HL Deb 08 August 1876 vol 231 cc775-814

(The Lord President.)


Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said: My Lords, of the various measures which it has been my fortune to offer for your Lordships' consideration during this and previous Sessions of Parliament, I doubt whether there is any of more importance than the one which I shall now ask your Lordships to read a second time, dealing as it does with Elementary Education throughout the country, and thus affecting the welfare not only of large portions of the humbler classes, but also all who take an interest in the welfare of society at large. Up to 1870, as your Lordships are perfectly aware, the education of the country was conducted mainly, if not altogether, by voluntary efforts. Latterly supplemental grants were made by the Government; but up to 1870no legislation respecting elementary education found a place in the Statute Book. In 1870 the Government of the day for the first time undertook the task of legislating with a view to educate the children of this country; not, indeed, by overthrowing and supplanting the voluntary system which had worked so well Tip to that date, but by supplementing it, and by providing for deficiencies which the beneficent efforts of those who had upheld the voluntary system had been unable altogether to overtake. As I wish to impress upon your Lordships the views entertained by the framers of that Act, and the object which they avowed in legislating in this matter, I think I cannot do better than read a few sentences uttered by the Prime Minister of that day; and I wish to do this the more because part of my case will be that in this measure we are in no way departing from the principles then laid down, by the Government. On the third reading of the Elementary Education Act, in 1870, Mr. Gladstone said— We have had to steer our course amid competing bodies and conflicting difficulties. It was with us an absolute necessity—a necessity of honour and a necessity of policy—to respect and to favour the educational establishments and machinery we found existing in the country. It was impossible for us to join in the language or to adopt the tone which was conscientiously and consistently taken by some Members of the House, who look upon these voluntary schools, having generally a denominational character, as admirable passing expedients, fit, indeed, to be tolerated for a time, deserving all credit on account of the motives which led to their foundation, but wholly unsatisfactory as to their main purpose, and, therefore, to he supplanted by something they think better. That is a perfectly fair and intelligible theory for any Gentleman to entertain, but I am quite sure it will be felt that it has never been the theory of the Government. And later on the same right hon. Gentleman added— So in this matter of education it is a great mistake and error in our view to think that secular education given by a State machinery is, per se,better and more valuable than the same education given by machinery voluntary in its character. Setting aside that which is abstractedly desirable, I think we are justified in feeling that this enormous power which exists in the country ought to be turned to account."—[3 Hansard, cciii. 746–7.] I merely quote these remarks to show the principles then enunciated by the Government, more particularly because, as I said, it is upon those lines we believe the present measure to be founded. The provisions of the Act of 1870 are so well known that it will be unnecessary for me to enter into minute details of that measure—especially as I am not here to find fault with its provisions. On the contrary, considering the novel character of the legislation initiated by that measure; considering the comparatively short period which has elapsed since that Act passed, I think that the Government which proposed this legislation, and your Lordships who assisted in passing it, may very well be satisfied with the results it has attained. I believe the Act of 1870 has worked a great amount of good throughout the country, and therefore I am contented to offer my need of praise to those who were its authors. A few figures will show the progress made since 1870.It is necessary I should quote them, because they form the foundation of the case upon which I shall ask your Lordships to pass the present Bill. In 1870 the schools inspected by Her Majesty's Inspectors were 8,281: in 1875 the number inspected was 13,217. The scholars in average attendance in 1870 were 1,152,389: in 1875 the scholars in average attendance were 1,837,180:—showing a gradual increase in the attendance during each year from 1870 to 1875. The scholars on the school register in 1870 were 1,693,059: in 1875 they numbered 2,744,300. It was impossible to imagine that the Act of 1870, dealing as it did with so vast a number of the population of this country, would not sooner or later require some alteration; and since I have been in the office which I have now the honour to hold, it has been my duty to watch very closely the working of the Act with a view to see whether any, and, if any, what improvements should be made in its provisions. In 1870, or shortly afterwards, the Education Department appointed Inspectors who were to go through the country and ascertain the educational requirements of the country. After due inquiry, very carefully made by these Inspectors in all parts of the country, the following facts came to the knowledge of the Department. It was proved to the satisfaction of the Department that there were 3,250,000 children who ought to have been at school at that time, while the actual number of scholars attending day and night schools was only 1,225,764. At that time the accommodation for children who ought to have been at school was not sufficient, for the Returns show that there was only accommodation for 1,878,584 children; so that if all the children of school age had been in attendance there would have been a deficiency of accommodation for 1,371,416 children. Before the year 1870 no one had any power to compel that deficiency to be made up, nor was there power in any way to compel children to attend school. But by the Act of 1870the country was divided into school districts, and every district was by the 5th section of the Act compelled to supply sufficient school accommodation for the children in that district; and if the district did not supply the deficiency the Department was empowered to require that a school board should be formed, which would have the power of making bye-laws to compel children to attend school in accordance with the provisions of the Act. Having, therefore, by the operation of the Act of 1870, secured that there should be accommodation for the proper number of children who ought to be at school, it was quite obvious that the next thing was to encourage the attendance of children in the schools. By a Return, which I hold in my hand, I find that in 1870 the accommodation was for something under 2,000,000, and that in 1875 accommodation had been provided for rather more than 3,000,000 children. That Return shows that, while the amount of accommodation provided had been increased very largely between 1870 and 1875, the average attendance of the children had not at all increased in the same ratio. I find that the attendance in 1870 was something over 1,000,000 children, and that in 1875 there was an attendance of about 1,800,000, whereas the figure ought to have been very much nearer 3,000,000. In looking over the figures which have been prepared for the use of the Department and of the public, in order that we may see exactly the educational state and the educational wants of the country, it must be a source of considerable congratulation to all friends of the Established Church in the country to see that, so far from having been paralyzed by being brought into competition with the school boards, the Church has continued to extend her sphere of usefulness, and has apparently been incited with new vigour by the competition for providing for the educational wants of the country. By the increase of her schools and scholars she has imparted to those who are within her pale that blessing which she has for so many generations conferred on large numbers of the people of the country— namely, the blessing of sound secular and also religious education. Well, there being so much more accommodation in schools than children were found to occupy, an effort was made—particularly in the rural districts—to introduce a measure for the purpose of inducing children to attend school. Accordingly, the Agricultural Children Act was passed in 1873, and it was hoped it would give the means of inducing children to attend school, and so make up for the deficiency which has been already shown to exist. That measure passed into law; but it had one very remarkable defect—namely, that there was no authority under that Act to compel its being put into operation. It is true that in some counties the police were authorized to give effect to the Act; but in other counties such a mode of employing the police was much objected to—and I think it will be obvious to your Lordships that the police are not exactly the instruments we should like to make use of as the means for getting children to school. Therefore, as a means for compelling the attendance of children at school, the Agricultural Children Act became practically a dead letter, and we had to consider how we could deal with the whole subject, and whether it was possible to maintain in any shape the provisions of that Act. We found that we could not in any way avail ourselves of its provisions, and therefore the only course left was to repeal that Act and to endeavour to do with other machinery that which the Agricultural Children Act had failed to do. My Lords, in preparing the measure which we now offer to your consideration we wish to retain the great principles which, as I have shown, were in the Act of 1870, and which were the principles that actuated those who brought that measure forward—namely, that the action of the Government ought not to interfere with the local efforts which were being made for the supply of scholars to the schools, but, on the contrary, that we were merely to assist in supplying those deficiencies which had arisen by the measure we bring forward to ensure that there should be for the benefit of every child a sound elementary education. Having provided that there should be accommodation for the children, it was obviously impossible that we could stop there. The providing of these schools had been a considerable tax on those who were called upon to subscribe for their erection, and it was clear that we must provide some means for securing the attendance of the