HL Deb 14 April 1842 vol 62 cc465-72
Lord Duncannon

rose to move resolutions, of which he had given notice, with respect to these schools; they had been established for the education of persons of the poorest class, who had not the opportunity of otherwise sending their children to school, principally with the intention of bringing them up for the naval service. He wished particularly to call the attention of the House to the last resolution which he should have the honour of proposing. From the published report of Admiral Fleming's letter to the Admiralty upon these schools in 1840, it appeared that At that time the schools were very far in arrear of the majority of such institutions— that more than one-half of the boys could not read; that when discharged from the establishment at the age of fourteen or fifteen years, few, if any, were ready to enter the sea service, still fewer were apprenticed to trades; and all being incapable of procuring a livelihood, were a burden to their friends, to the parishes, or were driven to dishonest means. The Lords of the Admiralty applied, in consequence of this report, to the com- mittee of the Privy Council on education, in order that the schools might be inspected by an officer of that board. The committee accordingly sent down Mr. Tremenhere, and his report had been laid on the Table of the House. By that report, it appeared that the state of the schools was very unsatisfactory, and that the moral and religious education of the children had been entirely neglected. In consequence of this report, the schools had been remodelled. It was arranged, that the superintendence of the masters should be extended to the boys out of the school-room as well as within its walls. Great opposition had been made to this arrangement by those in authority, but from what he had now heard from the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty, he trusted, that it was the intention of Government to carry out those schemes of improvement which had been already put into execution. It was not his intention or wish that these schools should not be under the control of the Admiralty, but he wished that they should be under the constant inspection of the Privy Council, in order to insure to the public a participation in the improvements lately made. A person being appointed by the Admiralty to act as inspector he did not think would be sufficient. He regretted to understand, that his noble Friend would not consent to have the schools under the inspection of the committee of Privy Council. The noble Lord concluded by moving the following resolutions: —

  1. "1. That the schools connected with the royal hospital at Greenwich, were established for the education and maintenance of children of persons who have been employed in the naval service:
  2. "2. That these schools had been for many years supported at an expense equal to two-thirds of the grants annually made by Parliament, for the promotion of education in Great Britain, and had been under the direction and management of the Admiralty exclusively, and had been inspected annually by that board:
  3. "3. That the late governor of the royal hospital reported to the Admiralty in August, 1840, that the schools were 'very far in arrear of the majority of such institutions; that more than one-half of the boys could not read; that when discharged from the establishment at the age of fourteen or fifteen years, few, if any, were ready to enter the sea service still fewer were apprenticed to trades, and all being incapable of procuring a livelihood, were a burden to their friends, to the parishes, or 467 were driven to obtain it by dishonest means;" that in the minutes of the committee of council on education, presented to Parliament in June, 1841, it appears, that the discipline of all the schools were so defective, that it was necessary to dissolve and abandon the girls school, and send the girls home to their relatives; that the moral and religious education had been so neglected, that the greatest part of the children were in the lowest and most imperfect state of intellect on religious subjects; that the methods of instruction were defective, and the attainments of the scholars in the common rudiments of elementary education limited and unsatisfactory:
  4. "4. That in the upper school many of the most obvious and necessary subjects of naval education were omitted, and the common rudiments of an English education neglected; and though the time of the boys was almost exclusively devoted to arithmetic and mathematics, the attainments of the great majority of the scholars were, even on these subjects, unsatisfactory:
  5. "5. That the Lords of the Admiralty having submitted the case to the committee of Privy Council on education, the schools have been re-organised, an additional number of masters appointed, methods approved by the committee of council introduced, the course of instruction re-modelled, and other improvements made, which are in the course of successful development, but which require time and the constant superintendence of persons intimately acquainted with the discipline and management of schools for their complete success:
  6. "6. That these improvements have been made strictly in accordance with the views of the committee of council on education, and grounded on the report of one of their inspectors; that in order to secure for the public the success of the improvements thus introduced, and for that purpose to obtain the Supervision of the committee of council on education, it is expedient that these schools should be visited at all times by the inspectors from that board, and that their reports on the condition of the schools should be annually presented to Parliament."

