§ [SECOND READING.]
§ (SECOND DAY'S DEBATE.)
§ Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment proposed to Question [5th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time."810
Which Amendment was—
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the question to add the words 'upon this day six months.' "—(Mr. Bryce.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ (2.35.) SIR WILLIAM HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)
I am extremely desirous of making some observations, not only with regard to the merits, but also as to the possible demerits of the measure now before the House, and on the general educational position as we find it. Surely, so far as the present situation is concerned, there is little enough of novelty to commend it to our notice. We find ourselves face to face with an old and time worn dilemma, which has successfully blocked the way of our educational advance for some thirty years, during which time the critics have held undisturbed possession of the field. Today we find them as busy and lively as ever in their desire to denounce, attack and destroy, and it is noteworthy that they offer nothing whatever of a constructive character or as an alternative to the proposals of the Government. So far as my humble experience goes there is nothing so simple as to attack and destroy an Educational Bill. Indeed, I believe that if this Bill were placed before any sharp London lad who has passed the seventh standard, he could, in the course of half an hour, pick it all to pieces. I have long since discovered how easy it is to criticise ameasure of this kind. No educational reformer, no Party or section of a Party in this House, could frame a measure which would adequately meet all their ambitions and aspirations, for the pitfalls and traps which surround the question are innumerable. If six Members were appointed from each side of the House, six moderate minded men determined to put education first, and Party second, and were to meet in a Committee Room upstairs, directly they left generalties and came face to face with the real businesss aspect of the question, with the difficulties which surround the rating question, the religious question, and the School Board question, they would find themselves in the same 811 dilemma and be utterly helpless to deal with it in a manner satisfactory to all parties.
I know it has been asserted on the other side of the House that the Government have taken up this measure for the purpose of upsetting the School Board system. But surely they have had opportunity enough to do that, if it had been their desire to deal with the educational question solely with the object of up-holding the Church schools. From 1874 to 1880 they were in power; again from 1887 to 1892 they were in a majority; and in 1895 they came in again with a very large majority. And yet it is only at the eleventh hour, and under pressure of circumstances, that they are dealing with the subject. The question we really have to ask ourselves is, how long is this grievous stigma to rest upon our shoulders, this confession of impotence before the whole world, this confession of inability to proceed on safe and secure lines towards the end we all have in view. So far as my study of the question during many years has gone, I have long since come to the conclusion that the real kernel of the solution of our difficulty rests in the appointment of a single local authority to supply and supervise education, and Committees and Commissions of Inquiry which have closely investigated the question have all come to a like conclusion. I am strongly of opinion that when once these authorities are established, and have been at work some time, a vast percentage of the evil prophecies and maledictions levelled against the measure will gradually be falsified and fade away in the far distance. I acknowledge at once that directly we accept that proposition in regard to local authorities we are brought face to face with the question "Aye" or "No," should we, as a matter of high educational policy, sweep away the School Board system as such. I wish to deal with this question in no Party or controversial spirit. I wish to see the best possible measure passed for the benefit of the children. I have never been one of those who have attacked the School Board system I have always freely recognised it by my presence at prize distributions and similar gatherings. I have recognised to the full the work it is doing, and I have racked my brain for many years in an 812 earnest endeavour to try and arrange some educational system that would cover the ground in front of us, and yet keep the very best of our School Boards as they are today. Although I fully appreciate the good work which the School Boards have done in the past, I think it is almost impossible even for supporters of the School Board system to expect that such a system, which was only established to fill up a gap in elementary education, should be made the only basis of a great educational advance all along the line. Besides the difficulty as regards the multiplicity of rating authorities, it must be borne in mind that so far as higher education is concerned, the ground is more than occupied already by the very county authorities who will be the leading spirits under this measure. I am well aware we are just entering upon a difficult and lengthened campaign with regard to this Bill, and I say it is essential it should be thoroughly understood both in this House and in the country what position these county authorities occupy today in regard to technical, secondary, and higher education. The strides which have been made since the Technical Education Act was passed, have been marvellous, although the work has been carried out under unexampled difficulties. In the first place, certain customs and excise receipts were suddenly handed over to these authorities with a bare intimation that they were to be used for a certain purpose, and surely that was not a very practical commencement of the task which has devolved upon them ever since.
I should like to give the House one or two instances to show what the counties are actually doing in the matter of higher education. No man in this House, or indeed, out of it, has had more experience in visiting the various schools in our large centres of industry than I have. I have also been closely connected with the Association of Technical Education, I have been Chairman of the Committee which had to deal with agricultural education; and I am, therefore, I think, well qualified to form a judgment upon the work which those county authorities have been doing. I say advisedly it is utterly hopeless for those who support School Boards in this country to expect that they can look forward in the future to occupying identically the same position as they now do. I am not going to weary the House by many quotations, but I could mention 813 several counties where splendid work has been done by the authorities. Mention has been made of the county of Cambridgeshire. There practically the whole of the supply of education between the elementary schools and the university has been completed through the action of the county authority during the past ten years. In addition to that, sterling and most useful work has been done in connection with evening continuation schools. The number of evening continuation schools has been increased, and there are now twelve times as many in the county as there were ten years, ago. In the field of secondary education existing permanent schools (including the higher grade schools) have been so re-organised as to fit into a harmonious system. The curricula have been adjusted, and the fees revised to suit the circumstances of scholars. That is the great educational work which has been carried out by an authority which, we are now told, will be utterly incapable so far as the task imposed upon them by this Bill is concerned. I will only allude to the case of one other county, that of Wiltshire. A striking comparison may be made of the general position of affairs in that county now and ten years ago. The evening continuation schools number 105, with an attendance of 7,477, as against twenty schools and an attendance of 500 scholars eight or nine years ago. There are 229 science and art classes with an attendance of 3,200, and there are 303 technical classes with an attendance of 6,987, whereas in 1891 practically nothing of the kind existed in the county. Vast sums are being spent upon higher education, and one of the latest examples of local initiative deserves special mention. Towards the cost of the new buildings for a combined technical institute and secondary school at Malmesbury the Town Council are voting the proceeds of a penny rate and the Rural District Council is contributing a lump sum of £1,800. In fact, all the local Councils in the Parliamentary Division of North-West Wilts have agreed to support the undertaking financially. Educational work has been accomplished at a cost of over £58,000, of which nearly £11,000 has been found by the County Council. £3,200 by the Rural Councils, £16,500 by the Urban Councils, and 814 £25,000 has come from local charities Government grants, and subscriptions. I am perfectly aware that it is tedious to quote these things, but I am doing so because they afford ample proof of the great educational work now being done, and when my right hon. friend the Member for South Aberdeen speaks of the terrors and alarms that are to ensue if this Bill is passed, and when he tells us that these authorities are to be so helpless, I venture to assert in reply that in a vast number of counties in England a great educational work is already going on to the great benefit of the inhabitants.
One word before I leave that branch of the question. I find that in the Report on Technical and Secondary Schools for the year 1900 there has been a capital expenditure of £3,407,621, of which 58 per cent. has been supplied by the local authorities from Imperial funds or local rates. There are now only seventeen out of 110 County and County Borough Councils who do not directly provide scholarships in one form or another. The total number and value of scholarships in force during the year 1899–1900, under the schemes of ninety of the Councils, were respectively 19,971 and £156,793—I quote this as another illustration of educational activity. Then, in regard to secondary schools, although we are told from the other side of the House that this new authority will be incapable of dealing with them, I have to point out that there is a vast movement going on in favour of them. The action of County Councils and other local authorities in respect of the provision of secondary day schools and of rate aid for their support is worthy of particular attention. In sixty-two towns or districts such schools have been established by or transferred to local authorities, or action of the kind is impending. I do not wish to labour this point or to weary the House with it, But I do wish to observe how ridiculous and absurd it is to denounce beforehand the authority which this Bill proposes to create on the ground that it will be unable to deal with the questions of elementary and higher education. What are the difficulties which these county authorities have surmounted? They are vast in 815 comparison with the simplicity of dealing with elementary schools. They had no Department to guide their destinies. What is this fearful bogey that is placed before the House and the country as to the difficulty that these men and women, who have been carrying on a magnificent educational work already, will have to face when they are called upon to perfect and systematise the educational system? The elementary system is good enough; the teachers and the managers are there; and the object of this Bill is, by placing the schools under the new authority, to help the weaker ones and to bring them up to a uniform standard. It is ridiculous and absurd to pretend that authorities which have done and are doing great educational work will be unable to cope with these difficulties that will accrue with regard to elementary education.
One word more before I leave the question of the local authorities. I should like to refer to some criticisms made by my right hon. friend the Member for South Aberdeen with regard to there being two rating authorities under this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman passed some rather severe remarks on this point. Not only is there to be a County Council authority, but there are other authorities to be established in non county boroughs with a population of 10,000, and in urban districts where the population exceeds 20,000. It is obvious why these other authorities are established. It would be a very heavy burden to place on counties if they had to undertake the educational responsibility for the whole area, and therefore this Bill proposes, in the case of very large towns, to give these authorities power to levy a rate up to one penny in the pound, so as to enable them to deal with what is called the border line of education. It would be an enormous educational advantage, not only in urban districts but in very large towns, to enable these local authorities to deal with that special kind of education which borders between elementary and secondary education by the establishment of evening continuation classes, which can easily be done under a penny rate. So far as I know, the establishment of these schools has never 816 cost even a penny rate in any district. There has been another very severe criticism with regard to the machinery which will be set up by these authorities. It is suggested that there will be a weakness at headquarters, and I think Mr. Lyulph Stanley has said that so far as the Board of Education is concerned they will not have equal power in the future to that which they have enjoyed in the past. But that arises from a misdraughting of the Bill. I do not wish to go into details, as that can be more usefully done in Committee; but when we are told that the Bill will be utterly useless as regards education, and that the County Councils, which are now doing such splendid work, are to be helpless in the future, and that there is to be a general weakening all along the line, it is only right to point out that the misconception arises from a mistake in the draughting of a clause by which part of Section 18 of the Act of 1870 has been repealed, and it is left to the local authority to proceed by mandamus where there is any default in setting up a new school, instead of the power being exercised from headquarters. I have no doubt that in Committee that will be set right, and that the Board of Education will be placed in the same position as regards penal powers as it is at present.
With respect to the Nonconformist objections to this Bill, I shall perhaps be treading on rather dangerous grounds. My right hon. friend the Vice-President said he wished to avoid the religious difficulty. I, too, wish we could do so; and I hope I shall say no word which can give hon. Members opposite umbrage. I have always taken a wide view of this question. I have endeavoured to approach it from a wide point of view, so far as its grave difficulties are concerned. With regard to the pupil teachers' question, I admit that Nonconformists have laboured under a very grievous difficulty; but when I come to deal with that, I hope to be able to show that under this Hill that difficulty will be swept away. But in regard to the question which, after all, has stood in the way of educational reform for thirty-two years, I would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite how they propose to deal in it. Supposing the Party opposite were in office with a majority of 100, and they had to carry a Bill dealing with the whole educational problem, how would they proceed? I might ask 817 them another question. If they were about to appeal to the country tomorrow, would they appeal with the policy: "The abolition of the voluntary system" inscribed on their banners. For myself, I think they would fare very badly indeed if they did that, and that it would be far better for them to raise some other cry. On this side of the House we have been asking for many years for some concrete examples of the religious difficulty, but we have not had them. I hiring the six years that I occupied a position at the education office, I endeavoured, to the utmost of my power, to find some concrete cases of the difficulty of Nonconformist parents, but I admit that I was unable to discover any real disability or difficulty in respect to this system. That is what we want to get at; but, instead, we have been treated to too much vague assertion and abstract principle. I admit altogether the difficulty which Nonconformists, in the abstract, suffer. I admit that fully, so far as the principle is concerned. I remember the debates of 1870, and the passing of Mr. Forster's Bill. I am old enough to remember Clause 25, which it was said lost the general election of 1874 to the Radical party. I remember these things, and it would be foolish of me, even it I wished, to ignore them. Due of the greatest principles of the Nonconformists is opposition to the payment of rates to denominationalism. I admit that very fully. I do not intend to minimise it; I do not even criticise it; and I do not complain of it. But I have never been able to find out these great difficulties in concrete cases. Do the parents object? That is a very fair question to put. Surely if we are to produce evidence we cannot go for better evidence than to the teachers of these elementary schools. They are in the thick of the work, and they are constantly in the schools. Surely if any difficulty existed, the teachers would know something about it. What does the President of the National Union of Elementary Teachers say on the subject? He delivered a very able address in reference to the Bill, which was followed by an excellent debate, and he said—He could not regard as in any way serious the suggestion that there would arise immoderate discontent because some portion of the money raised from persons of one sect 818 might be utilised for the continuance of the denominational teaching of another. Such had been the case in this country since public moneys were voted for education at all; and' although the politicians would make a fuss and possibly revive ancient war cries and flyblown phylacteries, the vital interests of the children must be no longer sacrificed. The fancy schemes for meeting the supposed religious difficulty did infinite credit to the intellects of their propounders; but his experience of twenty years teaching in both Church and board schools convinced him that they were quite unnecessary. Neither in Church nor board schools had he known of any children, excepting those of the Jewish religion, being withdrawn from religious instruction; and despite the agitation of both clerics and Nonconformists, parents would continue to send their children to denominational or board schools, regardless, in the great majority of eases, of all except the convenience of the efficiency of the education provided.That is the opinion of the President of the National Union of Elementary Teachers.
Now, we are told every day, not only in the Press, but on every platform on which the question is discussed, that the addition of a third to the management of these elementary schools under the Bill is a farce, is utterly useless, and means nothing. I deny that altogether. In the first place, the introduction of this new element will have the effect of proclaiming from the house tops any grievance or difficulty, or any case of high high handed treatment, and instead of being discussed with closed doors as might be when the school management was composed entirely of the Church party; such cases, if they occur, will be advertised in the local Press, and will be brought to the immediate notice of the local authority, and if necessary to the Board of Education. With reference to this addition to the management of the schools, I should like to qnote an authority which I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will recognise as of some weight and importance. On November 11th, 1896, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife made a very excellent speech, characterised by his usual ability, on the education question. Dealing with the religious question, he admitted that the voluntary schools had a clear right to a majority of the managers and to maintain their denominational character. These are thoroughly Liberal views, and I am delighted to find, in the midst of all this storm and turmoil, that at all events 819 one statesman on the opposite side takes a practical and commonsense view of this difficulty. This question of the payment out of the rates to denominational schools has been going on for many years in the case of secondary schools and other educational institutions in the country. There is no doubt that our Technical Education Committees have been giving, and do give, not only out of the Customs and Excise Fund, but out of the rates, payments to secondary schools of a denominational character. That is being done every day. Then, again, if hon. Members choose to look at the Home Office Blue-book for 1901 they will see that a number of industrial schools throughout the country, which, many of them, are strictly denominational in their character, receive the large sum of £160,000 per annum. I am afraid I am wearying the House, but these are important matters, and I take a deep interest in them. I do not often trespass on the attention of the House, and I trust I may be allowed to refer to one or two further points.