children in the schools. We had two courses open to us. We might deal with these schools by means of what is called direct compulsion, and we also had an opportunity afforded to us of adopting compulsion in an indirect manner. I do not know what the views of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) may be on this subject. It may be that he will follow me, and that he will insist upon the merits of direct compulsion: but, if he does, I will ask him to consider whether in the abstract direct interference with the daily life of every parent in this country can be considered a good thing, and whether we had not better leave them to do that which is their duty, and which we believe and hope the great bulk of parents in this country will be willing to do. We presume in this Bill—and it is a presumption we have followed throughout—that if we remove the inducement of children under a certain age earning wages a parent will do his duty and his children will go to school. By this Bill we have provided that if a parent shows himself to be unworthy of the confidence reposed in him, and does not send his children to school, the State must step in for the benefit of the State itself and also for the benefit of the children. If he habitually neglects to provide for the education of his children, the State will say to the parent—"It is time that some measure should be taken which shall induce you to take a different course, and to provide that education which is absolutely necessary." My Lords, these are the general views which Her Majesty's Government have entertained in dealing with this subject. I will now venture to point out as briefly as I can some of the principal provisions contained in the present Bill. Clause 4 introduces for the first time a very important—I will not say alteration, but—incident in the legislation on this subject. That clause sets out that it is in future the duty of a parent to provide for the education of his children. The Bill provides that under the age of 10 there shall be an absolute prohibition of the employment of children; and between the ages of 10 and 14 a child can be employed only when it has passed a certain Standard, and has put in 250 attendances at not more than two schools every year for five years. This, in short, is a measure which declares that a child must be either at work or at school. The provisions of the Act will not come into full play until the year 1880, and in the interval the lower Standards will be admitted, because it would be obviously unfair that its complete operation should not be suspended for a short time. Next comes a very important portion of the Bill—the authority by which it is to be enforced. As I have said, there is in the case of the Agricultural Children Act no such authority, and it has therefore become a dead letter. Under these circumstances, we have considered which would be the best authority for enforcing the provisions of this Bill, and we thought the best course to pursue would be to avail ourselves of the existing authority. We propose, then, that in a school board district the duty of enforcing the Act should be imposed on the school board, while in other districts it is to be enforced by a committee appointed annually, in boroughs by the Town Council, and in parishes by the Guardians of the Union. The Boards of Guardians are to appoint annually school attendance committees, who are to see that the provisions of the Act are carried out, and they in their turn are to have power to appoint local committees in the various parishes or other areas. These bodies will have the same powers as a school board to enforce attendance; but, in the case of parishes, the power of making compulsory bye-laws would only be exercised on the requisition of a parish. There are, I may add, exceptions to the attendance of children—first of all, where there is no school within two miles; secondly, where the school is closed; and, thirdly, where the local authority may suspend, for the purposes of harvest operations, the provisions of the Act. We require that all children should attend school, and it is perfectly obvious, therefore, that some provision must be made for the case of parents who are not in sufficiently good circumstances to pay the necessary fees. With that view, there is a provision in the Bill enabling Boards of Guardians to pay the amount of the school fees for such parents who may not be paupers, in the strict sense of the word, but who are too poor to pay them. That being so, the 25th clause of the Act of 1870 is proposed to be repealed, at the instance of one of the most eminent promoters of that Act—the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster); and the payment of fees in the case of poor parents is handed over to the Boards of Guardians, who, in my opinion, are the proper authorities to deal with the matter, because they must be far better judges of the condition of the parents than any school board. The practice, I may add, of enabling Boards of Guardians to pay school fees is one which has always prevailed in Scotland, where it has worked well. Some objection has been taken to this proposal on the score that the religious difficulty was involved in it; but I do not think that any such difficulty will be found to arise. Every noble Lord who attends Boards of Guardians will, I am sure, bear me out when I say that when relief is sought by any one applying to those Boards there is no question as to the religious views of the applicant. I find that the Parochial Boards in Scotland pay large sums for education. I find by a Return that they pay annually for public schools, £3,968; for schools connected with the Church of Scotland, £1,072; for Free Church schools, £210; for schools belonging to the Episcopal Church, £50; and for Roman Catholic schools, £352. The rate of expenditure per scholar in average attendance is, I find, £1 18s. for public schools, £l 13s. for schools connected with the Church of Scotland, £1 11s. for the Free Church, £1 9s. for the Episcopal Church, and £1 6s. for the Roman Catholic. In Scotland, therefore, it cannot be said that the religious difficulty interferes with the payment of fees for poor parents. The 10th clause therefore provides that the Guardians may, if satisfied that the parent of any child, not being a pauper, is unable by reason of poverty to pay the ordinary school fee, pay such school fee, or any part of it, not exceeding 3d. a-week—and it is expressly provided that the parent shall not, by reason of this payment, be deprived of any franchise or privilege, or be subjected to any disability or disqualification; nor is such payment to be made or refused on any condition with respect to the school to which the parent may elect to send the child. Where the parent habitually neglects to provide efficient elementary instruction for his child, or the child is found habitually wandering about the streets, the local authority is to warn the parent, and the warning failing, a court of summary jurisdiction may, on complaint of the local authority, order the child to attend some public elementary or other efficient school; and, this order not being complied with, the court may for the first offence inflict a fine of 5s.; but if the parent satisfies the court that he has used all due means to enforce compliance with the order, the court may order the child to a certified day or other industrial school. This brings me to the very important part of the Bill relating to industrial schools. This, no doubt, is an experiment, but it is an experiment to meet exceptional cases that do to some extent exist. It proposed that school boards may, with the consent of the Secretary of State for the Home Department—not of the Education Department—establish a certified day industrial school. There are in every large town a number of children of poor but respectable parents who are engaged all day in industrial occupations, and are absent from home; and unless some means are found of dealing with these children they will in all probability receive no education at all, and may become inmates of our gaols. The day industrial school seems the best instrument for this purpose. It is, therefore, provided that the Secretary of State, when satisfied that some such school is necessary or expedient for the proper training and control of that class of children in any district, may certify any industrial school in the neighbourhood, established under the Industrial Schools Act, 1866, to be a certified day industrial school; and the court before whom any such child is brought may order it to be sent to such school. Upon this subject, rather than put forward my own opinion, I will refer to the testimony of others. I will refer to the opinion of the late Dean of Ripon (Dr. Turner), who has as much experience on this question as any man in the country. Dr. Turner believes that most essential and effectual relief will be afforded by the establishment of day industrial schools; and they will have this advantage over the ordinary industrial schools, inasmuch as while children cost 7s. per head in the ordinary industrial schools, they will cost 3s. per head in the day schools. There is another point to which I wish to call attention, and that is an important alteration in the conditions upon which the Government grants are made. The present system of Parliamentary grants undoubtedly presses very hardly on poor districts, because the principle is that for every amount supplied by the central authority you require a similar amount to be supplied locally. This tells much against poor town districts where there are no rich subscribers, as well as against small country parishes, where the number of scholars are few, and where the cost of teaching 30 scholars is as great as the cost of teaching 50 or 60. This alteration in the provision applies equally to board schools in town and country and to other schools. We have had a Memorial from the London School Board, which represents a great amount of intelligence, energy, and vigour, and which is not surpassed by any other school board in the country. This Memorial, which is signed by a majority of the members, brings under our notice the inadequacy of the Government grant, and they say that compared with the promises held out upon the passing of the Education Bill, the grant is very inadequate. This is a Memorial of very great weight, and I think it ought to have some influence with your Lordships. I shall not read the Memorial at length, but the following words will show its purport:— The increase in the cost of schools has been so much greater than the increase of the grants that the actual burden of maintenance is now considerably heavier than before the passing of the Education Act in 