The Earl of Haddington

said, whatever partial differences of opinion there might he between the noble Lord and himself, they agreed in this—both were extremely anxious to promote and perpetuate the naval schools of the Royal Hospital at Greenwich; the difference between them was, as to whether they should be perpetuated under the inspection of the Privy Council, thereby taking them from the control of the Board of Admiralty, or whether the same advantages might not be secured by the instrumentality of the existing system. With respect to the third resolution, he thought it likely to produce a spirit of opposition, and that the statements would be denied by most respectable witnesses, and some of the facts would be found not to be so clear as the noble Lord supposed. The noble Lord said, that Admiral Fleming stated, that very few of the boys went to sea; but he found, that of 133 boys who left the school, from sixty to seventy went to sea direct from the school, and several more subsequently. Another ground of complaint against the third resolution was, that it sank all mention of the nautical school under a very able person, Mr. Riddell. There was no doubt, that the elementary branches of education in the schools were in a very defective state; some were omitted, and others were imperfectly taught; but there was as little doubt that the nautical school was eminently successful. Two gentlemen had been appointed to examine the success of Mr. Riddell's school, and from their report it appeared that nothing could be more successful; many boys from Mr. Riddell's school had distinguished themselves. He had had reports from naval officers, and in the Astræa, out of twenty boys on board that vessel, nineteen had turned out most promising seamen. In his opinion, no Parliamentary case had been made out for the interference of their Lordships, and the putting these resolutions upon their journals would tend to embarrass the working of the schools. At least, the Board of Admiralty should so far enjoy the confidence of their Lordships that it should continue to have the control and direction of the schools. It had been said, that this was a Government school; and no doubt, in a certain sense, it was a Government school; but it was a naval school, and it was, therefore, natural that it should be under the control of the naval department of the Government. He should meet the resolution of the noble Lord by moving the previous question, and he regretted much that the noble Lord should have thought it his duty (of which he had no right to complain) to raise this question. When he was first appointed to the office he now filled, the question of this school had been pressed on his attention; he had been urged to continue the labours of the committee, and told that it was an experiment from which would result a good system for the permanent management of the school; but he had not been long in office before he was assured by the report of the naval authorities that it was absolutely necessary to put an end to the state of things, for that the insubordination and difficulties arising from conflicting authorities were so great, that the school would be ruined, and he accordingly put an end to it. He endeavoured to preserve all the spirit of the regulations of the committee, consistent with the character of the school. He proposed to leave the discipline within doors, and the education entirely to the master, with the exception only of the dormitories, which it was necessary to intrust to the authority of the lieutenants and sergeants. The noble Lord said, that the school was governed by the cane; he assured their Lordships that it would be the object, as it was the duty of the Board of Admiralty, to take care that no such means should be adopted to preserve discipline, and that there should be no punishment by a naval officer without the sanction of the governor. His opinion was, that there was no ground for the inquiry, and that their Lordships should leave it to the Board of Admiralty, on their own responsibility, to carry out the benefits and advantages of the school, which they were as anxious to do as the committee of the Privy Council. It was the intention of the Board of Admiralty to lay on the Table of the House, with the estimates, an annual report of the state of the schools. The noble Earl was about to move the previous question, but, at the suggestion of the Duke of Wellington, moved, "that the House do now adjourn."

