HL Deb 20 March 1862 vol 165 cc1858-72

rose to ask the Lord President, Whether it was intended to provide by the new Minutes of the Committee of Council on Education that scholars in night schools should be examined with scholars of day schools. The system of night schools was, in his opinion, one of the most important parts of the recent movement for the advancement of education in this country. He had two reasons for thinking so: first because night schools, like ragged schools, received a large number of the population who but for them would obtain no schooling at all. His second reason was still more important. The children of the working classes being necessarily drafted off to labour at a very early age, the best instruction that could be given to them was that given at night schools. And there was another fact deserving of notice. The education given to children in the day school, although it seemed to be lost, was left potentially in their minds, and was capable of being called forth by subsequent instruction. The night school, as it were, took up and carried out that potentiality, by awakening again that instruction in the child's mind which had appeared to be lost. But if it was a most important system, it was also a most delicate one to handle. The children who attended the day schools were sent there by their parents, and kept there whether they liked or not; but the scholars who attended the night schools went there of their own volition, and if offended by anything which was distasteful to them, would cease to attend. If, therefore, it was expedient to introduce examination into such schools at all, it ought to be introduced with the greatest caution. But, in fact, it was not so much needed in night as in day schools. In the day schools the pupils had, for the most part, no desire to learn, and it was therefore necessary to stimulate their wish for learning by prizes, and to test their proficiency by examinations. In the night schools, on the other hand, the pupils were persons who went there of their own free will, and from a desire to learn, and therefore it was not necessary that examinations should be continually brought to bear upon them in order to keep them up to the mark. As he read the Revised Code, he was afraid that it was intended that these scholars should be examined with those in the day schools; and he need hardly say anything to show how offensive it would be to grown up persons to be examined with children. Was that what the Government really intended? The only mention of the subject which he found in the Code was the intimation that "scholars attending in the evening only may be presented for examination in any group at the discretion of the managers." From that it would appear that such scholars might be examined in any group the managers pleased, but that in one group or another they must be examined. The adoption of such a course would, he was convinced, be most injurious to night schools, and he therefore hoped that the noble Earl would be able to state that he had misunderstood the Code. He had also to present to their Lordships a large number of petitions from schools belonging to all religious denominations, and in all parts of England, from Cornwall to Durham, but many of them in his own diocese, praying their Lordships to take such steps as they in their wisdom might see fit to prevent the Revised Code, as it had been now altered, from being adopted as the law of national education in this country. Many of these petitions were accompanied by most earnest letters from the managers of the schools, pointing out that they had not been adopted as ready-made petitions, but as the expression of their views upon a subject of which they had personal knowledge. One point brought out in these petitions was, that the amended Revised Code would not, in regard to infant schools, answer the intention of the framers. Children of a tender age were often kept away from school by the weather and other external causes, and regular attendance on their part could not be secured. Several assumptions had been made by those who shared the views of the petitioners against the new Code, which he desired to correct. It was an error to assume that in opposing the amended Code they committed themselves to an approval of everything in the old one. He and others had pointed out several amendments which were required in the latter; and their objection to the new Code arose because they believed it would either aggravate existing evils or provide a remedy which was illusory. It was equally an error to say that those who had for- merly opposed the old system had now fallen in love with it. Their hostility to it was directed against the proposal to divorce religion and education; and when the concordat with the Church was afterwards effected, they had been able to support the system with consistency; and in the same manner many who opposed the first proposition were now able to support the new Code as it had been altered. Again, nothing could be more unjust than to speak as if the petitioners were complaining merely because they feared that they were going to lose a large sum of money from which they derived personal benefit. The fact was that they had been giving twice as much as they received, for they gave not merely money but time, thought, care, and labour to the work of national education; and if they now complained, it was because they apprehended injury, not to themselves, but to the cause which they had at heart. He wished also to move that two papers be laid on the table of the House—one was a Return which had been given to an Address of the house of commons, containing copies of memorials transmitted to and correspondence with the Committee of Privy Council on Education touching the Revised Code; the other was a copy of the scheme of inspection for diocesan Inspectors of Education in the diocese of Oxford. His object in asking for the latter paper was to show that the petitioners did not, as was alleged, confine themselves to mere objection, but had proposed a scheme which might easily have been engrafted on the Revised Code. The great evil of the proposed new system was the mode of grouping the children for examination. By their plan children were divided into certain classes according to their progress, and examined in the subjects which were assigned to each class. The capitation grant might be proportioned to the rise of the children into these several classes. While a stimulus would thus be given to advance the education of the children, the managers would be afraid to push them on too fast, lest they should jeopardize the grant by breaking down under the examination. In that way the true end of examination would be served, which was not to ascertain whether on a given date a particular John Tompkins had attained this or that stage in his education, but whether the school at which John Tompkins attended was doing its work properly. The great evil of the Revised Code was that it was a bill of pains and penalties on the managers of schools, devised as if they were only using their schools as an instrument for extracting public money, and as if they ought to be suspected and watched at every turn, instead of being treated as generous and noble-minded men, who gave themselves up disinterestedly to the great cause of education. Before sitting down he entreated their Lordships' attention to a pamphlet by Mr. Birks, in which it was clearly demonstrated that the statement in the Report of the Commissioners that a large proportion of the children went away untaught from the schools was founded on a statistical mistake. The right rev. Prelate concluded by moving That there be laid before the House, Copies of all Memorials and Letters which have been addressed to The Lord President of the Council, or to the Secretary of the Committee of Council on Education, on the Subject of the Revised Code, by the Authorities of any Educational Society, Board, or Committee, or of any Training School: Of any Correspondence between the Committee of Council on Education and any of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, or any Managers or Teachers of Schools, on the Subject of the Revised Code: Of any Correspondence between the Committee of Council on Education and the Lords of the Treasury, or the Civil Service Commissioners, respecting Candidates for Employment in the Public Service who have been in receipt of Public Payments as Queen's Scholars in Training Schools; and of Two Circulars addressed by the Committee of Council on Education to Training Schools (Males), dated respectively the 14th Day of April, 1859, and the 23rd Day of November, 1860, on the same Subject: And, Of the Correspondence which passed in January, 1861, between Mr. Holland Echersby and the Committee of Council on Education, and in April, 1861, between Mr. John G. Bell and the Committee of Council on Education, relative to their respective Applications for Permission to accept Appointments in the Public Service. Also, Copy of Scheme of Inspection for Diocesan Inspectors of Education in the Diocese of Oxford as transmitted to the Committee of Council on Education.


