HC Deb 10 August 1904 vol 140 cc39-89

11. "That a sum, not exceeding £536,420, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1905, for Expenditure in respect of the following Service included in the Estimates for Revenue Departments, viz.:—

Post Office Packet Service 536,420"

Resolutions read a second time.

First Four Resolutions postponed.

Fifth Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

MR. CRIPPS (Lancashire, Stretford)

said he wished to call attention to one or two points connected with the subject of denominational religious teaching. Recent Minutes issued by the Board of Education differed in tone from those circulated prior to the Education Act of 1902, and indicated that the Department had adopted a policy which made denominational teaching almost impossible. He felt strongly that if denominational teaching were to be given at all—and Parliament had decided that it should be—then it should be given in no grudging spirit but in the best possible manner, so as to avoid that friction which was one of the worst blots on our educational system. His points related to the time and place at which religious education could be given. Under the Act of 1902 the Board of Education had power to see that reasonable facilities were given for religious education, but in many cases the local authorities, who had power to fix the time at which secular instruction should be given, had drawn up time-tables which denied such facilities. Supposing a school met at nine o'clock, and secular instruction were required to begin at a quarter past nine, it was clear that in the intervening fifteen minutes, during which the register had to be marked and other administrative details to be dealt with, it was utterly impossible that there could be any reasonable facilities for denominational instruction. There could be no doubt that the Board of Education had ample powers to deal with that point, and he wished the Department not to wait until friction had arisen, but to lay down a general principle upon which they would act, in order to endure that the principles of the Act of 1902 should be carried out. He desired that similar facilities should be given to all denominations; in fact, he could not see how any one who approved of denominational teaching could have any other desire.

MR- LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)

Do I understand the hon. Member to suggest that if a local authority gave facilities for religious instruction from, say, a quarter past eleven till twelve o'clock, or from a quarter past three till four o'clock, that would not be reason able?


said he thought that would be reasonable. The religious instruction ought to be given either at the beginning or the end, and he considered the best course was that which had been generally followed, of giving three-quarters of an hour at the beginning of the day. What he wanted to ensure was that, whenever the time was given, it should be given ungrudgingly, and in such a way that disputes should not arise between school managers and the local authority. In regard to the place at which the religious education should be given, he said deliberately that the Board of Education had recently placed difficulties in the way of school managers, Nonconformist or Anglican, as the case might be, taking children to church or chapel, if the parents of the children assented to that course. The Education Act of 1870 provided that any religious instruction might be given "in the school or elsewhere," and from that time, until an Answer was given by the representative of the Board of Education to a Question in that House, no difficulty had arisen. In 1871 the Committee of Council on Education in their Report stated that— A time-table may be approved which provides for the attendance at church on specified days of those whose parents do not object. In 1899 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, who was then Vice-President of the Committee on Education, stated in that House that— The practice of occasionally taking scholars to places of religious worship during the time set apart for religious instruction has never been objected to by the Committee of Council, and is, in their opinion, legal. But since the passing of the Act of 1902, the Board of Education had taken a new departure which, if persisted in, would take away the very privileges which those who believed in denominational education thought to have been preserved by that Act. In May last, the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, answering a Question on the subject asked by the hon. Member for the Abercromby Division of Liverpool, said his reply must depend upon the construction to be placed on Section 7, Sub-section I, of the Act of 1870. But that section was the conscience clause, and had no bearing on the question of taking children to church or chapel with the assent and at the desire of their parents. The representative of the Education Department went on to say that the section mentioned allowed a parent to withdraw his child from school on any day exclusively set apart for religious observance by the religious body to which the parent belonged, but attendance at such observance did not appear to be equivalent to attendance at school, and it followed that the managers of a public elementary school had no right to take the school children to church during school hours. No one suggested that they had, except with the assent of the parents, and if that assent were given the conscience clause did not enter into the question. The hon. baronet added, in the same reply, that religious teaching given in a church could not be part of the instruction provided by the public elementary schools. During the many years in which compulsory education had been given in this country the Department had always allowed religious teaching in that form and had never before taken exception to it. He had received many hundreds of letters upon this subject, and he replied to a request from the secretary of the Church Schools Emergency League for his views in the following terms— I have looked into Section 7 (1) of the Education Act, 1870. It really has nothing to do with the question of so great importance, which you raise, as to the right of managers to continue a practice in religious teaching which has prevailed for so many years. The question to which you call my attention has been carefully framed, and so is the answer. There is no right to take children to church if the parents object, but you are not seeking to set up any such right. There is no power to require the teacher to conduct children to church if he objects, but this is not done in my experience, and his attendance is voluntary. There is no legal objection whatever to the practice of taking children to church, as has been done in the past, and the only difficulty would arise from the local education authorities fixing the school hours for secular teaching at an inconvenient time. On this point the Anglicans should insist on the same treatment as is given to Roman Catholics or Jews, and I can see no answer to the justice of this claim. After that the Board of Education raised an entirely new point. They said that the difficulty arose from a by-law which provided that there must be attendance at school throughout school hours. By-laws were sanctioned by and could be altered at the instance of the Board of Education. This particular by-law had existed up to 1902, and it had never been suggested that it stood in the way of taking children to church when parents desired it. If the by-law went beyond the Act of 1870, it was ultra vires. Did the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education think that, if it were legal under the Act to give religious teaching in churches, the Board of Education were justified in sanctioning a by-law which made religious teaching impossible? No one else had heretofore put any other meaning upon the words of the Act of 1870 than that which he had stated, and the Act of 1902 was passed with that understanding in mind. He did not say that it was a breach of trust, but it was very like misleading the House to permit the Act of 1902 to pass on the basis of that interpretation, and after it had been passed to give a new interpretation and to bring an absolutely new policy into being. Last July a circular, signed by Mr. Morant, the Secretary of the Board of Education, was issued, in which, referring to this particular point, he said— The responsibility which, perhaps, hitherto has not been fully realised. meaning that the Board of Education had not hitherto taken a right attitude upon this question, and that he differed from all his predecessors concerning the subject. How was the important question of denominational education to be dealt with if conflicting decisions were given by the Board of Education? One could scarcely complain of friction arising, or of the attitude of certain hon. Members on the Opposition Benches. In fact, he admired those Members, because he thought they were more consistent than the Anglicans had been in this matter. The Anglicans had not been strong enough or straightforward enough; they had spoken in a spirit of apology when they should have made a demand for justice. In July, 1903, the Rev. Mr. Piper, of the Prickwillow Baptist Chapel in the Isle of Ely, wrote to the Board of Education, asking if the Nonconformist children in the parish could be taken to his chapel for religious instruction, the vicar being willing to assent to this arrangement if it were legally allowable; and the Department replied that the proposal had their fullest sympathy, and they trusted that it would be possible to carry it into effect. Did that imply that every denomination was to have power to take its own children to church or chapel for religious instruction except the denomination which had provided its own schools? He protested strongly against the recent attitude of the Board of Education as regards denominational teaching. Anglicans ought to take a more decided stand, to insist upon justice, and to maintain their rights. Then, he hoped, friction concerning religious teaching would pass away.

MR. HAROLD RECKITT (Lincolnshire, Brigg)

complained of the Board of Education having decided to sanction the establishment of a new Church of England school at Barton-upon-Humber, providing accommodation for 150 children, whereas there was in the town a preponderance of Nonconformists, and consequently a greater demand for a provided school. The Lincolnshire County Council first raised the matter by saying that it was prepared to provide a school in the Waterside area, but after inquiry they accepted the offer of a Church school for 150 places. The Board of Education held a public inquiry, the report of which contained several passages of considerable interest from the general point of view of education. The population of Waterside was almost entirely working class, and there was a considerable amount of controversy. He gathered from the report that a school for 150 children would meet immediate requirements if the existing schools were continued on the eight square feet basis. But he contended that in a town such as Barton, which was of considerable size, it was not a proper policy to supply merely the immediate deficiency, and he submitted that the Board of Education should take the opportunity of putting both the existing schools on a proper footing, viz. a ten square feet basis in the mixed schools, and a nine square feet basis in the infant school. That, he argued, would be true economy, not only in respect of the rates of Barton, but also of the county. Then they should have one school for at least 300 or 350 children, a fact which was recognised by the Board of Education's own Commissioner, who said that a school of 400 places was required. He considered the Board of Education, in sanctioning the establishment of this school as a mere stop-gap, had taken an improper action, because two years hence he believed there would have to be a further inquiry into the necessity for additional accommodation; and he thought, if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education knew this part of his constituency, he would be the last to suggest that they should have further controversy about the question.

Pointing out that the Act of 1902 provided no machinery for ascertaining the wishes of the parents in any particular area, the local authority not even being entitled to take a poll of the ratepayers at the expense of the rates, he submitted that the only method was that of taking evidence at a public inquiry, which, he declared, was a return to the old and objectionable open voting system. He urged that the Board of Education should draw up some regulations as to the method and means of ascertaining the wishes of the parents as to whether there should be a provided or a voluntary school. At the time of the last inquiry, a church census was taken in Barton, showing that, morning and evening services together, there were 871 Church of England and 1,751 Nonconformist worshippers, proving that the Nonconformists were in the proportion of about two to one. Under the circumstances, he thought this evidence might be accepted that Barton was preponderatingly Nonconformist. Yet it had been determined that another Church school was to be established in this town. He wanted to point out that if they took figures, there was an overwhelming preponderance of Nonconformists. If they took the figures in respect to attendance at the Sunday schools in the Waterside area, there was a preponderance of Nonconformists. In the Barton district the Church of England had 594 Sunday-school scholars and the Nonconformists 779.


