HL Deb 11 August 1881 vol 264 cc1511-8

, in rising to make a Statement upon the proposals for revision of the Code and the Examination Schedules of the Education Department which had been laid on the Table of the House, said, those proposals were brought forward in fulfilment of the pledge he had given last Session on behalf of the Government. He should have preferred to bring them forward at an earlier period of the Session; but the subject was so vast, and surrounded by so many difficulties, that that was found to be impossible. As it was, they did not propose to at once alter the Education Code, and the alteration, of which notice was now given, with a view to discussion in the Autumn, would not take effect till some time in 1882—a plan which was convenient both to the Department and to school boards and teachers throughout the country. The new system would insure pretty much the same payment to schools as the old. The average schools would earn about the same sum as hitherto, the best schools a little more, and the worst schools a little less. At present payments to schools were classed under four heads—1. the general payment to schools on average attendance, including efficiency and music; 2. individual payments by results on passes in Standards; 3. average attendance payments for class subjects; and 4, individual payments for specific subjects. The principle of payment for average attendance was now to be applied to three of these four heads of payment, leaving only the specific subjects to be paid on individual examinations. It was found that individual payments for passes in the Standards did not work quite fairly to the schools and the teachers. At the Inspector's visit, children might be absent from illness, or on account of the weather, or the season of the year in which the inspection took place, and the earnings of the school must therefore be very much diminished. That was a matter which was much complained of. It was also found that there was a tendency on the part of teachers to direct their efforts to one class of children and neglect another. That evil would be corrected by the proposals now made, as failure in any department of the school would affect the whole grant, and not merely so much of it as might be earned by the neglected children. Moreover, if payments on the individual passes were done away with, and made to depend on the average attendance of children, there would no longer be any inducement to fraud. Another great improvement that would follow from a system of payment on the average attendance was a simplification of the present system of auditing. There were 1,900,000 children examined last year. The audit department examined the school-history of every one of these children during seven years, which was generally the duration of school-life of children. This was to see that payment was not made twice for the same thing to any one child. These figures would give an idea of the vast work involved by the auditing of individual passes. He would give their Lordships an illustration of the way in which the system of paying on average attendance would work. Let them suppose a school in which there were 300 children in average attendance, and that 250 should be present at the time of the Inspector's visit. Supposing him to examine 200, the number of passes possible would be 600, there being three subjects in which each child could pass. Supposing, however, that only 500 passes should be made, or only 83 per cent of the possible passes, then the full payment being, say, 10s. for every pass—he took a hypothetical figure—the payment would be 83 per cent of 10s., or 8s. 6d., and the capitation grant would be 300 times 8s. 6d., or £127 10s. All children that should have been six months in a school would be presented to the Inspector for examination; and while all would continue to be examined in the Third and higher Standards, it would be for him to judge how many he ought to examine in the Second Standard. The result of the scheme would be a great diminution in the work of examination, though the Inspectors' duties would be increased in other ways. Out of 1,000,000 children above seven years of age who had usually been examined in the past in Standards I. and II., only 500,000 would be examined in the future. In order to meet one of the objections levelled at the existing system, the Department proposed to give Examiners and Inspectors power to classify the children examined by them according to the manner in which they should have passed the examination. The question of the grant to a school would be affected by this classification, because an extra grant would be given to schools classified as fair, good, or excellent. At present, a school which passed its scholars well obtained no more than another in which the same number of children barely scraped through. The proposal would thus counteract the present tendency to bring down schools to a dead level of teaching merely what was enough to pass. With regard to the question of class subjects, no very great change was proposed. Schools would be regarded as consisting of two divisions. Two class subjects might be taken up in each division. Steps had been taken to meet the objection that fancy subjects should not be taught to children who were not well-grounded in the "three R's." Specific subjects would only be taught to children who had passed the Fourth Standard, and not even then, unless 75 per cent of the possible passes were obtained in the "three R's" at the beginning of the year in which specific subjects were taken up, as well as at the end of the year during which they had been taught. Steps would be taken to encourage the