HL Deb 31 May 1880 vol 252 cc742-66

LORD NORTON rose to move— That the present introduction of secondary instruction in the publicly aided elementary schools requires consideration; and that the Code of Regulations of the Committee of Council on Education be referred to a Select Committee for revision and simplification.

The noble Lord said, the subject would not brook delay. When he first gave the Notice the recent elections of school boards had led to a general discussion, which was enough to show the necessity for some Parliamentary inquiry on the subject. Since then, the Report of the Education Department had disclosed internal misgivings which, following on previous criticism on the part of the Inspectors themselves, called for a decision as to changes going on. Above all, a Petition from the London School Board now raised the fundamental question as to the age of children up to which education should be publicly provided, whether 18 or 14— that was, whether to the end of the second period of education or only the first. He might add that the change of Ministry, as a point of new departure, made the consideration still more opportune. He did not wish to cast the slightest blame on the school boards of the country. He thought the country was much indebted to them for vigorous, unpaid services, which had wrought wonderful progress. He asked for no alteration of the Education Acts. He rather called in question a departure from them. He did not now ask for any consideration of the expenditure, though that was a very serious matter, and one much in the dark. The charge on the rates was rapidly increasing without the slightest control, except that of re-election, and they might elect the very stingiest man in private life—he became extravagant when dealing with public money. When a sum of £2,000,000 a-year was stated to be spent on National Education there had to be added a nearly equal sum in the way of voluntary contributions, and the fees amounted to more than £500,000. There was also omitted the expenditure on reformatory and industrial schools, pauper schools, Fine Arts, and schools in other departments which ought all to be gathered under one Department of Public Instruction. What he complained of was not the amount, but one particular appropriation of this expenditure. To remonstrances about the amount, the London School Board always replied that they were adding thousands of children to their schools; but this reply left two main questions open—First, Were the children those suited and intended for these schools? Secondly, Was the schooling given suited to the intention? He would show what had from the first been, and still was, the avowed intention of Parliament; then how they were departing from it; then he would ask consideration whether they should adopt that departure, and, if so, whether it should not be in a very different way? National Education was begun in this country nearly a century ago by private societies — the National, and British and Foreign. Their work was taken up by Parliament about half a century ago. The Reference to the first Committee of the House of Commons on the subject was— Better provision of education for the poorer classes, the present being limited in extent and defective in quality.

In 1816, Lord Brougham obtained a Select Committee on "the education of the lower orders,' who reported that" a large number of poor children were without means of instruction." In 1833, Lord Althorp obtained a Parliamentary grant of £20,0C0, described in the Treasury Minute as In aid of private subscriptions for educating children of the poorer classes, and to he kept strictly to that purpose.

In 1838, Mr. Slaney's Committee was "on the education of the poorer classes," and reported that There were worthless day and dame schools, and the education of the working class was lamentable, and strenuous efforts on the part of Government were urgently needed.

In 1846, the well-known Minutes of that year referred expressly to Schools for the poor, in which reading, writing, and the first four rules of arithmetic and elements of geography were to he taught, and sewing to the girls.

But the debate in 1870 on the present ruling Act was the latest expression of the intention of Parliament. Its author, Mr. Forster, to whom the country was greatly indebted, stated that his object "was a primary popular education, affecting not only the intellectual, but the moral training of a vast proportion of the population." "But," said he, "who is to pay? Some are for giving up school fees, now amounting to £420,000 a-year, and soon likely to be trebled; and this for elementary education only." He added, the middle classes will soon step in, and say, "There must be education found for us also. America will be quoted again." [See 3 Hansard, cxcix. 438–454.] In the debate on the amending Act of 1876, Lord Sandon, as Minister, gave it as his idea that No child should he allowed to enter life's struggle without having those simple tools needed by present civilization, and Mr. Bright, in a debate raised by Mr. Dixon, said what was wanted was the "three R's," not teaching too many things, but to put the child's foot on the ladder by which he might rise. The intention is clearly elementary teaching of children of the working class.

He would now show how they were departing from that intention, So far back as 1860, the Commissioners on Popular Education reported that The children were not, in fact, receiving the kind of education they required; the instruction was too ambitious and too superficial in its character, and too exclusively adapted to the elder scholars to the neglect of the younger.

In one of the debates of 1876, Lord Sandon said the present plan "deprives a child of the tools he wants by giving him wrong ones." Mr. Bright said "the education given was not worth the price paid for its purpose." In a debate raised by Mr. Yorke last year, Lord George Hamilton, as Minister, said— They had drifted from a position in which the grant was given to promote local voluntary effort in extending education among the working classes to a position were any person could send his child to an elementary school, in which, provided the fees charged were not more than 9c?. per week, a portion of the cost of that education would be defrayed by the State."— [3 Hansard, ccxlvi. 1643.]

