HL Deb 23 July 1878 vol 242 cc4-13

, in moving for Returns in continuation of Return respecting Endowed Schools Act, Paper No. 6, ordered to be printed on the 21st January last, said, the subject was one with which he had troubled the House more than once before. The question, however, seemed to him to become more urgent and more important year by year, as from time to time one educational endowment after another formerly misused or disused, became permanently misapplied by the centralizing system established by the late Government and perpetuated by the present. In 1875, while explaining to their Lordships the unhappy results of the administration of the old Commissioners, and while applauding the appointment of each one of the new Commissioners individually, he ventured to predict that, in spite of the personal excellence of the latter, it would be impossible for them to do well, and for this reason—that they had work given them to do which the Schools Inquiry Commission had emphatically stated could not be done by the central authority without the co-operation of some provincial authority, which should be capable of looking at the county, or perhaps several counties, as a whole; but which should know the district well, and not act in mere dependence on the Re-ports of its officers. Now, in finding fault with the results of the administration of the present Commissioners, he begged to say that he did not blame the men—! he blamed the system under which they were acting; a system adopted, as he said before, in spite of the emphatic warning of the Schools Inquiry Commission. The noble Duke the Lord President of the Council was of all the I statesmen he remembered of his own time the most confirmed admirer of centralization; for, two years ago, when he (Earl Fortescue) pressed for the establishment of provincial boards, in accordance with the recommendations of the Schools Inquiry Commission—upon which the Report of the Endowed Schools Commission professed to be, though it was not really, based—the noble Duke took the opportunity of expressing his opinion that the Central Commissioners, supplied with information through their Inspectors and Assistant Commissioners, would be more capable of forming an impartial opinion than persons who, from local considerations, would naturally be anxious to have schools of the highest grade. Against that view of the noble Duke, however, there was the opinion of the Commissioners themselves, who had acknowledged the great advantages of provincial boards, in that they would be composed of men capable of thoroughly understanding and appreciating local claims, yet not hampered by a tendency to consider them alone. The Commissioners spoke, too, of the absolute necessity of establishing new machinery to do entirely new work; and of the desirableness of local knowledge on the part of those who were to prepare the schemes. The Schools Inquiry's Report, too, insisted in the strongest language upon the necessity of dealing with schools in groups—a point which had been pressed upon the Commissioners by witnesses of the highest authority. In the Report of 1872, the then Commissioners stated that they had strenuously endeavoured to deal with the schools in groups, but that local and other difficulties had prevented such an arrangement, and that they had been obliged to treat each case in an isolated manner and without reference to the other schools in the district. One might have hoped, however, that Her Majesty's Government, justly objecting to the animus displayed by some of the Commissioners, whom they displaced, would have seized the opportunity, when legislating on the subject, of taking the whole question in hand, and altering the provisions which had rendered the Act unworkable in regard to what the Inquiry Commissioners had stated to be a point of vital importance. But nothing of the sort was done. The Schools Inquiry Commission, by a series of investigations and calculations, had ascertained that at least one-half of the school accommodation above the level of elementary education was required for the third grade. The Endowed Schools Commission divided the schools into three grades—The first, that in which the age of leaving was about 18 or 19; the second, in which the age was about 16; and the third, in which the age was about 14 or 15. The Commissioners, also, expressed their opinion that the proportion of day scholars in the third grade ought to be larger than that in the first and second grades; but, according to the joint Report of the Endowed Schools Commission and the Charity Commissioners, the number of first-grade schools for which schemes had been approved was 42; second grade, 96; and third grade, only 99. The Schools Inquiry Commission, again, said that the most urgent educational need of the country was that of good schools of the third grade for children up to the age of 13 or 14; because private enterprize could not supply the want, as every master of a private third-grade school, when successful, naturally turned it into a second-grade school, with higher payments. There had been complaints from various parts of the country of the deficiency of second-grade education—of an undue preponderance of first grade, and an insufficiency of second grade. In Bradford, by sanction of the Privy Council, the school board had established an elementary school, with fees in the cases of a certain number of children as high as 9d. per week, for the purpose of giving a higher education. He did not pretend to be acquainted with the special circumstances of Bradford; but, upon general grounds, as rates were levied on real property alone— not on the whole income of the nation, but only on about one-fifth of it—he thought it hard that the ratepayers should be compelled to provide schools for the lower middle classes and the higher class of artizans, when there were large endowments available for the educational requirements of the nation. He could not state the certain result more tersely or clearly than in the words he used once before— The undue multiplication of first and second-grade schools will not only be a "waste of money, but by furnishing a supply in excess of the natural demand, will tend to diminish the prosperity and, with it, the efficiency of each school. You will have a disastrous competition between them for pupils. They will either lower their prices to keep up their numbers, and thus tempt parents to send their children to schools of too high a grade, and to keep them unduly long at learning, instead of beginning earning or they will have their schools half empty with fewer masters, obliged each to teach more subjects, and therefore teaching less well; while, in either case, the standard of masters will be lowered through the impaired prospects of remuneration offered.….When the learned Professions, and that of clerks and such like, are already so overstocked, when trade is dull and manufactures slack, is it wise to multiply schools for qualifying boys chiefly for the work of distribution or verification, involving only little or very light manual labour, and to stint the number of third-grade schools, better suited to boys early to be trained to hard bodily labour. … .The classes using the first and second-grade schools, thus unduly multiplied, will have the education of their children in them deteriorated in consequence. But what is far more serious, the best of the lower middle class, and the most intelligent and self-denying of the artizans, willing to make sacrifices in order to secure for their children a better education than they had themselves enjoyed, will be cruelly and unjustly denied their fair share of the benefits of the magnificent educational endowment, yielding more than £666,000 a-year, and worth more than £20,000,000, provided by the pious munificence of our ancestors. And their case will be all the harder because, for reasons which I have already given from the Report, they cannot expect the void thus needlessly created to be supplied by private enter-prize; and the present respectable misapplication of those endowments is much more hopelessly irrevocable than was the previous state of abuse, misuse, and disuse of many of them which invited reform."—[3 Hansard, ccxxxv. 962–3.]

