HL Deb 03 May 1858 vol 149 cc2104-16

rose to call the attention of their Lordships to the Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of Endowed Schools in Ireland; and to ask what course Her Majesty's Government intend to pursue in consequence of that Report. He would remind the House that in November, 1854, in consequence of an Address moved for in "another place," Commissioners were appointed to inquire into the condition of the endowed schools of Ireland, and the nature and extent of the instruction given in them, and to report thereon. Difficulties, however, arose in consequence of the refusal of a large body interested in these endowments to submit to the authority of the Commissioners; and in the following July an Act was passed which, after confirming their original authority, empowered them to report and suggest to Her Majesty "such plans for the improvement of the education given in such schools, for the better management of their endowments, and for the better regulating, managing, and governing such schools," as to the Commissioners should seem expedient. It was no part of his intention to refer to the merits of the various plans, having these objects in view, which were suggested to the Commissioners; and it would be presumptuous in him to discuss that in favour of which they had, after mature deliberation, reported. It would be sufficient for him to state a few well known and well proved facts, which he hoped would sufficiently demonstrate the necessity of the Legislature interfering in such a way as to render the present system more beneficial, by effecting a better distribution of the large sums of money which had been left by private individuals for the diffusion of knowledge among the less wealthy classes in Ireland. There were in Ireland 2,828 endowed schools, of which 1,507 were vested in the National Board or their trus- tees, 317 were non-vested national schools, and 1,004 were unconnected with the National Board. The total amount of the endowments in operation was £68,578 a year; and there was a further sum of £7,170 a year lying idle, not having been appropriated. The schools in operation afforded accommodation for 140,000 children, but the number actually attending at the time of the inspection was only 80,000. The funds, therefore, did not attain the object for which they were originally intended; and it was a question worthy of their Lordships' consideration, what were the causes which rendered thus inoperative the vast resources at the disposal of the Commissioners of Endowed Schools. There was one point at least which had received a satisfactory solution; the Commissioners were unanimous in reporting that in the majority of schools the education was of a very inferior kind. The principal causes of this inferiority, as stated by them, were— I. The want of efficient visitation and inspection. 2. The incomplete and unsafe modes at present in use of keeping the accounts of school funds and revenues, and the want of a proper system of audit. 3. The want of a clear definition and public announcement of the qualifications and rights of pupils to free admission. 4. The want of properly trained masters in the primary schools. 5. The inadequacy of the salaries of masters, arising from the smallness of many of the endowments. 6. And the want of promotion and of retiring pensions to masters as the reward of faithful service. He now asked their Lordships to look at some of these causes of inefficiency, his chief object being to attract attention to the great desideratum now felt in Ireland, and which, moreover, there was reason to believe it was the aim of the benevolent founders of these schools to supply—namely, a good, useful, classical education for the middle classes, or what was now termed intermediate education. He would confine his remarks to the grammar and superior schools, seventy-three in number. Of these six were Royal, and fifteen diocesan schools, which the Commission stated were non-sectarian in their constitution, and in which the pupils had a right to free education. Instead of this being carried out, however, it was stated in the Report that the whole number of free pupils in the schools was only forty-seven, deriving a benefit of £10 each, or £470 in all, out of endowments averaging £6,000 a year. Again, the Commissioners state that— It appears that out of twenty diocesan or district schools there were at the time of our As- sistant Commissioners' inspection seven not in operation; only eight had houses suitable for the purpose; as to only six of them did we receive favourable reports of the state of instruction. Against four we have received public complaints as to their management; three are, in fact, private schools for the benefit of the masters. No loss than five of the nine masters examined before us denied the existence of any right to the admission of free pupils, although this right had been, so recently as 1830, explained by the Commissioners of Education to all the masters under their control in a general circular, and publicly announced by them in their annual Report laid before Parliament in 1831. After reading this statement, one could not feel much surprised at the conclusions deduced from it,— That the right of all persons resident in the district to provide for their children a classical education free of expense by admission to these schools not being conceded to them by the masters, it was reduced to a perfect nullity, or else the admission of free pupils became matter of patronage in the master's hands. An equally striking instance of the object of the founder not being carried out was shown in the present condition of the schools, founded by Erasmus Smith. It appeared by the charter that in each of the grammar-schools severally founded by him at Gal-way, Drogheda, and Tipperary, twenty poor children, dwelling within two miles of the schools, and all the children of the tenants upon his estates, were to receive their education free; yet, at the time of these schools being inspected by the Commissioners, there were in the first only eight, in the second six, and in the third only seven. Of the individual cases of mismanagement and inefficiency, he would only select one or two of the most glaring, though their Lordships, by looking to the Report, might find numerous instances of them. The Cavan Royal Free School came under the unfavourable notice of the Commissioners in 1791, with