But what said Mr. Matthew Arnold, senior Inspector of the Department, in the Report of last year? He prayed for more simplicity in teaching children from 4 to 14, and observed that none were intended to stay to 14 unless they could not get a certificate to leave sooner. He said— The system becomes ambitious and complicated, attracting the attention of a number of ingenious and active-minded men. Some knowledge, I allow, may be given in the most elementary practice of reading and a faculty for reading given; but children of that age are not subjects for mathematics, German, mechanics, animal physiology, and physical geography.

Such were the "specific subjects" of secular instruction now introduced in what was called the 4th Schedule. He saw that the Liverpool and Birmingham School Boards had appointed an officer called a Demonstrator, at a salary of £250, to see to these studies being systematically carried out, with the addition, for pupil-teachers, of acoustics, light and heat, magnetism, and electricity. No one grudged these children the very best education they could get in school up to the early time when their education took the form of industry, nor the means of rising to higher schools, or of obtaining for themselves further knowledge after. He was giving proof of that himself at this moment, attempting to prepare better reading books than those in use. But cramming bits of incipient science into the course of primary instruction was not the best education, though the earliest practice of reading might enlist interest and thought in its process by taking subjects of consecutive study. The Commissioners of 1868 well laid down the axiom That it is useless beginning to teach children who cannot remain at school beyond the age of 14 such subjects as require a longer time for their proper study.

Elementary schools should give the faculty and taste for intelligent reading, not a swallow of fragments of knowledge which could not be followed up, nor digested, nor even retained. The fact was, when the State took up what private societies had started so well that they could not keep pace with their own work, the work inevitably assumed a more ambitious aspect. When such men as Lords Brougham and Russell were its advocates in Parliament, and Sir Kaye - Shuttleworth and Bishop Temple out; and wranglers and first-class men were made Inspectors and wrote essays for Reports; when special Colleges trained ideal teachers, and Sir Henry Cole brought Royal patronage down to elementary drawing, no wonder an advance beyond first intention. What specially needed observation was that the advance had not been made by Parliament, but by the Executive Department. For a striking instance of this, the Act of 1876 authorized the franking from fees of a child who at the age of 11 could get a certificate of proficiency in reading, writing, and arithmetic, subject to the regulations of the Department; upon which the Department immediately made a regulation adding their specific subjects to the "three R's," so entirely altering the legislative provision; and now that the Code proposed to restrict the specific subjects to the higher standards, this alteration took from the reach of the poorest children the franking from fees specially intended for them. It was thus they had been led out of their first intention, without Parliamentary consideration or more than formal sanction; and, therefore, without method; subsidizing secondary under cover of Votes for primary education, in a way confessed by the very administrators to be equally injurious to both. The elementary education had incurred neglect and confusion; and, as Mr. Forster predicted in 1880, the middle class had stepped in, saying —"There must be education found for us," and America is quoted. The American example is wholly misapprehended. Every State requires each township to levy a school tax on all property, personal as well as real, by which three grades of school are provided — the primary or infant and intermediate, making up the elementary grade, the grammar school grade, and the classical grade; to which are added dependent schools, answering to our industrial. The triple division of schools corresponds with the triple periods of education. The first takes children to the age of 14; the second to 18; the third is complete scholastic training. The whole system furnishes every class with the schooling it wants, at a charge corresponding. It is called free, as being without payment of fees; but it is paid for by taxation, which falls practically in proportion to its use. The working man whose child attends only the first is the least payer of the tax; the tradesman who keeps his child on through the second school pays more in taxes; the richer class, who use all the schools, are by their wealth the largest contributors to the school tax. What we are doing is very different. We are using a school tax—by-the-bye, of very unequal incidence—in thrusting bits of secondary instruction injuriously into our primary schools. Three kinds of mischief follow our present confusion—First, public aid being given to results in examination, a show of the higher results must be the master's chief aim, to the neglect of elementary grounding. The proof of this appears in the Departmental Return, showing a large percentage of failures in one of the "three R's," by those going up for examination in higher subjects. There was no security found in the condition that none should be presented unless 75 per cent of the school had passed the lower standards. The new Code would restrict the higher subjects to the 5th and 6th Standards; but he feared the sciences would still be badly spelt. The second mischief is that higher instruction so forestalled is worthless, desultory, and superficial; asquickly lost as acquired, and a bad exchange for ordinary practice of intelligent and useful reading and good writing. Mr. Blackiston, in his Report of last year, complained of the blank look of the children when asked to give the meaning of the simplest term in the science they were cramming, and of ordinary writing lessons having become obsolete. He would like to see the whole 4th Schedule of special subjects expunged. He thought a mere smattering of general knowledge of less educational value than a thorough drilling in any one of its 10 subjects; but such a drilling could not be given in an elementary school without neglect of thoroughness in more essential things. The third mischief in the present system is that it acts as a Government bounty, artificially disturbing the course of social life. The first intention of saving children of the working class from neglect of elementary instruction was changed to giving a bonus to raise them forcibly out of the working class—a sort of protective duty to develop a cheap service of clerks from the manual labour market. Plough-boys trained in early skill were getting scarce, and plain needlework was not to be had as formerly. It was said—"You cannot give too good an education," which would be a reason for training all for the Universities. But a double misconception lay at the bottom. First, that all education was in book-learning, and none in industry; and secondly, that manual labour was discreditable.