He ventured to ask, in these circumstances, whether the Government—all whose Members were not as bureaucratic in their views as the noble Duke—would not, before the remaining half or so of the income of £666,000 a-year was disposed of by the Commissioners, consider the expediency of establishing a system of local provincial boards to assist the central authorities in the preparation of schemes for meeting the local educational wants of the country at large? He begged to move for the Return of which he had given Notice.

Moved, That there be laid before this House— Return made out county by county, in continuation of Return respecting the Endowed Schools Acts, Paper No. (6.), ordered to be printed on the 21st of January last, with in each case a proximate estimate of the annual endowments of (1) The number of Schemes finally approved and in force in England and Wales under the Endowed Schools Acts of 1869, 1873, and 1874; (2) The number of Schemes published by the Charity Commissioners under those Acts, but not yet finally approved; (3) The Endowed Schools not returned in (1) and (2), nor included in sect. 3. of the Endowed Schools Act, 1873, which are within the general provisions of the Endowed Schools Acts; (4) The aggregate number and income of Endowed Schools included in sect, 3. of the Endowed Schools Act, 1873: Also, Return, as regards (1), of the grade, determined as in Paper (6.), 1878, of each school under the Scheme in force, and proximate estimate of the number of scholars for which each such school is attended, as well as the total number and grades of such schools and the total number of scholars so estimated."—(The Earl Fortescue.)


