Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum not exceeding£681,867be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899. for Public Education in Scotland.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY,) Buteshire
The educational year in Scotland has been what I may call uneventful, but at the same time satisfactory. The estimated increase of population is 8, while the number of scholars on the register has increased by 1.05, and there has been an increase of 2.1 in the average attendance. While that is satisfactory so far as numbers go, there are also, I think, satisfactory figures as to the results of the inspections. The reports of the inspectors show that out of an average, attendance of 107,275, 2.59 per cent, are marked as good, and 46.92 as excellent. No doubt these figures, especially the last item, prove that in general the improvement which has hitherto been remarked from year to year has been well maintained. Side by side with the day schools, as honourable Members are aware, there has been the movement of evening continuation schools and the evening continuation schools also continue to be satisfactory. During the year there was an average attendance of 50,822 scholars, 59,954 being present at the inspector's visits. I should mention, because, perhaps honourable Members might notice this matter in the Estimates, that the figures of the annual grant for evening continuation schools show a decrease of£4,736. I am glad to say that that decrease does not represent a real decrease in the number of 212 evening scholars or in the popularity of the evening schools. These are Estimates, and if the Estimates of one year are to be compared with the Estimate of another it simply means that the Estimate of last year was a little too sanguine, and it does not mean, as a matter of fact, that the evening schools have gone back, because the actual attendance at evening schools this year is greater than it was before. The view of the Department as to evening schools has been to give as much opportunity as possible by means of these institutions to those who have finished their elementary course and have no possibility of entering secondary schools. While I am upon the figures, let me say this. Honourable Members will notice that the fee grant to day schools has been increased from£310,625to£335,312. I feel that the phraseology of the sub-head in this matter is a little puzzling. The effect of that rise is, roughly speaking—of course, to a certain extent it is a decrease in numbers, but to a great extent what it really means is the carrying out of the Treasury promise of making good the 12s. instead of the 10s. The phraseology is, perhaps, a little difficult to understand, because if honourable Members look at sub-head (a) they see: "Fee grant to day scholars, £314,312." That is, of course, calculated upon 628,624 scholars at 10s. each. The grant of the previous year is£21,000. That certainly has an ambiguous sound, but it does not mean that£21,000is paid in for arrears; it means that that is£21,000devoted by the Treasury in accordance with their promise, and that that is the sum which is found necessary.
§ MR. GRAHAM MURRAY
It is the sum given in accordance with the Treasury promise. I am trying to make it clear what the meaning of it is. During the year ending the 31st March, 1898, that is the last complete year, the capitation grant was at the rate of 12s. That is actually paid, of course, lo the schools. Of that 12s., 10s. was met by Parliamentary Grant, and 2s. from the sum 213 otherwise available. Now, the sum otherwise available was the arrears that the honourable Member is speaking of, and also a sum of money under the Act to which I need not now further refer. But so far as the year goes, there would be no available money for that 2s., unless supplemented by the Treasury, and it is supplemented by the Treasury in this sum of£21,000. Why we fix upon£21,000 is because that is the sum which they had to take from the Local Taxation Account. I hope I have made myself clear. I agree that the phraseology of the sub-head is rather misleading. Then there is one other matter that I should like to call attention to upon the figures. There is a new item in the Estimates of this year that has not appeared before; I mean the Aid Grant—not only the additional Grant to scholars, but the Aid Grant to Voluntary schools—of£12,600, under sub-head (i). That is in accordance with the Act of last year. I mention that simply in order to say this. I am happy to say that in Scotland at least the effect of the Grant has not been diminished by voluntary subscriptions. As a matter of fact, the voluntary subscriptions this year are in advance of the amount of voluntary subscriptions in previous years. Whatever pessimistic prophecies there may have been with regard to the probable effect of the three-shillings Aid Grant have not been fulfilled in Scotland.
§ MR. GRAHAM MURRAY
The total voluntary subscriptions for the year are£33,315. I am sorry to say I cannot properly distinguish between how much of those are for Voluntary schools and how much for Board schools, but the subscriptions for the latter are infinitesimal. Taking the cost of maintenance of a child, and making it up from various sources, the amount paid by subscriptions in the Board schools is ¼d., and in Voluntary schools is 8s. O¼d. I have only given the honourable Member rough figures. I think the total voluntary subscriptions would be over£30,000.