Are the Nonconformist schools full?


said they were not full, and there were twenty vacant places due to the difference in the ages of the children. There was a predominance of Nonconformists in that district, and yet it had been determined to put a stop-gap school—a Church of England school—in that town where a demand for a provided school had been made by a majority of the citizens. Last year two local elections had been fought there upon these two matters. The county council election resulted in a gentleman favourable to a provided school being returned, for the first time defeating the Conservative in the Barton area, and for the urban district council, out of six places, five were filled by those favourable to provided schools. These facts should have some weight with the Board of Education; but they had nevertheless determined to provide at once a Church school with 150 places, simply from the point of view of saving the local rate for the time being. This would only be a mere stop-gap, and the new school would have to be provided within two years. He thought the proper course for the Education Department to have pursued would have been not to sanction that school in the Waterside area, because they wanted a school for at least 300 or 400 children. Even now the hon. Baronet might put pressure on the Lancashire County Council. He was only too ready to put pressure on other county councils, but when it came to a question of dealing out fairness to Nonconformists in Lincolnshire, he was backward in applying this pressure, unless it was in favour of the Church of England. He thought the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University would have served the interests of denominationalism better by erecting a provided school which would have provided for Church of England, Wesleyan, and undenominational education. That would have met the wishes of all classes of parents in that area, and he regretted that the hon. Baronet had not seen his way to do that.

SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)

said he was afraid it was rather late in the session to discuss small local matters like that which the hon. Member opposite had raised. He wished the House to revert to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the Stretford Division, with which he desired to express his concurrence. He had no special competence to speak upon the legality of this question, but the answer which he gave in 1899 was not his opinion, but the official opinion of the Board of Education arrived at by the Duke of Devonshire on the advice of his permanent advisers. That opinion was in accordance with the practice which had existed in the schools since the Act of 1870, and long anterior to that date. The practice was recognised in the words of the statute which were "in school and elsewhere." Those words evidently referred to the well-known practice of taking the children to other places for religious instruction. He would like the hon. Baronet to answer the arguments which had been put forward by his hon. and learned friend. If the practice was legal he ventured to say that the prohibition of this practice by the Board of Education was extremely impolitic. The policy of the Board of Education had always been to keep clear of these religious disputes. There was no occasion for the Board of Education to mix itself up in religious matters, but he was afraid that they were ambitious, not only in regard to teaching the local authorities how to administer the Act, but also in teaching religious bodies how they should teach religion. It would be much better if the Board of Education entirely abolished that plan, they should leave the religious bodies of the country to teach religion in their own way, and leave them to judge for themselves what was the best method of teaching religion to those children whose parents were willing that they should learn it. He hoped that this ill-judged meddling with the religious question would not be persisted in.

His chief object in rising was to call the serious attention of the House to the recent Report upon the degeneracy of our race, so far as it related to the condition of the children in elementary schools and the spending of the money which the Committee of Supply had voted for education during the present year, and which the House was now asked to affirm. There were many things in that Report which would be ruled out of order if he brought them before the House. It dealt with the question whether the lives of the children were not spoiled before coming into our schools, and took up such questions as their birth, the way the children were suckled, fed, and housed but those were points which he would not refer to. He would confine his remarks strictly to matters which related to the education to be given to the children in the schools and to the alarming extent to which this Report proved that a great deal of the money voted was absolutely thrown away. It was much to be regretted that the Committee which inquired into this subject was exclusively official, and it would have been better if some independent men had taken part in the investigations. As the subject dealt so largely with the condition of the children, he thought some representative of the working classes ought to have been placed upon the Committee. One would have thought that upon a question of this kind a woman would have been useful upon the Committee. They had not yet received the evidence, but they had been presented with the effect which that evidence had produced upon official minds.

The first thing he would deal with was the recommendation of the Committee as to what should be taught. The first thing which they recommended should be taught to the teachers, with the view of being passed on to the children, was the fatal effect of alcoholism on physical efficiency. If that were taught to school teachers in a proper way it would no doubt produce an important and lasting effect in this country. He did not mean that it should be taught as a special subject and crammed up for a certificate. If the teachers were once got really to appreciate and understand the fatal effects of alcoholism on human efficiency, a very great point would be gained. The hon. Baronet had said that the syllabus was already overloaded and that he did not know where to make room for this new subject. He thought they might postpone for a year or two such subjects as psychology and grammar until the teacher and the children were imbued with a knowledge of the fatal effects of alcoholism on human efficiency. What the Committee recommended was that the teachers in public schools should be turned into temperance missionaries, but they did so in a cautious official manner. They evidently placed very great importance on the proposed teaching in the schools of the evils attaching to alcoholism. An expedient of this kind sometimes had the most extraordinary effect. In illustration of this, he might mention that in Belgium the Roman Catholic Church pursued a wise policy in having al its priests taught the principles of agriculture. The consequence was that Belgium had become an example to this country in the organisation and the prosperity of its agriculture: It would be found if they looked into this that the priest was at the bottom of the organisation in every parish.

The second recommendation of the Committee was that children should be taught the "resources and opportunities of rural existence." He had no doubt the hon. Baronet would say "Amen" to that. Some theoretical efforts had no doubt been made by the Board of Education to teach this subject, but, however good their theory might be, what was their practice? A few days before he read the Report recommending that children should be taught the resources of rural existence, he, in company with his right hon. friend the Member for Dartford, visited an experimental school in Sussex, where this teaching was attempted to be carried out. They found most admirable teaching going on. There was a most excellent mixture of theory and practice which excited their utmost admiration. That school, however, was going to have the grant of the Board of Education withdrawn from it. Why? Because there was a difference between the managers of the school and the Board of Education as to whether the sons and daughters of farmers were to spend two hours a week in practical work and three hours in learning French. The managers were willing to consent that two hours a week should be given to French, but the Board of Education refused to agree to that, with the result that notice had been given that the grant was to be withdrawn. Could the Committee imagine anything more foolish than that? Here was an experiment being made, of a kind which they all desired, and the Board of Education came in and washed its hands of it. He had not a word to say against French. It was a beautiful language, and its literature was a great enjoyment to everybody who could read it. But what earthly good would French be to a Sussex farmer? Surely if they wanted to keep boys and girls on the land they might allow people who were making a valuable experiment to go on with it, and not endeavour to stop it by the rules of the Board of Education.

The Committee also recommended the teaching of cookery, but not to little girls of ten or eleven Years of age who were unable to learn it. They recommended that it should be taught to the older girls in the continuation schools, that the material provided should be such as was usually eaten by the poor, that the apparatus should be simple, and that there should be variety. The hon. Baronet knew how contrary these recommendations were to the actual cookery teaching in our schools.

The recommendation of the Committee in regard to physical training amply justified what was said by the hon. Member for Camberwell and himself in the debate last year. The result had been to substitute a more thorough, systematic, and complete syllabus in physical instruction than was previously in use. All the practical reforms in teaching which the Committee recommended could be put in force by the hon. Baronet to-morrow without further legislation or an increase of the Vote. He should like the hon. Baronet to state, when he addressed the House, whether the Board of Education would take all these matters into consideration immediately, without waiting for next session, and without waiting for an Act of Parliament.

Now he came to what appeared to him a most astounding recommendation. They had frequently spoken in that House of how utterly useless and mischievous were what were called "infant schools." There were kindergarten schools to be found in some of our large cities and towns, and against which nobody had a word to say. In those schools the children were generally most admirably treated and taken care of, and everything was done to make their lives happy and to allow them to develop their intellectual character. The Committee recommended that in the country districts the children should be absolutely prohibited from going to school under five years of age, and that school attendance should not be compulsory until they were six or seven. He asked the Committee to consider the enormous waste of money which was going on at present in providing what was called education for children between three and six or seven years of age. How many millions of the money spent were wasted? According to the Report of this Committee it was wasted, and worse than wasted, because school attendance at too early an age did the children a great deal of harm. He thought this matter should be seriously considered by the Board of Education before they came to Parliament again asking sums of money to be wasted in the teaching of little children who would be very much better out in the lanes instead of being spoiled by the conditions under which their infancy was passed. He now came to the treatment of the children whom they got in the infant schools. He did not find any strong recommendation as to providing these children with fresh air. The Committee said, it was true, that the teachers should be alive to the value of fresh air, and they said something was wanting in the education of the teachers in practical hygiene. He had no doubt the teachers could state how much oxgyen and hydrogen there should be in the air, but what these good people meant was that they should also know how to supply the oxygen in the air to the children. That was a matter in which the Board of Education was absolutely responsible. These children were taken out of the open and shut up in schools five hours a day for five days of the week. If they did that they were bound to see that they were supplied with fresh air. Any doctor would tell them that an immense amount of injury was done to poor children by their failing to get a sufficiency of that cheapest of God's gifts—fresh air. There were many schools which were not provided with fresh water for the children, and he insisted that the Board of Education should make it a sine qua non that no school should get the grant unless it had proper ventilation and an ample provision of fresh water.