extension of night schools, where there had been a diminished attendance since the introduction of compulsory education. The number of scholars had fallen off from 70,000 in 1870 to 40,000 in 1880. Boys used to work during the day and attend school at night. Now they must attend day-schools till they had passed a reasonable Standard, and, having done so, were not inclined to go also to night-schools, more especially if the instruction in them was confined to the "three R's." They proposed to adopt other and more interesting subjects as class subjects. They also proposed that in night-schools ministers of all denominations, often the only available teachers in country districts, should no longer be debarred from teaching subjects with which they were familiar, and which they made interesting to the night scholars. He now came to the question of teachers. The teachers under the Education Department formed a small army in themselves, numbering, as they did, upwards of 70,000. There were 30,000 certificated teachers, 7,600 assistant teachers, and 33,000 pupil teachers. There were, in addition, a small number of stipendiary monitors; but as the system was not found in practice to work well it was proposed to do away with it. Of the teachers, the waste by retirement and death each year amounted to 6 per cent, so that the supply required each year was about 1,800; and as, owing to the increase of population, additional schools would be required, the number of teachers to be supplied annually would soon be over 2,000. The Training Colleges were only able to supply about 1,500 each year, leaving a deficiency of 500; and, to secure that number, it was proposed to admit as teachers persons, men or women, who had been at any University in the United Kingdom. It might be said that such persons would not be likely to become teachers; but when he mentioned the remarkable fact that he had on his list the names of no fewer than 130 men who had taken first-class University honours who were candidates for the position of Her Majesty's Inspectors, he thought their Lordships would agree with him that a very large number of less distinguished persons would be found ready to become teachers in their larger schools. With respect to pupil teachers, a rule would be laid down that not more than three should be engaged at any one school. That alteration would, he thought, have a very important effect upon education, because it was manifest that a pupil teacher was not as competent to teach large classes as was an assistant teacher. Pupil teachers were apprenticed for four years, from 14 to 18 years of age, and about 8,000 finished their apprenticeship each year. A large number of those who desired to follow the Profession went to the Training College. Last year the number was 4,000, of which number 3,000 passed; but 1,500 only could be admitted. A regulation would be made that an assistant teacher should be required for every 60 scholars, instead of 80 as heretofore. Then with respect to infant schools, in schools where 40 infants attended a separate adult teacher would be required; and where 60 attended there should be a certificated teacher. The Schedule as to needlework would be simplified—a change which it was believed would be attended with beneficial results. With respect to music, 1s. was now allowed for each pupil taught; but in future the allowance would be 6d., and an additional 6d. if music was taught from notes or according to the Tonic Sol-fa system. Within the last few years, immense strides had been made in that direction, nearly all the masters sent out by the Training Schools being competent to teach by notes, or, at all events, to examine by notes. With regard to honour certificates, it was proposed to stop the granting of them. It was hoped that the boys holding honour certificates would be induced to remain at school; but, in the working of the system, it was proved that they did not do so. It was found that the conditions were not complied with, and that a better class of children than was intended reaped the benefit; and it had, therefore, been determined to do away with the honour certificates. The money that would be saved would probably be required for increased grants to night schools. The Child's School Book was to be abandoned, because it was a great deal of trouble, and it had broken down where it was most needed. A child had been found in Manchester with 11 books instead of one. It was not proposed to introduce these changes at present in Scotland, which was, in many respects, more advanced than England; while the Scotch Code already contained some of the principles of the change now proposed for the English Code. In order to obtain greater uniformity of inspection, and prevent, as far as possible, the injustice that arose from the different standards of different Inspectors, which made examinations severe in one place and lax in another, it was proposed to organize the Inspectorate to a certain extent, to place a senior Inspector in charge of a large division containing several districts, and to bring the senior Inspectors together for consultation and discussion. A class of Sub-Inspectors would act under the District Inspector, who, in turn, would be supervised by the senior or divisional Inspectors, and in that way the desired uniformity would be attained to a greater extent than at present. He must acknowledge the assistance that had been received in the consideration of these changes, not only from the Department, but also from those who probably knew most of the working of the Code—namely, the schoolmasters—and he hoped the changes would be accepted willingly and with pleasure by that important body.


