when the 4s. grant was given to the Voluntary Schools in addition to what they were getting, there would still be a difference between Voluntary and Board Schools to the advantage of the latter of 9s. a child. That was to his mind a gross inequality, and it was all the worse because of the fact that, as he judged the matter, the majority of the people of this country used the Voluntary Schools. Certainly, all the Irish Catholics in the 1072 country had declared themselves infavour of the Voluntary system. Notwithstanding the advantages the Board Schools had had during the 25 years of their existence, there were 700,000 more children being educated in Voluntary Schools than in the richly endowed Board Schools of England. That seemed to him a conclusive proof that the majority of the people of England detested the Board School system and used the Voluntary Schools and the definite religious teaching to be found in them. It was notorious that the Irish Catholic Schools were the poorest in the whole country. Unfortunately, the Irish who came into this country were mostly very poor. They came to earn their bread, and often even to earn the rents of their relatives in Ireland, and it was an astonishing thing that these people should, nevertheless, not only not be put on an equality with other people, but should be compelled to pay towards the maintenance of schools to which they could not send their children. He thought that was a circumstance that ought to appeal to the Liberal Party. Knowing as he did the feelings of Irish Roman Catholics in England on the subject of education, he felt bound to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, because it would largely assist the Irish Roman Catholic Schools which were so very poor. It had been contended on the Opposition side of the House that there ought not to be an equality between the Board Schools and the Voluntary Schools, but in his opinion there ought to be absolute equality between them. ["Hear, hear!"] That House had passed a law making it compulsory upon every child to attend school, and it would be most unjust to force them to attend schools which their parents objected to. In these circumstances he thought it right that Voluntary Schools should receive State aid, and therefore he and the Party with which he was connected intended to give their hearty support to the Second Reading of the Bill, in the hope that they would be able to amend it in Committee in the direction which he had indicated.
§ SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, W.)
said, that an hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Griffith-Boscawen) had brought the charge against the Board Schools in Wales that the Bible 1073 was not taught in some of them. That charge was perfectly true, but the reason that the Bible was not taught in those schools was because it was thoroughly taught in their admirable Sunday Schools—because it entered into the daily life of the Welsh people and coloured their language and literature to an extent that the people of England could scarcely believe. Welsh children of 14 or 15 years of age possessed an amount of scriptural knowledge that nine out of every ten men who had passed the theological schools at Oxford did not possess, and it was a singular fact that at a recent examination seven out of eight children who had gained prizes in Wales for scriptural knowledge had been educated in what were called Godless schools. He should like to ask hon. Members opposite whether there was any part of England in which crime was so rare as it was in Wales? The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth had said that 1870 was the high water mark of Radicalism, and that then the School Boards had been forced upon the Church party.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
What I said was that the Cowper-Temple Clause had been forced upon the Church Party by a Radical majority.
§ SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN
said he accepted the hon. and learned Gentleman's correction of his statement. He himself ought to know something about what happened in 1870, because he was one of the few hon. Gentlemen now in the House who had taken an active part in passing that Bill. There was in 1870 a large Party in the House, and a still larger Party in the country, who thought that the grant to denominational schools given by an Act was too great a concession to the Church Party and to Voluntary Schools. At the head of that Party in those days was the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, and it might be interesting to some Members of the House to know that the foundations of the brilliant oratorical and Parliamentary reputation of the right hon. Gentleman were laid in those days. Speaking on the 23rd January 1872, about a year after the Act of 1870 was passed, the right hon. Gentleman said:—For years we Nonconformists have served the Liberal Party; we have been hewers of wood 1074 and drawers of water; we have been patient under somewhat contemptuous toleration very difficult to bear; we have accepted, meanwhile, every act of justice as a favour, and every instalment of rights as a singular and almost unmerited grace. … I suppose, Sir, that it is not consistent with the pacific habits of Nonconformists to make a demonstration upon Mr. Forster's windows, or to pull down any park railings, although we have been told that both these exhibitions have been very marvellous stimulants to modern statesmanship. But we are met here to advocate no intemperance of word or action. …. The so-called National Church is fast becoming one vast political organisation for maintaining the supremacy of a sect. The so-called national schools, built in part with our money, mainly supported with the funds derived from the national purse, are everywhere centres for the support of a power which has hitherto been prominent in its resistance to popular reform. We cannot win by these means, nor with such allies, but we may sink our individual differences, we may unite as one man to remove the last vestige of ecclesiastical supremacy.And now the right hon. Gentleman told one of his constituents that he had just discovered that, primâ facie, there was a great deal to be said in favour of placing Board and Voluntary Schools upon the same footing! The Act of 1870 established two principles. In the first place, it gave power to the parishioners to establish an educational system of their own—that was, it gave us education of the people by the people; and secondly, by the Cowper Temple Clause, it guarded the system when established from any distinctive theological teaching. If this Bill were passed both of those principles would be doomed. It was for this reason that he was bound to part company with the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth. Wales was a land of Board Schools, they