HL Deb 03 March 1848 vol 97 cc153-61

presented a petition from the Worcester Diocesan Board of Education, praying for the adoption of measures to remedy certain objections to the management clauses required by the Committee of Privy Council to be inserted in the trust-deeds of schools receiving and from the Parliamentary grants. The petitioners stated, that a Minute had been adopted by the Committee of Council on the 28th of June, 1847, requiring that all schools receiving and from the Parliamentary grants should be managed by boards consisting partly of ex-officio Members, and partly of persons elected by the subscribers; and they complained that a compliance with this clause was rendered compulsory on all managers of Church schools, as a condition of their receiving any share of the amount at the disposal of the Committee of Council. The petitioners prayed their Lordships to adopt some measure to exempt the promoters of Church schools from this condition. This regulation had been adopted without previous notice; and he (Lord Lyttelton) wished to urge on the Government the propriety of postponing its operation until persons interested in the management of schools were fully aware that such a Minute was in existence. He might observe, that he was one of those who attached great importance to voluntary exertion on the part of the Church for the promotion of education, and he was most anxious that some arrangement should be come to between the members of the Church and the Government on the subject. Some recent circumstances had greatly shaken the confidence of the members of the Church in the Government; but he could only say, that he attached so much value to the co-ope- ration of the Government with the Church on the question of education, that he was quite willing to shut his eyes to their conduct with reference to other matters.


observed, that it was required, by the rules of the Worcester Diocesan Board of Education, that no final decision should be come I to upon any matter of importance that might be discussed until the most distant members had had an opportunity of expressing their opinion on the question; but he believed that the noble Lord had given no notice of his intention to propose, at a meeting of the board, the petition he had just presented. He therefore conceived, that this petition should be regarded merely as a petition of the persons by whom it was signed, and not as the petition of the Diocesan Board of Education of Worcester. He must say, that he considered the clause to which the petitioners objected entirely harmless, for he thought nothing could be more reasonable than that those laymen who contributed to the establishment of schools should have a share in their management. The success of the important educational experiment which was now being tried, depended, in a great measure, upon the cordial co-operation of the Committee of the National Society and the Committee of the Privy Council; and he would deprecate most strongly anything that could disturb a good understanding between those bodies.


said, the petition he had presented was adopted at a regular meeting of the Worcester Diocesan Board of Education.


said, that so far from the Committee of Privy Council having originated any novelty in this matter, the novelty was on the part of those who made the objections. It must be perfectly obvious, that when the public money was advanced, it was necessary that due security should be taken for the proper application of it, otherwise the object for which these grants had been made would be rendered nugatory. The noble Marquess briefly went through the provisions of the management clauses complained of, and said that the appeal was to the bishop of the diocese, whose decision was final. The system adopted by the Committee of Privy Council was in conformity with the compact entered into with the National Schools Society; and the view which he took of the management clauses had been taken also by his prede- cessors, Lord Wharncliffe and the Duke of Buccleuch. The late Archbishop of Canterbury had admitted the propriety of those clauses which the noble Lord now denounced as a mischievous innovation; and he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had received from that most rev. Prelate, a few weeks prior to his death, a private letter expressing his entire satisfaction at the mode in which the education grant was administered, and the system of inspection established. It had been said that members of the Church of England would not co-operate with the Government in reference to this system of education; but he could mention that numbers of applications to the Government for and were made daily by members of the Church, who did not object to these clauses. He submitted that there was no foundation for making that a grievance.


said, that the clergy felt it their duty to co-operate with the Government to the utmost of their power in endeavouring to diffuse among all orders of the community the great blessings of education; and he could assure them that there was no desire whatever on the part of the clergy to exclude the lay subscribers from a due share in the management of schools, to which he considered they were justly entitled; but the feeling of dissatisfaction which had arisen proceeded from the compulsory enforcement of one of the clauses.


addressed to their Lordships a few observations which were inaudible.


