HC Deb 22 June 1905 vol 147 cc1425-31

Motion made, and Question proposed "That a sum, not exceeding £1,047,290, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1906, for Public Education in Scotland, and for Science and Art in Scotland, including a Grant in Aid."

MR. MCCRAE (Edinburgh, E.)

moved a reduction of the Vote by £100 in order to call attention to the Minute of the Education Department dealing with the training of teachers. He asked for information as to denominational teaching in colleges, and contended that the representation of the Edinburgh School Board on the committee established by the Minute should at least be six members instead of three as at present. He wished particularly to bring before the notice of the Lord-Advocate the method by which this committee had been appointed. He thought the claim put forward by the Education Department that they had power to arrange for the transference of property from certain organisations to this committee was an extraordinary one. By doing this the Department were not only ignoring Parliament but they were claiming a right which this House ought to inquire into most carefully before they allowed the Department to exercise it. The Department took this course and laid the Minute on the Table of this House, and hon. Members had had no opportunity whatever of drawing attention to it, although an ample opportunity had been given for its discussion in another place. He wished to ask the Lord-Advocate under what statute the Education Department for Scotland had the powers which they had arrogated to themselves in regard to this question? With regard to the principle involved in the establishment of this committee under the Minute there was a general agreement in Scotland. He thought it was a step in the right direction, and he had no hesitation in saying that the principle upon which they had proceeded was a right one. He wished to point out that the colleges which it was proposed to take over were denominational, and he understood that after the committee had taken them over they were still to remain denominational. That was contrary to the spirit of the time in Scotland, and he hoped the Lord-Advocate would give them some information as to how it was proposed to continue this system. He wished to know what they intended to do after the Education Bill was passed if the provincial councils were established? Would the committee now established be swallowed up or would it remain as a separate entity? The great desire was in favour of co-ordination, and the provincial councils ought to superintend the training of the teachers. He did not think that the representation given to Edinburgh upon this committee was sufficient. Whether they took population as their basis or the number of teachers employed in grant-earning schools the proportion of representation Edinburgh was concerned was entirely disproportionate. Edinburgh had a population of 316,000 and 748 teachers, and yet it only had three members on this committee. It could not be overlooked that Edinburgh would really be the training ground for the teachers, and he thought it was entitled to a more reasonable representation, and they claimed that Edinburgh ought really to have six members on this committee. At any rate, the Universities had five representatives and the least that should be given to Edinburgh was five. He begged to move.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,047,190, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. McCrae.)

* SIR ANDREW AGNEW (Edinburgh S.)

hoped the Lord-Advocate would see his way to give Edinburgh a little better representation on the committee. The School Board of Edinburgh contended that their views would not be adequately represented by only three representatives, and he thought they were quite right in this contention. Whatever test was taken, whether the population served by the board, size, the importance of the schools, or the number of teachers employed, Edinburgh was entitled to a larger representation. But there was a still stronger reason. In this Minute it was laid down as a condition of making the Parliamentary grant that the school boards should provide the students being trained as teachers with proper facilities for practice in teaching in their schools. Another clause laid down that classes for these students were to be held in towns where a University or part of a University was situate. It was, therefore, obvious that nearly all the students who were trained by the Edinburgh Committee would have to learn the art of teaching in the board schools of Edinburgh. That being the case, it was surely right that the School Board of Edinburgh should have a more liberal representation on this committee. He thought that under these circumstances the School Board of Edinburgh had made out a strong case for an increase in their representation.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

commented on the large proportion of elementary school teachers who had taken University degrees in Scotland, and said this had largely contributed to the efficiency of education. The accessibility of the Scottish Universities had been increased by the gift of Mr. Carnegie. Perhaps the Lord-Advocate would explain why is was that the denominational character of the training colleges was retained. It was not necessary, nor would it have been made a condition had the authorities been properly approached. There was surely no object in retaining the denominational character when there was no force in the condition. This was really a step in the direction of denominationalism which was, as a matter of fact, an anachronism in Scotland at the present time. He trusted that the Lord-Advocate would be able to assure them that the training colleges in Scotland would be put upon a proper footing, and that they would have none of this State denominationalism left in them.

MR. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)

appealed to the Lord-Advocate for a statement that would remove the uncertainty that existed in reference to the training of teachers. They wished to be assured that action of some sort would be taken upon this Minute, or at least announced, so that those responsible for the training of teachers might know exactly where they stood.

MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)

hoped that the Government would announce that they proposed to proceed at once to develop the training of teachers. He quite agreed with what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen. He regretted that the discussion of so important a subject as this had been crowded into such a very small corner, because it seemed to him to be the largest question they had to deal with either upon the Estimates or the Bill.


said he could not complain of the considerate way in which this subject had been treated by hon. Members who had spoken. The view of the Department was that their proposals should be such as would satisfy the people of Scotland and Parliament. The question had excited a good deal of interest for years past, and the present state of things was admitted to be unsatisfactory. The Government had undertaken that the Minute should not be acted upon until the view of Parliament was ascertained. With regard to training colleges the truth was that, though they were termed denominational, they had not, in fact, been denominational institutions with the exception of a few Roman Catholic colleges. So far as the Presbyterian bodies were concerned, they had given the training which the large majority of the people of Scotland desired for their teachers and children, and therefore they could not be regarded in any proper sense as denominational institutions. On the other hand, it was right to state that before this Minute was passed negotiations took place between those who were the owners and managers of the various training colleges, and the distinctly intimated, as the condition of any possible transference to the proposed committees, that they would insist on the same religious teaching being continued in the colleges after they were handed over as in the past. It was obvious that the arrangement would be for the benefit of both parties, and he did not think they were trenching in any way upon any question which would raise religious or sectarian animosity.

As to the position with regard to the provincial councils, if the Education Bill passed, as he hoped it would, this session, obviously the right position seemed to them to be that the provincial councils should step into the position of the committees and should supersede them. It would be out of the question that the provincial councils should not be allowed to carry on what was really the most important part of the educational system of Scotland. He thought both sides would agree that the view of the Government upon this point was the sound and correct one. As to the additional representation claimed by the Edinburgh School Board, he did not think that school board could claim that it was badly treated if it was treated in the same way as the Glasgow School Board. There were a great many other school boards represented, and there was a general representation of all the educational authorities in the district. As far as this question of the increased representation of Edinburgh was concerned, he was afraid that he could not hold out any hope that there would be any modification.


thought that in what the right hon. Gentleman said had he had shown great lack of faith as to the prospects of passing the Education Bill. The Lord-Advocate had not given any adequate explanation as to why the Department had exercised these powers in reference to the transference of property.


said that this was a matter which could not be decided before twelve o'clock. He denied that by a Minute of the Department they could give power to transfer private property vested in individuals to another body of individuals, that could only be done by an Act of Parliament.

And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.