existed in that country in a larger proportion than elsewhere. The Welsh were proud of those schools, which they believed had done an immense amount of good to the people. He would refer to the opinion of a most able and experienced gentleman, Mr. Williams, the Inspector of Wales and Monmouthshire, who said:—Nearly all the towns and populous places are under School Boards, and the schools under the larger Boards, and some of the Voluntary Schools, are well staffed, and well equipped with apparatus, and in these a high level is generally attained; and in many comparatively small schools—mostly under School Boards, which are fairly staffed—highly satisfactory results are obtained. But in a considerable number of 1075 schools—mostly Voluntary—in which the staff is weak, the results are often poor or indifferent.As to religious instruction, he should have thought the religious instruction given in the Board Schools was exactly suited to the ages and capacities of scholars attending elementary schools. It was simple, direct, and intelligible. It had been specially approved on the ground that it was intelligible by many men of light and learning in the Church, such as the Bishop of Durham and Archdeacon Sinclair. Did we really want to puzzle the minds of children of tender ages with the mysteries of the Athanasian Creed? A great deal of what was called religious instruction was nothing more than unintelligible jargon; and in proof of this he repeated an answer that had been given at an examination in reply to the question, "What is meant by a sacrament?'' He asked what was the use to children of instruction of this sort? Judged by a test of this kind, and it was very generally applicable, denominational religion, which was so strictly contended for on the other side, was the parrot like repetition of phrases which conveyed no intelligible idea comprehensible by the scholar who repeated them. Speaking from personal knowledge, he could affirm that the system of religious instruction pursued in Board Schools was answering admirably. As to Board Schools being ''godless schools," if a tree was known by its fruit, the results in Wales were satisfactory, when it took three counties to produce a lad prisoner at the Assizes. Why should the House tamper with a system which had done more for education than than all other Acts of Parliament put together? It was said the Bill did not directly assail the Board School system; but you could assail a system by undermining it, and this Bill would sap the foundation of School Boards, it would cut their very roots. There would be great difficulty in the way of forming new School Boards, and existing School Boards might be dissolved by a bare majority, a packed majority. Scattered up and down the Bill there were various provisions inimical to School Boards, such as the limitation of the rate, and exclusion from the special aid grant. Was Clause 4 fair as between the two classes of schools? From the 4s. grant 1076 they were told that £489,000 would go to Voluntary Schools, and only about £73,000 to Board Schools. How would this affect Board Schools in Wales, where, on the whole, the Bill was more favourable to Board Schools than it was in England, because a larger proportion of the schools in Wales came under the 97th Clause of the Act of 1870? In Denbighshire there were 73 Church Schools, educating 8,676 scholars, and 42 Board Schools, educating 7,133 scholars. The Church Schools would get £1,737, or 4s. per child, and the Board Schools would get £155, or about 1¾d. per child. In Carmarthenshire, there were 72 Church Schools, educating about 7,000 scholars, and 91 Board Schools, educating about 12,000 scholars. The Church Schools would get £1,400, or 4s. per child; the Board Shools would get £10 odd, or less than a farthing a child. Yet hon. Gentlemen opposite were not satisfied. Like Oliver Twist, they asked for "more." [Ministerial cheers.] Probably they would get more, for the Government owed a heavy debt to the Church party for services rendered at the last Election. He did not object to them paying their debt, but he did object to them paying it out of other people's pockets. He ventured to say that the result of that Bill would be to ring the knell of Board Schools. Long before that Bill was produced he had always said that the very worst body they could in trust education to were the County Councils. (1) They were elected for entirely different purposes. (2) They had neither time or machinery for the purpose. (3) They were not conversant with the locality; and he might instance his own constituency, which was 50 miles long, and of which one half was Welsh and the other half English. What could a man elected from one end know of the want of a school at the other end. (4) They were not responsible to the ratepayers. (5) They were not even a popularly elected body. (6) As the Northampton County Council pointed out, the Bill would introduce into the election of County Councillors an element of sectarian bitterness hitherto unknown. Talk of "Political Nonconformists!" Why during the last Election the whole of North Wales was seething with poli 1077 tical churchmanship. ["Hear, hear!"] This new Conscience Clause was about the worst coin ever passed across the Parliamentary counter to the Liberal Party, and it was adding insult to injury to call the 27th Clause a protection for Nonconformists. There was not a single Nonconformist who had ever asked for it; it was a clause for the benefit of the Church of England entirely. Were they to suppose that in a small village hamlet in Berkshire or Hampshire it would be found possible for a few labourers at 10s. a week, or a few struggling tradesmen to demand the right to have their children taught as they wished? He was sure the right hon. Gentleman fresh from the classic groves of Academies had no idea of the storm that this Bill would create in the country. [A laugh.] As far as we could gather, the people were never so unanimous or so enthusiastic as in their repudiation of this Bill. ["Oh!"] They might say on the other side, that they were masters of the situation, that they could pass anything they liked, and closure anything they liked. If they asked for a 10s. grant instead of 4s. they would be able to pass it. They had let slip the dogs of war, and it would be more than they could to muzzle them. Did they really believe that when the day of reaction came, as come it would, that the Nonconformists would sit down patiently under this Bill? If they did they were greatly mistaken. The Bill went too far. It was both reactionary and revolutionary. It would create chaos and confusion in their educational system, and dislocate their educational machinery, but, worst of all, it would stir up the slumbering embers of religious strife in every rural parish. They should therefore resist the Bill at every stage.