regard to the trafficking in the patronage therein. In 1835, and for several preceding years, there were no free pupils at all; in 1845 visitors were appointed, who reported— That the school was in a lamentable state of inefficiency, both as regarded attendance, instruction, and general management. The assistants were badly paid, and some of them who resided in the House were wretchedly lodged. The pupils were few in number, and the fees charged and the severity of the punishments inflicted were such as to account for the very small attendance. And as regarded the salaries of assistants, the course of instruction, and the number of pupils, the master's Returns to the Commissioners were inaccurate, and calculated to conceal from them the facts of the case. This was most remarkable with respect to the remuneration of the assistants by the mas- ter, which at the investigation turned out to be considerably less than as returned by the masters to the Commissioners. They also reported that the appointment of the master had been made the subject of bargain, Could it be considered other than an inevitable result of this state of things, that— In 1814, an annual exhibition of £25 a year, for five years having been established in Trinity College, Dublin, for the Cavan Royal School, during the ten years following only one candidate had been successful in obtaining this prize, and he did not hold it for two years, though the appointment was for five, provided he continued to deserve it? The endowment being burdened with the charge for building, the master's prospect of an increase of salary in part depended on having the funds applied rather in the discharge of the debt for building than on the support of exhibitions. In connection with the building debt upon this endowment, it is important to notice the very unfavourable Report of the Inspector as to the management of the estates for some years past, for the loss caused thereby was the more serious in its effects in consequence of the indebted state of the endowment. The school was inspected by an assistant Commissioner, who reports very unfavourably as to the course of instruction, the proficiency of the scholars, and the general state of the school. He would now pass to two instances of mismanagement of funds and estates. It appeared from the public summing up of the evidence by Mr. Stephens, one of the Commissioners, that the mastership of the Diocesan School at Wicklow, with a salary attached to it of £100 per annum, had been vacant since 1839; that the Archbishop of Dublin, who had the right of appointment, had never exercised such right, in consequence of which the school had not been in operation; and thus, as the Archbishop was bound to pay one-third, and the clergy of the united diocese of Dublin and Glendalough two-thirds of the salary, a sum of £1,600 had been withdrawn from educational purposes. Again, it appeared that, in consequence of the statute 53rd of George HI., chap. 107, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, by notice in the Dublin Gazette, dated April 17, 1824, had the power of appointing annual salaries to be paid to certain schoolmasters of diocesan and district schools; yet, nevertheless, that the following district diocesan schools for which salaries were appointed by the Lord Lieutenant—namely, Cashel £100, Ardfert and Aghadoe £80, Waterford and Lismore £90, Clonfert £40, and Killala and Acbonry £50, making in the aggregate £360—had not been in operation for upwards of twenty years; while Cloyne and Wicklow, each with a salary of £100 per annum, had not been in operation for sixteen years: thus illegally withdrawing, for the last twenty years, no less a sum than £9,000, which should have been employed in the purposes of education. The last instance of mismanagement with which he would trouble their Lordships was of a different nature, and must tell very forcibly upon the minds of English landlords. The inspectors of estates, attached to the Commissioners, reported that on the estates of the Royal Free Schools in Dungannon the tenants were served every year with notices to quit, whether they were in arrears or not, for each of which notices the solicitors of the Commissioners for Education in Ireland were in the habit of charging the moderate sum of 5s., though, except the difference in the names of the tenants, each form was alike. Their Lordships would, then, not be surprised to hear that in consequence of such a bad system of administration the arrears of rent on lands belonging to these schools, as well as those of many others, had periodically to be abandoned, while the law costs consumed a not inconsiderable portion of the amounts that could be collected. He forbore to dwell upon other instances, such as gross irregularities in accounts, neglect or wilful omission to balance those accounts regularly for several years, till the lapse of time alone sufficed to preclude any idea of rectifying deficiencies; and unimproved estates, where improvements were greatly needed, and could be carried out with ease and remunerative returns. All these details were to be found in the voluminous report lately laid on their Lordships' table; and they were each in themselves only small component parts of a great defective whole, which he hoped he would be able to learn from the noble Earl opposite that it was his intention to use his best endeavours to rectify; for he could assure their Lordships that the necessity of an adequate remedy to the present state of disorganization was being daily more felt by the middle classes in Ireland, and daily were they becoming more anxious to obtain for their children the proportionate advantages which were now made available to the poorer classes through the medium of the national schools. They sought, namely, an education that should fit their children to maintain and improve their respective positions in life, and, knowing now from this Report that vast resources existed which, if properly managed, would enable them to obtain these objects, they were anxiously waiting to hear the course which the noble Earl intended to pursue in this matter. The name of the noble Earl was indissolubly connected with the present system of national education, and surely it was not too much to ask him to extend his consideration to a class which required the advantages of efficient legislation on its behalf quite as much, and which certainly deserved it no less.