Then this Committee made recommendations in regard to the feeding of children—a subject which had provoked a good deal of discussion in the House and country. These recommendations were conceived in a most cautious and official spirit, but they threw a great amount of condemnation on the local authorities in this matter. They said that it was universally admitted that "the evils arising from under-feeding were so widespread and in certain localities so pressing that some authoritative intervention was called for at the earliest possible moment." And one of the most eminent of the inspectors of the Board of Education in London—Dr. Eichholz—made a special investigation on the subject at Johanna Street Board School in London. That gentleman found that 90 per cent. of the children in that school were unable, by their physical condition, to attend to the work set before them in a proper way, and that 33 per cent. required feeding during six months of the year. That was the practical testimony of a practical man. Everybody knew that there was an enormous waste of the public provision for education in consequence of this want of feeding of the children; and that it was extremely cruel to attempt to force education on children who were insufficiently fed. A large number of children, he recognised, who attended the elementary schools were provided with food by voluntary charitable organisations, but that was not sufficient. Every encouragement should be given to those voluntary organisations, but he suggested that there should be a sort of partnership between them and the local authorities. What the Committee said was that where this arrangement of charitable organisations proved inadequate, subject to the consent of the Board of Education, it might be expedient to permit the application of municipal aid. At the same time they recommended that there should be coercion of neglectful parents. But that required legislation. No municipal authority had at present the power to spend a sixpence in that direction. Would the Government give them that power? They saw no sign of that. The Scotch Education Bill, which had unhappily been abandoned, contained no power to enable the school boards in that country to provide food for insufficiently fed children. The hon. Member for Hoxton had placed an Amendment on the Paper to that effect.


said that he thought the right hon. Member was going outside the scope of the Report to which he referred, and pointed to future legislation, which under the Standing Orders he could not do on the Vote now before the Committee.


said he would not say another word on that subject. All that he wanted to emphasise was that this Committee recommended that the school authorities should have the power, if other means failed, to feed the children; and he appealed to the hon. Baronet to recommend to the Government that such legislative power should be given.

There was another subject to which he wished to direct attention, and that was the inspection of schools. There was an enormous cost for inspectors and their travelling expenses. The schools were at present so inspected that the teachers and managers became bewildered and did not know where they were. The local authorities would not accept the Board of Education inspection, and he did not know that they were wrong in that regard, because there was no doubt whatever that the Board of Education inspection of elementary schools was extremely inefficient, on account of the system which had prevailed for years, although there were most excellent inspectors. The principle was that the chief duty of the inspector of schools was to please the teachers, to please the managers, and to please the officials at Whitehall; and one of the most unpardonable sins which an inspector could commit was to speak the truth about the condition of the children. He was aware that no inspector who possessed what was called "tact" would ever send in a disagreeable report to the Board of Education because he knew that he would suffer for it. He was conscious that there was a possibility at the Board of Education to alter the reports of inspectors which were not favourable and to publish them in an edited form. He was quite certain there never would be any improvement in the inspection for which these enormous sums were voted until the Board of Education made up its mind that the first duty, the first qualification, of the inspectors was to speak the truth, and that when they did speak the truth they should realise that they would be supported through thick and thin against both teachers and managers. He saw no sign of improvement in the Board of Education. Everything had been put into water-tight compartments which were independent of each other. Why should schools in which there was given elemen- tary, technical, and secondary education, be visited by three different sets of inspectors? That led to great confusion; and the local authorities had wisely refused to accept such inspection, and had appointed inspectors of their own. What was wanted was not more money, but better organisation. Why, the chief inspector was now, at the very busiest and most critical period of the school curriculum, away at the World's Fair in St. Louis.


He is back now.


was understood to ask the right hon. Gentleman why, when he was in the Department, he had not brought these questions before the House?


said that he had frequently in the House referred to the bad system of inspection. He had never ceased to do so; and he had no doubt that the hon. Baronet, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, would find in the pigeon-holes of the Education Office, unless they had been lost, many of his memoranda in regard to that point, which had received no attention whatever. It was his duty, now that he was relieved from the responsibilities of office, to bring these things under the notice of the House of Commons. He had now been two years out of office, and he wished to draw the attention of the House of Commons to those evils which existed, and which were causing a great deal of overlapping and unnecessary expenditure which ought to be stopped. The only solution of this question was that the Board of Education should give up the idea of inspecting individual schools and leave that duty to the local authorities themselves. These were matters which demanded the attention of the House.


said he had been very much interested in the able speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University. He thought that educationally they owed a great deal to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman was unmuzzled. The Board of Education ought to publish some of the memoranda written by the right hon. Gentleman upon the educational condition of the country. They would be not only interesting and instructive, but amusing, and would provide very good material for the controversies that arose from time to time regarding education. As to inspection he thought it ought to be confined in future to the methods of local authorities rather than individual schools. That would be a good thing for Wales, and he trusted that the Board of Education would hand over the duty of inspecting individual schools to the Federation of County Councils in Wales.

With regard to the marching of children to church he had objected to that himself, but he could not help thinking that the hon. Member for the Stretford Division was mistaken in his interpretation of the Act. That Act did not say that a teacher should take children to church. He was prepared to support a proposal which would make it competent for any religious denomination, during certain hours to be set apart, to take its children outside school hours to another building for the purpose of giving them religious instruction if the parents really wished their children to be instructed in particular dogmas. The hon. and learned Member referred to the case of Mr. Piper, but that was a different matter altogether. Mr. Piper asked if he could take his children to a Baptist chapel in order to give them religious instruction. His recollection was that Mr. Piper asked the vicar for a room in the school for the purposes of religious instruction; and being refused had to take the children elsewhere. But supposing Mr. Piper had a right to a room in the school it would have been wrong on his part to take the children away. What he objected to was the division of a school into seven or eight classes, for it would lead to confusion. If the parents wanted to get their children instructed in any particular building it would be intolerance on the part of any religious denomination to grudge such facilities. For a teacher in or out of school hours to marshal children and take them to any church or chapel in the district would be a very invidious thing to do, because it would be practically bringing the pressure of the discipline of the school on the children. If a thing of that sort was to be done it must be at the desire of the parent. [An HON. MEMBER: So it is.] It was not entirely so done. If a teacher asked children to go to church they did not like to refuse because it might be looked upon as disobeying the teacher, and they might be under the impression—quite wrongly, of course—that the teacher might make an invidious distinction. He did not think children should be put in that position. It should be a question for the parent entirely, and the teacher ought not to come into it at all. He understood that the Board of Education held that the teacher should not marshal children to church, and he was glad that was the case. If an individual parent made a request to the teacher to allow a child to attend a particular church or service he was sure the teacher would not object, but no official of a local authority, as a teacher was, should use influence upon the children to organise attendance at any particular place of worship. The Board of Education had taken the right line, and he hoped they would stand firm by their decision. The Act of Parliament provided that religious instruction might be given either at the beginning or the end of the ordinary secular school instruction. Why under those circumstances had the Board of Education taken upon themselves to alter the Act, and to say, in defiance of it, that the religious instruction must be given at the beginning, and that the end was not a reasonable time? The Board was exercising a sort of pressure upon the local authorities in this matter.


The Board of Education is a Court of appeal, and I am not going to discuss the matter at this stage.


The hon. Baronet is responsible to the House of Commons, and we are entitled to challenge his actions. He has no right to say he is the Court of appeal.


The hon. Member misunderstands me. Of course I am responsible to the House for the decision of the Board, but I say that the Board of Education has to decide certain questions which arise between the managers and the local authorities, and that while these questions are still under review by the Board of Eduaction I think it is undesirable to discuss them in the House of Commons. I do not say that I am not entirely responsible.


said that this was really a very novel doctrine. A local authority in the exercise of its legal right said that the religious instruction should be at the end, and the Board of Education then brought pressure to bear to make the local authority alter its decision. He protested against the Secretary to the Board of Education's action in refusing to discuss the matter. That showed the spirit in which the law was administered.

He would give another illustration of the way in which the law was administered. The right hon. Member for Cambridge University, in the course of his interesting speech, said that the managers were not sufficiently alive to the value of fresh air in the schools. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that they were not sufficiently alive to the value of ventilating the buildings, giving sufficient cubic space to the children, and plenty of light. The first thing the county councils of Wales did was to have a report upon all the buildings in which instruction was given. That the report was impartial was proved by the figures given by the hon. Member for West Ham. They were told that the board schools required £13,000 spent on them, and the voluntary schools £12,000; that many of the schools were not fit places to send children to. The county councils called attention to this, and the School Boards took steps to improve their schools. But the managers of the voluntary schools appealed to the Board of Education, and the Board of Education, instead of supporting the county councils and compelling the managers to spend money upon improving the condition of the schools, their ventilation, their sanitary arrangements and the light and air space—what had they done? They had supported the managers in what was practically a refusal to carry out those recommendations. What was the good of talking about physical degeneration and enforcing the law, when upon a matter of that vital importance the Board of Education declined absolutely to support the county councils? The Act stated clearly that the county councils should maintain all public elementary schools if certain conditions were complied with, and one of the conditions was that the managers made "such alterations and improvements in the building as may reasonably be required by the local education authority." Was it not reasonable to call upon the managers to so alter and improve the school buildings as to make them fit for little children to be in for five hours a day? No, the conditions with regard to maintenance the Education Board must maintain, but when the conditions were against the managers the Board of Education was exceedingly long-suffering and indulgent. All they asked was that the managers should take some steps, and if it were simply a question of time—of a few months—he would not say a word.