1870. The consequence is that many schools, of whoso efficiency there is no doubt, find it difficult to maintain their footing. The anticipated increase of cost for all schools has been more than realized, but the increase of aid in the way of public grant has fallen far short of what was expected. The average increase of grant since 1870 has, in fact, as your Lordships are aware, been considerably less than one-half of the average increase of expenditure for public elementary schools since the same date. The board would regard it as a public injury of a very serious character if any large proportion of good elementary schools, at present under Government inspection, and bearing their share in the supply of the educational needs of the metropolis, were to be closed or transferred to the board. Either alternative would entail such an increased charge on the rates as the Board could not contemplate without apprehension. The removal of all limitations on the amount of grant which may be earned would create the stimulus necessary to prompt alike managers and teachers to the attainment of the highest excellence. The system which has been adopted in this country is payment by results; and the logical consequence of payment by results is that you must pay for the result irrespective of the cost at which that result has been obtained. The payment is for the result which the school can show you. If the scholars achieve a certain amount of efficiency, you must pay them a sum of money, and it should be nothing to you what is the sum at the cost of which that efficiency has been attained. If 17s. 6d. could be earned by a good school for elementary instruction, then I say you have no right to compel the authorities of those schools to show you that it has cost 17s. 6d. to arrive at this state of efficiency. If you have to pay for the result, all you have to do is to look at the result which is brought before you. Under the existing state of things, if a school has earned £50 by its state of efficiency and the amount of education given in the school, but cannot show that there has been a sum of £50 subscribed in the neighbourhood, then the school is mulcted to the extent of the sum of money between the money subscribed and the money earned—that is, if it is entitled to £50 and the amount subscribed reaches only £40, then it only gets £40 from the Government—that is, £10 less than it ought to receive. This discourages managers and teachers alike, and the proposal now made will place the schools in a much more healthy condition. We do not propose to increase the grant, nor do we propose to take any power to relax the terms on which money is so earned. Provision is made in the Bill for the Education Department to interfere with the school boards or local authorities, who fail in their duties to carry out the provisions of the Act. That, we think, will be a provision of very considerable importance. I now come to the clause providing for the dissolution of school boards under certain circumstances. This proposal elicited a great deal of criticism in the other House. First of all, a school board is only abolished where there is no building; and, secondly, where such a board is considered to be unnecessary, and where the body who in the first instance called the school board into existence by a bare majority decide by a majority of two-thirds that they are dissatisfied with the system of having a school board in that parish; and, further, it must be proved to the satisfaction of the Education Department that maintenance of the Board is no longer necessary for the education purposes of the district; thereon the Department may order the dissolution of the school board. There is a provision enacting that school boards in large towns may provide themselves with offices, and. pay for them out of the rates in the same way as they pay for new schools. In some of the large towns there is great necessity for offices, but as at present there are no means to pay for them the boards are obliged to hire a building for that purpose. Then there is an important provision as to vacancies which may occur upon the boards during the period of three years for which the parties have been elected, and which vacancies, it is provided, may be filled up by the members of the board. As your Lordships are aware, in the large towns—such as Manchester and Liverpool—the cost of an election is very great, and this provision is intended to prevent the cost of an election in the event of a vacancy occurring within the three years; therefore it is proposed that casual vacancies shall be filled up by the boards themselves, as in Scotland. Lastly, there is a provision to enable the Education Department to certify that a school is efficient, though it is other than a public elementary school, if it is not conducted for private profit, if it is subject to the same regulations as to attendance and registration as in public elementary schools, and is open to the inspection of Her Majesty's Inspectors. These, my Lords, are the main principles of the Bill. There are others of some importance on which I might touch, but I do not wish to detain your Lordships at too great length. My Lords, the object of this Bill is by no means to injure or impair school boards—on the contrary, there are provisions in it which I believe those bodies will find both useful and acceptable—I mean those referring to the filling up of vacancies, the setting at rest of the question as to the raising of loans for industrial schools, the building of offices, the repeal of the 25th clause of the existing Act, and the transference to Boards of Guardians of the duty of paying fees. In conclusion, I have to express my belief that if your Lordships agree to the second reading of this Bill you will have made a step in advance in education at which all persons who have the interest and welfare of the country at heart will have cause to rejoice.

Moved, ''That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord President.)


My Lords, my first duty in rising to address your Lordships on this subject is to acknowledge—which I do cheerfully—the spirit of conciliation in which the noble Duke has spoken, and the manner in which he has referred to the operation of the Act which was passed by the late Government. There is one point, however, to which he has not in any way referred, but which I think calls for some attention, and that is the very late period of the Session at which this most important Bill comes before us. Some seven years ago this House refused to proceed even with the consideration of an Education Bill, because it came up so late as the 9th of August, and that notwithstanding the fact that this House had previously discussed its provisions, and had only to consider certain Amendments made by the House of Commons. I wonder whether the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees will repeat to-night the question which he put on that occasion—namely, whether it is fair to this House to bring before it an important Bill within a few days of the end of the Session? For myself, I will not ask whether Her Majesty's Government by pur- suing this course is not making this House a mere instrument for registering the proceedings of the House of Commons; but this I will say, that the arguments which governed your Lordships on the occasion to which I have referred seven years ago apply with ten-fold force to the present Bill, which is of the highest importance, and which practically comes before us to-day—the 8th of August—for the first time. There is a very great difference between the position of the present Government and that of the late Government in this matter. When the late Government brought forward their Bill, they did so with the full knowledge that this House could mould it as they liked; but with regard to this Bill I appeal to your Lordships whether we on this side of the House are not absolutely helpless. What chance have we of making any change in this Bill whatever at this period of the Session? But I need not dwell on this point. I would now refer to what the noble Duke has said with respect to the character of the Bill. I am glad to hear the changes that have been made in the Bill during its passage through the other House, and which have got rid of many of the objections I entertained in the first instance. Not long after this measure was introduced in the other House I had occasion to make some remarks on it out-of-doors, and I then said, among other things, that I regretted the principle of indirect compulsion which had been adopted, because I was afraid it would prove both inefficient and invidious. I think the noble Duke, in referring to this matter, has rather misapprehended the great change which has been made in the Bill since its introduction. One of the reasons why I originally objected to the Bill, was that while it did not force a child up to 10 years of age to go to school, it did prohibit him from going to labour. A more worthless mode of bringing up a child than was thus laid down I could not conceive. But the Bill now contains an entirely different provision. Not only is the child prevented from going to labour, but he is forced to attend school up to the age of 10. Again, the Bill, as originally drawn, discouraged the half-time system. Now I am happy to say it has the contrary effect. After 10 years of age a child, unless he has obtained an education certificate, is prohibited from labouring except on half-time. There is, I think, some objection as to the mode in which compulsion is carried out. I do not know whether your Lordships have read the evidence taken by the Agricultural Employment Commissioners, in which the difficulty raised by the question of certificates is referred to. One of the objections there taken to the provision of the Bill in respect to certificates is that an immense army of Inspectors will be required to carry it out effectively. With regard to the Bill generally, I quite agree with the noble Duke that it marks a great step forward in education; because it establishes the principle that it is the duty of a parent to educate his child, and that if he does not do that the State will take the function upon itself, and will inflict penalties upon him. In that respect undoubtedly the Bill contains an important and valuable contribution to the cause of education. The noble Duke particularly called my attention to the proposed day industrial schools, and then proceeded—though I think with some hesitation—to commend them very strongly. Well, I am not going to enter into the political economy part of the question.