HL Deb 21 June 1878 vol 241 cc7-19

My Lords, in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech at the commencement of the Session, we were informed that the attention of Parliament would be called to the question of Intermediate Education in Ireland. The discharge of this duty would have more naturally belonged to the Representative of the Irish Government in the other House of Parliament; but at this period of the Session time is precious, and in the state of Parliamentary Business it is desirable, if a measure on the subject is to be introduced, it should be introduced now in your Lordships' House. My Lords, the subject of Intermediate Education in Ireland is a very large one, and a long history might be written of the various attempts and various failures to improve the more liberal branches of education in that country. During the last century attempts were sometimes made by the Parliament of Ireland, and since the Union these attempts have been repeated by the Imperial Parliament. My Lords, I do not propose to go to-night into that history. I prefer rather to accept what your Lordships will find to be now established facts, and to state to your Lordships what the Government proposes as the remedy for evils as to the existence of which there is not any controversy. My Lords, if I describe what is the state of Intermediate Education in Ireland at present, I can only use an extremely short expression—its state is decidedly bad. Intermediate Education in that country is defective in quality, and it is inadequate in quantity. Your Lordships have two documents of great authority in the Library of this House in which may be found the whole of the information on this subject. A Report was made by a Royal Commission in the year 1858—a Commission which inquired into the question of Endowed Schools in Ireland—and they stated that Intermediate Education in that country was in a most unsatisfactory state. In the year 1871 another Report was made. That was the Report of a Commission presided over by a noble Earl now present (the Earl of Powis), and they inquired into the primary education of Ireland; but in their Report they devoted a very interesting chapter to the question of Intermediate Education. The Report deprecates the extension of the public system of primary education to education in the higher branches of learning; but, at the same time, it allows that the resources in Ireland for Intermediate Education were of the most defective kind. In addition to these two documents, the contents of which are known to many of your Lordships, there is some further information on the subject of a very striking, and, I am very sorry to say, of a very deplorable kind in the Return of the Census Commissioners of 1871. My Lords, there is one item in the statistics of that Census which I own appears to me to be almost incredible. There is an enumeration given of the number of boys in Ireland, who, in a particular month—June, 1871—were engaged in any educational establishment in Ireland in learning either Latin, or Greek, or any modern languages, or mathematics. Your Lordships will observe I do not say learning all these subjects, but learning any one of them, and the number of boys in a country with a population of 5,500,000 who were learning any of these subjects was 10,814, or not more than two in every 1,000 of the population. We have no accurate statistics with regard to England; but I believe that it is supposed there are in England at least 10, and probably much nearer 15 in every 1,000 receiving instruction in these matters. I find—though I will not mention the name—that there is one county in Ireland in which there was not a single boy learning any of the subjects which I have mentioned. At the very outset of this question, I have no doubt your Lordships will naturally make the inquiry, what is the state of the endowments for Intermediate Education in Ireland, and can the deficiency which undoubtedly exists be remedied by some better application of the endowments of that country? Now, that is a very proper question, and one to which a clear and distinct answer must be given. I might be content with the answer which was given by the Report to which I have referred. What the Commissioners of 1858 said on this subject was that the deficiencies admitted to exist in the system of Intermediate Education in Ireland could not be supplied by a re-distribution, or different application of the educational endowments already in being. That was their Report; but, my Lords, I will mention other facts which seem to put this matter beyond all doubt, and I am glad to have an opportunity of mentioning them, for I am aware out-of-doors there is some sort of general idea that there is some great fund of endowments in Ireland for the purpose of Intermediate Education which might be better applied, and which might answer all the requirements of the case. Now, your Lordships will, I think, be surprised to find that the whole of the sum available in Ireland for this class of schools—I put aside endowments for primary schools—is only £13,000 a-year, and that includes the value of buildings, which is an important item, and the number of pupils, according to the last Return, was 1,350. But, my Lords, this sum of £13,000 must be further divided. In order to give an accurate impression as to the bearing of these figures on this