HL Deb 06 July 1880 vol 253 cc1735-47

on rising to ask the Lord President of the Council, Whether almost all of the Inspectors of the Education Department had not in their last Reports deprecated the grants to Elementary Schools for results in examination on specific subjects in the Fourth Schedule, as leading to bad secondary instruction and to the neglect of the primary, and as checking a better provision of secondary education to which scholarships might be given to clever children of the working classes; and whether the Reports of the present year, not yet published, did not express the same view even more strongly; and whether he will lay on the Table an extract from each Inspector's Report of any remarks on the specific subjects? said, he only wished to add that he thought it should be made public that the Inspectors of the Education Department took the view which their Lordships by a large majority took about a week ago, when he moved an Address upon the subject. He submitted that the opinion of the Inspectors was of much greater weight than that of the school boards upon this subject, who were notoriously wishing to keep children at their schools to the age of 18—that was, to have the secondary education of the country, how ever taught, in their hands, even though such teaching might stand in the way of better education, both primary and secondary. The opinion of the Inspectors was also of more importance than that of school managers, who were afraid to lose the 4s. grants attached to examinations in the Fourth Schedule; though he would make up that loss by another grant, beyond that for reading, for understanding what was read. The Address for excluding attempts at studying sciences and foreign languages from elementary instruction was taken by some for a retrograde step in education, instead of what it really was, an emancipation from mischievous confusion of education. The distinction of secondary and special from primary and general education was recognized everywhere but in our Code. In Scotland both were carried on in the same school —but kept distinct as to age, subject, and rate of payment—not interfering the one with the other. The distinction was recognized in the schools of all European countries; and, though Mr. Munuella had stated in the other House that elementary education was carried higher in other countries than in this, he could refer to the evidence given before the Endowed Schools Commissioners in 1868 to prove the reverse of that statement. The elementary course did not in any country include as much as our class subjects, nor have anything like our Fourth Schedule of scientific study in it. In the extracts from Inspectors' Reports, which he had circulated, the Fourth Schedule was shown to be not only mischievously in the way of primary education, but worthless as secondary. Such instruction was described as dry and technical, and such as might be expected from teachers who had got it up from meagre text-books. He had just seen the Report of a London Board School, Bermondsey, in which it was said that far too much was sacrificed to these specific subjects, which showed only a moderate result. The National Society and the School Managers' Association had petitioned that day, strongly taking the view of the late Address; and he had no doubt that more and more such Petitions would come in as the point became understood. As he understood the Lord President to say that though he would not promise to expunge this Fourth Schedule and make way for better secondary education, which would then be abundantly opened to all classes, this year, yet he left himself free to deal with the entire Code next year, he was content to wait till the strong opinions of his Inspectors, and the support which would come from all sides throughout the country, should confirm him in the conclusion at which he could not but think he had already arrived. The noble Lord concluded by asking the Question of which he had given Notice.


