§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Debate on Amendment to Second Reading continued.
§ (9.0.) LORD EDMUND TALBOT
When I had the honour of falling as the first victim under the new Adjournment Rule. I was venturing to point out that I regard this measure from the point of view of an extreme denominationalist. I had got to the point I wanted to touch on—the heavy burden we denominationalists have to bear in buying the land, buildings, and schools in order to secure for our selves religious instruction. That burden is no light one. Under this Bill it will be heavier rather than lighter. Structural repairs and alterations will in my humble judgment be a constant source of anxiety. I frankly admit that we are relieved of what we now have to bear, namely, the further penalty of in adequate secular instruction. I speak with some feeling on this point, because I belong to a religious communion which is a very small minority in this country. 718 But I venture to assert there is no section of the community which is in more deadly earnest on this question than we are. We must never forget in dealing with this question that we are dealing with the children of the poorer classes, and it is a melancholy fact that the greatest percentage of the very poor in this country have been found amongst my fellow catholics. Hitherto and at this moment that heavy handicap has been increased by the further penalty of the parents of these children having for conscience sake to see them educated by overworked and underpaid teachers. I rejoice indeed to think that under this Bill teachers in voluntary schools will no longer be at that disadvantage, and that they will have now and in the future a more favoured and more fortunate position than their comrades lately occupy. I regret very much—and I confess I was surprised—that opposition to this Bill comes from the religious Nonconformists. I very much doubt whether amongst the earnest minded Nonconformists there is that opposition which those who are allied to them more by political than religious ties would have us suppose. [An HON. MEMBER: Much more.] This Bill does not deprive the Nonconformist of any religious advantage he now possesses. The Nonconformist's position is improved. He has still preserved for him the present School Board system of religious education, which is a system of his own making. New schools can and will be built entirely out of public money in which this same system will continue. In fact those Nonconformists who are satisfied with this School Board religious system are the only religious body who obtain preferential treatment by this Bill. And those of them who are not so satisfied with such religious teaching as is obtainable under that system, and I believe them to be a growing number are placed in exactly the same position as any other denomination and can build schools of their own. I have heard it urged that they are too poor a body to expect this of them. If my co-religionists can manage to pay this fine and bear this burden, so also can the Nonconformists, and in many cases they do. It is not accurate to say that they have not the means, nor is it just to say they have not 719 the zeal nor the self-reliance by which these things are done. The benefactions of the rich among them—and they are numerous—are an example to us all; while the spirit of self denial amongst their poor, not only in the actual giving out of small earnings, but often in the giving free of manual labour after working hours in building and restoring their places of worship, is well worthy of imitation. And wide and far reaching as the unhappy differences between them and my co-religionists are in faith and belief, neither can it be said of them that they are wanting in religious zeal. Why, it is due to them and their persistence that such religion as is taught in the public schools exists at all. And it is because a large proportion of them are satisfied with this vague and indefinite form of religious instruction, with the little risk attending it, if any at all, that they are content with the present system and are prepared in many places to go without schools, and not because they are either wanting in the means or the zeal to build them. But I fail to see on what principle what they have successfully demanded for themselves they should decline to share with us, especially when as under this Bill we have to pay heavily for the luxury of having it.
We have been threatened with a rate war. The very mention provokes a smile among my co-religionists. For a quarter of a century has the temptation to take this same illegal step been before us. It has not been without difficulty that the temptation has been hitherto resisted. Perhaps it would not have been resisted had it not been felt that the intolerable injustice could not be allowed to endure. If under this Bill the conscientious objector is really forthcoming, he will be an interesting personage; he will be objecting to paying his share of the cost of public education in his locality, but only after having been saved his share of the value of the land and the cost of building on it which otherwise would have fallen on him. These threats, if carried out, will, of course, be regrettable. But they will have their amusing side, and to some of us the situation will be interesting. At any rate, the country will be able to judge between those who might have broken the law with some foundation of excuse and 720 those who break it when the advantage is all on their side. If this Bill does not satisfy all the aims of the denominationalist, I admit also it does not satisfy the extreme secularist who would eradicate all religious teaching and all religious sentiment from any system of public education whatever. If either of us is going to wait for our ideal, the present chaos in education will have to last a long time. If the secularist opposes this Bill, he must separate himself from the Nonconformist, for it is the latter who has insisted that the recognition of religion of some kind shall at least be possible in the State schools. He must separate himself from the educationalist, who prefers an efficient education for the country at once to a continuance of the present confusion. By opposing this Bill, he will be voting against the possibility which it holds out to the poorest child, who may have been gifted with more than average intelligence, of having that gift developed and utilised to its own best advantage and that of the State; and, above all, he will be voting against a principle embodied in this Bill, and which, I believe, is very dear to the English people—the sacred rights of parents as regards their children.
I will not go into any details connected with this Bill at this stage. In conclusion, I would like to associate myself with hon. Members on both sides of this House who have urged upon His Majesty's Government to drop the permissive clause. I quite recognise the force of the arguments which the First Lord brought forward in introducing this measure; but I most respectfully submit the arguments we have since heard go far to outweigh those in favour of it, and I hope the Government will drop that portion of the Bill.
§ (9.12.) MR. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
In the few remarks which I shall offer to the House, I shall not challenge the statement made by the previous speaker that the important Church to which he belongs has throughout its long history been actuated by lofty motives in its action in regard to elementary education in this country. 721 But I think he will admit that the Nonconformist Churches, and especially the Members of that Church which ranks in numbers next to the Established Church—I mean the Methodist Church—have also been actuated by an earnest desire to afford every child the highest form of education that can possibly be given. We have endeavoured, both in our denominational schools, of which we have nearly one thousand, and also in the board schools, to secure for the children of the country sound religious education. While we have endeavoured to do that, we have striven to do it by limiting religious education in the board schools to those elementary principles of Christian faith which Non-conformists hold in common with the Catholic and the Anglican Church. We have been content to leave the exposition of those tenets mainly to the school teachers of the country, and have been averse to the introduction into the board schools, as well as the voluntary schools, of clerical teachers, who might be tempted, in their zeal, to stray beyond the legitimate bounds of Christian instruction, and to become involved in what the Minister for Education has aptly described as the quagmires of sectarian and technical doctrinal teaching. The Wesleyan Methodist Church of this country has, by an overwhelming majority, pronounced judgment against this Bill, although from the teachers' point of view considerable pressure has been brought to bear on its Educational Committee to pass a sort of paternal benediction upon this Bill. Notwithstanding the pressure brought to bear by some of the elementary teachers, the Parliamentary Committee of this Church has like the authorities of other important Nonconformist Churches, declared that in its judgment the Bill fails to effect any unification of educational government in the country, or to give to the Nonconformist teachers and children the security from sectarian tests which they are entitled to expect.
We have had from the Minister of Education a rather apt description of the Bill. He spoke of the Manchester plan, and I think the Liverpool plan, the Birmingham plan, and sundry other plans, and he indicated that this scheme of his was to be sent down into the country to 722 be submitted to the County and Borough Councils, and that those bodies were to be invited to frame their own Provisional Orders constituting their respective educational authorities. They were asked, in fact, to draw up their own Provisional Orders, and then they were to come to this House with a delightful chaos of conflicting schemes, all of which were expected to confer educational advantages on the respective communities which were supposed to have different educational interests at stake. When one looked at the position, and at the proposals to make these powers permissive in counties and boroughs, one could not help seeing there would be a total want of unity in connection with the schemes throughout the country. Adjoining counties might respectively accept and reject the Bill, and even in a particular county there might be large towns refusing it and adjoining county districts coming under it. In Lincolnshire, for instance, Grimsby might refuse to accept, while the city of Lincoln might agree to accept the Bill. That is only one illustration of what would occur in many counties, and the result will be that you will not have anything like a uniform system of educational: control. I frankly admit that I am not particularly enamoured of what is called the ad hoc authority. If the county authority had time to devote to the whole question of education in all its branches, and if its constituent members were such that they could, by training, devote time and attention to these important educational questions, I should not be averse to endowing it with this authority, especially if some reasonable project had been submitted to the House to secure that the spending authority should also be the authority which levied the rate. But when you come to examine this Bill you will find that on these important features it absolutely breaks down.