subject, I must subdivide these endowments into exclusive and non-exclusive schools. By exclusive schools I mean schools which are confined to the children of a particular denomination; and in Ireland it so happens, in regard to these endowments, that they are nearly all confined to children of the Protestant religion. Now, putting aside the exclusive endowments, and taking the non-exclusive, which are open to all denominations, I find that the non-exclusive endowments amount to £7,230 a-year; and that figure must be again analyzed, because it includes in the amount what are the Royal Free Schools, which are six in number—their income is £6,800 a-year, and of this a considerable part is for exhibitions in Trinity College—and of these, five are in Ulster. You have only, therefore, what remains of the £13,000 a-year, after deducting £7,230. These are, shortly, the facts as regards endowments, and they fully bear out the Report of the Commission in 1858, that it is impossible, by any re-adjustment of these endowments, to provide for the deficiency in the matter of Intermediate Education. It is quite right these endowments should be employed in the most effective way, and Her Majesty's Government have stated in "another place" that they propose to appoint a small Commission to inquire into the management of these endowments, in order to see whether the property cannot be made more productive. Putting aside the question of the Endowed Schools, I have now to ask your Lordships to consider what seem to Her Majesty's Government to be the particular reasons why it is necessary, both that the State should interfere on this subject, and why it is extremely important that something should be done at this present time. My Lords, the first reason is this—The neglect of Intermediate Education is one which is immediately connected with University Education in Ireland, and every person of all Parties is anxious, and has professed the greatest anxiety, to place the University Education of Ireland upon the best possible footing, and to extend it where it requires extension. But in order to do this, all who have thought on the subject are met at the outset with this difficulty—the necessity of obtaining a supply of students for the Universities in Ireland. These Universities, whatever they may be, and whatever may be their particular form, must depend for their supply on the intermediate schools; and if you have not proper provision for intermediate schools, it is quite useless endeavouring to improve your University Education. In the great educational building the primary schools are the foundation, and the University is the roof. You have laid in Ireland your primary foundation wide and deep enough; but it is quite idle to complete the edifice, until you have paid some attention to the walls and intermediate parts of the building. Therefore, the first reason why it appears to Her Majesty's Government absolutely necessary that some steps should be taken to improve Intermediate Education, is that these steps must be preliminary to what we are all anxious to consider—namely, the question of University Education in that country. My Lords, the next reason which appears to me almost imperatively to call for the action of the State in this matter is, that Intermediate Education in Ireland is, as I have said, in an unsatisfactory condition; and I am afraid it is not merely in an unprogressive condition, but, I am sorry to say, it is retrogressive. I will state some facts on that subject which appear to me to be extremely serious, and well deserve your Lordships' consideration. The Census of 1871, to which I have already referred, contains this information—In 1861, there were 729 intermediate schools in Ireland; and in 1871, just 10 years afterwards, the 759 had fallen to 574. Now, my Lords, that is a very grave and serious matter, and I want to ask your Lordships to consider what is the reason of that falling off. Here we have absolutely no controversy. I have looked into the reasons given by different persons—persons of all denomitions in Ireland—and I find they are all in perfect agreement as to the cause of this falling off, and they attribute it—and I am sorry to say there is too much reason for thinking they are right—to the action of the State, and I will tell your Lordships how. You have introduced into Ireland one of the most efficient systems of primary education in the world—you have provided, and provided largely, for the primary education of the children in that country, and you have done this at an extremely large cost. Parliament makes large payments every year for primary education in England and in Scotland; but the people themselves in England and Scotland aid very largely in the expenses which are incurred for primary education. But in Ireland Parliament provides the education, and provides it almost entirely at the expense of the State, and the general taxation of the country. What has been the result of this? I am sorry to say that the result has been this—and there is no dispute about it—that you have gone far to dry up the intermediate schools of that country by your primary education. There is no doubt before this system of primary education there were a great number of what we term private adventure schools in Ireland, in which of pupils, two-thirds or three-fourths were pupils receiving primary education, and