HL Deb 18 July 1861 vol 164 cc1070-3

moved for a Return of the parishes in the county of Somerset, with a population less than 600, which received Government aid for the schools therein. The right rev. Prelate said he was induced to move for this Return in consequence of the statement made the other evening by the noble Duke who presided over the Colonial Department, on the authority of the Report of the Education Commissioners. He did not wish to say anything against that Report. On the contrary, he believed it to be a most able one. That Report, however, referred to certain tables which were drawn up by Mr. Stevenson in 1857, founded upon the authority of the Inspector's Reports in 1856. In that Report he found it stated that there were 71 schools in the county of Somerset under registered or certificated teachers. He had, however, before him a statement fully authenticated, that instead of 71 such schools in that county there were no less than 156. The Report went on to say that there were 282 parishes in the county, with a population of 600 and under, only one of which received Government aid. He had a paper before him, drawn up by Her Majesty's Inspector, which stated that, so far from it being a fact that the number was only 1 in 282 of these small parishes receiving Government aid, the number was really 1 in 9 1/2. He thought that a Report dated so far back as 1856 ought not to have been relied upon. It was also stated that in the county of Dorset the number of schools receiving Government aid was 1 in 17, in Devonshire 1 in 122. Seeing the mistake which had been made in regard to the county of Somerset, he tested the truth as regarded the county of Devon, and he found that the numbers should be 1 in 15. It should, however, be recollected that in many small parishes there were schools established by resident proprietors who neither sought or would receive Government aid. There were also in Somersetshire, a number of very small parishes where the children were educated to a certain point, and were then able to go to neighbouring and larger parishes where there were schools having certificated teachers, and receiving assistance from the Privy Council; and thus these small parishes benefited by Government grants. It was with the view of ascertaining the the real facts of the case he now moved for the Return of which he had given notice.

Moved,— That there be laid before the House, Return of the Parishes in the County of Somerset, with a Population of less than 600, which receive Government aid for the Schools therein.


assured the right rev. Prelate that in the allusion which he had made to Somerset he had not the slightest intention of throwing any aspersions upon that county. His simple object was to explain why the Commissioners thought that the Privy Council system required some further assistance, and was not as complete as it was generally supposed to be. The inquiry of the Commissioners had extended over two years and a half, and the statistics collected at the commencement of their labours could not be perfectly accurate when they presented their Report; but in the Report it was stated that the Returns had been made two years previously. With regard to Somerset, the figures were made up in 1857; but in the case of three counties, which he quoted, at the close of 1858, the right rev. Prelate had transposed the mode of making the calculation. It was not based on a percentage, but on the number of schools receiving aid in a given number of small parishes. He had inquired at the Privy Council Office what alteration had taken place since the Return he quoted had been made, and he found that in 282 parishes in Somerset, with less than 600 inhabitants, 19 schools were receiving Government aid on the 31st December, 1860; so that 18 must have been added to the one which was returned in the table and referred to in the Report. He still maintained that there was an enormous deficiency of education in the smaller country parishes. He was aware that there were schools not included in these Returns. Upon many estates schools were supported by landlords, and he had every reason to believe they were well conducted; but it was worthy of consideration whether it was not better to place them under Government inspection. He hoped his explanation would be satisfactory; but if the right rev. Prelate had any wish to have the names of the nineteen schools there would be no objection to give them.


said, that the greatest possible caution should have been exercised by the Privy Council in taking action upon the Report referred to. In Somerset there were a great many small parishes having the farmer and clergyman as the only residents, and no children to go to school; and many parishes where, with excellent schools, no inspector was admitted, because the patrons would not submit to their dictation. The gross number of 282 parishes with less than 600 population was, therefore, capable of a considerable reduction when discussing the general provision made for education in the small parishes of that county. The reason why the landowners in the west of England had been slow to place their schools under Government inspection was that they were very much alarmed at what were called the "management clauses;" but the progress of time has very much lessened their objections, and the regulations have been much mitigated and improved, and he was inclined to think that the time had come when they ought to consider whether Government inspection would not be a very good thing for them. One measure which, no doubt, would very much conduce to more schools being placed under inspection would be for the Government to furnish on a single sheet of paper all the requirements they would exact from those who desired to receive assistance. He must once more protest against the suggestion of the Commissioners to make schools a charge on the county rates nothing could be so injurious to education. He found on inquiry more reasons to doubt the assertions of the Assistant Commissioners who was employed in the western district.


expressed himself satisfied with the noble Duke's explanation.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

House adjourned at a quarter past Eight o'clock, till To-morrow Half-past Ten o'clock.