HL Deb 27 July 1863 vol 172 cc1460-4

rose to call attention to the Minute of the Committee of Council on Education of the 19th of May last, and the Memorandum of the Committee of the National Society to the Committee of Council thereon. This Minute had attracted very little attention in or out of Parliament, but it was one which the public ought to be fully acquainted with, and he hoped the Government would give it further consideration before the time arrived when it would come into force in July next year. It was not easy to find out from the Minute itself what was proposed to be done. The Minute cancelled Articles 136 and 137 of the Revised Code, and added to Article 52 the words "by the amount of any annual endowment." Now, these words had the effect of reducing the grant which a school would receive from the Council by the amount of any endowment the school might possess. The proposal seemed to him to be in itself unfair, and it would tend to inflict a serious injury on our national system. The importance of the change would be best undestood from the Returns which had been made by the National Society in 1846 and 1847, by which it appeared that 4,678 schools connected with that Society had endowments of one kind or another. Under this Minute they would lose all the advantages of their endowments; they would proportionately get little or none of the public money, and they must either raise the additional sums by private subscription, or must reduce the efficiency of the schools. Yet what inducement would there be to keep up good schools in agricultural parishes, when the assistance which they expected was diminished in exact proportion to their exertion? A school might pass the best possible examination, yet the amount of public aid was in all cases to be reduced by that of the endowment. This was, in fact, a plan for applying the charities of the country in aid of the public revenue, and this was made during a year when a proposition to tax charities was so repudiated in Parliament and by the country that the Government were obliged to withdraw it. He did not believe that any argument could be adduced in favour of this proposition, which would be attended with injury to some of the best schools in the country. The National Society had pointed out that the amount of these endowments had been for the most part applied in raising the salaries of the masters and mistresses. They were for the most part an ill-paid class, and the existence of these better-paid masterships was a sort of premium to those engaged in conducting the education of the country. The proposition of the Committee of Council seemed, therefore, very ill judged, and he trusted that it would, during the recess, receive the attention of the Government. Another point to which he wished to direct their attention was that part of the Minute by which it was proposed to appoint a new class of Inspectors' Assistants from the class of persons who had been educated for masters. The National Society pointed out that the masters and mistresses would consider that these persons were in no respect superior to themselves; and if the Inspector acted on their report, and not on his own judgment, some little jealousy would be caused, unless great care were taken, not only in regard to the emoluments given, but also as to the manner in which the examination was carried out.


said, he could confirm the statement of his noble Friend, and could give an example of the hardship that would be caused by the Minute of Council, if it were carried into effect—the case of a school situated on an estate of his, in an agricultural district, occupied by small tenant-farmers. His father had built and endowed a church, and he (the Earl of Derby) had built some very good schools, which were under a certificated master, and were reported to be first-rate. The schools had an endowment of £48 a year in land, and that, with the local subscriptions, had endowed a good school. He had received a letter from the clergyman, who took a great interest in the matter, stating that the maximum amount which this school would receive under the Government grant was £42 per annum; and as this was less than the endowment, the effect of this Minute would be that the Council grant would be wholly withheld, and the school would not receive one shilling of public assistance. Now, if he (the Earl of Derby) were to make up the amount thus withdrawn, in order that the certificated master might be retained, the effect would not be the same—the stimulus to exertion on the part of the master would be withdrawn. If the Minute were acted upon, the efficiency of many schools similarly situated would be seriously affected. Another point requiring attention was the difficulty in country districts of obtaining three managers to meet the technical requirements of the Privy Council. He did not see the necessity of insisting on this rule. The fact was, that in many places the clergyman was, practically, the only manager, and other persons lent their names as his coadjutors merely for the purpose of complying with the requirements of the Committee of Council. That was certainly but a small point; but he trusted that the Council would take it into their consideration, with a view to a relaxation of the rule.


said, that the Commissioners of Charities at present enabled the trustees of charities to vary the mode in which they employed the funds, and to appropriate a portion to educational purposes. This, however, would be the last thing they would think of if the amount contributed were to go in diminution of the grant. Bearing in mind that the great majority of parochial schools were in connection with the Established Church, the Government, if they had wished to diminish the assistance given to schools of that denomination, could not have adopted any more effectual mode.


, in the absence of the Lord President, said, that the Educational Grant was voted by Parliament for the purpose of assisting the education of the people where sufficient means did not exist, and it was desirable that the money should be applied in the most economical way. Now, it could not be said, that where a school possessed endowments, it did not possess some means of education, and he could see nothing unfair or unreasonable in deducting from the sums paid to schools the amount of any endowment they might possess. The education of a child in a common elementary school, such as those under inspection, ought not to exceed 30s. per annum. For this estimate he had the authority of the Royal Commissioners, page 345. Grants under the Revised Code, when added to the average fees and subscriptions of an unendowed school, were calculated to make up about 30s. per child per annum; and he thought that endowed schools ought not to be enabled, by grants of public money, to make up a higher average. With regard to the appointment of Assistant Inspectors, they were intended to assist, not to supersede, the Inspectors in the examination of children in the elementary branches of knowledge. There was no reason to suppose that they would not be perfectly competent to perform this duty. They would be recommended by the Inspector himself, and were to act under his direction. The Inspector, therefore, would not be relieved from any part of his responsibility, but with their assistance he would be enabled to accomplish his work within reasonable time, and to devote that attention which was desirable to the general system and management of the schools.


, in reply, said, the noble Duke bad not met any one of the questions he had raised. He was afraid that the Minute would impair the efficiency of public education in almost every school to which it was applied, because it would take from the schools the stimulus which the new principle of examination was intended to afford, and it would also seriously impair the efficiency of the teaching by reducing the stipends paid to the teachers. The noble Duke had, in his opinion, not met the objections raised; and the truth was, that the whole scheme was simply an effort to save money. He trusted that a strong feeling would be raised throughout the country when the matter became properly understood.


said, that he thought his noble Friend the Chairman of Committees had had the best of the argument; and called attention to the fact that the grant made for education in Ireland was, in proportion to the population, double that of England.


said, he entirely concurred in what had fallen from the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset), and must express his gratitude to the Government for having, on two successive occasions, made a stand against the formidable pres- sure applied for an increase in the education grants. It was desirable that the working classes should provide as far as possible education as well as food for their children, and now, under the existing system, a much smaller percentage was taken from their means for the purposes of education than formerly. He thought we should be careful to do nothing which would diminish the feeling of self respect in that class. For his own part, he had always regarded these Parliamentary grants rather as a necessary temporary remedy than as a system which it was intended to render permanent. He hoped that the Government would not withdraw from the principles which they had laid down; but he thought it might be desirable, in order to avoid withdrawing all stimulus from the schools, that in making these deductions the endowments should be returned at something less than their full value.