one-third or one-fourth classical or higher education. These schools were maintained as private adventures; but when the State stepped in and established a system of primary instruction, it was impossible for any of these private adventure schools to compete, and the pupils who were there under primary education were withdrawn, and it became impossible any longer to maintain the schools themselves as commercial undertakings. Now, this is not a matter open to any question, and I beg to quote two authorities on the subject. The Commission on Endowed Schools in 1858 say— The evidence which we have received on the subject of Intermediate Education manifests the prevalence of a very strong feeling respecting the existence of deficiencies which now, to a great extent, debar the middle classes from the enjoyment of the inestimable advantages of good instruction. So far are these from diminishing that, in the opinion of the many witnesses, they are on the increase. This circumstance they agree in attributing to the fact that while, on the one hand, the national schools now afford to the poorer classes an elementary education of a better kind, and at a far cheaper rate than that formerly given by the private schoolmasters, on the other hand, they have displaced the schools kept by these masters, who augmented the subsistence which they chiefly derived from the humbler scholars by the fees received for instructing the children of the middle classes in the higher branches of education. And in the summary of their Report they say— We are of opinion that the establishment of a system of primary education by the Government has had the effect of greatly diminishing the resources which, though, no doubt, scanty and imperfect, formerly enabled the middle classes, to a certain extent, to provide a suitable education for their children; and that there scorns to be no prospect that the void thus left will be supplied by exertions of a purely voluntary nature. My Lords, that was the Report of the Commission of 1858; and the other Commission, the Report of which was made in 1870, speaks in an almost more emphatic manner— The Rev. Dr. M'Ivor, who has warmly advocated the introduction of classics into National Schools, says (13,639):—'The previously existing schools were very defective in many respects, particularly in the lower English subjects, yet they were mainly supported by their English pupils. The country schoolmaster would have perhaps six, eight, or ten pupils in the classical class, and 30 boys in English classes. The classical pupils were the nucleus of all superior teaching; yet, when the English boys were taken away by the competition of the national system, the master was not able to keep the classical school. These classical schools, with their superior English, are now all gone, and we have only primary schools in their stead.' I think, without dwelling longer upon that part of the subject, your Lordships will agree with me that a grave question is submitted for the consideration of Parliament—namely, whether there is not on the part of the State a special duty to examine into and, if possible, to improve the Intermediate Education of that country, when we find that it is the action of the State itself in regard to the primary schools which has exhausted the resources that formerly existed for that education. That is the second reason which, as we think, makes it imperative that some step should be taken to remedy the defects of the present system. The third reason is one of somewhat the same kind, and I think is also worthy of your Lordships' attention. The action of the State has been very remarkable in another respect—namely, with reference to what are called in that country diocesan schools. The history of those schools is very singular. They were founded in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and the intention was that they should be analogous to the English grammar schools. They were called in that, or in subsequent reigns—"The Free Grammar Schools." They were called diocesan schools, because there was to be one in every diocese in Ireland, and as there were at that time 34 dioceses, it was intended that there should be 34 of these schools. They were to be free schools, and grammar schools, and although they were called diocesan schools, they were not in their foundation required to have any connection with the Church in Ireland, but were to be open to children of all denominations. The master was to be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, and the salary of the master was to be provided for by a tax upon the Bishop and Clergy of the diocese—the Bishop contributing one-third, and the beneficed Clergy the remaining two-thirds. The expense of building the school-house was to be provided by an assessment upon the inhabitants of the diocese. There can be no doubt at all what the character of these schools was to be. They were to be free and undenominational schools. The Committee of the House of Commons on Foundation Schools, in their Report, in the year 1838, describe them in very clear and emphatic terms. They state— That the diocesan schools were intended by the Legislature to be open to all, without distinction of sect or class, and open gratuitously, at least to a large proportion; and further, that there is no law in force requiring the teacher to be of the Established