There is one criticism levelled against this Bill which I think of great importance, namely, the training of our teachers. The very essence of the success of the educational future of the country lies in the training of our teachers. There is no doubt that every farthing expended on the better equipment of the schools, every farthing spent in the improvement of the teaching element in the schools is certain to meet with the surest possible return. It is simply an investment of money. A well equipped school, with bright intelligent teachers thoroughly up in their work, and in methods of teaching, at once commands a larger attendance and a larger grant. This Bill has been denounced hip and thigh because it does nothing towards the training of teachers. But the Bill, as I understand it, establishes local authorities which will have to deal with the whole question of education, and to assume that these local authorities will ignore the question of the training of teachers would be just as reasonable as if I let 300 acres of agricultural land to a tenant, and insisted that he should lay out no capital whatever. The first obvious duty of these authorities will be to deal 820 with this very question of the training of teachers. Let me deal for a moment with the pupil teacher system. In a few years after this Bill is passed. I hope the present pupil teacher system will be abolished. It is not a good system. The teachers brought up in those centres established by the authorities must always be far superior to those brought up as pupil teachers solely in the schools. I admit to the full what has been said of the grievance that up to this date it has been impossible for the child of a Nonconformist to enter the elementary Church schools as a teacher. That is a want of system against which my mind revolts. It is not just or fair, and from an educational point of view it is absurd. The Board of Education will be able to bring strong pressure to bear upon the local authority to train the teachers in the first place, and in the second, the local authority will have to go to the root of this matter and establish some system by which children between the ages of thirteen and seventeen can attend these centres of instruction, or can be taken into the secondary schools to learn their trade in life. I believe there will be no difficulty whatever, and, as a matter of fact, some schools have already been started by local authorities in this direction. The First Lord has stated how very keen in some parts is the desire for the training of teachers, and what can easily be done as regards pupil teachers can be done equally easily as regards the higher training of teachers. I am quite aware that for many years in this country the only training colleges were Church of England training colleges, but during the last few years there has been a considerable extension of the facilities for the training of teachers. No less than sixteen day colleges have been started for that purpose, and those colleges are now teaching 1,358 students. Therefore a considerable advance has already been; made during the last few years.
With regard to the higher training of teachers, surely no difficulty whatever would be found, because the new authorities are filling up the gaps, and establishing a complete system of day and other training colleges, and by that 821 system the whole ground will be covered, and children of Nonconformists as well as children of Church of England parents can be trained. That is only fair. So far as this Bill is concerned, all the criticisms as to the training of teachers are absolutely unfair, because under its provisions a complete system of training of teachers can be carried out, and the grievances of the Nonconformists swept away entirely and for ever.
Now a word as to what I consider is the weakest portion of the Bill—that is, where the, money is to come from. I think Parliament will fully and frankly admit that there can be no possible doubt that there was no more unfortunate time to bring forward a Bill for Education than the present, when the people are so heavily taxed and rated. But I, for one, hold that nothing could be more lamentable and destructive to the cause of education than that this question should be further postponed. The position of many of the elementary schools in this country, not only in the rural districts, but in some of the poorer districts of our towns, is simply deplorable. Every day, every hour, that this Act is postponed means an increase of rates. This question must be dealt with at once, and some sacrifices must be made. I have heard it argued that this Bill is weak, but, weak as it may be, as regards secondary education it gives a mandate to those bodies and those authorities who carry out secondary education as well as technical education, and they will not shirk the task imposed upon them. That they will assist this scheme and launch this vessel on her way as soon as the Bill is passed I am quite certain. An old friend of mine, Mr. Acland, criticised this Bill, especially as far as secondary education is concerned. I join issue with him in all friendliness in all the matters he criticised, for I believe when once this Bill is passed and in working order all those phantoms will disappear into thin air. But Mr. Acland attacked this Bill because of the feebleness with which it has approached the question of secondary education. In 1892 Mr. Acland himself introduced a Bill for secondary education, and that Bill put no compulsory powers 822 on the authorities. That Bill established the local authorities, and those local authorities were to form certain Committees which were to go into the question of education in all their districts and report to the local authorities as to whether they should employ the halfpenny rate to which that Bill was limited—there was no compulsion. I do not blame the Bill, but I think that when one who was an Educational Minister criticises this measure, with unlimited rating powers, in the way he has done, considering the change that has come over the local authorities, it is hardly fair, especially when it is compared with his own effort on education. The Bill, so far as the elementary portion of it is concerned, must be strengthened. I cannot say I agree with that part of the Bill as it now stands. It must be made compulsory so far as elementary education is concerned, and my vote in that regard will be for compulsion. In regard to the measure itself, we cannot expect that all our wishes and aspirations should be carried out, but, knowing as I do the vast difficulties that surround this question, I accept this Bill as the only solution which, under all the circumstances of the ease, will at all events start a system of secondary education, and fill up the gaps in our present system and give us in its place one worthy of a great nation.
§ (3.28.) SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down claimed for himself, in one portion of his speech, that he approached educational questions from a wide, Parliamentary, and impartial point of view. I think there is no Member of the House to whom that claim would be more readily and fully conceded than the right hon. Gentleman, and in his speech tonight he never once departed from that fair and reasonable spirit which we have become accustomed to associate with his utterances. I can give considerable assent to, and have considerable sympathy with, some of his remarks. I agree with him in the feeling of shame which I think he said was felt at the long time for which we have had to confess our inability in this country to establish a thorough and satisfactory 823 system of education. The United States have passed us. The United States have had almost boundless resources at their disposal; but other countries with smaller resources than our own have passed us. Germany and Switzerland are far ahead of us. We have been getting mote and more behind every year, and the question has been getting more and more in arrears. I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman in the sense of shame—which I think has spread—that we have not had more energy, resource, and courage in reforming our educational system. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the time is unfortunate. What we want, and what we ought to have, is a Bill giving more liberty, and with a more comprehensive feeling running throughout its length.
I would demur in approaching this subject to the premise laid down by the Vice-President of the Council. I understood him to say that this debate and division were critical and decisive with regard to the principle on which the educational system would be founded. No doubt the discussion of the principle is a most important part in the matter of our debates on education. We have got, I think, rather into the habit of talking about differences of principle; whereas it seems to me that in recent years the difference in abstract principle is becoming among us less and less, while the difference as to the application of that principle is becoming more and more, important. It is not the principle that is in doubt; what is in doubt and dispute is the application of the principle. It does seem to me just now that in the speech of the Vice-President he was attempting to do what the Government has done so often with regard to other questions—the weaker their case on the merits, the more they throw into it this question of principle. It is not with the merits of the principle that I find fault; it is the merits of the Bill of which we complain. To a great deal of the speech of the Vice-President when he was dealing with this question of principle I gave my assent. I heard some parts of the speech with regard to principle with satisfaction, with approbation, and even with admiration. I thought that part of his speech strong; but when he 824 came to the application of the principle of this Pill, I thought his position on the whole question was very much weaker. Now, what is the point of view in which we should approach this educational question? I think we are all agreed that the public should be interested in the subject of education, although not interested, perhaps, in the administration of education. I want to get the energy and intelligence of the country concentrated on education. You can only get the life and energy of popular opinion brought to bear effectively upon education through the local authorities working in suitable areas. Until you get those powers established, all the zealous efforts of the Education Department to level up education are so much beating of the air, and you cannot look to this House to put that life and energy into the question which is so much needed from the country.
We cannot look to this House. This House is already overloaded, weighed down, crushed, and suffocated by the amount of work concentrated upon it, to the despair of every one. [An HON. MEMBER: No, no!] Well, is every one satisfied with the working of the House—with the present state of business of this House? ["No, no!"] Why it is not so long ago since I heard the First Lord of the Treasury speak in a tone of great depression as to the possibility of getting a big Education Bill through the House. Why? Because the House is so overloaded that it could not address itself to the question in a business-like spirit. The only way in which the House of Commons can get rid of what is a public danger is by more and mote devolution. We cannot look at this question solely from the point of view of the education question. You must keep in view the development of local government as well as education. I will begin by saying that I will take no step, in education or anything else, which does not, in my view, facilitate further devolution. I do not myself like the word. I prefer the term Home Rule. To get that, you have to stimulate local life; and I agree with the Vice-President that, you cannot stimulate local life—and I give it a 825 wider application. I think, than the right hon. Gentleman—you cannot do that by scattering powers among different co-ordinate rating authorities. You dissipate local interests until you get central local authorities. You want to make the existing local authorities much greater than they are. You want to give them some more megalomania, a greater view of their own importance, provided it coincides with the work they have to perform.
I contend that, not only for education, but for all purposes in large county or borough areas, we should have one local budget, to be distributed by a central authority. If you get that, you may have some real progress in local affairs. You will then get some real public spirit introduced into local work of the locality, instead of apathy, indifference, and confusion. Smaller local authorities there must be, but let them be subordinate under the central local authority. Now, if the Government were making for that end, which I call the Home Rule end, in our local affairs, then I should be prepared to sacrifice even something of what I may think are the immediate needs of education to see that end furthered. But the Government seem to me certainly to be reactionary in this matter. The one great institution where a local authority has risen to a high position and importance—I refer to the London County Council—there the Government seem to recoil with horror from the thing which they have created. It follows from what I have said that in your ultimate educational system it must be the County and Borough Councils that must be the authorities charged with the central local control of education. That, I think, must be; and if this is to be regarded as setting up a separate ad hoc authority and making it permanent, or working up to Borough and County Council control, I should vote for the control of the Borough and County Council.
I do not understand the question of principle to be raised in the speech of my right hon. friend the Member for South Aberdeen. He dealt with the merits of the Bill, as I wish to do. I wish to develop the future powers of these local authorities, the County and Borough Councils, and I will not begin 826 by taking any step to shut them off from the ultimate control of education. One authority is the thing towards which I should work in each locality; but I do recognise great force in what my hon. friend the Member for Oldham said when he referred to the danger of attempting to do by one step—by one span, across the bridge which is to grow up—I think you will have to have two spans; to advance by two steps; but, assuming that to be the object, does the Bill establish one authority? Does it proceed on the principle of one authority?
Now we come to the weaker part of the speech of the Vice-President of the Council. He admitted that there are exceptions in the Bill, and he defended them by saying that, though they were illogical, something of the illogical was always to be found in all British legislation. He regards illogicality as unavoidable. But how did this illogicality get into this Bill? I think it got into the Bill from the force of logic, and not from the want of logic. It is a fact that the areas suitable for secondary education are not always suitable for elementary education. It was, after all, making logic felt in the Bill, but it did not recognise it. I admit that we want different areas for secondary and elementary education, and that you want a plan suitable and consistent for each district in your educational system. You do not want to do it under the rigid exceptions made in this Bill. Under this Bill you do not give County Councils a fair chance. You set up a rigid system, and these rigid exceptions will sometimes facilitate and sometimes obstruct the system in any given area. Could any one have listened last night to the speech of the hon. Member without realising to the full extent all the confusion which will be introduced into such a parish as Whalley in Lancashire, to which the hon. Member referred, where you are to have at least nine different authorities without being subordinate? If you add to this confusion which is inseparable from these exceptions in the Bill, these separate arbitrary authorities, the separate rate with respect to higher and elementary education, and separate systems of management for different classes of schools, you cannot expect to have an 827 effective and harmonious system. If you are to have one separate authority for education you must trust it. You must make it draw up a scheme and give it a fair start and a fair field, but do not discourage it from the first by these rigid exceptions which we see in the present Bill.
As to the optional clauses. The Bill is not compulsory as to one part, and so we have got, I think, great difficulty as to this option. I notice some hesitation as to whether option should be withdrawn by taking away the choice or by making the choice compulsory, but everybody seems to agree that the option remaining in the Bill is intolerable. If you leave option in the Bill as it is, if it is not exercised, no doubt higher education may make progress under those Borough and County Councils which would be free to devote themselves to the question of higher education: but while they are doing this the option still remaining would paralyse the existing authorities, and the School Boards will never know at what time the option may be exercised. If, on the other hand, the local authority does exercise this option, then I venture to say, as my hon. friend the Member for Oldham pointed out, you discourage and overweight the education authority. What is wanted in our educational system is not the relief of elementary, but to make up arrears in higher education, with regard to which we have fallen back. We have believed in our prosperity, and in our raw material being so much better than other countries, but we have not been making the best of it by higher education. We have fallen into arrears as to that. What we want is higher education, not higher education for everybody. You cannot give it to everybody as you give elementary education—not a complete scheme as in elementary education. I admit that. There is in education a law of increasing and diminishing returns, and it differs with individuals. The more you spend on the education of one individual up to higher university education the greater the return, but with another individual you will get little or no return beyond elementary education. But how much is wanted, even to discriminate or provide a system of scholarships, to take those who are most worthy? I quite agree 828 that your provision for higher education cannot be complete and comprehensive to the same extent as elementary education, but that is no reason for putting the limit of 2d. on the rate. Even accepting the limit for higher education, which I have described, there is no reason why the local authorities should not be free to spend what they will in developing the material which is under them. I would go further than that, I would lay upon them the duty of making provision for this.
It was said last night that Wales afforded no precedent in this matter. What has been done in Wales has, I believe, been eminently successful; and its success alone makes it a precedent, and a most valuable precedent. It is the only one we have; why should we not take it as a precedent? "Oh, because," it was said, "Wales had no endowments to start with, and we have endowments." But, Sir, a partial system of endowments may be a curse and a snare. If you have not endowments enough to cover the whole field and to give yon a complete system, but only endowments enough to make you think it is not necessary to follow the Welsh precedent and to set up a complete system, then endowments are a snare. This Bill lays no duty upon County Councils; it gives them no mandate. The right hon. Gentleman said a mandate was given to them. I can find no mandate in the Bill to do anything more for higher education. The County and Borough Councils have no mandate and have no duty laid upon them. But they have a permissive power, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke, deservedly, with great praise of the use that many of them have hitherto made of that permissive power. Yes, but they did not make use of it out of the rates: it was money supplied out of the Exchequer under the Technical Instruction Act; and whatever they have done with that permissive power does not affect the question of what they may do with the permissive powers under this Bill. I admit that they have taken what is called the whisky money and have in a most public-spirited way devoted it to education when they had the power to devote it to the rates. Yes; but under this Bill, while you are giving permissive 829 powers in regard to higher education, you are laying upon them—if you take away the option clause, as I assume it is to be taken away—you are going to lay a compulsory duty on them with regard to elementary education, that is to levy a new rate to relieve elementary education.
