HC Deb 05 August 1902 vol 112 cc686-95

"That a sum, not exceeding £707,712 be granted to His 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, 1903, for public education in Scotland, and for science and art in Scotland, including a grant in aid.

(3,30.) MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)

pointed out that whilst under the English Education Act of 1870, schools in England were limited to elementary instruction, under the Scottish Act of 1872, schools in Scotland combined elementary and secondary instruction. Under the old parochial system, which existed until the Act of 1872, Scotland stood at the head of almost every country in the world as regarded educational establishment, but she was not at the head now; she was not so far advanced considering the advantages she possessed over other countries in 1872. The advantage they possessed prior to 1872 was that the education given under the old parochial system was a sufficient preparation for the University. It was the teachers who gave the impetus to the boy to go to the University, and every teacher was qualified to prepare a boy to go there. The schools of Scotland were of a higher character, and had a better class of teachers than the English schools, higher paid and better qualified. For that reason education was more expensive in Scotland, but the benefits of this, he contended, were felt throughout the Empire. It should be remembered that while the ratepayers of Scotland were at all this expense, the benefit was of an Imperial character. The Prime Minister, Lord Rosebery, and the Leader of the Opposition were all Scotsmen, and men of the same nationality would be found in every part of the Empire. This was a point which should be borne in mind when any additional grant was given to Scotland out of the Imperial purse. That certain sacrifices were made by the people themselves was shown by the fact that the compulsory school age in Scotland was fourteen years, as against thirteen in England.

Then with regard to the changes which had been made in the mode of examination since 1872. The principle of the Act of 1872 was that every child should be educated to the extent of its abilities, and grants were given according to the individual results. That was an important method, because by it the children of the poorest parents were given as much attention as others. But pressure was brought to bear with a view to having a general examination of the schools. That was an unfortunate change, because under such a system the poorer children sank to the bottom, and it was impossible to tell how they were being educated. The teachers were the main factors in bringing about the change. When the grants were based on individual examination, each child had to be brought up to the required standard, but under the new method it was sufficient to have two or three clever boys at the head of the class, and the teachers were afforded an enormous relief. The change was also a great relief to the inspectors, because instead of having to examine and pass a judgment upon each individual child they had simply to pass a class on a state of general proficiency being shown. The School Boards also were in favour of the change, because it insured them a better grant and gave them less trouble. The poor parents were the losers by the change. Ignorance would never be eradicated until the State took care that each child, even when it belonged to a poor family, was properly educated. Under the old system, the progress of education could be estimated, and it was possible to tell how many children were passing into the higher standards. That was not now the case. Inspectors got on better with the local authorities and the teachers' associations by reporting everything as satisfactory, and so a mere general opinion as to the state of the school was given, but there were no statistics as to the individual children. The Education Department should at least insist on the old standards being revived, not for the purposes of the grant, but so that year by year comparisons could be made, and they might see exactly how matters stood. Previously a parent knew each year whether his child was making progress, and if the result was unsatisfactory the reason could be ascertained. Now, however, the child was not examined until the end of his school course, and it was then too late to go back if the result was unsatisfactory. There was too much laxity with regard to the examinations, and the Scottish Education Department ought to give the matter serious attention.

With regard to secondary education, the policy of the Department had been to kill the secondary and private schools. They began by a system of payments for specific subjects with high - sounding names, such as "English Literature" which consisted of so many lines of poetry repeated from memory, but which were secondary only in name. As a result of that policy, in places like Glasgow the board schools competed with the secondary and private schools, and as the fees in the former amounted to only about £2 as against £12 in the latter, the children were all drawn to the board schools, and the secondary schools that were not killed were crippled. That policy had now been practically reversed, and the endeavour was being made to raise up secondary schools, and to kill the secondary education in the elementary schools. One great advantage of a State-aided school was that if they had secondary education at the top, elementary educacation in that school would be better, they would get a better class of pupils, and the whole tone of the school would be raised. Some people thought secondary education ought to be kept by itself and attached to the Universities. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities would agree with him that the people of Scotland were not so much enamoured with professors as to be willing to place education in Scotland under their charge, for he did not believe that the people of Scotland would ever tolerate education being worked from a University centre. This would be a fatal policy, and contrary to the traditions of Scotland. A boy should be kept under the influence of the same teacher as long as possible, and induced to go on step by step to the highest point that could possibly be reached. But if they had secondary education in every elementary school, he quite granted that they must have secondary schools as well. They should never lose sight of the fact that throughout Scotland many of the parishes were so sparsely populated that they must have the local school within reach of every child, and capable of teaching up to the highest point of going to the University. They should look at this question from the point of view of what had been the custom and habit of Scotland. It had been said that the effect of the old parochial system was that they encouraged only the clever boys, and did nothing for the others. In the old days the teacher had to attend to the very poorest as well as the wealthiest, and at that time compulsory education did not exist. He would not go into other matters because he wished to deal only with questions which were practically more imminent. He wished particularly to emphasise the fact that any money earned in this matter in Scotland, owing to the different circumstances, was earned at a great cost to the ratepayers. They ought to look at education in Scotland as a whole, and not merely the benefit conferred upon any district, because a boy afterwards went out into the world and the education he received was of benefit to the nation at large. They did not ask for any special treatment for Scotland, but simply for the proper recognition of work done for the benefit of the State as a whole. He hoped the Lord Advocate would be able to assure them that steps were being taken to ensure that whatever England got under the present arrangement, Scotland would receive similar treatment by the Exchequer.