—I would merely observe that my noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury), who in this matter of the education of the poor has never shown any great inclination to yield to the doctrines of political economists, has expressed the strongest possible opinion against these day industrial schools, and I believe he would have been here to-day to address your Lordships on the subject had he not felt how utterly hopeless it was to attempt to amend the Bill at this period of the Session. A member of the London School Board, Mr. John M'Gregor, in a letter to The Times, has also expressed himself opposed to the establishment of schools of this kind. What I understand to be proposed is this—That certain children are to be sent to these industrial schools, where they will be more or less in prison and under strict surveillance, and not only. be educated, but taught some kind of industry; but that for nearly two-thirds of their time they will be perfectly free on week-days and, possibly, during the whole of Sunday to profit by the increased intelligence which their schooling may have developed in learning the bad habits from which it is most desirable to wean them. Again, enor- mous outlay will be incurred in erecting schools of this kind in the large towns with every appliance and in the most expensive localities, because there is to be a school within a limited distance of the place where the children live. That, I confess, seems to me a very wild scheme; and my own consolation is that by an Amendment made in the other House the whole thing is to be put under the discretion of the Home Secretary, whereby much of the mischief that would otherwise be produced will probably be averted. The noble Duke then spoke of the new mode of giving aid to schools not under a school board. He stated that the Bill had been framed in no spirit of hostility to school boards. I did express some time ago a fear that there was an undue amount of hostility to school boards; and even in the provisions of the measure as they come up now to us I think there is such a spirit shown. I admit that some advantages are given to school boards—with regard, for example, to the filling up of casual vacancies, with regard to offices, and one or two other petty matters. But when you give aid to the denominational schools without the safeguard which has hitherto existed, that the grant should bear some proportion to the voluntary subscription of the district, I do say you handicap one class of schools most unfavourably as against another. Objection has been taken to the great advantage thus given to denominational schools; but is it clear that this will operate ultimately for the benefit of the denominations? Do you believe that, when the denominational schools go on entirely deprived of voluntary subscriptions, in a number of years they will be allowed to be regarded otherwise than as State schools? When they rest on the Government grant without voluntary assistance, I believe that in a certain length of time you will have a claim which it will be impossible to resist to take a more complete State control over these schools. Then, with respect to the 25th clause, no responsibility attaches to the Education Department. Whether it was originally right or wrong, the 25th clause had come to be generally accepted as a compromise, and though, it had at one time caused considerable dispute, it was at last working very well. But the Government, almost in a sort of panic, re-opened the whole question, and it is impossible to shut our eyes to the fact that this unnecessary disturbance of a matter on which there existed acquiescence will probably rouse bitter and angry controversy again in many parts of the country. Now, while I think some of the provisions of the Bill are very good—so good that I shall vote for the second reading—I may state that I will not give Notice of very important Amendments to be proposed in Committee, because, as must be felt on both sides of the House, it would be perfectly abortive, and indeed an absolute farce, to attempt anything of the kind. Your Lordships will remember the old play in which a man finds his chimney smoking very badly. His first impulse is to complain to his landlord; but he is afraid that it might give his landlord the idea of raising his rent. And so I am afraid that if I gave Notice of Amendments it might encourage some independent Members of your Lordships' House to propose other Amendments of a strongly re-actionary character—Amendments to which, judging from their conduct in the other House, the Government might be tempted to accede. Therefore I shall not trouble your Lordships by submitting Amendments which I feel I have not the remotest chance of carrying within a few days of the Prorogation of Parliament.


My Lords, at this period of the Session, and considering the way in which this matter has been so fully debated "elsewhere," it can hardly be desirable to detain your Lordships at any length. But, at the same time, I think I should hardly be doing my duty if I did not express some opinion on the merits of this Bill, which it seems is absolutely certain to become the law of the land whether this House prolongs or shortens the discussion. I am the more anxious to say a few words because, although nothing can be more kindly than the feeling with which the Bill has been discussed in this House, your Lordships are perfectly aware that in the country generally there has been a good deal of agitation on the subject of the measure: and, as representing the Church of which I have the honour to be the Chief Minister, I cannot allow one or two remarks to pass which have been made as to the tendency of the Bill and the reasons why it has been ac- quiesced in by the clergy of the Church of England. I think that observations have been made with reference to the zeal of the clergy on the subject of education which are of a somewhat unkind and ungenerous character. It would almost appear as if some thought that that enormous sum of money which from 1811 down to the end of the year 1874 was produced by the voluntary exertions of members of the Church of England in order to promote the education of the poor—namely, some £27,000,000 sterling—had been collected rather in the spirit of a Pharisaical desire to make converts than with any real love for the children of the poor and a desire to have them thoroughly instructed. I cannot help thinking that elsewhere we have been represented as being anxious to compass sea and land in order to make one convert, that when we had gained him we might make him two-fold more bigoted and uncharitable then we are ourselves. I believe that any who have cast such blame on the exertions not only of the clergy, but of the laity also, of the Church of England in this matter must be sorry by this time for what they have said. My own experience is that there is nothing dearer to the hearts either of the clergy or of the attached laity of the Church of England than the instruction of the children of the poor—not for the sake of attaching them to this or to that sect, but for the sake of conferring on them the greatest benefit which it is in our power to bestow. The only further remark I would make on this subject is that if there be any bigotry in the matter it is not all on one side. This Bill has been represented as a concession to the Church of England. I am disposed to think that it has considerable advantages as being likely ultimately to promote the cause of religious education; and, though I am aware that the religious education of the country is very greatly in the hands of the Church of England, yet I have still to learn that when I speak of the religious education of the country I am speaking in the interests solely of the Church of England. In the discussions elsewhere it has been taken for granted that if you promote religious education you necessarily promote the interests of the Church of England. Certainly no greater compliment could be paid to the Church of England than by this assumption. But still, my Lords, we are not to depart from facts. I hold in my hand the Return printed by your Lordships' House at the beginning of this Session of the number of schools, denominational and others, in this country. The denominational schools of the Church of England are in an enormous majority. But I find 2,000 other schools not complying with the regulations of school boards, which I suppose refused to comply with them because they thought these regulations did not sufficiently maintain the religious instruction of the country; and these 2,000 schools are schools of Nonconformists, who certainly cannot have identified religion with the maintenance of the Church of England. Therefore, when I argue that it is good if this Bill has done anything—though it be but a little—for the cause of religious education, I altogether deny that I am only representing that community of which I am a minister. I am speaking in the name of all the religious communities, not excluding the Roman Catholic community, which has so many schools of its own; and I believe we are acting very consistently with the principles of the Act of 1870, if we are very carefully on our guard against any unexpected consequences, which are gradually pushing those religious schools into the shade and making it an absolute necessity for them in the course of time, against the intention of the promoters of the Bill of 1870, to be superseded by board schools. The Roman Catholic body have, as I see, 598 schools of their own. I should like to know why they are to be forced on account of their poverty to surrender these schools, and to send their children to board schools? I do not know, if I were a conscientious Roman Catholic, that anything would induce me, if it were possible for me to secure for them that particular religious instruction which I should so highly prize, to send my children to a school where they could not possibly obtain it. And if Roman Catholics may hold this opinion, I do not see why Wesleyan Methodists are not to hold it—and I know that they do. I know, too, if you travel beyond the Border you will certainly find in the northern parts of this Island many persons who have no great desire for the maintenance of the Established Church of England, but who have the strongest determination that they will have their children taught according to that creed which they themselves prize; and I have yet to learn that the Nonconformists of the South have so entirely separated themselves from their brethren of the Westminster Confession as not—many of them, at least—still to desire that they should have if they please the right of instructing their children according to those beliefs which they so greatly prize. Therefore, I think it is an unfair assumption that, if this Bill does in any way remove the disadvantages which have accidentally arisen in the