I have endeavoured to point out that a unified authority is not provided under the Bill. When you come to deal with these small Committees, particularly in the rural districts, it is apparent that the central authority will have no control. I believe I am correct in saying that in the Elementary 723 Education Act, as originally introduced in 1870, it was proposed to endow the local authorities with the control of the parish schools. I am not prepared to say that a school area of these small dimensions would be wise, nor am I indisposed to agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that the small School Board areas have not proved to be a success. But he proposes to control the rural schools in a great county through non-elective Educational Committees, who are themselves only indirectly controlled by the central County Council. That is, I think, a proposition which cannot be defended. The element of local control absolutely disappears. Look at the composition of the present Committees of Management. They consist generally of the parson, the curate, and one or two churchwardens. Usually there are five managers, who are elected by the subscribers, but as the tendency of this Bill will be to annihilate the voluntary subscribers, who will, in future, elect the managers? Where the local board of managers consists, as it often does, of five members, only one will be appointed by the Education Committee. What would become of the local School Boards? He asked how the existing Board Schools were to be managed. Are they to be managed by the elective Committees or by the School Boards? If you propose to wipe out the existing local School Boards, what are you going to put in place of them? We know perfectly well that in the case of the voluntary school you are going to infuse a small element of nominated managers, but their powers will be absolutely nil. They will be sitting there in the condition of a permanent minority—one in five or two in six—and the suggestion recently made by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in a letter to the Press, that the light of publicity will be thrown, through this solitary representative, upon the proceedings of these local Committees of Management is, I think, a very delusive one.
Passing away from these Managing Committees of the local voluntary schools, I ask what is going to be the situation of the governing bodies of School Board schools in the locality where they now exist. Are the managers going to be wiped out 724 altogether? Are you going to appoint a Committee of Management, or do you intend to provide a new educational authority to take the place of the managers of the local School; Boards? In the small towns there are hundreds of men and women who have for many years devoted much time and attention to the work of the School Boards, and I think we are entitled to know whether they are to be wiped out completely, or whether they are to be retained in any way whatever as managers of the local School Boards.
It has been urged in support of this Bill that it will prevent sectarian strife. I venture to think that that will not be the case. On the contrary, I fear it will import into County and Borough Council elections an element of sectarian controversy which, hitherto has been unknown, because these bodies are going to put their hands entirely on the elementary education of the country: they may nominate one-third of the Education Committees; and, as far as I can see, when once you nominate these local committees, when once the County Council has framed its Provisional Order and sent it up to the Department, and when it has been forwarded by the Department to this House for confirmation, it remains absolutely unchangeable. I do not know what provision is made in the Bill for varying from time to time the constitution of the local authorities which are submitted in the shape of Provisional Orders to the Department or to this House.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
The managers of public schools will be appointed under the provisions of the Elementary Education Act, 1870, and in that there are regulations enabling them to be removed at any time.
§ MR. PERKS
I am trying to get at the position of the School Boards in little towns and villages. But I pass from the question of central authority for one moment to refer to the rating question. There are in the county of Lincoln no fewer than 313 voluntary schools in villages where there is no choice of schools, and if you are to bring up those voluntary schools to the 725 educational standard of the board schools, you will have to levy in the county of Lincoln a rate of eightpence in the pound. That may be a very pleasing outlook for people outside the county, but it is not at all a pleasant one for the farmers and ratepayers of Lincolnshire, and it would extinguish such advantages as have been given by the Government in the shape of the Agricultural Rates Bill. We have always been told that one of the great objections to establishing School Boards has been that of expense, and we know perfectly well that in little rural towns it has been the practice, immediately the voluntary school gets into financial difficulties, to send round the hat for a voluntary rate, so as to avoid having a School Board. What is the first thing that will occur when the voluntary schools in our small towns and villages are taken over by the County Council? Up will go the rates. So far as I am concerned, I would far rather spend money in education than in drink or in war, but, at the same time, I do not think it at all a pleasing outlook for the rural tax-payer, particularly in agricultural districts, that an expenditure of eightpence in the pound should be looming in the near future if this Bill passes. We were told by a preceding speaker that all sections of Nonconformity which owned denominational schools ought to be indebted to the Government for the modicum of relief given by this Bill to their schools. We have been told, too, that our schools have been in a weak condition, that while we have been able to build them, we have not been able to maintain them, and that we ought therefore to be grateful to the Government for coming to our relief. But in the case of schools under the British School Committee and of those belonging to the Wesleyan Church, neither of those communities has asked for any relief for their schools, and what is more, I venture to think there will be a large majority of the Members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church—and I trust the same may be said in regard to the British schools—who will refuse to come upon the parish for aid from the rates even if the Bill is passed. The right hon. Gentleman does not know what I know of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. That communion is altogether out of harmony with the views of the Government on educational 726 matters; and the other day the special Committee appointed by the Wesleyan Conference to consider the Government Education Bill, and take action thereon, by a majority of forty-nine to twenty-three passed a resolution recommending that the most strenuous opposition should be offered by the Methodist people to the passing of the Bill. I believe I am justified in saying that if the Government pass this Bill, the Wesleyan Methodist Communion will decline to accept aid out of the rates towards their schools. [Sir JOHN GORST dissented.] I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not think so, but I venture to say that I am a better judge of the intentions and the policy of that great religious community than he is; and I honestly believe that they will refuse—I trust they will—to come on the rates of the country for the support of their schools.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
If this Bill passes, the local authority will become responsible, and the school managers will be bound to obey the directions they receive.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
They cannot help themselves, if the Bill becomes law, unless they cease to be public elementary schools.
§ MR. PERKS
I beg to doubt the construction the right hon. Gentleman places on the Bill, that by handing back the contributions from the rates these schools would cease to be public elementary schools. There is another point I wish to deal with in connection with the Bill, and that is that it seems to me that there is no prohibition against the voluntary school managers charging in their accounts rent for their schools.
§ MR. PERKS
If I am wrong, then I accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman; but I do not see anything 727 in the Bill which would prevent the Wesleyans, or Roman Catholics, or British school managers charging rental as one of the expenses of the schools. I trust that if there is any doubt on the matter the Minister of Education in the course of Committee will introduce words making it quite clear that such a course is not to be allowed, because if it were allowed it is perfectly clear that it would be an endowment of religion. The President of the Council on Education expressed a few years ago in the House of Commons some important views in regard to this subject. Referring to the voluntary system he said—It is a system which places in the hands of religious bodies and private individuals duties and powers, which in every other country in the world are considered as appertaining to the State, and should be exercised by it.That dictum of the Duke of Devonshire is precisely the view which many of us take, and it was supported as recently as 1685 by the present Colonial Secretary. Speaking at Bradford that right hon. Gentleman asserted in the clearest possible language that there should be no rate or grant from the public funds which was not subject to popular control. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—I, for one, shall not hesitate to express my opinion that contributions of Government money, whether great or small, ought in all cases to be accompanied by some form of public control.The only effective form of public control proposed by the Bill is the appointment of a third of the local managers of voluntary schools. The right hon. Gentleman further went on to say at Bradford—To my mind the spectacle of so-called National schools turned into a private preserve by clerical managers and used for exclusive purposes of politics or religion is one which the law ought not to tolerate.That is precisely the view we take. It is perfectly true that on secular questions the central county or borough authority is supposed to have some sort of oversight; but they have nothing to do with the appointment of teachers; they have no veto on the appointment of teachers whenever any question of religion is involved. We know perfectly well that in over 8,000 728 parishes where there is no choice for Nonconformist parents but to send their children to voluntary schools, the question of the appointment of teachers is almost invariably mixed up with some religious qualification. There are 1,800,000 children attending today the voluntary schools of the Anglican Church, and 500,000 or 600,000 attending the Wesleyan, the British, and the Roman Catholic Schools; but so far as the Anglican Schools are concerned, although at least one-third, probably one-half, of the children are Nonconformist, yet no Nonconformist boy or girl becomes, as a matter of fact, a head teacher in these schools unless he or she becomes a member of the Anglican Church. That is a most intolerable grievance to the Dissenting and the Nonconformist Churches.
§ MR. PERKS
Oh yes, it is the case. We have had the most careful investigation made. The bishops and clergy of the Anglican Church are constantly asserting that, come what may, they must hold the appointment of the chief teachers. That is one of their main claims. Their schools, it is alleged in the trust deeds, are established for propagating, the principles of the Anglican Church in this country, and how can these principles be propagated unless the head masters and mistresses are Anglican? That was our grievance before the Bill of 1870, and it will be a still greater grievance when a largely increased proportion of the annual cost—indeed almost the entire cost—of these schools is thrown upon the rates. We think that is a gross injustice, and the Government, which depends to a large extent on the Nonconformist vote, ought to listen to the plea of their Nonconformist supporters. I wish to refer to a letter which appeared in The Times on 24th April from one of the most prominent supporters of the Liberal Unionist Party in the Metropolis, and well known as an educationist of very large experience. I mean Dr. Glover, who, in the course of his letter, said—Our Conservative allies in Unionism cannot expect that we should renounce on a vital 729 question like education the essential principles of Liberalism—representation with taxation, the soundest education of the people without waste of public money, and the liberation of teachers from ecclesiastical tests. It cannot be denied that support of the Bill which is to determine for the future our educational system would come very near to such an abandonment.An attempt was made by the Colonial Secretary to answer that letter, but I think that anyone who reads the correspondence impartially must conclude that Dr. Glover's contention holds the ground.