said, that he had urged the noble Lord not to bring forward the present petition, and he greatly regretted that the present discussion had arisen. But as it had taken place, he could not altogether refrain from making a few remarks. The noble Marquess had misapprehended, and, misapprehending, had mis-stated, the real matter to which their Lordships' attention was now required, and that in a very important particular. In the first place, the noble Marquess had stated that, judging from the number of applications made to the Committee of Council, he should say that no feeling of jealousy existed throughout the Church with regard to the management of the schools. Now, he enjoyed some opportunities of becoming acquainted with the feelings of the clergy, and he could undertake to say that there existed a very deep and wide-spread excitement amongst them upon this subject, which, in his own diocese, had seriously impeded his endeavours to spread Church education; he maintained that there was a deep and injurious jealousy; and that jealousy arose from this cause, that the Dissenters were allowed to manage their own schools (receiving Government assistance) in such manner as they thought proper; while the managers of the Church of England schools were not allowed equal freedom and independence. This feeling had also been increased by a report that had got abroad, that an address from the noble Marquess had been very widely circulated, in which he had stated the fact of his having prevailed upon the clergy in his neighbourhood to dispense with the use of the Church Catechism in schools which had been created and were in a great degree supported by clergymen of the Church of England; and that this had been done for the purpose of facilitating the entrance into those schools of persons who were not in communion with the Church of England; thus the Dissenters would have schools exclusively their own, while schools professedly belonging to the Church of England would be as open to all sects and denominations as if they had been founded and were supported by persons professing no religion of any kind. It was most desirable to remove doubt and jealousy upon subjects of this nature; and he wished to do all in his power to remove any suspicion that might arise in any quarter; for suspicion, founded upon any rational basis, could not fail ultimately to have the effect of preventing the enlightenment of the people; under the influence of such suspicions all education would be withered. He thought that a certain power of interference should be allowed to the laity; and as there was no one who knew anything of the business of conducting those schools who must not be aware that differences amongst the managing parties would sometimes arise, he thought it desirable that in such cases there should be a reference to the bishop of the diocese, with a power of appeal to the archbishop of the province; but he regretted that no sufficient provision was made for the settlement of such differences. He had known the case of a school in which the Committee were farmers: they admitted that the schoolmaster was a very improper person; but they said, he had a family of nine children, that he was fit for nothing else but teaching, and that if he lost the school all his children would become chargeable to the I parish. Now, he would ask their Lordships, were they prepared to leave education in such a state? At the same time, he was far from saying that the laity ought to have no share in the management: his views were quite opposed to any plan for excluding the laity, and most certainly there was no desire on the part of the Church to exclude the laity, for he thought that no scheme of education would be successful if they were excluded from its management. It was desirable that they should have a great deal of power in the management, subject to the visitation of the bishop of the diocese. He felt that the matter had not been stated to their Lordships quite in the way in which he wished it. He desired nothing more than that the laity should co-operate with the clergy; and, so far from wishing the laity to be excluded from the schools, he should object to their exclusion. The opinion of the great body of the clergy was this: let the Committee manage everything, religious or secular, provided, first, that the Committee was bonâ fide a Committee of lay Churchmen; and, secondly, that there should be an appeal. All the clergy required was, that there should be Church teaching and Church schools; and, so far from their objecting to promote sound religious education, they would do everything for that object but sacrifice the principles of duty and conscience. Their jealousy arose from the system of semi-responsibility and a fear of what might be introduced hereafter. He could not consent that schoolmasters whose object might be to subvert the teaching of the Church, should be irremovable by any power whatever. This would have a direct tendency to encourage Dissenting schools. It was an old principle of the Church that in England, where there was no public Minister of Instruction, and therefore no legal authority to entertain such questions, they should be referred to the bishop of the diocese, who was appointed by the Crown. He entreated the noble Marquess not to believe that there was no feeling abroad upon this subject; there was a very deep feeling, the neglect of which might impair confidence, and subvert a plan very dear to the noble Marquess, to provide a wiser and better training for the people of this land.


said, he was upon many grounds glad that this subject had come before their Lordships. His reason for thinking the alarm which was felt was not without apparent foundation, was derived from the official documents in the hands of their Lordships, which showed a want of connexion between the instructions and the provisions; for, instead of a simple recommendation, other words were employed, implying that not so large a measure of liberty was allowed. But, having said this, he felt that he had gone as far as he was entitled to do; and it was with great pain he had heard from his right rev. Friends that the suspicion and distrust they felt had extended to a very large body of the Church. But he thought no sufficient grounds had been stated by his right rev. Brother (the Bishop of Oxford) for such an amount of alarm.


