HL Deb 29 May 1866 vol 183 cc1408-16

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in rising to move the second reading of this Bill, said, he should not trespass at any length on their Lordships' time. It would be unnecessary for him to advert to the labours and inquiry of the Royal Commission of last year; but he would take the liberty of reminding their Lordships that both in and out of Parliament there had been a general concurrence of opinion that some reform in several of our great public schools was needed; and a feeling also was general that in a national point of view the importance of these school being made to fulfil their duties in the best possible manner could not be overestimated. By that was meant that the area of education should be extended, that that which was taught should In thoroughly taught, and that the training of the boy's mind in those foundations should be such as to fit the man for the great walks of life, by developing and cultivating to the utmost the faculties, moral and mental, with which he was endowed Now, it was unfortunately too well known —though the discovery was generally too late—that in many cases these duties had been but imperfectly performed, and that the best years of life had not been turned to the best account. It was often observed that the manly, honourable, straightforward, unselfish character which was formed in these schools lost half its influence and half its value through the ac companying ignorance, which unfitted the man to take an active part in the competition of an intellectual and progressive age like the present, or to prove as useful a member of society as he might have been It was very important that our public schools should be made to keep pace with the requirements of the age, and that whatever was inefficient in their present system should be amended. He should not allude to the merits, which were many, and to the shortcomings, which were not few, of the school that were the subject of the inquiry of the Royal Com mission, for he thought any reference to that part of the subject would be irrelevant on the present occasion. Their Lordships were aware that various measures of Reform were recommended by the Commissioners in their Report, and that many valuable suggestions had been offered by them. It would also be in the recollection of their Lordships that last year a Bill was introduced into their House founded on the Report of the Commissioners, which, after undergoing considerable discussion, was referred to a Select Committee, who took evidence, heard counsel, and, as he was bound to state, made important amendments in the measure. The Bill so amended would have been at once proceeded with had not the impending dissolution of Parliament rendered it impossible to expect that it could be carried through the Lower House that Session. It was this Bill as it came from the Select Committee of their Lordships' House of which he now proposed the second reading; and he should very briefly point out its leading features. The Bill, as originally framed, proposed to confer new and enlarged powers on the existing governing bodies of these schools, and to give to those bodies so renovated full power to introduce and carry into effect what measures of reform they might consider advisable; which reforms, however, were not to become valid until they had received the approval of the Queen in Council and had afterwards been submitted to Parliament, so as to give every opportunity for discussion and consideration. This active exercise of power was to be limited to a certain period of time, which, however, might be extended by the Queen in Council or by Parliament, Now, these provisions granting enlarged powers to the governing bodies had been struck out by the Select Committee; and had nothing been substituted such a step would have been very unwise, because though the powers already vested in the governing bodies would have been continued, it would, he thought, require a large amount of charity to expect that they would have been efficiently exercised. The Select Committee, however, did not stop at omissions; but they provided in this Bill for the appointment of Special Commissioners without whose approval no alteration in the statutes of the schools could be submitted for the Sanction of the Queen in Council. This provision would obviously be a security against any improper or ill-directed innovations. But, at the same time, it would afford no guarantee against another contingency — namely, that no reforms at all, or reforms only to an infinitesimal extent, might be proposed by the governing bodies. It was accordingly provided, that after a limited time the powers of reform now vested in the existing governing bodies should pass into the hands of the Special Commissioners, who would thus be enabled to remedy any defects or shortcomings, and their Lordships would, he thought, be of opinion that this machinery would work better than that proposed in the original Bill. In one respect the powers for effecting reforms would be materially strengthened, because it was provided that in all cases the Head Masters should be appointed by the governing body, and hold their office at their pleasure, while the under Masters were to be appointed by, and hold their office at, the pleasure of the Head Master. He hoped that if this measure should pass the governing bodies would so bestir themselves in introducing the reforms which were unquestionably required, and which were made imperative by the statute, that the task of the executive Commission would be comparatively light. As to the composition of the Commission, much anxiety had been displayed by the best friends of our public schools, and he believed that the names of the Gentlemen whom it was proposed to place on the Commission would be a guarantee that while everything would be done to protect the interests of the public schools, every needful step would be taken to render the education given more complete and suited to the demands of the time.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Clarendon.)