I would just refer for a moment to the effect of the provision in the Bill which is supposed to be inserted for the purpose of pacifying and propitiating the Nonconformists in the little villages and towns in the country. The last speaker said that the Nonconformists could establish their own schools, and that the County and Borough Councils would maintain them for ever. This may be done in hundreds, even in thousands of villages in the country, I freely admit. I do not agree with some of my friends who think that this Bill will be a serious menace to Nonconformists. I think that proposition is absurd. The Nonconformists are too powerful, numerically and financially, to be under any such fear. The notion of crushing them out is nonsensical and ridiculous. The Church to which I belong might easily put up 500 Wesleyan Methodist denominational schools, but what would be the effect? There are many places where, if this were done, the National; Anglican schools would immediately come to an end—notably in Lincolnshire and Durham, and more so in Cornwall. Seventy to eighty per cent. of the pupils attending the Anglican schools in many of the villages of these counties are the children of Nonconformist parents, and if we put up schools in villages or small towns wherever thirty Nonconformist children can be secured as scholars, as is provided under this Bill, the effect would be not only to empty the National schools, but to duplicate the whole educational machinery and put a new and unnecessary burden of taxation on the county or borough. Does anyone say that that would be a wise thing to do? It would be unwise from a denominational as well as from an educational point of 730 view. It is far better to get rid of religious differences and to try to arrive at some concordat on the subject of religious education. Yet that is the only clause which is supposed to meet the grievances and the claims of Nonconformists. It does not deal at all with the sectarian tests which have hitherto been imposed on teachers. I have had cases brought to my knowledge where young women and young men have been required to sign an agreement containing as a term of engagement that they must enter the Anglican Church.
§ MR. PERKS
Oh, yes! I will produce one to the right hon. Gentleman with the greatest pleasure. The only thing that the gentleman who drew up that agreement forgot was to stamp it. Now that those Anglican schools are to be thrown entirely for their support on the public funds, I think it is fitting opportunity to secure the teachers from these sectarian tests. Then, nothing is done by the Bill in connection with the training colleges for teachers. The Wesleyan Church has only two, the British schools have two or three, and the Roman Catholics have several; but we want to have the entry of all these establishments free from sectarian tests, and so remove a grievous inequality and injustice. In conclusion I might ask who are the real authors of this strange sectarian Bill, and whence has the Government got its mandate. The answer to that question may be found in a speech delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the 23rd July, 1901. He then said—He thought that on the whole the Government were well disposed towards the Church, and Church schools; but it was not a very brave Government, and they were a little timid about lighting battles.The Archbishop seems to have changed his mind a little. After the lapse of six months, he seems to have had some encouragement from the Government, for in the early part of this year he adopted a more hopeful tone, and at Folkestone in January said—There were signs that the Government would listen to anything that was said, because in a very great degree their own political position depended upon it, and it would be 731 rather awkward for them to face the Church if only its members were united upon that subject.I think we see in these speeches the source from which the orders to the King's Government have come to introduce this Bill. The Nonconformists object to the Bill, because, as I have said before, educationally it is a bad Bill, because it makes no provision whatever for rescuing teachers from ecclesiastical tests, because it unnecessarily imposes on the ratepayers of this country, without any effective popular control, an increased charge on county and borough rates; but we also object to it because the mandate on which the Government is acting in connection with this Bill has not come from the country, but from the clergy of the Established Church and their diocesan associations, and because it subordinates the interests of commercial and secular education to the exigencies of clericalism.
(9.58.) MR. HANDLES (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
We naturally approach a question like this from various points of view, but we are all trying to secure the best interests of the education of the children of this country: and it is from that point of view I wish in the first place to look at the question before the House. I have had some slight experience in various relations to the education question. I am a member of a School Board, a member of a County Council, a member of the Technical Education Committee of that Council, and also a member of the Church to which the hon. Member who has just spoken belongs. The record of that Church in connection with the education question is indeed distinctly honourable. It is a record of no little effort and some sacrifice in the interests of education. So far as I can judge from the course of this debate, there is a general agreement that the law is not satisfactory at present, and that it is a hardship that, while half of the children in this country are educated at the expense of Imperial and local rates, the schools of the other half should only receive assistance from Imperial sources, and should have to struggle and battle with such difficulties as lack of finance always means in competition with schools which are so much more aided from the rates. That is recognised as a difficulty, and I think every hon. Member who has spoken on this Bill has recognised that 732 something should be done to meet it. Whether what is being done in this Bill is satisfactory, is a matter for further consideration; but it is unfair that a certain section of our population should both pay for education in the rate-aided schools, and also for the education in their own voluntary schools. That is a position which any fair-minded man, be he a Nonconformist, Romanist, or Anglican, must recognise cannot fairly continue.
The Bill may be looked upon from two standpoints—what it does not do and what it does. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate referred to it as a Bill to supplant the board schools, and put in their place denominational schools. I do not regard it in that light at all. It seems to me that it is a Bill to prevent the denominational schools from being wiped out by rate-aided schools. The advantages which the Bill possesses are various according to different stand points; but it does recognise that all education in; this country cannot be reduced by the machinery of an Act of Parliament to one rigorous cast-iron pattern. It does not attempt the impossible, and docs not attempt to satisfy those who, whatever the Bill was, would still remain unsatisfied. So far as I am concerned, as a Nonconformist I am quite willing to accept a Bill which does not do everything I require, provided it does something I require; and I take it that this Bill does something which I think is for the best interests of the education of the children of this country. The powers under this Bill, which will be administered by the County Councils, will, I believe, be well administered. My experience in County Council work in connection with technical education is that it is one of the best-administered departments in our local self-government; and the Technical Instruction Committee with which I am connected devotes itself, without any idea that it is being priest-ridden or parson-ridden, to the best interests of the technical education committed to its charge. The question of religion or sect, or of no sect, never crops up at the meetings of the County Council and the Technical Instruction Committee. I am also a member of a small School Board in a rural district. Perhaps we are not an ideal Board, and that we do not do everything in the best possible way, but we do the best we can. The same individuals who constitute 733 that Board will continue to be the local managers of education, as this Bill is not going to substitute another set of men. Why should the children of half our population be penalised because of the religious convictions of their parents? Because that is what it amounts to if you say you will only aid the children of parents who are satisfied with a board school education and not aid the children of those who are not satisfied with that particular form of education. The Bill also provides for a representation in a way which is not provided for now, and from the Nonconformist point of view it is a distinct improvement on existing conditions. At present, if a case of injustice arises, there is no remedy for the parent of the children. If a case such as that referred to by the last speaker occasionally does crop up—and I believe they are regretted by all—what is the remedy? There is at present no practical remedy; but under this Bill there will be two local managers, to whom the parent may appeal, and who will be fittingly charged with responsibility in connection with any grievance which may arise. If those persons fail in their duty, every member of the County Council of the county in which the school exists is available, and the aggrieved parent may bring his complaint before the County Council through any of its elected members. This does not exist at present, and the Bill makes some attempt to provide that where a real grievance exists it shall be ventilated, and with a reasonable hope of success. Assuming that the adoptive clause is withdrawn, it seems to me that this Bill is calculated to be a great advantage to the people of this country.
The right hon. Gentleman who opened the discussion referred to the Bill as being blest from ecclesiastical sources only. It so happened that a week ago, instead of remaining in the House of Commons to a very late hour, I went down to Cumberland and there attended specially summoned meetings of two large Committees of the County Council—the Finance Committee and the Technical Education Committee—to consider this particular Bill. They are under no ecclesiastical authority, and, therefere, they do not come within the terms of the definition of those who, according to the right hon. Gentleman, bless the Bill. They are a secular authority, and they cordially, I might say almost enthusiastically, 734 approved of the principle of the Bill, and expressed their willingness, if entrusted with it, loyally to carry out its provisions. That decision was arrived at without a dissenting voice as regards the principle of the Bill. There was a protest from the representative of the city which Mr. Speaker does the honour to represent, and he objected because his city, not being a county borough, would be regarded in a special light; but with that trifling exception no dissenting voice was heard. Those Committees consist of men of every creed, of every section, and of every party, but not one word of this terrible bitterness, which is being imported by certain sections, was heard in the course of the discussion. Certain Amendments were suggested of which I myself approve and which no doubt in due course will come before the House. The hon. Member for the Louth Division referred a good deal in his speech to the Wesleyan Methodist Church. I have no right to speak on behalf of that Church, and I do not believe that any man in the House of Commons has a right to represent it. It is a large community, and is accustomed to speak for itself in its own way and to make known its own desires. It is quite true that a Committee of that Church did meet to consider this Bill, and I am perfectly free to confess that the figures given by the hon. Member for the Louth Division are probably correct, and that, substantially, when it came to the voting, there was something like two to one against the Bill. But I did note this, that so far as the educational experts of that particular Church are concerned, as represented by men like Dr. Waller and others associated with him, there was a strong feeling that the principle of the Bill ought to be accepted, and that they should concentrate their efforts on such points as were capable of Amendment.