way of the Act of 1870, and have made it less conducive to the maintenance of fair play to all parties, that alteration is necessarily one which has been made simply for the benefit of the Church of England. Now, my Lords, if I wished to prove that this Bill is not particularly satisfactory to those who are in favour of religious education, I should have no difficulty in making good that point. I am thankful for small mercies. I am therefore glad that anything has been done which shall upon the whole give to the instruction of this country more of a religious character. But still when we are met with something like a loud outcry that this is a great concession made to the advocates of denominational and religious education, we are bound to consider for a moment what the demands of those who are in favour of religious education are, and how far they have been incorporated in this Bill. I hold in my hand the resolutions proposed at a great meeting, held with the view of influencing the Government with respect to this measure. At that meeting it was observed with regret that the Elementary Education Bill, now before the House of Commons, does not include in its provisions any satisfactory recognition of the general desire of the country for adequate religious instruction in all elementary schools. I hold in my hand another set of resolutions of the National Education Union, and their proposals are these— That, notwithstanding anything contained in Clause 14 of the Act of 1870, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments may be taught in schools provided by School Boards. ''That it may be made a condition for the receipt of a Parliamentary Grant in the case of a Board School that religious instruction should be given therein, and that such instruction should consist of at least the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. That all Public Elementary Schools should be exempt from local rates, and so on. These were the proposals of the favourers of denominational education at the time that the country first began to discuss this Bill. I am sorry to say there is not a concession made to us that I know of in one of these respects; and since I entered the House this day I have been waited upon by a deputation begging me to do what I agree with the noble Earl (Earl Granville) would be useless—namely, to propose an Amendment that the Bible should be read in every board and other school throughout the country. I believe if I proposed that in this House the proposal would have an echo in the country. I believe it is true that the country, having been appealed to on this matter, is in favour of religious education; that it knows there is no real and true good education which is not religious; and I think I might almost cite even the Gentleman who represents the Birmingham School Board, as himself bearing testimony to the fact. For the Secularists appear to me at this moment to have awakened to the consciousness that they are very weak in the country, and, therefore, what they say is, not that they hold a secular education is the real education, but that it is to be the only public education, and that the other is so sacred a thing that it must be carried on privately and by voluntary effort. Whether they are right or wrong in this view, I am confident, my Lords, that they have not the voice of the country with them; because we are all aware that if the children of the poor in the present state of education and religion in the country do not receive religious instruction by the public means which are taken to secure it, they are but little likely to receive it at all. My Lords, I think the voice of the country in this matter is shown by the proceedings of the school boards. Some gentleman was at the trouble to collect, with very great care, all the different rules and regulations which were made by the school boards throughout the country, in order to show how hopeless was the task they had undertaken of teaching religion without teaching any particular religion. Well, I grant that he made out a tolerably good ease; but I think the evidence which he collected was more distinctly conclusive on this point than on the point to which he directed our attention—namely, that, in spite of all the regulations you may introduce, to say there is to be no dogmatic teaching in your public schools, men cannot do without it, and, whether by right or by wrong methods, by subterfuge or openly, they will endeavour to introduce something in the nature of dogmatic teaching. What is dogmatic teaching? I hold in my hands a little extract which I read the other day of what has been prepared for France in this matter by the very eminent man who carried the knowledge acquired by him at Rugby, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, to the regulation of public instruction in the country of his birth— Clause II.—From the age of ten the pupils of both sexes"—this is in the French elementary schools—"shall sedulously receive general notions on the existence of God, on the immortality of the soul, on morals, and on the organic principles of Republican Government. I presume the last would imply some very dogmatic statements indeed. The paper seems to be drawn up by M. Waddington:—it is highly probable that it has not been adopted; but it shows what is occurring in a country which desires to shake off all dogmatic teaching, and to get entirely free from this nightmare. I mention these things because I think it will be found that ultimately the good sense and the religious feeling of this country will more and more gravitate towards a religious education. I do not know that we shall have very strict denominational education; but I am quite sure that if the country is to be what we all trust it will be in the ages that lie before us, it will gravitate towards a really religious education. I have said that I have received many suggestions to make Amendments in this Bill in this direction. They came from persons quite above suspicion of not being in accord with the general love of progress which characterizes this 19thcentury. One gentleman of long experience as a Government Inspector of Schools begs me to remember what Lord John Russell and Sir George Grey did in this direction in a former time, when old Constitutional and Liberal principles had not given way to any theories of doctrinaire Radicalism. One, as being a pupil of Arnold, begs me to secure that something representing Arnold's hearty love of religious education shall find its way into this Bill. I hold in my hand, also, a Petition, which I ought to have presented some time ago, urging the same point. As we have failed, therefore, to obtain any of the particular benefits which we might have hoped for from a revision of the legislation of 1870, I think it is particularly hard that we should be exposed to obloquy because we have obtained in this Bill a slight instalment of that which is neither more nor less than simple justice. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) has quoted the opinions of the Government of 1870, when they brought forward the Bill of that year; and when we consider the line adopted by one eminent man, to whom the country owes, perhaps, more than to any other for his labours in the cause of education during the last six years, I cannot but believe that to remedy now the inconveniences which have arisen from the unforeseen working of the Act of 1870 is simply an act of justice. It is because, firstly, we have no chance of getting any more; and, secondly, because we think it fair, on the whole, to acquiesce in the legislation of 1870, that we, the clergy of the Church of England, have made up our minds to do our best to support this Bill. It is not that we are quite satisfied with it. I would have everybody to understand that we wish for a great deal more; but we cannot get it. We think it right, therefore, to acquiesce in that which is, on the whole, a fair compromise. Very much the same thing happened in 1870. We differed altogether from parts of the legislation of 1870, but thought, on the whole, it was fair to all parties. Now, as then, we ask only for a fair field and no favour; and this is what we think the Bill does for the poor schools throughout the country. In the poor districts, if there was, to use the noble Earl's (Earl Granville's) expression, any "handicapping," it certainly was not in favour of the denominational schools. They had to contend with persons who had a bottomless purse at their disposal, and who alone could compel the attendance of the children; and, therefore, they had very little chance of fighting their way in a fair field which it was the intention of the Act of 1870 to secure for them. I think they will have a fair field now, and therefore I, for one, am quite ready to acquiesce in the Bill—though I should be very glad, if this were not now the 8th of August, to ask that the Bible should be read in all the schools. At this period of the Session, however, there is no use in making such a proposal. Now, what is the great aim of this Bill? I suppose it is to educate by compulsion. I do not think compulsion the highest or most desirable mode of securing education. The only object of having compulsion is in order that, for a generation or two, you may convince men of the blessings of education who are at present not sufficiently educated themselves to understand and appreciate these blessings. I hope, however, the time will come when you may repeal the clauses as to compulsion, and when parents will be as unwilling to deprive a child of his education as they would be to starve him, and so deprive him of his natural food. I have alluded to the country on the other side of the Tweed, and cannot help mentioning what was told me by one now deceased (the late Mr. Edward Ellice), of his recollections of the Highlands in his early days, when the shepherds on the remote mountains were so desirous that their children should be educated, that during the summer they sent them to schools many miles distant, over hill and flood, and during the winter took care that their children should not want teachers, for the boys from the schools in the nearest towns were then lent out to act as private tutors in these shepherds' hovels. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of such a measure as this, if it really fulfils the purpose for which it is intended. Nations change their character very rapidly. A year or two of slavery or of licence altogether destroys the character of a nation; and a single generation of well-enforced compulsory education may, and I trust will, so influence for good the generation which follows that compulsion may become altogether unnecessary. For these reasons I shall support the Bill.


