HL Deb 27 May 1864 vol 175 cc697-9

said, he desired to ask a Question of the noble Earl the President of the Council, upon a subject which was about to be brought under their Lordships' notice upon the Motion of the noble Earl (Earl Stanhope) but his Question referred to Middle Class Schools, whereas the noble Earl's Motion referred only to the great schools for the higher classes. He would remind their Lordships that, five years ago, he brought the subject of middle class schools before this House in presenting 120 petitions, signed by above 15,000 persons, warm friends of education; a still greater number had been presented to the other House, the total signatures being above 40.000 to the petitions in both Houses. The complaint made at that time was—and it was repeated in 1860 — that there being ample care taken to have well qualified teachers in the schools for the upper classes, and in those for the working classes, there were no means provided for securing proper teachers for the middle class schools. The middle class, if not so numerous as the others, were nevertheless a most important body. The working classes amounted to four-fifths of the people, or fifteen millions and a half; the upper classes to above three millions; the middle classes to about half a million. A right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Lincoln), who had given him his most valuable support, estimated them at considerably less, but still at a large number; and for the schools used by this most important portion of our fellow subjects no inspection whatever was provided. Care was taken to prevent un- qualified persons practising surgery or medicine; none to prevent the most unfit persons from teaching the children of the middle classes. Neither the petitioners, nor himself, nor the bishop, had the least idea of using compulsion; but they believed that if Inspectors were appointed, with the power of granting certificates of qualification to teachers, almost all schools would voluntarily submit themselves to inspection, from knowing the certain effects of such certificates to secure the attendance of scholars. The difficulty arising from want of funds and from the unwillingness to impose new duties on the present Inspectors, had prevented his noble Friend the Lord President from at once complying with the demand; but he had promised that he would take the complaints of the petitioners into consideration, and that the matter should receive immediate attention. He (Lord Brougham) now desired to ask his noble Friend, Whether the subject had been considered by the Committee of Council, and with what result?


said, that the subject alluded to by the noble and learned Lord had been very frequently under the consideration of the Government, but it had been found very difficult to deal with it in a satisfactory manner, or to act upon the suggestions which had been made. Great doubts had been entertained how far Parliament would sanction the expenditure of public money in aid of middle class schools, which were matters of private enterprise. He thought that of late years the education of the middle class had been much extended and improved by means of voluntary agencies, and that associations were being formed for the purpose of training masters for middle class schools.


said, he was very far from proposing any grant of public money for the foundation or support of schools. He felt most thankful for the large sums already granted. He (Lord Brougham) had first obtained from his Colleagues in 1832 the sum of £20,000, to be vested in the Committee of Privy Council, according to the recommendation in the Report of the celebrated Education Committee of the Commons in 1817 and 1818; that sum had now increased to £700,000 or £800,000 — and with the effect of largely increasing the number of schools and improving the quality of their education. But for the middle classes no such improvement had been made, and their schools might be in the worst hands, both as to the master's capacity for teaching and as to his character. The same remark applied to schoolmistresses. What he desired was that there should be a Government officer to inspect middle class schools; but that submission to inspection should be entirely voluntary on the part of the governors and other managers of those schools.