§ MR. PERKS
I may say that I have been requested by the secretary of the Committee to submit their views to the House, as contained in a resolution, signed by the President of the Wesleyan Conference, which I hold in my hand, and which concludes as follows—For all these reasons the Committee are of opinion that a most strenuous opposition should be offered on behalf of our people to the passage of this Bill.
§ MR. RANDLES
I quite understand all these resolutions. I do not, of course, challenge for one moment the accuracy of what has been stated by the hon. Gentleman; but I say these resolutions reflect the opinion of a majority only, not the opinion of the Church as a whole. The Church is by no means unanimous, and I contend that the best part of it is opposed to the resolution referred to by the hon. Gentleman. I know something of our Church, and I do not believe that the view now being put forward would hold water very long. It would surprise me very much if, after mature reflection, any of our schools refused to take that which would be their proper due, and which would fairly come to them under the operation of this Bill. It is said that the children will be withdrawn from schools. That is one way. Another way is that certain gentlemen will not pay their rates. That is equally absurd, but perhaps more likely to take place, because it is so much more pleasant not to pay rates than to withdraw children from school. As regards the question of rent I believe that under the present arrangement you cannot charge rent unless your subscriptions amount to a sum equal to the rent. I know a Roman Catholic School which was placed in that predicament, and I do not suppose that the position would be any different under the Bill. Another grievance of which much has been made is the difficulty of teachers in Anglican and other schools. It is a difficulty perhaps, and I recognise it; but at the same time schools do not exist for teachers, but teachers for schools.
I would like to ask where the real opposition to this Bill comes from. So far as I can see, it is reasonable to expect that a political party, opposing in a professional sort of way, should oppose it; but so far as I can discover from the debates in this House, the Opposition was not very keen from the Front Bench opposite. There was some criticism of details, there was some talking round the Bill, but there was not that strong determination to curse the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Haddington expressed the position very well, I thought. He tried to avoid blessing the Bill, but at the finish he said he could not refuse to bless the principle that underlay the Bill. Where are we to get the people who will 736 curse the Bill; who will oppose it out and out; an opposition with something real about it, and with a bit of sting in it. So far as I can discover it comes from what is sometimes called the Council of the Free Churches. My hon. friend opposite knows a great deal more about the operations of this particular Council than I can tell him. He is one of the leading lights, and, along with the proprietor of the Daily News, is one of the financiers of the concern.
§ MR. RANDLES
Some time ago I was asked by a Free Church Minister if I would join the Free Church Council Association and, naturally, I asked one or two questions. The first question I asked was whether it was political in its aims and objects, and I was told, "Oh, dear no, not in the slightest." I asked what was its real object, and the answer was, "We want to fight the Church." I could only reply that, as I had no quarrel with the Church, it was not in my line, and my answer kept me out. At the great Congress of Free Churches recently held in London, I noticed that the Chairman at the opening of the proceedings said that with very few exceptions it consisted of carefully chosen representatives of the Free Churches. It is quite true that they were carefully chosen. In the course of the meeting a gentleman called Upson expressed the view that this Bill, which was under consideration, was capable of amendment, and might not be altogether objectionable if amended. His remarks were simply drowned with laughter and cries of "Jesuit Tory," and the like; so that if you happen not to be excluded at an earlier stage, as I was, any arguments that you may wish to present later will be drowned with laughter. I do not for a moment mean to say that the Free Church Councils are all based on these ideas. Some of the best men of the country belong to them, but there is a desire on the part of individuals, in my opinion, to use them for such non-political purposes as opposing the Education Bill now before the House. I would appeal to my friends not to use their position as Nonconformists to wreck what is, after 737 all, a Bill for promoting the better education of the children of this land, irrespective of class or creed. It is not worth while, from my point of view, at any rate, to destroy a measure which is calculated to do something to enable the children of this country to receive that which should be their birth right—the best education the State can place at their disposal, an education which will permit of their climbing a ladder, not provided by this Bill, but which may be built up by the authorities who will have charge of the Bill, to enable the children to rise from class to class, and from school to school, and to take advantages of every opportunity which will enable them to compete in commercial and industrial enterprise with the various nations of the world, many of whom are better equipped than we are. I do not think it is worth while to revive the bigotry, the religious intolerance, and the sectarian hatred involved in the determined and bitter opposition to the principle of this Bill. These things belong to an unhappy past. The policy recommended by some hon. Gentlemen in connection with this Bill means the raising up of the religious animosities of bygone days the accentuating of every evil, and the doing to education in this country such mischief and injury as it will take generations to undo. Happily, I believe that a better part will be played: I believe that the Bill will go through, amended perhaps in certain important respects, but destined, as its promoters intend, to secure the educational interests of the children of this country.
§ (10.17.) MR. TREVELYAN (Yorkshire, W.R., Elland)
Some of us on this side of the House did not at once jump to the conclusion that this was a Bill to be opposed, because we felt, in common, I believe, with a great part of the country, that the reorganisation of our system of national education was necessary. This Bill has not originated in the complaints and clamour of a convocation. It is demanded by the people from a sense of shame in our possessing the worst instructed peasantry in the West of Europe, a fear on the part of our industrial population that we shall not be able to meet commercial competition, and a belief that the time has come 738 when equality of opportunity should be really given to all men. Many of us would have made great sacrifices of party obligation in order to support the measure. I go further and say that many of us sitting on this side of the House will support a good part of the machinery of this Bill in discussion in Committee, for, although we are supporters of the better part of the School Board system, we are not so enamoured of that particular system as not to look forward to the time when our great county authorities may control education, may have education added to their activities, and may become the real democratic working local machinery for education. But we are all the more disappointed, our hopes are all the more dashed, because, whereas we see some good things in the Bill, we believe these good things are marred by faults, which the speech of the Vice-President shows are not to be remedied as the Bill goes through Committee.
There are two leading characteristics in this Bill which are seen in every line of it. First of all, there is suspicion and distrust of representative authority, and secondly, there is a partiality towards, and confidence in, the parson. We had as direct a statement as we possibly could from the Vice-President in his speech, when he said that the electorate was not fitted to choose the persons to preside over education. That statement did not apply: alone to School Boards; it was made as a general statement by the Vice-President. I should like to say, first of all, that I do not think that the Government are altogether to be blamed for the situation in which they find themselves. They had to make a difficult choice, and our complaint is that they made the wrong choice. The tares of this choking religious feud were sown in 1870, when those who struggled for a single national system failed to obtain their end. At that time there was a band of Liberals who raised an emphatic protest against what was being done. One, a junior Member of Mr. Gladstone's Government, whose name still arouses friendly recollections in this House, resigned. And why did Sir George Trevelyan resign? I will give the House his reason in his own words. He said—The essence of a national system is that the nation should approve some special type of 739 school to which all others should be induced to conform themselves, not, perhaps, by compulsion, but by the offer of certain advantages. Parliament was invited to spend much time and attention in order to fix what the model of the future national school should be, and to stamp that model with the approbation of the nation; and then, instead of giving to these model establishments such exceptional advantages that the existing denominational places of education would gradually have been led to absorb themselves in a uniform national system by motives of honourable self interest, the Government enormously increased the grant of public money to those denominational schools.What that band of Radicals wanted was that the system should gradually become a single national system, and if that had happened, what a different position we should have been in now! Here we are, a generation later, with a country unanimously desirous of building up a system of higher education. We have had the experience of thirty years, and the country is fully alive to the fact that in this matter it is far behind other nations. And yet we find ourselves in this position: that the wheels of progress are still clogged by this denominational difficulty, and the Government are in this dilemma of having either to subdue or to immensely strengthen the denominational system of the country. They have chosen the latter alternative; and, having made, as I think, a wrong choice, they find that they dare not trust the County Councils to deal with the question; they dare not make their Education Committee representative, they dare not give them control over the schools, they dare not allow them to choose the teachers, and they dare not abolish religious tests. All that comes of their determination to maintain the denominational system. The first thing apparent in the Bill and in the action of the Government is their very implacable hostility to the School Boards. It is true that the Government are not quite so hostile to the School Boards as the Dean of St. Paul's; but we are told by the Vice-President of the Committee of Council on Education, who has been at the head of the Department for seven years, that the children in board schools are taught tricks and turned out like performing animals.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
He cited a number which, I think, would about represent the average size of any ordinary board school. Why has he done nothing during this period of office to try and reduce the number?