He asked, then, for consideration whether Parliament really meant to undertake public secondary education; and, if so, how to avoid the present confusion of it with the primary, and on what termsthe secondary education should be offered? The Royal Commissioners of 1861 were of opinion that in a country situated politically and socially as England, Government should not interfere with education more than was necessary for those who could not otherwise get any. He had just had a letter from a good authority at Boston, saying that in the United States there was a growing feeling that the public schools did too much at the public expense. It was significantly added that, as the whole system of government depended on the education of the voter, the disposition was to do everything possible towards that end. At all events, any such secondary education should be distinct from elementary. The best authorities in England maintained that the subjects of the 4th Schedule should not be begun in the elementary course. The latest American Reports laid the greatest stress upon the importance of keeping the elementary grade independent—the "sundering" of the primary from the grammar schools, to avoid sacrifice of the former. The reason was still stronger with us, as our public elementary schools would always be chiefly used by the working class not going on to higher education. The newly Revised Code, now in suspense, took that view in all its proposed changes. A higher school had been set up at Bradford and at Barrow-in-Furness. But there the elementary schools still attempted the higher subjects, and the higher schools commenced with the elements, only at a higher fee. The distinction, therefore, was of class, not subject; and the confusion of education was only duplicated, not got rid of. The two recipients of public education were aptly designated as the "ninepenny respectables" and "twopenny slums." There was already too much of this unsound principle running through our system, that a public subsidy was offered to much of the same education at different prices, according to the supposed ability of the recipient to pay. He knew of schools where the "ninepennies" and "twopennies" were taught in separate rooms adjoining, and the distinction was kept up in the playground. This might be a temporary makeshift, but could not be on any permanent principle. He would not wait to show the waste of teaching power and cost incident to this sort of separate treatment. In Sheffield they had a higher school, which was managed on more correct principles, into which a child was not allowed to go until it had passed the 4th Standard in the elementary school. It was supposed to carry on studies for two or three years after passing the highest elementary standard. Here there was less educational confusion. But then came Mr. Forster's other question—"Who should pay for this separate higher schooling?" The 9d. fee charged at Sheffield Higher School was calculated to cover the cost together with the Treasury grant—-that was, so as to save the rates. But was not the local tax the right one to retain, if any? Or should not the fee paid by the richer class using the higher school cover the whole expense, excepting for such free exhibitions as it would be wise to provide for boys rising to the higher from the elementary schools? The fee of 9d had been taken as a limit of supposed capacity to pay for elementary instruction by the working classes. There was no reason for taking it as the tariff of payment in a higher school. The draft Code suspended on the Table proposed a much better limit to public aid to elementary schools than the arbitrary fee of 9d.— namely, that aid should cease at the age of 14, which is the extreme age at which such schooling ends; and he hardly thought that Parliament would adopt this 9d. tariff for the State to offer upon its payment all the middle class of England the education of their children from general taxation. Even if the country was willing to commit middle class education to Government undertaking and influence, surely there must be some different bodies constituted than the school boards to manage it? But the recommendations of the Endowed Schools Commission of 1868 remained still unattempted, which suggested a provision of higher schools by a better utilization of many wasted grammar school trusts throughout the Kingdom, which secondary education had increased claim to, now that public provision was made for elementary, and which the board schools were wasting rates in trying to supersede, and in carrying off the prizes meant for them. London was volunteering grandly in the way of technical instruction. It was not, therefore, necessary to throw this on public charge and management. The proprietary schoolmasters had also justice in the loud outcry they were making against the Public Treasury competing with them. All this required the consideration which he asked at a moment when, by the confession of all, we had got into an untenable transition state. The revision of the Code of Departmental Regulations would be the best process. He first reduced a previous chaos of Minutes into a Code in 1858. It had been altered and added to every year since. It was high time to rearrange such complications, if only to render the Code intelligible, and save the Office about a third of its correspondence in explanation of it. The noble Lord concluded by moving his Resolution.