said, that as one of the authors of the Act of 1870, of which he had charge in this House, he asked permission to say a few words upon the present Bill. Its main object was to extend more widely than at present the system of compulsory attendance at schools. Now, he confessed he was one of those old-fashioned people—of whom, perhaps, there were now not many on either side of the House—who looked with jealousy and with close scrutiny upon any proposal for extending the principle of compulsion and for interfering with the freedom of private life. That jealousy was a sound one as a general rule, and it was particularly sound with respect to interference between parent and child; because the relation between parent and child was so sacred that we ought to be very careful in any steps we took that might tend to weaken it. But though he held this opinion, he did not, of course, say there were not cases in which it might be just and necessary that the State should step in to see that a parent performed his duty to his child; and he quite accepted the principle laid down in Clause 4 of the Bill, that it was the duty of a parent to provide efficient elementary education for his child. He thought, however, it was very desirable that we should closely scrutinize proposals of this kind when made from time to time— because their justice depended entirely on the way in which compulsion was applied. It ought to be applied in a manner which carefully guarded to the utmost possible extent the free choice of the parent as to the school to which his child should be sent. The compulsion proposed by this Bill was of two kinds, direct and indirect. He had heard with some surprise the statement of the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond), that there was no direct compulsion in this Bill. It appeared to him that when their Lordships went into Committee they would find there was a very stringent provision for direct compulsion throughout the country. He would not now go into details, but he should desire to make some remarks when the Bill was in Committee on the way in his noble Friend proposed to apply both direct and indirect compulsion. He rejoiced that an Amendment proposed in the other House by his noble Friend (Lord Frederick Cavendish) had been introduced into the Bill, which Amendment would enable the half-time system to be adopted in rural districts. He hoped that the extension of compulsion would in a few years become unnecessary, and that the value of education would be appreciated throughout the country; but he entertained some fear as to the possible consequences of extending the system—especially of direct compulsion—to what he might call single-school districts. In many places there was a single school in connection with the Established Church, to which school all the children in the parish, speaking generally, were in the habit of going with perfect satisfaction, under a system which worked very quietly and efficiently. Englishmen were, however, very often ready to do willingly what they would not do by compulsion, and he feared it might turn out that the effect of this Bill would be to disturb the harmonious working of the present system—although no one would be more glad than he to find himself wrong in this supposition. He was well aware there were many persons in this country who would say that such difficulties as he had described would be entirely got rid of by the general establishment of what were called unsectarian schools. He could not share the opinion that that system would tend to get rid of the religious difficulty, although it might possibly alter the phase of that difficulty. Although unsectarian schools might be very acceptable to a considerable number of persons, they would, on the other hand, be extremely unacceptable to others. On this point he would cite the testimony of Dr. Rigg, the head of the Wesleyan Training College at Westminster, and for some years a member of the London School Board. That gentleman said— The instruction, indeed, is called 'unsectarian;' but to a Roman Catholic it is sectarian, being a form of generically Protestant instruction out of the Scriptures. So to the Deist, the Rationalist, the 'advanced liberal' Unitarian Christian, it is a form of sectarian and dogmatic instruction, opposed to his 'conscientious convictions.' So far as the instruction goes it is a broad Protestant form of Biblical Christianity, and favours certain Christian sects in common, to the exclusion of other religious communities professedly Christian, or perhaps, also, professedly non-Christian. That appeared to him to be a perfectly fair statement of the case. His own belief was, that under any system of State-aided schools the so-called religious difficulty could not be wholly got rid of, but it might be reduced to a minimum; and, in fact, it had been reduced to a minimum, by the system established in 1870. His noble Friend who spoke second in this debate (Earl Granville), made some remarks with respect to the proposed increase of grants from the Education Department. The grants were not to be made exclusively to denominational schools, but to all schools; though, no doubt, a change was about to be made in the conditions on which those grants were issued. It did not appear to him that the proposed increase was fairly open to the objection of his noble Friend. That objection was based on the ground that the clause would have the effect of getting rid of the local and private subscriptions in the great majority of voluntary schools. If he entertained that opinion he should be inclined to think that such a proposal would be very injurious to the interests of denominational schools; but he did not believe that the result alluded to would be at all general. There were, moreover, under the system of 1870, schools which were supported exclusively by the Government grant and by school fees. These were schools belonging chiefly to the Wesleyan and other Nonconformist Bodies. Therefore the principle of schools without voluntary subscriptions had been admitted ever since the passing of the Act of 1870. A good deal had been said about the clause which provided for the dissolution of certain school boards, and he for one very much regretted that the Government, who had not originally proposed that clause, should have given way with respect to it to their more ardent and less discreet Friends. The clause, he believed, would have no very appreciable effect, but it might have the effect of stirring up animosities and raising questions that he hoped had been set at rest. There was nothing which, for his own part, he more strongly deprecated than the existence of a hostile antagonism between denominational and board schools. There ought, he thought, to be between them only a friendly rivalry as to which could do most in the public interest and for the cause of education. There was, he believed, room for both classes of schools in the country, and good work to be accomplished by both. Having said thus much, he would observe that he could not concur in the language which was sometimes used as to the effect of the present Bill upon the policy of the Act of 1870. The noble Earl who spoke second (Earl Granville) spoke of that Act, as was commonly done, as being a compromise. Well, some of the wisest measures which had been passed by the Parliament of England had been the results of compromise; and in that way much of the violence and revolution which characterized the history of other countries had, he believed, been avoided. But if those who employed the word "compromise" with respect to the Act of 1870 meant thereby to imply that it was devoid of principle, then that was an interpretation of it which he begged most distinctly to repudiate. He for one was proud of having been permitted to play even an humble part in that great legislation; for what was the policy of the Act of 1870? It was based on the history of education in this country. Its object was to make the utmost use of that which was good in the existing system and at the same time to adopt such new provisions as would speedily bring within the reach of every child in the Kingdom the means of elementary education. The first principle of the measure was to take advantage of those great forces, chiefly religious, which had in the past done so much for the cause of public education, to accept what they had done, and to aid them to do more. The second was the introduction of a new force to supplement those more ancient forces, so that schools might be established throughout the length and breadth of the land. The third and last principle was cautiously and tentatively to make trial of a system of compulsory education, while scrupulously respecting the free right of choice of the parent as to the school to which his child should go. Those were the principles on which the Act of 1870 was framed; and what had been the result? In six years, under the operation of that legislation, the school accommodation had been increased to the extent of 1,380,487, of which accommodation for nearly 1,000,000 had been supplied by voluntary efforts. The average attendance during these six years had increased by 659,798, the certificated teachers by 9,925, and the pupil teachers by the enormous number of 16,286. The legislation of 1870 had produced these great results. He believed that its policy was as sound in principle as it had been rich in results, and he trusted that policy might long continue to guide them in the future.


We have, my Lords, the happiness to have arrived at a somewhat calmer discussion of this subject than those through which this measure has so recently passed. Two Ministers who were principally responsible for the Act of 1870 have spoken this evening, and both of them have told us that they are not prepared to move the rejection of the Bill. It is impossible to listen to such an announcement without reflecting that the Colleagues of those noble Lords in "another place" have sent it up to us with anything but their blessing, but with an anathema, and that one of them (Mr. Goschen) voted against the third reading. It is another satisfactory proof of the calmness of our deliberations, or perhaps it may be due to the smaller attendance, that a more sober view is taken of the Bill by the two noble Lords of whom I am speaking than by their Colleagues in the other House. It was, of course, the duty of the noble Earl who spoke second (Earl Granville) to find some fault with the measure, and I quite sympathize with the difficulty he has had to encounter in doing so. He seems to think that a great indignity has been offered to this House in its having been sent up to us at so late a period of the Session; but that is a charge which if true ought to have been addressed to his Friends in the other House, where five days were taken up in the discussion of a single clause. The noble Earl cited the precedent of the Scotch Education Act of 1869; but I think he must have forgotten the circumstances of that case. That Bill, after long and anxious discussion in this House, and having been largely amended, was sent down to the House of Commons. There the Lord Advocate in one night, and without discussion, by force of the overwhelming majority at his command, re-introduced all those clauses which this House had struck out; and then the Bill was contemptuously sent back for our acceptance on the 9th of August. There was a great difference between that Bill and this Bill. That Bill was sent up to us in known and contemptuous disregard of our opinion; this Bill has been sent here with the general knowledge that it is highly acceptable to your Lordships. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) has referred to the clauses relating to day industrial schools, and he dwelt upon the perfect futility of giving children education during the day which would be rendered more than useless by the wickedness they would learn from their parents at night. But I think the noble Earl can hardly have reflected that that is a formidable objection to any education of the lower classes at all. There must be many poor persons in the community who will be liable to temptations; and if you lay down that profligate companionship is not only to neutralize the advantage of the education given, but to make that education a positive evil, you throw very great doubt upon the policy of general compulsory education. I should concur with the noble Earl in doubting the policy as to these wastrel clauses if it was intended to make them universal in all parishes. Undoubtedly, it is exceptional legislation. It is aimed at an exceptional fact—the terrible condition of some children—the wandering and unclaimed children of our large towns. This is one of the greatest evils and sorest disgraces of our highly-civilized social life, and you must apply such remedies as may seem equal to meeting it; but you must not imagine that remedies suitable for an unusual and exceptional disease can be applicable to all states of society. The noble Earl went through what I may call the 17s. 6d. clause; but it is not necessary to say much in answering him on this point. He said that it was inconsistent with the Act of 1870. Happily, we have the great High Priest of that Act with us, and he tells us that there is nothing inconsistent between them. I do not venture to interfere between two authorities so great. We do not confine this 17s. 6d. to voluntary schools; if we did it would be handicapping them in the race. We give precisely the same advantage to the two competitors, and it cannot be said that preference is given to one over the other. The noble Earl forgets that all these voluntary schools have been built almost entirely by voluntary effort—if I may so speak of it, the business has been started by the capital of the voluntary people. After all, the real answer to the complaint is that the assistance of 17s. 6d. is to be given in no case until the children display the proficiency required by the Council of Education. Surely, where this proficiency was shown, it would be no ground on which to refuse the assistance to say that it was done by voluntary effort? If the volun- tary school passed the tests of the Education Department it had a right to the payment. As to the references made to the Act of 1870, and the understanding then come to, no doubt that Act was passed by an understanding. Its passing was not characterized by what we have lately witnessed—by discussions of five nights in length. If the Act of 1870 had been met with the same spirit as the Bill of 1876 has been met with, the Act of 1870 would never have reached the Statute Book. The Act of 1870 maintained, generally speaking, a fair neutrality between the board system and the voluntary system: leaving to each locality a free choice between the two systems. But there was one exception to that impartiality. While the Act provided for a change from a denominational to a board school, it refused to sanction a change from a board school to a denominational school. As long as that inequality existed you could not say that the subject was dealt with in a fair and even-handed manner by the Act of 1870. I agree that this clause will not have a large effect. I have no doubt it will relieve a feeling of soreness in this country, but it will not have a large general effect.. It will have a moral and indirect effect in another way. It will announce to the country that the State is absolutely impartial between the two systems, and that wherever people are willing to support denominational education, the State will allow that denominational education to be pursued. I think there is nothing in this Bill to justify the belief that it is, in any way, a great or special concession to the Church of England. I believe it is a concession to what is called denominational education or sectarian education. It is a concession to religious education resting upon doctrinal or sectarian teaching; but even to that extent the concession is a small one. As the most rev. Prelate has pointed out, those who are in favour of doctrinal education are anxious for more than they have received; but this Bill has not granted to them everything which will directly stimulate religious education or which will require any form of religious education as a condition of State aid. Our refusal does not arise from indifference to the subject on the part of the Government. It is not because we disagree with those who believe that religious education by the will of the people of this country will always be the predominant education. We have not thought it necessary to approach this subject in the way to which I refer, because we feel confident that there is so thorough a conviction in all parts of the country that no education which is not a religious education is worthy the State to give or the child to receive—because the Government have the full conviction that the people will remain firm on this point, and will yield to no temptation. We felt that, therefore, we could properly and safely avoid a subject full of difficulties, and that we were not called upon to lay on the Table a Bill that should contain a direct provision requiring religious education as a condition of State aid. The most rev. Prelate told us that coercive education was merely a preparation for that period when the attachment of the people to education should be so determined that coercion would be no longer necessary; because if public opinion on that head was as thorough as could be wished coercive measures would not be necessary. They are now necessary as regards secular education because the need of it is not fully felt by all classes of the population. What he has said of education generally is pre-eminently true of religious education. It is the very universality of the feeling in favour of religious education that has made us feel we could safely avoid a subject so full of difficulties, and lay the Bill upon the Table in its present shape. We have laid down no direct provision for religious education simply because we are convinced that it is unnecessary and not from any feeling that religious education is not desired by the people of England.


thought he would be a bold man who should state that he did not know that this Bill could not possibly receive at this period of the Session, the consideration which the importance of its subject required. He would appeal to the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), himself to say whether the Bill would now receive the same amount of consideration that would have been bestowed upon it if it had been brought up to that House a month ago? Here was a most important measure consisting of upwards of 60 clauses—yet such was the period of the Session that it was quite useless for any noble Lord, however interested, to propose any important modification during its progress through Committee. In refering to the opposition which the measure had lately encountered, the noble Marquess appeared to him to be somewhat unjust towards the Members and supporters of the late Government, for not only was the principle of the measure accepted by them, but some of them actually delivered powerful and effective speeches in its favour. What they had taken exception to was not the principle of the Bill as it was originally drawn, but the changes which the Government had subsequently introduced into it. As to the Conscience Clause, which was formerly so much opposed, it was now asserted to be necessary. In Church schools, for the most part, the spirit of the Conscience Clause was no doubt observed; but those schools were undoubtedly pervaded by influences to which Dissenters with great reason were unwilling to subject their children. Would any noble Lord who was a member of the Established Church care to send his child to a Roman Catholic or Unitarian school, however strict the Conscience Clause then in operation might be? He was sure no noble Lord would willingly run the risk involved in doing such a thing. The Nonconformists, on the same principle, preferred board schools for their children, because they felt that there they would be protected. But by the extension of the powers of the Guardians and Town Councils under this Bill the injustice previously felt by the Nonconformists was materially aggravated, and it was not surprising that they should look on the Bill with disfavour; it was not, however, till the Government accepted Amendments still more hostile to their interests that they had opposed the measure in any really determined spirit. Whatever faults it might have, the school-board system was accepted by the Dissenters, and it was only natural that their distrust should be excited when the Government accepted the Amendments referred to. When the subject was discussed in 1870 it was argued that the local contributions might be looked upon as the means of providing the religious part of education, and the Government grant as the means of providing the secular part; and the great objection raised to the present Bill was that under it they might have the denominational schools entirely supported from grants out of the taxes. The clergyman of a rural parish would increase his school fees; with the assistance of the compulsory system he might compel the attendance of the children; if the parents could not pay the fees the Guardians would have to find the money; and thus the denominational system would be maintained by State funds without any local contributions. In the Bill of the Government there was a very considerable defect in respect to compulsion. Town Councils, if they thought proper, would be able at once to frame compulsory bye-laws, and Boards of Guardians would be required to appoint committees to compel school attendance up to the age of 10; but between the ages of 10 and 14 compulsion could only be adopted on the requisition of the inhabitants of the parish. Now he believed it would be found that just in proportion as a parish needed a compulsory system would there be an objection to it among the inhabitants. He admitted it was a great improvement to provide, as the Bill did, that a child must be educated up to the age of 10; but in a parish without compulsory bye-laws the child might then escape from all education if he either obtained a certificate of having passed an examination in Standard IV—to which he had no objection—or had a certificate showing that he had attended school for 125 days during the year. Now he wanted to know why all children should not be required to pass a standard of proficiency?—especially when they remembered how careless many parents were in regard to the education their children received. Irregular attendance at school was one of the greatest difficulties against which teachers had to struggle; and he thought they should require that the child should have been regular and diligent in his attendance. An attendance of 125 days was quite insufficient; and, moreover, the fixing of the minimum number of attendances by Act of Parliament had this evil effect, that the parents and children always seized on the minimum, and made it their maximum, contenting themselves with doing only what was absolutely necessary to obtain the object for which the conditions were imposed. Again, if the House was earnest about education, they ought not to limit to the age of 10. Canon Norris, one of the most eminent Inspectors, had made a special inquiry as to the hold which the elementary education given in the schools had had on the working classes in Staffordshire, and he showed that just in proportion as a child left school at an early age did he loose all, or nearly all, the benefit he had received as far as regarded the elements of instruction. They ought to compel attendances at least up to the age of 13, and more than attendance for 125 days in the year should be exacted from children who were relieved from the necessity of passing an examination in the Fourth Standard. In conclusion, he thought it was of little advantage making speeches on the second reading of the Bill unless they were followed up by Amendments in Committee; but as the noble Duke had informed them that the Committee would be taken on Thursday, proper time would not be allowed for putting Notices of Amendments on the Paper.