That compulsory obligation will sterilise and destroy the permissive power. If you are going to lay simultaneously, side by side, upon the local authority—which will have to face great opposition to any new rate—that compulsory obligation and that permissive power, both of which will make demands upon the rates, the permissive power is bound to go to the wall. In this Bill you not only do not lay a duty upon them, but you positively discourage the exercise of the power with regard to higher education. It is from this point of view that this is positively a reactionary Bill; for by the obligation of levying a new rate you are encouraging and doubling the temptation to the local authority to apply the whisky money, which now goes to higher education, in reduction of the rates. I trust that the public spirit of the local authorities will have so far developed their schemes of education that the whisky money cannot be withdrawn. They may withdraw it, but if it is not withdrawn it will only be because they have resisted the pressure which this Bill puts upon them. Take counties such as Worcestershire and Northumberland, face to face with an extraordinary rate of fourpence to sixpence already. They must levy a new rate for elementary education; how is it possible that higher education, even if it is maintained, can progress when it is handed over to them under these conditions? What should have been done in the Bill? I agree nothing should have been done to conflict with the ultimate power of one authority—and that a great central and local authority. But still I would have laid the duty on the County and Borough Councils of reporting as to the provisions in their district for higher education existing now. Secondly, I would have laid upon them the duty of drawing up a scheme to make provision where provision was necessary, and that is everywhere, to meet the requirements of 830 higher enducation. Then, I would have encouraged them to make their scheme liberal and generous by offering them from the national exchequer a contribution at least equal to anything that they were willing to raise from the rates. If that had been done we should have been told—Well, but then you are not putting secondary and primary education under the same authority, and you cannot distinguish between them. "You cannot," said the Vice-President of the Council, "distinguish between secondary and primary education." Sir, this Bill does distinguish between secondary and primary education. The Cockerton judgment has distinguished between them. You have the Cockerton judgment still in operation, and the distinction exists in this Bill. But I do not see the great need at this moment of distinguishing between secondary and primary education. I distrust this fear of overlapping; we talk about overlapping in education as if it was the greatest danger from which this country suffered—as if we were suffering from a surfeit and repletion of education. "School Boards," said the Vice-President of the Council, "have invaded the domain of higher education." Invaded! As if they had some aggressive jingo educational tendency! What has actuated the School Boards has not been an aggressive tendency; it has been their zeal to cover ground not covered by anything else. In some cases no doubt we have had overlapping; but I am so convinced still that the great danger to this country in education at present is not overlapping but a hiatus that I am not very much concerned to draw a hard and fast line. I would rather run the risk of over lapping here and there by giving these local authorities a few years to establish a good scheme of higher education than run the far greater risk of having nothing further done for higher education than we shall have under this Bill. In a few years time, if that had been done, you would have made one uniform and harmonious system with an easy passage upwards for clever children to cheap but efficient local schools. If you had made this Bill a Bill for secondary education, you could easily have added the elementary part. As the Bill is now drawn, you will secure the elementary part, but you will not add the higher to it.
831 Now as to elementary education. Here, again, it is not a question of the principle involved; it is the application of the principle. Our elementary education was never based on principle; it was based on a compromise, which, I believe, is a negation of principle. I am not sanguine of being able to deal with this question without blowing still further into flame the fire of religious controversy—the flame has been kindled already. I will not dwell on such speeches as that of the Dean of St. Paul's, because I welcome such a repudiation as was given last night by the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigan. He repudiated that speech in a tone and in terms which convinced me that, differing as he does from us on many points of education, at any rate the method of expressing his sentiments adopted by the Dean of St. Paul's has caused at least as much pain to him as to us, and with that I willingly rest content. I would go further than that, and I would say that there are other utterances to set against that of the Dean of St. Paul's. There are the utterances of teaching of their own creed. That was men like the Bishop of Winchester and the position in 1870; but the compromise, the Bishop of Rochester, so reasonable, so temperate, so anxious to be fair, that I am sure they must make everyone who reads them—who does not belong to their own Church—differ from them with regret. I am not quite so satisfied with the utterances of the House of Laymen on the subject. I noticed a more Jesuitical tone in some of the laymen than I did in the ecclesiastics. They are highly pleased with the Bill. They have had some little difficulty in finding fault with the Bill; but I gather that, at any rate, one speaker thought it would, perhaps, be desirable to express some dissatisfaction, because it would be in the interests of the Government for this to be done.
I have to look at this question simply from one point of view. Is it a fair bargain between the nation and the Church schools? The right hon Gentleman who preceded me spoke, I think, of the Government's being talked about in some quarters as if they had the purpose of attacking the Nonconformists. I do not accuse the Government of any animus in the matter; but I do think the Bill shows bias. The word "animus" implies 832 a repulsive charge, and I do not think it will be approved of; but bias, I think, there is in the Bill. It is too late seriously to raise the question of abstract principle as to what we should do with regard to denominational education, and I am so little wedded to principle in this matter that I freely admit I should be prepared, where a large majority of the inhabitants desired it—as I believe is the case in Ireland—to see that education should progress on denominational lines, rather than it should make no progress at all. But when we come to this country, we have to consider what is suitable and what is fair for us. The hon. Member for Leamington spoke last night, with some earnestness, of the position of Churchmen under our present educational system; how keen they had been to make sacrifices to secure that their own denominational religion was taught to their children; what a hardship it had been that Nonconformists should have a religion suitable to their children taught in the board schools at the public expense, while Churchmen had to make large sacrifices to secure the as I understand it, was that if Churchmen, or any denomination, would make such substantial contribution to the great public purpose of education as really to be a guarantee that out of their private pockets a considerable part of the expense would be forthcoming, then the State would step in, recognise their schools, and give them further help. And even now, if you could give me evidence, in towns at any rate, that really substantial contributions are being made by groups of parents, or groups of persons, to Church schools, and alternative schools are available in the district, I would not press objections to giving aid to these denominational schools.
But this is a Bill to do without contributions from denominational schools. Some words from my right hon. and learned friend the Member for East Fife were quoted just now. But they were spoken some time ago. When he used those words in favour of maintaining the denominational system, there was no question of giving rate aid. At the time when he spoke, there were conditions relating to the 17s. 6d. limit which have now disappeared, and that large grant 833 in aid of 5s. had not yet been given. Well, the conditions have changed entirely since my right hon. friend spoke. Under this Bill, it seems to me, you miss your contributions; it cannot be other-wise. I admit it has been said, in answer to questions, that no owners of schools will be allowed to charge rent on school buildings to the public authority, either for an old school or a new one, because clearly, if they could charge a rent, it would be devoted to the repairs of the fabric Even as we are, our contributions must greatly diminish. I see no answer to the letter from the Duke of Northumberland published in The Times. A large number of people have been subscribing to voluntary schools because they understood those subscriptions were in lieu of a rate, but, now you impose a rate, to a considerable number of people it will seem a reason why subscriptions should cease. I have no fault to find with the doctrine of the inalienable right of parents to choose the religious education to be given to their children. It would revolt one's sense of common sense and fairness, it would revolt our religious tolerance and our Liberalism, to place any obstacle in the way of such education being given. I would go further, and give every facility, even in school buildings, for their getting that teaching at their own expense. But it is sheer cant to say that this inalienable right of parents to have their children educated in the religion they desire them to be educated exists under the present system, or would exist under this Bill. It does not exist under the present system, and it will not exist under this Bill. Take the; rural districts in which there is, as a rule, one school, and one school only—or that is so in thousands of parishes—and that a Church school. Are we really to believe that the Church school is the choice of all the parents, or even of a majority of the parents? Consider what it means! Not merely is there denominational teaching in that school—it means something more: that they are separated for ever from all say in the management of that school. Does anybody believe that that is the kind of school that parents in rural districts desire? In towns there is an ample choice, but in rural districts it is incredible that this is the real choice of 834 the people, that there should be voluntary schools in the management of which they shall have no control. It is not attachment to voluntary systems that has been the great upholder of these schools, but the fear of a school rate.
The Vice-President said that the religious difficulty is seldom heard of in the schools. I admit that, and I do not see in any section of the population that horror of creed and catechism one would be led to suppose, but neither is there such an extreme desire for denominational teaching. It is not heard of, because not only is there no excess of religious zeal, but because there is comparatively little desire for exclusive denominational teaching. People have supported voluntary schools, especially in country districts, largely because they prefer to have the voluntary system to having the rating system. That is common knowledge. Over and over again, as Members representing rural constituencies know, dissatisfaction is expressed at being separate from the management of the voluntary schools. What answer can he give to the question, "Are you prepared to pay?" The answer is generally that they prefer to be as they are rather than run the risk of having an education rate. But now they are to be called upon to pay a rate and yet not get control. This matter, I admit, is a grave obstacle to progress in education, and it lies upon all of us who are Churchmen to try to understand the Nonconformist view, though we cannot speak as Nonconformists. What must be that view, especially in rural villages? The Church of England has a privileged position; it is recognised by the State, it has great endowments, the whole land being laid under large contribution to it; in addition, the Church has control of schools in thousands of parishes. In the ordinary village the buildings of a public character are usually the church, the school, and the public-house, and, in the more fortunate, perhaps, a village hall. Now, with respect to these, there is no popular control and no popular representation whatever in the matter. With regard to the Church, of course it must be so. Whether the Church is established or not, it will still be common ground that the churches are 835 great evidences of the historic unity of the English Church, and will remain the property of the denominations to which they belong. But has it not occurred to Members sometimes to wonder at the prevalence of dissent, and consider how much is due not to dislike of the Church of England, or difference of Church creed, but solely to the desire of the people to have some share in the management of the great department, perhaps the greatest department of their life's affairs? If that is so in religious matters, does it not more apply to the schools which are secular in character where their children receive education? In schools you have what you cannot have in churches—the right to interfere; and where you have only one school, and the people are shut off from all share or say in the management, you shut the people off from one of the most important departments of civic life and local government. I would have no small School Boards in country districts, but I would make the Parish Councils partners in the management of education—subordinate, but partners. I think a fair compromise would be that, say, two members should represent the Parish Council, that two should represent the local education authority, and that the denomination should appoint the other two. I would practically invert the arrangement in the Bill, giving a third to the parish representation, and a third to the local education authority. We are told that this is a matter of small importance, for managers have very little power; but in the country they have a great deal of power. It means a great deal that in a village this is the one visible, palpable, daily evidence of authority and control. While I think that should have been done in this Bill, I would have added guarantees that religious teaching should be given according to the denomination to which the building belongs, when the parents of the children desire it.
On the general question of control by local authority I may say at once that I dislike the constitution of this Education Committee. I am all for having a Committee, but to give life and interest and closeness of touch to the work of education the majority should be actual members of the Council. This 836 will have the greatest possible effect on the rates. There has been suggested one general rate for all purposes, but how much shall be devoted to education? That is a question for every Council. Let us assume that the Education Committee does not levy the rate, but reports how much is required. Assume, as one may under the Bill, that they are not in the majority, or perhaps not at all members of the Council. The Council will get a largo demand—and I hope they will—for expenditure on education. Then the Council will say. "This Committee is very zealous about education. We honour their zeal, but they are not aware of all the other demands upon us. They have not the sense of proportion we have. We are sorry, but we must cut down this demand, because we have so many other claims." But if the majority of the Committee are members of the Council they will be at first hand in touch with the Council, and able to say, "Yes, we know of all these other demands and have a due sense of proportion, and we consider the interests of education so paramount that other things must wait for a time." Now, if the option goes under the Bill, the position of voluntary schools will be made more secure, but I see nothing else certain in the Bill; all the rest is uncertain and roblematical.
The Bill has the appearance of being an educational Bill, it has captured the adhesion of many of those who are well known for their interest in education. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, who spoke last night, has been captured, though I think he is not an unwilling captive; but what appeals to me still more is the fact that the attractive appearance of the Bill has caused my hon. and learned friend the Member for Haddingtonshire to sheathe his sword. He says he is not going to vote against the Government. Now I venture to say that anyone who knows the penetrating zeal, the single-mindedness, the great knowledge, the hard work spent on education by my hon. and learned friend will differ from any course he takes on an educational matter with the greatest regret. I will go so far as to say, were he in charge of the Bill as First Lord of the Treasury, and were the great majority of the Party opposite absent, and some of us on this side left to move 837 Amendments, I would vote for the Second Reading. If I thought this Bill were likely in practice and administrative effect to make a good start for education, I would follow my hon. and learned friend and abstain from voting. But I think the Bill makes a bad start, that it will make certain of nothing but aid to voluntary schools, and not that unless the option clause is withdrawn; that it gives tentative powers under conditions which impose no duties, give no stimulus, and in some respects positively discourage the use of those powers; that it lays a burden on the local authority too heavy to be borne by local finance alone, without promise of national aid. I do not believe this Bill, without much larger amendment than the Government are willing to introduce, will make up the arrears of time the country has lost in the matter of education, or put life into education by giving us a system, or prepare the way for a system, of education which shall be effective, thorough vigorous, and national.
§ (4.15.) LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
The hon. Baronet who has just sat down, if I may be permitted to say so, is one of the most delightful speakers, if not the most delightful speaker the House can listen to. But his speech lad him very little open to retort, and, without trenching much more largely on the time of the House than would be at all becoming in me, it is difficult to give an elaborate and reasoned answer to the detailed criticisms he made on the Bill. But I confess I was surprised that the hon. Gentleman began his speech by enlarging on—of all subjects in the world—the merits of Home Rule and devolution. Then he proceeded to show in great detail that he had not the slightest confidence in the local authorities proposed to be set up in almost any matter connected with education. What, then, becomes of his zeal for Home Rule? I think the present discussion may really be divided into four great controversies. There is, in the first place, the controversy which turns around the question of local government, with which the hon. Baronet dealt, and then there is the closely allied controversy of how far this Bill really adjusts the varying claims of economy and efficiency in the 838 matter of rates and education. Perhaps I may be permitted to point out that the catchword which goes with the local government part of the subject that we do not have an ad hoc authority, but another authority, is only partially accurate. The Education Committee will be an ad hoc authority. The real difference is, of course, that the authority is not to be elected by the electors straight away. It is the product of a secondary election, and I was surprised to notice that the hon. Baronet objected that it was not to have a majority of County Councillors. It may have. It is entirely for the County Council to choose whether they will appoint a majority of County Councillors on the body or not. It will be an educational body which will be able to represent all the educational interests which ought to be represented. The hon. Baronet talked of rigidity, I think, in some connection of this kind, but nothing can be less characteristic of this Bill than rigidity, for it leaves all these questions to be determined by the local authority by its wisdom and capacity. The distinction between this proposal and the existing system, so far as local government goes, is that the finance is to be in one hand. I notice the hon. Gentleman opposite was in favour of that. That is really the only great distinction—that you are to have an ad hoc authority upon a secondary instead of a direct election, and the finance in one hand. Whatever may be said about the respective merits of primary and secondary election, it is quite clear that, if the electors will not come to the poll in a primary election, any system of appointment is better than that. Experience has shown that the electors will not come in any numbers which are at all respectable to vote at a School Board election, and therefore you must have an education authority appointed in some other way; and I defy anybody to point out a method less open to criticism than that of allowing the County Council to appoint the authority.