desired to express his concurrence with what had fallen from the noble Earl, and his very great regret that whilst so very much good work had been done by the Endowed Schools Commission, it had, nevertheless, been so very much marred by want of really effective machinery. He confessed that when first the Endowed Schools Act was passed, he did not anticipate that what they had said in the Schools Inquiry Commission would be so completely corroborated by the actual results. He thought, at that time, that the central authority might very possibly be able to hold its own against certain local interests; but the working of the Endowed Schools Commission from that day to this had only proved more and more that the Schools Inquiry Commission were right in saying that the work to be done was not of a sort that could be thoroughly done by a central authority. The work to be done, as far as they might briefly express it, was this—to create a great number of third-rate schools, and also to group our English schools in such relations to each other, that instead of a very foolish and unhealthy kind of competition, they might all do a part of the work to be done. Of these two objects, it would be difficult to say which was the most important. The want of the third-rate schools was really depriving the lower half of the middle classes of this country of anything like an efficient supply of educational resources. Not only was this the case, but it appeared to be doing serious mischief to the elementary schools below them; because, in all schools, it was of great importance indeed that the scholars should be stimulated, where they had any talent, and were able to do something more than the average run of their schoolfellows, by the possibility of their rising to a higher education. Such a stimulus was good for both boys and masters. His former experience as an Inspector led him to regret the sort of deadness which prevailed in the elementary schools; for even in regard to the most clever boys, the education seemed to aim at nothing higher. He could not but help feeling, by comparing the spirit in the elementary schools with the spirit in the schools of a higher grade, that there was a real want that could only be supplied by there being a possibility of rising out of these schools to schools of higher education. But such schools did not exist. It would, for the sake of the elementary schools, be a great object to provide these third-rate schools. He did not know whether the establishment of due relations between the various grades of schools was not quite as important a matter as the creation of schools of the third grade. It was a very important matter that there should not only be schools for the boys of the lower middle classes in sufficient abundance, but that there should also be an opportunity of rising to something higher, and it was very often a great matter that the schools should be adapted to the particular localities where they were to be placed. One school might, for instance, have a direction given to it that would suit it to prepare boys rather for commercial pursuits; another school might be designed to prepare boys for manufacturing operations; another might prepare them for the lower ranks of law, or occupations of that kind. The education in each case would, very rightly, vary; and if there was an authority thoroughly acquainted with all the localities, it would be possible to arrange that the different schools should do their different work, each work being the best fitted for its own place. But he did not think it was possible to do it unless there was some authority on the spot, and thoroughly acquainted with all the circumstances of the locality; because, in all these schools, there had been all sorts of petty local interests influencing their management for a very long time; and, as far as he could see, there was only one way to deal with small local interests, and that was to put against them larger local interests. If they attempted to deal with them by a central authority, they invariably found that the central authority was beaten from ignorance of the particular circumstances of the case. Not only so, but the central authority had not so strong interest in upholding its principles, but was much more likely to give way to strong representations from the place where the school was situated than the larger local authority would be. If it were proposed, for instance, that a school in a particular town should be made a second-grade school, and the town wished to make it a first-grade school, the local authority of the county at large would be able to look at the matter, taking in the circumstances of the spot, and taking in, also, the interests of the surrounding locality. There would be a fair competition of interests, and he was quite ready to admit that the central authority would be in its place in judging between them, and might be able very often to decide which of the interests ought to prevail. But as the thing now stood, the larger local interests were left out of sight, because there was no person with the local position and local right to defend them. It was very difficult in this country to get people to take up anything simply for the public good. But it was quite as difficult to get them listened to when they did take it up. If a man came forward and said—"This is what is best for the county," he was immediately met with the inquiry— "What right have you to speak on behalf of the county?" But if there was an authority representing the county, it would be impossible to put that question, and the county interest would be sure to have its real weight as between it and the particular town. As the matter now stood, it seemed to him that it would be impossible to find any single instance in which the larger local interest had been allowed its fair weight as against the smaller. He did not mean at all to deny that the Endowed Schools Commissioners were doing their best. The aims they put before them in the Report they had issued were certainly exceedingly good. They were aiming at the right thing; but it was not the aim that was in question, it was their power of reaching that aim. He could not help feeling confident that a larger local authority, representing one or two counties, would in each case have produced an exceedingly different result from that which had been brought about by the Commission. There was always this difficulty in arguing a matter of this sort—that if an attempt were made to go down to the details of each separate case, it was almost impossible to prove that the wrong thing had been done. In each separate place it might very fairly be said—"There is one opinion on one side, and another opinion on the other side. The Endowed Schools Commission took the one opinion and not the other." But when they looked at the result as a whole, it was quite evident now that the aim which was pointed out by the Schools Inquiry Commission as that which ought to be attained had been, to a large extent with the present machinery, impossible of attainment. They had nothing like a sufficient number of third-rate schools, and as to putting the schools into better relation to one another, he could hardly say there had been anything done.