religion; and Mr. Quin, the former secretary, declares no religious test is exacted, nor is there anything which could preclude a Roman Catholic or a Presbyterian from being appointed by the Lord Lieutenant (in whoso hands such right is vested) to the mastership of any one of these schools. In 1781, a very important Act of the Irish Parliament was passed, enabling the Grand Juries in Ireland to make presentments for the building and repairing of these schools. You had, therefore, in Ireland provision by the State for a very extensive system of Intermediate Education for the whole of the 34 dioceses, and provision, also, for the salaries of the schoolmasters and for school buildings. But although there was this extensive provision, the greatest number of diocesan schools for which warrants were ever issued by the Lord Lieutenant for the appointment of schoolmasters was 19 in place of 34; and in 1869, when the Irish Church Act passed, the number had dwindled down to 14. I believe the reason was that there was great reluctance on the part of Grand Juries to make presentments with regard to the buildings; but certain it is that a system which was intended to provide a free school for every diocese in the country was supporting only 14 of these schools in 1869, leaving 20 dioceses without any such provision. I cannot help thinking that the name of these schools led to a little misapprehension when the Irish Church Act came before Parliament. They were schools for which a tax was to be levied upon the Clergy, but they were not schools for the benefit of the Church. They were schools as to which the Church was paymaster, but they were to be free schools for the benefit of the whole country. So far as they existed in 1869 there were 20 dioceses without them; and to that extent, therefore, the Church benefited. The Bishops and Clergy of those dioceses had been subject to no deductions from their incomes for the payment of the schoolmasters, and when those incomes came to be assessed for compensation, no deduction from the annuities was made in respect of claims on account of the schools; though, for upwards of 300 years, the Church had been receiving very considerable sums of money which ought to have been expended in provision for diocesan schools. When the Act of 1869 was passed, the 14 schoolmasters who alone were in existence at that time received annuities in proportion to the value of their salaries. Their annuities amounted to £1,477, and 11 out of the 14 have commuted their annuities for gross sums. The result is, that the public is unprovided with the means of Intermediate Education which was provided for them by Parliament. They were to have had 34 grammar schools, and they remain without any part of the provision which was intended for them. That is a very remarkable fact, and I think your Lordships cannot but feel that, if what was intended 300 years ago had been carried into effect, we might have a very different state of things at this moment in regard to education. Now, my Lords, these are the three prominent reasons which have satisfied Her Majesty's Government that it is their duty to make a proposal on this subject to Parliament—the necessity of providing Intermediate Education as the means of supplying the Universities, and remedying the disastrous effect the action of the State, in regard to primary education, and in regard to these diocesan schools, has had upon Intermediate Education in Ireland. And, my Lords, the proposal of Her Majesty's Government I shall state very shortly. We propose that Parliament should devote to the purpose of encouraging Intermediate Education—in the way I am going to mention—a sum not exceeding £1,000,000 sterling of the surplus of the Irish Church Fund. We propose that, in the first place, a Board should be established, to be called "The Intermediate Education Board for Ireland;" and that this Board should consist of seven members, to be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. We propose that there should be two Assistant Commissioners, receiving pay, and that they should also act as secretaries to the Board, and, when required, as Inspectors. We further propose that a system of Exhibitions and Prizes should be established in the way I am about to describe. We propose that Examiners should be appointed who would hold an annual examination in the months of June and July. We propose that those examinations should be held at convenient centres throughout the country, where a sufficient number of pupils can be collected for the examination. We propose that the subjects for examination should be these—First, the ancient languages, literature, and history of Greece and Rome; second, the English language, literature, and history; third, the French, German, and Italian languages, literature and history; fourth, mathematics, including arithmetic and bookkeeping; fifth, national sciences; and sixth, such other subjects of secular education as the Board may, from time to time, prescribe. We propose that these examinations should apply to a three years' course of instruction, and that the maximum ages at which the pupils should present themselves for the examinations should be 16, 17, and 18 years respectively. We propose that the examinations, though at different centres, should be conducted in an uniform manner for the whole country. The total number of