§ MR. GRAHAM MURRAY
I cannot at the moment give the honourable Member the exact figures. Now, I turn from the question of the figures of attendance in 214 schools to another subject, which I know interests, especially the honourable Member for Mid Lanark, and that is the provision of teaching power. I have no doubt he will notice with pleasure that the Department has especially kept before it the question of, if possible, increasing the sources of teaching supply. Putting aside all the minor sources of supply, the great backbone of the matter must be the training colleges, and accordingly the Department have found it expedient to considerably increase the number of recognised establishments. This year eight training colleges are now recognised, with 1,140 students, instead of 943 last year. Of course the whole effect of that has not yet taken place—that is to say, that the number of students has not jumped up to the full extent; but still I think the honourable Member will recognise a wish on the part of the Department to move in the direction he desires for a further supply of teachers in the training colleges. Concurrently, of course, with that, there is also an earnest endeavour to keep up that other source of supply of what I may call rather modern introduction—I mean the provision of Queen's students through the medium of the universities. Thirty-one students have already been enrolled on the terms set forth in the Minute, and the Department say they are prepared to enter into further proposals of that description. Then, as regards secondary education, there is nothing particular to be chronicled, except that the Department have endeavoured, by the last Minute, dated the 10th June, 1897, to as much as possible allure the local authorities who have control of the technical education money to entrust that money to the committees that have been organised. During the year 1897–98, as the result of representations to those local authorities, the authorities of 9 counties, 10 burghs, and 21 police burghs have, in the aggregate, entrusted the sum of £6,500 to 17 committees, on which they have been represented by 51 additional members. As regards the disposal of the money, speaking generally, out of a total grant of £56,000 £16,200 has been assigned in direct subsidies to higher-class schools, £16,000 in direct subsidies to State-aided schools, and a large proportion of what remains is to be paid in capitation grants and bursaries.
§ MR. GRAHAM MURRAY
As compared with last year, I believe the subsidies for high-class schools show an increase of about £1,300, and for State-aided schools the figure is about £3,000 less than last year. The honourable Gentleman will remember that the Minute details how the money is spent, without dealing with the money that is granted. Of course the object of the Department has been to recognise that our primary duty is to maintain a system of elementary education in ordinary schools, and that higher education can be carried on best, and most efficiently, and with the least interference to the elementary schools, when it is, as far as practicable, concentrated in the secondary department of the larger elementary schools. Then, of course, there is a balance in hand. I need not say anything about the matter which has been before the House to-night—the further sum available for secondary schools—but I think the Report shows pretty well the lines upon which to administer that money. There has been one other departure of considerable note that has taken place during the year, and that has been the transfer of the Science and Art Department from English management to the Scotch Education Department. Of course that is a matter which is only just, as a matter of fact, now getting into working order, and it is absolutely too soon to give results. In other words, there are as yet no results to give, because really the whole matter of the administration of this new money has only been taken up during the last few months, and accordingly the effect of that transfer is an effect that must be accounted for in the future. We hope that another great advantage of the increased grants that we are to get under the Bill of this year, when it becomes law, is that it will be synchronous with this development in the matter of science and art, and that therefore it will be open to a department having money under the science and art grant, and also the ordinary capitation grant, to greatly develop that work. Whether those expectations will be fulfilled must be a matter for the future. The whole scheme is one which it will be necessary to communicate to Parlia- 216 ment when we have, what is obviously necessary, a revised Minute, because the old Minute of June, 1897, will no longer be practically available. When we have that revised Minute, and, at the same time, the regulations under which the Science and Art Department is to be administered, I hope the House will then be in possession of practically the complete scheme of the Education Department. I can only hope that the general results of the new scheme will be as satisfactory as I think I may fairly say the results are satisfactory, as shewn by the reports of this year, for the somewhat limited field at present under the control of the Department.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfar)