said, he had undertaken to inquire into the whole of this subject before the next Session of Parliament; and while he did not deprecate any expression of opinion on it that evening, he was exceedingly glad to hear the noble Lord state that it was not his intention to again bring it forward this Session. While wishing to guard himself against being led into a debate on the present occasion, he wished, in consequence of something said by the noble Lord, to say that he had the highest respect for the views of the experienced and distinguished gentlemen who acted as Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools. He thought their opinions on this subject were of great weight; but he still maintained that the opinions of the school boards on it were also entitled to high consideration. He was glad to see that the noble Lord had revised his Question by inserting before "all of the Inspectors" the important word "almost." There were some 126 Inspectors; but only about 27 of them reported each year. It was quite true that many of the Inspectors complained of the manner in which children answered questions on primary education; but that was a very different thing from recommending that the Fourth Schedule be expunged. Some Inspectors advocated certain special subjects, others advocated others; it was, therefore, unfair to say that, as a body, they wished to have special subjects wholly done away with. The synopsis of the opinions of School Inspectors, which the noble Lord opposite had referred to, was so inaccurate that he could not refrain from correcting it in one or two particulars. Inspector Arnold was represented as desiring the exclusion from Schedule IV. of, among other subjects, Latin and French. Now, as to these, what did Mr. Arnold say?— Everyone is agreed as to the exceptional position of Latin among the languages for our study. Our schoolboy of 13 will do little with his rudiments of Latin unless he carries on his education beyond the scope of our elementary schools and their programmes. But if he does carry it beyond that scope, Latin is almost a necessity for him. By allowing Latin as a special subject for a certain number of scholars in our elementary schools we are but recognizing that necessity. Mr. Arnold continued:— French, too, has a special claim. To know the rudiments of French has a commercial value…Here is a reason for admitting French to our list of extra subjects. Mr. Fitch's views, again, were not accurately represented, owing to the omission of a qualifying passage. Mr. Fitch said:— The claims of science, English literature) physical geography, domestic economy, and the other specific subjects, appear to me to be much higher than Latin, French, or German. For every one of these can be carried to a point, even before the age of 13, far enough to possess real value, and what is still more important, every one of them is so connected with the rest of the course that it can be begun and taught in a rudimentary way even in the lowest classes. He was sorry to detain their Lordships; but he felt bound to point out the inaccuracies which he had mentioned, and which did not stand alone. It seemed to him that to quote isolated passages from Reports without the qualification of the context was scarcely fair. As to the Fourth Schedule, no doubt a considerable difference of opinion existed. In reference to the last part of the Question, the Reports this year certainly continued to be more unfavourable to these subjects; but they all pointed to one thing—that children should be placed in a higher standard before they were allowed to take these special subjects. This was a matter which he had said before he would take into account and consider, and he would most carefully go into the subject during the Recess; and it would be a matter of great gratification to him if he could arrive at a solution of the difficulty which would meet with the general concurrence of their Lordships.


wished to take that opportunity of correcting an erroneous impression which appeared to exist out-of-doors, that those noble Lords who voted in favour of the Address to the Crown, the other night, were desirous of stopping the education of the children of the people. He, for one, had always been most anxious that the scholars of elementary schools should have an opportunity of rising to secondary education, and that view was not in- consistent with disapproval of the Fourth Schedule. A few days ago he had the honour to preside at a meeting of the Council of the General Association of Church School Managers and Teachers; and while the meeting was desirous of promoting the education of the children of the elementary schools, it was unanimously of opinion, and had drawn up a Petition to that effect, that at present the interests of those children were really injured by the Fourth Schedule. What they desired to see was facilities afforded to the children of elementary schools for continuing their education in secondary schools.