§ SIR JOHN GORST
I have issued an Order with that object. By a Minute of the Education Department, it was recommended that the number in boys' or girls schools should not exceed 300, and in infant schools 400.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman is beginning to act up to his opinion. I cannot understand why he has not done so before.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
The Government have utterly failed to recognise the fact that one very successful part of our existing system has been associated with our School Boards. We do not on this side defend the small School Boards, any more than we profess to be satisfied with voluntary schools. But on the School Boards in our large towns we have had the services of able men and women whose one desire has been to improve education: and they have raised the whole standard of education far more rapidly than it could have been raised by the mere action of the Department. All that the Government has done in the last few years has been to carp and grumble at the action of the School Boards, and to try and bring them into disrepute by petty criticisms and by blaming them when they tried to advance. We ought to be very chary how we act in regard to the School Boards in such big places as Leeds, Bradford, and Manchester. Before we destroy them, we ought to make sure that the people desire their destruction. This Bill enables a mere catch majority of the Corporation, which may be personally jealous and hostile towards the School Board, to abolish it. I think that, in recognition of what the School Boards have done, and of the enormous value they have been to elementary education, we ought to be very sure of our ground before we destroy the Boards in these large towns.
I now come to the counties. There we have a free and unchallenged field for a new 741 educational authority. The system there is chaotic and incomplete. More money and more brains are wanted; a more sympathetic management is desirable, if our educational system is to improve in country districts. How is the new authority to be composed? It is as far removed as it can possibly be from a really representative character. I should like to call the attention of the House to the history of the different Bills brought in by the Government to give power in the matter of education to County Councils, because it is a history of degeneracy. In the Technical Instruction Act of 1889 certain powers were given to the County Council, but nothing was said about its delegating them to any Committee. Again, in the Act of 1891, there was nothing to make the appointment of a Committee compulsory. In both of those Acts the County Council—a representative body of the people—had the whole control in their hands unchallenged. Then came the Bill of 1890, which made the Education Committee compulsory and seemed that the majority of the Members should be representative County Councillors. Next came the failure of 1901, and in that Bill again it was sought to secure that the majority of the members of the Committee should be representative County Councillors. It is only when we come to the Bill of 1902 that we find the representative principle departed from. The County Council may devolve the whole responsibility for education upon nominees of its own, and one of the reasons why so many of us welcome the prospect of having the County Council eventually as the education authority is because we hope that religious quarrels will be dissipated, for it is these sectional and religious conflicts that endanger the whole system. It would not do to dissociate the Committee entirely from the County Council, which is the rating authority. If that were done it is not difficult to imagine what would happen. If the Committee were not a representative one the County Council would be tempted in its craving for economy to reject its budget. Very scant respect indeed would be shown for a created authority.
We are told that this education authority is to have absolute control over secular education. There was a very interesting meeting in Yorkshire the 742 other day at which some eminent men spoke, and they put very different interpretations upon the meaning of "secular control of education" as provided in the Bill. Archdeacon Wilson said—If the whole of the secular education were placed absolutely under the control of the local education authority, the influence of the management would be less than ever, and would be chiefly in a social and humanitarian direction, to be shown in acts of kindness in embellishing the schools and giving pleasure and refining influences to the children. Therefore, Nonconformists would not be condemned to powerlessness as they feared.But at the same meeting the hon. Baronet the Member for North-West Manchester took a different view, and, speaking to Church people present at the meeting, said—On the whole there was not likely to be any consequent serious interference with the proper management of denominational schools.What is the real test of this secular control? You can only test it by one thing. Anyone who has had anything to do with the management of schools knows that nine-tenths of that management consists in the choice and control of the teachers. The people who appoint the teachers practically control and manage the school. But under this system there is no power of control over the choice of the teacher on the part of the central authority. The person who is to be selected is to be appointed absolutely by the managing authority as now. Bate aid is going to be given in discriminately and absolutely, without any light of control. In every other branch of local Government where rate aid is given it is insisted that there should be proportionate control on the part of the authority. But in this case we are going back on the arrangement of 1870, and in two years from the passing of this Bill the subscribers to the voluntary schools will have ceased to exist, and the schools themselves will simply have become parsons' schools. Yet you are going to give them rate aid.
It is argued on behalf of the advocates of denominational education that by giving public control over denominational schools the result will be that the religious teaching now given will be lost. The demand of the Church was moderately stated the 743 other day by the London Diocesan Inspector when he said—There is only one object that the supporters of voluntary schools need be anxious to fight for—that is, ability to teach their own children the faith of their forefathers in all its fullness.I think that is a reasonable demand, and it is one which everyone who believes in religious toleration ought to approve of. It is necessary to meet the demand of those people who feel that their children require special denominational instruction. But it is not necessary, in order to meet that demand, that they should be allowed to have teachers whose salary is paid out of the public fund and who are appointed subject to some religious test. There is another way much more likely to settle this question. The difficulty does not exist in many parts of the word where English people live. It does not exist in our great Australian colony of New South Wales, where there is a secular system and where, in order to meet the requirements of those who are not satisfied with that system, there is a special arrangement under which, at a particular time of the day, ministers of the different denominations can come in and teach their own special creeds. It seemed to that active mind which has just passed away in South Africa that all that is needed to meet the real requirements of religious parents, and all indeed that they can justly demand, is that they should be allowed to have easy opportunities of teaching their children the special doctrines that they desire them to be taught. I hope Churchmen will not insist upon passing this Bill, for although the present intolerable strain on them will have been stopped there will be substituted for it another intolerable strain which will be much more difficult to meet, an intolerable strain on the consciences of a large number of men who are called upon to pay the rates, and who believe in the principle that representation should go with taxation. A very formidable alliance will be gradually formed and Churchmen will have to meet Nonconformists who will have what they regard as a terrible grievance. They will have to meet many Protestant Churchmen who are not very easy about this Bill, and who see that a great many of the voluntary 744 schools are used as seminaries of ritualistic teaching; and they will have also to meet educationalists who, when this Bill is passed, will not find people more interested in education but engaged in a bitter religious controversy. What we want to do is to follow the example of our colonies in this matter.
§ (10.42.) MR. LYTTELTON (Warwick and Leamington)
Not unnaturally, the last speaker referred to the part taken by his father in the education controversy of 1870. It has been a fault on the part of some hon. Members who have addressed us from that side of the House that they have regarded the situation too much from the point of view as if the compromise of 1870 had not taken place It is no use doing that. We have to deal with the situation as it now presents itself, and I feel no difficulty whatever in supporting generally and with cordiality the proposals which the Government have made. After the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire it is absolutely useless and superfluous to attack the Bill from that point of view. It is impossible that such men as the Principal of Birmingham University, Mr. Sidney Webb, of the Technical Education Board in London, and others could be generally in favour of the principle of this Bill if, in point of fact, it was the product of clericalism. It is really the product of the absolutely unsatisfactory state of things that at present exists. The Vice-President reminded us that education in England is now compulsory and free. I would venture to say that the corollary which arises from those two postulates is—and this is a good Radical doctrine—that every citizen should have in education an equal opportunity. What is the present position? A citizen gets a good or a bad education according to geographical situation. If he is situated in the district of a small rural school board, or in a district with only a small rural voluntary school, we all know what sort of education he gets, whereas if he is situated in Bradford, Leeds, or Birmingham, he gets an excellent education. It is absolutely illogical and wrong that when the State says: "You shall be educated, and educated for nothing," the State should give the citizen in one 745 portion of the country a first-rate education, and the citizen in another portion of the country a very had education. That is one of the fundamental difficulties in the unsatisfactory state of things now existing.
There is another difficulty, equally fundamental, and contradictory to the Liberal principles in which I was brought up. It used to be a leading Liberal principle, that no man should lie under any civil disability by reason of his religious faith; and another is contained in the good old Whig formula that all men should worship God after their own fashion. Let us consider for a moment what the situation is, and how these cardinal principles of Liberalism are violated. Some denominations are taxed twice for their education, and the tenure of certain religious views by a citizen condemns his children to an inferior education at a greater cost. I venture to say that the School Board compromise of 1870, against which Sir George Trevelyan protested, was distinctly a denominational compromise. It satisfied the consciences of thousands, to whom Biblical reading and explanation dissociated from creeds, contains all that is necessary to salvation. That is a denominational teaching. It is a perfectly respectable one; I do not wish to say a single word against it. In many board schools, admirable religious teaching is given in a most earnest and faithful spirit, by teachers who, no doubt, illustrate it by their own conduct and lives. It would be absurd for anyone who was brought up at a public school, as I was, to say that that widely differed from that which we received at Eton, and, I daresay, at Harrow and Rugby. That teaching in board schools satisfies a great number of people, and all those who are satisfied with it, obtain their religious teaching at the expense of the State. Here I would use words which are not my own, but are those of that very distinguished educational authority, quoted by the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire, Professor Lawrie—that the Act of 1870 puts the religion I have described, and which is taught in board schools, in precisely the position of an established and endowed church. There is only this difference—that the endowments of the church are furnished by those who are satisfied with its 746 doctrines, but the endowments of a board school are contributed to by those who are not so satisfied.
