§ Resolution reported,
§ 7. "That a sum, not exceeding £10,667,629, 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 2150 day of March 1913, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class IV. of the Estimates for Civil Services."
§ [For Services included in this Class, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1912, cols. 1789–1790.]
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Sir JOHN LONSDALE
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.
I must say that it is impossible for any Irishman to be satisfied with the present condition of education in Ireland. Most of us will agree that there is need for a thorough reorganisation of the whole system. To my mind, the first step to this reform would be the establishment of an Irish Education Department that would be responsible for all branches of education. That is a matter which, I suppose, cannot be, discussed upon this Vote, but I may venture to hope that we shall not have to wait much longer for a Minister with sufficient courage to take in hand the solution of this problem. Of course, I am quite prepared to hear hon. Members opposite say that the deficiencies of Irish education can be remedied by an Irish Parliament, but we deny that altogether, and at the proper time we shall be ready to develop that part of our case against Home Rule. Perhaps I may be permitted to make three observations with reference to the suggestion that all questions of the improvement of education should be relegated to a Home Rule Parliament. In the first place, I do not believe that we shall see an Irish Parliament in our time. In the second place, any Irish Parliament would under present conditions be an entirely Nationalist body; and therefore it could not deal with education in such a way as to command the confidence of the minority. In the third place, Home Rule would simply increase and accentuate the present difficulty which arises mainly from the want of sufficient money. That is the point to which I desire to direct the attention of the Government and of the Committee on this occasion. We want more money for Irish education, and I submit that we need only compare this Vote with the corresponding Vote for Scotland to realise that Ireland is fairly entitled to claim a considerable increase in the present Grants for education. I admit there is room for some difference of opinion as to the actual amount which Ireland should receive, be- 2151 cause of the difficulty of making a true comparison. I believe it is approximately correct to say that whilst in Scotland the Parliamentary Grant for education amounts to 10s. 6d. per head of the population, in Ireland the amount voted by Parliament is only about 8s. 4d. per head—that is to say, if Ireland received education Grants in proportion to population on the same scale as Scotland, the Irish Education Vote would amount to a total of £2,310,000, or £475,000 more than the present Estimate. I do not wish to put Ireland's claim at too high a figure, but, after all allowances have been made, I think the provision for Irish education ought to be increased by at least £350,000 a year.
I should like to know if we are to have the support of the Nationalist Members in pressing the claim upon the Government. I need hardly point out that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have a special responsibility in this matter. They are consenting parties to a Home Rule Bill which proposes to stereotype the provision for Irish education at the amount which represents the actual cost at the time of the passing of the Act. The cost of Irish education rises automatically every year by about £15,000, principally on account of salaries. Therefore, if the Grants were fixed at the present amounts, it follows that the Irish Parliament would not be endowed with sufficient money to maintain the education services at their present level, and there would be no provision whatever for their development. Dr. Starkie, the present Commissioner of Education in Ireland, has recently dealt with this matter in an address which he delivered to the Irish Technical Congress, and which I have no doubt has not escaped the attention of the Nationalist Members or the Government. Dr. Starkie says:—If the education Grants are stereotyped at their present figure. the path of progress will be effectually blocked for a generation.From the Nationalist point of view, therefore, there is every reason why they should unite with us to get from the Treasury the amount to which I submit Ireland is justly entitled. They have a power which we do not possess. They are able to insist upon this provision being made. If they do not make use of their power and get the money which Ireland needs for educational purposes, all I can say is that Irish people will have a heavy score to settle with them hereafter. I want to 2152 draw the attention of the Chief Secretary and of the Committee to several matters which give point to our demand for an increase in the present Estimate. I take, first, the condition of the school-houses, and I ask the attention of the Committee to a brief extract which I will read from the Report of the Commissioners of Education for 1909–10. The Report says:—In many of the cases where new school-houses are still required, the existing buildings are mere hovels, some have earthen floors and thatched or broken roofs, unceiled within; and others are badly lighted and ventilated, possessing insufficient floor and cubic space for the number in attendance, and destitute of any sanitary arrangements.That indicates a condition of affairs which calls urgently for a remedy, and what is required is a considerable increase in the amount available for building Grants. Last year, as a result of a great deal of pressure, the Treasury were induced to consent to an additional amount of £108,000 being allocated for building Grants, but very much more than that is required. The Commissioners point out in their last Annual Report that—the new Grant is quite insufficient to meet the many applications for new buildings that we receive almost daily, and, unless considerably augmented in the next and subsequent years, will be found entirely inadequate to bring the school buildings of this country to a satisfactory standard of educational efficiency and hygienic comfort.It is also Dr. Starkie's opinion that—in order to rebuild some hundreds of schools which are a disgrace to civilisation, and a positive danger to the health of the public, about £100,000 a year would be necessary for the next five or six years.I come next to the question of heating and cleaning the school-houses, in which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Down (Captain Craig) has taken so much interest. We have succeeded, after prolonged efforts, in getting a Grant for this purpose, and a sum of £21,000 is included in the present Estimates. It must not be supposed that those who are concerned in the management of the schools are ungrateful, but I cannot say we are satisfied with the provision that has been made. It will defray half the cost of the annual whitewashing of the school premises and the necessary cleansing of the out-offices, in addition to the winter heating; but it does not include any provision for the daily cleaning of the school premises, which remains in many cases a burden upon the teachers. We also want increased Grants for medical inspection, for evening continuation classes, and for practical instruction such as woodwork and gardening. I simply mention these requirements in passing because I 2153 want to refer more particularly to certain grievances of the national school teachers. There are three questions which have given rise to a considerable amount of irritation among the teachers of Ireland, and I think it would be in the best interests of education that those matters should be settled without further delay, and I would like to press them specially on the attention of the Chief Secretary. The first matter is one which affects all the teachers, and it relates to the payment of their salaries. They are now paid quarterly, which is a most inconvenient arrangement, especially for those with families. The teachers have asked for many years that they should receive their salaries monthly, but up to the present time it has been found impossible to overcome the objections of the Treasury.
