HL Deb 24 June 1879 vol 247 cc527-35

*: My Lords, I must once more ask your indulgence for a few remarks in moving for the Returns on the Notice Paper. I have, for the last two or three years, moved for similar Returns, hoping against hope that the Government might be persuaded to propose, and Parliament to sanction, the admission of the most emphatic and prominent recommendation of the Schools Inquiry Committee into the legislation which purported to be based upon their Report, and to embody their recommendations. I refer to the establishment of Provincial authorities for preparing and carrying out, under the supervision of the central authority, schemes for reorganizing, systematically, in large districts, endowed schools of various grades throughout the country. This recommendation, on which, in the words of Lord Lyttelton and his Colleagues, the system proposed in the Schools Inquiry Report was mainly founded, came, with all the weight attaching to a singularly able and influential Commission, as the result of their most laborious and exhaustive inquiry. Perhaps, in these days, when all the resources of the country are under strain, when England is suffering simultaneously from agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing depression, remonstrances against the wasteful misapplication of vast educational endowments may be listened to more readily than I have found they were in more prosperous times. In moving for the same Returns, I regret that they must now, when granted, show, I fear, that three-fourths of the rich inheritance of endowments, of the value of some £20,000,000 sterling, have been disposed of by the Commissioners in their schemes, without the advantage of that Provincial consultation and local cooperation which the Schools Inquiry Report described as indispensable to the satisfactory accomplishment of this great national work. I am quite prepared to admit that the Charity Commissioners, having to depend solely on Assistant Commissioners, without any intermediate and independent Provincial authorities, have honestly done their best, in their separate and isolated schemes, to turn the individual endowments to good account. But this was not the problem before the country. The evidence from all parts conclusively showed that, though the endowments were numerous and valuable, yet that the feeling or fancy of individual benefactors had, from the first, scattered them so unequally, and that in the lapse of time their values had altered so capriciously, that no mere revival of their activity—always desultory, and, latterly, often obsolete—would correspond either to the wishes of the dead founders, or to the wants of the present and future generations. This state of things naturally led the Inquiry Commissioners to the conclusion pressed upon them by witnesses of the highest authority—that dealing with the schools in groups was an absolute necessity, and, further, that having local Provincial boards to deal with them was a corresponding necessity. Meanwhile, since the Report of that Committee, the whole educational question, as affecting all classes from the highest to the lowest, has assumed an entirely new aspect. I will not now stop to examine the process by which the wage class, with the addition of a constantly growing proportion of the class next above them, have been encouraged to expect unstinted instruction to be provided for their children, at a nominal cost to themselves, as parents, and a correspondingly heavy one to the ratepayer and the taxpayer. Nor will I pause now to inquire as to the probable influence of such a novel prospect upon the character and fortunes of our peculiar country and people. But, if the result should be inevitable, and the elementary schools of England are permanently to be sustained out of public resources, while selfishly deprecating this new burden upon my property, and even more seriously deprecating the debased, because pauperized, tone of education which my own and other employers' labourers' children must, I fear, receive under the threatened fuller development of such a system, yet I would earnestly protest in this House, as I have in my own neighbourhood, against a reduction of the rates upon my land, or the taxes on my means, by the misapplication of these endowments towards elementary schools. While wage-earning parents and their charitable friends were bearing the whole burden of their children's schooling, there was a reasonable claim, not only on benefactions destined ad hoc by those donors, but even on those whose re-distribution had, through altered times and circumstances, reverted to the disposal of public authorities. But as this burden is now being shifted on to the ratepayer and the taxpayer, it is impossible to employ, with anything like equity, these diverse and capriciously located endowments for the relief of the general property of the country. I regret, therefore, to see, by the last Report of the Charity Commissioners, that out of 481 schemes for regulating schools under the Endowed Schools Act, no less than 203 have been for the benefit of elementary schools. The true application of these endowments should be in sustaining and elevating that education which is above the elementary—that intermediate education into which Lord Taunton's Commission so laboriously inquired, on which it so fully reported, and. with regard to which its recommendations were so clear, so emphatic, so statesmanlike, and, alas! so unheeded by the late and the present Government. And when I speak of intermediate education, I look to its important bearing, not only on the middle class, properly so called, but on the most promising and deserving of the class below. While, therefore, I have been sorry to see in that Report that out of 481 of these schools' schemes no less than 203 were elementary, I am still more sorry to see that of the remaining 278 not more than 114 were 3rd grade, exactly the same number are of 2nd grade, the remaining 50 being 1st grade. Now, the Schools Inquiry states emphatically that the great want in England is good 3rd grade schools, that their numbers are deficient, and that the general condition of the existing ones is most unsatisfactory; and that the want is one which private enter-prize cannot, as it could in the 1st and 2nd grades, be at all relied upon to supply; for this obvious reason—that as soon as the 3rd grade schoolmaster has acquired a reputation for the excellence of his school, he is at once induced to raise his terms, and thus convert his 3rd grade into a 2nd grade school. Pressed by the want of 3rd grade schools, the needful assistance for the establishment of which had thus been directed to schools far less requiring such aid, the ratepayers are beginning, in their despair, to demand, a State-and-rate-aided 3rd grade education for their children at elementary schools. And in this they are encouraged by the whole body of bureaucratic educational enthusiasts in Downing Street and elsewhere. I cited last year the case of Bradford, where a grammar school exists; but it is so instructive that perhaps I may be allowed to read the report of what took place in the House of Commons on this subject last Session. Mr. WHEELHOUSE asked the Vice President of the Council, Whether the