I now turn to the financial part of the Bill, and here we come to the large issue between those who desire to economise the rates and those who desire to develop education. It is to be observed that criticisms of a really contradictory character have been made against this part of the Bill. We 839 are told that we must improve education a very great deal, and at the same time the objection is made that in raising the voluntary schools to the level of the board schools you spend a great deal of money. Of course you do. You cannot have a great educational improvement and at the same time a great economy of money. If you are going in for a policy of educational reform you will have to pay for it. We are told by those gentlemen who have so little confidence in the elected representatives of the people that if you get the County Councils to spend a great deal of money on elementary education they will not spend money on secondary education. Why should we assume anything of the kind? Why should we not have confidence in the wisdom of the County Council? Why should the importance of education, which is so clear to us on this side of the House and is equally recognised by hon. Gentlemen opposite, be entirely veiled from the eyes of the County Council? Why are they not to see that the greatness of the country is identified with educational progress, and why should not they spend money as liberally as we desire both on elementary and secondary education? If they are not willing, is anything gained by your distrusting the locality and compelling them to take a course which does not excite an interest in education, but nauseates them with the whole subject? In that respect we have often made the mistake in the past that we have tried to rush backward localities ahead of their own views, and, consequently, we have produced a real reaction against education. If they had been allowed to go on in their own way, if they had not been hustled forward, they would have found that public money could be usefully spent in the interests of the locality and of the nation, and they would not have shrunk from the necessary expenditure. At any rate, you have to choose whether you are going to adopt the democratic principle of trusting the representatives of the people, or whether you are going to fall back on what is really the aristocratic principle, the principle of trusting an aristocracy of educationists and allowing them to dictate what is and what is not to be the standard of education. Any one 840 who really admits the principle of democratic self-government must accept the doctrine that the local authority is entitled to judge of what degree of education is fitting and to spend the necessary money on that standard of education.
Now, I pass from these comparatively non-inflammable topics to the other great twin branch into which this subject falls. And here I find that we encounter a great body of Nonconformist opposition, for the earnestness and zeal and profound conviction of which I have the utmost respect, and of which I desire to speak with the utmost courtesy. I think this opposition falls into two classes. There is the moderate class, who may be called "the controllers." They do not actually dissent from the proposition that public money should be given to denominational schools, but they say that the control given under the Bill is inadequate and ought to be enlarged. Undoubtedly those speakers—I think the hon. Baronet may be numbered amongst this class of critics—have produced much more effect on the supporters of the Bill than the more extreme and irreconcilable censors of the Bill. What is the degree of control which is established under the Bill? I say that, apart from such a control as would destroy the denominational character of the schools concerned, you could not, I believe, in any respect whatever, increase the character of the control given under the Bill. I really believe that in this I respect the Bill suffers from a certain diplomatic skill which has been exhibited in its drafting. It seems to me that the Bill has been drafted by a very delicately-minded person—a person who dislikes using phrases of a certain character, and who has much of that elegant mind of the man who, for example, likes to call trousers "inexpressibles." The phrase "voluntary school" is not used from the beginning to the end of the Bill. The phrase is "schools not provided out of public funds," a refinement of expression which I hope we all appreciate. In like manner, when you come to deal with the question of control and management, it is not said in so many words that the Bill does give control to the public authority in everything except religious education. But that is, in fact, what the Bill does. I 841 believe that to the superficial reader, therefore, the degree of control is largely hidden.
People do not understand—I think even several Conservative supporters of the Bill do not understand—how far-reaching is the control which, as a matter of fact, is given under the Bill to the public authority; and I confess I think that when it dawns on those long-suffering and much abused people, the clergy, they will find they have much more cause to exercise the grace of resignation than the grace of joy. It has been pointed out in the course of these debates that subsection (a), Clause 8, enables the local authority to give any direction it pleases in regard to secular education; that the teacher may be dismissed if he is inefficient; but, apart from this, there is a point of very substantial importance which seems to me to have escaped notice altogether, and that is that by Clause 15—A local education authority may make arangements With the Council of any county, borough, district, or parish, whether a local education authority or not, for the exercise by the Council, on such terms and subject to such conditions as may be agreed on, of any powers of the authority in respect of the control or management of any school or college within the area of the Council.That is to say, it will be perfectly competent for a county authority to go to a Parish Council and say, "We do not like this Church school; we do not like its tendency; we do not think it is raising secular education to a proper height; we do not trust the parson. You shall be the education authority of this parish; you shall have all these powers, you shall appoint your Chairman to be the representative manager of this voluntary school, you shall, if you like, meet once a week and control every detail, down to the smallest feature, of the management which relates to secular education." I have given an extreme case, perhaps; but does anybody say that that is not effective and efficient popular control, as far as it can possibly be pressed, over the secular education? I invite anybody who disputes that to say whether there is anything relating to secular education which cannot be done under this Bill. The local authority has a veto on educational grounds over the appointment of 842 the teacher, and, of course, "on educational grounds" includes everything except the religious question. As far as secular instruction goes, the local authority has absolute discretion. If you go further, and give control over the religious instruction as well, that amounts to a measure no less revolutionary than the suppression by law of all the denominational schools in the country. The struggle has been going on thirty years in order to maintain denominational schools in which the religious instruction should be in the hands of the denomination. You might as well close the doors of the voluntary schools altogether. I can conceive a settlement which should proceed on different lines altogether; but as far as maintaining the settlement of 1870 is concerned, control over the religious instruction goes to the very root of it, and would, in my opinion, destroy the value and utility of the Bill altogether, and the idea of maintaining denominational educational. It would destroy the very principle of it. Observe how far it might go. If you put a majority of representative managers on the schools, they might, if they had a mind, obstruct and hamper religious instruction at every turn, and they might even close the schools. And of what value would a statutory instruction be that the teaching of the Church of England should be given, unless the Department said what was and what was not the teaching of the Church of England? What an endless controversy you might have as to what was and what was not consistent with the teaching of the Church of England. [Opposition cheers.] The hon. Member for Oldham said last night that the differences of the Church of England are almost as irreconcilable as the differences of the Liberal Party; and, if so, how would you like schools for which there was a statutory enactment to teach Liberalism, with the Front Bench as a board of managers?
The control of the religious instruction must still be in the hands of the denomination if you are to keep up the principle. That brings us to the threshold of the controversy with the more irreconcilable section, who frankly say that their objection to the Bill is that it perpetuates denominational education. I think that was a phrase used by a very distinguished Nonconformist minister of great ability—Mr. Hugh Price Hughes. 843 I think he said—and I was surprised at his statement—that the Bill brought in by the present Government perpetuated denominational education. I should have thought that was the known conviction of the Unionist Party. [Opposition cheers.] I gather that there are a great many hon. Members opposite, though not all, who do desire the eradication of denominational teaching, and that is the object they set before themselves. First let me dismiss, not with censure, but with an answer, the suggestion that is made that Nonconformists ought to refuse to pay the rate which would be exacted under this Bill to support the schools. I see no objection to that course in point of principle, but it seems to me absurd to say that it is a matter of conscience, because, as the hon. Member for Haddington said, you cannot have a conscience about paying rates which is not also a conscience about paying taxes. It is a revolutionary method which has, I believe, a very august precedent, when Lord Milton told the tax-gatherer to call again at the time of the great Reform Bill. But it is a revolutionary method which any number of people who pay rates could adopt with equal effect, and the richer and more numerous the body of persons the more effective would be the strike against rates. I can assure hon. Members with very great confidence that, if Noncomformists refuse to pay their educational rates, Churchmen will refuse to pay theirs. Therefore I do not think that that is likely to be a successful method of agitation, although I think it might perhaps produce a revisal of the whole educational question. That might not be a bad thing, and I will try to show how I should like to see it ultimately settled. I know the House is most reluctant to enter upon anything approaching theological ground, but let us consider why to have a universal undenominational system would be intolerable to the Members of the English Church. First of all, there is this objection. It is quite true, now, that the majority of board schools give a careful and reverent Bible instruction, and some of them a very good Bible instruction indeed; yet there is no security by law that that should be so, and actually there are a considerable number who teach the Bible merely by 844 reading it without comment, and a smaller number give no religious instruction at all. If you abolished the denominational system altogether, do not you think the existing tendency to keep up board school religious instruction would be swept away? The sense that there is what might be called a competitive system, if the phrase be not too frivolous, prevents board schools from neglecting the importance of such teaching, and even from dispensing with it altogether.
The next objection is one which is of a more subtle character, and I do not think has ever been stated to this House in its full aspect, and it really deserves attention. Although it is quite true to say that an undenominational school does not give Nonconformist teaching strictly so called, and although I can appreciate and sympathise with the resentment Nonconformists feel when it is said that they receive Nonconformist education out of the rates already, it is also true that undenominational education—what is called Bible instruction—does settle in effect one great controversy between the Church and Nonconformity in the sense that Nonconformists desire. I do not want to go into details, but if the Church Catechism is considered, it will be seen that the whole fabric of Christianity is made to start with the idea of membership, which originates in baptism. That is taught by the Church of England, and rejected with the greatest possible vehemence by the greater number of Nonconformists. Supposing you give a religious instruction which does not begin, as the Church Catechism does, with those ideas, but which starts with general Bible instruction and makes Christian morality—such as that you must speak the truth, be honest, and the like—as it were, self-evident, not arising out of the idea of membership in any way, the effect on the mind of the child is evidently to incline it to the Nonconformist position as against the Church position. That is what makes a great many of the clergy and others say that board school education is Nonconformist education, not that it teaches the whole mass of Nonconformist teaching and the precise views that might be set out 845 in a Nonconformist Catechism, but because on a point on which Nonconformists fundamentally differ from the Church the undenominational system teaches their view and not that of the Church.
The third objection is the most important one in the arguments against undenominational education as a universal system. A great many things are said as to the carefulness and reverence of board school education, and of how much trouble teachers take. And it has been pointed out that you may teach really very advanced religious teaching in a board school without in the least infringing the law, and that is doubtless often done by teachers, most of whom have been trained in Church colleges. It is very good religious instruction, possibly, as far as it goes, but there is evidently this fundamental objection—that it cannot attach the child to a denomination. It has been said, allegorically, that a board school is a school with only one door; the child goes in, learns a great deal that is valuable, and goes out again into the street. A Church school, a Wesleyan school, or a Roman Catholic school are schools with two doors, and the other door leads on into the Church or Chapel, and brings the child into contact with, and under the influences of this or that denomination. Now, what is it you want to do in regard to children? It is often said against us that we desire to instruct them in the details of theology. In the sense in which those words are used that is unfair, and an entire misconception; no one desires, for example, to enable the children in the elementary schools of this country to distinguish between a Eutychian and a Nestorian. It is not theology at all that we desire to teach children, except so far as all religious teaching implies a theological substratum. But what is desired is a religious habit of mind and religious customs. If a Nonconformist father wishes his child to be religiously brought up, he wishes the child to go regularly to Chapel, to fall in with the denominational system to which he belongs, to go to Bible-classes and the like. Now, under the board school that cannot obtain. The child may, of course, and often does, fall under other influences. I do not in the least desire 846 to say that if we abolished religious instruction tomorrow we should immediately become a Pagan country. The point is, what is the tendency? It is obvious that in many instances other organisations may take the place of the school, yet unless you have a school that does attach to the denominational machinery of the country, you lose a; great chance, and the children may get away from you altogether.
§ The question is, how does that bear on the Nonconformist grievance? If the complaint is that Nonconformist children are proselytised in schools receiving public money to which their parents have contributed, that is a great abuse, and any suggestion made to remedy that will be listened to with the greatest attention. The Government in 1896 put forward a proposal designed to meet that very difficulty. But the danger is not in giving an advantage to one denomination or another. That can be met and adjusted by an understanding between the different denominations. The danger is in throwing down all the educational machinery which really attaches children of any way of thinking to the beliefs of their parents, and so giving a clear field to the negative movement which we say is the real peril of the future, and of which Nonconformists have as much reason to be afraid as we have Unless a child is attached to one denomination or another, he passes out of the school unattached to all of them. I said earlier that this Bill is not my ideal. This Bill is a measure for maintaining the status quo between denominationalists and undenominationalists. The same number of children that were brought up in denominational schools will continue to be brought up in them still, and the same-number in undenominational schools. There is no gain of territory on one side or the other. But that is certainly not my ideal. I remember speaking with very great warmth five years ago on the Bill of 1897 in answer, I think, to the present Attorney General, who used the familiar argument that, because under the compromise of 1870, Church people had a certain advantage in some districts, it was quite reasonable that they should be ill-treated in other districts. I thought then, and I think now, that nothing could be less satisfactory than the method of 1870, which is prolonged 847 in this Bill, of treating people with a kind of compensating unfairness, saying to Nonconformists in one district, "Don't complain, because the Church people are treated equally badly in another district." That is a system which is not fair, but unfair all round, or rather it does not succeed completely even in that, because it is rather more unfair to Church people than it is to Nonconformists. This Bill is, in this respect, an opportunist measure, a measure to carry on education irrespective of this religious controversy, and in the meantime make advance in secular education which we all consider to be necessary, and I should have thought it would have appealed to Members on both sides who desire educational reform.
§ But, Sir, I confess I turn to quite another ideal for the ultimate settlement of this question. We must look for that to an amicable understanding between the Church and Nonconformity. I am quite certain that they are natural allies, and I am not at all consoled for the opposition of earnest and zealous Nonconformists by the support of politicians, even of the great ability and eloquence of the hon. and learned Member for Haddington. I would barter the hon. Member for Haddington for Dr. Clifford or Mr. Hugh Price Hughes any day, because I am convinced, as a matter of political dynamics, that the people who are red-hot in earnest are much more formidable politicians than those who take a cool view of the situation, and also because I think that Nonconformity is the natural ally of the Church of England. I am sure that in the future the Nonconformists will come to see, as we see already, that there is a great contest ahead of us in which we shall have to fight shoulder to shoulder, and that we are foolishly weakening ourselves by fighting each other. Even in regard to this Bill, if there are Amendments dealing with such a question as that of the supply of pupil-teachers—Amendments that can really be put forward on the ground that Nonconformists suffer an injustice which can be easily removed, and the alteration of which does not in any way involve an injury to the Church system of teaching of which we are supporters—I am sure they will be most respectfully listened to; and, if we can see our way to settle the question through their 848 means, I have no doubt the great majority of Members on this side will be very glad to do so.