I think the difficulties in the way of making the change have been grossly exaggerated. All that is necessary is to provide in the Estimates of this year for the payment of fourteen months' salaries instead of twelve, that is to say, to bring into this financial year the sum of £177,000 which under the present system of quarterly payments would not be paid until the beginning of next year. It affects this year's Estimates only, it is not a permanent addition to the Vote. The Treasury have assumed if salaries are paid monthly that the augmentation Grant must also be paid monthly, but that does not follow at all. There is no reason why the augmentation Grant should not be continued to be paid in a lump sum at the end of the year. I imagine if the teachers got their salaries monthly they would be satisfied, and they would probably regard it as an advantage to receive their share of the augmentation Grant in one substantial payment at the end of the year. The Treasury, I understand, assert that this change would entail an additional cost of over £5,000. I venture to submit that that is an exaggerated estimate, and, remembering what the Chief Secretary stated on this point when the matter was referred to a year ago, I think the right hon. Gentleman is inclined to agree with me. The right hon. Gentleman then held out hopes that this grievance would be remedied in a short time. The Chief Secretary said:—The Treasury agree that this is a wrong which should be remedied. They make no provision, however, in regard to this present year, but they hope to be able to do so on some very early opportunity, and I hope they may next year be able to provide whatever money is necessary to secure that the teachers' salaries shall be paid monthly.2154 I cannot find that any provision has been made in this year's Estimates to remedy this grievance, and I think we are really entitled to ask the Chief Secretary to explain how it is that these expectations have not been fulfilled. There are two other grievances to which I want to invite the attention of the Chief Secretary. They affect only a limited number of teachers, but I think the whole profession is united in the desire that they should be remedied. In the first place, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether anything has been done to improve the position of "ungraded teachers." The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt remember that the case of those teachers was brought to his notice when this Vote was under discussion last year, and the right hon. Gentleman spoke then as to an inquiry which was proceeding into the circumstances. I do not think it is necessary I should enter into a full discussion upon this question, seeing that the whole case was fully explained in the House last year. But I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us what decision has been arrived at in reference to those teachers. I come to another question which I have frequently brought to the notice of the Chief Secretary during the last few years. I refer to the grievance which has been known as "paper promotion." The number of teachers actually concerned is not very large, but I do not know any question which has aroused such feeling among the whole body of teachers as this subject has aroused. I must say from my own examination of the facts that I consider the teachers are thoroughly justified in the indignation, and the very proper indignation, which they have expressed at the action of the Treasury. I do not wish to detain the Committee longer than is necessary, but I may be allowed to state the facts of this case.
As most of the Committee are aware, the national teachers are divided into grades, and they are promoted from one grade to another, according to merit and length of service. Under the most favourable circumstances a teacher has to serve for upwards of thirty years before reaching the highest grade, and no one who has any knowledge of the salaries paid to Irish national teachers will assert that the best paid amongst them are sufficiently remunerated for the important work they have to perform. I ask the Committee is it possible to imagine anything more annoying to a teacher who has slowly climbed the ladder of promo- 2155 tion than to find on reaching the top that the increased salary which he has earned by long and continuous effort is denied to him by a rule of the Treasury? Yet that is what has happened to a number of teachers during the last three or four years. The Treasury have imposed an arbitrary restriction upon the number of teachers in the highest grade who can receive the salary which is proper to that rank. The consequence is that teachers are promoted in status without being able to secure the pecuniary advantages which they have earned by their industry and capacity. When we look at the amount which is at stake the action of the Treasury seems to be paltry in the extreme. I believe I am right in saying that it will cost less than £1,000 per year to redress this grievance, and it will be worth considerably more than that sum to get rid of a source of annoyance and resentment. I have had many letters from teachers on this subject during the last two years, and one who has written to me in the last few days illustrates the hardship by a reference to his own case. He says:—I have been a principal teacher since 1875, and I attained my promotion to the first grade on the 1st April, 1911. I was then told I must wait for the increased salary until a vacancy occurred in the first grade numbers, although I have to pay my pension premium upon the highest scale.This teacher is in his thirty-seventh year of service, and owing to this rule of the Treasury he is refused an increment which would amount in all to how much? To 5s. a week! Another teacher, in my own Constituency, has written to me with reference to the inconsistencies and inequalities which arise from the operation of this rule. He writes:—We find that teachers whoso length of service was less than eighteen years received from the date of promotion in 1907–8 the increase in salary, whilst men with twenty years' service and upwards were denied it in 1910 and 1911; in fact, several of the men affected have between thirty and forty years' service, and although they have fulfilled the same conditions as those of 1907 and 1908, they have been deprived of sums varying from £7 to £17.I believe the sympathies of the Chief Secretary are with the teachers in this matter, and in reply to a question last July the right hon. Gentleman stated:—The whole subject is having my most careful consideration, with a view, if possible, of having it placed on a clear and satisfactory basis.In March this year the right hon. Gentleman informed me that—the question of increasing the number of teachers in the first grade is at present before the Treasury.I hope we shall hear from the right hon. Gentleman to-day that in future all effi- 2156 cient teachers who comply with the conditions of service as laid down by the Commissioners will receive the increases of salary to which they are entitled.
I want to turn for a few minutes to what I suppose is the most important and the most urgent question connected with Irish education at the present time. I refer to the need for the organisation and improvement of secondary education. That is a very large question, and I imagine it will not be possible to deal with it as a whole until there has been a thorough inquiry by a competent authority. It is part of my purpose to-day to urge that such an inquiry should be set on foot without delay. In the meantime there are one or two questions which arise directly out of this Vote to which I want to direct the attention of the House. The Commissioners of National Education state in their last Report that for nine years they have been pressing upon successive Governments the necessity of establishing a system of higher elementary schools, but so far no result has attended their efforts. Dr. Starkie, the Resident Commissioner of Education, who has very definite ideas as to the type of school which is required, stated recently, in an address to the Irish Technical Congress, that the controlling aim of these schools would be to prepare boys and girls for entrance to technical schools. They would be continuation schools in the true sense of the word, in which the children would be taught to apply the knowledge gained in the elementary schools to practical purposes, and in which they would receive hand and eye training that would be of infinite value to them in after-life. Schools of this type are to be found in Scotland, and I think there is every reason to believe that if they were established in Ireland they would fill a very useful place in the scheme of education. All that is required to enable a beginning to be made in this direction is an increased Grant from the Treasury of some £4,000 or £5,000 a year. It seems unaccountable that the Commissioners should have been trying for nine years, without success, to get this small additional Grant from the Treasury, having regard to the valuable results which might reasonably be expected to accrue from the establishment of these schools. I should like the Chief Secretary to tell us, if he can, whether there is any probability of this question being settled in accordance with the desires of the Commissioners of national education?