called the attention of the Lord Advocate to the question of the sanitary inspection of schools in Scotland. He did so because of the delay which had occurred in dealing with Scotch educational matters. He was encouraged to raise this matter because a Commission had been appointed to inquire into the physical training of children in Scotland. Nothing was more important than to see that ventilation and other sanitary requirements were properly attended to in the schools. His experience of country districts was that the ventilation of public schools left almost everything to be desired. He knew of no more unhealthy atmosphere than the class-rooms of many country schools on wet winter days when crowded with children and when the heating as well as the ventilating apparatus was out of order. He felt sure that this cause was the source of widespread disease and injury to the health of the children. What was required was that some efficient inspector should visit the schools without notice and report as to their sanitary condition. This was necessary in the country districts so long as small School Boards continued. The bigger School Boards had larger ideas as to the requirements of schools, but more adequate inspection of the sanitary arrangements was necessary in the country districts. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it was not possible for him to encourage School Boards to make provision for driving children to school from the out-lying districts. In regard to school buildings great advantage would be derived if the smaller Boards had more explicit guidance from the Scottish Office as to the character of the school buildings required in the different localities. The result of the first regulations was to produce a school-rate in some parts of 6s. or 7s. in the £1, on account of the extravagant cost of the buildings which were put up. In some districts there were crowded and badly ventilated buildings where the money would have been better spent in providing larger space instead, of ornamental stone-work. He was sure that any guidance given by the Scottish Office would be respectfully attended to by School Boards, large and small.

MR. JOHN DEWAR (Inverness-shire)

called attention to the state of education in the Highlands and Western Islands and to the effect which the recent Minute of the Department would have on the continuation classes. The Minute would have the effect of closing these classes altogether. Owing to the social condition of the islands, and the extreme poverty which existed, education of any kind was carried on under considerable difficulties, but they, had, nevertheless, been able to carry on continuation classes very successfully. The children had to come from long distances, and for that reason it was more difficult to carry on elementary education. Up to now the School Board had been able to carry on these classes without any charge on the rates whatever. The grants they got from the Government covered the cost of carrying on the classes. Indeed in some cases there was a profit on them. The minute issued by the Department provided that in the case of continuation classes one-fourth must be borne out of the local rates. This was a very good Minute with regard to rich localities that could afford a little increase of the rate, but it was an absolutely impossible Minute with regard to the western islands of Scotland. He instanced a case in the western islands where last year the School Board carried on continuation classes which were attended by 511 pupils—young men and women—and involved no charge on the rates. This year with the charge of one-fourth of the expense the cost would have been £300 or £400. The Department in view of the special circumstances of the case had, he believed, reduced the charge to one-eighth. That was so much and the School Board was grateful for it, but even the eighth in this case represented £170. The rates in the parish were 10s. 7d. in the £1, so that the Committee would see it was absolutely impossible any more should be taken out of the rates to meet this extra charge. He had made representations to the Department about it, and the head of the Department was in absolute sympathy with them, but he had a difficulty in meeting the case. He would press on the attention of the House that this was a case which needed special treatment, and that those ratepayers should not be asked to contribute out of their penury for this matter. It was of great importance that they should have secondary and technical instruction in these islands, perhaps move important than on the mainland, and for this reason those who were interested in the prosperity of the islands, desired that young men and women should be enabled to go south for more profitable occupations than were to be found in the islands. It was the business of this House to provide them with the technical and the secondary education which would enable them to learn trades and professions and which would make them successful citizens of this country. He trusted that the Government would give a special grant to the islands to provide secondary education.