§ MR. EDWARD HULSE (Salisbury)
said, he had no hesitation in offering the Bill on the whole his unqualified support. There were no doubt certain details which he hoped the Government would be prepared to alter, and certain amendments which, if accepted, would make the Bill work more smoothly in the country. 1078 They must all welcome the fact that local needs and aspirations would be duly considered, and that the form of education most suitable to the locality would in future be applied. He represented a city which had a School Board but no Board Schools, and he could not but approve the decentralisation proposed in that Measure. In the case of Salisbury he hoped the Educational Committee would be elected by the Town Council. There were two safeguards that were necessary—(1) the Education Department should have power of control, and there should be an appeal from the Voluntary and Board Schools against any seeming injustice on the part of the local educational authorities; and (2) that every such local educational authority should include a certain number, at least one half, of nominated members who were experts in education, and in order to secure the rights of the minority he would like to see introduced some system of proportional representation. In his opinion it was absolutely necessary that the Education Department should draw up special rules applicable to the non-elective or selective members of the educational authority. In the case of Salisbury School Board one member only attended the meeting of the Board once, and another member did not attend at all, and yet these two gentlemen went to the Wiltshire County Council and objected to a grant being given to a school built by the Bishop of Salisbury on the ground that the establishment was of a sectarian character. On the representation of the two gentlemen the Technical Education Committee of the Council refused to give a grant; and it was only after a close division in the County Council that justice to the promoters of an excellent educational institution was secured. He felt that in many counties, notably in Wales, the educational authority would be found inimical to Voluntary Schools, and that unless the grants-in-aid were specifically ear-marked, and there was some system of appeal to the Education Department, 1079 grants-in-aid would be used by hostile County Councils as a sort of financial thumb-screw against those who had hitherto educated the greater part of the children in rural districts. He thoroughly agreed with the proposal to give greater assistance to the poorer Board Schools under Section 97 of the Act of 1870, and he could not but think that where the 4s. was insufficient to get Voluntary Schools out of their difficulties there should be a special aid grant exceeding that sum based on the system suggested in the Education Act. He looked forward to the time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be in a position to provide, say, another £600,000 for educational purposes, and that then possibly the Vice President would be able to complete his educational scheme. Whatever hon. Members opposite might say, he was quite certain the Government had the country with them in regard to the possible limitation of School Board expenditure. The heavy expenditure in which many country districts were involved by having School Boards thrust upon them, was directly alien to the true interest of education. He thought it was necessary there should be a clearer definition of elementary education than any Act of Parliament now gives us, because some School Boards were usurping rights with regard to secondary education which had not been assigned to them by the State. He was glad, therefore, we now had a prospect of creating an authority on secondary education, and it would be a good thing, too, if a clause were inserted in the Bill preventing children being kept at elementary schools after 14, because the authorities of secondary education could, and would, provide the necessary means, by scholarships or exhibitions, by which children who had arrived at the age of 14, and had passed the sixth and seventh standards, could be drafted into higher-grade schools. He would like to say one word as to the provision by 1080 which the educational authority might make grants to training colleges. It had been said that the main object of the Bill was not to supplant but to supplement existing efficient educational organisations, and he would like to see it made quite clear that the training colleges would be protected from any interference from the educational authority, and also that the grant to those institutions should be an Imperial or a Departmental one, subject, of course, to the Department being satisfied as to the educational facilities afforded. He regarded the Bill as an honest and statesmanlike attempt to advance the cause of education, and he was of opinion that Clause 27, which had met with so much hostile criticism in many parts of the country, and from leading Nonconformists in London, was based upon the real principles of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. He recognised to the full the right of parents to control the education of their children, and felt that that right was properly safeguarded by the Measure. In Salisbury, as well as other towns, where there were no Board Schools, it gave the right to Nonconformist ministers to go to the schools and give religious education to the children of such parents who are members of their body. He was sure that members of the Church of England and Roman Catholics were quite ready and willing to concede that right to the parents of other religious bodies which they claimed for their own Faith and Church. He hoped that on this point the Government would not give way owing to the action of some of the clergy who objected with mistaken zeal to the appearance of Nonconformist teachers in their country schools. The Bill was one which the true friends of education should support, and he hoped that every supporter of the Government who, like himself, was returned pledged to uphold the voluntary system and to secure justice to their schools, would use their utmost endeavours, even to the extent of suspending 1081 the 12 o'clock Rule and taking morning sittings, to secure the passage of this Measure into law before the close of the Session.