My Lords, I am glad the noble Earl opposite (Earl Nelson) has made the explanation he has now given, because it is undoubtedly true that a general impression prevails out-of-doors that the vote of this House the other night was a"re-actionary"vote—a vote in contradistinction to and calculated to arrest the progress of education. I am convinced that the majority of those Peers who voted on that occasion have no wish to lower the standard of education. The fault was their own, both from their speeches and their votes; and I am, I confess, very much puzzled to understand how the noble Duke could have concurred in a vote, not for the Amendment of the Fourth Schedule, not for the preservation of those modifications of it which he himself initiated, and for which there is much to be said—I am puzzled to make out how he could have voted in favour of striking out the whole of the Fourth Schedule altogether. The allusion of the noble Earl (Earl Nelson) has also convinced me that the views I hold on the subject have been misunderstood, and I am confirmed in that by the fact that the noble Earl on the Bench below me (Earl Fortescue), who voted on that side the other night, has sent me a pamphlet on the subject, with almost every word of which I find I concur. There were two distinct propositions in that pamphlet, and one is that the middle-class and secondary education shall not be paid for out of the rates. In that opinion I entirely concur. I hold it as strongly as any noble Lord on the other side of the House that we should, as far as possible, not provide for secondary or what is called middle-class education out of the rates, which are intended for primary education; but then, my Lords, there was a second proposition which was entirely distinct, and that was that in primary schools you should not teach any elements except the elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic, a wholly separate proposition, and from that I wholly dissent. I hold that there are many subjects of which you can teach the elements in primary schools. That is a totally different proposition from the others to which I have referred. Perhaps the noble Lord opposite will say, how do you distinguish between secondary or middle-class education and primary education? There are but two ways of distinguishing between these two subjects, and they are by definition as to age, and also by limitation of expense. The attempt to separate the two kinds of education by exclusion of particular subjects is to my mind wholly futile and erroneous, because there is no subject of which you cannot reach the elements, and any distinction breaks down entirely if you follow the principle laid down by the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon), because I believe he is the author of the paragraph in the Education Code which introduces class subjects. The definition of class subjects is this — subjects that can be taught by means of reading lessons. Now, what can be taught by means of reading lessons, or what is there that cannot be taught by means of reading? Hardly any. To refer to what I have already said on the subject of education in Scotland— and I can say this, that in the course of reading lessons given in that country all sorts of subjects are taught to the children with great success—I shall never forget, about 20 years ago, going into a little school in one of the Western Highlands of Scotland. It was a school which externally would have raised the horror of the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council. It would not have suited any of the rules laid down by him. It was what was called a dry stone building, with a thatched roof and a mud floor. On going into the school I found in it a number of children, extremely poor, reading a lesson with extraordinary intelligence of expression. One of the first subjects given to the children to read me was a description of how metallic ores were treated before the smelt- ing process. The noble Lord opposite will say, "How extremely absurd to teach metallurgy to poor children in a small school of that kind." Well, my Lords, there was a little boy not more than 10 years old who read an extract describing how lead ore was treated. The description said that it was pounded and subjected to a current of running water in order to free it from extraneous matters. My Lords, I thought it was impossible that a poor child who was hardly clothed could have understood the meaning of such a word as "extraneous." I thought it was a mere "cram," and that he would be unable to answer any other question about this elaborate metallurgical process; and, wishing to test him, I asked him—"Now my boy, what is the meaning of 'extraneous?'" He looked at me in the greatest surprise and astonished that I did not know, and at once answered the question by saying—"Not belonging to it." Now, my Lords, I will put that question—"What is the meaning of the word 'extraneous?'" to many highly cultivated persons, and nine out of 10, however highly cultivated they may be, will fail to give me as clear and complete an answer as that little child. It shows what can be elicited from children when extracts from various subjects, however scientific, are intelligently taught; and I came to the conclusion, looking at the intelligence manifested by the children in their reading lessons, that a great deal of the intelligence was derived from the fact that they are bilingual, the language used at the schools being English, and that used at their homes being Gaelic, and that the attempt to translate their ideas from one to the other was in itself a process which brought out the highest intellectual powers. My Lords, I cannot help thinking that it is a great advantage to teach in primary schools the elements of French and Latin. In Scotland they teach all the children the elements of Latin and of French on payment of a small fee; and if it were possible to teach the children in the primary schools in this country the elements of French and Latin, and so compel them to translate their ideas from one language to another, I am convinced that you will introduce into the schools a most powerful element for bringing out the intelligence of the children. I am confirmed in this view by some observations of the Welsh Inspectors; and I may say here at once, on seeing the Notice of the noble Lord opposite, I referred to the Reports in your Lordships' Library, and on going through them I at once ascertained the extreme inaccuracy of the extracts quoted by the noble Lord (Lord Norton). I do not doubt but that he was perfectly honest in his intention; but he read these Reports with one idea in his mind, and, like every other man who reads through long documents with a fixed intention, he saw nothing but that which supported his own view. In his remarks he has quoted a passage from Mr. Arnold's Report; but Mr. Arnold distinctly says that he is in favour of introducing the elements both of Latin and French into elementary schools. Now, my Lords, going to another part of the country, where the children are also bi-lingual, I find there is great inducement offered in the new Code for the efficient teaching of extra subjects, thus giving great impetus to the work of education now attempted in all the schools of Wales, and which have been productive of the greatest improvement and in increasing the intelligence of the children in ordinary subjects. I have mentioned to your Lordships a case of the intelligence of children in Scotland, who by reading most of them could understand the science of metallurgy; but I venture to say you might have got extracts from a great many scientific writers of former times which would be equally intelligible to the ordinary children in the schools of the country. I was only reading the other day a subject which I certainly thought it would be impossible for children to understand in the elementary schools. I refer to the "Optics" of Sir Isaac Newton, and I found there a passage explaining the cause of the decay of human sight, and why it was that spectacles were useful to aged persons, described, as your Lordships can imagine, in magnificent English, and after reading it, I was perfectly convinced that you might even, by judicious extracts from the writings of our great writers, teach in our elementary schools the elements of most of the sciences. If the noble Earl can explain away the impression produced out-of-doors by the recent vote of the House, I think it will be a great advantage. The Lord President of the Council has promised that he will consider the subject in the Recess, and, no doubt, he will do so in the sincere desire to meet the views of the great majority of the House; but your Lordships must feel it is impossible for Her Majesty's Government, in consequence of a vote of either House of Parliament, to expunge from the Code a great variety of the teaching which for nine or ten years has been enjoyed by the working classes of the country. I do not think that the demands made by the working classes will be met by a few exhibitions being established here and there. I am convinced that your Lordships do not wish to lower the standard of education, but will be willing to leave with elementary teaching a great variety of subjects, in order that the parents of the scholars may select for themselves what subjects they would like their children to be examined upon.