2157 There is another matter connected with the development of secondary education, about which I think the House will expect some information to-day. I refer to the scheme of scholarships which the Chief Secretary sketched out last year. The right hon. Gentleman told us that:—The Chancellor of the Exchequer is quite willing this year to set apart a sum of money for intermediate education,and he added that the money would be applied to the establishment of scholarships—enabling boys to proceed from the primary to the secondary schools.We heard no more of that scheme last year, but early in the present year statements appeared which seemed to indicate that the Treasury had intervened and refused to sanction the scheme of scholarships, on the ground that the claim of the secondary school teachers for increased remuneration was more urgent. It appears that the matter has been arranged with the Treasury, because within the last few days a Supplementary Estimate has been presented for a Grant of £10,000 for scholarships from primary schools. That is satisfactory so far as it goes; but I think we should all like to hear from the Chief Secretary whether there is any prospect, near or remote, of the grievances of the secondary school teachers being dealt with. I do not think that anyone can reasonably deny that the position of these teachers requires amelioration. The present average salary of lay secondary teachers is: for men, £82 a year, and for women, £47; and there is absolutely no provision for their old age. That obviously represents a condition of affairs which calls urgently for improvement. What to my mind is no less clear is that a very considerable Grant will be required if any substantial improvement is to be effected. In the Debate last year the Chief Secretary stated that—If the sum set apart for scholarships is more than necessary for the purpose, it may be used to raise the status of secondary schools, which can only be done by raising the present status of the teachers in those schools.The right hon. Gentleman, during the same Debate, held out hopes that Ireland would receive from Imperial funds a sum proportional to the £750,000 per annum, which is paid in capitation fees to the secondary schools in Scotland, England, and Wales. It was implied that this sum would be expended in improving the position of the assistant masters in intermediate schools. What has occurred to prevent the realisation of these hopes? 2158 I do not know what explanation the Chief Secretary will offer, but it seems to me that this sudden tightening of the purse-strings of the Treasury is the direct outcome of the Home Rule Bill. It is obviously to the interest of the British Treasury to keep down the cost of Irish education to the lowest possible limits. So far as we who sit on these benches are concerned, we are determined to protest against a policy which would involve the starving, as we believe, of Irish education for years to come.
§ Mr. DILLON
I beg to second the Amendment. The hon. Baronet, at the opening of his speech, said he would like to reorganise and restart the whole system under which education is conducted in Ireland. I heartily share that view, and that is one of the reasons why I am so strongly in favour of Home Rule. I put a question to him as to what Minister in Ireland he would make responsible for education? He did not answer. That is the impasse that has prevented us on these benches from getting on with the task, because we are met with that impasse, which is the crux of the question as to who is the Minister in Ireland to whom we could assign the responsibility for education. On another and more favourable occasion I shall be very happy to debate that point with the hon. Baronet. To-night we are debating this Vote under circumstances of peculiar difficulty, and I must condense my observations within the shortest possible limit. I shall say first a few sentences on the question on which the hon. Baronet concluded his speech; that is the position of secondary education. Nothing can be done under the present system of secondary education, I fear, except to make a very humble beginning. Certain promises and expectations were held out by the Chief Secretary in the Debate last year, and I rejoice to observe that the first of these promises—namely, that relating to scholarships, has been redeemed.
With reference to the £10,000 for scholarships, I have only this to say, that I protest at this earliest opportunity against that Vote being placed under the Vote for primary education in Ireland. It is properly speaking not a part of the primary system; it is part of the secondary or university system. I shall request that next year it should be placed under its proper head. It is something more than a mere question of paper arrangement, because it would be a manifest outrage if it were to be left entirely to the National 2159 Board to control the policy. As I indicated last year, it ought to be left to some body representing the intermediate Board and the University. The National Board should also be represented on the Government Body, and so should the independent primary schools in Ireland. These form a very important section of Irish schools. There should be absolute security that the examinations will be conducted correctly and that in certain matters there should be no discrimination against the Christian Brothers and other important primary schools in Ireland; that they should have fair play with the national schools. I hope the Chief Secretary will be able to-night to give us some outline of the scheme of the Government for the distribution of the £10,000, assigned annually for these scholarships. I am very glad to take this opportunity of thanking him for securing the Grant, which I think will have a most important influence on Irish education. I cannot go into the matter as fully as I should like to-night; but I desire to say that much before I pass from the subject to the question of the provision of secondary teachers.
I need not go over the ground of last year, or repeat what has been said by the hon. Baronet; but it is perfectly true that there is no body of men in the United Kingdom or Ireland who are so evilly treated as the teachers in the secondary schools in Ireland. I note from the speech of the Chief Secretary, from which the hon. Baronet made a quotation, that he is entirely of that opinion. He has earnestly worked and done his best to make at least a beginning in the redemption of these teachers from a state of sweating and bondage which I do not think any teachers in recent times have been subjected to. I noticed that the other day a deputation of German teachers was over in this country and Professor Sadler, of Manchester, delivered a lecture to them. In the "Times" of yesterday he described his. interview with these German teachers. They expressed their astonishment that in this country secondary teachers were not provided with an adequate salary and with pensions. It is a notorious fact that Germany, which is not so wealthy as England, treats her teachers better than England. What would these German teachers have said if they had crossed over to Ireland; because the English teacher is a millionaire as compared with the Irish teacher both as regards salary, position, and 2160 tenure, and in everything else he is on an infinitely higher scale. Therefore I would make an appeal to the Chief Secretary himself as to whether or not he is in a position to redeem the hopes—I will not say the pledges, but the strong hopes—which he held out to the secondary teachers that something would be done to improve their condition as a basis for future improvement.
I should like very much to say a great deal more on this question of secondary education, but I am very desirous of being brief, and therefore I will turn to the question of primary education. In the Debate last year three pledges were given by the Chief Secretary. The first one was that the question of the heating and lighting would be settled; secondly, that the question—an urgent one—of preventing assistant teachers being dismissed when the average of their pupils fell below fifty should be settled; the third point was that the pension question, which had been advocated so many years, should be settled on a fair and equitable basis. I am bound to acknowledge that these pledges have been redeemed. First of all, the question of heating and lighting has been settled. I do not say that the Grant made has satisfied everybody, but it was the Grant promised by the Chief Secretary. He promised £21,000 per year on condition that the school managers of the localities provided an equal sum. That was the promise, which might or might not be entirely satisfactory, but what was promised has been done. Then there is "the swing of ten," which is a matter of vital importance to a considerable body of assistant teachers, and what was asked here has been granted. With regard to the pensions no useful purpose would be served by debating matters to-night. The question is now sub judice, and in the hands of the actuaries. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made a very substantial Grant, though we do not yet know to what extent it will meet the reasonable demands of the teachers. Until the actuarial report is issued there is nothing to be gained by debating this subject. Therefore I shall pass on to deal very briefly with some more urgent grievances which still remain unredressed. They have already been to a large extent taken and explained by the hon. Baronet, and that relieves me of the necessity of going into the detail in regard to same.
First of all, I want to say in support of the claim of the national teachers to 2161 have these grievances remedied, and remedied immediately, that we have carefully examined the proportion between the Grants for primary education in Great Britain and various parts of Great Britain and Ireland. Taking all the Grants of an Educational character for Scotland, including museums, libraries, universities, secondary and primary education, and comparing them in a lump sum with the Grants to Ireland, you find that Scotland gets 130 pence, or 10s. 10d., per head of the population, whereas Ireland only gets 110 pence, or 9s. 2d., per head of the population, and if Ireland got a proportionate Grant to what Scotland gets she would be receiving £368,000 a year more than she now gets. The figures, as compared with England and Wales, are slightly less. If we got a Grant in Ireland for educational purposes equivalent to the Grant for England and Wales, we would get about £250,000 a year more on the population basis, which is the basis accepted as just by the Treasury. If we got an equivalent calculated on basis of population as compared with England and Wales, we would get about £250,000 a year more for education; therefore we have a just right without exceeding our proportion of educational Grants, to claim that the remedy of some of the grievances which I am going to submit to the House, and some of which are very expensive.