They have to find the money.


Ah, the money! If they have not got the money let them hand over the schools. The local education authority have nothing whatever to do with that. You should not undertake a task which you are not financially fit for. Honourable men do not do it.


It is only a question of time.


asked what the hon. Gentleman meant by "time." If it was only a question of three or four months not a word would be said, and if the right hon. Baronet, the Parliamentary Secretary, would get up and say he was prepared to carry out these recommendations within the next six months—was that a reasonable time in the hon. Member's (Mr. Platt-Higgin's) opinion?—(after a pause) evidently he was not prepared to give an answer—if the right hon. Baronet told them he was prepared during the coming winter to force these gentlemen to improve their schools and put them into the position which the Board of Education demanded with regard to provided schools—then they would be satisfied. But he was not doing it. On the contrary, he was just picking and choosing the things in the Act of Parliament that he was going to enforce; and he was going to enforce them by drastic methods—if he could. But the things that suited the educational interests of the children, if they inflicted a burden on the denominational managers, they were willing to hang up. They had no right to do it. They ought to administer an Act of Parliament of this sort impartially, if at all. What greater harm could they inflict upon children than to send them for five or six hours a day into buildings where they breathed the most fœtid air? It damaged them for life—it ruined them. It would be much better to give them good air and plenty of light than some of the catechisms that they were taught in those schools, and the Secretary to the Board of Education, before he began to enforce the law against the Welsh county councils, should first see that his own friends were complying with it.

* COLONEL WILLIAMS (Dorsetshire, W.)

thought the Board of Education were not quite aware of the full force of the interpretation which they had put upon the section of the Act of 1870. That was not the first educational system in this country. We had an educational system many years before that, and under that system children had been regularly taken to church on certain days. Before the Act of 1870 it was perfectly legal for children to be taken to church by the managers of the schools. By the Act of 1870 a new system of undenominational teaching came into force, and all those things mentioned in the Act of 1870 as to giving religious instruction to children in the schools "and elsewhere" simply admitted the practice of the schools in existence before the Act of 1870. But the Act of 1870 neither legalised the practice or made it illegal. It simply said that in the new class of schools—the Board schools—they were not to make that thing necessary which had taken place according to the practice of denominational schools. What was legal in the denominational schools before 1870 was legal after 1870. Where it had been the prac- tice, as it had been for fifty years in his own recollection, for the managers of denominational schools to take the children to church the Act of 1870 did not interfere with the practice in any way. That, at all events, was his reading of the Act, and he hoped the right hon. Baronet would tell him it was the right reading. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon who had just spoken had talked a great deal about fairness and justice, but underlying that fairness and justice of which they had heard so much was the great fallacy that hon. Gentlemen opposite thought it was fair only when they were allowed to have their own way. They entirely forgot what was due to other people. If half the people desired to have denominational teaching what right had the other half who did not desire to have denominational teaching to say they should not have it.

With regard to the pupil teacher question he might say that in the rural districts that question was becoming a burning one. The training of pupil teachers was imposing a heavy burden on the already overburdened taxpayers in those districts. He had no desire to say a word against the endeavour to raise the standard of education and the power of the pupil teachers, but they could not now be certain of retaining the pupil teachers after they were trained. In old days the pupil teacher was trained in the school in which she taught, but the new rule laid down that a pupil teacher must be six months in the school and six months out of it being trained at a secondary school and therefore it was necessary for each school to have two pupil teachers in training, the one to take the place of the other when she left the school. There were also a great many village schools where two pupil teachers could not be got to train, so that instead of there being two pupil teachers as there ought to be, one being educated at the secondary school, it had become necessary to have an Assistant Teacher, and that laid a still heavier burden on the rates. There seemed to be an idea at the Board of Education that for the training of pupil teachers in secondary schools they should take all the money allocated to technical education and so use it all in favour of one particular class instead of leaving it for the help of all trades and all classes. There seemed to him to be a desire to take the burden off the shoulders of the nation, where this burden should rest, and place it on the shoulders of the locality, and to use for this purpose all that technical education money which ought to be devoted to all trades. This was applied to some of the old educational charities. He thought it was extremely unfair to make the local rates provide for the training of the pupil teachers, who in all probability would not be employed in the districts in which they were taught, but in neighbouring towns. He hoped that the right hon. Baronet would in his reply indicate that the Board of Education had this matter under their consideration, and that he would say that the local authorities had nothing to do with providing pupil teachers in the schools.


agreed with all that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University had said with regard to the teaching of children, but the matter raised by the hon. Member for the Stretford Division was much wider. The hon. Member suggested that children could not be taken to a religious service of a particular denomination during school hours even with the consent of their parents. The question was how the children were to be got to church. They were all agreed that by fair and moral means the children should be induced to attend religious teaching, but how were they going to do it? The hon. Member for the Stretford Division said that under Section 7 of the Act of 1870 the local authority and the teachers were empowered to take the children to church to receive religious instruction. There was no power in the section to do any such thing. It provided that a child could not be compelled to abstain from going elsewhere to receive religious instruction. It gave no authority to the teacher to compel the attendance of a child at a religious service. For the teachers to try to persuade children to attend a particular church would be a gross breach of authority, and the fact that a different view had prevailed did not make it legal. He made these observations strongly, not because he was not in absolute sympathy with hon. Gentlemen opposite, but because he could imagine nothing more mischievous than for the teachers or the local authority to interfere in these matters. If the teacher was a religious man and chose, outside school hours, to use his or her influence with the scholars to persuade them to go to the place of worship of a particular denomination with the consent of their parents, all honour to the teacher; but while the teacher was acting as a State servant, under the local authority, he had no right to bring influence of that sort to bear upon the scholars in the school. As to the question of maintenance of schools by the local authority, anyone who read the particular section to which the hon. Member for Carnarvon had called attention would see that all this hung together and that the duty of maintenance by the local education authority depended upon the managers performing those particular duties which were laid down by the Act. If the managers did not discharge those duties the local education authority was released from its obligation to maintain those schools. The complaint was that the Board of Education did not insist upon the managers fulfilling their statutory obligations.

* MR. J. F. HOPE (Sheffield, Brightside)

said the speech made by the hon. Member for Carnarvon was, on the whole, one of moderation, but when he came to speak of the times at which religious instruction should, be given he should have remembered what he had said before upon this subject. In January last Year, when addressing some of his friends, who were presenting him with an address, he referred to the duties of local authorities under the Act, and said that they should arrange the hours for instruction so that some children might have their denominational instruction in the schools whilst others could go out to play; and he further suggested that this and other steps would make the management of the schools so burdensome that the managers would be willing to throw them upon the local authority. He quoted that as an example of the spirit in which the hon. Member approached this question in January of last year. It a teacher used his position in a school unfairly to induce children to attend religious services which their parents objected to, it was exceedingly wrong, and ought not to be tolerated. It would be the duty of the local authority to see that no such thing happened. But if the children were not to go to church with the free consent of their parents that was altogether another question, and he submitted that it was quite inconsistent with the by-law which the Board of Education put forward last year, which provided that children might be withdrawn from religious instruction and taken out of school. Why should they not be allowed to go out in order to attend church, and why should the teacher not be allowed to go with them if no objection was raised by the parents. He was exceedingly glad to hear that the Board of Education had sanctioned arrangements in one case by which the Baptist minister was able to take the Baptist children to his chapel, and he should like to see that practice extended.

It was rather difficult in a debate like this to fix attention upon one subject, but he desired to call attention to a case which arose under the working of Sections 8 and 9 of the Education Act. It was the case of a proposed Church of England school at Hayward's Heath in which town there was last year a deficiency of school accommodation. He did not know the vicar personally, but at the time the school was contemplated the vicar made an offer to the other denominations that he would be quite satisfied if they would erect another school at their own expense. He told them that he did not wish to compete with them at all, but they could not see their way to do what he asked and thereupon the vicar took steps to provide a school at the expense of his friends and himself. This was before the Education Act had been passed, but when the Act came into operation this proposed school came under Sections 8 and 9, and a public inquiry had to be held. An agitation was got up against the school and 298 signatories were obtained against this school, many of which came not from the Hayward's Heath district but from outside. The matter came before the urban council, and twice they passed resolutions in favour of the project, once unanimously and once with only two dissentients. The county council remained entirely neutral and took no part in it. A poll of the ratepayers was taken at the instance of the promoters of the school, when 564 voted in favour of the school, 150 returned their papers blank, eight voted against, and 101 papers were either not returned at all or were spoiled. This showed that the neighbourhood was predominantly in favour of the school. An inquiry was held by a gentleman sent down by the Board of Education, and he had to report on three specific grounds: (1) the interests of secular instruction, (2) the economy of the rates, and (3) the wishes of the parents. In regard to the first ground, he reported that one proposal was as good as the other; on the second ground he thought that obviously there would be greater economy if the school was built by private subscription; and as to the wishes of the parents he said that out of 600 children in present attendance only four availed themselves of the conscience clause, and the evidence of parents on both sides was not satisfactory, many having but a vague idea of the difference between the schools, the distance of the schools from their homes forming the chief consideration in their minds. The first remark he wished to make on that matter was that such a situation could not possibly have arisen under the old law. The vicar would have got his school and no one could have said anything against him. Therefore the new law in this respect made a perfect change, and indeed in certain cases it might be a very right change. Again he would say that if the minority for which this particular type of school was built had been prepared themselves to make some effort to provide a school he thought there would have been a very good case indeed. Or further if the Secretary to the Board of Education had been able to say to the promoters of the new school, "Will you allow the ministers of other religions to come in and give religious instruction in the new school according to the wishes of the parents?" he thought that would have been a fair proposal to make. But what happened in the present case? The Board of Education decided that there should be a council school on general grounds, and the result was that the majority of the ratepayers were compelled against their wishes to build and maintain a school for which those who wanted it made no effort in the matter of cost. As a matter of policy he was sure his hon. friend must see that it was easier to estrange his friends than to conciliate his opponents. He assumed, therefore, that his hon. friend had been actuated solely by considerations of principle, and he should like to know what principle had actuated him in the course he had taken in this matter.