Moved to resolve, That the present introduction of secondary instruction in the publicly aided elementary schools requires consideration; and that the Code of Regulations of the Com- mittee of Council on Education be referred to a Select Committee for revision and simplification. —(The Lord Norton.)


said, that, as for the past six years he had had some part in directing the work of education, he desired to say a few words. His noble Friend who had just spoken seemed to ignore the Lord President as head of the Education Department; but he must remind his noble Friend and the House that though, According to his experience, the Vice President had always worked in harmony with his Chief, the Lord President of the Council was the head of the Education Department in this country. He could not allow it to be supposed that the Vice President filled the latter position. His noble Friend went back a long time in his review of this question. He spoke of the chaos which existed in 1858, and of the manner in which, by his wonderful powers of administration, he had reduced confusion to order. His noble Friend held, however, that anyone who investigated the subject would find that all that trouble had been thrown away, and that in the matter of education they had been getting from bad to worse, until again all was confusion; and his noble Friend, in support of that proposition, quoted the opinion of a clergyman. He ventured, however, to doubt whether either that clergyman or his noble Friend had given the last Code very much consideration. His noble Friend had assumed a great many things, and he had argued upon those assumptions. He should take issue with him on those assumptions; and though there were many points on which he was disposed to agree with his noble Friend, there were still many more on which ho could not agree with him. His noble Friend had said that there had been a great expenditure on education in the country; but that had been the result of Acts of Parliament, and he believed that the children of the poorer classes had been much benefited by the measures on this subject which the Legislature had passed. His noble Friend said that the intention of Parliament was to educate the working classes, but that the Education Department, not content with confining itself to the "three R's," had gradually raised the standard, until it was giving the children of those classes quite a different sort of education, and one which was not necessary for persons in the station which they were to fill hereafter; and yet his noble Friend seemed to approve the limit of age being fixed at 14. He hardly thought his noble Friend would argue that, however quick and intelligent children might show themselves to be, they ought to be kept at the "three R's" up to the age of 14, and that after they had acquired those no further education should be given them during the rest of their time at school. It was very true that for a time after the Act of 1870 came into operation the education of the children was of a very much lower standard. But why was that? It was because at that time so many of the children of this country had never been to school at all; they were incapable of anything beyond the merest elementary routine; but as time passed on the children progressed and became more fitted to receive a higher standard of education; and some time in 1876 his noble Friend Lord Sandon, in the other House of Parliament, defended the course taken by the Education Department in extending the education given under various standards in the Code. He was rather surprised to hear his noble Friend treat the question as if the whole action in respect of Codes was taken by the Department, and not by Parliament. But that was a great error; because, after the Department drew up a Code, it must be laid on the Tables of both Houses of Parliament, and until it had laid on those Tables for 30 days it could not be carried into effect. If it were condemned by Parliament it could not be put into operation. But his noble Friend's answer to that was that nobody read the Codes when they were laid before Parliament. If that were so, the Department could not be blamed for it; but, having regard to the debates which had occurred in Parliament, he could not think it was. Then his noble Friend, as showing the evil done by raising the standards, told their Lordships that presenting children for examination in the higher branches led to their neglecting the "three R's," and he referred to Reports in support of that assertion. If his noble Friend read the Appendix to those Reports he would find that was not the case. In 1879 the percentage of the 1st Standard which passed in the three subjects was 82; that of the 2nd, 87; that of the 3rd, 85; that of the 4th, 85; that of the 5th, 85; and that of the 6th—the highest standard of all—90. His noble Friend seemed to agree with the provision introduced in the Code which he laid on the Table before the Dissolution, that there should be no public grant for children beyond the age of 14, and that in no school should the children paying 9d. a-week exceed 10 per cent of the whole. The Department permitted that in a few schools children of the better class should be admitted to receive education. That was where there were no other schools near, and the number of them was so few that they would not change the character of the schools as a whole. His noble Friend spoke in ridicule of what was reported of some schools, and quoted Mr. Matthew Arnold as being in favour of simplicity; but if his noble Friend read on he would find that Mr. Arnold was in favour of Latin and French being taught to some children. He believed the Act of Parliament had not been departed from; and he hoped his noble Friend the Lord President of the Council would not give up his functions to a Select Committee. He thought that boys remained at school till they were 13 or 14 years of age; and when boys had at an early age mastered the subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic—as it was found by experience they could do, at 10 or 11—it would be very hard to keep them at school from 12 to 14 without teaching them any more knowledge. He could not admit that the Education Department had done what his noble Friend alleged—namely, departed in a blindfold manner from what was the intention of Parliament when the Act of 1870 was passed. He believed, on the contrary, that since the passing of that Act the Government with which he had been connected had carried out the intentions of Parliament as religiously, scrupulously, and completely, as Mr. Forster himself could have done had he been at the Department the whole of that time. He said, without fear of contradiction, that from the year 1870 to 1880 the intention of the Legislature had been carried out in the working of that Act, and that it had not been departed from in the blindfold manner which his noble Friend described. When his noble Friend talked of elementary education, he said all that was desired was to put the child's foot on the bottom of the ladder.


said, he had quoted Mr. Bright's words.