said, he had certainly not expected, upon a Motion which was not opposed by Her Majesty's Government, for the production of certain Returns that were really a continuation of Returns already given, that the noble Earl (Earl Fortescue) would have thought it necessary to go so fully into the subject. The noble Earl had, as he told them, quoted very largely from the speech he delivered on the subject last year. He had also done him (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) the honour of quoting also from the speech he made last year in answer to him; and these facts being before their Lordships, and the noble Earl's opinion of last year, as he expressed it, and his (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon's) opinion, which he expressed last year, being also precisely the same, he did not think he need enter at any length into that branch of the subject. Another year's experience had shown him that the work done by the Charity Commissioners had been done in the most satisfactory manner. He had been thrown a great deal in connection with them from his position as President of the Council, and he could honestly and conscientiously say that they had done their work satisfactorily; and he, therefore, held an opposite opinion to that entertained by the noble Earl, for he believed that the work had been, and could be, done well by a central body. The noble Earl had said that the operations of the Charity Commissioners under the powers of the Endowed Schools Act had done harm to the elementary schools.


denied that he had said what was attributed to him.


stated, that he had understood the noble Earl to say that by the provisions that were made for endowed schools harm was done to the elementary schools below them. But if he had misunderstood the noble Earl, he withdrew the expression, and took it that the action of the Charity Commissioners in carrying out the endowed schools system was not productive of any harm at all to the elementary schools of the country. Therefore, they had, at all events, the elementary schools separated from his blame of the manner in which the schools above them were conducted. The right rev. Prelate who had spoken (the Bishop of Exeter) had complained that there was a considerable amount of deadness in the manner in which the elementary schools were carried on when he was an Inspector. He could not help thinking that if the right rev. Prelate were now to inspect the schools— which he might do in the course of his duties in his diocese—he would see that in many elementary schools, certainly deadness did not prevail. The right rev. Prelate objected to the action of the Charity Commissioners that they did not sufficiently consider, in their Report, the encouragement which ought to be given in elementary schools to scholars to rise. He was sorry to differ from the right rev. Prelate; but that was precisely what they did, or endeavoured to do. They provided exhibitions for boys who were clever, with the view of enabling them to rise in their studies and to pass to the higher schools. Both the noble Earl and right rev. Prelate did what it was very easy to do—they raised their objections in general terms. They did not bring forward any instance of neglect on the part of the Commissioners in any particular locality or school. Had they done so, the Commissioners would have been put upon their trial, and it would have been for them to show that they had not neglected either the powers or the duties placed upon them by the Act. The right rev. Prelate argued that it would be very difficult to bring up any separate instance in which the Commissioners had done wrong; but until he was prepared to do so, he (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) was inclined to say that the charges of neglect of duty existed more in theory than in practice. At any rate, until cases were brought before him, he was content to believe that the present system was well worked; and until the need of amendment in the system itself were proved, he was quite prepared to leave things as they stood. There would be no objection to the Re-turns asked for by the noble Earl, if the last line of the Motion—"proximate estimate of the number of the total scholars by which each such school is attended," and "total number of scholars so estimated," were struck out.


, without entering upon the general question, wished to draw the attention of the noble Duke to a point, not of much importance, perhaps, but still worthy of notice. He by no means asserted that the Charity Commissioners were neglectful of their duties; but, as a trustee of an endowed school, he found that a practice prevailed amongst that body which was not to be found in any other Public Office. About this time of the year the Commissioners departed, apparently in a body, on what they called "the recess;" and if a letter was written then on any business connected with the Department, the answer received was—"Will be attended to after the recess." Such a practice he considered to be exceedingly wrong, and he trusted the noble Duke would see that arrangements were made by which the Public Business would not in future suffer in that way.


, in reply, said, he did not doubt that the Charity Commissioners and the Endowed School Commissioners had endeavoured to do their duty; but he maintained, on the authority of one of the most statesmanlike and powerful Commissions of his day, that they had work given them to do which, from the very nature of the case, they could not do satisfactorily, and he claimed that the speech of the noble Duke that evening had fully confirmed that view.

Amendment made: Words struck out, and Return, as amended, agreed to.