§ It is an entire misconception to suppose that those who support the Church schools look upon Nonconformists as their enemies. On the contrary, they regard them as their misguided and mistaken allies. They think this education controversy is lamentable, because it divides Christian people one from the other, and they would most gladly see friendly negotiation over it which would settle the question on the only basis which it can be settled—the basis that every child should be brought up in the belief of its parents. It matters not what that belief may be. I can go so far as to say, although I should regret to see it, that the most violent atheist has the most absolute right to have his child brought up in his beliefs in the public schools of the country. I would acknowledge to the utmost extent the parental right in these questions as a matter of deference to the principle of religious liberty, not only because I think it is right, but also because it is highly expedient. Supposing you had a system of education which made the Wesleyan child a better Wesleyan, the Congregationalist a better Congregationalist, the Churchman a better Churchman, the Roman Catholic a better Roman Catholic, an overwhelming majority of the English people would be attached to one form or another of the Christian religion, and the effect would be to make much more stable the religious convictions of the country. That seems to me to be an object of policy of statesmanlike wisdom, the importance of which it is impossible to exaggerate.
§ I have no patience, I confess, with the kind of criticism which you sometimes see in the newspapers, and which is more rarely heard in this House, which would treat religious controversies as if they were beneath the consideration of serious politicians. Nothing could be more absurd. Look at the pages of history, even of recent history. What ruined the French Constitution of 1791 but the dispute on the civil constitution of the clergy? What has been the sheet-anchor of the civil stability of France but the concordat established by Napoleon; not that Napoleon had any religious 849 convictions, but because he knew the immense importance of settling the religious life of the country on a non-controversial basis. Look at Italy and see how the conflict over the temporal power of the Pope is a weakness, a sore, and a danger to the country. Look at the East and see how controversies, turning on the differences between Christians and Mahommedans, are a constant menace to the peace of Europe. Look at Germany, where the only failure in Prince Bismarck's triumphal career occurred when he came into conflict with the difference of religious opinion. Look over the water, and note the conflicts that take place between Roman Catholics and Orangemen. Let us be sure of it; that politician who despises religious difficulties does not understand his business. Therefore I would venture to appeal not only to Churchmen and Roman Catholics, but also to Nonconformists, who might, I think, trace in many of the things which go most home to their hearts the dangers which threaten us all. We hear sometimes most truly of a growing materialism in politics. We see a growing love for material well-being, a growing indifference to the non-material welfare of the country. We see a disposition to found our greatness on trade and territory and not on national character. I am in favour of Imperialism, but I do not blind my eyes to the fact that mixed up with Imperialism there is a great deal that is very sordid and unworthy. There are, indeed, two Imperialisms. There is the Imperialism that wishes to see this country great and powerful because it carries Christian civilisation over the face of the globe. That is a noble and splendid ambition for our country. But there is also an Imperialism which thinks of nothing but studying trade returns and considering whether we can get a little more money into the country than before. That, I think, is not the noble Imperialism which we ought to support. You can trace the same influence in domestic questions in this House. You see a great desire to improve the well-being of the people and the housing of the working classes; but, of course, right as those causes are, we make the greatest possible mistake if we suppose that they solve the problems of life. One vicious propensity, one serious fault of character, will undo all the 850 happiness produced by model dwellings and tube railways. We ought to do all we can to improve the national character, and we ought to enlist in that task the educational resources of the country. That is my ideal, which I hope Nonconformists will support. I hope also that it will obtain support from that other class who may be described as adopting the position of Christianity in everything except its theology, who possess the morality of Christianity, its sense of right and wrong, its delicate sensitiveness of con science, though they are unable them-selves to accept its theological basis. These men, it may be said, erect in the mansions of their hearts a splendid throne-room, in which they place objects revered and beautiful. There are laid the sceptre of righteousness and the swords of justice and mercy. There is the purple robe that speaks of the unity of love and power, and there is the throne that teaches the supreme moral governance of the world. And that room is decorated by all that is most beautiful in art and literature. It is gemmed by all the jewels of imagination and knowledge. Yet that noble chamber, with all its beauty, its glorious regalia, its solitary throne, is still an empty room. But these men, with all the imperfection of their point of view, must still be reckoned with as part of the forces that are waging war against materialism. And to that school of thought I would appeal to second the efforts of those who desire to make national education fulfil its noblest purpose, who desire to make the schools of the country not only schools where the people will learn to be successful, to make wealth rapidly, to be learned, and to cultivate their intellect, but schools where they will also learn to serve the right, with a knowledge of the supreme powers that lie beyond the region of the senses. So we may maintain, both in our Imperial function, both in the many problems that crowd upon us in every quarter of the world, and also in those domestic matters that are not less anxious and important, the supreme law as governing our national policy, the law of trying to do that which is right and that which is noble, and not merely following that which is sordid, and that which is profitable.851
§ (5.0.) MR. ELLIS GRIFFITH (Anglesey)
I have listened with regret, but without surprise, to the speech of my "mistaken and misguided ally." For my own part, if the leader of the reigning dynasty offers us an alliance, I shall ask him to prove his sympathy by deed, not by words; by performance, not by peroration. The noble Lord speaks not only on his own behalf, but also in a representative capacity as leader of the Church Party, and there can be no doubt as to the underlying difference of opinion between us. He has admitted it quite candidly. He says the object of elementary schools is to turn out Churchmen; we think it is to turn out citizens. That, in a sentence, is the difference between the noble Lord and ourselves upon this important point. I think we are entitled to ask whether the Government has a mandate from the country to introduce a Bill of this kind. Was there anything said at the last general election, or even in 1895, about the Government introducing such a Bill as this? I am not quite sure what was before the country at the last two elections. In 1895 the war had not begun; in 1900 the war was over. It is, therefore, exceedingly difficult to find out what really was the point upon which the country voted. But if we go back as far as 1895, I think we get from Lord Salisbury a prophecy concerning this Bill. Speaking on June 13th, he said—It is your business to capture the board schools—to capture them in the first instance under the existing law, and then to capture them under a better law.This is the "better law" that we are now discussing. We are nearly all agreed that the religious instruction in the voluntary schools is far better than the secular instruction. There is a proper recognised religion being taught, but there is only "a sort of" education going on. It appears to me that the noble Lord and his friends are not I placing enough emphasis on the ordinary; instruction in elementary schools. In fact, writing to The Guardian on April 2nd, the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich said—If, for instance, a teacher is not satisfactory from a religious point of view, who cares what his teaching may nominally be?852 What does that mean except that the secular instruction is merely the nominal, instruction that goes on, for which nobody cares, while the real object of the school is the religious instruction for which he contends?
I am not going into the details of the Bill. There are only two points I desire to put before the House. I do not know what the principle or lack of principle of this Bill may be, but I believe that, under it, in the long run we should find that the Church schools, 14,000 in number, will be absolutely in clerical hands. The principle which, in my opinion, ought to govern these schools is that it should depend upon the contribution given. If there is a school supported entirely by voluntary effort, I would give the whole government of that school into voluntary hands. If, on the other hand, there is a school supported entirely out of Government funds, the control of that school should be wholly in Government hands. In this Bill and in these schools, we are dealing with a mid-position between those two, and we have to determine as best we can the fair and righteous way of dealing with the government of these schools. We have on the one hand the voluntary managers, who naturally, and rightly from their own point of view, are trying to get as much power as they can; and on the other hand we have the Vice-President of the Council, who is trustee to the State, and who will try to get for the State as much representation as he can in the management of these schools. Under the Bill the voluntary management will subscribe the equivalent of rent and repairs, and some amount of voluntary subscriptions. That seems to be a fair way of putting it. The real point we have to consider, therefore, is what proportion to the whole budget of the school the rent, repairs, and voluntary subscriptions form. The First Lord of the Treasury, when introducing the Bill, estimated that the cost of building the schools would amount to about £26,000,000. I think he was calculating on 14,000 schools at about £2,000 each. If you put a rent on that sum, it would come to nearly £1,000,000, and the whole of the voluntary subscriptions and repairs may he put at £500,000, or £1,500,000 in all. The sum spent by the State on 853 these schools is about £5,000,000, so that the amount subscribed by the voluntary management comes to about one-fifth, or loss. I submit that when the State contributes four-fifths of the expenditure it ought not to be satisfied with one-third of the control. It has been taken for granted that one-third of the representation on this authority will be some guarantee that the voluntary managers will not have their own way completely. There is no reason at all for that supposition. If a reactionary Committee is appointed by a reactionary County Council, there is no guarantee at all that the added man will not be a churchwarden or some one on the vicar's side. There ought to be a representative not merely of the Educational Committee which meets at a distance, but also of the Parish Council or the local authority which knows the actualities on the spot.
There is one other point. This Bill appears to me to place in perpetuity these 14,000 schools under the domination of the clerical party. I would not mind so much if it were only to last during the life of one Parliament, but when the Bill proposes that the power over these schools should be placed for ever and ever in clerical hands, I think that is a measure to which Parliament ought not to give its assent. For these reasons, although the Bill be amended in Committee, as long as it puts the predominating power in the hands of the voluntary managers of these schools, I, for one, shall vote against it at every stage.
§ (5.10.) SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)
As one who is not a novice in the work of education, I hope the House will permit me to express my views on this Bill. An additional reason for desiring to take part in this debate is the fact that, although I was not a Member of the House in 1870, I was associated with Mr. Forster by the closest bonds of personal friendship. Moreover, I was hon. secretary of the National Education Union, an institution brought into existence in antagonism to the Birmingham Education League. It is a somewhat remarkable incident in a prolonged political life that, while in 1870 I was strongly opposed to my right hon. friend the Member for West Birmingham, I am today, thirty years after, supporting 854 him in an educational measure touching an important branch of our national life.
Reference has been made to the urgency of the question. I would venture to repeat the sentiment which has been so often urged, because I believe it lies at the very root of the matter. If this were not a day of national emergency, it might be unfair to ask Members on either side of the House to surrender their predilections or even their prejudices. But this is a day of national emergency, and it is only right that Members should be willing to make some sacrifice of personal convictions, in order to attain a great national end. The question of our deficiency in technical education has been brought closely home to me as a native and a representative of Lancashire. In former days, as I watched the fire in my room, I have thought what a pity it was that the brilliant colours I then saw should not be made use of for manufacturing. England discovered the application, and invented the aniline dyes. But the importance of the discovery was not appreciated, and it was left to the Gentians to derive the greatest advantage from the industry, the development of which was entirely at the command of England. I do not think it is known in this country how great is the loss we have sustained. I have seen on the banks of the Rhine some of those large establishments for the manufacture of aniline dyes. The works themselves are gigantic, but they are the least part of the institutions. They are in neighbourhoods which are the dwellings of a thriving population. I have one in my mind where every workman has a beautiful garden round his house, where the houses increase in size according to the importance of the inmate, where the leading partners in the concern dwell under pleasant circumstances in the midst of the workpeople, and where there are admirable schools, beautiful churches, and every provision for the comfort with which we desire to surround the habitations of working men. When I saw all that in Germany, I could not help thinking 855 what a pity it was that we had not the same advantages for our Lancashire population.
I desire to make one or two fragmentary observations before going more fully into the Bill. References have been made to the pupil teachers. It has not been sufficiently noticed that the pupil teacher of to-day is the result of accident. He was devised by Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth, I think, as an improvement on the monitorial system. I do not look upon the pupil teacher system as anything more than a temporary expedient. It was examined into a few years ago by a Commission, and the Report of that Commission led to an inquiry by the National Society. I had the honour of sitting on that Committee, and the impression produced on my mind was that, although for a few years the system might continue, it was a condemned system, and could not form a permanent part of our national system of education.
With regard to training colleges, we are terribly behind the Continent. In foreign capitals, and towns of any magnitude, we cannot help being struck by the large size of the buildings devoted to the training of teachers. Within those noble structures the education is prolonged and complete, and the teachers go into active life thoroughly equipped with all the intellectual, moral, and physical advantages which they require. Across the Atlantic, our American relations have adopted the same system, and it is on the basis of that system that they have built up, in large measure, their most successful scheme of national education.
Then I should like to refer to what I may call the overgrown school. I do not believe that schools containing 1,000 or 1,200 children are popular amongst parents, or that they are valuable educational agencies. They seem to turn out children just as a manufacturer turns out pieces of cloth. The mechanical side of education is too dominant, and the loss of sympathy, tenderness, and what I may term "humanity," is very great. Schools in which each individual child can be better known tend far more effectively to the cultivation of those higher qualities which it is the imperative endeavour of every educationist to produce.
856 Coming more closely to the Bill, I venture to express my great satisfaction at the measure the Government have introduced. I do not say it is perfect, I do not think it will pass through Committee without alteration; but it does meet the main condition which we have been endeavouring, during many years, to force on the Government—viz., that it should be a complete system covering the whole ground, that it should be a permanent system, so far as any system can be permanent, and that the educational world should be able to look forward to many years during which this system—with modifications, no doubt, and some improvement as time goes on—would be the central feature in the education of the country. That condition is very necessary. We have wasted much time in these controversie. If we can once establish a system which is the basis of a permanent arrangements, we shall learn from experience day by day and year by year, and it will be for a future rather than the present generation to reap the wholesome fruit. The work of education must necessarily be slow. It is to the sons and daughters of those who are now children that we must look for the diffusion through the whole of the community of that sound education which will really, for the first time, give that which we so greatly desire to sec in this country.
§ The question of area has always been one of great importance. When we deal with areas, we require one of large size; and I am sure that no area less than the county or county borough is equal to the duties which the authority must have imposed upon it. Without a large area you cannot have any security for an enlightened public opinion, the necessary resources, or that staff of teachers without which no system of education can be effective.
§ There is one blot on the Bill which has made its appearance at this early stage—viz., as regards the small local authority. If that part of the Bill remains, it can be rendered effective and useful only if the power of combination is freely exercised. We have an example in the borough which I have the honour to represent. We are building a technical school at a cost of £50,000, and are receiving assistance from, the surrounding authorities by means of combination. That great technical school, in the centre of the largest mining 857 population in the country, will thus derive much financial support. That plan has been followed in other districts; and I believe, if it is carried out, it will be found to be of as much benefit in other places as in South Lancashire. I certainly hope that every facility will be given to the formation of these combinations, and that the objection to the small district will be entirely removed by the free, and, if necessary, compulsory use of such powers of combination.
Now we come to the constitution of the authority. The Government are adopting a plan in which there are many points of similarity to that mentioned by Mr. Forster on the introduction of his Bill in 1870. The first scheme was that the elective body in the towns should be the Town Council. He said—
The electoral body we have chosen for the towns is the Town Council. I do not think there can be much dispute upon that point. In the country we have taken the best model we can find—the selected vestry where there is one, and the vestry where there is no selected vestry. Whom are they to elect here? We thought the most simple provision, after all, the best. We allow them to elect whom they think fit.
§ That is really the first clause of the Bill, carrying out the original idea of Mr. Forster.