said, the noble Earl who had just sat down was well entitled to the thanks of the House both for his labours as Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry, whose labours had extended over several years, and for the Bill which he had now presented to the House. He regarded the Bill with great satisfaction as the result of the Select Committee which sat last Session, because the more he considered the subject the more he was convinced that the Bill as brought in last year by the Government would not have fulfilled the objects with which it was introduced. That Bill proposed to deal with the governing body of every school, and provided specially for certain reforms which were deemed desirable. Now, considering the great variety of details, the very different terms of foundation of the several schools, and above all, the varying circumstances as they arose from time to time, he thought any attempt to deal with the subject by absolute enactment would in the first place have produced almost interminable debates in that and in the other House of Parliament, and could not after all have led to any very satisfactory conclusion. He thought from the first that the most satisfactory course would be to create an executive Commission to act in conjunction with the heads of; schools in the introduction of such improvements as should be thought desirable; and he was confirmed in that opinion by the success which had attended the Commissions issued in reference to the Univer- sities of Oxford and Cambridge. It was quite natural that at the outset these two Commissions should have excited, as they did, both at Oxford and at Cambridge, some jealousy on the part of the existing authorities; but now the experiment had been tried, he would put it to any one of their Lordships acquainted with the results whether in each case they had not effected very great improvements without impairing the independence of the University, which above all things it was desirable to preserve; and this being so, he thought they might be encouraged to look for similar success in the case of the public schools. In this point of view it was a pleasure to him to find among the Commissioners named in the Bill a Member of their Lordships' House whom he might name, not seeing him in his place—he meant Lord Harrowby—who had been the Chairman of the Oxford University Commission to which he had just referred—and he had no doubt that in this case, as in the former, every effort would be made to carry out the reforms and improvements which were considered necessary, without impairing the independence of the authorities of the schools, but rather in conjunction and concert with them. He was also pleased with the manner in which some of the minor details of the Bill were to be worked out. He might mention the 13th clause, which provided that no preference should be given in the selection of Head Masters to candidates who had been educated at the particular school; and this he thought a wise provision. It had been said by those who held the contrary view that the case of the schools was analogous to that of the Universities, who always chose as their representatives in Parliament gentlemen who had been educated within their walls; but there was no analogy in the two cases. In the University representation entire congeniality of sentiment and perfect acquaintance with the rules and habits of the place, so as to be able to state either in debate, could scarcely be expected, unless in one who had been trained up together with those of the same age whom he came to represent in the House of Commons. On the other hand, as regarded the Head Master of a public school, superiority of attainment and the power of imparting knowledge were the sole and the esssential requisites. He approved also of the 14th clause, which declared that no candidate for the foundation at Eton should be entitled to any preference by reason of his place of birth or abode. He bettered both those clauses would be found to work well and give satisfaction. While giving his support to the Bill and expressing his strong approval of those who had consented to act on the Commission, he thought it very important that there should be Members of it in both Houses of Parliament to give any explanations which might be required from time to time. Their Lordships would have the benefit of the presence of three Members of that Commission— the most rev. Primate the Archbishop of York, the Earl of Harrowby, and the Earl of Carnarvon; but the only member of the Commission in the other House of Parliament was Sir William Heathcote; and attaching, as he did, great importance to explanations given at the moment, he thought it unwise to depend solely on one Member, who might perhaps be absent when those explanations were required. He hoped, therefore, that a second Member of the House of Commons would be placed on the Commission. He did not mention this in any captious spirit or with the view of impairing the effect of the Bill in any possible way; and he could only repeat his full conviction, as well as his earnest hope, that the measure would lead to most satisfactory results.