said, he was glad to find that the right rev. Prelate had now come round to the view he had expressed the other night as to the great object of night schools. That object, undoubtedly, was to render education as continuous as possible, and to induce children who were withdrawn to labour from the day school to attend the night school. As soon as the Revised Code was passed, it would be the duty of the Government to issue instructions to the Inspectors to hold separate examinations of the scholars at the day and night schools whenever it was practicable, so as to obviate the objection to a common examination, which the right rev. Prelate had urged. With regard to the evening schools, there must, of course, be some test of efficiency, and it must be admitted that it was impossible to rely on the test with which the right rev. Prelate said he was perfectly satisfied. The right rev. Prelate had alluded to the very large mass of petitions which he had presented on this subject. But there were obvious reasons why persons who had a pecuniary interest, even though it were only for philanthropic objects, should, by the most powerful organization, endeavour to produce an effect upon Parliament. The noble Earl opposite hoped that the Resolutions which were to be proposed in the other House would pass. He hoped that they would not pass, because they were negative propositions, involving the expenditure of more money and less efficiency. But, whether they passed or not, the public required the subject to be considered, and it would be impossible to deal with the question for the future if this golden opportunity were not seized in order to come to some settlement upon it. The right rev. Prelate said he should be able to prove that some of the facts upon which the Commissioners relied were not correct.


