HL Deb 13 April 1883 vol 278 cc189-90

asked the Lord President about the Education Code now lying on the Table and becoming law on the 15th, as to important verbal alterations introduced into its first draft, which was announced as to be the final settlement of all details? He thought their Lordships were entitled to some information respecting alterations introduced into the draft, which was specially recommended as an ultimatum and a truce to changes in the law. It was bad enough that the Code should have reduced National Education to an earning of Government grants on a show of specified results; but these perpetual changes were reducing it to a speculation and a lottery of chances in winning public money. As far as he could detect from the present accumulated mass of 134 clauses and five Schedules, there had been three alterations of the first draft of this last edition. The first, apparently only a verbal alteration, might be of great practical effect. The Act of 1870 defined its object to be elementary education, and attempted to restrict its provisions to the working classes by limiting grants in aid to ordinary payments of fees not exceeding 9d. a-week. This ordinary payment was now explained to mean the average total payments divided by the numbers in attendance. This might introduce into Board schools, called elementary, children of tradesmen willing to pay 2s. 6d. or 3s. a-week in order to get their children into higher schools out of contact with the working classes, for whom the system was primarily intended, but who, by this process, would be comparatively neglected; and, in fact, the lowest class of them were already reported to be on the streets again. The second alteration was the restoration of the Duke of Richmond's and Lord Sandon's sub-section of Article 109 for a general merit grant, for which provision he observed that many persons were now saying Lord Spencer should be immortalized, though they first opposed it. He only regretted that such alterations should be the accidents of official changes, almost without the knowledge of Parliament, through these annual editions of the Code. The third alteration re- lated to assistant teachers from outside the Training Colleges. He only asked the Question in order that before this edition of the Code became law, as it would to-morrow, Parliament might be made aware of the further modifications of its Act.


said, that the noble Lord was mistaken in supposing that the Code, as laid on the Table, was intended to be stereotyped and unchangeable. The Code now about to come into operation had been laid on the Table for an unusual length of time, expressly in order that alterations might be made in its details where necessary. As to the changes which his noble Friend looked upon with so much suspicion, he himself had looked at them carefully, and had found nothing at which his noble Friend might reasonably take alarm. Their object was simply to remove doubts as to the working of the Code, to supply incidental omissions of minor importance, and to meet some objections in matters of detail. The change in regard to the mode of ascertaining the average fee of 9d. a week had been introduced in consequence of representations of the Public Audit Department.


said, he must protest against the alteration made by the Government in the Code. He believed that it was the intention of the Act of Parliament that 9d. should be the maximum fee in respect of which grants in aid should be given. The effect of these new words would be before long to throw by a side-wind the whole of the third grade and a great deal of the second grade education of the country into the hands of the Government. In this point, as in many others in his opinion, the Government were acting contrary to the doctrines of political economy.