following statement, issued by the School Board of Bradford, Yorkshire, be the legitimate object of any School Board formed under the Elementary Education Acts, seeing that each school is supported by rates:— ' The design of the Board is to provide in both these schools a superior elementary education; to realize this object the course will be more enlarged than that of the ordinary elementary schools, and the instruction will be carried further by special teaching than has been found practicable in such schools; whether or not it be with the knowledge and sanction of the Educational Department of the Privy Council that ratepayers under the Elementary Education Acts should be called upon, compulsorily, to pay for pupils who, under the Board School system, are taught the subjects named under the ' second' head of the following curriculum:— ' First, the subjects included in the Six Standards of the New Code—viz., reading, recitation, writing, arithmetic, dictation, grammar, composition, geography, history, object lessons, drill, vocal music, and needlework (for girls). Second, drawing, English literature, social economy, and the specific subjects of the New Code—viz., Latin, French, mathematics—algebra and euclid, physical geography, mechanics, animal physiology, domestic economy (for girls). Chemistry, botany, and other sciences may be taken up, without extra charge, in evening classes, under the Science and Art Department;' and, if not, whether steps will be taken by the Council to prevent the provisions of the Elementary Education Acts being so applied? "Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: Sir, some time back the Bradford School Board started, as an experiment, an advanced elementary school. This experiment met with much support, so much so that a requisition, largely signed by ratepayers, was sent to the Board, asking them to establish another advanced elementary school. The Board applied to the Education Department for leave to charge in these schools a uniform rate of 9d. under the Elementary Education Act, and the Department consented, having taken adequate steps to protect children in the district whose parents were unable to pay the higher fee. All the subjects proposed to be taught, with the exception of social economy, are recognized and paid for by the Education ' Department. I am not, therefore, prepared to admit that the proposal of the Bradford School Board is contrary to the provisions of the Elementary Education Acts."—[3 Hansard, ccxxxix. 1371-2.] The extra cost beyond the parents' pence—and not all of them are to pay even 9d. a-week—the extra cost of all this—I should till lately have said 3rd grade, I must now say advanced elementary education—-is divided between the rates and the Treasury. We have many of us seen the recent letter in The Times describing how a tradesman with a splendid shop-front in Regent Street, and a villa in the suburbs, sent his children to a Board school; no doubt an advanced elementary school. We know that the last year's cost per head of the children to the London School Board was about £3 10s., and the average payment from parents 6s., leaving £3 4s. to be divided between the rates and the Treasury. No wonder that the annual Estimate for Education should, in a few years, have risen from £500,000 to £2,500,000. Where is it to stop if advanced elementary schools are to be multiplied? Now, rates are levied on real property alone, and the annual income from real property, we learn from the best authorities, does not exceed one-fifth of the total income enjoyed in the country. This is a fresh burden on land wholly imposed on it within less than 10 years, but assuming this now and alarming aspect within the last five years. Pray remember, I am not here protesting against the Elementary Education Act. It may be necessary that, like the pavement of the street, the mere groundwork of education should be provided by money raised from the public; but there must be a point where, as in the case of streets and houses, private obligations with their corresponding privileges begin. Between the public street and private home stands the door. The water and light provided free to the ratepayer outside have to be paid for by the householder within; for such tax-and-rate-paid-conveniences cannot be supplied within gratis without sapping the very foundation of independent citizenship. I am not, therefore, protesting against elementary education properly limited—in a word, against the three R's—being provided more or less at the public cost; remembering only that, for the good of the parents, it is desirable that their own contributions towards it should be fully proportioned to their means. But I do earnestly protest against more than the common groundwork being so provided —against a costly superstructure of education, against Latin and French, and algebra and chemistry, and much more besides, being taught at the public expense. Wo hear much of the dispauperizing influence of education. But I am afraid that, in the case of the children getting, almost wholly at the expense of their fellow-citizens, an education which their parents could well pay, and a few years ago would certainly have paid for them, the practical lesson of dependence on State-and-rate aid will far more than counteract any lessons on the blessings of independence inculcated in the course of their studies. And the worst is, that as the children will be, so the parents are now being, demoralized and enervated by this system. Educational aids from benefactions of pious founders do not seem to produce at all the same effect as the experience of the working of our great schools and Universities for centuries seem to prove. Scholarships for the deserving could be amply supplied out of the £20,000,000 of educational endowments already mentioned. But these £20,000,000 might do much more than provide the means of rising for the meritorious poor scholar; they might sustain and assist schools of various grades for both sexes, by which the families of all other classes except the highest—who have long benefited, but not exclusively, by the public school and University endowments—might be helped to hold their own in the increasing struggles of an age of increasing intellectual competition. For that purpose, I more than ever believe in the importance of intermediate local authorities to co-operate with the central authority in the great national work of intermediate education. And I have observed with pain the omission of all allusion to any such duties in the various abortive measures for county government brought in by the present Administration. In conclusion, I may be allowed to say that in protesting both against what I consider the mischievous transgression beyond the professed, and, in my opinion, proper, limits of the Elementary Education Act, and against the persistent neglect of the most impor- tant of the recommendations announced to be the basis of the Endowed Schools Act—a neglect leading to extensive misapplication, though not abuse, of endowments—-I feel I am only acting consistently with that earnest desire for the promotion of education among all classes of my countrymen, under the influence of which I have strenuously laboured ever since I came to man's estate.