§ SIR JAMES WOODHOUSE (Huddersfield)
said, that in venturing to address the House on this Bill, he was sure he should not ask in vain for that indulgence which the House invariably extended to those who addressed it for the first time. But the fact that he had for many years taken a deep and active, and as Chairman of a Governing Body of a large public school as well as a member of other educational institutions, a practical interest both in primary and secondary education, was his excuse, if any excuse were needed, for interposing in this Debate. He cordially appreciated the desire of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council that they should examine this Bill in a calm and philosophic spirit, for he recognised that of all the subjects which were debated in this House there was none more important in its object, none more far-reaching in its results, and none which was more clearly their obvious duty to weigh in all its aspects free from the infusion of religious animosities or partisan prejudices, than that of the primary education of the children of the toiling masses of the nation. It was in this spirit he had approached the consideration of this Bill. He looked at it, not as a Churchman but as an educationist, and he asked himself, "Will this Bill promote or retard national education?'' He submitted that was the test, and the sole test, by which hon. Members ought to determine their approval or disapproval of this Measure. What was the object of this Bill? As announced in the Queen's Speech, it was to be a Measure for the relief of Voluntary Schools. Had that been its only object a very simple Measure would have sufficed, and recognising, as he did, the important work done in the aggregate by Voluntary Schools, subject to provision for representative control and 1082 for that statutory equality of treatment foreshadowed by the Duke of Devonshire, he should have been prepared to give it support. Such a Bill, whilst giving relief where relief was most needed, in the better remuneration of Voluntary teachers and in the improvement of the quality of the tuition, would have been of advantage to education, would have left undisturbed our existing system, and would at least have been innocuous in its results. But this Bill had been described as a "revolutionary Bill." Those were not his words; they were the words of one of the most ardent Anglican supporters of the Government, whose name was not unfamiliar in connection with this subject. He meant Mr. Athelstan Riley. Addressing the House of Laymen of the Province of Canterbury, he said:—This was a revolutionary Bill. It took their system of national education, and practically switched the whole system on to a different line.He could not use words which more aptly or tersely described the effect of this Bill; and it was because it would have this effect that he felt bound to oppose it. It would be switched on to a line which had been inefficiently engineered and badly constructed, and on which it would come into collision with numerous obstacles to progress, and he feared the result of the impact would be disaster if not ruin to the cause of education. The danger signals had been exhibited from both sides of the House, and he should greatly regret if the Government persisted in ignoring them. They had 25 years' experience of the existing system. It had, on the whole, worked well. At all events the onus was on those who sought to disturb it to establish its failure. As was shown in the very able speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, it was not an ideal system. It was not a logical system. It was neither national nor denominational. The Act of 1870 was a compromise, but it was a 1083 clumsy and unsatisfactory compromise. Parliament, however, had not clear ground to start upon. It was hampered by existing institutions and interests. The result was that it had produced a system which was semi-national and semi-denominational. It was now proposed, in effect, to render denominational what was national, and to maintain what was denominational out of public funds without public control. The facilities and inducements offered by this Bill for the extension of School Boards were subversive of the best interests of education. No one could deny that School Boards, though they had been much maligned, had been useful institutions. Notwithstanding the unfortunate mode of election, notwithstanding all the hostility and prejudice and injustice manifested towards them, they had done a noble work, and had produced most gratifying results. They had given an enlarged and healthy impetus to education. They had stimulated the managers of other schools to greater exertions, and as a result the whole scope of our educational machinery had been broadened and bettered. At whose instance was this upheaval of our system of elementary education to be accomplished? Had it been suggested by any Commission? Was it demanded by any authorities whose chief aim and object were the elevation of elementary education to its loftiest standard? No; it found its parentage in the clamorous petitions of a section—though an influential section—of the clerical party. If he wanted authority for that statement he should find it in the address of the Archbishop of York to the Northern House of Convocation, who said:—The Education Bill was in a very large degree the result of the pressure brought to bear upon the Government from the side of the Church.["Hear, hear!"] Why had the Church made this demand and applied this pressure? Was it from an avowed desire to promote education? Not a bit of it. The demand had been inspired, and the 1084 pressure had been applied because of the jealousy and dislike, if not hatred, of the School Boards, and the wish to "capture" them, and because the clerical party desired to obtain the appointment and control of the teachers. The demand had been made, and pressure applied too, because of the incitement and exhortation made to that party by the Prime Minister himself when he told them to make that raid upon the Board Schools a few months ago. That raid upon the Board Schools was very much like the raid made in another part of the world, and both had been actuated by the same motive—the motive of self-interest. [Cheers, and cries of "No!"] The reason that this raid was now made by the Church party through the Government was to serve their Church as a Church. As to the clerical party pressing the Bill forward with a view to obtain the appointment and control of the teachers, he did not evolve these statements out of his own imagination, but he made them on the authority of the prelates of the Church. The Bishop of Salisbury, addressing his brethren, said:—The balance of influence on the side of the Department is intended in future to be rather against the School Board policy than in favour of it.And later on, speaking of the Bill, he said:—On the whole, we shall be wise to accept it, because many Voluntary Schools will be relieved by it, and Board Schools and quasi Board Schools will, under it, be less injurious to our interests.The Bishop of London said:—What we who have been working on the side of the Church have been perpetually pushing to the forefront is, we must have the appointment of the teachers.He maintained, therefore, that the action of the clerical party was prompted on the one hand by dislike of the School Boards, and on the other by the desire to obtain the appointment and control of the teachers. [Cheers.] He believed, on the other hand, that the best educa 1085 tional policy lay in a greater development rather than in the curtailment of our School Board system. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council said:—Universal School Boards in our country districts would lead to National degradation.He admitted that in rural districts there was ample scope for improvement, but in many of them the education had been cheapened and starved down to the level of the denominational schools. The remedy lay in revising and enlarging the area of election. Let County Councils have powers to prescribe larger and more convenient areas. But that a School Board system, so far from degrading national education, would be the right and true principle on which to extend and develop it, was not a new doctrine, it was the doctrine that was once advocated by Members of Her Majesty's Government. So high and respected an authority as the Duke of Devonshire said in 1876:—There are many of us, and I do not scruple to say, I am one of them, who believe that the principle of School Boards is the true principle in this matter. We believe that being the right and true principle, it will in the end prevail. We believe that when once the time has arrived that Parliament has declared that the education of the country is the business, not, as formerly, of individuals, but of the State itself, sooner or later State education must be in the hands, not of individuals, but the representatives of the people.It was said as a reason in favour of this Bill that the School Boards unduly competed with the so-called Voluntary Schools, and that such competition was never contemplated by the Act of 1870. But surely that was a misconception. The Act of 1870 not only contemplated such competition, but distinctly provided for it. So far from not being contemplated, it was provided by the 23rd Section of the Act of 1870 that Voluntary Schools—schools held in trust for education—might be transferred to School Boards, and, under the provisions of the section, no less than 1,297 schools—including 919 Church Schools, 21 1086 Wesleyan, and 256 British Schools—were so transferred up to the end of 1894. The main principle of this Bill, they were told, was decentralisation, and they had been challenged with being apostates to a cardinal article of Radical faith, because they opposed what were called the decentralising powers of this Bill. That argument, was, however, founded on a misconception. Decentralisation was not a fetish with the Liberal Party; it was a question of the object in view, and of the duties which had to be performed; and if they found that the object in view would be better attained by maintaining the administration in the hands of the central authority, then the Liberal Party maintained that it was better to keep it so. Education being a national object, it was to the advantage of education to keep it in the hands of the Education Department. That this was to manifest distrust of popularly-elected bodies he denied. He said that the Government themselves and the supporters of the Bill manifested distrust of the very body they proposed to set up. If not, why did they limit the expenditure which that body was to have under its control? He objected to a Committee of Town and County Councils, because at present they, and especially the large borough town councils, had as many duties to perform as they were able to efficiently discharge. The work of School Boards was so exacting in its details, it engrossed so much time, that it was impossible for a man at once to be a diligent town councillor and also to discharge his duties as a member of the Education Committee. The result would be that the work would be done, not by the chosen of the electorate, but by the co-opted members; and the danger of this was that the work would almost inevitably fall into the hands of officials. The proposal would also entail great friction. The authority would have to scrutinise and control the School Board—that was to say, a non-educational body would have to 1087 control an educational authority. If members of a Town Council had an improvement scheme in hand which would entail considerable expenditure, their prejudice would naturally be in favour of that which was under their immediate control and which they were anxious personally to put through, and they would not be very likely to view with favour the demands of another body whose expenditure they had power to control. Even now, when they had not this power, friction sometimes arose. In many instances precepts had been objected to and referred back, and would not have been paid had it not been for threat of mandamus. If that were so when the enthusiasm for education was at fever height, how much more would it be the case under the new system. One of the strongest arguments in favour of the Bill used on the other side of the House was that this devolution would lessen the duties of the central department. He ventured to submit that they would be greatly increased, as a result of the friction which would inevitably arise between School Boards and Town Councils, and the appeals that would be necessary from the local authority to the central authority. Then it was degrading to a School Board and to the position of members of a School Board to have one elected authority placed over another co-ordinate elected authority. As the hon. Member for West Ham had said, no man with any self-respect would consent to act on a School Board and to be placed in such a position as he would be placed by this Bill. It would introduce confusion and religious animosity into their municipal elections, and it would be a great disturber of municipal peace. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman had quite appreciated the difference which his proposal raised between County Borough Councils and County Councils. The right hon. Gentleman, in reply to a question, had stated that under the Bill the minutes and proceed 1088 ings of County Councils would be subject to confirmation or revision by the Council itself. The right hon. Gentleman, perhaps, might have forgotten that that only applied to County Councils with an administrative area created by the Local Government Act, 1888. It did not apply to County Borough Councils, which were governed by the Municipal Corporations Act; and while in the one case it was permissive, in the other case it was obligatory, that the proceedings should be brought before the whole Council. The result would be that in the case of County Borough Councils the whole of the proceedings of the educational authorities would be subject to revision and confirmation by the full Council. The work might have been altogether done by the co-opted members, and they would not be present in the Council when their work came under consideration, and would have no voice in determining or explaining what had been done. In County Councils proper the proceedings might be reviewed; it was not obligatory. This difference might not be intended by the Bill, but he was quite certain that was the real effect of its provisions. The hon. Member for South Islington had stated, in answering an argument of the late Home Secretary, that the Municipal Corporations Association had passed a resolution in favour of the constitution of an authority like this; but he would point out that not a single Council had had this Bill under consideration at that time, and that not a single Council authorised any such resolution to be passed. The Northampton Council, and, he was informed, the Cheshire Council, after full consideration of the Bill, had come to the conclusion that they ought not to have these functions thrust upon them; and the Committee of the West Riding of Yorkshire Council which had had this matter under consideration, had arrived at the same resolution. These 1089 were bodies to whose opinions the right