said, his noble Friend for once identified himself with Mr. Bright, and said that was his view of elementary education. It was very hard to those children to put their feet on the lowest step of the ladder and to say that they should not mount higher, if they were able to do so. He had been anxious to make these few remarks, because down to this time he had been responsible for what had been done in the Education Department. He was glad his noble Friend opposite (Earl Spencer), in issuing their Report, appeared to be satisfied that the lines drawn in it were such as should be adopted, and he hoped that his noble Friend opposite would continue to act in that way. He trusted that his noble Friend opposite would not agree to refer the Education Code to a Select Committee. If his noble Friend opposite was going to inaugurate his career as Lord President by giving up all the functions which he was entitled to exercise, and to throw on their Lordships' House the duty of revising the Code, he should be very much astonished indeed. But, knowing, as he did, his noble Friend's character, he thought he would be the last person to throw upon Parliament what it was the proper and legitimate duty of the Education Department to undertake.


I think no one will accuse my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when he was at the head of the Education Department, of not having framed a Code which was very simple and easily understood by everyone. That Code was framed on this principle—that it was necessary the poor children of the country should be taught certain rudimentary elements of education. We fixed upon reading, writing, and ciphering; and we gave grants to schools just in proportion as they taught these things, with a distinct and definite object in view. We considered how hard it was to take the poor man's child from him longer than was necessary for the purposes of schooling; but we were most anxious to give him the essentials of education. That was on principle. I do not mean to say that it does not admit of improvement; but it was clear and intelligible, and it was acted upon, as I understand, up to last year, when a totally new principle was introduced. The question for your Lordships is, whether or not you give your approbation to that new principle? I will take the liberty of stating to your Lordships simply what the difference between the two principles is. Whereas there were formerly only three subjects for which grants were made—reading, writing, and ciphering — schools are now entitled to grants if their pupils can satisfy the Examinersin Literature, which means learning by heart a certain quantity of English verse—say, 100 to 200 lines of Cowpez-'s "Task;" and that is to entitle the school to 4s. Next conies mathematics, Latin, French, German, mechanics, animal physiology, physical geography, botany, and last—and much the best of all—domestic economy. It is for the House to consider whether it is desirable that this immense and extraordinary change should be made in the whole system of our elementary schools. I do not think myself that the question should be referred to a Select Committee. That would be unfair to my noble Friend (Earl Spencer), who has only just entered upon Office and taken charge of the Department, and I could not possibly vote for such a proceeding. But it is most desirable that the House should have clearly before it what the question really is. I confess to a very strong dislike to the whole of these additions. I cannot pretend to say that I see any advantage in them at all. I am entirely sceptical on the subject. The great advantage of giving grants for reading, writing, and ciphering is that the child's knowledge can easily be tested. They are things which cannot possibly be got by "crams." They are arts, so to speak, which people either do or do not know; and which you can test by means with which cram can have nothing to do. There is no possibility of any trickery. Either a child can read or he cannot; either he can write or he cannot; either he can cipher or he cannot. But the moment you get to such subjects as animal physiology, physical geography, mechanics, and the like, there are certain phrases which can be got by heart—and learned, perhaps, not very accuratey— but which will convey to the Examiners the idea that a pupil possesses knowledge which he does not in the least possess, simply by the use of catchwords. If the boy does not use those phrases or catchwords aright it is a failure, and that is all. If he happens to use them aright there is 4s. for the school. That, therefore, is a system infinitely inferior to the present system, because it does not admit of being tested in the same manner. An Inspector cannot always be varying his questions; and teachers may soon get to know what sort of questions will be put. The consequence will be that it will be forced upon the schools to have a system of cramming the boys, by which they will be enabled to answer the questions that are likely to be asked. I am entirely sceptical as to the advantage of examining children in that way in things which they are really unable to grasp. It will not only not do good, but it will do positive harm, and will tend to introduce a system which cannot be sufficiently deprecated. I have myself been Chairman of a Committee appointed by the House of Commons to inquire into a case where a great deal of money was paid for the ostensible education of boys who were crammed in the most shameful and scandalous manner; and yet such was the esprit de corps among the officials of that school that they defended those who had been guilty of such fraudulent practices. I say, let what is honestly taught and really learnt be properly paid for; but do not let us encourage with public money a system of cramming poor children with phrases and catchwords which they cannot possibly understand. It is most essential we should adhere as closely as possible to something that admits of absolute verification; and we assume most falsely if we suppose that we are in a condition to go into these altitudes towards education in our elementary schools. I put it to the House whether it is not better that reading should be improved, than that we should be spending our money in teaching animal physiology, and matters of that kind? I cannot doubt it for a moment, and I can give evidence of my own on the subject. My habit has been, for a great many years, to employ a boy to read to me, in consequence of nearness of sight, and I have always taken him from the 6th Standard, ret I have never, on a single occasion, had a boy who could read properly. I have never had a boy whom I could trust with words of more than three syllables. That is nothing very wonderful, because I am told that the boys give up reading when they get to the 4th Standard. They then are to devote their time to poetry, mathematics, and other things, and lose the power of reading properly. I think we do not estimate properly the relative value of the three It's. If the House will consider the matter for a moment, it will see that reading is everything. Without reading nothing is done, and nothing can be done. With reading, even supposing writing to be neglected, the means are put into the child's hands of acquiring the art of writing. Everything depends on the power of being able to read easily and fluently, and where it is a trouble to read people will not read, and the little they have got will be lost. If a boy can read easily and is intelligent he can easily teach himself to cipher. Therefore, as to writing and ciphering, I look upon them as perfectly subordinate to reading. It is an error to put them on an equality. I think that two-thirds of the payments should be given for success in reading, and the other third be given for success in writing and ciphering. These are the observations which I wish to make to your Lordships, and I have to apologize for the imperfect manner in which they have been delivered, caused, I have no doubt, by this being my first speech in such an Assembly as this.