May I summarise my remarks up to this point? It is really beyond dispute between us that the existing state of secular education is inefficient, irregular, and capricious, dictated largely by geographical situation, and is also unjust, because, from the true Liberal point of view, it has this degree of intolerance—that it gives preferential bounties to one form of religious opinion, and it imposes a pecuniary burden upon another. Taking these two difficulties—the secular difficulty, the difficulty of the inefficiency of the education, and the injustice of the religions teaching—how does the present Bill meet them? In the first place, it meets them by the creation of a local authority, and it provides that there should he a rate in aid of all, instead of in aid of one class of denominational schools.
There appear to be two main objections brought against the Bill. The first was made by Mr. Acland—a name which everybody who values education must always mention in this House with honour. He said that there is no guarantee of efficiency or of advance under this Bill. The second objection, if I may put it in my own words, is that the test of the vitality of a religious faith is to be found in the willingness of people to make sacrifices for it; it is urged that by this Bill that measure of the vitality of a religious faith is diminished, and that, by it being subsidised, one form of religion is stereotyped more than another. With regard to the first objection—that there is no guarantee of efficiency—that entirely depends upon how much or how little you believe in representative institutions. You have the County Council; it is popularly elected. By Section 8, Clause (a), the managers of all schools are directed to obey every request or demand that that County Council shall make. In other words, there is nothing which relates to secular education which is not under the absolute management of that body. It really is preposterous to say that that provision does not absolutely provide for the secular domination of the voluntary schools by the County Councils. Then it is said that the Government are afraid of the representative principle 747 by having only one-third of the representation on the Boards of Managers. I have sat on a good many Boards and Committees, and I say with certainty that nothing corrupt or morally wrong can ever be done by a majority against an earnest and emphatic minority. ["Oh!"] You see illustrations of that in this House every day. [Laughter.] Well, perhaps "every day" is an exaggeration. Take either the Welsh or the Irish minority, if a majority in this House were to propose something cardinally wrong with regard to Wales, would not the Welsh minority have a great deal to say to it? I think it would. What I submit to the House is that no proposal of a despotic or corrupt character could ever live in the light of the criticism to which, it would he subjected by such a minority. There may be objections—the light hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean pointed them out—made in certain counties, based on the unpopularity of increased rates, to making education as efficient as we all desire it to be. But it might well be provided that if any school sacrifices the standards which are the condition of the Parliamentary grant at present, that grant should be the minimum allowed by the local authority, so that you could not get a worse position than you have at the present time. After all, it really depends on your belief in your fellow-countrymen. The measure of your confidence in what these local authorities will do is your belief in the wish of your fellow-countrymen to have a good educational system. That must be your only real guarantee of efficiency, because most people would admit that it would be destructive to run too far ahead of local opinion in the matter. It would defeat its own end to screw up education higher than the more enlightened opinion in the county required. Therefore, my reply to the objection that there is no guarantee for educational efficiency would he that the guarantee lies in the character of the local authority—and, after all the character of the local authority is determined by the people of the district. If they do not care about education, no Act of Parliament will make them.
748 As to the second point—that by granting rates to denominational schools you are tending to stereotype the religious opinion in those schools—I feel that there is some force in it. But what in the world can you do more by way of tolerance and of meeting the grievances of Nonconformists than this Government have, on at least two occasions, done? Clause 9 does not satisfy some hon. Gentlemen opposite; neither did Clause 27 of the Bill of 1896. That latter Clause was precisely or very nearly the proposal which the hon. Member who has just spoken advocated. It was that all schools should be put on the rates or subsidised, and ministers of all sorts and kinds of denominations admitted at stated hours to teach the particular denominational faith in which they believed. It was always a matter of wonder to me why that was rejected with so much contumely by Nonconformists in the House. Various reasons were urged, such as that it brought religious controversies too early into the lives of the children, and so forth; but I confess the arguments did not appear to me to be convincing or to have the real ring of sincerity in them. In an outburst of candour about two years afterwards, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton let the true reason come out—that the Nonconformists, speaking generally, had not a sufficient number of religious teachers to enter the denominational schools every day in the week. They were ready to leave the matter entirely to the teachers on the weekdays, and themselves to do the teaching on the Sundays. That is a perfectly legitimate reason. The poverty of a religious body is no impeachment of it. If it had been said that the Nonconformists did not receive that perfectly handsome and liberal offer because they could not find the means to work it, everyone would have accepted that reason. The Government clearly must have known of it, because they have made a proposal by which it is possible to meet Nonconformists in another way. If any member of the Nonconformist body, on either this side or the other, will tell us how we can possibly assist them by any other than one of those two methods, I for one will promise the most careful attention and sympathetic hearing to the 749 proposal. I have thought the matter I over very carefully, with an earnest desire to meet them on this point, but I have been unable to devise any other project. Another proposal is to secularise the schools altogether. That very naturally encounters the strongest opposition of the teachers, who see in it the withdrawal of their chief source of influence. It is also contradicted by the Birmingham experience. The plan was started in 1870, and, although Birmingham is a stronghold of Nonconformity, the Non-conformists themselves disliked the proposal, and, after trying to work it for a short time, they caused it to be abandoned.
I wish to say only one word more. There seems to be on both sides of the House a certain fear of denominationalism. Denominationalism has its drawbacks, but still it has great and noble advantages. Consider how much greater force there is in something positive than something negative, and what a much better basis for the fabric of education is that in which a man does believe than that in which he does not believe. The basis of the compromise of 1870 is what men do not believe in. I venture to think that the basis for the fabric about to be erected is what men do believe in with all their hearts. Let anybody who knows London ask the great workers in the East End—men like Mr. Booth, Canon Barnett, or the heads of Oxford and Cambridge Houses—what is likely to be the effect of this system upon a child thirteen or fourteen years of age Who leaves the board school without any association to attach himself to or to guide him in the difficult three or four years which he has to spend before he gets settled in life. Some of those institutions I have mentioned are not at all denominational, but I think many of them will tell you that the great hope for the derelict poor of London is that some denominational body should get hold of these children when they leave school and keep a connection with them during those four or five difficult years which they have to pass through after leaving school. I think the Wesleyan Methodist body has been holding out most admirable illustrations of what can be accomplished in this Tray. A boy looks to these bodies for approbation if he does well, and he 750 fears their disapprobation if he does and this is one of the good results, in my opinion, of denominational schools. This system; interests; a body comparatively small in the welfare of the pupils; and, though, there may be some element in this Bill which hon. Gentlemen opposite may not like, yet I feel that they may console themselves in some degree when they know that denominational bodies, whether Church, of England, Roman Catholic, Jewish, or Nonconformists, will interest themselves under this Bill in the welfare of the children with more effect than at present, and will be able to give them a more valuable guidance in the future.
§ (11.12.) MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
I am anxious to save the time of the House as much as possible, and I will at once plunge into a criticism of this Bill from my own standpoint. Most unfortunately, this Bill, as presented to us, rouses once more old' controversies, but to a large extent I believe this to be inevitable. If you have 300 Churches and sects, each one of which claims that it teaches you the right way to live in this life and the best and only way to reach Heaven, and if each agrees that it is important that their doctrines should be taught to children when they are young, it is clear that if you disturb the old compromise you are perfectly certain to raise those old controversies, and you must debate the question over again. Personally, I hate this religious controversy. The children suffer while we quarrel, and the great mass of people do not care twopence about it. I am one of those who do not believe in the niceties of dogma as suitable food for the very young—I believe infinitely more in effect of example on character than in the too early inculcation of theological subtleties which must again be reviewed when children become men. The unspoken sermon is so much more potent than pulpit discourse. So much of this controversy does not appeal to me at all. But I recognise the claim of other people to think differently. I recognise the claim of Roman Catholics to surround their children by what they call a Catholic atmosphere. Their case is peculiar. My own desire, my one and only desire, 751 on this point is to find some via media which, as far as possible, will be fair to all parties alike.
My real objection to this Bill lies on other and wider grounds than the question of the treatment of voluntary schools. As I desire to get rid of this part of the subject as soon as possible, I will say what I have to say on it now. The scheme of the Bill is perfectly well known to all hon. Members, and the only question is, whether it is a fair compromise or not. In my opinion it is not a fair compromise. I am intensely anxious to see this matter settled. I believe the country wishes to maintain voluntary schools. I entirely approve of rate aid to maintain these voluntary schools. Now, if in every district there were a choice of schools; (1) Publicly managed schools; (2) Church of England schools; (3) Roman Catholic schools; as in many big towns, I consider that the hardship would not be great. It is not so necessary for the local authority to have control in that case. There would be a hardship as to teachers, because in denominational schools only denominationalists need apply; whereas, in board schools, denominationalists would have the same chance as others. But the position is sharply differentiated from other districts. In large tracts there is no choice of schools and no pretence of a choice. In 8,000 parishes or more there are only Church of England schools, and Nonconformists and Roman Catholics must go there. Nearly all teachers in those schools are, and will remain, members of the Church of England. This is a real, intolerable hardship to Nonconformists, and all Liberals who are friends of religious freedom are bound to help Nonconformists in this matter. These are public schools to which all must go and in these schools the public ought to have control or, at least, have a majority in the management. They ought to appoint the teachers, or at any rate a majority of them, apart from sectarian motives. Whether, under such circumstances they should pay rent, etc., is a further consideration.