Not the facts, but the inferences drawn from Mr. Norris's report.


said, he was not aware that the Commissioners had drawn their inferences particularly from Mr. Norris's report. With regard to the point in Mr. Norris's report which Mr. Birks attacked, as to the proportion of children who were withdrawn from the schools by their parents before they reached the higher class, he had received a letter from Mr. Norris which, by a singular coincidence, had reached him after it had been moved for in the other House; and, while Mr. Norris in that letter controverted Mr. Birks as to certain figures, he admitted that there was one point upon which there had been an error in his calculations. But whether 55 per cent or 75 per cent of the children left school without that elementary knowledge which they ought to possess, the case for an alteration in the system was equally strong. It was stated by Mr. Horace Mann that the Post Office authorities were obliged to limit the test for the employment of letter-carriers to their being able to read one or two addresses, to add up a few figures, and write their own names and addresses, because When more was required it was found that an immense proportion of the candidates were rejected. It also appeared that in a militia regiment wholly composed of young men, out of 63 per cent half could not read at all, and the other half could only read the easiest lessons. Now it appeared by Mr. Arnold's report on Holland that out of 7,000 recruits 6,000 could read, write, and cipher correctly, and it was a disgrace to England that such an enormous number of children should leave school without any adequate knowledge. He would take the opportunity to correct several errors which the right rev. Prelate made on a former occasion. He was rather puzzled at first to ascertain why the right rev. Prelate should be in such haste to anticipate Lord Lyttelton's Resolutions; but when he had heard Lord Lyttelton's speech, it was clear that the right rev. Prelate suspected that the noble Lord, upon a reconsideration of the details, would make admissions most damaging to the case of those who were wholly opposed to the principles and details of the Revised Code. He admitted that it was not easy for any one to master a great many details, but he was surprised to hear the right rev. Prelate say that there was a difficulty in getting the younger classes to attend school, inasmuch as the whole attendance reports showed that the younger classes were those who attended the best, because they were of an age when their parents were glad to have them away from home and comfortably taken care of during the hours of work. The right rev. Prelate stated that £ 800,000 of the Government money produced £ 2,000,000 of voluntary contributions. It happened—and by the Report of the Commissioners, which could not be questioned, it was proved—that, instead of £ 2,000,000, the voluntary contributions were £ 500,000 for day schools, and £ 250,000 for building schools and training colleges, or only £ 750,000 in all. The right rev. Prelate had in some degree explained that discrepancy, because he said to-night that the voluntary efforts were double what was given by the State when they took into account the loss of time and the loss of money. But when the right rev. Prelate gave a specific sum of £ 2,000,000 as the amount of voluntary contributions, their Lordships were not likely to suppose that the value of the time given up to schools by clergymen and lay managers had been estimated. The right rev. Prelate also said that no pupil-teacher had left a training college more than four years, and therefore it was unjust to say that the system was a failure. He had never said that it was a failure. On the contrary, the Government had always said it was a great success; but, with the Commissioners, they were of opinion, and he believed it could be proved, that, like all other human institutions, there were defects in it, and those defects were so important that it was well worth while to try to rectify and remedy them. With regard to the particular statement as to the four years, the fact was that pupil-teachers began to leave the training colleges more than nine years ago, so that they had had an experience of more than double the time mentioned by the right rev. Prelate. There was another statement, that during the last 15 years the number of scholars had increased from 500,000 to 2,500,000, and upon that point he could not imagine where the right rev. Prelate got his statistics. There were no figures in existence, as far as he knew, as to the number of scholars 15 years ago. But 10 years ago the number was 2,000,000, and 20 years ago it was 1,200,000, or more than double the number stated by the right rev. Prelate as the number of scholars only 15 years ago. He had no objection to the production of the papers moved for. They had been granted in the other House; but whether it was really for the public interest that the public money should be spent in reprinting very elaborate pamphlets was another question. However, the Government, being attacked, and having no other wish than to give every possible information on the subject, could have no objection to their production. Neither had he any objection to the production of the papers asked for by the right rev. Prelate, which respected the scheme of inspection proposed in his own diocese. He found that the propositions had reference to secular and religious instruction. The requirements under the head of secular instruction were very simple, and analogous to those exacted by the Government under the new Code; but under the head of religious instruction he found that the children were expected to read the Athanasian Creed, which contained many words which must be wholly unintelligible to the children who, under the rules applicable to secular instruction, could only read monosyllables. With regard to the system of grouping schools, the system of grouping by age was certainly less complicated than any other; but he could not approve the suggestion of the right rev. Prelate to give the higher proportion of the grant to the higher classes in the schools, lessening as the classes descended. It was with the education in those classes that the Royal Commissioners were most concerned, and it was for the lower classes that the greatest encouragement and stimulus were needed. The evil now complained of was that the lower classes did not obtain sufficient attention; and if they were made the less remunerative portion of the schools, they were not likely to be better taught. With regard to Mr. Birks's pamphlet, he was almost ashamed to say that he could not understand a great portion of it. The diagram at the end had puzzled him terribly; he could make nothing of it, and a gentleman of great mathematical acquirements to whom he had submitted it could only describe it as a "parabolic curve."


