HL Deb 23 February 1891 vol 350 cc1335-41

House in Committee (according to Order).

Clause 11.

Amendment moved, in page 4, line 4, after ("regards") insert ("conveyance to and from a school, or.")—(The Lord Norton.)

Amendment agreed to.


I do hope to draw attention to this clause. In line 10, it is provided that the parent of a deaf or blind child shall not pay a larger fee for its instruction in a blind and deaf school than the ordinary school fee. The words are that, as far as regards the education of such, a child, "the parent shall pay the ordinary weekly fee payable in a public elementary school for a similar child not blind or deaf." Everybody knows that the education of blind and deaf children is a great deal more expensive than that of ordinary children, and why should a parent, equally capable of payment for his child, be allowed to get a shillingsworth of education for 6d.? It is a great affliction, of course, to have a blind or deaf child, but you are not in consequence of that to make the unfortunate ratepayers pay more for its education. It is introducing a pauper principle if you only charge the ordinary fee to cover the much greater expense of education at one of these special schools. Those special schools are not only very expensive for the particular kind of instruction required, but they can only be district schools scattered throughout the country, and there is the conveyance and boarding of the children and other expenses incidental to this kind of education. I can find no reason whatever why the well-to-do parents of a blind or deaf child should pay no larger fee for the education of that child than is payable by a parent in similar circumstances for an ordinary child at an ordinary school.

Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 10, to leave out from ("parent") to ("deaf") in line 13.—(The Lord Norton.)


My noble Friend rather surprises me at the way he seems to read this clause. No doubt if I read it as he appears to have read it I should find considerable difficulty; but the clause does not mean what he supposes. He supposes, apparently, that it lays down the principle that not more than the ordinary fee shall be paid for such a child at one of these special schools, that is to say, not more than 9d.; but that is only one of the items to be taken into consideration.


It is for the education.


One of the items to be taken into consideration is the means of the parent. The circumstances of the parent are to be regarded. That is to say, the two things are to be taken into consideration, the cost and the parents' means, and a sum is to be fixed, which it is thought right the parent ought to pay looking to his means. That is a totally different thing from ordering all parents to pay the same fee. The clause is intended to give power to the Court to fix upon the sum, which is to be settled in each case.


Allow me to say that is not the case at all. I suppose the means of the parent, in the comparison, to be the same in the case of a child sent to an ordinary school and of one sent to a blind school; and yet the more expensive education is to be got by one of the parents for his blind child at the same fee as is charged to the other, similarly circumstanced, for the ordinary child. The other expenses of conveyance, maintenance, and so on, must be otherwise met; but in this line of the clause it particularly says that the payment for the education of a blind child is to be the same as the fee paid for an ordinary child. I really think this is a serious point. It is introducing a sort of eleemosynary socialistic principle into the Bill to say that because a parent has the misfortune to have a blind child, having the same means as the parent of an ordinary child, he is to be provided at public expense with the more expensive education at the same fee as the other parent pays for his child's ordinary education.


It is provided that if the parent can make an agreement in regard to the sum to be paid he may do so. If not, the question must be taken before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, and then there is power to take into consideration the means of the parent and also what the expense of the education of a child is ordinarily. That is to say, in the case of a parent who is of the working class, who would ordinarily pay the usual school fee at an ordinary school and not more, it would be in the power of the Summary Court to say that he should not pay more on account of his child being deaf. He would obtain conveyance for it from the place where he resides; but it is left entirely open to the Court of Summary Jurisdiction to fix whatever fee it thinks proper for the education of that child, absolutely.


I am afraid my education has been so ordinary that I cannot perceive the reason for the limit laid down, though a Court may relax it. However, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave of the Committee, withdrawn.

Clause 14.