I am sure the Committee have listened with very great interest to the speech of the right honourable Gentleman upon Scotch education. It is difficult, of course, to invite the Committee at this hour to discuss in detail the various points of the right honourable Gentleman's speech, but I am glad that at any rate this opportunity has been given, because it is better than no opportunity at all. Besides the matters that have been already mentioned by the right honourable Gentleman, there is a matter in connection with the proceedings of this Session, and in connection with Scotch education, which is one of great regret upon this side of the House, and that is that we have had no opportunity of discussing the Attendance of Children at Schools Bill, which was laid upon the Table by the Government. I may remind the Committee that that Bill proposes to deal with one of the great blots upon our system of Scotch education—namely, the early age at which children leave school. It is a most unfortunate fact that the average age of exemption from attendance at schools is one year less than it was 25 years ago. That means to say that the majority of these children leave school a year earlier than they used to, and there is this additional disadvantage which presses most hardly on the brightest and the cleverest children—namely, that they are pushed into employment at an earlier age than is proper, and that the cleverer and the brighter they are the earlier they have to leave school. I do not wish to dwell upon that matter to-night. I do not 217 deny that on the whole the explanations given by the right honourable Gentleman are fair and adequate, and that our educational progress has been steady and satisfactory, but I do not think that it can injure the Department, or have any great effect upon public opinion, if the weak spots are pointed out categorically, especially if they are important weak spots. I have never heard up to now that there is any possibility of having an Education Bill applying equally to England and Scotland. The question of Scotch education is a question which excites very great interest in Scotland, and I think it is likely to provoke opposition in Scotland if serious ground is given for the belief that the interests of Scotch education are made to suffer by being coupled with those of England in legislative proposals. The elementary schools in Scotland altogether differ from those in England. They are supported by grants coming from various sources, from private endowments left by private individuals, and by funds of a great variety. All those different sources of support must be taken, into account in establishing any satisfactory system of Scotch education. Our Scotch education is totally different from that of England. No one sympathises more than I do with the inevitable difficulties of the Government in this House. It is always, of course, much more preferable to deal with the subject in one Bill rather than in two Bills, if only for the mere sake of limiting discussion. That seems to me a source of danger in this House which is not sufficiently appreciated at the present time. The transfer of the Science and Art Department to the Scotch Education Department is undoubtedly an improvement. There is one remark I would make in criticising the Report, and that is this: the right honourable Gentleman referred to the increase of 2.1 in the average attendance at schools. That also is a matter that we might have considered in the discussion of the Attendance of Children at Schools Bill, because in some parts of Scotland evening attendance goes to make up the deficiencies of the children who are half-timers, and who are engaged in factory labour. I do not wish to go into the subject in any detail now. There is one 218 other matter I should like to allude to, and that I have alluded to on former occasions, and that is the question of audits. I cannot help thinking that the position of the Government is utterly indefensible, and I must protest against the treatment we have received from the right honourable Gentleman on various occasions when this matter has been brought up. This question was discussed at the time when the Education (Scotland) Hill of 1897 was passed giving the aid grant, to which allusion has been made, to the Voluntary schools. Now, what we complain of is that there should be a different system of audit applied to Voluntary schools and Board schools. In the case of Board schools, in the first place, the full school board has once a quarter to sign an attendance register upon which the grant is based. Further, a visiting committee of the board, consisting of two members, have devolved upon them the duty of visiting the school at all times, or at any rate without notice to the teacher, in order to check the register with the number of children attending. By this means an absolute check is kept upon the register on which the grant is based. Further, all the school registers go up to the Audit Department, where they are examined and compared with vouchers, and so on. In the case of Voluntary schools, the accounts are certified by the treasurer, one of the managers of the school—that is to say, they are certified by one of the body whose accounts they are. They are audited by some friend in the locality, who compares the receipts with the vouchers, and so forth. Now, I submit that in the case of Voluntary schools the essential characteristic of an audit is absent. No audit is of any value if the auditor is identical with those whose accounts; are being audited. It is essential that the auditor should have absolutely no interest in the accounts which he audits. Now, this inequality has existed for years in Scotland. It was a bad enough state of things before the Act of 1897 came into force. The Act of 1897 gave to Scotland a grant of 3s. a head for children in the Voluntary schools. When the Act of 1897 was under discussion the Lord Advocate refused to provide for a statutory audit—that is to say, he refused to place Voluntary schools under the same conditions 219 as the Board schools, but he said, after great pressure, that he was willing to insert a provision in the English Bill of the preceding year, adding, "that there certainly would be an audit." That was accepted, and the provision was inserted in the Bill. Now, early in this Session the Supplementary Estimate came forward, and we again brought up this question. The Lord Advocate absolutely ignored what he had said on the former occasion. He said there is the ordinary safeguard; no special provision is necessary; the managers would have to prove their accounts in the ordinary way. That was the excuse on the second occasion. Now I submit that that is not a valid excuse. It is perfectly true that among the duties of the inspectors is that of seeing the accounts, but I am sure we are all aware that the inspectors (in Scotland, at any rate) do openly or tacitly protest against the suggestion that they are to be responsible for the accounts of the schools. Their business is that of educational inspection; that is really the work that is asked of them by the Government who employ them. Therefore I say