said, if he had been aware that his noble Friend had intended to call on him to justify the figures which he quoted a fortnight ago, he would have come provided with the necessary materials for that purpose. He was quite aware that he had made a mistake with reference to the time the pupil-teacher system had been in operation; he read from the paper before him "1858" instead of "1853," and then calculating from the former date said that it was only four years since the first pupil-teachers left the training colleges; but the argument he used was that the pupil-teacher system had not been tried for a sufficiently long time to enable them to pronounce it a failure, and to justify them in going back to the old system of monitors; and the difference in the number of years did not affect the argument in the slightest degree. With regard to the other figures, he believed them to be exactly correct, and capable of being proved beyond a doubt. With reference to the objection of the noble Earl as to the remuneration for the various classes, it was quite obvious, that if the highest class was the most remunerative, the object of the teacher would be to get his pupils on as fast as possible, so as to fit them to undergo the examination provided for the upper- class children. As to the night schools, he could only repeat his former objection to lowering the age at which the pupils were to be admitted to them; as he said formerly, the young children being brought into them could only abash the elder members of the school. The noble Earl had said it would be the duty of the Privy Council to lay down rules, but he should be glad to have an explanation of the meaning of the existing clause to which he had called attention, which said the managers should prescribe the group in which the pupils in the night schools should be examined. He would not now attempt to explain the meaning of Mr. Birk's pamphlet on which the noble Lord had attempted to cast ridicule; he was quite sure the noble Earl, when he had looked at it again, would perfectly understand it.


said, that the object of the Government was not to do away with the system of certificated masters and pupil-teachers, but to maintain the excellent machinery as it now existed. The point they wanted to know was, not what the schools could teach, but what the pupils really were taught, so that they might get at some tangible result.


said, that the discrepancy that was pointed out some days ago between the ordinary reports of the School Inspectors and the statement of the Royal Commissioners as to the character of the schools and the acquirements of the scholars had been fully explained. When the reports were examined, it would be found that the inspectors reported the schools as "excellent" or "good," in reference to the attainments of the first-class and not of the ordinary scholars. Now, a schoolmaster, had a right to be judged by reference to the scholars that had been longest with him. The Royal Commissioners had judged by inspections of the second and third class, and they found that almost all the John Tomkinses were incapable of reading intelligently or counting. The right rev. Prelate said this was not what the State required. But, with all respect to the right rev. Prelate, he must maintain the opposite proposition. What the children knew, what they carried from school, was what the State had a right to inquire into. The right rev. Prelate ascribed the deficiency to the irregular attendance of the children. But on this point the evidence of the Royal Commission was emphatic and complete. It was not true that the attendance was so irregular but that with good teaching the children could be made to read and write fairly, and acquire a fair amount of arithmetic, before they left school. The right rev. Prelate, like many others, appeared entirely to misapprehend the object of the new Code. They had to deal with a class of children who on the average left school before they were twelve years of age. They had to go to employments by which they could earn money for their parents. The problem was to teach these children before they left school such a degree of facility in reading and writing as would finable them when they left it to carry on their own education thereafter. In order to do this they must see whether they were taught a certain amount of elementary knowledge. Surely, the principle that the children should be examined to this extent was one that did not deserve the censure of the right rev. Prelate. He was not, however, saying that the particular scale upon which the examination was proposed to be adopted ought or ought not to be altered. As to the pamphlet that had been referred to, he agreed with his noble Friend the Lord President that it was difficult to understand. But it admitted that, with regard to children under ten years of age, and their deficiency in the elementary points of reading and writing, the complaints of the Inspectors were more unanimous than on any other subject. It admitted that the statement of the Royal Commissioners as to the elementary education was, in the main, correct. Again, in a letter to the Guardian newspaper, one of the managers of a national school, while pointing out the disastrous consequences to those schools involved in the new Code, described the results of an examination of children by groups, with the purpose of showing the disastrous effect of the new Code. The specimen given was this:—The writer asked the Inspector to examine his school as it would be examined under the new Code, and the result was this—that of group 2 twenty children presented themselves; of these only six could read, none could write, none could count Of group 3 fourteen presented themselves; of these only three could read up to the standard, three could write, none could count. Of group 4, out of ten children, none could read, none could write, and only three do counting. This was an instance sent by a manager of a school to show what would be the effect of the new Code; and it amounted to a distinct confession that, as matters stood, there had been great neglect in the elementary branches of education. These discussions might be very tiresome, but at the same time the subject was of such importance that no opportunity should be lost for elucidating it in every point of view. He was glad that none of the fears expressed at the commencement of these discussions as to the effect of the new rules on religious education were now heard. It was now fully. understood that the old system of inspection as regarded religious and moral education, was not done away with by the new Code—the old system would remain, but there was superadded to that system an inspection as to elementary education.