said it was unite impossible for some of the districts to contribute even one-eighth of the cost of the continuation classes referred to by the hon. Member for Inverness-shire. The people were poor and some arrangement should be made for getting rid of that charge. What was wanted was that the boys and girls in the districts where there were no industries should be educated so that they might be able to go south and make a living for themselves. He called attention to the Report of the Government Inspector, Mr. Walker, in regard to the insanitary condition of some of the schools and urged that steps should be taken to remedy this state of matters. The special grant to the Highlands was £1,200, but, in view of the requirements, he thought it should be larger. He hoped the Lord Advocate would bring this matter under the notice of the Secretary of Scotland.

(4.28.) MR. BRYCE

supported the plea put forward by the hon. Member for Leith Burghs for more careful attention being given to the sanitary conditions of schools. He also concurred in the view of his hon. friend that it was a mistake to multiply small schools. Far more effective education could be given by gathering children together in considerable numbers in central schools. He hoped, therefore, that what his hon. friend had said would have the attention of the Education Department. He asked the Lord Advocate whether any steps had been taken since this time last year in the direction indicated by the debate, which took place there on the subject of the training of teachers. At that time the Lord Advocate gave them reason to believe that some steps would be taken in the direction of developing the system of enabling King's students to attend the universities. The new grant now under discussion to be granted to English education raised an important question, and he would only say, bearing in mind the very confused position in which Scotland now stood with regard to Education Grants, that he earnestly hoped that, when the Scotch Education Department came to consider the new grant which Scotland was to receive as the equivalent of the grant to be made to England under the present Education Bill, the opportunity would be taken to endeavour to bring about a general simplification of the confused position in which they stood with regard to their various grants. Whether what he desired would be done by legislation or by Minute, he did not know, but a good deal could be done in the way of consolidating these matters by a consolidating Minute.

MR. BENSHAW (Renfrew, W.)

said he did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the reorganisation of Scottish education could be secured by a Minute. What was required was a consolidating Act, which should put the Scottish education on a much clearer and more efficient basis. He hoped the time was rapidly approaching when this question of simplification might be dealt with, and he was quite sure that Lord Balfour was more competent than almost any one else in Scotland to deal with the matter, and give them good guidance. As to the sanitary condition of their day schools, he hoped nothing would be done by the Education Department of Scotland to weaken the responsibility of local authorities in regard to this matter.


assured the hon. Member for Mid Lanark that the views he had expressed with regard to the education grant would necessarily have very careful consideration, though he would remind him that his views were not entirely shared by those who sat beside him. The way in which the money received by Scotland would be used would be closely scrutinised, but it was not necessarily to be assumed that the money would be in the form of another extra grant. It would probably be more in the nature of an Imperial contribution, and the problem to be looked at would certainly be what contribution to local effort was to be given by the Imperial Exchequer. When they had once fixed upon that, he took it that they would apply it to Scotch needs and circumstances. As to the training of teachers, he could not say that any special new scheme had been inaugurated since the matter was dealt with last year. Greater advantage had been taken of these provisions which allowed of the University education of teachers by attending University classes, but he did not think that there had been any actual new departure in the course of the year. The whole question of the training of teachers still occupied the attention of the Education Department. With regard to the sanitary inspection of schools, he entirely repudiated the aspersion cast upon him that he treated this matter lightly. He did nothing of the kind.


Yes, you did.


That is not my view.


It is my view.


said the hon. Member was most courteous in his interruptions! What he said was that, so far from the Education Department not paying attention to the sanitary condition of the schools, they welcomed the Reports of their inspectors with regard to this question, and took action upon them. He certainly agreed with what had fallen from his hon. friend the Member for West Renfrew. It seemed to him that the local authority must remain the proper body to discharge this duty, and it would be something quite new to cast the duty directly on the education authority. The question of continuation classes in the Highlands would full to be considered in the light of further experience next year when the Code was brought up. The continuation Code had only been running one year.


urged with regard to the inspectorship of schools that the Education Department should do what it did with regard to other schools. Although it would be a difficult matter to deal with many small schools in different districts of Scotland, he did not think there would be any difficulty with regard to the large schools.

MR. TENNANT (Berwickshire)

called attention to the fact that there were over 30,000 nomadic gipsies in Scotland. The condition of the children educationally was awful to contemplate, they were in the darkest of ignorance, and he hoped that some steps might be taken by which the Lord Advocate might take power to bring these children within the scope of the education laws.