HL Deb 02 March 1888 vol 323 cc2-7

, in rising to ask the Secretary for Scotland, What steps have been taken preparatory to the Technical Instruction Act for Scotland coming into operation; whether there has been any expression of public opinion for or against it; and, if he will present to the House any instructions which may have been sent out from his Department on the subject? said, the Technical Instruction Act for Scotland was passed in the midnight hours at the fag end of last Session. A similar Bill for England was postponed, but now it was about immediately to be revived. It seemed to him, however, of the greatest importance that before they came to consider the English Bill, they should know what steps were being taken, or were found to be necessary, to bring the Scottish Act into operation, and how, in fact, the Scottish people looked upon the Act with which they were now for the first time brought face to face. He considered that the Scottish Act was preferable to the English Bill in this respect, that it put the establishment and maintenance of these schools into the hands of the existing school boards; whereas the English Bill proceeded to constitute a new and additional Agency of Public Instruction—namely, the Local Authorities. But both the Scottish Act and the English Bill agreed in this very great defect—that they gave no definition whatever of what was meant by technical instruction, except that it was to be anything or everything that from time to time the Department of Science and Art might choose to give grants for. He really wanted to know how that very shrewd nation, the Scotch, looked upon an Act which was to give this indefinite, unlimited power of public educational undertaking and taxation? He had no wish to dispute what he believed they were all agreed upon—that some improvement of technical instruction for our artizans was much to be desired; but the more important it was, the more they should take care that the best means were taken to secure the object in view. He had no doubt there were some manufacturers—but, certainly, they were far from being all, and he would say they did not include the most enterprizing—who would be very happy to have better apprentices trained for them at public expense. There were many of the manufacturers of this country who were already providing special instruction for their own workmen. There were also Companies and Institutes and Endowments, which were all increasingly meeting these requirements of education infinitely better than public authorities could. The only question was whether such provision—no doubt the best—could be expected to be sufficient for the requirements of the whole country. At all events, he thought they would be agreed that they should take the greatest possible care that, in enabling public bodies to undertake this work of technical education, they should not check or supersede that which was by far the best mode for the special training of the artizans of this country. If technical schools were intended to undertake training workmen for manufacturers, as in a small way was already being done by the industrial schools for children thrown on the State, they would incur the Protectionist objection to such schools which had been made in America—that they had no right to levy a general tax for particular interests. But if, on the other hand, these technical schools were intended to be strictly confined to the elementary technical instruction which was applicable to all arts and trades, the question then arose whether our higher elementary schools were not already sufficient for the purpose or easily adaptable to it. He was afraid that if the public authorities got this work into their hands, they would very soon aim at something much further—the establishment of national workshops throughout the country. That was not a vain fear, because the danger had already been experienced and protested against by manufacturers in Yorkshire. Technical instruction, undefined as in the Act, would mean to most minds a secondary stage of education; and if only such teaching as design drawing or use of common tools were meant, it should be so distinctly stated. He would be glad if the noble Marquess could tell him whether there was to be a special Code to regulate these technical schools, and if any provision had been made for training masters and teachers specially for these schools. The English Bill proposed to submit the establishment of such schools to a poll of ratepayers under the Ballot Act. If that clause were to be dropped there would be the contrary danger of their establishment without any consultation of the ratepayers. He understood his noble Friend (the Marquess of Lothian) would lay before the House the actual instructions which had been issued from his Department preparatory to these schools coming into operation, and he thought it was essential that they should without delay be put in possession of those instructions before they were called upon to consider the promised Technical Schools Bill for England.


said, he had to complain that under the Scottish Act of last year, which was an ill-considered and most objectionable measure, the school boards had power to embark in enormous expenditure, and future boards would have no power to check the system they had inaugurated. The old parochial system of Scotland was the admiration of the whole Continent, and he did not think matters had been improved by the establishment of school boards and compulsory education. The Technical Instruction Act did not define anything at all, and he contended that to give such powers it gave to any school boards was to saddle upon the inhabitants any amount of expenses. He thought that Scotland had been over-legislated for in educational matters, and he hoped the noble Marquess had no intention of putting the Act into operation.


, who was very imperfectly heard, said, he felt some difficulty in answering the two speeches to which their Lordships had just listened, but he would do so as best he could. The noble Lord who asked for the production of Papers (Lord Norton) had asked a number of Questions, to some of which he (the Marquess of Lothian) hoped to be able to give an answer. The Technical Instruction Act not having yet come into operation, he had no experience upon which to give information. But the noble Lord who spoke last (Lord Lamington) objected to the Act altogether. He (the Marquess of Lothian) regretted that the noble Lord had not been present at the midnight hours of last Session, to which allusion had been made, to move the rejection of the Bill. That, it appeared to him, would have been the time to have raised the objections the noble Lord now stated. As to the concluding portion of the noble Lord's remarks, he understood his noble Friend to suggest that he should treat the Act of last year as non-existent. He (the Marquess of Lothian) was not prepared to be so disrespectful to Parliament as to take no notice whatever of an Act that had been passed by both Houses. But the questions raised by the noble Lord (Lord Norton) were not very easy to answer, because his noble Friend seemed to imagine that there were duties pertaining to the Scottish Education Department which did not actually fall on that Department. He asked whether any Code had been prepared by the Scottish Education Department with the view of carrying out the Act of last year? The preparation of a Code to regulate the grants to Technical Schools did not rest with the Scottish Education Department, but with the Department of Science and Art, and the Scottish Education Department had not prepared such a Code. All that Department was empowered to do was simply to show how far it was possible to take action under the Act of last year; and the Circular which had been issued was not, as the noble Lord supposed, in the nature of an instruction, but simply in the nature of a guidance, and for the information of Scottish school boards as to what was possible under the Act, with a view of eliciting from them what they thought would be desirable, and what would be the best means of giving effect to the provisions of the Statute. With reference to the question of apprenticeship, one of the chief reasons why an Act of this kind was desired in Scotland was that the whole system of apprenticeship had been entirely altered by the sub-division of labour and many other causes affecting labour. It was, therefore, desired that some means should be introduced by which young men should receive training, and be enabled to make use of the training which was required. As to the introduction of the Technical Instruction Act into every school, he did not himself believe it would have much effect so far as the elementary schools were concerned. He thought it was rather in the secondary schools that the Act would have most effect. But the principal advantage of the Act would be found in connection with the establishment of evening schools for technical instruction for those who desired it. With regard to the definition of "technical schools," he entirely agreed with his hon. Friend that no practical definition had been given, and anyone who had tried for himself to give a practical definition would have found himself exceedingly puzzled to do so. He had no means of ascertaining at that moment what advantage would be taken of the Act by the people of Scotland, and he did not know how many school boards would take advantage of it. It was impossible at present to go beyond what he had been doing—namely, issuing from the Department a Circular stating what was the view of the Department of the advantages of the Act, and asking the opinions of the school boards and the public upon the form in which it should come into force. If the noble Lord would do him the honour to come to Dover House, he would be most happy to give him all the information in his power, and to answer as far as he could questions that could not be so easily answered in that House. As to laying upon the Table the Circular that had been issued by the Department, he did not think there would be any objection to doing so.


said, he did not share in the views of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Lamington) as to the legislation of last Session. He asked whether the noble Marquess could tell the House of any school boards in Scotland that bad taken action under the Bill of last year?


, in reply, said, that many formalities must be complied with first, and it was quite impossible under the Act for any school board to take advantage of the Act until after the elections; and the whole question must come before the Department before the schools were established.