HL Deb 13 March 1871 vol 204 cc1845-53

rose to draw attention to the Revised Code of 1871. The noble Earl said that he had put on the Paper a Notice to move the following Resolutions:—

  1. "1. That the children of families migrating from one parish to another (at Lady-day and Michaelmas), and bringing with them a duly certificated table of attendances from the school they have left, be allowed to reckon such attendances in the school to which they have come:
  2. "2. That a certificate be given to every child who has passed in the fourth and two higher standards, and in any extra subject:
  3. "3. That the number of days for which evening schools in agricultural parishes be required to be open be 60, and the number of requisite attendances be 40."
But that since he had given his Notice one of the chief points contained in his Resolutions—and, in fact, the only one as to which he should have insisted—had been conceded by the Government; it would not therefore be necessary that he should proceed with his Motion. But although the remaining points were comparatively unimportant, he desired to be permitted to state the reasons why he had desired to lay them before their Lordships. In the first place, he desired to say that he regarded the New Code as a bonâ fide fulfilment of the pledge given last year. For many features of it he was very thankful. The arrangement that good teachers of a certain age who had conducted schools well should be admitted without examination, and that pupil-teachers who had passed creditably might take charge of schools of a certain calibre, went far to meet the difficulty experienced by poor parishes in obtaining certificated teachers. He also approved the arrangement as to increased attendance in day schools, and the attempt to raise the standard of the education given there. But perhaps the most important of all its proposals, was the attempt to introduce the half-time system into the agricultural districts. He sincerely hoped the attempt would have a successful issue, by permitting boys over 10 in agricultural districts to reckon only 150 attendances for a grant. His first Resolution related to what he would call "migrating children." It was— That the children of families migrating from one parish to another (at Lady-day and Michaelmas), and bringing with them a duly certificated table of attendances from the school they have left, be allowed to reckon such attendances in the school to which they have come. This was intended to meet the case of the children of the better class of labourers—shepherds, carters, &c.—who, in the southern counties at least, were in the habit of changing their situations at those periods of the year. It would otherwise be impossible for them to show the 200 or 250 attendances which were a condition of examination, and there would be a risk of their education being neglected, as it would not be the teacher's interest to induce them to attend if they could get no grant for them. In his own school there were children in this position. In this case a real grievance existed. As, however, a proposal had been made that even in towns, and wherever children moved from one school to another—say from a British School to a National School, and vice versâ—the same power of counting attendances should be given, he would not press his own more limited Resolution, but would yield to Mr. Forster's appeal, that any sensible alteration of the Code at that time would impede the operation of the arrangements made under the recent Education Act, which it was desirable should be put into force as speedily as possible. His second Resolution was— That a certificate be given to every child who has passed in the fourth and two higher standards, and in any extra subject. The 4th Standard, requiring the ability to read and write well and the mastery of weights and measures, would prove the best starting point for future education, it could at present rarely be reached by a boy under 11 years of age, and it was desirable to give those on the point of leaving school an inducement to remain a longer time at the day school and to attend in the winter months under the half-time principle, in order to pass this standard and procure a certificate. He believed that employers would see the value of certificates, and that the boys who held them would be benefited by them. The third Resolution— That the number of days for which evening schools in agricultural parishes be required to be open be 60, and the number of requisite attendances be 40"— had been accepted by the Government in lieu of 80 days and 50 attendances, on the understanding that next January the original arrangement would probably be reverted to. All who were acquainted with the matter, or had heard the opinions of clergymen and schoolmasters in country districts, were convinced that evening schools could not be kept open more than 20 weeks in the year; for when the evenings lengthened youths found amusements, or attended to their gardens, and could not be induced to attend school. The grant, moreover, under the New Code to evening schools would not permit of the engagement of a special teacher, and the master of a day school, after working all day and attending to a pupil teacher, could not be expected to give up more than three evenings a-week. Indeed, a schoolmaster had assured him that, however great the pecuniary inducement might be, care for his health would preclude his doing more than this. The clergyman and parishioners who usually assisted in the evening school could not be expected to sacrifice more than three nights a-week. One important consideration in regard to the benefit of these night schools should not be lost sight of. If the half-time principle got fairly into operation in the agricultural districts, it was not at all unlikely that boys who had passed to a certain standard in the day school might attain a higher standard at the night school. Hitherto the attempt had been made to retain boys at the day schools until 12 years of age by not admitting them to the night school till that age; but experience clearly showed how impossible it was, in many cases, to prevent boys at, and often below, 10 years of age, from entering upon out-door work. Those boys who were now prevented by this interregnum from continuing their education in the night school from the time they left the day school ought, in common fairness, to be allowed again to pass in the lowest standards of the day schools, for their two or three years work in the fields had left their minds a complete blank. He hoped these points would be considered by the Government.