As to the question of feeding starving children he heartily welcomed what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University. It was an absolute corollary of compulsory education that they should not try to cram instruction into the brain of a little child unless there was some proper food in its stomach, and he hoped some more municipal power might be given in this direction. Of course, parents who could not pay for these privileges could not be in the same position as others. He did not think that the old principle of laissez faire ought to prevent them from grappling with this question.

* MR. H. J. WILSON (Yorkshire, W.R., Holmfirth)

drew the attention of the House to a case which took place three or four months ago at Lifton, a Devonshire village, and which, in his view, required investigation. Four boys were turned out of the national school there by the vicar for a remarkable reason. When they were questioned as to what a Christian was the four boys were agreed in declaring that a Christian was a follower of Jesus Christ. The vicar insisted on them saying he was a person who had been baptised by the Church, and on their refusing to do so they were turned out of the school. That was not the way to conciliate anybody in the villages, or to make them any more fond either of the vicar or of religious instruction in public elementary schools. If boys were to be turned out of school "with considerable violence" as one report said, or, "with a beating," for such a reason as that, the condition of things could not be regarded as satisfactory. He hoped that the Secretary to the Board of Education would make a statement on the subject during that debate, and if not, that he would promise the House some information on a future occasion.


said his hon. and learned friend the Member for Stretford had drawn attention to a matter which was engaging the notice of the clergy throughout the country in a very special manner. It was undoubtedly the case that it had been the practice for a considerable number of years for the children who attended denominational schools attached to the Church of England to attend service in the church on appropriate days. He supposed that a similar practice had prevailed in other denominational schools. It was constantly forgotten by hon. Members who had criticised that practice that these schools were denominational, and that the instruction given in them was denominational religious instruction intended to educate the children in the principles of that particular denomination. Nonconformist parents who disapproved of that teaching were protected by the power to withdraw their children during religious hours. So far as the question of expediency was concerned, surely the only question was whether as a matter of fact the children obtained better religious instruction from the point of view of the denomination by being taken to church than by staying in the school. Apart from the overwhelming arguments of experienced managers and teachers, he should have thought if they desired to bring up children to be devout members of a particular denomination nothing would more tend in that direction than that they should from time to time attend service in the church of that denomination. At the back of all this criticism was a desire to make denominational instruction not particularly efficacious, to take the heart out of it, and to assimilate it to undenominational instruction. He constantly heard in those educational debates language of that character. It was constantly made a matter of congratulation that the teaching in a Church school could not really be distinguished from the teaching in a school which was undenominational. The whole point of view was that denominationalism was an eccentricity which they must allow perhaps in form, but if it could be destroyed so much the better. He put it, therefore, to the Secretary to the Board of Education, whether, as one who was a supporter of that system, it was logical or reasonable to restrict a practice which had been going on for a great number of years, which tended to make religious instruction according to denominational principles more efficient, and which was certainly not a violation of the conscience of any human being.

He understood that it was maintained by some hon. Members that to make attendance at church part of the religious curriculum was an abuse and an extension of the system that ought not to be tolerated, but he did not see why there should be the objection if the children were to be thoroughly taught. Upon the point of law he imagined there was more force in the view put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Stretford than had been admitted. The law required the attendance of children at school, and it was reasonable so to interpret the language of Section 7, having regard to a practice extending over thirty years, of giving religious teaching elsewhere than in the schoolroom. When school attendance was made compulsory the existing school discipline was contemplated, and he submitted to lawyers that the point might be maintained. If it were not for the desire to water down denominational teaching nobody would have dreamed of interfering with the arrangement, which was as natural as visiting field or factory. If it was necessary that a particular arrangement in regard to religious instruction should be made for protecting the position of Nonconformists there was nothing to be said against it, but such points should not be pressed merely for the purpose of weakening denominational teaching. Let them try to meet one another and try to understand the differences in their religious points of view and not endeavour to throw difficulties in the way of the working of the system. No one would dispute that if a building used for a school was insanitary and rebuilding was urgently necessary it should be rebuilt without delay, but if it was a question of carrying out some desirable improvement not of pressing urgency it was not unwise to allow such reasonable latitude in point of time as was required under financial difficulties. There was a principle of give and take in these matters the Department ought to apply. There would always be in the House and in the country endless friction unless some means could be found to satisfy the conscientious scruples and religious feelings of all classes of the community.

He submitted this consideration to Nonconformists, that to interfere with a religious system by omissions was as offensive to the feelings of those who believed in that system as if the same thing were done by additions. Suppose they had to deal with the children of Jews and Christians. Would it be a reasonable settlement to say that as they differed in the acceptance of the New Testament that should not be taught, but the Old Testament should be taught, because upon that there was general agreement? It was evident that that would be a decided disadvantage to the one class, and yet that was precisely what was desired by undenominationalists as against denominational teaching. The Christian would consider that to meet the wishes of the Jew vitally important matters had been omitted, and Christian and Jew would be equally grieved if Mormonism were taught. Of course, the Christian would be satisfied with nothing but the teaching of the Christian religion. In a somewhat similar position Churchmen, Roman Catholics, and Nonconformists were placed. It was just as unfair to drive every Church of England parent to accept an undenominational system as it would be to compel the Christian to accept the Jewish system because Judaism to a certain extent was accepted by both. He was certain no educational settlement would be permanent until all religious bodies acquiesced in it, and he was sure that until Nonconformist bodies came to understand the Church position and would formulate on their side a reasonable concession to Church feeling they would not approach nearer to a permanent settlement. It lay with the Nonconformists to bring up a scheme of their own to meet conscientious difficulties. That would do more than anything else for the advancement of educational progress and religious teaching.


said that before making the general statement which he proposed to make he would deal with the complaints and criticisms which had been made in the course of debate. In regard to the complaint about the Barton-on-Humber School the facts were as follows. There was a deficiency of accommodation which arose in a way which he would describe. The local authority announced their intention of providing a school, and the vicar of the parish announced his intention of offering a school—an offer which would have met the necessities of the case. The local education authority appointed a committee which inquired into the matter and they withdrew their proposal to provide a school. Thereupon the vicar was left in the field. He himself was informed there was a very strong feeling in the place, that Nonconformist sentiment was very strong, that the children would be sent a long distance to be free from any possible contamination by Anglican influence, and that, therefore, it would be a very great hardship if a council school were not provided. An inquiry was held, and the result was that, as far as secular instruction was concerned, there would be no difference between one scheme and the other, and that, as far as economy of the rates was concerned, it would be undoubtedly better to accept the vicar's school, which was a school in being. As regarded the wishes of the parents of the children, there were petitions and counter petitions and when he came to inquire into the educational circumstances of Barton-on-Humber it was shown that the feelings of the parents were not as violent as they were asked to believe. The Anglican and Wesleyan schools were attended by children of all denominations, but, as a matter of fact, the members of the church choir attended the Wesleyan school. The deficiency of accommodation had been caused by the closing of the Roman Catholic school, in which all Roman Catholic doctrine was taught. It accommodated seventy-five children, of which number four only were Roman Catholics, the rest being equally divided between Non-conformists and Church of England children; and no one was withdrawn from religious instruction. Then came the case of Hayward's Heath. There was no doubt an economic reason for accepting the Church of England school at Hayward's Heath. There was also a fairly equally divided Church of England and Nonconformist population, and the Board of Education came to the conclusion that this was a single school area, and that, on the whole, it was better to treat it as such. The case was undoubtedly a difficult one, but some inconvenience would be caused to the Nonconformist population whose children might have to go some distance to a council school if no such school was to be provided within the area. The Board, therefore, said that if the county council would at once provide a school with accommodation sufficient, they would decide in favour of such school.

As to reasonable facilities for religious instruction the hon. and learned Member for Stretford seemed to think the Board of Education almost bound to make a general pronouncement as to what should be considered a reasonable time to be allowed for religious instruction. He could not find that any power to do so was conferred upon them by the Act. Their powers were limited to deciding differences that might arise under Section 7 between managers and local authorities. In different parts of the country the local conditions varied widely in regard to such points as the hours when school should be open, whether religious teaching should be given at the beginning or the end of the school time or both, and the Board would have run considerable risk of giving offence and of being considered officious, and he thought would undoubtedly have gone beyond the power conferred upon them by the Act if they had made such a general statement as suggested. It was said that they had put pressure one way or another on various local authorities and actually cut down religious teaching in certain localities. There were but two cases where they had had the matter under consideration, and in neither case had they done anything which would justify anybody in saying that they had made a reduction beyond what had been already allowed and would have been considered reasonable and sufficient by most bodies of managers. No such pressure as the hon. Member for Carnarvon had referred to had been put on any local authority. The cases to which he referred had come before them, and there the matter stood. No pressure whatever had been put on the local authority to extend the time already given.