I do not intend to go at any great length into these figures, but when the hon. Baronet stated in the course of his speech that we, the members of the Nationalist party, have such enormous and unlimited powers that we have only got to say the word and order the Treasury to give out any quantity of money we require, I remind hon. Members that the time was when for ten or fifteen years their party was in power, and these were the very worst years for Irish education that I remember. No money could be got at all. The building Grant was taken away, and the arrears now so bitterly and justly complained of in regard to the building of schools accumulated during the office of the Friends of hon. Members from Ulster above the Gangway. During that period their Friends also took away the Grant for Irish, and we could get no money. We were then in Opposition, and did our best, but we got very little support from Irish Unionist Members who then had the power to go to the Treasury and take 2162 them by the throat. It is not easy to hold the Treasury by the throat.
Mr. JOHN GORDON (Londonderry)
You could have got more money.
§ Mr. DILLON
No, and we have succeeded in getting back the building Grant and very considerable arrears of the building Grant; the fees for Irish restored, the extra Grants for salaries, £114,000 a year, we have got the heating and lighting question settled, which was in controversy for years, and we have got a very substantial Grant, which, if it is not sufficient may go a long way towards settling the question of pensions, which has been a subject of agitation for eighteen years, and we have got new pensions. I will just mention three grievances which I think are of extreme urgency and might be reasonably settled. I take first the monthly payment of salaries. The hon. Baronet stated the case for that pretty fully, and I have little to add. I quite admit the Chief Secretary carefully guarded himself against giving an absolute pledge, but he undoubtedly did say that he had the greatest possible hope, and every grounds for hope, that that question would be settled this year. We were told when we pressed that question last year that it would be a matter of £500,000 down and £5,000 a year for extra secretarial work in paying the salaries monthly. I entirely agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for Mid-Armagh in his views on that subject. I do not believe it would take £5,000 a year in office expenses to pay these salaries monthly. I think it is absurd.
I am quite convinced £2,000 a year would do it. As for the Grant necessary to start the payment of the salaries, it is not an annual Grant, but only requires to be done once, and I am instructed by the teachers that they are quite willing to assent to a compromise by which the sum to be voted in the Estimates this year in order to institute the payment of the monthly salaries—and once instituted it will go on without any extra expense to the Treasury—that the sum necessary would be only about £130,000, because I think the teachers would be prepared to compromise their claim by asking only that portion of their annual income, which is called salary to be paid to them monthly. The salary of Irish teachers is divided under three heads. First there is the salary 2163 proper, then the capitation grant, and then the augmentation grant. These are paid at long intervals, and if the teachers got their salaries paid monthly they would be content to compromise the matter, and I am instructed it would only take about £130,000 voted for one year to institute this system. Of course, there is a very strong case for this. It is very hard in the case of young teachers who come out of the training college, when they get an appointment that they have to wait for a period of three months before they get a penny salary at all. They have to borrow money or it has to be provided by their parents. The system is a hard one and I think in view of the fact that the teachers in this country are paid monthly and that even Ministers of the Crown are paid monthly, I think the teachers have a strong claim that they should be treated on the same basis.
The next point is one that I cannot for a moment conceive the Government will refuse to settle this year. It is the case of what is known as the maternity rule. I must lay special stress upon this point because the hon. Baronet, the Member for Mid-Armagh, did not mention it amongst the points he pressed for settlement. The maternity rule is a rule started quite recently by the National Board in Ireland by which a married teacher in Ireland—and there are a great many of them—in the event of child-birth has to retire from the school for a period of three months, and to provide and pay a substitute for that period. That is a rule quite recently instituted, and it is, I think, a very inhuman and from every point of view an unwise rule. When the Government decided to admit married women to teach in schools such a rule as this is nothing short of an outrage. I am informed by many people in authority it would a very great mistake to deny the right to married women to teach in schools. They are very successful and the people rather like them. Up to April, 1911, no such rule existed, and the teachers were entitled to a month's leave, and they returned to their teaching at the end of the month. I am not prepared to say that it would not be a proper rule to extend that period to two months, but I think it is a cruel and indefensible proposition to make the woman teacher pay for her substitute. Really their salaries are small enough, and to put them to that expense at that period of their life is an extraordinary 2164 perversion of what ordinary humanity would suggest. Here you have several thousand female teachers who enter the service of the Board on the distinct understanding that no such rule existed, and no such rule was ever thought of before, and the Board without making any allowance for vested rights, inaugurated this extraordinary rule and applied it to the existing teachers who came in under the old system. That is an extraordinary piece of injustice quite apart from the merits of the rule, and even if the rule was a fair one all existing teachers should be exempted from it. I suggest on this point that the period should be made two months, and that the teacher should not be called upon to pay a substitute.
I am informed by those who have made a careful calculation that the expense of this change would only be about £5,000 a year. There is this to be always remembered in mentioning these extra sums, that as a matter of fact the Board of Education in Ireland are never able to spend all the money they get, and they frequently return between £10,000 and £20,000 to the Treasury; so that many of these reforms could be carried into effect without an extra penny of expense by stopping this practice of returning the balances to the Treasury at the end of the year. I will take a case which appeared on the Notice Paper to-day. I am dwelling upon this claim at greater length because the hon. Baronet did not mention it. A question was put by the hon. Member for West Meath asking whether the Chief Secretary's attention had been directed to a school taught by Mrs. O'Connell, who had inserted advertisements in various newspapers endeavouring to get a substitute to take her place under this rule, and she had failed to do so, and asking whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware that although she did her best to obey the rule, the Commissioners refused to alter their decision and continue to withhold Mrs. O'Connell's salary. During that period the inspector reported that the efficiency of this particular school was excellent, and simply because this unfortunate woman endeavoured to obey the rule and could not get a substitute, she will not now be paid for the work which she actually did, because she worked within three months of the birth of her child That is cruel and unreasonable, and the working of this rule has shocked popular sentiment in Ireland to a very great extent. I feel that when 2165 the attention of the Government is drawn to this matter the Chief Secretary will meet us on that point. Another point I wish to allude to is the case of the assistant teachers, and the system of promotion. Under the old system, before the change of 1900 was made, the assistant teacher could get up to be in the first class, and that brought about a spirit of emulation and ambition amongst the teachers which undoubtedly had an enormous effect in keeping them active and efficient. I remember myself in the old days the teachers in Ireland were extraordinarily ambitious under the old system, and I have known them work half the night in their eagerness to obtain promotion, and get on in their profession. Under the new system of grading, however, no assistant teacher can get beyond the third or lower grade, no matter how excellent, and they can get no promotion as long as they are assistants. That is a very stupid system which has had a most deadening effect upon the ambitious younger men in the teaching profession, and I believe it has injured the whole morality of the profession.