said, that although he estimated, perhaps, more highly than the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) the great advantages derived from the education given in our public schools, and did not take so disparaging a view of the disadvantages attending it, at the same time he was far from denying that in those schools there were matters which very well deserved serious consideration, and which in the altered circumstances of the time required some amendment. He cheerfully agreed with his noble Friend who had just sat down (Earl Stanhope) that the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) deserved the thanks of all who were interested in public education in this country for the very useful labours he had performed as a member of the Commission over which he presided, and for the valuable materials which they had collected. He also agreed with his noble Friend that considerable advantage had resulted from the labours of the Select Committee which sat last year. The Bill, as it came out of that Committee, was a very material improvement on the measure as originally submitted to them by the Government. Having been a member of that Committee, having taken a somewhat active part in it, and having concurred in all its recommendations, he need hardly say that he did not object to this Bill, as it was identical in terms with that which received the sanction of the Committee. Indeed, it was so identical, that it copied some clerical errors of the former measure. He thought the Bill would prove useful and satisfactory; and he had already received communications from two schools stating that the names of the Commissioners selected by his noble Friend were deemed entirely unobjectionable to them. Indeed in his (the Earl of Derby's) opinion, it, would be impossible to frame a body of Commissioners better qualified to perform the duties confided to them. He should have no Amendments to suggest in Committee except two. The object of one of these would be to prevent any misapprehension arising as to those who were entitled to free education at Harrow. It was stated in the clause of the Bill which defined who were "Boys on the Foundation," that the boys who were entitled to free education at that school had the right by reason of their being "sons of in-habitants of Harrow." Now, according to the original will of the founder, the sons of the inhabitants of Pinner had also an equal right. Pinner adjoined Harrow, and at the time the Founder made his-will formed part of the ecclesiastical parish of Harrow, though now distinct from that place. If, therefore, the "sons of inhabitants of Harrow" only were mentioned in the Bill, the question might be raised whether the sons of inhabitants of Pinner were not excluded from the benefit of free education. He should, therefore, propose in Committee to add the words "and Pinner." He agreed in what had been said with regard to Clause 13. Clauses 14 and 15 referred to Eton alone, and he had had a request conveyed to him from the authorities of Eton to ask that these clauses might be excluded from the Bill. This was not because it was desired to object to the intention of the clauses, but because at a meeting of the Provost and Fellows last year, they entered into an agreement precisely in accordance with the terms of Clauses 14 and 15, and therefore they desired, not, unnaturally, that they should be left to carry out proprio motu that which the Bill would compel them to do. It appeared to him that the principle of laying down what was expected to be done, but at the same time leaving to individual bodies to effect that by their own action and not by the compulsion of Parliament, was a principle pervading the whole Bill, and he therefore hoped and trusted that there would be no objection to expunge the 14th and 15th clauses from the Bill. This was the sole desire of the Provost and Fellows, and not that they should be exempted from the operation of the Bill. There was one other question which he wished to raise, and that was whether the power given to the Commissioners ought to be so unlimited as it was proposed by this Bill in reference to the composition of the governing body. This power was objected to last year, but it still remained in the Bill. He must say that if the governing body were perfectly satisfied with their own composition, and did not think that there was any amendment possible, there would be no prospect of any improvement. There were large powers to constitute the governing body anew, and to make statutes according to their own views, and he did not see the difference between the power which had been exercised by Parliament and that to be vested in the Commissioners, except that the power of the latter would be more absolute, because the exercise of them would not be subjected to so much discussion. He had great confidence in the discretion of the Commissioners, but the power which they would have to make alterations in the governing body seemed to go much further than prescribing certain rules under which the schools were to be managed. He should have no Amendment to propose; and he only wished to call attention to the subject. In conclusion, he wished to say that he gave his hearty assent to the Bill, and he earnestly hoped that no pressure of public business that might be considered of more importance would prevent the passing of this measure, which he was persuaded would be hailed by the country and by Parliament with great satisfaction, and would be productive of great public good.


observed, that there was no one among the Commissioners named in the Bill who might be taken as representing Science, and he gave notice that in Committee he intended to move that some person distinguished for his scientific attainments should be added to the number of Commissioners.


joined in the hope that the Bill would pass this Session. He should prefer not to answer at present the observations of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) as to the constitution of the Commissioners, as the question raised was a very wide one. He had no objection to the omission of the two clauses adverted to by the noble Earl, for he would much sooner see the reforms carried out freely by the governing bodies of schools than by the compulsion of Parliament. With regard to Pinner, he believed the circumstances were as stated by the noble Earl; but before adopting the noble Earl's suggestion, he should like to look into the statutes to see how the matter stood.


, in reference to to the 25th clause, which gave power to remove the Charterhouse and Westminster Schools to other sites, said, he would suggest that in the event of these schools having power to sell their property, power should be given to other educational institutions to purchase it. For instance, the Merchant Taylors' School might desire to purchase the buildings of the Charterhouse, if it were decided to remove the latter. The introduction of such clause would greatly facilitate any such arrangement, and would save the expense of private acts.

Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.