said, it was quite unnecessary for his noble Friend, if he would allow him to call him so, to offer any apology to their Lordships for having introduced to their notice a subject which was certainly of the very highest interest and importance—namely, the best mode of rendering available funds which already existed, and might be further improved for the promotion of that great desideratum in Ireland, a sound and efficient education for the middle classes. The noble Earl had not exaggerated his representations as to the documents which had been laid upon their Lordships' table as the result of the labours of a Commission which was issued in 1854, and of which the Marquess of Kildare was at the head, with other gentlemen, among them, Mr. Hughes, formerly Solicitor General for Ireland, and Mr. Stephens, an English barrister. These Commissioners were led, in the course of their inquiries, to appoint four assistant commissioners, a secretary, of course, a considerable staff of clerks and short-hand writers; and, after a protracted, laborious, and, no doubt, useful inquiry, the result was laid upon their Lordships' table in the shape of four large folio volumes. The one from which his noble Friend had cited these extracts consisted simply of a Report, but it was a report extending over 280 pages. The total amount of pages in the four volumes amounted to 2,400. One of the volumes consisted of 750 pages of purely tabular matter. The number of questions asked was between 40,000 and 50,000; the expense of printing and paper, according to a return made to the House of Commons, was £5,200; and the weight of the paper consumed in this publication amounted—their Lordships would scarcely believe it—to thirty-four tons. He did not know that his noble Friend had gone through all these folios. No doubt he had more leisure than he (the Earl of Derby) had, and was fond of light reading. If his noble Friend had gone through the whole of these volumes, he gave him joy of his industry, patience, and perseverance; but for himself, he must confess, he had not been for- tunate enough to find time, and if he had he was not sure he had the inclination. He had, however, looked into the Report of the Commission, or rather into the Report of the majority of the Commission, because the Report was only signed by three of the Commissioners, while two of them absolutely and entirely dissented from the conclusions of their colleagues. One of them, Mr. Hughes, a most respectable Roman Catholic gentleman, lately Solicitor General for Ireland, dissented from the system of administration which the three Commissioners proposed to introduce; while the other Commissioner, Mr. Stephens, differed from the conclusions to which his colleagues had come as to the constitution of the Board which they proposed to establish. Therefore, though no doubt, technically speaking, this Report is the Report of the Commission, yet in point of fact, it is only the Report of three Commissioners out of the five, as these conclusions are strenuously opposed by the other two. He did not mean to dispute the labour, industry, and value of the Report. On the contrary, he thought it was of great value, so far as it referred to the actual state of education in Ireland; but some of the doctrines laid down by the Commissioners ought to be very carefully weighed and considered before they were acted upon. He had, however, little hesitation in saying that there was too much evidence for the charge that the endowed schools of Ireland had fallen into a state of great inefficiency, and very much from those causes mentioned in the Report to which his noble Friend had referred; and it was evident that the schools were not adequately overlooked. But when he came to the remedy which the three Commissioners proposed, he must say—and he thought when he mentioned some features of that remedy their Lordships would agree with him—that great caution would be needed before their Lordships committed themselves to decided approbation. They distinguished these endowed schools into exclusive and non-exclusive schools; that is to say, into schools which were not limited to any one religious denomination, and schools which were so limited. With regard to all those non-exclusive schools they proposed to constitute a new Board, somewhat similar in principle to the existing National Board of Education, but perfectly distinct from it, composed of persons of different religious denominations, with one paid and salaried Commissioner, having offices in Dublin; with a separate solicitor, a separate staff of inspectors, a separate auditor, with separate offices, and a treasurer—in short, a fresh educational staff; and they proposed that the whole expense should be charged upon the Consolidated Fund. The next proposition was, that all the schools, of whatever denomination, which came under the head of non-exclusive schools, should be placed under the direct superintendence of this new Board, and that this Board should have a registrar, to whom should be sent copies or extracts of all wills that contained bequests for educational purposes. The custody of all papers connected with these schools should be handed over to the Board. All the schools which were now under the patronage of the Lord Lieutenant were to be handed over to them, and all the property of those endowed schools were to be placed at their free disposal, to be dealt with as a common fund without reference to the nature of each endowment. This appeared to him to be going an extraordinary length, considering that the property of many, if not all, of these schools, was expressly intended for the promotion of education in particular localities. Among the non exclusive schools, the Commissioners placed all schools that were of Royal foundation, and all the diocesan schools. Now, it was no doubt true, that these schools were strictly and literally free, that was to say, they did not exclude persons of any religious denomination; but then it was equally clear, that it was the intention of the founders that the children educated in these schools, Roman Catholics or not, should be subjected to a certain description of teaching under the control and inspection of the Established Church. Of that there could not be the slightest