I have here a cable showing the position of the assistants in 1900 before a change was made. There were ninety-one assistants in the first of the first-class, 277 in the first class, and 1,553 in the second class. Now no assistant can get beyond the third or the lowest class of all. The rule which the Board passed is 103c, under which, recognising the deadening effect of this system, they made it a general rule that assistant teachers are ineligible for promotion beyond the third grade, except in exceptional circumstances and by special order of the Commission. How does that rule work? It sounds somewhat satisfactory; but what a mockery it is when we find that in twelve years two assistants only have been promoted under this rule! I need not comment upon that. The result is that that rule is a dead letter, and it has had a most deadly effect on the assistant. I have the gravest possible doubts as to the soundness of the new system of grading as compared with the old system, under which young and ambitious men at an early stage could get to the top of their profession. That is too wide a question to take up now, and I only wish to urge upon the Chief Secretary that he should look into this question of the promotion of the assistants in a sympathetic spirit in order to see whether something cannot be done to remove this blot, which must have a most deadly effect on the assistant himself.
2166 I must confess that I was not quite so sympathetic with another matter, but, after careful inquiry, I am now strongly of opinion that something needs to be done in regard to it. Under the new system of grading, the promotion of the teachers depends upon the reports of the inspector as to the efficiency of the school. In the old days a man got his promotion by examination, and the examinations were exceedingly severe. Now under the new system promotion is, I believe, entirely by reports on the general efficiency of the schools. A bitter complaint has been made that there are certain inspectors—this is not at all against the main body of inspectors, in whom the teachers have confidence—and human nature being what it is it is exactly what one would expect, who are harsh, ill-dispositioned, and cantankerous men. I do not believe you can find any body of men who have not one or two of that disposition amongst them. If one of these men comes into a district, he may destroy the record of teachers who for years have had excellent records, and the unfortunate teacher has no appeal of any sort or kind against this one individual. I think that is a very hard case-It is a very difficult case with which to deal, because you could not give to every teacher who was discontented with the report of the inspector the right to appeal; but I do say that under proper limitations, where a man has had a good record for two or three years, and where, without apparent cause, a new inspector comes along and marks him down bad, breaking his whole record and destroying his chances of promotion, he ought to have a chance and an appeal. All I ask the right hon. Gentleman is to say that in a case of that kind of teacher may have a right to appeal for another inspection, and I confidently say that would be only fairplay.
§ Mr. O'DONNELL
I desire to lay special stress on the one important point, which, of course, must underlie any future reform in Irish education, and that is the question of more money. I see the Chief Secretary sympathises with that complaint, and I trust he will carry it forward. The hon. Baronet who opened this Debate stated very truly that, as compared with Scotland, Ireland should get at least £350,000 or £400,000 more. I put to the right hon. Gentleman some questions a few months ago on that point, and he tried to defend the Treasury by saying the Scotch Education Vote included a number of other things that were not 2167 included in the Irish Education Vote. I have taken the trouble to look the matter up, and I find, taking into account the money the Department gets for technical and agricultural instruction and adding that to the Irish Education Vote, and taking the Scotch Estimates and the monies given for agricultural and technical education and adding them to the Scotch Education Vote, that instead of it improving the case for the Treasury the case is made still worse. I find, comparing the two, that Scotland does undoubtedly get considerably more than Ireland gets, no matter what excuses may be given. It is true, that for primary education we may not have as good a case as we have by taking education as a whole, because the Scotch Education Vote does include a Grant of £230,000, which is devoted to secondary or higher grade education, and there is no Grant whatever in the Irish Vote for any such purpose. That given. It is true that for primary education in the country must be taken as a whole. Taking primary, secondary, university, and technical education In Scotland, and taking the same in Ireland, and comparing the two, Ireland is denied at least £400,000 a year.
I say the necessity for getting this money is even greater in Ireland than it is in Scotland or England. Ireland is an exceedingly poor country. Supposing we had the power, which we have not, of levying rates for the purpose of improving Irish education, the rateable valuation of Ireland is small, the capacity of the people to bear rates is certainly limited, and they are already sufficiently taxed to carry on the purposes for which the rates are raised. Therefore, I say, Ireland, whose educational system has been neglected for centuries, whose population is poor, and who has no educational endowments, has a far stronger claim for additional educational Grants than cither Scotland or England. We demand before it is too late that we should at least get what we are entitled to on the basis of what Scotland gets or on the basis of what England gets. It is absolutely useless for us to demand reforms in the way of monthly payments for teachers, better salaries for teachers, and various other things, if we are met at the very beginning with a refusal to give us the amount of money the educational system demands and which it is right and just we should get. The right hon. Gentleman has performed an exceedingly excellent work for 2168 Irish education, and I am satisfied that when he leaves our country his name will be remembered and cherished by coming generations of Irish people for the excellent work he has done, starting with the university system and coming down to the primary system, where he has made considerable changes and instituted useful reforms. He has made what all children of the primary schools must feel to be a small but splendid change. Some of us can remember trudging to school with sods of turf under our arms. The sods of turf the children took to school were the only means of getting a fire and keeping the school comfortably warm. The continuance of that system until last year was a disgrace to civilisation, and certainly did not reflect credit on the country which had the conduct of educational matters in Ireland. I am proud to recognise that the right hon. Gentleman has changed that. Though the Grant may be insufficient, still I think it may do away with the system which made the poor, bare-footed little boy bring that sod of turf perhaps three or four miles.
The right hon. Gentleman has done many other things to improve primary education, and I gladly recognise the work he has done. May I direct his attention more particularly to a few of the matters which have been already referred to. The right hon. Gentleman recognises that the assistant teacher in Ireland holds a very important position in the school. He is a trained teacher, just the same as the principal teacher. He has to pass the same examination in order to qualify for his certificate. He does the same work in the school as the principal teacher, with, of course, the slight difference of the supervision and general organisation of the school. Therefore, there is no distinction as to his capacity to teach or in the work he does in the school. On what ground can it be maintained that that man, trained, educated, and qualified, doing excellent and necessary work in the schools, is entitled only to be on the lowest grade of the educational ladder with the salary attaching to that grade? It is most unfair and unjust, and it must have the effect of preventing him taking a real interest in the work such as is necessary to make him a good teacher. Let him further recognise the importance of assistants in Irish primary education. There are about 5,000 assistant teachers in Ireland—about one-half of the teaching profession, and the number is increasing 2169 and will increase because of the tendency to amalgamate the schools. Let the assistant prepare himself for his work as he pleases, the only prospect before him is, that while he remains an assistant teacher, he will only be recognised as a third-rate teacher with the salary attaching to that grade. Would it not be reasonable to put before him some goal which would arouse his ambitions? Why not allow him to go on to the second grade, with the salary attaching to that grade, and then to the first grade even without the salary of that grade, should the finances be so stringent as to prevent the payment of the salary of that grade. At present you are doing considerable injury to one-half of the teachers in the profession and the school children are suffering because the teachers have no hope for the future.