said, he should not have taken part in the discussion but for the remarks which had been made by the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll). The Lord President of the Council had promisd that he would, during the Recess, take the subject into his consideration, with a view of meeting the views of the great majority of their Lordships. He sincerely hoped, however, that in doing so he would not call into his council the advice of the noble Duke.


interposing, said, he could not promise to carry out the views of the majority of the House; but simply that he would take care that the views of their Lordships were not left out of account.


said, anyhow he hoped the advice of the noble Duke would not be called in, inasmuch as the noble Duke entirely differed from the views which a few nights before found favour with the great majority of the House. In the Act of 1872 a line was drawn which was omitted from the Act of 1870, and which rendered necessary the limitations of the Fourth Schedule which Her Majesty's present Advisers proposed should be struck out. He (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) had been charged with wishing to expunge the Fourth Schedule from the Code. Why did he wish to do so? Because the Government had struck out the safeguard, without which the provisions could not be properly worked. The limitation of age was, for instance, struck out. That, he thought, ought not to have been done. The noble Duke some years ago was in favour of limits—


So I am now.


But those limitations which were in the Code had been struck out by the Government. These were the reasons which induced him to vote as he did the other night; and if the matter were brought forward again he should give a similar vote, as he had not been convinced that he was wrong in the course which he took on that occasion. He would like to know from the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville), who was in some part responsible for the Education Act, whether it was right to extend this education all over the country without those safeguards which he (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) so much wished to obtain, because some years ago the noble Earl supported the revised Code, which only allowed the "three R's" to be taught.


expressed approval of the speech of the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council, and said that he should be quite satisfied if village boys could be taught to read and to understand what they read.


said, he wished to clear himself of the charge of inconsistency which had been levelled against him. He had been asked whether he was not partly responsible for the revised Code of the "three R's." Well, it should be remembered that it was provided in connection with that Code that there should be a reduction in the grants to a school if the general teaching of the school was not of an intelligent character. Since the time when this provision was made a larger number of subjects had certainly been introduced into elementary schools, for which state of things no one was more responsible than the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon); and when the noble Duke talked of want of consistency he could say that he (Earl Granville) had been more consistent than he had himself, because, when the subject was first introduced by the noble Lord (Lord Norton), he had treated the arguments of the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) in the most contemptuous manner, and then, on the last occasion, suddenly-turned round, and instead of proposing to amend the Schedule by the introduction of safeguards, voted en bloc against it.