doubt, particularly when they recollected that the Royal schools were founded in the reign of Elizabeth, and that the very intention of those schools was the establishment of Protestantism, as against the Roman Catholic religion, so that their very basis was a Protestant scheme of education. Therefore, though the schools were certainly non-exclusive in the sense that children of all denominations were freely admitted, yet it was certainly not true—at least not according to the intention of the founders— that there was not to be an exclusive religious education, in the sense that they might be placed under the superintendence of a Board consisting of persons of various denominations, according to a system very much akin to that of the national schools. Such was certainly the case with regard to the schools of Royal foundation. Coming to the diocesan schools the case was still clearer. The very name of those schools showed that they were founded for the planting of the Protestant religion, and that they were to be under the superintendence of a Protestant bishop. To introduce a mixed system of education, and to place them under a board of mixed religious opinions, appeared to him to overlook the very purpose of the founders of these schools. He need not, he thought, dwell further on the case of the diocesan schools. His noble Friend had referred to some cases where no masters had been appointed for some years, whose salaries ought to come out of ecclesiastical lands. But his noble Friend was aware that though the salaries of the masters in those cases came from an ecclesiastical source, yet their payment was contingent on school-houses being built by the assessment of the grand juries; and as grand juries, for several years past, had refused to raise a single shilling for those schools, the loss of those salaries to the cause of education was to be charged, not against the bishops but against the grand juries of counties. He would not go further into the question. He did not mean to say that it might not be found necessary to make some alterations in the constitutions and regulations of these schools; but this he would say, that in coming to a conclusion upon the Report of three Commissioners forming the majority of five Commissioners, the greatest caution should be exercised before it was determined to transfer these schools, and all other endowed schools of every description except those which were professedly exclusive in their character, to a new Board to be constituted with a large staff of officers, and separated, he knew not why, from the Board of National Education; because it appeared to him that they were based precisely upon the same principle, and subject to the same regulations. Moreover, the adoption of the Report of the three Commissioners would involve a considerably increased expenditure, which it was proposed should come out of the Consolidated Fund; and also, what was more important still—a principle the application of which was matter of the gravest doubt—namely, the endowment of all schools, throwing them into one common mass, and distributing them without the slightest reference to the intentions of the founders, When be found a recommendation of this sort laid upon the table in February—that the Report was signed by three only out of the five Commissioners—that one of the two remaining Commissioners (Mr. Hughes) dissented from the whole scheme, holding that schools of this description ought not to be handed over to the management of a mixed Board, but to a Board in accordance with the religious creed or predominant character of the school, and objecting altogether to the admixture of Roman Catholics in the management of schools which were, in the first instance, specially designed for Protestant purposes; when he found, on the other hand, another of the Commissioners, an English barrister, objecting to the extravagant powers proposed to be given to these Commissioners, to the classification of schools which they had suggested, and to the propriety of placing them under their management, he hoped it was not too much to ask the House not to expect the Government to come to the consideration of a matter of such deep importance, involving such grave consequences, and spreading over such an immense mass of correspondence and evidence, without taking the most serious and deliberate view of the whole question. He was unwilling then to pronounce any actual positive opinion upon the subject, though he certainly thought the recommendation of the majority of the Commissioners was a very doubtful one. On the other hand, he by no means intended to say that the promotion of middle-class education in Ireland was not a matter of paramount importance. On the contrary, since the institution of the Queen's Colleges in Ireland, for giving a higher class education at a later period of life, it had become a matter of increased importance; whilst the great spread of the schools of the National Education Society had so materially improved the primary education of the lower classes, as to render it of paramount importance that the education of the middle classes should, if possible, keep pace with the improvement which had taken place in the classes below them. But with regard to the means proposed by the Commission, whilst he was ready to do full justice to the labour, diligence, and industry which the Commissioners had displayed, he must be permitted to say that it was not his intention to pledge himself to the adoption of the recommendation which the majority of them had arrived at; but the Report of the evidence on which it was founded should receive the most careful consideration of the Government, and especially he should feel it to be his duty to submit it to the consideration of the Government in Ireland. He was sure the subject was one to which his noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant would be happy to direct his closest attention, and he should be glad if, availing themselves of the information placed before them, and possessing a full knowledge of the existing defects, Her Majesty's Government found that they could produce any measures which might promote an object of such deep importance as the improvement of the system of education in Ireland.


