HC Deb 07 May 1901 vol 93 cc1038-40
*MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)

called attention to the question of continuation schools. He had brought the subject before the House on many occasions, and a resolution which he moved some years ago was carried unanimously. Since then there had been an enormous development, He was glad to say that, whereas twelve years ago the number of children attending continuation schools was only 30,000, the number now was 474,000. He was told that, owing to the Cockerton judgment, no less than 150,000 might have to be dismissed, except in so far as they might be provided for in the legislation announced that day. He hoped that the Education Bill would contain provisions of a very clear and explicit kind. He thought they were all agreed that to withdraw a child from school after reaching the age of thirteen meant a great waste. If children left school at that age they were often under no control; they wandered about the streets, and frequented public-houses and low music-halls. Out of that class came the modern Hooligan, of whom there was a large number in the metropolis. He had inquired into the whole system of elementary education in Germany, and he found that pupils were generally required to attend evening schools until they were seventeen years of age. Older boys attended these continuation schools two or three evenings a week, and the result was that Germany did not possess the class of Hooligan we had in this country. There was nothing more serious for a child than to be turned adrift at thirteen, and allowed to roam about the streets in large towns, unchecked and unhindered. He would like to quote some remarks that fell from the President of the National Union of Teachers last month— The Hooligan or street blackguard is not a sudden growth; he is the result of street education…. The thoughtful student of modern life sees nothing sadder than the crowds of boys and girls in the streets late at night, exposed to many and serious dangers, acquiring evil habits, and generally laying the foundation of a life of idleness, vice, or crime. Even the little ones, who ought to be at home in the care of their parents, are found in the streets in charge of those scarcely older than themselves. The bad manners which some of the critics ascribe to the elementary schools are really the consequence of this. The boisterous, rude behaviour, the vulgar and coarse language and the inculcation of positively sinful deeds, are facts which must be faced and fought…. What kind of parents would allow their little ones to sleep out night after night without taking the trouble even to enquire for them at the police station? Ask at any police office how far this is true. Is a man a father who permits or compels his child, under the pretence of selling matches, papers, or like things, to bring him money to spend on drink? And there are mothers! When we think of 'mother' what endearing and noble images arise in the mind, yet there are mothers so degraded, so utterly unworthy of their name so lost to all sense of their duties and privileges, that savage women ignorant of Christianity are in such respects their superiors After thirty years of educational effort why is it that with these parents the standard of duty is so low? Why has a lad or girl no nobler sense of enjoyment than that which comes from riotous conduct in the streets? Thoughtful consideration gives the reply, because they have no homes. Until self-respect leavens the being, and until that is founded on decent conditions of daily life, progress is impossible. Decency is almost impossible where families are herded together. That was a plain statement from a man of practical judgment, and it was true more or less that we had a semi-savage, semi-criminal class in all our large towns. He had often thought we should never exterminate that class until we insisted on the prolonged education of children. What really was required by these children was discipline, and the evening schools provided this for some years longer than was possible in the day schools. He would give the substance of his argument in a few lines which he would quote from. Dr. Paton, of Nottingham— First we build up at an immense expense a colossal system of primary education, and then see and allow the results of it to be very largely wasted and lost. Teachers speak dismally of the havoc to the fruit of their labours in the first two years after school is left. The garden which by daily culture has been brought into such an admirable and promising condition is given over to utter neglect; the money, the time, the labour bestowed upon it are lost. We cease to educate at the most important, most plastic, most receptive period of life, That was written a few years ago. Our educational system had been gradually improving. If the Vice-President of the Council had been present he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would have given a sympathetic reply, but in his absence the hon. Member thought the best thing he could do was to move the resolution standing in his name.

MR. WM. JONES (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)

formally seconded the motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed. "That, in view of the vast number of children whose education ceases at thirteen years of age or less, and in view of the increase of youthful offenders in the metropolis, owing in large measure to the absence of parental control and to the licence of the streets, it is desirable to extend the advantage of evening continuation schools to the whole child population, and to require the attendance in the case of boys to the age of sixteen for at least two evenings per week."—(Mr. Samuel Smith.)

It being midnight, the debate stood adjourned.

Adjurned at one minute after Twelve of the Clock.