pointed out that it was one thing not to interfere with the subjects taught in a school, but another to give payment for those subjects. Some subjects which were read about in schools formed an excellent adjunct to a child's education; but when they were paid for the teachers were really being bribed to neglect their primary duty—namely, that of teaching the children intrusted to their care how to read. Whatever inducements might be offered by the State in its desire to extend the advantages of education, care should be taken not to encourage the teacher to avoid the dull and tedious, but most important, task of teaching his scholars to read well. Besides, the moment they directed the attention of teachers to these special subjects by making grants towards them they would find that the bright children would be pushed to pass the examinations to the disadvantage of the general education of the school. They would give a smattering of the higher subjects that would tend to raise the children in their own conceit, but would leave them absolutely without a knowledge of the rudiments of education. He repeated what he said the other evening, that it was impossible to find children in our elementary schools who could read well. It was of infinitely more importance that a boy should read well than he should be able to show off the little he had learnt in one of these subjects.


considered that it was injurious to introduce special subjects into elementary schools, because it induced the teachers to neglect some pupils in order to advance others who showed more aptitude and intelligence in special subjects. While that was the case there ought to be some check that could be brought to bear upon them.


protested, on his own behalf and on that of his right rev. Friend (the Bishop of Exeter), against the allegation that they were reactionary in this matter, or opposed to a further diffusion of education among the wage-earning class. He (Earl Fortescue) had again and again in his time dwelt upon the injustice done in not extending more widely exhibitions and scholarships in the endowed schools for their benefit. What they contended against was giving second-grade education in elementary schools. He felt, however, satisfied with the assurance given by his noble Friend the Lord President of the Council.


said, that he had some personal knowledge of young men educated in some of their National Schools; and his experience differed greatly from that of his noble Friend (Viscount Sherbrooke). He ventured to say there were some who read and spelt as well as, and even better than, a large proportion of the sons of gentlemen of the same age, and who certainly spelt better than some sons of gentlemen with whom he had occasionally come in contact. He believed that the education given by the National Schools in reading, writing, and arithmetic, was at least as good as that received, in the same elementary subjects, by the higher classes. He entirely concurred in the principle enunciated by the noble Duke below the Gangway (the Duke of Somerset), who said that in this matter they ought to consider not only the children in the towns, but those in the rural districts also; only he would add the converse proposition, that they should consider not agricultural children only, but also those in the large manufacturing and other towns. They should consider not only one class, but children of all classes. If they did not bridge over the transition from primary to elementary education by giving such facilities as they could for learning something more, consistently with the main objects of the elementary system of education, they would, in his opinion, make a great mistake. It came to the knowledge of the Oxford University Commission, of which he (the Lord Chancellor) was a Member, through an influentially signed Petition from Manchester, that in cities and towns where the population was large, many of the poorest boys in the elementary schools were discovered to have quite sufficient ability to learn not only the elementary subjects, but to pass through the elementary schools into higher schools, and so to the Universities. Those boys could not have been sent, in the first instance, to a second-grade school; they could not pass to such a school without some help; and, if a hard and fast line were drawn between the teaching in the elementary school and that in the school above it, they would never have been qualified to go forward. That was a state of things of which he thought it would be a very great error indeed on the part of those who presided over the Educational Department not to take notice. He was perfectly convinced that if Inspectors did their duty there would be no difficulty whatever in reconciling such facilities as the Fourth Schedule gave for learning something more, with the highest efficiency in the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic; and, where the subjects in the Fourth Schedule were taught, with good results, he could see no reason for discouraging, or not encouraging them.


asked the noble Earl (Earl Spencer) if he would give the House extracts from the Inspectors' Reports both of last year and the present giving their opinion on the Fourth Schedule? The extracts which he had circulated were such as related to this subject as referred to in the margins, and were ipsissima verba from the Reports themselves, and he maintained that they were not qualified in substance by the contexts.


said, he must object to give extracts. The Reports would shortly be laid on the Table in the usual manner, and he hoped that they would be sufficient for the noble Lord.