said, that as he had given Notice of a Motion for an Address to the Crown with respect to evening schools, he was glad this point had been conceded by the Government. It would, therefore, be sufficient for him—while he had no desire to interpose any difficulty in the working of the New Code—to point out objections to some parts of it, in the hope that the Government would consider them and see their way, either during the present or the next Session, to some modifications. The Government, it would no doubt be said, had been more liberal than had been expected in their grants of money under the New Code; but then the fact must not be lost sight of that, while that was so, the increased grants were subject to more stringent terms than under the former Code; and he doubted, therefore, whether more money would be received under the new than under the old system. As to the grants and attendances at evening schools he concurred with his noble Friend (Earl Nelson), but as to migrating scholars, the change of residence on the part of shepherds and carters was not usual in his own county, though it might be customary in Wiltshire. He feared that 60 was the outside number they could expect night schools to be kept open for in the rural districts, because they could not open them before the 1st of October, or expect to continue them after the 1st of March, when the evenings began to lengthen and the agricultural labourer had to work longer, and had also his little garden, and other matters to attend to. He found that by the New Code attendance was not to be required at any evening school under the age of 12 and above 18; but he submitted that 18 years of age was much too young, and that it should be extended to 25. Young men about, or above the age of 18, were just beginning to appreciate the advantages accruing from education, and if the period of time were extended to 25, much valuable education might be imparted and received in the interval. Under Article 20, he found that 250 attendances, morning or afternoon, were required to qualify a boy above 10 for examination in the rural districts, as he apprehended, with the view of encouraging the half-time system. He should be glad to know whether boys who had that number of attendances would be qualified not only for the examination, but also for the grant? Another point on which he wished to remark was that the Code treated boys and girls exactly alike. This was hardly fair, for while the former devoted their whole time to secular and religious knowledge, the latter devoted a considerable portion of the afternoon to needlework. They would, therefore, be at a considerable disadvantage as compared with boys. A distinction being made between the attainments of male and female pupil-teachers, there should also be a distinction between male and female scholars. The standard of examination appeared to him to be raised too high, the old Standard No. I. being abolished, and all of them being raised a step; so that Standard No. VI. was altogether a new one. This last required the writing of a short theme or letter, or easy paraphrase, and the mastery of vulgar or decimal fractions. Now he did not think boys in agricultural districts would attain such proficiency as to write a theme or paraphrase, or master vulgar or decimal fractions; which last, indeed, was the utmost arithmetical proficiency that was required of the female pupil-teacher in the last three years of her engagement. After the 31st of March, 1873, no day scholar above nine was to be examined in the 1st Standard, nor after the 31st of March, 1874, in the 2nd Standard. Now, the 3rd Standard required the reading of a short paragraph from an advanced reading book, the writing of a sentence from dictation, and a knowledge of the compound rules of money. He doubted whether boys even in the county of the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Halifax) would be sufficiently precocious at the age of nine as to reach this standard. There was also a regulation that no scholar might be presented for examination a second time in the same or a lower standard. He presumed the object was to require every scholar to advance a step in every successive examination.


said, that his noble Friends had put to him several Questions of which they had given no Notice, and which, therefore, he was unable to answer so fully as he could have wished. He was glad to find that the noble Earl (Earl Nelson) approved the attempt to raise the standard, and most other alterations, proposed by the New Code. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) was of opinion that too great a step had been made; but it was highly desirable that the standard of education should be gradually and steadily raised. Every ploughboy could not, of course, be expected to reach Standard VI. and it was probable that in schools in the country the pupils generally would seldom go beyond Standard IV; but if a boy could reach that standard it would show that he was reasonably well educated; and there could be no objection to encouraging the boy who, by talent and assiduity, attained the highest standard. Moreover, the Code was not designed for the rural districts exclusively; and he saw no reason why a fair proportion of scholars in the country, and still more probably in towns, should not reach the advanced standards. Boys above 10 years of age in a rural district, attending 150 times, would not only be qualified for examination, but would be entitled to a grant. As to migrating children, the alteration proposed by the noble Earl (Earl Nelson) would, in 99 cases out of 100, make no appreciable difference in the sum received by the teacher, and it would be attended with considerable trouble and inconvenience. With regard to certificates, he admitted that there was something to be said in their favour; but there were considerations on the other side, and he could only promise that the point should be carefully considered. As to evening schools, the alteration advocated by the noble Earl had been provisionally conceded; and it would be seen in the course of the year whether 60 evenings, and 40 attendances, were the utmost that could reasonably be expected. The noble Duke was correct in supposing that the object in forbidding a second examination in the same standard was simply to require every scholar to advance a step at every successive examination.


