HC Deb 11 March 1908 vol 185 cc1503-6
SIR F. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)

To ask the President of the Board of Education what is the present number of rural secondary schools into whose curriculum the study of chemistry, physics, and biology in their relation to agriculture has been introduced, and in what counties; how many of such schools have endowments as grammar schools or otherwise, and how many are provided by county councils, by or in connection with agricultural colleges, and by private enterprise, respectively; how many such schools have school gardens and small farms or plots attached to them, giving an opportunity for experimental and practical instruction in the application of the scientific studies to real agricultural work; what is the present number of pupils, boys and girls respectively, in such schools; and whether any, and, if so, how many, and in what counties, such schools are being carried on in combination with a group of small elementary schools whose pupils are brought to the central school from their several villages, as in Canada and the United States.

(Answered by Mr. McKenna.) I regret that it is not possible at such short notice to carry out a sufficiently detailed investigation of the curricula of the rural secondary schools receiving grants from the Board to enable complete information to be given as to the various points in the Question. Taking England apart from Wales, there are about 190 secondary schools which could properly be described as "rural," and they are spread over all the counties of England. Twenty-eight are provided by county councils or other local authorities, and 148 are endowed schools. Eight are otherwise provided; no schools receiving grants from the Board are provided by "private enterprise" in the sense of making any profit. These schools provide instruction for 11,291 boys and 4,780 girls. Without communicating with the Board's inspectors I am unable to classify and formulate precise information as to the provision of school gardens or plots in connection with these schools or as to the degree of connection which they may have with agricultural colleges. These matters, in common with matters concerning the other branches of the curricula of secondary schools, are included in a careful investigation which is being conducted, and the results of which will, as far as possible, be made available in statistical or other forms in due course. I may perhaps add, however, that, of the 190 schools, 175 teach chemistry, 165 physics, 162 manual work, and seventy-two botany and nature study. In a few schools a special attempt has been made to provide special classes in horticulture, agriculture, and, in one case, bee-keeping. In reply to the concluding paragraph of the Question, it would seem that the principal purpose there suggested would probably be effected in this country by the establishment of higher elementary schools, or day schools or classes under Section 42 of the Technical Regulations of the Board, the relation of a secondary school to the neighbouring elementary schools being not altogether similar to that suggested in the Question as prevailing in Canada or the United States.


To ask the President of the Board of Education what is the present number of centralised rural evening schools; in what counties; how many of such schools are provided by county councils, or by or in connection with agricultural colleges, or by private enterprise, respectively; in how many of such schools is the curriculum arranged in cyclic courses, and in how many long courses, and in how many short (four to ten lessons) courses in the suggested practical subjects are being carried out; and what is the number of pupils, male and female.

(Answered by Mr. McKenna.) For the current year the Board estimate at 3,500 the total number of evening schools, excluding all schools or centres affording fewer than twenty hours of instruction, aided by the Board, serving what may properly be considered to be rural areas for the purposes of this Question; of these about 99 per cent, are provided by county councils or other local education authorities. There are such schools in every county in England and Wales; but the Board are unable at short notice to give the number of those which are "centralised" as distinct from the other types of evening schools. In a large and increasing proportion of them the instruction given has a definite relation to the character and conditions of work of the rural population. The actual number of such schools in the session 1905–6 was 3,353, of which 3,319 were provided by county councils and 34 otherwise. Less than ten of these formed part of the organisation of any agricultural college, but it must be remembered at the same time that many county councils utilise the services of the staffs of agricultural colleges for the provision of expert instruction in special subjects in connection with such schools. Assuming the phrase "suggested practical subjects," in the second paragraph of the hon. Member's Question, to refer to subjects suggested in the Memorandum issued by the Board of Education in July, 1906, concerning rural evening schools, I may say that only in the case of thirteen counties are returns at the moment available with reference to the numbers of long and short courses in practical rural subjects. The information as to these counties is, however, sufficient to indicate the scale upon which instruction is being provided in this way. In the thirteen counties in question arrangements have already been made for 64 long and 403 short courses of practical work in such subjects as dairying, poultry-keeping, farriery, horticulture, and manual farm processes. Much of this work however is carried on during the spring and summer months, so that these numbers will probably be increased by the addition of courses for which arrangements are not yet completed. In reply to the concluding paragraph of the Question, I may say that in most rural evening schools aided by the Board of Education provision is made for changes from year to year in the programme of work. The degree of effectiveness to which this is carried is very variable; and while the Board are satisfied that a fairly complete cycle of subjects has been arranged for many schools they are unable to state how many have formally adopted the cyclic principle to which attention was directed in a recent publication by the Board of Education. In virtue of the provisions of Section 34 of the Regulations for Technical Schools, the Board have been able to direct the attention of local education authorities to many points in the curricula of rural evening schools which appeared to require attention. During the eighteen months that section has been in operation much has already been done to improve the evening school organisation so as to make it more practical and better suited to the needs of the rural community. The Board have no precise information as to the numbers of pupils now attending classes of the types my hon. friend has in mind, but they estimate that over 50,000 are receiving instruction otherwise than in "short courses."