hon. Gentleman ought to give the greatest weight to. He could not conceive how this proposed authority in large rural districts could do the work. He was satisfied that it would be an absolute impossibility for any representative of the wage-earning classes to be on the Committee because they could not possibly travel the great distances and be subjected to the great expense which this would entail. Then, where the educational authority in a county was the School Board for some parts of a district and not for the other portions and was yet responsible for the financial administration of the whole, great practical difficulties would arise, and the more he examined those difficulties the more he was satisfied they had not been fully realised by the authors of the Bill. Clause 27, he was satisfied, opened the door to the most bitter religious and sectarian strife. The Vice President said it was introduced to meet and to settle the religious difficulty which he said was only heard of on the platform and in Parliament, and not in the schools. He ventured to say that the right hon. Gentleman was going to be responsible for introducing it into the schools. This clause was unnecessary, impracticable and unworkable; it would produce conflict and chaos, discord and want of harmony into their system of education. It was said parents had a right to send their children to denomitional schools. In towns it was not needed because they had there denominational schools to which parents could send their children, and in the country most of the schools were denominational. In 99 out of every 100 Board Schools there was good religious teaching, and in this connection he was surprised to hear the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth make the statement he did, viz., that the religious teaching in Board Schools was repugnant to the majority of the nation. The Times on this question would not be deemed a prejudiced authority in favour of the Opposition case. But in reference to the returns furnished to the House of Lords in 1894, The Times wrote:—These returns show not only the possibility but the actuality of much excellent religion instruction in the Board Schools, with the 1090 evident desire on the part of those who manage them that the religious teaching should be a reality.Further it wrote:—It is clearer that the larger Board Schools especially are by no means indifferent to religious teaching. They confine themselves, of course, to the limits prescribed by the Education Act of 1870, but that within those limits much sound religious teaching can be and is given, is abundantly clear from these returns.That the clause would be unworkable, there was the authority of the hon. Member for West Ham for believing, and was there any other hon. Member on the Government side of the House who had the same practical experience of the question? Archdeacon Haigh speaking at a conference the other day, said:—He objected to the whole clause. He thought it was beautiful in theory, but that the working of it would be absolutely impracticable, and would produce a condition of utter and hopeless chaos. …. With the most excellent intentions of producing an element of peace, he felt sure that this clause would be productive of religious discord and grievous harm.At the same conference, Canon Frere said that he had been 50 years in a country parish, and agreed with every word that Archdeacon Haigh had spoken. The Bishop of Hereford said:—It is a fundamental mistake to foster in young children the sectarian spirit by splitting them up for the religious instruction of their common school into rival sections instead of teaching them the truths of the Bible all together.The fact was, it was not religion the supporters of the Bill wanted to teach in these schools. It was dogmatic theology. Not 10 per cent. of the children remained at school up to 14 years of age. Teaching presupposed that the person who learnt understood what he was taught, and it was ridiculous to suppose that children could understand abstruse collects, creeds, and catechisms; they might learn formularies by rote, but that was not teaching. Religion was not a system of manners, or a mere form of praise or prayer, which evaporated with the repetition of a number of unfelt words. It was heart worship, and its abiding principles were gentleness and love. That could only be instilled at home and not at school, and therefore he 1091 objected to this noxious clause. He would not dwell on the clause limiting the expenditure of money, further than to say that it was a very serious thing for the poor man. He hoped the country would not return to the illiberal maxim that because a man was poor he must have a poor education. As knowledge was power and wealth it followed that the poorer a man was the better should be the education he could procure. He believed the Bill to be bad in principle, that it would be pernicious in practice and disastrous in its consequence. In resisting these persistent attempts to prefer the interests of a class to the interests of a nation, their efforts within the walls of that House might be feeble, and their results might be futile, but he was satisfied they would find a responsive echo in the hearts and minds of the great majority of their fellow countrymen.
§ MR. ROBERT PURVIS (Peterborough)
said, the Bill had been described by hon. Gentlemen opposite as a Church Defence Measure. He contested that description. He represented a constituency which was to a great extent composed of Dissenters, and yet he felt himself justified in supporting the Bill. It had also been condemned as a Measure of decentralisation, there being no local interest in education. But centralisation, in his opinion, tended to starve local interest by leaving it nothing on which to thrive. The pride of doing well in their own districts would evoke in the local committees a keen interest in the advancement of education. The Town Council of the borough which he represented had passed a Resolution declaring that they desired to be raised as a non-county borough to the level of a county borough, so that they might be invested with the educational authority proposed by the Bill. That might be right or wrong, but at any rate there was already an intense interest in educational matters on the part of local authorities. The Bill would also raise the standard of education by improving the teaching staffs in Voluntary Schools. The Board Schools had been able hitherto by the aid of the rates to secure the services of the best teachers. But the Voluntary Schools, penalised as they had been for teaching a form of religion, had no such unlimited aid to fall back upon, and 1092 therefore had to content themselves with teachers of perhaps less ability. He hoped that one effect of the Bill would be to place both classes of schools on a more equal footing in regard to teachers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife had said that the Bill would inflame religious controversy by driving the children into separate theological pens. In Peterborough, which contained every variety of Nonconformists, Roman Catholics, and Church people, they had done without Board Schools, and they had not been troubled with inflamed religious controversies. The object of the Bill was levelling up inferior schools whether they were Voluntary or Board Schools, and the principle of the Bill was decentralisation. A centralised authority, in his opinion, might instruct but could not educate. It was not a central office in Whitehall that could disseminate education. Just as the three "R's" were the foundation of all instruction, so religious reverence was the foundation of all education.
