HL Deb 06 February 1854 vol 130 cc259-61

begged to put to his noble Friend the Lord President of the Council the question of which he had given notice:—Whether the Government intended to propose any measure for establishing district pauper schools in single unions where they were sufficiently populous, or in the centre of a congregation of unions where they were small, which should be entirely unconnected with the workhouse or any other building, and should be in the true sense, agricultural and industrial schools for the reception of pauper children? Their Lordships were aware that, some years ago, the four inspectors, who were appointed to inspect workhouse schools had, without a single exception, in making their reports, testified strongly that no adequate good whatever was attainable from workhouse schools, and that the establishment of district schools was desirable. In consequence of this suggestion Parliament had attempted to supply a remedy by passing a permissive Act; but that had proved insufficient for the purpose Even a single board of guardians would be unwilling to take upon them the additional duty which would be thus thrown upon them, and that that duty had been thrown not only upon single boards, but upon a combination of boards had only increased the difficulty. The Act, therefore, had remained a dead letter, the only difficulty in the way being that the establishment of those schools would impose upon the boards of guardians the necessity for some little exertion. On the other hand it was one of those things which the boards of guardians would do if they were told that they must do it. Some years ago inspectors had been appointed for the purpose of inspecting workhouse schools, and every report which they had made testified strongly that no adequate good was attainable from workhouse schools. In consequence of this, the establishment of district schools had been suggested, but as the power to establish them had been only made "permissive" with the boards of guardians, who were usually incompetent to perform any except routine duties, save under supervision, the whole thing had proved nearly a dead letter.


entirely concurred with his noble Friend, that it was quite clear from all the reports of the inspectors that the workhouse schools were perfectly ineffective in training up pauper children. The schoolmasters in such places experienced the greatest inconvenience. If he were a well-trained schoolmaster he found himself in the most irksome situation. He was subjected to a great deal of jealousy upon the part of the governor of the workhouse; and he had to deal with children, who, from the physical and moral constitution which they inherited from their parents required to be treated with more than ordinary care; and yet he was entirely debarred from employing them in anything like industrial education; and be received as a salary only about half what would be given to the master of the commonest elementary school. The children were contaminated by their communication with the persons they associated with in the workhouse. The boys were brought up in the habits of laziness which they saw around them, and were contaminated with the language which they too frequently heard; while there was evidence most conclusive that a large portion of the girls, brought up as they were in communication with the mothers of illegitimate children, followed that course of life which, under the circumstances, might, perhaps naturally be expected of them. He believed that the plan to which his noble Friend had pointed of establishing district agricultural and industrial schools for the reception of pauper children, was the most important that could be devised for putting an end to the hereditary system of pauperism, which had, with truth, become in this country an hereditary disease. There had been cases in which the same family names had appeared on the work- house books for upwards of a century, and it was certainly desirous that such a disastrous state of things should be put an end to. There had been a good deal of communication upon the subject between the different departments concerned in it; and at this moment it was under the most anxious consideration of his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Viscount Palmerston) with the view of framing a practical measure, which he hoped might be submitted to Parliament in the course of the present Session.