My Lords, I have an Amendment at the end of the clause, which raises the question whether the compulsory powers in regard to these afflicted children should be exactly the same in reference to age as with regard to ordinary children. The noble Lord at the head of the Education Department contends that the parents of these children ought to have the power to take them away and to employ them in some occupation at the age of 14 years. Now, I venture to think that the case of these children—certainly of the deaf—is very different from that of ordinary children. If the parent of an ordinary child takes it away without having passed certain standards which may be found necessary for him in after life, he may continue his education; but if you take away a deaf child at the age of 14, before he has attained the means of speech—acquiring the power of speech, he never can recover what he has lost in that way—he never can recover his powers of speech which he was in process of acquiring. Therefore, I say, a deaf child is placed at a disadvantage, under which he ought not to suffer, and on that account there should be a distinct difference made between deaf and blind and ordinary children. I have ventured to put the age at 15. I have not gone quite so far as the Royal Commission, and perhaps my noble Friend will be disposed to meet me on that point. I think the age of 15 a very important period, because it gives the necessary eight years after a child who is deaf should have commenced his education. It will enable him to have finished the education which he ought to have for eight years. The limitation to the compulsory powers at the end of eight years was taken out of the Bill. By the first Bill it was not necessary to send a child who was deaf to school before the age of seven years for reasons which were shown to us by inquiries both at home and in foreign countries—France, Germany and Italy; that it was not profitable to the State to begin to educate a deaf child until he attained the age of seven, that he could not possibly before that age take any education. It was shown that those children were at least two years behind others, and therefore the compulsory powers I am asking for these children up to 15 are really no more than those for ordinary children up to the age of 13. That point was very strongly urged before the Commissioners, and that conclusion was arrived at after communication with teachers both in this country and abroad. It is not so likely, perhaps, that parents will withdraw their children in order to put them to work when they are getting a good education in some school maintained for that purpose, because they would not be fitted to obtain their livelihood at 14, but they might take away a child and put him in the streets to beg. I would ask your Lordships, is that a desirable thing to permit to be done? Therefore, I say it is to the interest of the State to see that these children are properly taught, and that they should not be allowed to be withdrawn at the caprice of the parents. The State having gone so far as to provide for their being educated, ought to see that the education is completely and thoroughly carried out. I have, therefore, fixed 15 as the age at which these children can fairly be said to have had an education sufficient to enable them to obtain a livelihood in the future. These children are frequently withdrawn from school by their parents when only 13 or 14 and apprenticed to tailors or put to work at other trades, and they soon forget the little knowledge they have obtained, and though they may be capable of earning their livelihood by their work, they are without that education which they ought to have. The contention before the Commission is, that these children are and ought to be treated educationally as a class apart. The right way to deal with them is to do as is done in the United States, where they are considered the wards of the State, and where it is recognised that it is the duty of the State to look after them more carefully than other children. This is a very important matter if the oral system of teaching is ever to be largely carried out in this country. It is quite clear that this description of education is a thing apart. I am sorry to have to go into these details, but this is a subject of great importance. If the deaf children are to be educated at all it is only by enforcing such a system as they have in France, Germany, and Italy. In those countries they have certainly, by the course of education followed, enabled the deaf to speak, and it is only in consequence of the inferior teaching and of the short time devoted for the purpose of education that children of that class are in this country less fortunate in regard to what is done for them. This country is, I am sorry to say, very much behind the nations of the Continent in that particular. The Commission had before their minds the necessity that the education of these children should be raised to what it is according to the best system among the nations of the Continent, and it is speaking on their behalf especially, that I venture to propose the addition of words which will raise the compulsory period from the age of 14 to 15.

Amendment moved, in page 5, line 4, at end of clause to add ("beyond the age of fifteen.")—(The Lord Egerton of Tatton.)


I should like to say a few words in addition to what has fallen from the Mover of the Amendment, because I also am a Member of the Commission. I paid very particular attention to all the evidence that was presented upon the best method of dealing with deaf children. It was certainly made out to us very clearly that it would be a very great gain to the deaf if they were so taught by the oral instruction method as to be able to speak in ordinary conversation with other people. It was also very clearly proved that it was necessary, if this was to be done at all, that sufficient time should be given to it. I venture to think if you curtail the time you will seriously damage the chances of giving the necessary instruction in that respect, and that you will waste a large proportion of your efforts in what may have been already done, you will have spent a rather shorter time and not have really obtained your object; and you might almost as well cease the attempt altogether as not carry it to its full extent. For myself I regret that the age was not fixed at 16; but, at any rate, I venture to think it would be very unwise to cut it down still lower. We ought not, I think, to fall into that worst of all mistakes, that is, doing a thing in so imperfect a manner that it is a question whether you ought in such a case as we have here to deal with to do it at all. I venture, therefore, to press upon the House to accept the Amendment.


My Lords, I think there is some little misappre hension as to what this clause really does. This clause puts deaf and blind children upon a totally different footing from other children who come into the ordinary schools and remain in the ordinary schools up to a certain time. In the ordinary schools at the age of 14, the Government ceases to pay any Parliamentary Grant for them at all. Here we agree to pay a Parliamentary Grant, and we permit their education to be helped out with it up to the age of 16, which is two years more than in the case of other ordinary children; but at the same time we leave them, at 14 years of age, as in the case of the ordinary children when they have passed a certain standard, at liberty to be taken away and put to work. In the ordinary schools they are taken away when they are able to assist their parents. But in this case it is well known that in most of these institutions they stay of their own accord, and if they do they will be able to do so with greater advantage by the help of the Parliamentary grant. With regard to the age of entry, that is provided for in a certain way. My noble Friend, Earl Granville, whom I am sorry not to see in his place, especially as his absence is from being indisposed, takes a great interest in this subject, and he headed the deputation to the Department. He, when the Bill was in this House, thought it would be a great advantage to add in the earlier years. I did not, however, think that a very material point to insist upon, because probably the School Boards would not think it advisable the children should be sent, and that the institutions would not be very anxious to receive them at that age. But with regard to the present Amendment of my noble Friend I really hope he will withdraw it, because it would be, I think, absolutely useless. This Bill does not alter the compulsory age for education at all, and all that my noble Friend would do would be to say that nothing in this Act shall operate beyond the compulsory period of 15 years. This leaves it simply under the Education Acts, and so the Amendment which my noble Friend proposes would be absolutely inoperative. I cannot help thinking that when he considers how far the suggestions of the Commission have been adopted in this Bill that he had better accept it as it is.


After what has been said by my noble Friend, I beg to withdraw the Amendment. I merely wished to raise the question so that the Bill should not pass without its being noticed.

Amendment (by leave of the Committee) withdrawn.

Bill re-committed to the Standing Committee; and to be printed as amended. [No. 43.]