§ SIR JOHN BAKER (Portsmouth)
said, he had had the honour of presiding for 21 years over one of the largest School Boards in Portsmouth, and he had listened to the two speeches made by the Vice President of the Council in regard to this Bill with consternation. The right hon. Gentleman said that he approached the question with philosophical calmness, but it reminded him of the calmness of a surgeon who was about to operate upon a subject. It was apparent that his intention was to disestablish the Education Department, and to disestablish the School Boards. School Boards had never been in competition with the Voluntary Schools, nor were they designed to compete with them. They were provided by the State to supply a deep-seated want, and no stronger illustration of that could be found than that presented by Portsmouth. When the Act of 1870 was established, there were in Portsmouth 4,000 children in the Voluntary Schools. That showed that the School Boards supplied a great demand. Moreover, these School Boards had called into existence a separate and distinct body of men all over the country who had been educated into the position of administrators of our public schools, and their success had given such satisfaction to every class of the community as 1093 no other system of public education had afforded. By this Bill the dethronement of the authority of the Education Department was contemplated. He would say with every respect that they had looked to the Vice President of the Council as to a High Priest of education, but he seemed rather to be an executioner. He would show how, in the very Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presided, they had found one of the strongest supports of the various efforts made in regard to the increase and adaptability of the Act to the wants of the community, and they had always found the locality had been a drain rather than a help in order to promote the efficient educational experience and authority which the Department could afford, and if they destroyed that central authority—which was the focus of experience and intelligence in educational matters, and which had the responsibility of coming to a final decision upon questions submitted to it—and preferred to it an inferior authority, they would do the greatest possible harm to the system of national education under the School Boards of this country. Therein was the danger. If they allowed a municipal authority, after 25 years of training by a school authority, to intervene, and control and subject the school authority to its rulings and decisions, they would thereby not only deprive them of what was their due—the opportunity of acting on their experience—but they would deprive such Boards of men who would not fill such a subordinate position. What would they do besides? Hon. Members knew that, unfortunately, in increasing numbers, municipal authorities were elected on political lines. Were these the lines on which an educational authority should be framed, first through a municipal committee, and then through the co-optative members? No; it would deprive them of that independence and indigenous enthusiasm which might be found in every community for educational purposes; it would deprive them of the resources now afforded them. With regard to limiting expenditure which was to be afforded from Imperial sources to Voluntary Schools, he denied that there had ever been the slightest opposition with regard to Voluntary Schools. They had been afforded every 1094 assistance by the various School Boards, and there had been no complaint whatever. As to any increased grant—4s. or any amount they pleased—if the grant were accompanied by that control and supervision which the Board Schools received, there would be no possible objection to it. But it was clear that the intention was first to deprive the School Board authority, through its representatives of the position which they at present held, and advance the authority and position of Voluntary Schools. To that, those who called themselves educationalists demurred. They submitted that the system which had been adopted was one that could be adopted to its fullest extent and become national. Therefore, there was no possible justification or mandate from the constituencies, not the slightest hint of any such Bill as this. If there had been there would have been a remonstrance, and the result of the last General Election would have been different. The teachers, both in Voluntary and Board Schools, were interested in this Bill. Hon. Members complained of waste and extravagance by Board Schools in the payment of teachers. Was that not a proof that through the instrumentality of the local authority and the Town and County Councils, the position and emoluments of teachers would be at stake. There was not the slightest doubt that the inclination was to reduce the salaries of the teachers. A more suicidal policy could hardly be adopted. Teachers were not paid extravagant salaries, when head teachers received the salaries of butlers, and head mistresses the salaries of footmen; they had only sufficient to live and make small provision for the contingencies of life. Was there any branch of the State in which expenditure was limited by Statute. He believed this limit was proposed because it was desired to kill the Board Schools, and its effect would be to impede the progress of education. With regard to the 27th Clause, relating to religious teaching, he observed that the present system had worked with admirable results, and, so far as his experience went, there had been no desire for a change on the part of those most interested, and no agitation whatever had arisen on the question until the subject had been stirred by the clerical agents, to whom reference had 1095 been made in the course of this Debate. Were they to be led to this transformation and revolution of their system of education because certain men of theological tendencies required that dogmatic teaching should be introduced into their schools? He thought if they consented to such a thing they would make one of the gravest possible mistakes, and he was confident those who advocated the change little dreamt of the difficulties and troubles that would follow from any change in the present system which gave ample satisfaction to teachers, parents, and scholars. If the system were changed, it would place teachers in such a false position that it would render their work almost unbearable. How was it possible for such a bombshell to be thrown into the educational arena without producing discord and confusion for many years to come, and how could they expect teachers to rest under such stigmas as they had heard to-night as to spurious religious teaching? No difficulties existed now, and no such charges as those which had been made by some hon. Members in this Debate, could with truth or justice be urged against the administration of the School Boards, or by the central authority over which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir J. Gorst) so eminently presided. If there was any truth in the charges of lavish and wicked expenditure by the School Boards, he would point out that it was not so much upon the Boards themselves that such charges could be maintained, as against the head of the Department which had imposed their orders upon the Boards, and had always been responsible for all the expenditure which had been incurred. He could confidently say, not only with regard to the Board about which he knew most, but of many other country School Boards, that it had only been at the constant urging of the Minister of Education to fulfil the requirements and conditions of the Act of 1870, that expenses had been incurred by such Boards, and that such expenses had been justifiable and necessary was shown by the fact that there were no schools that were not required or which were not filled. Why should the present arrangements, which were entirely satisfactory, be disturbed for the purpose of introducing dogmatic religious teaching into their national schools? They would not get 1096 uniform religious teaching, but they would get discord and confusion, not only in the Voluntary Schools, but, as a matter of course, to an even larger extent in the Board Schools, which were more numerous. He should gladly support those portions of the Bill which would promote the interests of education. The assistance to Voluntary Schools, the raising of the age of scholars from 11 to 12, the boarding out of children under the Poor Law, were all proposals which would command the support of the bulk of the people who were interested in the subject of elementary education; but the attempt of the Government to introduce a system of dogmatic education in Board Schools would meet with determined opposition from the working and middle classes.