I do not wish to enter into the pension question, but, perhaps, the Chief Secretary will give some indication that it may be found possible to make any scheme that may be adopted restrospective. There are teachers who have served thirty-five years, who have blameless records and who, in consequence of broken health have had to leave the schools, and, after these many years of splendid service to the State, doing the highest possible work men can do, are now trying to eke out a meagre existence on a pension of £25 per year. There are, I admit, not many of these men, but surely it would not be too much to ask the Chief Secretary to include them in any scheme that may be framed. This present position is certainly not a credit to Irish education. One word on the question of inspection to which my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo, referred. I am afraid we have too much inspection in our system of primary and secondary education, and I would suggest that, instead of more inspectors, we should have the schools staffed by good men, who should be well paid, and upon whom should be thrown the responsibility of forming the characters of and educating the children. Let them do their life's work for love of their work, rather than through fear of the inspector, and then you will produce a better race of men and a better educated people. But if the unfortunate teacher is to feel, morning, noon and night, that he is under an inspector, with some whim or fad, who is responsible for the whole of his future prospects, what is his position? He is a human being, naturally he will try to find out the whims of the inspector and 2170 to satisfy those whims, instead of educating the children so as to become men who will become a credit to the nation and an advantage to themselves.
We are overdone with inspection and examination. There is no individuality left to the men themselves, and their hearts are frightened out of them by this wretched system of what one may almost call "spying." I have been a teacher myself. I know what the trouble is. I know how demoralising these things are to the good teacher, and how impossible it is for him to do really excellent work, which, teachers would naturally aspire to do if only proper encouragement were afforded them. I trust some real control will be exercised over the inspectors to see that they do not hamper the work of good teachers in our primary schools. I do not wish to say too much about our secondary system of education. As a boy whose only opportunities were found in the primary school, I naturally take great interest in seeing that better and more extended education is provided for the children of to-day. As compared with Scotland, there is no such thing as secondary education in Ireland. There is absolutely nothing of the kind. In Scotland, any child can go to a neighbouring high school and demand secondary education free gratis and for nothing, and, should he live too far away from the secondary or higher school, the local education committee will provide bursaries—they did so to the amount of £150,000 last year—in order that advantage may be taken of that school. But the Irish child can do nothing of that kind. I am extremely sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has not been able to carry out what we thought last year was a promise to do something more than merely establish the scholarships. They will do very little, and they are, I hope, only a small part of what in time will be a full and complete system. With regard to the teachers in the secondary schools, it is a cruel thing that men and women possessing splendid university degrees, men of fine character, doing excellent work for the country—it is a cruel thing that these men and women should be asked to do the highest work of the nation for salaries of from £80 to £100 per annum. Is that reasonable? Is it not admitted by everybody that it is a disgrace to any country, which should not be-continued. I am extremely sorry the right hon. Gentleman has not been able to do more; but I hope he will be able to give 2171 us some indication that before very long he will make the position of the Irish secondary school teacher more secure and attach to it a better salary.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Hon. Members must remember that, although I am responsible in this House—and, indeed, am proud to be so—for education, I am not the Minister for Education in the sense of having control over the Department, although I occupy the useful position of money-getter, and consequently am a person with whom the education authorities would wish to keep on good terms. It must be remembered, too, that the Board of National Education and the Board of Intermediate Education are independent bodies, which carry on their work in their own way, and are not amenable to me in any shape or form. My authority over them only arises when a member dies or retires, and I then have the pleasing task of appointing his successor. It is really necessary to remember that, because that is my position. I do not wish to magnify or minimise it. The hon. Baronet (Sir J. Lonsdale) started his speech by saying he wanted more money, and that there was not enough money obtained for Ireland to run intermediate, secondary, or primary education as it ought to be run, not only in a civilised country, but in a country in which, I am bound to say, education is highly appreciated. The only advantage in the present Irish system that I can see is that there are no education rates. Such a thing is unknown in Ireland and education is universally popular whereas in England, with which I have some connection, the higher the education rates become the greater becomes the unpopularity of education in that part of the world. It is not much of a consolation to offer my Irish friends, but it is some that, although they have not got an education rate, they have general popularity on the subject.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I know that, but I was speaking of the larger rates which sometimes in England run to 1s. 2d. and 1s. 4d. in the £, chiefly for primary education. I agree that Ireland has not got enough money to make the proper provision which one would like to see made for education. The demands are very great, and all that any Chief Secretary can do during his office—I speak quite frankly—is to get as much as he can, feeling perfectly certain 2172 that whatever he gets will not in any way satisfy the general educational needs of the country. For example, take the higher grade schools, to which my friend, Dr. Starkie is greatly attached, and with regard to which I share his feelings. The hon. Baronet asked for £2,000 or £3,000 a year. That might start the system, but £45,000 a year would hardly meet its expenses when it was fairly started. It is a mistake for anyone to go to the Treasury and say this is only £2,000 a year. How could I or anybody with any acquaintance at all with the cost of education, particularly higher elementary schools, expect any Treasury official to believe that £2,000, £3,000, or even £4,000 a year would meet that demand. Therefore I have really to do the best I can from time to time. I am very much obliged to some of the speakers for the kindly manner in which they have recognised that although I have not got as much as they would like me to get I have got a good deal. When the time comes for my account to be taken—I do not expect to be remembered for centuries, even by the most affectionate people—by people who take an interest in me after I am dead, if they ever do such a thing, they will be able to place to my credit not only lighting and cleansing but the present Augmentation Fund, which bears my name, and many other matters upon which I will not touch. Let me see what is demanded of me. The first point is the monthly payment of salaries. I quite agree, everybody agrees, and the Treasury agree that the salaries of teachers ought to be paid monthly. They are the sort of persons whose interests are of that kind that they should be paid monthly. They are paid monthly in England, and ought to be paid monthly in Ireland. About that we are all agreed. The only question is on what annual Estimate for the first time is the very considerable sum of about £170,000, or a little loss or more, to be placed in order to set this wrong right. That is the difficulty I am in. Did I want nothing else, were I able to concentrate my demands upon that, I should get it, but I have not got it so far.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
No, I have explained to the House several times how the matter stands. The salaries of teachers are now paid in the first month of the quarter following that in which they are due. In 2173 the first financial year in which monthly payments are adopted it will be necessary to provide for the last quarter of the previous year, that is, in April, and also for the eleven months from April to February in the current year, making fourteen months in all. That means two months' salary in addition to the twelve to be provided annually. That is what is required. It is said to amount to £177,825. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) made the suggestion that by agreement with the teachers that amount might be reduced to £130,000 if they agreed to take their salary and not to take their share under the Birrell Grant. Then it is said that the clerical expenditure would be somewhat increased from what it is now. It is a substantial sum to get the Treasury to put down in one year's Estimate. No doubt it would be gratifying to be able to point out that it would not occur again, but there it is, and it has been the obstacle in my way. I do not defend the practice of quarterly payments, neither do the Treasury; but, having begun upon a bad system, the rules of arithmetic are such that it requires that addition to one Estimate. I am still pegging away, and I hope to be in a position at some moment or other to get the Treasury to place upon the Estimates that sum.