said, he had the practical management of schools attended by upwards of 2,000 children; he had closely watched the operation of the system of teaching in those schools, and on no one occasion during 20 years had he been absent from the examination. He claimed, therefore, to have some personal experience on this matter. He must say that he was astonished to hear the speeches of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Norton) and the noble Viscount near him (Viscount Sherbrooke), as it seemed that they would revert to the Code of 1864. There had been many alterations since that time, in consequence of the pressure put upon the Government to include in the Code a large variety of subjects which should be taught according to the age at which the children were kept at school. Now, his two noble Friends would confine education to reading, writing, and ciphering. His noble Friend near him (Viscount Sherbrooke) asserted that reading was not well taught, and that by the introduction of these higher subjects the minds of the children had been diverted, and that, in consequence, they did not read as well as they ought. He would undertake to say that the reading of children in primary schools during the last 20 years had vastly improved, both in respect to fluency and intelligence. What they really wanted was a more correct intonation, and he had always impressed them with the importance of a good intonation, adding as it did so greatly to the pleasure of reading. He could further say that the introduction of the higher subjects had produced no prejudicial effect whatever on the "three It's." It had been the duty and practice of Inspectors to demand a higher standard of excellence in the "three It's" since the higher subjects were introduced; and he could not understand the noble Viscount when he said that he could not find a boy of the 6th Standard who could read correctly. He had heard hundreds of boys who, though they laboured under the disadvantage of hearing Welsh spoken at their homes, read with the greatest intelligibility a newspaper put into their hands, or some book produced by the Inspector which they had never seen before. In regard to these new subjects, he could not believe that anyone would object to them if education was to be continued up to the age of 14 years. The whole of the argument of his noble Friend was against the introduction of these new subjects. But it should be clearly understood what the country was paying for in regard to them—it was for proficiency in them. The Education Vote was £2,000,000 in round figures, and only £20,000 of that went for this proficiency; and was that, he would ask, a large sum? If boys were to profit by education so that they could proceed to middle-class schools they should be allowed to prepare themselves for it. The remarks their Lordships had heard about physiology and acoustics tended very much to divert them from the real nature of the case, as those subjects were rarely taught, and only in the larger schools. The great majority of the children must re- main under the elementary teaching for which alone they were fitted; but if there were a few of them who were capable of a higher education it was to the public interest that they should have it, and only fair to them. He rejoiced to hear that there was no intention of appointing a Select Committee to inquire into the subject, and that the further consideration of the matter was to be left in the hands of the President of the Council.


said, he thought that the main difficulty which had arisen in reference to this educational question was the result of the over-centralization and bureaucratic tendencies of the two successive Governments which had held Office during the last 12 years. The Schools Inquiry Commission appointed to consider this question had referred to the want of third grade schools throughout the country. It was unfortunate that the Endowed Schools Commissioners had been compelled to deal with endowed schools not in groups or in districts, but piecemeal, and had thus been forced to yield to the strong desire of the Governing Bodies of such schools that there should be a preponderating proportion of first and second over third class schools established. The consequence was that great injustice had been done to artizans and the lower middle classes, as they required something better for their children than could be taught in the elementary schools. It had been said that children should be kept at school until 14 years of age; but the amount and the importance of the labour which lads between 10 and 14 years of age could perform should not be ignored. Since the present educational system had come into operation the weeds had very much multiplied in Norfolk, which was once regarded as quite the garden of England, weeding being peculiarly the work of children, whose labour was cheap, whose sight keen, bodies flexible, and fingers nimble. He entirely agreed, however, that facilities ought to be given for exceptional cases—for industrious boys of the wage classes who desired to pursue education; but it was not necessary to raise the standard of education generally and throughout the country for that purpose, as a very small percentage of boys would have to take advantage of it. The whole system had been a sort of hot-house system. They had been trying in the course of a few years to repair the neglect of centuries, and the result was the usual one, that they had produced a great deal which was sappy, and weak, and unsound. The Training College system had again been unduly extended to meet a temporary and spasmodic demand, on account of the intense eagerness with which the opening of new schools throughout the country had been pressed. The result was that there was now a block of promotion, and they had more teachers on their hands than they knew how to employ. As regarded the wages class, they had been already driven, and the middle were being rapidly bribed, into tax-and-rate-subsidized education, and that was a matter for grave consideration. It was in his view inevitable that to provide free education for the children of the middle classes would be to sap the independence of such classes in the same way that the independence of the wage-earning class had been sapped to a certain extent by the system already pursued. He could not conceal from himself that the tide of public opinion had, to some extent, turned against a self-supporting system of education. But the general public opinion in England was slow to express itself; but, when formed, was a resolute one, and would support those who wore anxious to return to the old English habit of self-help, and who thought that a certain amount of higher education might be too dearly bought at the cost of a spirit of independence and self-reliance.