said, he wished for an explanation on this point. As every standard had been raised a step in the New Code, Standard I. of this year was Standard II. of last year. Therefore, a boy examined under Standard II. of last year would be examined the year following under Standard III. But Standard III. of last year became Standard II. this year; and as the rule declared that a boy could not be examined under the same standard a second year, it would necessarily preclude such boy from being examined at all. But, as that would present an obvious difficulty, and be utterly inconsistent with the principle of the Code, he supposed that the examination referred to applied to the subjects comprised under the standards, and not to the particular number of the standards themselves.


Yes; the rule against a boy being examined twice under the same standard simply means that he is expected to advance to a higher standard every year.


said, that if it was necessary to allow migratory children in the rural districts to reckon their attendance at both schools, it was ten thousand times more necessary among the dense populations of the metropolis and great cities. In London alone there were at least 40,000 persons who never continued in one locality three months, but were perpetually on the move. If, then, their attendances at one school were not reckoned on their going to another, they would not be able to reach the required standard, and they would thus be precluded from the benefit of examination; and would consequently be neglected by the teachers, because the latter would derive no advantage from them. That, he submitted, was a matter for serious consideration. At certain periods of the year, moreover, thousands of children went out hop-picking, &c. and their entire attendances ought in fairness to be taken into account. He quite agreed with the noble Earl and the noble Duke that it was impossible to expect attendance at evening schools in agricultural parishes more than 20 weeks a-year. Rural employment was very various; a great many children left off work at 4 or 5 p.m., and the farmers would in many cases be anxious that there should be an opportunity of attending evening schools; but a great many boys had to attend to horses and cattle, and could not leave off work till 6 or 6.30. They had then, with a drenched skin, to go home, get their supper, and change their clothes. It would be too much, therefore, to expect them to attend the evening school more than three times a-week during 20 weeks in the year. He hoped the Government would do all in their power to encourage night schools, for it was the only way in which the compulsory principle could be carried out. Children 10, 12, or 13 years of age would not be compelled to attend day schools. The value of the labour of children between 9 and 13 became much too great for them to attend day schools, unless the parents were compensated for the value of that labour. The only way to obtain a due attendance of children would be a very large increase in the evening schools. In London there were 33,000 ragged children attending school, of whom 22,000 attended day schools; but a very large proportion of these were under seven years of age, and the remainder were found in night schools, these latter being very often from 10 to 18 or 19 years of age. The age of children in infant schools had been reduced, he observed, from five to four. Their Lordships would recollect the disfavour with which he was met last year when he suggested that the age should be less than five. His object was to prevent an enormous abuse which prevailed in many parts of London, children of even three years of age being kept at labour by their mothers. If all the girls between 7 and 12 years of age were to be fixed in day schools, their mothers would be deprived of the services of the only child who could look after the infants while she was out at work. Unless, therefore, the age at which infants could be taken into schools was reduced, girls 12 or 13 years of age would be taken away, and hundreds of thousands of poor children would be packed in large close rooms under the care of some old woman. It was a great mistake to suppose that children three years of age could not be taught anything. They could not be taught intellectually, but they could be taught order, discipline, and obedience—singing and drill, for instance. He had seen hundreds, nay, thousands of children, many of them not more than two or three years of age, go through the regimental drill in capital style, and to their great enjoyment. He deeply regretted that music was not made an indispensable requisite in the education of children. It was impossible to describe the effect of music on the poorer and wilder sort, or the refining influence exerted on rough and lawless parents by children of the tenderest age being taught to sing hymns in sympathy and simplicity. Effects had thus, as he could testify from personal observation, been produced on parents living in the most degraded condition, such as could not have been effected by the action of the clergyman or the activity of the city missionary. To omit music was to neglect one of the best means of refining and elevating the most degraded portions of the human race.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.