§ Then comes the question of direct or indirect election. It is a circumstance worthy of note that the most successful institutions in connection with education in this country are the Technical Instruction Committees. Every county, I believe, except two, has elected such a Committee, and their success proves the wisdom of that mode of constitution. It is the custom of the House to refer to America. I read today an interesting report published in March of this year giving the constitution of the educational authority in the city of Toronto. Toronto is one of the most progressive communities in the whole of Ontario. It has a population of 220,000, with a university, and also another college of great magnitude and importance. The constitution of these authorities in Toronto is as follows: The High School Board is appointed by the Council, and the public School Board, the Public Library Board, and the Technical School 858 Board by the Council and other representative bodies such as the Board of Trade and the Trades and Labour Council. This is on exactly the same system of administration as is suggested by the Government in this Bill.
§ As regards School Boards, I have but a few words to say. I have never joined in the language of denunciation in which some of my friends have indulged. I have seen too much of School Board work, and I value it too highly, to use any such language respecting its work. It so happens that one of the most impressive addresses which I ever heard respecting the greatest tragedy which this world ever saw was delivered in a pupil teachers' centre under School Board auspices. I can never forget that address, and I do not desire to conceal the indignation which I feel when language is used respecting School Board teaching which I believe to be eminently unjust in regard to their work. Some reference has been made to my right reverend friend the Bishop of Rochester. He has spoken in terms of friendship respecting the School Board system. One of the greatest works which he did while at Leeds was the part he took in the election of the School Board shortly before he became Bishop. He described the School Board system at that time as being a good working Christian system. That was the term he used in the controversy, and it is a phrase by which, I believe, he is willing to abide. At any rate, I am expressing his sentiment, and I think I am giving the exact text.
§ There is one objection to the School Board election which I think has scarcely been mentioned in these debates. I refer to election by the cumulative vote. No one who has taken any part in School Board elections can fail to know the impossibility of accurately gauging public sentiment by an election conducted on the principle of the cumulative vote. I speak from experience in this matter, having been called upon to take part on more than one occasion in the School Board election of the city of Bradford. But if there is a difficulty with regard to the cumulative vote, there is still a greater difficulty with regard to the voters. It is not known how few take part in these elections, and how difficult it is to induce voters to take the trouble of approaching 859 the poll. The time, I am sure, is fully ripe, looking to the apathy of the electoral body, when there should be a change in the nature of that suggested in the Bill. Some are of opinion, judging from their speeches, that this country is enamoured of the School Board system, and that there is a great desire to have School Boards throughout the whole country. There is disappointment on their part that there is any place where a School Board is not in operation. In the report last year of the Education Department there is a statement showing the number of School Boards and the circumstances under which they were constituted. It is an instructive document. In the counties and municipal boroughs, excluding London, there were 197 School Boards, and of these fifty-seven were compulsory, and 140 voluntary. In unincorporated towns and rural districts there were 2,347 School Boards, and of these 1,093 were compulsory, 205 were created by the necessity of meeting deficiencies by closing, and only 1,049 were constituted on the application of the people. The net result is that of 2,544 School Boards, 1,150 have been constituted by the compulsory action of the Central Department. I think that is a circumstance worthy of mention, and it goes far to show that the School Board system does not enjoy that popularity which some friends of it would desire us to believe. I am not speaking in depreciation of School Boards and their work, but I do say that the figures I have ventured to cite go to show that they do not enjoy that universal popularity of which we hear so much on the platform and in the House of Commons.
§ There is one provision in the Bill which I think is admirable, and that is the elasticity and the variety which will be possible in education should the Bill become law. We cannot have a system of rigid uniformity. The country will not endure a drastic code, but at the same time the system, which forms part of the Bill, that there shall be schemes constituted to meet the wants of different places, will give power to the central authority to sea that there is some uniformity of idea running through the whole system, and will prevent that falling away from want 860 of zeal in some cases which may be injurious to the work of education. The analogy of Wales, I am sure, is very encouraging. There has been success in Wales. I believe there will be like success in England, too. If I read the Bill rightly, it is a mistake to say that there is no compulsion. There is, I think, the same compulsion in this Bill as now exists in Wales. There is compulsion to frame a scheme under the Bill, and there is compulsion to frame schemes in Wales; but when a scheme is once in operation, it depends on the free will of the authorities to carry it out or let it languish. We must rely on public opinion in all these matters. It is totally impossible in education to force the pace. You can only advance by having public opinion at your back, and by gradually advancing as public opinion advances with you. In that way you ensure a safe and sure passage to the goal which you desire to reach.
§ I shall not make remarks on the religious aspect of the question. That has been, I think, sufficiently discussed already. I think I have already seen signs of agreement as regards religion. I believe that we all feel the necessity of advancing religious teaching in our schools. Something has been said about conscientious, conviction. I believe there is nothing so hurtful to conscientious conviction as a purely secular system. I am quite sure, when you come to deal, as you must deal, with tender consciences, there is less injury done to susceptibilities and convictions by the plan of the Government than by adopting any method which would practically lead to secular education, pure and simple, among the people of this country.
§ There is one difficulty in this Bill which has been spoken of by previous speakers, and to which I must make some reference, and that is the optional clause. I believe the optional clause has no friends. I have heard no commendation of that clause in the course of the debate in this House. I have had the honour of receiving a communication from the Technical Instruction Committee of the borough I represent, in which they commend the Bill, and desire that I should do what I can in the House to pass it through Parliament. But, while speaking in these terms of the Bill, they 861 condemn the optional clause, and I do most sincerely hope that before this debate reaches a conclusion we shall hear that the optional clause has been withdrawn. I wish to say one or two words with reference to Clause 8, which deals with control. I confess I am greatly surprised to hear objections to that clause from so many quarters. It appears to me that the control which remains to the managers of local schools is little indeed. There is control in Whitehall, and there is another control in the County Council, the only constituted local authority, and I think what remains of Clause 8 in the hands of managers is far less than the critics of that clause have fully realised or believe. On the other hand, I do not think that those with whom I act in some of those matters with reference to religious education have sufficiently appreciated the enormous burden which they are undertaking in regard to the buildings. The great difficulty we have before us, as the friends of the voluntary schools, is the condition of our buildings. They are very inferior in plan to those which are now prevalent, and, being inferior in plan, the wear and tear of twenty years has rendered them unfit to play their part in education. We have before us in connection with this clause enormous expense in the erection of new buildings. The cost must be very considerable. We know what the cost of schools is in great towns, but even in manufacturing villages the figures reach a large amount. I have in my mind at this moment a manufacturing village where the number of children is about 500, and the school has cost £15,000. The voluntary schools are asked to erect schools on the same lines as the school in Yorkshire to which I refer. I certainly do think that the bargain—if I may call it a bargain—under Clause 8 is a severe bargain with the friends of voluntary schools, and I feel the greatest surprise that it has not been more cordially welcomed by those who take a different view from ourselves on this subject. As regards the nomination on the managing body of one-third only, it must not be forgotten that this third necessarily holds the power of the purse. They represent those who have to pay out the money, and therefore they have an authority far in excess of the other 862 members of the Committee. Some remarks have been made by previous speakers in regard to the small schools. I confess that that part of the Bill relating to small schools will require considerable amendment. As regards public control, I may be allowed to call public attention to a passage in the Report of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education. That Commission deprecate too much control. They think that secondary schools ought to be allowed considerable freedom, that they ought to be allowed to try experiments based on experience of the locality, and that the cause of education will be greatly advanced by these experiments.
§ There is one remark I wish to make before I resume my seat, and as to which I do not wish to be misunderstood. I believe I am as good a friend of education as any Member of this House, but I am by no means certain that much of the money spent on education has been wisely spent. It does not, however, follow that, because money has been spent freely, it has been spent usefully. I believe that much money spent on buildings might have been more usefully spent in the cause of education. If the managers had been more modest in their policy as regards construction there might have been more comfort to the pupils, the work of education might have been more satisfactory both to the teachers and those who received the instruction. I think it would be an advantage to the friends of education if a different system of construction of the school buildings were adopted. Something has been said, and well said, as regards overlapping. Overlapping very often means redundancy. I know of cases where a technical school has been erected in the immediate neighbourhood of an endowed school which was doing good work, and where the endowed school has been greatly injured by the rivalry of a school which was doing exactly the same work as the endowed school. I have already said that the work of education cannot be completed in this country in one generation. We are only laying the foundation now. The work will be carried on generation after generation, and it will only be at the end of half a century that we shall have attained the goal reached either by Germany or America. We 863 are only beginning the work of which a future generation will see the end, and it is our duty to insist that the foundation is well and truly laid and that our successors shall reap the benefit of our labours under conditions which to us of this day are a vision and a dream.
§ (5.52.) MR. MATHER (Lancashire, Rossendale)
I feel that the debate on this great question has been conducted in a manner worthy of the House of Commons. The spirit exhibited on both sides has been most conciliatory, so far as the Bill before us enables this great question to be discussed. I think there has been a fair appreciation on both sides of the House of the motives which led the Government to bring the Bill before the House and the purposes they had in view. But I cannot forbear expressing the opinion that neither the Government nor those who, up till now, have addressed the House are sufficiently aware of the great magnitude and the far-reaching issues involved in the measure now under consideration. The last speaker, the hon. Member for Wigan, stated that the educational status of Germany and America had not been attained in a day. That is true, and it is because it is true, that we must realise that we have long years to make up educationally before we can place our people—the finest people in the world—on the same educational plane as is enjoyed by those nations with whom we rank in extending the civilisation of the world.
I think it may not be lost time if I endeavour to place before the House, for a few minutes, the position we have to face in England, especially in competition with that nation—our own kith and kin across the Atlantic—whose progressive development during the last twenty years has astonished the world, and whose standard we have to aspire to by very much the same process they have had to go through. I had the honour of visiting the United States on the invitation of the late Mr. Mundella, and of spending the greater part of a year in inquiring into technical education there, for the purpose of reporting to the Royal Commission on the subject in 1883. I was therefore enabled to see the enormous difference between ourselves and America, and even Germany, in the application of a cultured intelligence to all the purposes 864 of life. I do not wish to deal with sordid interests and material gain. I sympathise with the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich, who reminded us that life was not all compounded of money-grubbing or even of sensual comfort, but that its true issuesare highandnoble ideals; and that it is the duty of the country to inculcate in our youths and maidens the highest truths of Christianity. I have no issue with the noble Lord on that subject, nor, I am sure, has any Member on this side of the House. The quality of religious training, however, with us, as it has always been in America, is deficient in the view of those who consider dogmatic and theological teaching of more value than the simple old commandments and the teaching of our Lord Himself—which every child can understand. In America they have no sectarian religious instruction, but education in the public schools is associated from the very beginning with a high moral training. And it has been discovered that, in order to develop the highest religious as well as the intellectual faculties of their people, it was necessary to have a system of secular instruction of the most perfect and complete character. I would remind the House that the position we have to face is that in America there are 16,000,000 children in daily attendance at public, primary, and high schools, and that instruction is given free to all sorts and conditions and classes of children at an annual cost of 43 millions sterling from public taxation. There are 5,000 high schools, with property amounting to £20,000,000 sterling; and 2,000 private schools, with property amounting to £11,000,000 sterling. In these institutions there were, in 1890, 280,000 students from whom no payment was required, while in 189G there were 480,000 students. In all the public and private educational institutions below the colleges there was a daily attendance of 646,000 students of from fourteen to eighteen years of age, all being trained for industrial, professional, or educational life. In addition to that, there are 484 colleges and universities, provided by State funds and private beneficence, besides 162 women's colleges and 48 technological schools, the total value of which amounts to 57 millions sterling. That is what is being done in a 865 country with which we shall have to compete in the future not only in industrial enterprise, but also in the intellectual, and probably in the moral, sphere. In the State of Massachusetts alone there are 262 high schools. I have myself visited towns in America, with only a population of 5,000 inhabitants, which have a high school for boys and another for girls, or a mixed high school. Now, in my own division of Rossendale, in Lancashire, there is a population of 70,000, and there is only one high school—a Grammar school capable of receiving 100 boys—a school partially endowed, no thanks to the present generation. The girls in that division have to travel by rail to a neighbouring town at great inconvenience and considerable expense in order to enjoy the advantages of a high school training. In America children have an enormous advantage. They have at their very doors, associated with the elementary schools, high schools through which all the children can pass absolutely free. It is one of the characteristics of these American schools that they are all conducted on such principles and under such a system that the scholars or students, whether in the primary or in the high schools, regard school life as the happiest and most joyous time of their existence. They have apparently only one desire, and that is, in some degree, to excel. The teachers are devoted to their occupation; thousands upon thousands of them are trained in the normal colleges, and, therefore, the entire system is one organic whole, leading the humblest boy and girl to the highest position to which education can take them, if they are able to avail themselves of the opportunity.
That, roughly, is the system which exists in the nation nearest to ourselves in characteristics, and the nation which is likely to compete with us intellectually as well as commercially in the future. I ask—Is it fair to the children of the United Kingdom that their opportunities should be so few as compared with the opportunities given to the children of the great nation across the Atlantic? I can imagine everyone saying, "No, it is not fair." The Government have, in consequence, brought in 866 a Bill ostensibly to place the educational system of England on a proper basis. I will admit to the Vice-President that this Bill is a very large Bill in the sense that it is comprehensive; but it is so attenuated that it seems; to be almost impossible to build up a national system of education out of it worthy of this country, capable of maintaining this country in the position it has held in the past, or of, in any degree, competing with the intellectual life and power of America and Germany. Considered from that point of view, is it not the duty of this House, is it not a solemn obligation on Parliament, that we should face this question with large minds? Beware of this, that no limited expenditure of money can have any relation to the object proposed. Money is the last thing that should be considered in relation to education. It is useless to tell us, who have, in this House and out of it, for so many years advocated a better national system of instruction, capable of giving our people the advantages enjoyed by the people of other nations, that it would cost a great deal of money. I know it would cost a great deal of money; and I know that under present conditions the Government have shrunk from encountering the cost of a thoroughly national system of education based on the lines of education in other countries with which we will have in future to compete. But the great crux in the situation, of course, has been the eternal religious difficulty.
I can understand the adherents of the Church of England, and those who believe in voluntary denominational education, saying that if the Liberal Party or the Nonconformist Party can suggest a scheme by which the children of this country can be trained efficiently and well, other than partly through the voluntary schools that exist today, they might be inclined to listen to them. We all know perfectly well that our voluntary and denominational schools are providing, under Government inspection, more than half the elementary education of the country. Those schools cannot be removed without making provision of a far-reaching character, which would cost a vast sum of money. For my own part, I do not believe it would be possible in this country to have a system of instruction worthy of our history, capable of carrying it on to future ages of more 867 intellectual requirements and achievements, retaining the same priority we have enjoyed in the past, unless we have a national system from top to bottom under public control, leaving out altogether the question of voluntary or denominational schools in our reckoning of what we should provide for the people. The Leader of the House very truly said that we have today half the children of the country in such schools. Those schools cannot be immediately replaced. They have cost a great deal of money, and, owing to the gifts of their owners, and partial assistance from the State, they are now performing a work which we cannot immediately provide for. I am quite willing to accept that view. We cannot immediately replace these schools; we must make use of them, until Parliament is determined to spend £50,000,000 in order to build training colleges for teachers, a sufficient number of high schools, so that every locality in the country with a population of 5,000 shall have one, and also technical schools and secondary schools of all grades; and, underlying all these, an extension of primary board schools under popular control, to gradually replace the voluntary and denominational schools. I would be quite prepared to spend that money if I had it in my own pocket; but I admit that, considering the demands on the Chancellor of the Exchequer owing to the war, I cannot now urge a scheme of that kind. Meantime, we have to make use of what we possess, namely, the board schools and the denominational schools.