desired, in the first place, to thank his noble Friend opposite (LordNorton) for the courtesy he showed in consulting him as to the time when he should bring this subject forward. Their Lordships might, he thought, be congratulated on the tone which had been evinced throughout the debate. There had been a complete absence, as there ought to be, of Party spirit and Party differences in discussing a very grave subject, and that was a matter as to which their Lordships must feel satisfaction. A great many subjects had been touched upon, as to some of which he would not follow the noble Lords who introduced them. He would not go into a comparison of the American system of education with that of this country, nor would he enter on the subject of Training Colleges, or on that of the influence of the education of children on agriculture and the increase of weeds. He should, instead, try to bring together the arguments used on the Motion, and refer to each of them as concisely as was in his power. He thanked the noble Duke his Predecessor in Office (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) for having so clearly stated the views of the late Government on this subject. With most of those views he was happy to think he concurred. Noble Lords had attacked the existing system of education on several grounds. First, they said that the Department had been gradually drifting out of the position in which it was placed by Parliament; that it had exceeded the power that Government gave it, and had left the ground it was told to take up with respect to education. Further than that, they were told that the system had sacrificed elementary education in order to give a higher education than was necessary to children attending the primary schools; and, lastly, that the Education Department had been, if he might use the word, poaching on the ground which ought to be occupied by the Endowed Schools Commission. He did not think that they differed materially as to what was the intention of Parliament with regard to the education to be given in the primary schools. What was the definition of a primary school? The definition as to payments for school fees not exceeding 9d. per week was not laid down by the Code; but that amount was laid down in the statute passed in 1870, and that was one of the guides which the Department had in giving the Parliamentary grant. But there was another guide, which was acted upon by the noble Duke in the Code he laid on the Table of both Houses, and that was the limit of age. There was no higher authority on the subject than the Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission, and it said— The education of classes living by manual labour is limited by the early ago at which they leave school to earn their bread, and thus their primary education terminates at the age of 12 or 13, or earlier. That, he believed, was perfectly true, and that the alteration which his noble Friend the noble Duke proposed in the Code which expired with the late Parliament, and which the present Government had now to consider, was, in the main, perfectly right. It said that the Parliamentary grant was not to be given in respect of any child beyond the age of 14 years; and, further, that it should not be given in any schools where more than 10 per cent of those attending the school paid more than 9d. per week. With some qualification, he thought that that appeared to be a sound principle. He would make one qualification, because they would now have immediately to consider the proposed Code and lay it on the Table of the two Houses. The point he wished to bring out was that compulsory education had not yet been brought fully into play; it had hardly been brought into operation in some parts of the country; and it was very desirable that in such places, where the children were backward in education and had attained the age of 14 years without having passed even the lowest standards, they should be allowed to remain in the school so as to be afforded the chance of doing so. With that qualification, Her Majesty's Government would be very much disposed to adopt the alteration in the Code which the noble Duke had proposed. While on the subject of the Code, he wished to say that after consultation with the Vice President they were of opinion that this year it was desirable that they should not introduce into the Code any matter which might cause grave controversy; but that they should merely introduce such small alterations as might be considered necessary for its proper working. With respect to the question of age, he had quoted the Report of the Public Schools Inquiry Commission, and he would also quote the very high authority of a country where education— certainly primary education—had been conducted with great success; he alluded to Prussia, where primary education was carried out on the principle of age limit, and the limit was defined by the words "under the age of 14 years." So far he had discussed what the Department had been seeking to do in carrying out the intentions of Parliament. For his part, he was at a loss to know how noble Lords could maintain that the Department had encroached on the ground which should be occupied by the secondary schools. He was young in Office, and further experience might show him that he was wrong, and the noble Lords who so held were right; but, as far as he knew at present, the Department had not either encroached on the secondary schools or done anything to sap the independence of the middle classes. What was considered to be primary education? Were they to confine the course of the education to be given in primary schools to the "three R's"? That was quite impossible, and they were obliged to add to those important subjects others in which instruction was required by the working classes of this country. Would the working men of England and Wales be able to compete with the working men of Scotland if the primary education given in schools was confined to reading, writing, and arithmetic? Scotland had already gone to great lengths, and a much higher education was given in the ordinary schools than was given in the schools of this country. Scotland was not the only country with which the working men of England and Wales had to compete. They had to compete with those of