it is not a valid defence put forward by the Lord Advocate on this occasion. Then the matter was brought forward on a third occasion, and the right honourable Gentleman, with admirable ingenuity and with admirable forgetfulness of what had occurred on the previous occasions, said that we were entirely mistaken, and that there had been an audit all the time; he explained to us the system of audit of the Voluntary schools which had been in operation before the Act of 1897 was passed. That was the form that his defence then took. I do not think that that was quite candid on the part of the right honourable Gentleman; at any rate, it gives a very bad impression to those interested in the matter. On the last occasion he explained that the difference in the treatment between the Board schools and the Voluntary schools was this: that whereas the Board schools were supported by the rates, the Voluntary schools were supported by private subscriptions in the same degree; that in the case of Board schools it was necessary, m the interest of the taxpayer, that there should be a complete statutory audit, but that in the case of the Voluntary schools the subscribers looked after their own interests. 220 That left out of sight the fact that only between 2d. and 3d. of the money expended in Scotland comes from private sources. No doubt private subscribers are able to look after their own private subscriptions, but what about the taxpayer who pays three-quarters of the amount expended in the schools, whether Board schools or Voluntary schools? If his interest in the case of Board schools is three times that of the ratepayer, surely the protection given to both must be three times more valuable to the taxpayer than it is to the ratepayer. Then the right honourable Gentleman said that we must prove dishonesty—that charges would have to be made against managers of Board schools of dishonesty and malpractices. Now, our real point is that one class of people in he country ought not to be treated differently to another class. It is undoubtedly the case that without dishonesty or malpractices you do insist in the case of the Board schools that there shall be an audit. That is no imputation on the honesty of the Board school managers. The right honourable Gentleman may tell us that he is perfectly willing to give us the English system. I only speak for myself, but, in my opinion, the English system lacks what I would describe as the essential characteristic of any trustworthy system of audit. I have no doubt it works well enough, but it cannot be contended that it is a proper and satisfactory system. What I wish to press for is that there shall be, in the case of the Voluntary schools in Scotland an equally fair and equally compulsory audit as there is in the case of the Board schools. I am perfectly certain that the Committee will agree with me when I urge that the right honourable Gentleman representing the Government has not behaved fairly to us in this matter. On every occasion he has met us with a different defence, and we are as badly off now as we were before the question was raised at all. It is only fair to the Voluntary schools that they should be placed in this matter on an equality with the Board schools. It is far better that the Voluntary schools should come forward and say, "Place us under whatever restrictions you like, as long as you are fair." Any idea that the Voluntary schools are being privileged, that they 221 are not given equal justice, is likely to prove in the end inimical to their interests. I ask for fair play in this matter. The Government have treated us more than discourteously; they have placed themselves open to a charge of bad faith. We were promised that there should be a better state of things, or that there should be, at any rate, a change in the present state of things, and we are in exactly the same position as we were in when this, question was first mooted. I regret exceedingly that I should have to bring the matter again before the House at this period of the Session, when it is extremely inconvenient to have any lengthy discussion, but I felt that it was a matter that ought not to be passed over.
§ MR. CALDWELL
I hope the First Lord will agree that it is unreasonable to expect us at this late hour to debate such an important. Vote as this. Perhaps he will agree now to report Progress, and put down the Vote at a comparatively early hour to-morrow, so that we may adequately, although not unduly, discuss it. The Vote did not come on to-night till about 25 minutes to 12, and we have had no time at all to raise any questions of importance.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I cannot help agreeing with what has fallen from the honourable Gentleman. I think we ought to report Progress now, because this is a, very important Vote, and I am anxious that it should have, a fair share of discussion. I will endeavour to find a fairly early place for it to-morrow, and I hope that, on the understanding that I do that, we shall be assisted in getting the other Votes without unnecessary delay, as there are various important subjects to be discussed to-morrow, which is the penultimate day for the discussion of Supply.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I think it would be convenient to take the Stationery Office Vote, and perhaps there may be one or two non-controversial Votes. Then I will put down this Vote after those. But I should hope that it will not be discussed at any great length.
§ MR. CHANNING
I should like to ask when the Science, and Art Department Vote will be taken, and also when the Local Government Vote will be taken.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I propose to take Votes 22, 23, 24, 25, and 26, then the Stationery Office Vote, then the Scotch Education Vote, and then the Science and Art Vote, and then we go on with clause 5.
§ MR. CHANNING
Then the remaining Votes in class 2 will be postponed, and perhaps swallowed up in the closure on Monday night.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
Does the right honourable Gentleman mean to take the Scotch Education Vote to-morrow?
§ Vote postponed.
§ Resolutions to be reported this day; Committee also report Progress; to sit again this day.