HC Deb 24 February 1904 vol 130 cc905-10

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £29,500, 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, 1904, for the Expenses of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland."


said that as regarded the inspection of national schools in Ireland, he was glad to find that the evening school system which was recently introduced was progressing favourably. The inspectors of the Board were almost unanimous in speaking in praise of the work that was being done. There was, however, one point which he wished to mention; which was of importance not only to every Irishman but also to every educationalist. That was the introduction of the Irish language, which was one of the greatest educational influences in the work of the evening schools. Inspector after inspector referred to the great local interest in education which was aroused by the introduction of the teaching of the Irish language; whereas in districts where it was not taught there was a lack of interest. He appealed to the Chief Secretary to encourage such an awakening of educational development among the people in Ireland. He was, however, sorry and surprised to find that the National Board had recently issued a circular in reference to the teaching of the Irish language in national schools. It pointed out that schools which had not reached a certain standard of efficiency would not be allowed to teach the Irish language as an extra. The Irish language was not mentioned specially, but it was the only language that could be referred to. He did not contend that extras should be taught in all subjects where the school was not up to a certain standard of efficiency; but the teaching of the Irish language had the greatest effect in raising the standard of a school and increasing its efficiency. If the circular were allowed to continue, 50 per cent. of the national schools would be excluded from teaching the Irish language. The circular also stated that no fees for languages could be given for any pupils in a lower standard than the fourth. Scarcely any language was taught in the national schools except the Irish language; and, therefore, it would have been more direct if the Commissioners of National Education had referred to the Irish language alone. There were in Ireland 400,000 pupils enrolled in the first three standards; and if the circular were insisted on they would all be excluded from learning the Irish language. What was the use of teaching a native language unless it were taught from the beginning? He hoped that the Chief Secretary would see that the teaching of the Irish language, which had done so much for educational life in Ireland, would not be hampered by the National Board. With reference to the salaries of teachers, he asked the Chief Secretary a few days ago how many assistant teachers had been promoted from the third grade to the second grade, and the answer was three. He was aware that the Commissioners had certain authority to promote men who were doing good work and pay them accordingly; but in two years only three teachers had been so promoted. The Commissioners had not availed of their power in this direction, and there was no indication that they proposed to avail of it. At present national teachers in Ireland had very little prospect of promotion. He would ask the Chief Secretary to look carefully into the matter, believing, as he did, that the greatest injury was done to the cause of education in Ireland by the wretchedly inadequate system of payment there in force. In any other country in the world men who had the important work of training the youth were paid well, and it was only in Ireland that such a mean and niggardly system of payment was adopted. He would also ask the Chief Secretary to obtain the withdrawal of the circular issued by the National Board, who appeared to be striving with all their might to prevent the Irish language being taught in the schools.

* MR. BOLAND (Kerry, S.)

advocated the development of the musical capacities of the Irish children, as was being done in the English schools. It was unfortunate that no proper attempt had been made to issue, for school purposes, a collection of Irish folk songs, together with the music for them. If that were done he was sure that the musical culture of the children would be greatly assisted. He hoped the National Board of Education would issue at the earliest moment a proper collection of Irish national songs, not. only to the evening continuation schools but also to the day schools. In the preface of a folk-song book for English schools issued a few years ago. Sir C. Villiers Stanford said— In our wide experience preference appears to be given in the schools to songs of an ephemeral character, or to new songs specially written, from which it is impossible to expect any lasting results; for a sound basis of musical feeling can alone be obtained from genuine folk songs, which have grown up along with the development of the country itself, and is is mainly through their influence that we may hope to develop that responsive sympathy which produces national art, artists, and art-lovers. and he had read that very day a review o Sir Horace Plunkett's, "Ireland in the New Century." which contained this extract— A passionate conviction is gaining ground that if Irish traditions, literature, language, art, music, and culture, are allowed to disappear, it will mean the disappearance of the race; and that the education of the country must be nationalised if our social, intellectual, or even our economic position is to be improved. It was only by proper collections of these songs that the musical capacity of the people could be developed, and it was the only basis upon which useful results could be obtained. He further hoped that the Chief Secretary would see his way to carry out a reduction of the pupils from sixty to fifty as the average number entitling them to a teacher. An average of sixty very often meant a total attendance of ninety or ninety-five, and one teacher could not be expected to efficiently look after a. school with that number of pupils. Finally he hoped the National Board of Education would withdraw the circular relating to the teaching of Irish, in the schools. The Irish language was making rapid strides in the country, and it was because they wanted it encouraged in every manner, and every department, that they urged the Chief Secretary to do all in his power to get the circular withdrawn.


said there was nothing in this Vote pertaining to the circular to which reference had teen made. The Committee were dealing with evening continuation classes, and the circular did not refer to evening continuation classes. His views on the Irish language were known, and he need not repeat them. The great increase in the evening continuation schools must be a subject of general congratulation. As a rule, objection was taken to Supplementary Estimates, but he thought this Supplementary Estimate in respect of evening schools ought to be welcomed in all quarters of the House. In 1901 there were only twenty continuation schools whereas the number was now over 1,000. The development had been so rapid as to exceed the Estimate originally draw up. With regard to the complaint as to slowness of promotion and the in adequacy of the salaries of Irish teachers, he admitted that the promotion was slow, but the remedy was not immediately obvious. The present system had the defect that it had caused a great multiplication of schools. It might be said on that ground that promotion should be more rapid, but that had not been the result. There was no local incentive on the part of managers, as the control was exercised by a central body. Consequently all the teachers in excess of the requirements—not of the number of schools, but of the number of pupils—did not get the promotion which they might expect in this country. At the outset teachers were worse paid in this country than in Ireland, but they had better prospects. This Supplementary Estimate gave some support to the argument which he had frequently used, that the new rules as to salary would be found to work out better than had been supposed would be the case. No less than £14,000 of this Supplementary Estimate was due to salaries and to increments accruing under the new rules. It was a complicated system, under which it was impossible to tell beforehand exactly how much any particular teacher would earn, and consequently at the end of the year there were certain balances of salary to be paid. Until some plan was devised for lessening the number of schools where they were excessive, the teaching profession could not hold out such good prospects in Ireland as in England. He would certainly give his attention to the subject, but it was a matter which would require a good deal of consideration, not only for him, but for Members of the House, before a satisfactory solution could be arrived at.


said everybody recognised that it was impossible on this Supplementary Estimate to go as far into the subject as Irish Members wished, but there would be an opportunity to do so later. He wanted to ask the Chief Secretary if he could give a promise that if it was found that this circular on extra subjects issued by the National Board of Education, and in which it was said that no fees could be allowed for languages taught to pupils lower than the fourth class—if that circular seriously interfered with the teaching of Irish to large numbers of small children, he would take steps to change the circular in that respect. They knew the right hon. Gentleman had no power over the Board, but no doubt an expression of his opinion would carry considerable weight. He was very glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of the Irish language being taught. The result of excluding all classes below the fourth class from participating in the fees for teaching languages would be to exclude an immense number of Irish children from the teaching of their own language.

MR. LENDON (Limerick, E.)

said it was very hard that the Irish language should not be universally taught in the schools. He had been a professor of languages for over forty years and could testify to the value of the Irish language. The proper time to commence to teach it was when the pupils were quite young, and, if they deprived the youngest pupils of that privilege, it was possible that they would never learn the language at all. He also advocated the teaching of the Irish national songs. The Irish were a musical race, and it would be the greatest pity to deprive them of the pleasure and advantage to be gained from a study of music.

And it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow: Committee also rep art Progress; to sit again To-morrow.