Moved that there be laid before the House— Return made out, county by county, in continuation of Return respecting the Endowed Schools Acts, Paper No. (5.), ordered to be printed on the 13th of February 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 (5.), 1879, of each school under the Scheme in force, as well as the total number and grades of such schools.—(The Earl Fortescue.)


said, ho was not prepared for a speech from the noble Earl upon a Motion for a Return to which there was no opposition, and which Return was in continuation of former Returns on the same subject. However, the noble Earl moved annually for these Returns, and annually made a speech upon the subject, and it was his (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon's) duty to make a reply. The noble Earl complained of the action of the Charity Commissioners. For himself (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon), it was his duty to say that he was perfectly satisfied with the manner in which those gentlemen had carried out the duties of their Office. The noble Earl said that he would not touch upon the operation of the Education Act of 1870; but the last part of the noble Earl's speech was against the manner in which the Commissioners had carried out the provisions of that Act. But what the Commissioners had done was legally done. The noble Earl stated that the Charity Commissioners had dealt with elementary education, and made grants towards it under certain schemes. But the money they had appropriated to such schemes was money expressly left for that purpose. But he preferred to rest the conduct of the Commissioners, not upon his own approbation, but upon the approbation of the country, and upon the approbation of those persons who were most nearly and closely interested and connected with the operation of their schemes. Out of the 75 schemes which were produced last year by the Commissioners, only seven were opposed in Parliament. Upon only one of those seven was there a division taken; and that scheme, as proposed by the Commissioners, was carried by a large majority. Their work was best judged by the results. There would be no objection to the Returns; and, in conclusion, he was glad to state that the Charity Commissioners had shown great diligence and energy, and had in the most proper manner carried on the duties of their Office.


wished to observe that, as regarded the diligence and energy of the Commissioners, he could state that he had never met with any Office where the correspondence took such an extraordinarily long time to answer; and that feeling he had heard expressed in the country. He would now hope that the Charity Commissioners would, in future, after what the noble Duke had said, exhibit that ordinary diligence and activity which were shown by, and expected from, persons who received large salaries from the country for the transaction of the duties of their Office. He understood that all the Charity Commissioners took at the same time of the year what was called their "long vacation," and left the business of the Department to stand over for weeks, if not months; and, consequently, no correspondence could be carried on. He certainly thought that some of the Commissioners should remain at the Office all the year round and attend to the business which was necessary, so that it should not be quite stopped for weeks or months.


said, that he must say a word on behalf of the Charity Commissioners. He thought it would have been fairer if the noble Earl, instead of bringing so general a charge against the Commissioners, had stated instances in which the alleged delay had occurred, so that he (Lord Clinton), as a Charity Commissioner, might have had the opportunity of giving some answer or explanation. He could assure the noble Earl that at no period of the year was the Office entirely closed, except on the Bank and other general holidays, and he must protest against the charge that the Commissioners neglected the correspondence of their Office.

Motion agreed to; Return ordered to be laid before the House.