expressed his hope that the people of England would perceive the value of the principle of examination as a test of the efficiency of a school; and as there were few of their Lordships who had not been in early life in schools where there was such an examination, he appealed with confidence to them upon the matter. His own early history had proved to him the importance of this principle. In the public school where he had been educated an imperfect system of examination prevailed; but he passed thence under the hands of the late Bishop of London, to whom he owed a deep debt of gratitude for having first taught him the full value of examinations, and the necessity of continuing them in every form as the only means of rendering a man's reading really efficient. The people of this country might rest assured that where a school submitted willingly to the test of examination the system of instruction followed there was a sound one; and, on the other hand, they might with certainty come to an opposite conclusion wherever they found an unwillingness or an inability to undergo such a test. He remembered, that being once on a visit to a gentleman who took much interest in the education of the lower orders, and who had established a large school for the education of pauper children, he was asked, in company with another gentleman, to examine the children; and their knowledge was such that he said, "You are giving the lower classes of the people an education which even the higher classes are often unable to obtain." He confessed that he should have been much better pleased if, instead of all the protests and ingenious arguments by which the new Code wag opposed, the school managers had said, "You have made mistakes in your new system; you will find them out as you proceed; but we believe that the children in our schools are efficiently taught, and we shall not therefore object to, we rather welcome an examination of them." This would have been far more satisfactory, and would have inspired him with far greater confidence in a system which was maintained at such great expense to the public, than the course which had been taken by the school managers and their advocates. When it was declared that a large percentage of children on leaving school at present could not read, or write, or go through the ordinary process of ciphering, was it to be supposed that these children could be capable of becoming useful or moral citizens? It was a farce to continue the present vast expenditure, and to keep up the present complicated machinery, if the great majority of the children sent from schools supported by the State were so imperfectly taught. The State had a right to require that these schools should undergo the ordeal of examination, and should show in this way that they were worthy of the support which they received, and that adequate results are obtained for the large expenditure incurred by the State.


