§ * EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, in calling attention to the correspondence between the managers of the Luton National School and the Education Department, and moving for further Papers, I shall have to detain the House but a very few minutes. I desire, first, to call your Lordships' attention to the Papers which were circulated last week. It is not my fault that the Papers were not in your Lordships' hands at an earlier date. The order was given by this House some weeks ago, but by some mistake they have been delayed. I need not pursue that subject further. 1559 I do not intend to call attention to any local circumstances connected with the Luton National School, but to invite the attention of the Government to certain passages in the reply of the Education Department to the managers of that school. What I wish to know is where we stand with reference to that answer? The New Code of Education, brought in at the beginning of this year, has introduced several modifications which have created great alarm throughout the country; but I will not trace the history of that New Code, or go into details, as I understand that it has now been abandoned. Your Lordships will remember that at first there was a determination to press the New Code at all hazards; afterwards there was a proposal that it should run concurrently with the old; and at last we arrived at another stage when, as I understand, the New Code has been withdrawn altogether, which, it seems to me, was the only satisfactory mode of dealing with that very unhappy series of regulations. My Lords, the sentence to which I wish to call attention is in the reply of the Education Department to the School Managers of Luton, dated 17th of June last, in which they say they consider that for the purpose of determining whether the applications of School Boards for loans under section 10 of the Act of 1873 should be granted the existing accommodation for older children would not be taken at eight square feet per child. That, my Lords, is a most significant attitude to be taken up by the Department. If I am told that was written under the belief that the New Code which was laid before the House was to become law, then I can understand the situation. I understand, however, that it has nothing to do with the New Code, but has reference to conditions which existed before the New Code came before us. The distinction between the two classes of schools is clear. Where the school is erected by loan as sanctioned by the Department the accommodation is calculated at the rate of 10 square feet; but in voluntary schools the calculation has always been made at eight square feet. Many of the voluntary schools have been in existence for a long time, and they have all been sanctioned by Parliament. In some cases where the managers were desirous of providing more ac- 1560 commodation per child than eight square feet, they have been restricted by the Department to that amount of accommodation, and therefore the managers in many cases are not by any means responsible for the accommodation which now exists. They have in some cases been hampered by the Department in providing accommodation at the rate laid down as the minimum. In 1871 the Education Department had determined that the accommodation for older children in schools must not be less than eight square feet per child, and that in Board Schools the space was to be 10 feet. My Lords, the importance of this question is very great indeed. I will not trouble your Lordships with calculations; but in a paper prepared in Manchester with reference to the New Code, Article 5, to which I may refer, it is stated the effect would be at once to reduce by one-fifth the present capacity of the existing schools, which would entail a large outlay in the case of voluntary schools, or a diminished average attendance and a diminished Grant. The question of the application of this principle resolves itself into two heads, one as regards the school itself and its efficiency, the other as regards the amount of provision in a given area. Your Lordships will see that when you are dealing with large masses of population it makes the greatest possible difference whether 10 or eight square feet per child is to be the rule as regards the voluntary schools; and from the reply of the Department to the managers of the Luton National School it seems to be the intention of the Department to make the area required involuntary schools 10 feet instead of 8 per child. This change would lessen by one-fifth the number of places supposed to be existing in voluntary schools, and if this basis of calculation were insisted upon it would lessen the number of seats in voluntary schools in London alone by 60,000. Having up to this time calculated on the basis of eight square feet per child, it is now proposed to make use of another calculation which will deprive voluntary schools of one-fifth of their estimated accommodation. My Lords, I should like to be fully informed what are the intentions of the Department on this head. In the Royal Commission on Education the Secretary 1561 of the Department was asked a question on this point, and he said—"I think the table is prepared on the basis of eight square feet." Now that is an important table. It gives the number of schools, and the number of scholars provided for from 1839 to 1882. The interests at stake in this matter are very great indeed, and I do not think the Department ought to make a change of this magnitude without calling the attention of the public to the matter. The principle is laid down very distinctly as regards Luton that the existing accommodation for older children should not be based upon a calculation of eight square feet, but of 10 square feet. That refers to the voluntary schools at Luton. If it be right to make the change let it be made; but I do not think it is right for the Department to impose that change upon the country, and I call your Lordships' attention to the subject in order that further light may be thrown upon it, seeing that the regulations of the Department would sweep away one-fifth of the accommodation. It is most undesirable, I think, that the Department should act in this legislative manner. Of course, matters of detail arise requiring to be dealt with from day to day; but the Department should not make so serious a change affecting such large interests, and sweeping away so large a portion of the accommodation in the voluntary schools, without further light being thrown upon the matter.
§ Moved, "That there be laid before this House further Papers respecting the Luton National School and the Education Department."—(The Earl Beauchamp.)
§ * VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
My noble Friend, when he first brought this matter forward, asked for the Papers which he thought were sufficient for his purpose. I requested him to come and see all the Papers that he might move for what he thought best. He declined that offer, and now moves for additional ones. I think I shall be able to show what these Papers contain, and what has really been the course adopted with regard to this transaction. My noble Friend is quite mistaken in supposing that something new has been undertaken. The practice which has existed ever since 1562 Mr. Forster's time in 1871 has not been departed from, and where a School Board asks for a loan it is only given on the condition that each school place should have an area of 10 square feet, that it shall so use its desks and seats as to make that accommodation good. That has been done for a long period past. In fact at Nottingham it began so long ago as 1871. But this scale does not interfere with voluntary schools. The voluntary schools are left in the condition in which they are. They are able to take in the number which they can accommodate under the existing system; but the calculation as to the future wants of a district is made upon the 10 square feet basis on which the Board Schools are built. But my noble Friend has said this is something quite new and opposed to the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission approved of the rule now in operation, which is a rule under the old Code; and action under this rule was taken in the Luton case. I need not go through the figures, but it appears there is a deficiency of 615 school places for older scholars, and the loan has been made for 410. That is to say, allowance is made for those who are not likely to make a full attendance, and therefore you allow for two-thirds instead of the whole. By that means you get sufficient without imposing too great a tax upon the rates. My noble Friend supposes this will interfere very largely with the denominational schools.
§ * VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
If my noble Friend does not raise it, I do not want to go into it. But my noble Friend seems to suppose there is some stringent rule going to be imposed which will affect the voluntary schools built upon another scale; and I agree with him that it would be unfair and unjust to come down upon voluntary schools and call upon them to enlarge their limits to the 10 feet scale, which, educationally, my noble Friend has put his hand upon in the recommendations of the Royal Commission as an appropriate scale, and as one which is much more fitting for the purpose than the eight feet scale. But, as I have said, 1563 the voluntary schools are not touched by the 10 feet basis; they remain just as they were, no doubt with a deficiency as regards the 10 square feet, but with a sufficiency as regards the eight square feet regulation. Therefore they are in a position to keep the schools just as they are. There is a deficiency, I think, of 370 places in the Board Schools alone, so that the accommodation supplied will not be much beyond their immediate needs. But, my Lords, it is only right that I should state what has happened in this case. It was the School Board that put it in motion. The application of the Luton School Board to provide further accommodation was made in June of last year, when the Resolution was carried by six to two. The Education Department carefully investigated matters, and the same Resolution having been carried by a new School Board elected in February last by seven to two, it is evident that the inhabitants are in favour of the scheme for which we have sanctioned the loan. I do not think my noble Friend need not be apprehensive that the voluntary schools will be injured by the scheme. No intention has been expressed or felt to injure the voluntary schools in this respect, or to force upon them any larger accommodation than that which they possessed. It is a regulation which relates to the other schools alone, and it does not relate to the voluntary schools at all. In other cases, as I have said, where a loan has been asked, the same audits have been enforced and the same basis of calculation allowed. In the Isle of Man some years ago such was the case.
§ * EARL BEAUCHAMP
May I ask my noble Friend where the rule to the effect he has been mentioning has been laid down? I must confess I am not aware of it. That is one of the unfortunate results of the proceedings of the Education Department. We really do not know what goes on. A correspondence takes place and then we are told that a rule has been established without our being told to what extent the principles laid down are applicable. All I can say is that as far as I am aware no such rule as stated by the Lord President of the Council has been put forward. That state of things is not at all satisfactory notwithstanding 1564 the way in which the noble Viscount describes it. If the regulation is really prospective I can understand it; but if it is to be made retrospective, with the view to existing accommodation on the principle laid down in the letter of the 19th June, a great blow will be struck at the voluntary schools. I should like to know where the rule to which the noble Viscount refers is laid down, and whether it has been published by the Department. After what has been said I will not trouble your Lordships by asking for further papers. My object has been gained by this discussion. I am very glad indeed to hear the noble Viscount disclaim that the intention exists to apply this rule in the way I have mentioned. I do not suppose for a moment that he himself has any desire to interfere with the voluntary schools, but I think the more light thrown on the proceedings of the Education Department the better.
LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
My Lords, I should like to ask how it was the decision was come to when this order was to be put in force, or why it is to be followed now if the new Code has been withdrawn.
§ * VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
My noble Friend does not seem to have heard what I said. I have stated that this matter had really nothing whatever to do with the new Code.
§ * EARL BEAUCHAMP
Then, my Lords, I give notice that I will move that the regulation to which my noble Friend has referred should be laid before the House.
§ Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.