Then there are the questions of the under-graded teachers and paper promotion. These are undoubted grievances under which some teachers labour. I have done my best to set the thing right, but it is very difficult. The Treasury decline to allow the grades to be indefinitely increased. I think it was a pity that the National Commissioners, although they have their way of dealing with the Treasury and of putting pressure upon them—I think it was a mistake on their part that they should not have called the teachers' attention to the fact that there was this Treasury Regulation. They did not do anything of the kind, and proceeded themselves to give the teachers the grade, without telling them that that promotion did not carry with it the right to the extra salary because they had not secured Treasury sanction on that point. There were a certain number of teachers in that position, either forty-eight or fifty-four, whom I saw. I did my very best for them. I got the Treasury to agree that in their cases they would set the wrong right. Then I found that I was speaking without the permission of the National Board, and the 2174 Board, when I went to them and said that the Treasury would get rid of the particular grievance in regard to these forty-eight or fifty-four persons, said that they would not take payment in piecemeal in that way, and that the Treasury ought to alter their rule and allow them to increase the grades indefinitely. Therefore they would not remove this partial grievance by allowing these persons to be dealt with. That is how the matter stands. I think it is a great pity I was not allowed to have my own way with regard to that matter. It is still outstanding as a matter to be settled. The hon. Baronet went on to speak about secondary education and expressed the opinion that there ought to be a general inquiry into its position. I have already explained that secondary education does not count in these Votes at all. Nothing is given by this House. Secondary education in Ireland lives like a gentleman on its means. It has the interest of £1,000,000 of the Church fund, and it has now a stereotyped amount in place of what it used to receive from whisky money.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
It is, but only temporarily, subject to the whole consideration of the question after the Commission which is now sitting has reported. At all events that is all it has got, and it therefore does not come under the purview of this House at all. It is managed by a Board who spend their income according to statutory provisions which tie their hands up very harshly by compelling them to spend almost the whole of their money in a very expensive way on a perpetual series of examinations, beginning at the very early age of thirteen. These examinations are a very expensive, and, in my judgment, a very unsatisfactory method of securing good schools, which, after all, is the one thing that you desire to have in secondary education. It is not a question of pampering one clever boy or girl and having their pictures in all the papers, and having £4 or £5 prizes. You want to secure that there are good schools. In order to have good secondary schools you must have good teachers, and in order to have good teachers you must have, I do not say good salaries, but decent salaries, and you must also have a respectable tenure so that a person who is a secondary teacher may lay claim at all events to be a person of independence and not a mere 2175 drudge or slave of people who can dismiss him without notice with a miserable average salary which the hon. Baronet put at £82. As everyone in Ireland knows, there is no occupation in life that you would not sooner recommend any friend of your own to adopt than that of a secondary teacher. I have striven hard, feeling very strongly upon this subject, and always feeling that to organise secondary education was one of the very best occupations that anybody could ever be engaged in either in England or in Ireland or anywhere else. That was the dictum of Matthew Arnold.
That, of course, means money, money, money, and I have succeeded in obtaining from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who I must say has a very warm corner in his heart for education and receives one with, I will not say welcome, but at all events with that reasonable amount of civility which one colleague should extend to another, by way of beginning—I do not say beginning from the point of view of the Treasury, but beginning this system in Ireland—he has agreed to allow me to have a sum of £40,000 a year to be distributed in a way which is to be settled by me in consultation, of course, with the proper authorities in Ireland. Of course there are conditions which I should certainly insist upon and which must be taken as part and parcel of the scheme. These conditions will indicate the sort of thing which we have in our mind. Each boys' school is to have not less than one registered lay assistant teacher, at a minimum salary of £120 a year for each forty pupils on the roll, and each girls' school is to have not less than one lay assistant teacher at a minimum salary of £80 a year for the same number of pupils on the roll. The other point is that these lay assistants should be entitled to six months' notice or six months' salary in the case of dismissal, except, of course, on account of grave misconduct. The third point, to which I attach enormous importance, though it will require legislation, as some of the other conditions also may, is that there should be a register of teachers. That is the only way in which you will raise this profession up and give it any degree of status. To begin with, you may have assistant teachers of a somewhat lower standard than you would wish, but for the future—and, after all, this thing only contemplates a happier future for secondary education in Ireland—it is 2176 most desirable that there should be a proper system of registering teachers on some educational basis. That is the sort of scheme that I have in view.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
With only £40,000 at my disposal I am afraid I cannot pretend to establish any system which will secure these teachers proper superannuation allowances, but it is part and parcel of any rational system of secondary education that some such superannuation should exist. This is the very first stone, and necessarily a small one, in an edifice which is hereafter, under some regime or another, to be erected. Of course the House will notice that I have said this in regard to lay teachers. In Ireland the secondary schools have great advantages, which I am the last person to deny, in being able to call upon and secure the educational services of clerics or of persons in religious orders who, whatever you may think about their theology, are admirable teachers, and I am not in any way seeking-to disparage the advantages which may be derived in some way or other from having an ample supply of teachers of that order in these schools. But for my purpose and the purpose of this House, I am considering the raising of the status of the lay teacher. The status of the clergyman—the status of the man in religious orders—does not need to be raised. He has his status by virtue of the dedicating of his life to religious purposes. I am thinking of the Oliver Goldsmiths and persons of that sort—men of ability and of gifted teaching power in Ireland, who are willing to throw themselves into this profession, not in the hope of gaining large salaries, but simply in the hope of doing some good in a profession which they love, and receiving proper support and recognition from the State. This scheme I mention as being the foundation of a system of really good secondary education, and I believe honestly it is at all events the first attempt that has been made, and I hope that Ireland will recognise that it is a first step, and that we shall not be subject to much opposition. I have had long interviews in Dublin with teachers, clerical and lay, and head masters and under masters, and, I think, on the whole the conclusions we arrived at, although not final, were of a character which encourage me very much in laying this scheme before 2177 the House. The other regulation, which has regard to secondary education, related to the sum of £10,000, which does appear in the Supplementary Estimate with regard to scholarships for primary and secondary schools. I will not expatiate on that, for I have not time at present; but I may say at once that the object of this scheme is not by any means to add to the large class of persons now to be found in all educated countries who are tempted by bribes and small sums to proceed from primary to intermediate schools, and then to go on to universities where they may obtain a degree which, although their mothers and aunts may think a great deal of it, is, as every educated man knows, of no importance whatever except as indicating ability to get on in a profession, such as the teaching profession, where the competition is enormous. We do not want anything of that sort. On the other hand, we have got the University of Dublin, and we have now the National University and the University of Belfast, and we do think there should be access to these universities without class distinction and without any choice of one over another—according to the wish of the students or parents. There should be a way from the primary schools to the intermediate schools, in order that boys may avail themselves of the scholarships to the universities which the county council authorities are setting up under the Act by means of a rate. We want to fill the universities with the best class of boys, and therefore this small sum of £10,000 is to create scholarships, the value of which will probably be £20 for the day schools—£10 of which will be for school fees, and £10 for books and other expenses—and scholarships of £50, probably, at the boarding schools. These two sots of scholarships will enable boys of not more than thirteen years of age on 1st June to enter schools after their examination. The financial position of the parents has to be examined into. The children will be exposed to an examination over which I should like to exercise a greater measure of control than, I am afraid, it is possible for an individual to exercise.