The Marquess of Lansdowne

remarked that the attention of the Committee of the Privy Council had been called to those schools by the Board of Admiralty itself, on the representation of the Governor of Greenwich Hospital. The Board of Admiralty was aware of its incompetency to investigate into the abuses of these schools, which had been carried to an alarming extent; and it was conceived by the Board of Admiralty that the Committee of the Privy Council had the means of instituting an ample inquiry into these abuses. The request thus made on them was immediately acceded to by the Privy Council —an inspector was nominated; that it was felt that inspectors well acquainted with the business of education were most essential to the success of public education, and especially in connection with such establishments, particularly when it was required there should be a searching inquiry into abuses. Much good was thus one, and he did not know why it was now objected to, unless it was that his noble Friend was animated with that departmental spirit which frequently prevailed in public offices, which lurked at all times in every department which showed itself whenever one department was considered as encroaching upon the province of another; and brought in the aid of every individual in the department, from the "ministerial head, to the very lowest functionary in the establishment. This was a spirit that frequently prevailed, but which was very unjustifiable, and from which much inconvenience had often arisen. The material point, in his estimation, was that of inspection; it was the thing essential; for they did nothing for education in establishing a school, unless they provided an adequate system of inspection. If there was any one thing connected with education which was more important than another, it was that which he had had the honour to inculcate upon their Lordships some years ago, but which was now generally admitted, that you did no good by establishing schools, unless, at the same time, you provided an adequate system of inspection. And this applied with still greater force to great foundations abounding in wealth, and consequently presenting greater temptations to abuse. No one could read the statements of Admiral Fleming, the governor of the Board of Admiralty, and of the Privy Council, after they had sent their inspectors to visit the schools, without being convinced that in Greenwich Hospital, however splendid was the exterior of the structure, abuses had been perpetuated for a number of years, which it was most desirable to correct. It appeared that in the girls school the evil had arisen to such a height, not only in the absence of education but in positive depravity and contamination, that no other means of reform could be found than that of dissolving the school and sending the girls home to their parents effectually contaminated and vitiated in their habits, and that under the colour and guise of this magnificent establishment. What was proposed by the present and the former committee of the Privy Council was not to take the establishment from under the control of the Admiralty—not to provide for any interference in the details of education, but to establish a system of inspection independent of the Admiralty, the inspectors reporting to the Privy Council, and through them to the Board of Admiralty, and subject to the ultimate control of Parliament. He had no doubt that the noble Lord would enter with zeal upon the system of inspection which he was willing to establish; but it should be recollected that such inspection had already taken place under men of very great ability and industry, and yet had failed, from the unfitness of the board properly to look into the question of education in detail; and the reports upon the present state of the establishment were to the effect that this, which ought to be at the head of all such establishments in the country, was placed very much in the rear of them; and instead of being a national honour was a national disgrace. The noble Lord lately at the head of the Admiralty, who held as much by naval privileges and naval habits as any man, had stated his concurrence in the propriety of a system of visiting inspectors. And here he might observe, that the inspectors employed by the Privy Council were peculiarly qualified for the duty, because they were men of experience; they were engaged in the practice of inspecting great public schools, and were capable of judging of their comparative merits. His noble Friend opposite said he saw no objection to inspectors coming to the schools, provided they reported exclusively to the Admiralty. There might be a convenience in that, but it would be less satisfactory to the public. The Privy Council had repeatedly declined to inspect schools of great magnitude connected with the church and others, unless the inspectors reported directly to them—liable, of course, to be communicated to the parties concerned. He should not enter further into any details connected with the subject, except to observe that it would be found essential to the prosperity of any school that the masters should be entrusted with the exclusive management and protection of the boys at all times both in and out of school hours. The attempt to establish a co-ordinate authority, by the appointment of Serjeants and mates, had had the natural effect of discouraging, and he believed that in some instances that discouragement Was felt in its greatest extent at the present moment. Whether his noble Friend persevered in his motion or not, he was glad he had called the attention of their Lordships to it, because he thought it one peculiarly deserving of consideration.

Lord Colchester

said, that instead of the school being a national disgrace, as stated by the noble Marquess, the opinion of Mr. Tremenbere himself, which the noble Lord (Duncannon) had read, gave a different impression. The letter of the governor to which the resolution of the noble Lord referred, in which he stated that half the boys could not read, applied only to the lower school. The letter of Admiral Fleming, which had been read at their Lordships' Table by the noble Viscount, distinctly stated that it was to the lower school only that the accounts of the defective state of discipline prevailingly applied. The report of Mr. Tremenhere stated, that the boys attending the upper school were in a considerably advanced state. The first class, which was said to be in the most backward condition, contained only one hundred boys out of 400. Although it was true that considerable irregularity had resulted from the nearness of the girls' school to that of the boys, Mr. Tremenhere had not recommended that the former should be discontinued, but that it should be removed to a greater distance from the latter. He knew that many men who had been sent out by this establishment had done themselves great credit, and he had heard of instances in which officers had manifested great anxiety to get their children admitted to the school. Many of those educated there who had gone into the merchant service had risen to be mates and masters of vessels.

The question was then put on the amendment, and which passing in the affirmative, their Lordships adjourned.