said, he looked upon the Act of 1870 as a great measure, and he felt grateful to the Government that had brought it in; and one of the reasons why he was disposed to give this Bill a most cordial support was, because he regarded it as a worthy sequel to that Act. But he must join those who had preceded him, in expressing his deep regret that what he believed to be the most important measure of the present Session should have been brought before their Lordships at so late a period of the Session—at a time, indeed, so late that it was utterly impossible to consider it adequately. He did not impute blame to his noble Friends on the Treasury Bench—they had been the victims of circumstances. The one cause which more than any other had led to this Bill being sent up to their Lordships so near to the close of the Session was, the unduly warm discussions which arose in the other House of Parliament on the clause for the dissolution of school boards in certain cases. He could not understand how by any Party in the House of Commons that clause could have been considered worth the angry feeling and waste of time to which it had led. With regard to the Bill itself, he looked upon it as a most valuable step towards the completion of the general education of the country. If Her Majesty's Government had decided to introduce into the Bill a provision for direct compulsion he would have been ready to support it; but, to the best of his judgment, the Government had taken a wiser course. They had done well, when it became necessary that compulsion should be resorted to, to try the experiment of indirect compulsion; if that failed, direct compulsion could be resorted to. If the provisions of this Bill were entirely and sincerely carried out throughout the country, he believed they would go a long way to avert the necessity for stronger measures. There was one point in the Bill which was worthy of all praise, and that was the proposal to put Boards of Guardians in the position of school boards, so as to make it less necessary that school boards should be adopted all over the country. He did not join in the objection felt to school boards by some with whom he generally agreed. He did not object to school boards. On the contrary, he believed, if we were to have a system of education extended to the whole population, and especially to the populous parts of the country, school boards would be found one of the most effective means of carrying out that object. He agreed with the opinion, so strongly expressed by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Ripon), that there ought not to be any feeling of antagonism between school boards and voluntary schools, but that they ought to work harmoniously together for the promotion of a common end. He believed that there were two things at the root of the objection to school boards—In the first place, they had been found much more costly than they ought or needed to be; but still a greater objection was the general feeling that under these school boards, according to the present state of the law, the children could not receive the religious instruction which they ought to receive, and which the parents generally desired. The country generally was in favour of the Act of 1870, with the exception of its inadequate provisions on the subject of religious instruction. In his judgment and conscience he entirely agreed with what had been said so eloquently by the most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Canterbury) as to the feeling of the country on this subject. He had hoped that we might have had in this Bill a provision requiring that religious instruction should be given in all board schools; and when he expressed that opinion he distinctly and emphatically disclaimed the idea of speaking with any view to the exclusive interests of the Church of England—he was speaking in the interests of no particular Church; and the humble efforts he had made in former years to promote education justified him when ho said that he was not speaking in the interest of any particular denomination. He spoke in the cause of Religion and Christianity. He was the last man who would urge any system which would violate the scruples of Nonconformists;—he had always taken a different line. But the Roman Catholics in Ireland had religious instruction in their schools; if their Lordships turned to the Presbyterians of Scotland, they would find there was religious instruction in their schools; and in England he ventured to say that the national system, whatever it might he, ought not to be one which excluded religion. They were indebted to a Member of the House of Commons for having moved for a Return of the religious instruction in the board schools. He doubted whether it was as generally known to the public as it was to their Lordships what the case was with the great School Board of London. The Lord President, in his opening speech, spoke in high terms, and very justly, of the School Board of London. Well, this Resolution was passed by that School Board— That, in the schools provided by the Board, the Bible shall be read, and there shall be given such explanations and such instructions there-from in the principles of morality and religion as are suited to the capacity of the children, provided always that in such explanations and instructions the provisions of the Act, the 7th and 14th, are strictly observed both in letter and spirit, and that no attempt be made in any such schools to attach the children to any denomination. When the London School Board had passed such a Resolution, the Government might well have regarded it as a precedent in this Bill. On the other hand, the Birmingham school board, as he learnt by a letter from a clergyman there, banished all religious teaching from its schools— No Board teacher was allowed either to read or to teach the Bible, and, in fact, as far as the Board teaching was concerned, the name of God must not be mentioned. Some statistics prepared by the National Society showed the action of school boards upon the subject of religious education. Out of 284 school boards, 62, while permitting the reading of the Bible, did not allow any note or comment, 16 forbad the reading or explaining of the Bible, and 39 forbad all religious observance or instruction in connection with the ordinary work of the school, or by any member of the school staff. Surely, it was not seemly or right that, under the legislation of this country, it should be in the power of any handful of men, exercising a brief authority in any district, thus to exclude from the teaching of the rising generation that knowledge without which education was worth very little. It was satisfactory, however, that while 117 boards had thus neglected the teaching of religion, the remainder, 167 in number, had in various ways, as in the case of the London School Board, laid down by certain rules that religion should be taught. Here was a clear proof, by a numerical majority, that the country was in favour of religious teaching, and any Government which made a change in this respect would receive the general support of the country. The question became more important when they considered the rapid increase of board schools as compared with voluntary schools. He accepted this as a valuable Bill to the extent to which it went; but he deeply lamented the omission as to religious education, his belief being that if the Government had introduced clauses of a moderate character, providing that religion should be taught in all our board schools that decision would have been in general harmony with the opinion of the nation. This subject could not and would not rest where it was. The country would not be satisfied as long as it was in the power of any set of men to deny to the children of the humbler classes the benefits of religious education.


as a consistent Liberal, saw no just reason for opposing the provision that a majority of the inhabitants should be able, if they wished, to get rid of a school board now that other means of compulsory education were provided by legislation. School boards had done, and were doing, a useful work, but he agreed that they were much more costly than they might be or ought to be; and great part of this cost arose from the system of election. He suggested, in 1870, that that system might be assimilated to the mode of electing Boards of Guardians—a system which worked so satisfactorily that in 1874 and 1875 only four cases of contested elections had required inquiring into by the Local Government Board during each year; and which had been declared to be cheap and economical by more than 400 school boards in their Memorial to the Lord President complaining of the immense cost of the present system, of election. It should be remembered that a large majority of the ratepayers voted under the Poor Law system of sending a few clerks round to collect the votes of the many voters; while, in spite of all efforts to excite and stimulate the voters, comparatively few voters voted under the school-board system of obliging the many voters to go and get their votes recorded at the polling booth by the few clerks. One cause of the unpopularity of school boards was the great expense incurred by them in elections and for non-educational purposes. He objected to those provisions in the present Bill that broke down the distinction between pauperism and independence. He was referring to what he might call the gushing and sentimental clauses about paying the school fees of the children of poor parents without considering it as relief given to those parents; about founding scholarships for children of 10 years old—a sort of yearling races; and, above all, about feeding children at the public expense in day industrial schools. Such a system combined the different disadvantages of legal relief and of private charity, without the advantages of either. Such relief would be grudgingly given and thanklessly received. It was undesirable in itself, and very dangerous as a precedent. He wished, however, to boar his testimony to the value of the clauses which dealt with poor schools, and which in his judgment would not lead to the results anticipated by his noble Friend the late Foreign Secretary. In conclusion, the noble Earl expressed his gratitude to the Government for the tardy, but not too tardy, repeal of the 25th clause and the substitution of the Board of Guardians as the body for ascertaining the ability of parents and for paying the school fees for the children. He could claim consistency in taking that course, because he had protested against the system as originally proposed for imposing that duty on the school boards, which had no officers like the relieving officers of the Board of Guardians, both competent and available for inquiring into the circumstances of the parents.


thanked the noble Duke for bringing in the Bill, which would be accepted as a fulfilment in part of the promise made by the Government to promote religious education.


bore testimony from his own experience to the value which the provisions in the Bill relating to industrial schools were calculated to confer.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2aaccordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.

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