I cannot go into this, at length, at the present moment. I know it is stated that the local authority has complete control over secular education, and that the managers are to carry out any directions as to secular education. Yes, but the 752 crux of the whole matter is the question of the teachers. In these 8,000 schools Nonconformist teachers are practically excluded, and it does not seem to me that any plan can be fair which confines teachers to one denomination. There ought to be a binding instruction that the religious teaching should he in the tenets of the Church of England, and as the Church of England is about as united on the interpretation of its doctrines as is the Liberal Party at present, this is a fairly wide order. I am anxious for a fair compromise, but no compromise can be fair which does not give the public a real control where there is no choice of schools.
I turn with a sigh of relief to other points. There is one broad principle which ought to secure consent. The best test of the Bill is whether it is likely to lead to speedy and efficient reform of those parts of the educational system in which we are defficient. It is not sufficient that reform is allowed. It is necessary that there should be in the first place, money; in the second place, time; and in the third place, knowledge and enthusiasm directed to those deficiencies. If there are deficiencies in the two departments of primary and secondary education, I think it is necessary to determine where the deficiencies are greatest, and see that the attention of the local authority is directed to that particular department. It is by this test principally that I judge the Bill. Now I put forward this proposition. If you compare the condition of our elementary and secondary education, you will find that our secondary education requires early, careful, and thorough reform far more than elementary. Our elementary-education has been compulsory for thirty years. On the whole it has made great progress. The intolerable strain was relieved in 1897. I shall be glad to see this difficult question of the voluntary schools settled. But as a matter of comparison in its effect on the future of the nation the immediate settlement of the question of voluntary schools is of small importance compared with the necessity for organisation and completion in regard to our secondary education system, and the provision of specialised training of the highest kind. There is no need for me to detain the House in proving 753 this. I will not go back to Matthew Arnold, but in Vol. 9 of the Special Report on Educational Subjects, Mr. Michael Sadler says, on page 160—In some important respects we in England have dropped behind in the rare. We need much more and much better secondary education for boys who leave school for business at the age of sixteen.That is as regards second grade secondary education. Then he goes on—We need much more ample provision for organised research in every branch of knowledge. And we need much more of the highest kinds of professional and technical training. We cannot afford to be indifferent to what is being done abroad. Germany and the United States are conspicuous in the struggle for educational supremacy. Both nations are convinced that educational efficiency is a necessary part of the foundation of national greatness and of commercial success. What they and other nations have already done, and are lire-paring to do, has made searching educational reform in England a pressing need.And on page 12 he says—We have to face the fact that it will take us, under the best conditions, between twenty and thirty years, at a moderate computation to remodel our secondary and higher education and to put ourselves (so far as instruction is concerned) on a level with the Germans. During that period Germany is not likely to be idle.Now, to any one who looks on this as I do, it is a question of simple patriotism. There is our great glaring deficiency staring us in the face. "The very existence of the empire depends on sea-power and school-power." That is Mr. Michael Saddler's phrase and not mine, and it refers to secondary and higher education.
Our great public schools are splendid schools for the formation of character in a certain mould, whether it is the type of English gentleman, be he soldier, statesman, or sportsman, or all three, a type which we know and love so well, or lawyer, or business man. But these schools have intellectual deficiencies. They are too one-sided in their education, and they do not cover the ground. In every suitable district you want secondary schools with traditions, mutatis mutandis, as far as possible like those public schools, and with a curriculum suited to the circumstances. These schools should be cheap schools which the lower middle class can afford to send their children to, and they should be schools to which our brightest children of the working-classes 754 can be sent at an early age, by some scheme of scholarships not dependent entirely on examination. We have not got these schools in sufficient number, and this Bill will not give them to us, except here and there.
This is a national and Imperial question. I am not pleading for the children but I am pleading for the nation. We have the finest raw material in the world. An American consul said the other day that the English had the greatest reserve of force in the world. Thank God it is true. But the modern race is relying less and less upon native force, and more and more upon mind and intellect: and we are not using our raw material; we are not turning out sufficient men, morally and intellectually disciplined for work in the world, and we can only do this by immediate and far-reaching reform in secondary education.
And now let me turn to technical training. Sometimes I wonder if we are not on the wrong tack. We have hundreds of technical schools and classes, excellent, no doubt, and doing good work, but nearly all what the Germans call Gewerbe-schulen. They are nearly all evening schools, and they are all crippled by the want of a sound preliminary secondary education. Mr. Reynolds, the headmaster of the Manchester Technical School, which I think is one of the best in the country, said that he would like to see all the technical schools shut up for ten years, if only at the end of that time the children would come prepared to benefit by the instruction they could then receive. We are leading industrial people. Our rivals have all comparatively numerous polytechnics and high schools for pupils from eighteen to twenty-two years of age, but we have not. Look at Lancashire. Manchester is a centre of great industries. I speak without knowledge of the present position, but I think I am pretty correct in saying that there are only about 150 day scholars at the Manchester Technical School. Compare that with Charlottenburg with its thousands, and far higher training. Our commercial system is individualist, and it depends on leaders as much as, or more than, on hand workers. Just as in war your 755 privates are important, yet they are no use without generals, so in commerce, captains of industry are vital. We have far too little training for our captains of industry, and your new local authorities in our industrial districts are very imperfectly seized of this fact, and so it is necessary that we should take care, in changing our educational system, that this is attended to. To show how vital this matter is, let me remind the House that in a recent paper (No. 575 Diplomatic and Consular Reports of the German Iron Trade in 1900 and 1901), the Imports from the United Kingdom to Germany numbered twenty-five classes and all but two decreased. Mr. Gastrell says—This table showed most unsatisfactory results for the British iron trade with the German Empire.The German exports to the United Kingdom numbered thirty classes and all show increases but six, and those six are small. Mr. Gastrell says—A consideration of the above tables will show that the state of trade between the two countries is improving from the German point of view and deteriorating from that of the British manufacturer.I do not say this is all due to education, but that class of articles is one in which education tells and our only hope of improving our position is to improve our education. Not so much our elementary education as providing sound secondary education with technical superstructure. This is the important question to my mind, and it is much better worth spending an autumn session over than any other subject.
And so I come back to the first test. I say distinctly secondary education is most deficient; that it is of most importance to the nation, and now I go on to show that it is least likely to get attention under this Bill. Clause II., dealing with the application of the money, is permissive except as to the maximum. There is an entire absence of any indication that it is the duty of the authority to take a survey of secondary education and supply the deficiencies. In Wales the Joint Education Committee had to submit schemes for intermediate and technical education for the inhabitants of the county. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University told us that Welsh precedent was irrelevant, because there were more endowments in this country 756 for secondary education than in Wales. With all due deference to the right hon. Gentleman, I cannot understand why he used that argument. They were allowed to raise a halfpenny rate, and that was doubled by the Government. The duty was laid upon them to prepare a scheme, and Imperial funds were given in aid of the local rate. That was your own Bill, passed by a fair-minded Conservative Minister who was a friend of education. With that scheme before him, statesmanlike in plan, excellent in result, and elastic in application, the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Council, the responsible Minister of this House, goes down to Bradford and tells the public that the only alternative is absolute, blank permission to do anything or nothing, and a rigid, binding scheme by Parliament to provide such and so many schools in each county, without regard to the wants of the inhabitants. I have no patience with such a statement of the case. There was the Welsh precedent before the Government, and I cannot see why they did not make better use of it. The money will probably be found to be inadequate, but this seems to me to be a Committee matter, and I do not wish to take up the time of the House unduly.