pupils who pass in three subjects being ascertained by these examinations, we propose that there should be one prize for every 10 pupils who so pass. We propose that the prizes should be of this kind—That for the first year there should be an Exhibition or Exhibitions, not exceeding £20 a-year, and tenable for three years; that for the second year there should be an Exhibition or Exhibitions, not exceeding £30 a-year, and tenable for two years; and that for the third year there should be a Prize, not exceeding £50, which, of course, would be for that year alone. We propose that there should be certain conditions attached to these Exhibitions. In the first place, that they should not be awarded to a student who held any Scholarship Exhibition or free Scholarship from any other endowment. In the second place, we propose that the student must satisfy the Board that ho has pursued his studies in Ireland for 12 months preceding the examination; and, in the next place, that to hold any of the Exhibitions which are continuing Exhibitions, the holder must present himself and pass an examination in three subjects, with a certificate of merit, in each succeeding year. So much for the proposals for rewarding the students who pass the examinations; but we propose further that absolute merit should carry a certain benefit to those to whom it is attributable. We propose to effect that in this way—that results' fees should be paid to managers of schools who send forward students able to pass in not less than two of the subjects. The scale upon which we propose that these payments shall be made is set out in a Schedule to the Bill. We propose that the payment for two subjects for the first year should not exceed £3; for three subjects, £4; four subjects, £5; that in the second year the payment should be an amount not exceeding £4 for two subjects, £5 for three subjects, £6 for four subjects, and £7 for five subjects; and that in the third year the maximum payments should be, for two subjects, £5; for three subjects, £6; for four subjects, £7; for five subjects, £8; and for six subjects, £10. My Lords, we propose that these payments should be made for what I may call, in an expressive homely phrase, the "manufactured article." We do not propose to undertake any responsibility with respect to the school, or the mode of conducting it. We do not propose to direct or control the system of administration, or the organization of the training-staff. We propose to make only three conditions, but these conditions must be adhered to. We propose that the student must have attended the school to which the payment is made from the 15th of October of the year previous to that of the examination, and have made during that time at least 100 attendances. We propose that, for the purpose of this rule, a school shall mean any educational establishment, not being a National School which affords classical or scientific education, and which has a certain minimum number of pupils attending. We propose this with the view of providing that the payments should be made, not to private teachers, but to the managers of bonâ fide schools. And we propose, as the third condition, that the Board shall not make any payment to the managers of any school unless it is shown to the satisfaction of the Board that no pupil attending such school is permitted to remain in attendance during the time of religious instruction which the parents or guardians of such pupil shall not have sanctioned, and that the time for giving such religious instruction is so fixed that no pupil not remaining in attendance is excluded directly or indirectly from the advantages of the secular education given in the school. We propose that Rules shall be framed for the purpose of effecting the objects I have mentioned; that they shall be laid in the usual way before Parliament; and that if any of the Rules shall be disapproved of by either House within 40 days after they have been presented, those rules shall become void. We also propose that certain Rules which your Lordships will find in the Schedule of the Bill, and the object of which I have generally stated, shall be the Rules for the conduct of the Board. I have now shortly explained the proposals of the Bill which we recommend to your Lordships' approval, and which we hope will receive a most favourable consideration both from your Lordships and from the other House of Parliament. I may be too sanguine; but I trust most earnestly and sincerely that this Bill may pass into law in the present Session, that we may have the satisfaction of knowing that we have at last made a step neither small nor unimportant—a step much needed and much too long delayed—towards improving the material and intellectual welfare of large classes of our fellow-subjects in Ireland.

Bill to promote Intermediate Education in Ireland—Presented (The LORD CHANCELLOR).


said, this measure appeared to him to be one which would be generally acceptable to the people of Ireland, and he was glad the noble and learned Lord had introduced it. He had seen a great deal of the working of educational matters in Ireland, and this Bill would do much to re-animate that excellent system of grammar schools which formerly existed in the country.

Bill read 1a, and to be printed. (No. 132.)

House adjourned at half past Six o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.