On the question of reasonable requirements as to repairs, they were really doing exactly what the hon. Member for Carnarvon said they ought to do. He held that these requirements must be reasonable in amount, and reasonable as to the time in which the alterations were to be carried out. The time allowed in the majority of cases was under six months.

As to the propriety of taking children to church, it seemed to be supposed that the Board had taken an initiative in the matter, but the Board of Education had not been meddlesome. The question arose in a form in which it was impossible to avoid dealing with it. A clergyman announced, his intention to take 500 children to church on Ascension Day, and of altering the hour of meeting by a quarter of an hour in order to give time for the children to go to church and come back for the secular instruction. The local authority said they could not meet him in this, and protested strongly against the action taken. Nevertheless, the children were taken to church; and the Board of Education were asked what was right in the matter. He had to consider the question, and it was not without a full sense of responsibility that he differed from the ruling of his predecessor in office. Under the by-laws which the local authority were required to make, and which had statutory force, the children were bound to be at school during the whole time the school was open. The local authority were empowered by the Act of 1890 to determine the time during which the children were to attend school, and it surely would not have been right to allow the time table, approved by an inspector on behalf of the Board of Education, to be in flat contradiction to the wording of the by-law. Therefore they called the attention of their inspector to the matter; but their action was in no way adverse to the interests of religious teaching. They pointed out that if the local authority chose to adopt the new form of by-law suggested to them last year, or if the parents withdrew their children on certain days, as they were entitled to do under the Act of 1890, or if the local authority sanctioned by by-law or otherwise the use of the church as a place for religious instruction, there would be no difficulty in making arrangements with the parents. The idea that the Board of Education had taken away anything from the Church schools to which those schools were entitled and which laid them open to condemnation was chimerical. They had done nothing but endeavour to make the practice of the Board conform to the law as they understood it, and to suggest various ways of including changes in the by-laws.

He thought he had now dealt with the questions which had been raised, except certain points mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, which he would deal with in his general statement with reference to the working of the Act. As to the working of the Education Act, there were 335 local education authorities, and in the case only of five of these was the Act not yet fully in operation. In these cases, too, the Act would be in working before the end of September. More important was the question, What were these local authorities doing in regard to secondary education? The local authorities were required by Section 2 of the Act to consider the educational needs of their area and take such steps as seemed to them desirable, after consultation with the Board of Education, to aid the supply of education in that area. Many local authorities had consulted with the Board in various ways, by deputations, by correspondence, by communication with the Inspectors of the Board, and often, in the case of boroughs, by discussion as to the provision of one or more individual schools; an many had held inquiries themselves, through expert advisers, through committees of experts, or through sub-committees of their own, as to the whole condition of secondary education in its relation to education in other forms in their districts. These inquiries had been especially thorough in the cases of Lancashire, Stafordshire, the West Riding of Yorkshire, Sheffield and Manchester. Last year he informed the House as to the extent to which reorganisation had taken place in the Board of Education and its inspectorate. He now had only to mention—he did so under the reproach of the right hon. Member for Cambridge University—that they had increased and strengthened the staff of inspectors of secondary schools. As regarded the inspectorate generally, he could not accept the description given by the right hon. Gentleman, either as to the attitude of the local authority towards the inspectors of the Board of Education, or as to the character, quality, and shortcomings of the inspectors themselves; but he could assure him that he would pay as careful attention to the matter as time would allow him, and that if he found the results led him to entertain views of the kind and strength which the right hon. Gentleman described himself as having held, and as having expressed in memoranda which he, personally, had not been fortunate enough to peruse, he could assure him that some change would take place either in the inspectorate or in the secretariat. As regarded the various branches of education with which the Board dealt, he would say little about technical institutes and classes except that their usefulness was unimpaired and that the Board was endeavouring to continue that usefulness for the classes of students for whom they were intended.

As regarded secondary schools he had something to say, however. Last year he had reason to express considerable anxiety as to the teaching in the smaller secondary schools. It showed too early a specialisation. There was a gradual loss of the cultivation of language and literature, and the tendency was too exclusively scientific, whereas what was wanted really was a liberal education. At that time the Department gave two sets of grants. To schools which were called A schools they gave a much larger grant than to the others, and the requirements as to scientific teaching were much more exacting. The others, which were called B schools, received a smaller grant and much more room was left for general education. The history of this was that formerly the only form of higher education with which the Government dealt was the science and art grant for the purposes of science and art classes. These grew into schools of science and these again grew into schools of the A type. Care was taken, he believed, as far as the Board could take care, that a liberal education was given in addition to the scientific teaching, but the demands of science were too hard, the largeness of the scientific grant was too tempting, and the inspectorate at that time was not, he thought, strong enough to ensure that these schools gave the liberal education which the Board desired. They had now tried to effect a change. First, they tried to define roughly what was a secondary school. He believed that the Secondary Education Commission gave up in despair the attempt to define secondary education.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

They did not give it up in despair, but they thought it would be dangerous.


said that, at all events, he could not find it in their Report. Practically he thought it well to drop the phrase and to attempt a definition of a secondary school instead. A secondary school was distinct from a technical institute, which gave special teaching of an advanced character, and distinct from continuation classes, which gave a great variety of teaching but no continuity of teaching in any one subject and no general education. The Department, therefore, declared that a secondary school, to meet their requirements, must give a general education to boys and girls up to the age of sixteen and beyond. By general education he meant that undue weight must not be given to any particular branch of education. The education must be complete so far as it went, and progressive and continuous. The boys and girls must learn thoroughly what they did learn, and never be allowed to mark time. The normal type of school would be more of the B type. That was to say, it would offer a general education, physical, mental and moral, given through a complete graded course of instruction of a wider scope and more advanced degree than that given at the elementary schools. The Department thus hoped to establish a type of school which would give what he roughly described as a liberal education, but special and much larger grants would be given to schools, which were held to be entitled to them, for special scientific teaching. The A school was revived in that form, but the Department required that the classes which attained to these more special scientific subjects should be of the average age of thirteen, and they varied the grant according to the local or educational conditions. They had suggested that these schools might differentiate their course at the end of two years, that was that there should be a two years course of general liberal education, and that after that there should be the specialised course, more scientific, or more liberal and linguistic, starting at thirteen or fourteen years of age.

There were two difficulties he should mention; the first was want of money. The Department would like very much to be able to increase their grants and assist more schools, and thus get a stronger hold, and, he believed, a useful hold, upon the secondary education given in the minor secondary schools. There was a second difficulty which he thought local authorities would soon realise, and which once they realised it would disappear. This regarded the government of schools, and the relation of the headmaster to the local authority and the governing body. Local authorities were somewhat apt at first sight to believe that they saved themselves considerable time and secured greater administrative efficiency if they governed the school themselves; practically this meant Government through their organising secretary. The Board had constantly pressed upon them the advisability of appointing governing bodies for schools, with certain powers, limited, no doubt, financially, and urged that if a capable man were appointed as headmaster, he should have full power of conferring with the governing body and expressing his views to that body. The importance of these smaller schools securing an efficient headmaster was very great. He thought the authorities would soon realise that unless they established a governing body and gave the headmaster the powers he had described, they would not create the general interest needed, nor obtain the capable men they required, and so would not get what they wanted in the way of a successful secondary school.