The real reason why secondary education is unlikely to obtain attention if the duty is not laid on the local authority, and if the grant is not made from Imperial funds, is that new local authorities are likely to jib at the expense, and they will find it difficult to give the proper amount of time to the question. You are going to raise the rates to support voluntary schools by 2d. or 4d. or 6d. Is there such enthusiasm for education that you can rely on adding the burden of secondary education? In towns there is often jealousy now in regard to the School Board rate, and yet I am perfectly certain that the Councils would have spent as much. But they will begin their new task hoping to cut down, whereas the voluntary schools will increase the expenditure. In counties the increase will be considerable: but in neither town nor country is there yet a sufficient fire of enthusiasm to overcome the cold douche of this increased rate. A difficulty equally great is in regard to time. I am assuming 757 that the local authority has the knowledge, and I am taking the question of time. I assume that elementary education is taken over by these authorities, and that the majority of the Committee are members of the Council. If this is not so, I think it is inevitable that there must be a good deal of friction. The option given to the local authority under this Bill is really an absurd thing. Why should the question of justice to voluntary schools be mixed up with the question of the suppressing of the Board Schools? For it is a national and not a local question. I assert that the County Councils are hard-worked. But there is another difficulty, and it is that many of the councillors live at a considerable distance from the centre, and you cannot make calls upon them to spend much of their time and money in order to induce them to meet at the centre very often. According to this Bill, they must immediately deal with elementary education, and they must appoint managers for all the schools in the county. They have also to make the rules for secular instruction, inspect the schools, arrange for the audit, and deal with the whole question of the finances; and it is certain that they will have a good deal of correspondence with the Education Department upon many undefined points. If Town Councils take over the work of the School Board, have hon. Members of this House any idea of the huge work that the managment of a School Board in a large town already is? Have hon. Members any idea of the work which the Town Councils of our large towns have to do, and of the time which is occupied in doing that work? The Town Councils will have to do this educational work in addition to their ordinary duties. Recollect that this question brooks no delay. They will have to make a careful survey of the existing schools and to make a scheme of scholarships from the elementary to the secondary schools, and from the secondary schools to places of higher education. They will have to fill up gaps by helping old schools or building new ones, and they will have to make provision in their own or adjoining counties for that higher specialised education which is practically non-existent in this country; 758 and besides, they will have to deal with all the difficult but intensely important questions of suitable curriculum for modern requirements. You want to do this wisely, giving equality of opportunity to people whom it will pay the nation to educate. Will your new authorities have time to do all this, and inclination for this, all at once? So far as the Bill goes, they can do it or leave it undone. It is well to be plain in this matter, and to deal with facts, at any rate, as one sees them. There is not much zeal in this country for education. It will come in time, provided that you make it the duty of the local authority, that you do not overweight the local authority, and that you have effectual power of supervision. If secondary education is to be relegated to the dim and distant and problematical future, you are striking a great blow at the future welfare of the heart of the Empire. I have now finished this part of my criticism. I have probably not done much to convince hon. Members, but I have tried to state my case fairly. To me—if the House will believe me—it is no Party matter. I have tried to discuss it without religious bigotry or Party passion.
Now I want to discuss for a few minutes the question of "one authority." The point I want to make clear is that this question of one authority for all education is rather an ideal to be aimed at in the future than one capable of possible attainment at the moment. It is not one overriding necessity to be immediately carried out. In order to explain my position, may I lay before the House an alternative scheme? I speak in no spirit of dogmatism. I can claim no authority, but I have given a good deal of time, study, and thought to this question, and naturally I have formed strong views. I put them forward on this occasion only to make my criticism clear. If we could start again, if we could clean our slate of this particular Bill, I would like to see an authority proposed to take charge of secondary education at once. There should be laid upon it the duty to survey the provision for secondary education and to make good the deficiencies. For the formation of the authority, the 759 Welsh precedent might be taken. But there are two observations I would make. In the first place, in making a great step like this, is it not possible to decentralise too quickly? Secondary education is not the province of the man in the street. You must have experts to do good work. America has its Secretary or Director, with wide powers, besides a greater enthusiasm for education than we have. In Germany, secondary education is governed by experts. France has a bureaucratic system. We must have experts, too. You cannot be sure of them in your authorities. Therefore, the Board of Education should retain a good deal of advisory and compulsory power. The right hon. Gentleman reminded us this afternoon that education will not always be governed by Gallios who care for none of these things. In the second place, there are some counties which require special treatment. It is acknowledged that London is one. But so is Lancashire. There are fourteen or fifteen county boroughs in Lancashire. Outside of these is an administrative county with an abnormal and irregular area. It is a plum cake with the plums out. Each county borough has urban districts round it, belonging educationally to it. Education is regional, and statesmanship would recognise it. The ideal solution for Lancashire would be ad hoc areas. The whole question wants debating by a Committee representative of both the county and county boroughs. The last is an additional reason why you should be careful in the preparation of your scheme. The Welsh Joint Boards made a scheme of districts and district governing bodies besides a county governing body. My suggestion would be that the local authority for secondary education should attend first of all to secondary education, and then prepare a scheme for suitable districts and suitable authorities for elementary education. If we proceeded somewhat on the Welsh plan, I believe we could arrive more quickly at the goal we all have in view.
That is, in rough outline, the scheme I should prefer, and preference colours the criticism I have to make on this Bill. I am not moved by the cry "one authority": it is there as an article of "catholic 760 faith"; and I find myself on this matter a "Protestant" and "sceptic." I have no complaint of the general idea of the local authority; but I do grumble at a new idea being treated as a self-evident axiom. Why must you have, here and now, one authority? The argument in syllogistic form is this. There should be one authority for all grades. This suggested local authority is best for secondary, and therefore it must be best for primary and secondary. But is your major premise proven? Why must there be one authority? It struck the Vice President of the Council, soon after going to the Education Department, that it was the right line. Does that prove it? There were strong men at the Board of Education before these Agamemnons. Did Mr. Acland say so? Did the Secondary Education Commission say so? I never knew a phrase so quickly made a fetish of. What is the argument for it? I do not think I have time to go through all the points, but it is said the plan will prevent overlapping. That is done by leaving all secondary education to the secondary authority. That is made easy by the new code. It is further said that you must correlate primary schools to secondary, so that the child can step from one to the other at any age. I very much doubt the possibility or advisability of the proposal. Education to finish at fourteen is different from that which is to finish at seventeen or nineteen. For secondary education you want to lay the foundation from ten or eleven years of age. What we want is an authority for secondary education chosen with the intention of giving at any rate supervisory control to elementary education at some future date, if and when it has proved a success in secondary education and shows itself able and willing to take over the control of elementary education. Are you sure of your new authority? I think it will work well in time, but you have similar bodies in the Technical Education Committees, and I cannot absolutely agree with the Vice-President of the Council in the high character he gave to these bodies. They have confined themselves to technological questions Very few have shown a desire to take a 761 comprehensive grasp of technical education. The Manchester concordat was suggested by the university, I believe. In counties the whisky money has been largely used for subventions, which are usually small in amount and uncertain of continuance, and the scheme of scholarships not always wise or thorough. In towns the chief desire has been to attend to technical schools. For the really serious problems of secondary education the members of some local authorities will want education as badly as the neglected children. Take the questions of "humanistic "and "utilitarian" education. What will some of the authorities know about these questions? South Kensington imposes too much science in its day schools of science. What will a local authority with narrow commercial ideas do? After all, education is wanted for the formation of character and to help the imagination, as much as for utilitarian ends: that is where expert knowledge and advice are wanted so badly. Is it not reason and common sense to prove your local authority before overweighting it? Will you serve the general interests better by giving the new authority the most important thing—secondary education—or by depleting its purse and exhausting its energies by elementary education, and leaving it the choice of whether it will apply the relics of its mind and an empty exchequer to some steps in the direction of secondary education? Can you find an area suitable for both elementary and secondary education? Practically the Bill acknowledges you cannot. Boroughs of 10,000 and urban districts of 20,000 are excluded from the purview of the county as regards elementary education, but surely that means that the whole county wants 762 dividing for this purpose. Why not say so? Why not have schemes prepared of areas and authorities for elementary education before you give new local authorities control? I know something of one or two of our Town Councils. In big towns the Town Councils are too busy to take up all the work at once. This craze for one authority, and that untried, to take the place of all others, is absurd. It is ten times more ridiculous owing to the fact that there is not one authority after all this talk. You have the County Council with the power of the purse, and you have the Education Committee to attend to detail. If the working authority has not the power of the purse, it is not a real authority. In other words, we are attempting to do by this Bill at one jump what should be done by steps, and what would be better done by degrees. We are running the danger of neglecting the more important secondary education for elementary. In addition, I do not see the elements of fair compromise in the provisions for voluntary schools in districts where there is no choice. Under these circumstances, I must oppose the Bill unless very big concessions are made. I shall only say in conclusion that I have tried to state the case fairly as I see it. This seems to me a crisis in our educational history. A Bill called for by the neglect of secondary education, the lineal successor of last year's Bill, which dealt only with secondary education, has been utilised to carry out the idea of one authority, which is certainly new, and in the sense used doubtfully true. I protest, I must say with no feeling of narrow-minded bigotry, but in what I conceive to be the real and permanent interests of the nation, against the form this Bill has taken.
§ (11.50.) SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford) moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Debate adjourned till tomorrow.