Switzerland, all parts of Germany, Austria—countries in which education exceeded anything that we attempted; and it was absolutely necessary that our workmen should be taught as much as would enable them to enter into this competition. He must guard himself against being supposed to urge that the most important rudimentary subjects should be sacrificed and neglected in order that subjects not at all adapted to meet the needs of working men should be taught in the schools; and he maintained that this had not been done at all. It was most important that children should not only read mechanically, but that they should with reading improve their intelligence in respect of many of the matters which were designated by high-sounding names, but which on analysis proved to be but the simplest rudiments of information on subjects about which it would be admitted they ought to be informed. Nothing could be more important to all than some knowledge of animal physiology, and the subject could be made interesting by the teacher, as it was in a little manual on the subject just drawn up by Professor Huxley. He attached as much importance as any to good reading, and he certainly thought we should have a better chance of getting it if intelligence were developed up to the point of interest in the subjects that were read about. Was it to be said that in no case a child who remained at school should advance to any higher subject? Children were obliged to attend up to a certain age, unless they had passed a certain standard; and, if the parents desired them to remain longer, it would be exceedingly hard to say they should learn nothing more that would develop their intelligence and increase their usefulness in life. But the fact was that very few, indeed, got into these higher subjects; and he would say distinctly that if he thought they were taught with the object of cram, or that in consequence of their being taught reading, writing, and arithmetic were neglected, he should be the first to say that they should at once be withdrawn. His impression was that nothing of the sort took place; and no answer had been given to the argument based on the figures which showed that the greatest efficiency in elementary subjects went along with the teaching of the special subjects. His noble Friend (Viscount Sherbrooke) had spoken of a boy who came up to him from the 6th Standard who could not read. But he wondered whether that boy was perfectly at his ease in the presence of his noble Friend. He wondered what boy from any great Public School in England would not have done exactly the same thing. He was quite sure that when he was at Harrow he could not have done it. It must be remembered that before any payment could be made for specific subjects, 75 per cent of the passes attainable in elementary subjects must have been scored, and that no payment could be made unless it were shown that a certain proportion of time had been allotted to each specific subject throughout the year. These were checks upon cramming. There might be schools in which the scholars failed to pass in one of the elementary subjects; but those who had the most experience of school board schools in London and the country said that those scholars who could read best were those who passed in the higher subjects. As to the graded schools of Bradford, Sheffield, and Barrow-in-Furness, nothing was done by them in contravention of the conditions of the Parliamentary grant. It was found that by grading they could attain at once both efficiency and economy in the teaching of higher subjects by qualified teachers to those who had passed one of the higher standards, and by separately instructing younger and less educated children by efficient teachers not so highly paid as those required for the advanced subjects. There was in the arrangement a double benefit. There was the achievement of economy by organization, and there was an increase of efficiency in both the advanced and the elementary school. The plan had hardly come into operation yet, and the schemes before the Department would receive the best possible attention. If they accorded those towns the privilege asked for it would be because they did not believe that by doing so they would be encouraging middle-class education in elementary schools, or in any way interfering with the grammar schools. No doubt, the Code was complicated; but that was because those most experienced in education had found it necessary, from time to time, to adapt it to the needs of the country and to counteract abuses. Having so recently taken Office, he could not at once promise any alteration in the Code; but he would say that the subject should receive full and careful consideration; and if it were found possible, without injury to primary education, to simplify the Code, the effort should be made in the interests of education itself. He would have the advantage of the valuable assistance of the Vice President, who for many years had taken the deepest interest in the primary education of the country; he would have the advantage of a large staff of most able and zealous Inspectors who had studied the subject fully; he would have the advantage of gentlemen in the Education Department of the highest knowledge and experience; he would also have the advantage of the experience gathered since the Act of 1870 by the school boards throughout the country. He, therefore, would undertake to do this — he would carefully consider all that had been said to-night and all he might hear from different parts of the country in reference to this subject; and he would hope to be able either with or without an Act of Parliament, to simplify this matter without altering in any way the standard of education in the country. He most distinctly and emphatically declined to entertain for one moment the proposal made to their Lordships. He need not dilate upon it; other noble Lords had stated all that was necessary in much better terms than he could employ. He sincerely trusted their Lordships would not remove from his shoulders and those of the Department the duty of dealing with this matter.


said, he was satisfied, for the present, with the discussion which he had raised, and he asked leave to withdraw his Motion.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.