My Lords, I have very few observations to offer to your Lordships upon this question. In point of fact, the question immediately before us appears to be trifling; but the principle involved in the question is not of such an immaterial nature as the question itself. The question is not, whether certain regulations shall be laid down for the management of schools; nor yet, whether the present regulations are the best that could be established; but, whether there shall be, at the will and pleasure of an anomalous body, a departure from regulations once established, and the introduction of new regulations and new institutions, by which fresh applications for schools are impeded and discouraged? The noble Lord opposite says one main object of these regulations is, to secure that Church schools should be managed bonâ fide on Church principles; and to that, I apprehend, neither my noble Friend who presented the petition, nor the petitioners themselves, nor any Member of your Lordships' House, would think of objecting. But the question is, whether the substantial change which has lately been introduced, or at least which the late proceedings of the Privy Council have given cause to believe has been introduced, does, in fact, affect the management and control of the schools? and, if so, whether that alteration has been introduced with sufficient notice to the parties concerned? The noble Marquess stated that the conditions which are now propounded are nothing more than the conditions which are actually the terms of union proposed by the National Society for the establishment of all their schools; and the noble Marquess not only went through all these regulations, but he went into the question which lies at the root of the present discussion—the introduction, as a sine qua non, of a hoard of management, consisting of laymen, as a condition on which these schools should receive and from the State. Now, these regulations of the National Society provide for every possible case that can arise, and the establishment of managers, be they lay or clerical, as they are required to be in constant communication with the clergyman of the parish. But there is nothing in the regulations of the National Society which insists, as a condition of receiving the Government grant, that there should be established a lay committee of proprietors to interfere in the management of the school. In some cases, no doubt, such a committee may be wise and beneficial; in other cases it may be in the highest degree prejudicial. With the proprietors of estates the clergy may have no difficulty in working; but I think it would not only be useless, but prejudicial, that there should be an associated body of farmers, who, because perhaps they have subscribed 10s. each, yet have an influence in the management, and by a majority of voices may prevail over both the proprietors and the clergy. I do not, however, say that local boards of management may not be beneficial; but if you insist that no grant shall be given to a school which does not admit of lay interference by means of a committee, this is a regulation, as the petitioners contend, now introduced for the first time, and which is not only not required, but which is contrary to the practice of the National schools. I am quite sure all your Lordships will agree that it is desirable, in order to secure the object we all have in view, that the Government grant should only be made supplemental to local contributions; and I think it will not be denied that every new impediment which would check the flow of voluntary contributions is therefore to be avoided. And it ought to be remembered that you don't interfere with new restrictions upon other schools, but only with regard to Church schools. But, my Lords, it is not so much of the new impediments of which these petitioners complain, as the uncertainty and the entire absence of all security they have, that, after the promoters of a school have made every exertion—after they have matured their plans—after they have provided their contributions—after they have complied with all the conditions of the National Society—they may be suddenly told, "All your labour and expense is to go for nothing, for we have made new regulations, which will render all your proceedings fruitless." Both laity and clergy complain of these sudden and annoying restrictions, which are imposed by an anomalous authority, and which are frequently intimated to the clergy, not by authority of the Board themselves, but in a letter from their Secretary; for, while I have the highest respect for the gentleman who fills that office, and I believe that he is actuated solely by a desire to diffuse the means of education, I must say that great inconvenience has arisen from the practice. I can state a case where application was made to the Board for assistance, where an answer was received from the Secretary, stating the conditions which were thought necessary for receiving, and where, on subsequent explanation and remonstrance, and on the question being raised if that letter conveyed the deliberate sense of the Board, the parties were privately told to make no use of the Secretary's letter, because it was not an official document. But the great inconvenience arose from the alterations made by the Board varying from time to time, and from time to time introducing alterations; and I must concur with the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford), and the noble Lord (Lord Lyttelton), in thinking that a great advantage would be gained if more specific notice were given by the Board, that no new restriction would be put upon the efforts of any denomination, but rather that existing restrictions should, as far as possible, be relaxed. I cannot help thinking that the great and fundamental evil of the whole system is, that too much and too great latitude is given to the Board, constituted as it is of a Committee of Privy Council, and that the principles and rules on which they act are not sufficiently defined and laid down by law. This is the original vice of the system. I objected to that principle in 1835; and certainly everything that has occurred since tends more strongly to fix that objection upon my mind. In consequence of this system, the clergy and laity really hardly know what to expect; when they see one trifling change made after another they lose all that confidence in the Board, and in the management of the Board, which it is most desirable should be maintained. I do not regret that this discussion has been raised; and I hope its effect will be, that we shall hear from the noble Marquess that no rules shall be laid down with so much stringency as that they may not be relaxed in special cases. I hope also the effect of this discussion will convince Her Majesty's Government of the inconvenience of any alteration in the rules; and that it will elicit from the noble Marquess a declaration of their determination to act upon the rules introduced in 1840, and that they have no desire to restrict closely, or to infringe largely, upon the liberty granted, on the one hand, to Dissenting schools, and on the other hand, to Church of England schools, of being managed on their respective principles, and in such a manner as the clergy and their friends may think most desirable.


I have no reason to complain of the manner in which a right rev. Prelate adverted to an expression which fell from me in the course of the discussion with regard to the exclusion of the laity. I did not intend to use that expression in an offensive sense, but to point out that the effect of this application, if it were acceded to, would render the opinions of the clergy in all matters final and conclusive, and exclude the laity from everything but the power of subscribing. That is not the wish of the Committee of Privy Council, because we consider it essential to the cause of education amongst every denomination that there should be uniformity; but I do not know how that is to be obtained if the laity are to be practically, though unintentionally, excluded.

Petition read and ordered to he on the table.

House adjourned.

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