He had been asked about training colleges. He would not weary the House with more than an outline of the sort of changes which the Board desired to make. They had endeavoured to give greater freedom in two ways. They had decided to allow a one-year course at a training college. If they could get better material for the training colleges and reduce the time necessary to be spent there to one year, the student no longer requiring to devote a great deal of his time to acquiring general education which he ought to have acquired previously, he thought it would be an advantage. One of the results would be considerable economy to the local authority, in so far as it would largely increase the annual output of the colleges with no greater outlay. Again, the Board had recognised day-training colleges not connected with a University college or a University. Hitherto the day-training college had always been attached to a University college or a University. He hoped a good deal from this development. He hoped it would tend to diminish the unwholesome appetite for a degree which possessed so many of these elementary teachers. Such an ambition on the part of a student who had not received a good general education caused him to mis-spend time in a course of study which often led to disappointment, and which, if it did not, seldom led to real efficiency. Students who were but half educated and tried to learn more than they could carry were often led astray by lectures which would be useful to older or more fully educated students. They carried away from them only that half knowledge which was really an intellectual defect. He would call attention to an answer from the examination of a pupil teacher in connection with the Queen's scholarships. A question was asked regarding the frontiers of France. The student wrote— The Alps are accessible over their summits, while the Pyrenees are not; they are accessible only at their two ends. The Alps divide France from Spain. The Rhone also would seem to form a natural frontier; but the Germans own this. That was an indication of the material which went up to the training college. Now for the material which was to be found at the training college. One student wrote that the sonnets of Shakespeare were written in blank verse, another wrote an apparently well-informed description of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, until he came to the last sentence when he stated— The beauty of the story is enhanced by the charm of the metre in which the poem is written. A third student, writing of the Renaissance stated, that— The founders of Italian architecture were Torrigiario and Terra Cotta. These things struck him as being much worse than ignorance. They showed the confusion of mind of the student and an incapacity for realising the difference between first-hand and second-hand knowledge, or, indeed, the difference between knowledge and ignorance. And thus a lecture which would be useful to others was only misleading to the student who came to a subject perfectly ignorant. This led him to point out that the provision of better material for training colleges by giving a better education to pupil teachers was a matter of great importance. Unless we educated our pupil teachers better, we wasted money at both ends. We wasted the money spent on training colleges by sending raw material of which they could not make good use, and we wasted the money spent on elementary education on account of the quality of the teachers supplied. He described last year the ideal of the Board as to the educational course of the pupil-teacher. What he had said as to the importance of this matter was, he thought, justified by the action of the local education authorities. The Board had had applications within the time the Act had been in operation for the recognition of 211 pupil-teacher centres. Of these, 163 came from local education authorities. The Board had recognised sixty-eight, they had eighty-three under consideration, and they had only refused recognition to twelve. The local authorities were trying to improve the lower- grade secondary schools to which it was desired that the intending pupil-teacher should go and they were trying to improve the pupil-teacher centres where teaching and study went on upon the half-time system. The amount spent on the pupil teacher was ludicrous having regard to the necessities. The taxpayers spent £110,000 a year at present on the training of pupil teachers, £216,500 on grants to secondary schools, £375,700 on grants to training colleges, and £10,547,000 on elementary education, the whole value of winch depended on the quality of the teaching given. He thought he had said enough to show how important this subject was, and how it would justify an urgent demand for a larger outlay on the secondary schools and the pupil, teacher centres, so that we might get the worth of our money spent on elementary education.

Coming to elementary education, as to generalities, he need only say that in the Code this year the Board had said practically all he had to say and they had tried to make the Code as readable as such a document could be. One great problem always before them in elementary education was the question of the condition in which the children went to school, the question of the feeding of the children. He had spoken about this more than once, and he had already expressed his strong desire that the House should have a tangible scheme before it. He had said so much on the subject that he would rather not discuss it further until he could lay something definite before the House. It was idle to waste time in words of sympathy when what was wanted was action. He had said, and he still thought, we could do a good deal by indirect effort, by teaching the laws of health in schools and pupil-teacher centres and training colleges and by improvement in the teaching of cookery. He felt that there was a great deal of force in the suggestion that in certain poor districts there should be special schools on the lines of the day industrial schools for underfed children. Then there was the problem of the children who were not permanently underfed but went to the school from time to time in a starving condition. In regard to this he most frankly said, without reference to the fiscal question, that he was not a free-fooder.

MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)

Not altogether.


Well, not a "whole-hogger," but he felt that the matter could only be dealt with by legislation. The other great outstanding problem concerned agricultural education. What was wanted was to keep the children on the land. He thought that both in the country and in the towns too much time was spent in book work. The children in the elementary schools were very near to the hard facts of life, and such children must lose interest in their work as their time was drawing to a close, if they did not see in it any connection with the work going on around them, and he would like to see a more practical character given to the teaching in elementary schools both in the towns and in the country. In the country, however, they must meet the preliminary difficulty of finding teachers who could give the sort of instruction which would bring rural matters home to the child. Teachers would not at the outset of their career assign themselves to the country. The ambition of teachers would, he thought, tend towards the great towns where the great prizes were to be found, and therefore they could not hope to prepare the rural teacher in Training Colleges. They must try to instruct him when he was already employed in the rural school, and the Board were in communication with the Board of Agriculture on the subject, and he trusted that the two Departments would work together, and that the Board of Agriculture would supply lectures and centres in which courses of instruction might be given which might help and guide teachers in rural schools. But then there was the other question as to attendance. Many people in the country, especially the farmers, thought that the Act of 1902 had increased the hours of school attendance and had deprived them of the services of those boys who would otherwise work in the fields. He thought that Act had had this effect, that the local education authorities, under pressure of the rate and with the desire to get the utmost Parliamentary grants, had been stricter in the matter of school attendance than local authorities were before; but he had endeavoured to disabuse those who had communicated with him on the subject of the idea that the Act of 1902 had had any direct effect on the attendance of children in the rural schools. The truth was that the local authorities had not yet learned to take advantage of what was called Robson's Act. That Act enabled a boy of eleven, if he gave a certain number of attendances, to work for months together in the fields, though he was not entitled to total exemption till he reached the age of thirteen. The rules as to attendance were very complicated, they were more than that, they were tangled, and he hoped that in the course of the winter the Board might be able to work out these rules of attendance and communicate with the local authorities in the country so as to enable them to get the full benefit of Robson's Act, and then, he thought, without loss of grant to the local authorities, they might bring back into the Code that scheme of grants, which he was very sorry to have to let drop this year, and which be thought would have been of considerable advantage to the education of the country at large. If, however, the local authorities were to take full advantage of that Act they wanted centres or else evening schools for half-timers, so that if boys were set free to work in the fields during the last portion of the year, they might be able, without breaking the thread of their work, to get their teaching in the special centres provided for the purpose.

He thought he had now reviewed the educational circumstances of the day as far as he could. The Board of Education had had a very difficult task thrown upon it It had had to decide a great many questions under the Education Act, some of them very important and some of them not so important—but all important to the persons concerned—questions between managers and county councils, questions as to the application of endowments, questions as to foundation managers, and questions as to what were necessary schools. It was impossible to decide between the parties with satisfaction to both, and the disappointed party generally thought that the Board had not merely done wrong but had been prejudiced in its wrongdoing. The Board had had, however, to work through these large educational problems, dealing with an infinite amount of detail, and buffeted by the storms of that religious controversy of which they had heard so much in the House and not so much in the country. Still he hoped that throughout they had endeavoured to impress upon those with whom they had been in communication the true meaning of the often misused word "education." They had endeavoured to impress on those with whom they had had to deal that education was not merely a means of obtaining a Parliamentary grant for a school, not merely a means by which some learning was acquired to turn to immediate account commercially or otherwise; they had rather suggested that, when education was spoken of as a ladder by which a successful boy or girl might climb above his or her original surroundings to something higher and better, that, after all, was only a part of its function and that education brought its reward to the successful and the unsuccessful and un-ambitious alike, by offering a training of mind and character which gave a fuller sense of the interest, reality, and seriousness of life.


said there seemed to be an unreality about the discussion. First of all they heard a plea for the ratepayer. Would the hon. Member for West Ham, from whom in the course of the debate he heard an interjection, join him in saying that all education should be paid for out of the Imperial Exchequer so that they might get rid of all questions as to the inequality in the matter of education of local burdens? When he heard of the difficulty of finding money to put Church schools in a proper sanitary condition be remembered a case in which a plea was put forward that there should be better ventilation in a school. They found it difficult to get money for the purpose, and instead of improving the ventilation they put up a new text. They boasted of having done that. It might be thought from what some people said in discussing questions of education that parents were able to take proper care of their children day and night. As a matter of fact, in the poor districts the training of the children had to be left in the hands of the teacher. What chance had agricultural labourers of attending to the instruction of their children? They considered it a hardship that the children were not allowed to go out and earn a shilling or two. A farm labourer and his wife toiled from morning till night and the instruction of the children was necessarily left in the hands of the teachers. What was wanted was a better class of people to train the children. The training in the secondary schools was not of the class they ought to get. The teachers were very much below the requisite standard. Would the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education help them in that direction? When children won junior scholarships it was difficult to get them to go to the higher elementary and secondary schools to continue their education. What was the cause of that? It was because of a bit of foolishness on the part of the children. Their clothing was not equal to that of the other children attending the secondary schools, and they had a disinclination to go to those schools. Could anything be done to improve matters in that respect? It seemed that the opportunity for acquiring knowledge was limited to those boys and girls who could be well dressed. It was very sad, but it was so. Every child, no matter how humble his or her position in life, should have an opportunity of getting on, and he thought the Education Department should create more secondary schools. By that means the class of children to whom he referred would be able to continue their education. Of late Years they had endeavoured to make education a little more attractive. He would never be content with the educational arrangements of the country until the workman's son and daughter were given the same opportunity as the children of the middle and upper classes. Every child should have a square opportunity of gaining the position he was fitted to fill. A good milliner or dressmaker was almost as valuable to the nation as even a learned professor of Oxford or Cambridge. They were useful to the whole community, and certainly they helped to create the wealth of the nation.