said, he agreed most cordially with his noble Friend in the principle which he had just laid down. Having listened to various speeches made against the Code, and especially to that of the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford), he was lost in astonishment at the opposition raised by the managers to the principle of examination. They were asked simply to admit that which they would enforce in the case of a model farm. The bailiff said to the owner, "You have admirable farm buildings, the farm is admirably stocked, and everything is as it should be." But the reply would be, "Show me a balance-sheet;" and none of their Lordships would be satisfied to be told that the means employed were everything which could be desired. Amateur farmers were, no doubt, obliged to rely a good deal on the authority of their bailiffs; but the Government of the country was not an amateur institution, and when it expended large sums of money in promoting education, it was bound to see that some results were obtained for its expenditure, and some test was absolutely necessary to ascertain this. On one point he had felt some difficulty—namely, in reconciling the different views of the Inspectors with those of the Commissioners; but the explanation given that evening seemed a satisfactory one—namely, that the one took stock of the knowledge which was to be found in the schools, while the Commissioners took stock of the ignorance; that the one looked to the bright and the other to the dark side. But if the two reports were taken together, it would be seen that a great amount of ignorance existed. The most difficult part of the Revised Code was the system of grouping; but he confessed that the more he had thought upon this question the more convinced he had felt that the best system was that of grouping by age. He thought that the great object was to make the child come to school at as early an age as possible, and go through a regular course of instruction for as long a time as possible. It was well known that there was not much difficulty in getting the children of the labouring classes to school early; and looking to this fact, he thought that they were justified in laying down a system of grouping from the age of seven years upwards to that of twelve. This brought him to the question of night schools. The right rev. Prelate said, that the elder boys would be driven away from the night school by the provision which required that they should undergo an examination, and that in their case such a provision was peculiarly unnecessary, inasmuch as it might be taken for granted, from the mere fact of their attending such a school, that they were disposed to turn their opportunities to the best account. He (Lord Wodehouse) admitted the first part of the right rev. Prelate's proposition, but he did not concur in the second. He believed that such boys would be especially anxious to submit to the test of an examination, and to give proof of the progress they were making. With regard to pupil-teachers, he was of opinion that it would be desirable to allow them, under less restrictions, to be employed in small schools. But even in that way the Revised Code would not reach the poorer schools, and he hoped his noble Friend, the President of the Council, would consider the propriety of still further relaxing the rules in regard to those schools, so that they might receive some amount of the Government aid. He at the same time admitted that great cure would be necessary in making such relaxations. It was urged against the Revised Code that a loss would result to the managers, and it was stated in pamphlets written on the subject that in the country managers would not be able to secure the money they had a right to, and that the effect would be their not acting so generously towards schools as they had hitherto done. It seemed to him that to some extent a remedy would be found for that in making a bargain with the master that a portion of his salary should depend on what the managers should receive from the Government. If he failed to bring children up to the standard, it was reasonable that a large amount of the deduction should fall on him. With regard to the training schools, he was extremely glad that his noble Friend had withdrawn a part of the provisions of the Revised Code as it originally stood. He thought that the training schools stood on a different footing from the ordinary schools, and he was convinced that they could never depend upon a large subscription for them. There was this difference between them and the village schools—that, as regarded the latter, every proprietor felt, or ought to feel, a great interest in the education of the children on his own property, and subscribed accordingly; but when they came to an institution like the training school, which stood in his county town, or perhaps in the neighbouring county town, one could not get him to subscribe his money for such an establishment. He ventured to say, that if managers were questioned on the subject, they would state that there would be a great difficulty in maintaining training schools without Government assistance. Under these circumstances, he did not think it was unreasonable to ask that, while Government possessed large powers in respect to the regulation of those institutions, they should contribute more liberally to them than they did to other schools.


in reply said, he thought his noble Friend the President of the Council would do him the justice to say that the point he had always pressed on him was that schools should be allowed to claim the benefit of capitation and other grants if they could stand an examination, and prove that they were first class, whether they had certificated masters or not—that schools in which there were not certificated masters or pupil-teachers should, if they chose to signify to Her Majesty's Inspector that they wished to be examined and stand a first-class examination, be allowed all the advantages now given to schools with certificated masters and pupil-teachers. In this way they would have clergymen and others trying to bring up schools such as he had referred to till they reached the highest position. There was no dissonance whatever in the views which he had expressed. He looked upon the examination of schools as all-important; but be thought it objectionable that the whole of the grant should be made to depend on the result of a particular examination. In the letters which he held in his hand from school after school the testimony was the same. They all believed, that if the present Code were carried into effect, they would lose the power of having the higher class of teachers. In the multitude of petitions or in the crowd of pamphlets that had been poured forth on the subject of education, he did not know of one which advocated anything but the strictest and most accurate examination of every school.

After a few words from Earl GRANVILLE, which were inaudible,

Motion agreed to.

Papers ordered to be laid before the House.

House adjourned at half-past Seven o'clock, till to morrow a quarter before Five o'clock.