The object of the examination of children of thirteen ought to be to prove their intellectual capacity for school and college education rather than merely to ascertain how much the poor creatures happen to know when they are undergoing the examination. These scholarships will be tenable in suitable intermediate schools. The questions whether the 2178 schools are suitable, what is the number of teachers, and what is the equipment of the schools will have to be considered. The boys will proceed with their education at the intermediate school, and afterwards they may go on to a university if they desire to do so, and if they do not change their minds during the period they are at the intermediate school. These schemes I will publish, not as necessarily final and unalterable. Otherwise I will do my best to avail myself of the means at my command in the full confidence and belief that I and those associated with me will be able to produce something which, if not expected to last for ever, will establish a system for looking after the proper position and status of secondary schools, and also establish those scholarships to which I have referred.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
There has been a great deal of feeling about the maternity rule which was adopted by the Commissioners on 4th April, 1911. Under that rule married women teachers are required to absent themselves from their schools for three months continuously, during the period preceding and succeeding child-birth, and to provide teachers at their own expense to perform their duties during their absence. There is, first of all, the question of the wisdom of the rule itself; and, secondly, the question of the fairness of applying it to existing teachers. I do not think there is much difference of opinion in Ireland in either Catholic or Protestant schools that the rule in itself—I am not saying whether three months might not be reduced to two months—is a wise and sensible rule. The only question is who ought to pay for the substitute. If the Treasury said they were willing to pay for the substitute, I do not think we should differ very much about this question. I think the rules of many school boards require a teacher on marrying to resign. There is a strong feeling—it is not for me to gauge its force—that it is not desirable to have young married women teachers at all. I do not myself personally take that view. I should be very sorry to exclude married women altogether from the profession, but undoubtedly I think in Ireland everybody agrees that they should absent themselves for a very considerable period, not only in their own interest, but in the interest of the child which is born, 2179 and the scholars themselves who are being taught. The only question is—how long should the absence be, and who is to pay the substitute? It is difficult to estimate how much it would cost. I do not think it would cost less than £6,000 or 7,000 a year, and as to the Treasury undertaking the whole responsibility, I cannot honestly say that I contemplate at the present moment the Treasury taking any such burden upon themselves. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) referred to one case where the rule had operated unfairly. When I heard of it I wrote to the Commissioners about it, and said this is surely the reductio ad absurdum, and that anything more harsh could hardly be imagined. The poor woman tried to get a substitute to perform her duties, but being unable to do so, she performed the duties herself without any injury to anybody; but the Commissioners docked her salary because she was present at school performing her duties when she ought not to have been there. The teacher did not get her money. We have that case and others under consideration, and I will bring before the National Commissioners my view of the matter which is that existing teachers who were married when this rule came into operation are entitled to exceptional treatment. Whether the three months can be reduced to two, or some contribution obtained from the Treasury is not a matter as to which the House will expect me to say anything now.
§ Mr. O'DONNELL
Is the right hon. Gentleman able to hold out any hope of a change being made in the system of inspection, or with regard to the promotion of assistant teachers?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
With regard to inspection, you are exposed to very great difficulty. Nobody wants examinations. Nobody wants the teachers examined. Teachers examine other people, but they do not submit to examination themselves, and they must be inspected. You cannot say, "We have such confidence in this man who is moulding the characters of the children under his care that we are going to leave him ten or fifteen years without inspection." He must be inspected. It is a very annoying thing to have to be inspected, and you are apt on occasions sometimes to consider that the inspector is incompetent to discharge his duties, and sometimes he may be. Sometimes inspec- 2180 tors are very unreasonable in the demands which they make, but there are not many of these. It is not a characteristic of the Irish people to carry out their duties in an offensive and unfriendly manner. The Irish system is a warm-hearted human system, and sometimes I think the relation between examiners and inspectors and the reverend mothers and heads of the schools are rather too friendly from the English point of view, but it may well be that there should be an appeal, and that no single inspector should be able, simply because he dislikes a particular person, to pursue him and injure him in his calling, and I think, therefore, that the requirement that in certain cases a second inspector should be called in is not an unreasonable one, and I will do my best to press it. With regard to the assistant teachers, educationally I agree very much with what has fallen from the hon. Member (Mr. O'Donnell), but I would like time to consider his proposal, because, although he suggests that they might go in for the third grade without any third grade salary, I should say that that is more a suggestion of his own than one that he would like to recommend to the teachers.
§ Mr. O'DONNELL
I suggest that they might be allowed to go to first grade without the salary and that on becoming principals they might get first grade salaries without getting second grade salaries.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
That involves a Treasury demand, which I am not at present in a position to give any positive assurance about, but I quite recognise the importance of the subject.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I am at present engaged in correspondence with them about that rule and I am not in a position to give the hon. and learned Member the only answer which will give him satisfaction.
§ Mr. JOHN GORDON (Londonderry, South)
Could the right hon. Gentleman see his way to do anything in reference to the training college attached to Marl-borough Street College, that is the Talbot House part of it, where the female teachers are being trained, and where there have been outbreaks of diphtheria and other diseases, owing to the insanitary conditions of the place?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
When I was in Dublin recently, I visited the place and became 2181 alive to the difficulties which exist in connection with it. I do not lose sight of it, but it will involve also a very considerable sum of money about which there is controversy at present.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ It being Ten of the Clock, Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, proceeded to put forthwith the Questions, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolutions reported in respect of each Class of the Civil Service Estimates, the Navy Estimates, the Army Estimates, and Revenue Departments Estimates.