COLONEL MELLOR (Lancashire, Radcliffe)
said, that he had had much experience of elementary school work. For 40 years he had been the corresponding manager of a public elementary school which his firm had maintained at their own cost. He mentioned this to show that he was familiar with the subject. The objections raised against this Bill were to him incomprehensible, for he could not believe that the Measure would create any difficulties which were likely to impair the efficiency of education in the future. The whole question was one of pounds, shillings and pence. The electors had decided at the last General Election that the Voluntary Schools of this country should be maintained. All that was required for that purpose was increased financial assistance. The Measure was as comprehensive and liberal as any measure could be, and its features were such that it seemed to him to be a Bill which might well have been brought forward by right hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite. The difficulty which the managers of Voluntary Schools had had to face was the following: How to compete successfully with the Board Schools when these received £2 10s. per scholar as against the £2 received by Voluntary Schools. In the course of time the Voluntary Schools would, no doubt, be submerged in the competition with Board Schools if an increased grant were not given. If only the Voluntary Schools had received up to the present time the same financial assistance that Board Schools had enjoyed, the latter, he 1097 thought, would almost have disappeared by this time. At any rate, the state of things would have been very different from what it was now. The Voluntary Schools had suffered under an "intolerable strain," and the persons who had felt that strain most were the teachers who had not been paid the salaries to which their merits entitled them. He would give the concrete case of Bolton in Lancashire. In the Voluntary Schools there are 8,854 scholars in attendance, and in the Board Schools 8,152. The Voluntary School teachers' salaries amounted to £12,517 per annum, while the Board School teachers received £14,872. Thus, the Voluntary School teachers for teaching 700 more children received £2,355 less per annum. Was it surprising, therefore, that there should be a feeling of dissatisfaction among the Voluntary School teachers? The same thing applied to the whole country round. In his own schools the salaries had increased 50 per cent. during the last ten years. He had paid those salaries for 40 years out of his own pocket, and he thought it was now time that someone else should put his hand in his pocket. The 4s. grant proposed to be given in aid of Voluntary Schools was altogether insufficient, and he hoped the Bill would contain some provision for increasing it. It would, for instance, give £1,771 additional to the Voluntary Schools of Bolton, but the amount they required to bring their teachers' salaries up to the level of Board School teachers was £3,635; and if the new code was carried into effect there would be 14 per cent. additional expense laid on these schools, and that would amount to £1,752, leaving £19 to meet the amount required to increase the salaries of the teachers. As to the question of public control, Voluntary Schools had always been subject to public control. They had always been subject to the control of Her Majesty's Inspectors, who were under the control of the Education Department. The Education Department was in turn under the control of the Minister for Education, who was under the control of the House of Commons. But under the new Bill there would be local control of a still more drastic character. In addition to that there would be local auditors. To concede 1098 the conditions demanded by hon. Members opposite would be fatal to Voluntary Schools. Nothing surprised him more than to hear the hon. Member for Nottingham defend the 17s. 6d. limit. Only a fortnight ago he received a deputation of Voluntary School teachers representing a large association extending over the whole of his constituency, and they all of them, without exception, denounced the 17s. 6d. limit; and the other day he received a letter from the Rev. Henry James, a Congregational minister in one of the towns in his constituency, in which he said:—For many years our schools have suffered from the operation of the 17s. 6d. limit, some years to the extent of £50. This year the Department have deducted £35, and I should rejoice to see a clause which so penalises poverty abolished.Most people would agree that it was impossible for the managers of the Voluntary Schools to carry them on successfully in poor districts under the 17s. 6d. limit, a limit which was both oppressive and unjust. They had heard a good deal about the County Councils and as to their competency to undertake the new duties that were to be imposed upon them by this Bill. They had been told by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last but one that certain County Councils had protested against having these duties imposed upon them and that no County Council had expressed themselves as being willing to undertake those duties. The hon. Gentleman, however, had not been fully informed on the subject, because the County Council of Lancashire, which was not an unimportant county, had appointed a committee to consider this Bill, who had reported last Thursday in favour of the Measure. The Chairman of the Committee was Mr. Snape, who in the last Parliament had sat for the Heywood Division of Lancashire, and he said:—The Bill proposed that the County Councils should be the local educational authority, and he thought that the Lancashire County Council was well qualified to take up the subject. It was said that it would introduce sectarian differences into the County Councils. School Boards were subject to these considerations, and he did not see how a change of the authority would aggravate them. They would not change that aspect of the circumstances unless, as he hoped, they did so for the better.1099 Again, Sir John Hibbert, the Chairman of the Lancashire County Council, had said:—He was in favour of the principal proposal of the Bill, because it set up local educational authorities and led to decentralisation. He had seen so many drawbacks connected with the system of control that he hailed with delight any proposal for giving back to the authorities the power of dealing with their own affairs. He looked at the Measure as a democratic one, especially coming, as it did, from a Conservative Government.Sir J. Hibbert further said that he objected to the proposal to limit the amount to be spent on education. In his opinion we ought to be more economical as far as elementary education in Board Schools was concerned, but we could not spend too much upon secondary education.
§ And, it being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.