I do not know whether I am right, but, judging from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House on the First Reading of this Bill, and also by what has been said by the Vice-President, I have come to the conclusion that voluntary schools will, ipso facto, cease to exist as such if this Bill passes. The noble Lord the Member; for Greenwich, in his extremely able and delightful speech, alluded indirectly to the same point, perhaps not desiring to make of it what I should like to make of it. I understand that, when the voluntary schools receive from the State and from the rates the whole cost of the education they supply, ipso facto they cease to be voluntary schools. The only reason for their existence today is because they are partially supported by the subscriptions 868 of their owners. They receive State grants by the will of Parliament, but these grants do not cover the whole expenditure of the schools. These grants are given in order that the schools may still continue to give denominational teaching during a certain hour of the day, but the balance of the expenditure must be obtained from their own resources. Under this Bill though I know it is not actually declared in words, the whole cost of the voluntary schools now in existence will be paid out of the rates and by Treasury grants. We all know, taking human nature as it is, that as soon as this Bill passes with such a provision, the subscriptions will cease, and that the contribution which the owners of voluntary schools will make will consist of the use of the buildings, which they undertake to keep painted and papered and in decent order. That will be inevitable. Why-should it be anything else? If we pass this Bill, why should the owners of voluntary schools give a farthing for any other purpose except for the upkeep of the buildings?
Under these circumstances, I cannot arrive at any other conclusion than that the voluntary schools will cease on the passing of this Bill. What rights will they then have left? They will have the right of denominational teaching. That is to say, the owners of the schools, be they Roman Catholic or Church schools, will, for a certain prescribed limit daily, have the right of teaching their own creeds by catechism or by any other means. Why is that right to be retained? On what ground of justice is it to be retained? It is retained on the ground of the bargain involved in the clauses of this Bill which imply that the Government says, "We will not take from you your schools at a rental. You shall give us the use of the buildings and maintain them in good repair for secular instruction, and we will allow you to continue denominational teaching in them in return for this contribution." I think the voluntary schools for secular teaching will be abolished, so soon as the whole cost is borne by public funds, by an automatic process; for then they will have become public schools. But the denominational principle of teaching 869 in the schools is purchased by the owners of these schools through the accommodation they offer by their buildings. This Bill presents this thin partition between the absolute suppression of all denominational teaching, and when that partition is swept away, denominational teaching ceases. That may be undesirable, but I am not going to argue the religious question now. I belong to all denominations. I can worship in any Church. I see good in every Church. The Church of England and all denominations receive my humble contributions. I am always glad to support any religion that has anything of good in it. If I see a Church, of any kind, teaching the duty of religion in relation to life, then, in an indirect degree, I think I am a member of that Church.
In this matter of denominational school buildings supplying accommodation for three millions of children I think the circumstances of today are so difficult that if we had the power we should not be justified in denying the rights which these schools have had for thirty years past under the Act of 1870. But if they are to enjoy those rights, under what conditions must they enjoy them when they are no longer voluntary schools? We ought to say: You can enjoy the control in the management of these schools to the extent which your contribution to the object of the school represents. If you take a denominational school for 500 children, an excellent school, provided with all the accessories, will cost about £5,000. Supposing the rent of that school was £250, with another £50 added for repairs, then you get £300 a year, which might be the rent that would be charged if the school were given over to the local authorities altogether. To the extent of that sum, contributed to the total cost of education in that form, the denominationalists deserve representation. The representation which the local authority ought to have must also be in proportion to what they contribute. If they contribute £1,200 from public funds to maintain that school as a highly efficient and excellent school, the proportion would be as four to one between the local educational authority proposed under the Bill and the owners of the school buildings. The denominational 870 owners cannot ask for more than one-quarter of the representation. That is logically correct and true. But I do not know that we ought to be so nice about the proportion as to say that we should have the proportion of four to one, or any exact proportion; but in the Amendment which I hope to move on this Bill, if I may be allowed to say so, at a subsequent stage, I would claim, under these circumstances, that at least half of the local school management committees, appointed by the local education authority, plus one, must be the least majority, in order to deal justly with the public control of the school. That may destroy the voluntary character of the schools, but it does not interfere with nor destroy the privileges allowed to them by Parliament of teaching, within proper limits, the tenets of the Church to which the school buildings belong. This public control covers a great principle, which many Members of this House cannot see violated without much vehement opposition.
Now, another part of the Bill deals with what, in my opinion, is by far the most important part of this matter—the question of the local education authority. During my absence in Egypt, my right hon. friend, if I may call him so, in the lucid and admirable speech in which he introduced the Bill, made a very kindly allusion to the great interest I take in education. He then traversed the statement which I had made in this House last year about America, and said it was not quite in accordance with the facts. I have looked up the statements in the short speech which he referred to, and I certainly find that, while the words I used might bear the interpretation which my right hon. friend placed upon them, they are absolutely true for the purposes for which I used them. I said that all schools in America were under the control of School Boards. I should have said School Boards and School Committees. The School Board is elected in the United States, or, at least, in the majority of the States, though in some cases it is appointed by nomination of the Councils; but, when once formed, it is absolutely responsible. When once elected, the Boards have absolute control over all grades of education except the colleges; nor can authorities who 871 may have appointed them interfere with their action during the period of time for which they have to serve. They design, construct, and erect schools I under what is called in America an "appropriation." The Town Council, the city authority, or the State Legislature will appropriate money in a lump sum every year for education, and this sum is placed in the hands of these Boards, who are responsible to the country, as well as to those who appoint them, for the work they do. I do not believe that there is a case in recent years on record where a presentation of those School Boards has been denied or has ever been the subject of argument by the Town Councils who give the money which the Boards represent as necessary. It has become equal to our precept for education. The spread of education in America causes people to give freely, no matter how heavy may be their taxation. There are many places where one-fifth or one-sixth of the whole amount at which the town is taxed is paid over to these educational authorities.
Now let us look at this Bill from a business point of view. I should think it would be difficult for any business man to conceive such a scheme to work out well as this Bill lays down for the management of our schools in future. It seems to me that the framers of this Bill have gone all the way round by circumlocutory methods in order to arrive at a stage of indetermination. If they had provided for the School Committees being absolutely responsible after they were formed I should not have minded, for in that case you would have had a body of men giving as much time to education as a member of a School Board gives today. But I agree entirely with my hon. friend the Member for Berwickshire that affecting this question is the supersession of the School Boards now existing, which is a very important—which is a vital point. Why should we have any discussion in this House as to what School Boards have done, or what they have not done, when we know that as a whole they have done their work remarkably well? The Leader of the House has said so; the Vice-President of the Council has said so. There have been innumerable references made to the good work that has been done by the School Boards. But the proposal in the Bill is to suppress 872 School Boards and to give their duties to the Borough and City Councils. If you are going to deal with such an important and complex matter as secondary education, and keep primary education up to the same high condition in which it is at the present time under the School Boards, you are going to place a task on the Borough and City Councils, who are to undertake this duty, impossible for them to perform. They would have no special knowledge or experience, and in a large measure owing to their composition, no will and no interest in education, having regard to their other duties. They would, of course, be glad to see schools in their towns; but to take the conduct of the work on themselves, without some years' practice, would be to take on something of which they are not capable.
Why not adopt the simple plan in relation to this matter? Leave the School Boards as they are today in the larger towns and areas, with certain additional obligations which you could place upon them by this Bill, and let them continue in their task of providing for the whole of the primary education both in board schools and in the voluntary schools now to be cast upon the public funds. There would be equality then for all the children; the children of the denominational schools would have the same advantages as the children of the board school. That is the first consideration in respect to education from this time forward—that all the children of the country shall have equality of opportunity in every school supported by public money. This is a simple plan. Let a statutory obligation be placed on the School Board in future, and upon the secondary education authority, to prepare a scheme under which there should be absolute unity of administration. Such a system already exists in some of the large towns of the country. We must look at the expression "one authority" more from the point of view of securing one aim and purpose than that of having simply one set of persons. You will secure all that you can possibly secure by one authority if you compel the School Board and the local authority, under a statutory obligation, to draw up a scheme to secure perfect harmony, unity, and economy between the two sets of schools. 873 Look at what an immense relief that would give to the work of the new authorities. They would be able to devote themselves to what, after all, is the most important and vital of all the work that is to be done, viz., the establishment of a large and comprehensive system of secondary education. I think the local authorities may, by degrees, be trained to a position of that kind. They have made a beginning under the Technical Instruction Act of 1889. In 1889, when the Technical Instruction Bill was before the House, all sorts of charges were levelled against my party allegiance and my views of education, because I ventured to say that for technical instruction purposes the Town Council would be as good a body as you could get. But the result has shown that I was correct in my view. In the question of technical instruction there is a trade and commercial element involved. Town Councils think it will pay to have technical instruction schools, which, in a sense, are trade schools, and they have gone heartily into the work of administration, with a considerable amount of success. The whiskey money naturally gave an impetus to the work, and large benefits have accrued to the country therefrom. I would take this authority as the secondary education authority under our present conditions. But, in the first instance, they must be encouraged to spend large sums of money to make the work satisfactory, and to secure the establishment of the system within the shortest possible time. In addition to that, the right hon. Gentleman would do well, when in Committee, to put down a clause pledging Parliament to give £1,000,000 throughout the country, in the same way as the whiskey money was distributed, for the purpose of starting and improving secondary education. By that means an enormous encouragement would be given to the people sympathising with and engaged in this work, and they would be bound to levy rates to an equal or greater amount. There should be no limit placed in this matter, so that there might be provided a system of secondary instruction such as would be worthy of our country in the next generation.
874 I would appeal to the House to rise to the height of its intelligence, magnanimity, and patriotism, in order that this Bill should not be allowed to emerge from Committee until it has been made into a thoroughly efficient and lasting measure of primary and secondary education. Now is the golden time. There should be no question of the war having any influence in this matter. England is so wealthy that we are told we can put £50,000,000 there, and £10,000,000 here, and another £10,000,000 somewhere else, and yet recover ourselves in a few years. It would be quite worth while to borrow money on good terms and have the repayment spread over a long period of years—which it might well be in the matter of education. At any rate, the matter should be taken in hand at once. Do not postpone this great work to a future generation. Do justice to the children of the day, and so prepare them that the country may be equal to the obligations and great possibilities of the future. This is a matter in regard to which we ought to put aside all our prejudices, selfish interests, and partial affections. I believe in the House of Commons. I believe it worthily represents the people of England as a whole, and that in this matter of education it is capable of doing that which the people require. I believe that its patriotism does not run only in the direction of finding money for war purposes, but that it is able to see that there are other questions which cannot wait. We are losing the golden hours; what is more, we are losing a portion of the value which lies in the brain, the spirit, and the character of so many of our young people. From this point of view I regard the matter as one of the utmost gravity and importance. I am ashamed, when I go abroad, that I cannot boast of my country having equal opportunities for its young people as other countries possess and, so far as my humble voice has any weight, I raise it on this occasion to urge that this matter should be so dealt with in Committee as to broaden this Bill, and courageously and patriotically face the duty before us.
§ (6.40.) MR. PEEL (Manchester, S.)
I find myself in agreement with many statements made by the hon. Gentleman opposite. I agree that the competitor 875 we have to fear in our commercial contests is much more the American than the German. Having some knowledge of both countries, I have no hesitation in saying that our real danger comes from America. I was rather astonished at certain observations which fell from the hon. Baronet opposite. He seemed anxious to split the Bill into two parts, and, while dealing with the elementary portion of it, to postpone the secondary portion.
§ MR. PEEL
As I understand, he wanted us to ask the local authorities to make some investigations into the supply of secondary education, and then, those inquiries having been made, some other lengthy process was to take place. I wonder he did not propose a Royal Commission, or some other equally successful method of shelving the question for a few years. I think his speech in that respect is sufficiently answered by the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire, who dwelt upon the immediate necessity of a great improvement in secondary education in this country, and showed that the last thing we have to do is to potter about with such suggestions, instead of giving the local authorities power to deal with the matter at once.
Much has been said on the other side as to the inability of Town or Borough Councils to deal properly with the subject of elementary education. In fact, the last speaker spoke of the Town and County Councils in a somewhat patronising manner, and suggested that after some time they might be trained properly to perform these duties. I have never been able to see much difference between the kind of ability which manages ordinary local affairs and that which is necessary for the conduct of educational matters. I have sat on Main Drainage Committees and on Education Committees, but I have never found that I exercised any very different portions of my brain when dealing with the work of the one or the other, or that when I went from the consideration of matters affecting the one to that of matters affecting the other I had to perform any extraordinary mental gymnastics.
876 From the point of view of local government generally, I welcome this Bill very heartily. It is of the utmost importance that we should, as far as possible, concentrate the whole of our local government. We want to be as economical as we can of our ability. In many of our great boroughs there is a great waste of ability, because men have to sit on one Council and on another, whereas if the whole of the work was concentrated they would be able to give their attention to the varied work of the one Council. I am utterly opposed to an ad hoc, authority for education. However possible it may be to have such an authority in the large towns, it would be not only impossible, but almost absurd, to set up such a thing in the counties. The great mass of the governing ability of the counties is already on the County Councils. In certain counties that I know it would be quite impossible to get another body of anything like the same ability or force as the County Council. The whole life, so to speak, of some of these small counties is centred in the present local bodies. To dissociate these men from the great work of education, and set up another body to do that work, would be one of the worst things that could possibly be done.