Dealing with the question of underfed children attending schools the hon. Member urged that something should be done in this matter at once, and that it should not be put off to next year. The question had been discussed for years, and it would be postponed again and passed on to the hon. Gentleman's successor if the policy which had been pursued in the past were continued. That would not be a very bright outlook for the poor children. He did not think any special grants were required to enable them to feed the children who came to school hungry. Everlasting credit was due to the people who had privately organised a scheme for providing free meals, but they were unable to cover the whole ground. They had the same cry every winter—casual employment, sick father, mother broken down in health, children going to school unfed. In the poorer districts the children, after three years of age, when they had got to feed on other than maternal sustenance, began to fade away and get weaker and weaker. Were they going to keep these children of from three to five years away from school? He hoped not. They were better cared for in schools than in the slums and courts of the East End. Why should these children be kept on private charity? If anyone went into an infirmary he would be amazed to find the number of young men and women who were absolutely broken down because they were insufficiently fed between five and twelve or fifteen years of age. It would never do to have special classes for underfed children in the schools. That would be to put a badge upon them; and children; be they ever so poor, had some sort of natural pride. Nothing could be easier than to provide two meals a day for all children at the board schools; and it could be done at very little expense. There might be a general rush at first, for the novelty of the thing, but the local authority would very soon be able to gauge to a pound how much the scheme would cost. Some people would, no doubt, say that the parents could feed their children if they were only a little more careful, did not drink so much and spend their wages in riotous living. But, be that as it might, it had nothing to do with the children, and it was the children that they had got to look after. If the Education Department was to have regard to the future, they would have to take up this question of feeding the children as one of the first principles of education. When it was said that that would relieve the parents of their responsibility, his answer was that if they did not do this for the children when they were young they would have to pay for it when they were older and became useless members of society. The House of Commons was the place where some help should be given to these poor little children. These should not be starved for the convenience of the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Education, of the Treasury, or of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Their duty was clear that when the children were compelled to go to school they should be fed to enable them to get some benefit from their education.

SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)

said that they had had a very interesting discussion on many questions of immediate significance in regard to education. There was one part of the speech of his hon. friend who represented the Board of Education which was of very great, immediate, and grave importance in regard to the working of the Education Act. He referred to the training of teachers. His hon. friend had referred to the extraordinary discrepancy there was between the amount of the Parliamentary grant for elementary education and that given for the machinery which was to bring about what they all desired to see accomplished. To his mind that was unbusiness-like when they were dealing with a great national question. He said advisedly that the sooner the State took up the responsibility of training the teachers the better. That was the only security they could have for the smooth and easy working of the Education Act. Many hon. Members knew the difficulties which were gathering round them in regard to this question of the training of teachers. In his own county they had a great scheme for pupil teachers' centres, but there was no security that the adjoining counties were doing anything in the matter. The onus of the training of pupil teachers should not be thrown on the locality. It was a lamentable thing that the claims of higher education had to be ignored by the county authorities owing to the very large burden thrown upon the ratepayers by the training of pupil teachers. In some counties as much as £16,000 or £18,000 was spent for that purpose alone. The result was that the county authorities were reluctant to add to the rates by putting into operation the provisions of the Act with respect to continuation schools and higher education. If that state of things were permitted to continue the work of education would be seriously hampered.

He had hoped that they would have been able that afternoon to talk about education, and not have again to discuss the festering difficulty of which hon. Gentlemen opposite appeared to be so fond. He was old enough to remember Mr. Forster's Act, which enabled children to be sent to church or not, according to the wishes of the parents. If the attendance of children in church for religious instruction was compulsory, there would be a grievance; but it was entirely permissive, and provided the parents did not object he could not see anything objectionable in the practice. With regard to the question of underfed children, he thought it was surrounded with serious difficulties, but it was undoubtedly a great evil in large industrial centres, and he should heartily welcome any attempt to deal with it. Local effort in this direction should be stimulated as far as possible; but, where the public purse was concerned, care should be taken to differentiate as between parent and parent. There should be different treatment for the frugal parent and the man who, earning good wages, spent three-fourths of it in drink. He knew it was difficult, but it ought not to be impossible, to deal with the question. He would welcome any possible scheme; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman and his Department would listen with a willing ear to any suggestion that was brought forward.


complained that it was impossible in the time left to them to do justice to the grave questions raised, and that it was also impossible for various Members who desired to do so to bring various grievances and differences in the working of the Act of 1902 before the House. He hoped they would not again have the Education Estimates thrown over to what was practically the last day of the session. He could not conceive by what principle of interpretation it could be held that the taking of children to the church on Ascension Day was religious instruction. It might be a good deal better than instruction, but within the meaning of the Acts of 1870 and 1902 it was not instruction. There was nothing in either the Act of 1870 or that of 1902 to limit the power of the local education authority. The hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and the right hon. Member for Cambridge University touched from different points of view upon a question of the utmost importance, and this was the condition and health of the children. There was one remarkable document which ought to be remembered in this connection. It was not more, he thought, than a month ago that a memorial was presented by a large number of very eminent professional men, physicians and surgeons of the greatest distinction and weight, urging that far more attention should be given to the teaching of principles of health in elementary and secondary schools than was now done. They put it that not only should teachers be instructed in these principles and be directed to give instruction to the children, but that proper provision should be made in the programme or syllabus of the schools for a subject of this extreme importance. He had rather hoped that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education would have adverted to that Report, but he hoped he might at any rate take it that he was not indifferent to its importance and that some attempt would be made by the Board to give effect to it.


Although I did not deal with that at length, I did say I thought something might be done by teaching the elementary principles of health in the schools and pupil teachers' centres.


proceeding, said he hoped prompt steps would be taken, because it was eally a question of urgent importance. He earnestly hoped the Board would make it one of their first duties to teach the principles of health to teachers. The hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs had pointed out that the Board of Education, according to the evidence which had reached him, was not doing all that it ought to do to secure that the buildings of elementary schools which were being handed over to the local authorities had been put into a proper hygienic state. He had heard evidence from other parts of the country that the Board had been lax in requiring the local trustee or manager to fulfil what was the clear duty imposed upon him by the the Act of 1902; and the hon. Gentleman had said with great force that if the Board were going to insist upon the scrupulous performance of its duties by the local education authorities, this was all the stronger reason why it should insist upon local managers and trustees doing their part of the duty, which consisted in handing over the buildings in a proper state to secure the health and comfort of the children. This was an aspect of the matter he hoped the Board would bear in mind. If they were going to be exact in one direction, they must at least be as exact in another direction.

Turning to the question of the training of teachers, the hon. Member said that it was rather a matter of national than of local concern, because no local authority spending money upon the training of teachers could count upon retaining those teachers for its own service. Sooner or later the thing would become a national concern, and the expense would have to be paid out of the national Treasury. The whole subject of the training of teachers required radical reform. He entirely objected to denominational colleges, not merely because they were denominational, but because he did not think they were as efficient as they ought to be. He hoped they were not to take what fell from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education as indicating that he was unfavourable to a connection between training colleges and Universities, because he believed the best training colleges were those which had connection with the Universities.

The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich had made the important admission that no system of education could be permanent unless all religious bodies acquiesced in it. This was undeniably true. No system would be satisfactory until they had a much more general consensus of opinion than yet existed. The moral of this remark was that the present system could not last; and he could assure the noble Lord that he and those who thought with him believed it to be the duty of every one, no matter to what denomination he belonged, to endeavour to arrive at an agreement on the subject, to endeavour to put forward moderate and reasonable proposals which would have some chance of meeting the views of reasonable men in all ranks, and, above all, the general views of the parents in the country. It was not the extremists, but the general views and wishes of the parents, which they ought to endeavour to meet. He earnestly hoped that the next few months would be utilised for this purpose, but he did not believe any such arrangement could be arrived at upon the basis of the present Act. He thought it would be absolutely necessary to have new legislation, departing in some considerable respects from the Act of 1902, before this could be attained. That it would be attained in the long run he did not for a moment doubt, but he hoped that the spirit in which he believed the Secretary to the Board of Education and the noble Lord desired to approach the subject would so far prevail that it would be seen that the Act of 1902 could not be maintained, and that every one would endeavour to find remedies for the existing evils in amendments of the Act which could be accepted with the least debate and controversy.

* MR. DUKE (Plymouth)

said the true religious feeling of the country would welcome the remarks just made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen. During the long and often embittered debates on the Education Act of 1902 the great obstacle to anything like agreement was the religious controversy, and the difficulties had been aggravated rather than diminished by the subsequent course of events. If the right hon. Gentleman's speech introduced anything like a rational spirit into the controversy it would mark a very wholesome new departure. But the Secretary to the Board of Education must not lay the flattering unction to his soul that the happy time was at hand when it would be possible to disregard that religious controversy and consider the interests of education altogether apart from the religious divisions which bulked so largely in the question. In his reply to the hon. and learned Member for Stretford the hon. Baronet did not appear to appreciate the substance of the difficulty or the reality of the feeling which existed in the country. The question was not one of the mere technical interpretation of a by-law; it went far deeper than that. The whole question of the association of religion with the education of the children was concerned, and the conflict between the two hostile camps was as to whether the teaching of religion should be isolated from the general educational system in elementary schools. The difficulty could not be disposed of by the statement that a by-law existed which prevented schools from having a time-table in a particular form. What the friends of Church schools desired to know was what practical course the Board of Education were going to take as to the interpretation of the by-laws. Personally he thought it might fairly be argued that the recent interpretation was the more correct, but regard should be had to the fact that Church schools were an institution which had grown up, which had rendered great services to education, which had been fostered by the State and which the State had practically pledged itself to preserve subject to certain conditions, and the Board of Education had to consider whether they would strike out of that institution that which the friends of Church schools regarded as one of its most valuable features. That was the substance of the difficulty, and he believed that on both sides of the House there would be a desire that that difficulty should be met.

And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.

Sixth, subsequent, and postponed Resolutions to be Further Considered at this Evening's Sitting.