said, he must express his satisfaction with the worthy manner in which the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council had treated national education. The presentation of the Code in draft for discussion in the Recess was a treatment of the subject in no Party spirit, but as of equal general interest, and an appeal to the nation for their opinion on a paramount national question. The most cursory reading showed its intention not to be further complication, but greater clearness and consolidation on the basis of their accumulated experience. It would be unworthy of such frank treatment to venture at once to criticize its details; but one or two remarks on the leading features of its revision of former Codes he would offer in its own spirit. Experience justified its change of principle in making public grants from payment on individual results to premiums on the average attendance and sufficiency of schools. But here came in the old difficulty of adjustment to town and country. Was it impossible to have a rural and an urban standard, as they had rural and urban local authorities, and as the Scotch had parish and borough schools? One standard could not equally suit both. But their primary interest was in the manual labour class, which must leave school early for labour, and could not have the time, or means, or object, to rise as high as the town artizan in book-learning. Some attempt was made in the scheme to meet that difficulty by dividing schools into lower and upper divisions, and allotting subjects to each. The lower they might suppose to represent elementary education; but if so the upper must mean secondary education. Then followed the question—Did they undertake more than elementary education in the publicly - aided national schools? Had they gone beyond the original intention, and were they right, in including secondary instruction in elementary schools? The words used in describing the Seventh Standard in the scheme were, that it was meant for those who had passed the Sixth Standard some time before leaving school. But it never was intended that children of the working class should be kept at school a day after they were fit to go to work. Any higher learning, therefore, should be meant, not as a smattering of incipient science to fill up an ideal interval, but for children who were really going on to higher education. So far as this scheme made the distinction between primary and secondary teaching clearer, it was wise. It avowedly recognized the provision of much higher education as part of national education; but it was to be hoped it meant to separate it from elementary education. There could be no doubt they were undertaking middle-class education; and, if so, they should do it distinctly and more thoroughly, and not mix it up with primary education, to the injury of both. The discussion of that draft Code in "another place" came on in a debate on museums for the promotion of art in the Provinces. That showed the connection in idea of the New Code with higher education. South Kensington was doing still more for art education than the Seventh Standard and specific subjects in the Fourth Schedule proposed for sciences and foreign languages. But a greater proof of higher ambition was the proposal in the scheme that graduates of the two Universities should be assistant teachers in national schools. It was said that many such men were wanting employment, and that this would open a new avenue to them. That was a consideration for the learned men supplied so much in advance of demand. But as to the schools, it was significant as considering their assistant masters to be men on a par with the clergy, clearly an advance from the first idea of elementary education of the working class. The amounts of particular grants were not stated; it might, therefore, be intended that this secondary education should be self-supporting, and that the illusory scale of 9d. fees as a limit of elementary education should be done away with. What were now set up at Bradford and elsewhere as higher schools were only another set of elementary schools, with the same smattering of science; only at higher, yet not self-supporting fees, for a separate provision to the middle class. There might be intended in the completion of this scheme exhibitions to help cleverer children of the working class to extend their schooling in common with the middle class to higher study. All that might modify one's general opinion of the scheme, and judgment must, therefore, be deferred. One good sequence from the debate of last year was apparent in the proposed provision of better books. It was seen that the art of reading could be better taught by books conveying progressive knowledge, instead of what were now condemned by the Vice President himself as foolish tales and miserable commonplace scrap-books. The whole draft showed a liberal and earnest intention to improve our national education.

After a few words from Lord BRAYE, the subject dropped.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past Seven of the clock, during pleasure.

House resumed at five minutes past Four of the clock, A.M.

The Lord THURLOW—Chosen Speaker in the absence of The LORD CHANCELLOR and The LORD COMMISSIONER.