It has been said that religious controversy will be introduced into these local bodies, but I think those local bodies will show far greater wisdom than the prophets who have prophesied concerning them in this House. I am pretty well convinced myself that this religious controversy will be so diluted that it will filter down, and that fresher air and more vigorous intellect of these bodies will entirely do away with any danger of that kind, and will present a far broader field of intelligence than any special ad hoc authority that can possibly be provided. I sympathise with those who have dwelt upon the loss of power that will result if we rapidly exchange our School Boards for another authority, but I think that this Bill provides the means by which we can minimise any of that loss. When hon. Members speak of the loss of power, they seem to forget that a great deal of the work of management is carried on by the permanent officials, and who will merely be transferred to 877 the new authority. Under the Bill you have this allowance: These new bodies are able to select and co-operate with the best authorities upon education which they can find in the county and town, and I have no doubt that the best ability on these School Boards will find its way on to these authorities. You may probably make a very good selection. The members of School Boards are not all gems of the first water, and probably the pick of them will find their way on to the new authority. The new experiment which is to be tried is in many ways an interesting one. We have a considerable objection to experts in this country. We regard experts, as a rule, as rather tiresome persons, who know a great deal too much on certain subjects, and whose veracity, even in the Law Courts, is not always above suspicion. We are making a fresh attempt with these new authorities, and, although I share some of the dislike and suspicion which have been attributed to them, I feel we must in the future far more than in the past, and forced thereto by the necessity of competition, make much more use of the trained and expert intellect of the nation than we have done before amongst the representatives on these new authorities. I hope the utmost use will be made of the university colleges in different pans of the country. I have had some little experience myself in Manchester, and I have seen the enormous influence which can be exercised by a single university college in great towns where you find, perhaps, that the general run of opinion and the general ambition is set upon the making of money. It is wonderful to observe the great effect produced on the society of a town like that by having another set of men living side by side with these men in a great city whose ambitions, aims, and principles are of an entirely different nature, who are bent upon educating the young and those connected with culture and learning. I should be glad if these university authorities were to have a more definite position assigned to them. I should like the whole country to be so divided that the university authorities would have the right of appointing a member to the different authorities within certain areas so that you might connect not only your 878 primary and secondary, but your secondary with what the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire calls the tertiary system. The hon. Member for Oldham rather laughed at the one authority, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen attacked the Bill rather on different grounds. He attacked it because it did not sufficiently carry out the idea of a single authority, and because we do not retain all through this one idea of a single authority. This is a matter for criticism in the Bill, and I should have preferred not quite so much freedom given to some of the smaller Borough Councils and urban districts to conduct the education themselves. I am one of those who cannot quite understand the marked distinction in the Bill between a Borough Council and an Urban District Council, and I do not see why a difference in numbers should make such a curious distinction in the powers they are to enjoy.
There is one point about the Bill which I must give my hearty assent to, and that is the great freedom that is allowed for combination between the different authorities. Reference has been made to Lancashire and Yorkshire. In these counties you have continuous districts of houses, and a man can scarcely tell whether he is in an urban district or in a borough. In such cases the power of combination between different urban districts and the parishes in the country, so as to form one authority, will be greatly appreciated. Even in connection with the great county boroughs, it is most important that some of the urban districts closely adjoining—so close that there is absolutely no physical distinction between them—should be able to join together and disregard to some extent the mere local government areas which have been set up and thus give a real attention to the educational necessities of the educational centre which naturally forms itself in those districts. The adoptive clause has been so generally attacked, and its friends have been so few, that I hardly like myself to strike a man who is down; and as the adoptive part is likely to fall through, it would be ungracious on my part to make any further attack upon it. I think almost an excess of freedom has been allowed to local authorities, and it is quite possible, 879 while allowing them the, freest liberty in matters of detail, to give them some more general directions as to the line in which they should go in the matter of secondary education.
We have been reminded that a large number of schools which used to be elementary have now become secondary, and these schools will now be thrown upon the secondary rate, so that the twopenny rate will have a great strain upon it. We should also remember that throwing this burden upon the secondary education rate will lighten the rate for elementary education, and so we need not be so much afraid of throwing a greater burden upon the secondary education rate. I was in hopes that the distinction between primary and secondary education would have been done away with altogether.
The Vice-President of the Council has alluded to the fact that it is impossible to see any difference between the two in administration, and even the philosopher in his arm-chair would be about the only person who would be able to draw a distinction. I do not know that I can call myself a philosopher, but I have tried the arm-chair, and I have not been able to see the difference. A great deal has been said about the question of expense and the extra burdens which will be put upon the country by this Bill. That is perfectly true; but what we have to compare that charge with is the greater burden which would have been laid upon the country if another system had been adopted by sweeping away the whole of the voluntary schools and replacing them by new secular schools under these authorities. I approach the subject of the compromise that has been arrived at with some trepidation, because the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division told us that a compromise was a negation of principle. I have always beenled to believe that the framework of our constitution is based on compromise; and if that is so, I am quite ready to do away with a little more principle and have a little more compromise on this question. It has been urged by hon. Members opposite that the voluntary schools are giving up nothing in the way of control under this Hill. It seems hardly possible for anyone who has read the Bill through to make such a statement, and some of the criticisms 880 I have read which have been passed by keen educationists have confirmed in my mind the opinion that they have not read the whole Bill. How can it be said that they give up nothing when they have practically lost the control over their schools, when in regard to the minutest matter they are absolutely under the control of the local authorities, when public criticism and interest has burst through the portals of their schools, when they cannot even appoint a single teacher without the consent of the local authority, and when at any moment they may have not only the rate aid, but the Government grant as well, withdrawn?
There is one point I should like to be made perfectly clear upon in connection with the representation upon the local authority. I suppose they will have the power of reporting directly to their governing body, because it is obvious that, unless they have a direct channel to report to the local authority, the majority of managers will be able to do what they please. There ought to be a clear means of reporting directly to the local authority. Subject to that—and that is the only thing we have got to look at—there is absolute security for the secular portion of the education of those people. I do not see myself that it matters one bit whether you have, for the purpose of securing secular education, one-third or two-thirds of the managers you appoint; but I do say this with perfect certainty; that it is quite impossible that any kind of control should still be maintained by the managers unless they have this majority, and so have the power to let these teachers see that the religious feeling and tendency is entirely in sympathy with their own. I should like to know what is the precise organic connection of the Education Committee with the local authority itself, because I think that has not been made clear. I should like to know, for instance, whether the complete command of all the details and the settlement of all those matters is to be left to it, or whether it has to report, as other Committees have to report, to the authority itself, because that makes a difference in the kind of control the authority has over it. The Bill is perfectly clear as to the control the local authority has over finance, but if the local authority merely has to vote money, and if it does not scrutinise to some extent details and 881 have reports made co it, there is a possibility of some kind of friction between a Committee so constituted and the local authority itself.
Subject to some details of that kind. I feel that this Bill in its main lines is a great advance on anything we have yet had. It allows immense freedom to those local authorities—a freedom which many speakers on the other side of the House have been led to believe will not always be well used and which will sometimes be abused. The hon. Baronet was afraid that the improvement of secondary education would be postponed, and in that respect I should like to stiffen the Bill and make it compulsory both for secondary and elementary education. If you lay that duty on the local authorities, I believe they will vigorously respond to it. Give them the order, and though they may in some eases grumble, they will, obey. You may rely fully and confidently on the growing interest and enthusiasm in education which are shown in the country. I hear sometimes in this House that little interest and enthusiasm are shown for education. I can only say that in the district which sent me to Parliament—a portion of Manchester, and a, portion of the county of Manchester—I find no coldness or want of enthusiasm whatever. I find rather that, next to the war, there is no subject—and it is admitted that the details of the matter are somewhat dry—there is no subject which arouses the enthusiasm even of a popularaudience more than the education question, and the opportunities given to young men and women to make the best of whatever ability has been bestowed upon them. Knowing that feeling, and with the experience I have gained in Lancashire of the enthusiasm for education, I myself am prepared to trust those new local authorities. They have got the enthusiasm, and where they have not got the experience they can, by this system of co-option, which has been condemned in some quarters, but which I believe as a starting point is most admirable, obtain the assistance of exports, and I believe they will set our primary and secondary education, together with all our education, on a far higher, more satisfactory, and suitable position than we have ever had it before.
(7.6.) MR. ALFRED BUTTON (Yorkshire, W.U., Morley)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down began his speech with a very well-timed compliment to the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich, whose speech greatly interested the House. But I was astonished to find in that speech a reference which the noble Lord made to the Nonconformists. According to that statement, I am one of the allies of the Church of England, but a mistaken and misguided one. I do not think there can be so very much hope of unity of action if one of the allies calls the other one "mistaken and misguided" at the beginning. But the fact of the matter is that the noble Lord based his peroration, eloquent as it was, on what seemed to me, and to many who think like me, a mistaken idea of the duty and the attitude which Parliament must have in relation to religious denominations. I would point out to the noble Lord that Churchmen and Nonconformists must work together if they are to achieve much in regard to the evils of the world; but the noble Lord must climb down a little bit from the attitude he and his friends always take up with respect to the relation between this House and the Church, and you cannot hope for any effective alliance so long as the basis of their action is a close connection with the State and assistance from the Exchequer. He may believe that it is of the utmost importance to the welfare of this country that denominational teaching shall continue in order to keep hold of the rising generation: but there are others, just as anxious as he is to have the continued growth of religious teaching, who believe that that connection is just the one barrier to success, and that the State alliance with the Church is one of the things which prevents that vitality and force which religion ought to have from one end of the country to the other, and I believe it would be very much more efficacious and powerful if left an entirely voluntary agency, rather than that it should receive public money from the Exchequer for its maintenance. The whole of his speech depended upon his ability to secure the assistance of the Government in maintaining this position. I would agree with him in giving all the denominational teaching he may desire in his own schools, but I think that provision for that can be devised perfectly well without its being provided at the expense 883 of the public, and by means of the State. If the proposition which was made as to the control of the schools which was made by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Berwick Division were accepted by the noble Lord and his friends, it would only mean that he would secure secondary education. Surely he does not think that religious education would be given in that way. I know that he and his friends would say that there must be a religious atmosphere in the school, and that the teaching even of secular subjects must be under the religious control of the Church. There I join issue with him. That would be utterly impossible to consent to. But we have learned from him what is the meaning of the "absolute control." It is an entire misnomer.
The Vice-President, throughout the whole of his speech, spoke of the County Council as being the authority established under the Bill. I think that is rather a misrepresentation of the proposal in the Bill. The County Council is really only the nominal authority. [An HON MEMBER: No.] Well, it has to act through this Committee, and the Committee is to be com-posed under a scheme which is to meet with the approval of the Department. I do not think it is at all likely to get any scheme which will give a representative Committee. The Colonial Secretary in his letter spoke of this Committee as a representative Committee. It will only be representative of those various interests brought into it, and it is only through that Committee that the local authority can have a voice in the work of the school. Who will go on to those Committees? They will be formed of those who have objects of their own to serve—the representatives of diocesan associations, Roman Catholics, technical schools, mechanics' institutes, or other corporate agencies of that kind; and I do not think a single representative will go on but to push some particular fad of his own. The right hon. Gentleman told us that what was wanted in these local districts was a plan. What hope is there of getting a plan through this representative Committee, who will have to appease those various agencies? This scheme means intrigue. Why, it has already begun. There was an important meeting 884 of the various diocesan Committees at Truro the other day, and the following resolution was passed—That this meeting is of opinion that no time should be lost in preparing to meet the new conditions which will arise if the Bill becomes law, both with regard to the various bodies intending to apply to the local authority and the choice of tit persons to represent them.You can never hope to have under this Bill the public opinion which the hon. Member for Haddington desires to see. How are you going to rouse public opinion in regard to this authority when you have taken care under the scheme to shut out public opinion? How is it possible to rouse, in regard to these new authorities, that public opinion which the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire declares to be necessary for their success? Care has been taken to shut out public opinion from these new bodies. I quite agree with the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire that public opinion and interest are vital to the improvement of the education of this country. If all the most important experts in the world were represented on the educational authority, and if the best schools that could be devised were established, I do not believe that there would be a satisfactory result unless we could get the people to be interested in the efficiency and maintenance of the schools. That is the reason why I am in favour of that much despised authority called the ad hoc authority. The Vice-President of the Council says that the ad hoc authority is an anachronism. Well, I have been sitting in this House for the past ten years, and it is not the first time I have been told that I was a century out of date. I do not know whether that century is in front or behind; but I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman's ideas as to providing one authority to take charge over all the education in all the schools will be realised even before the next generation. If it be impossible to conceive, as the Leader of the House put it, that Parliament should consent to uproot the denominational schools of the country at one fell swoop, it is equally impossible to conceive that the country will agree to the School Board schools being so uprooted. I could read quotations from the speeches both of Mr. Forster and the Duke of Devonshire in which they express the view that the 885 time would come when School Board schools would cover the whole country. That a County Council should be enabled, merely by a resolution, and without any referendum to the people, to abolish the School Boards in their area and take over the control of all the School Board and voluntary schools, seems to me an action far more revolutionary than the country is likely to accept. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that those who are opposed to this Bill, and who form so important a part of the community, do so because they will not have their interests entirely neglected. I cannot see what the denominational schools are giving up. They are asked to maintain their buildings in repair. Is that a gnat matter? For, after all, they are subsidised schools. But the Bishop of Chester and the Bishop of London have already begun to say that that is a charge which they cannot be expected to bear long; that it is an intolerable strain upon them. We shall next be told, therefore, that we must take over the whole of the voluntary schools and keep them in repair. Then the Bill provides that the Managing Committee of the voluntary schools must consent to have one-third of its members nominated by the Education Committee of the County or Borough Councils, but it is asking too much from the vicar and his friends to consent to be guided by this one-third representation of the public. To call that control, is absurd.
§ THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE COMMITTEE OF COUNCIL ON EDUCATION (Sir JOHN GORST,) Cambridge University
If the hon. Member will read Sub-section (a) of Clause 8, he will see that there is another very important condition.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
What I was referring to was that the managers of the schools shall carry out any directions of the local education authority as to the secular instruction to be given in the schools.
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON
I suppose the Department of Education, which provides most of the funds, will see to that; but who is to be punished if the new Committee refuse to consent to the proposal? As to the appointment of the teachers, the right hon. Gentleman says that Nonconformists cannot bring forward any case in which a religious test has been imposed; but in the very next village to that in which I live I know of two girls whose family were Nonconformists, who regularly attended a Nonconformist place of worship, who were asked to join the Anglican Church as a term of their engagement as teachers. It is impossible to give names, because they are earning their living, and it is a question of bread and butter with them. Such a temptation ought not to be put in the way of young men and young women. One of the provisions of the Bill to remove Nonconformist's grievances is that if the Nonconformists are dissatisfied with the Church schools they may build schools for themselves, which will be afterwards maintained by the educational authority. But I say that that scheme is unsound educationally and economically, because it will double the rates. The remedy is, in fact, worse than the grievance. Again, if new accommodation is to be provided, and if the local authority considers economy to the rates, they will always decide in favour of denominational schools, because these would be entitled to 5s. per child more than undenominational schools, and that is a bribe which no local authority could resist. The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich says that this is simply a Bill to maintain the status quo, but that will only occur in a few special cases in fast-growing towns. I conclude by saying that this Bill seems to be most injurious, because it interferes with great principles—first, with the idea of religious equality in regard to the use of public money; and second, with the old principle of public control in regard to the distribution of public money. The Government will find the opposition to the Bill is so deep-seated that they cannot afford to neglect it.
It being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate was suspended until the evening sitting.