said, that the concluding observations of the noble Earl saved him (the Earl of Carlisle) from the necessity of continuing the discussion, at least on this occasion. But as the subject had been brought forward with great judgment and propriety by his noble Friend (the Earl of Cork) it was almost due from him (the Earl of Carlisle) to state, that having had opportunities in his late official capacity of knowing what had passed in Ireland, his conviction was that it would be impossible to estimate too highly the labour, the perseverance, the impartiality, and the candour with which the members of the late Endowed Schools Commission, beginning with his noble relative the Marquess of Kildare, and including every member of that Commission, had prosecuted their extended and protracted inquiries. The credit of the selection of those Commissioners was due to his noble Friend who had preceded him in the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (the Earl of St. Germans); and in his opinion a more judicious selection could not have been made. He felt confident that the details which they had embodied in their Report conveyed a great mass of most useful and suggestive matter, which was amply deserving of the consideration both of the Government and the Legislature; and that consideration he rejoiced to think, from the assurance just given by the noble Earl, their statements would receive. He must, indeed, confess that the Report having only been presented to the Irish Government about the very date of his leaving Ireland, he felt himself somewhat in the same category with the noble Earl. He would not pretend to say that he had made himself sufficiently master of its very lu- minous contents, and the difficulty was somewhat increased by the recommendations of the different Commissioners not being unanimous. But one point was clear. There was the existence — the proved and patent existence—of great and manifold neglect and abuses in the present system. While abstractedly such neglect and such abuse called for remedy there was this condition of things in Ireland. He believed that the education received at the primary schools under the National Board of Education—might compare advantageously with that of this country. At the same time there was a no less striking inferiority in regard to a useful system of middle class education in Ireland, compared with the middle class education in England. What he looked to with confidence and hope was that the various matters and details set forth in the Report of the Endowed Schools Commission would give great facilities for removing that striking deficiency; and he would only express his hope that no too exclusive or narrow limitation, no too rigorous adherence to past modes of procedure, would be insisted upon, which must have the effect of diminishing those facilities and clouding the hopes which he derived from the proved necessity of dealing with the subject of the endowed schools, and applying it to the extension and improvement of middle class education in Ireland.


rose to draw their Lordships' attention to the fact that Mr. Stephens, one of the Commissioners, had dissented from the recommendations contained in the Report, in the following terms:— I have felt it my duty to dissent from the Report. I consider it to be vicious in principle, bad in law, and defective, in not making adequate provision for better regulating, managing, and governing the endowed schools, and for the general promotion in connection with such schools of academical education. The other Commissioner, also a member of the legal profession, dissenting from the Report stated that he could not concur in a Report which advocated a system which he thought bad in principle, and even if it were good in principle would be utterly impracticable in Ireland; that a system of mixed education was wrong in principle and in practice, and that for Ireland especially the unmixed system was the best. He was happy to find from the noble Earl at the head of the Government that the Report of the Commissioners was to be seriously considered. There was certainly great need of doing something, and if he might mention what was the chief want in Ireland he would say that it was good inspection. He would not leave the schools entirely to the trustees, who might inspect or not just as they pleased; but he would have a paid inspector, whose business it should be to see that the intentions of the founders were completely carried out.


said, he thought his noble Friend (the Earl of Cork) ought to be satisfied with the assurance of the noble Earl that the Report of the Commissioners would receive the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, and that they would direct their attention to the mass of information contained in the Report and its appendices. As, however, an impression might have been produced on the minds of their Lordships that the system of education in all these schools was very defective, it was only just to say with respect to one of them — the Royal School of Armagh— that, mainly owing to the active superintendence and liberality of the right rev. Prelate the late Primate of Ireland, there was no school in Ireland in better condition. There were, doubtless, other excellent schools in that country; but he had thought it only right to bear testimony to the admirable state of this school, which he had himself witnessed by personal observation, and which was due in a great measure to the excellence of its arrangements, and the superiority of the master who presided over it.


said, it appeared that the Royal Schools of Armagh, Dungannon, and Enniskillen, were in a very efficient state as regarded their funds; the others, however, were the reverse; and the steps the Commissioners appeared to propose to take was, to improve the latter at the expense of the former—a course which seemed to him (the Earl of Belmore) to be, not only unfair, but not in accordance with the intention of the founders.