HL Deb 28 August 1893 vol 16 cc1192-9

asked the Lord President how he justified the action of the Education Office with regard to the British and Foreign School at Holyhead, and the schools at Tilston and Clutton in Cheshire? Before addressing himself to the question of which he had given notice, he desired to remove a misunderstanding on the part of the noble Earl the Lord President as to what took place on the last occasion when he put a question to his noble Friend, who was reported to have said that he (Lord Stanley of Alderley) had compared him to a chimney sweep. No wonder he had been unable to understand that, for there would have been no point in it. Having known the noble Earl for 51 years, it was impossible he could have used towards him an expression implying a person without education. Perhaps his noble Friend had done him au injustice of another kind, feigning to misunderstand him, as a rhetorical artifice. What he said was that a Tory editor had ex- pressed to him the hope that the noble Earl would remain in his place for fear of a loss good man occupying it; and he himself added that he would have preferred to have one of Mr. Frederic Harrison's chimney sweeps in the noble Earl's place, because he would not then have been able to shelter the Vice President. Perhaps the noble Earl had not time to read the magazines, or he would have known that Mr. Frederic Harrison had suggested that the Prime Minister might swamp that House by sending up 100 chimney sweeps, but that those would soon lose their political principles, and would require to be reinforced by another 100. He hoped he had satisfied the noble Earl, whom he had no wish in the least to offend. Coming to the question on the Notice Paper, he would ask the noble Earl for an impartial hearing. The school at Tilston was built much larger than was required for school purposes, in order that it might serve for village meetings; it was put down in the books as capable of containing 142 children, and the attendance was only 60 odd children, including three or four under three years old. The last Report of the Inspector was very favourable: the master was good, and came from a Board school at Clap-ham; for four mouths the managers were unable to get a schoolmistress, but her place was filled during that time by two young women of 18. The managers had some difficulty in meeting the expenses; but notwithstanding that, and that the size of the school was so far in excess of the places occupied, the Education Office was demanding structural alterations that were not required. They exacted cloak rooms, although the pegs for cloaks at one end of the school were seven foot from the nearest benches, and 24 foot from the nearest benches in use at the other end. The Department also required ventilators to be placed in the roof, although there were two circular windows in the gables at each end near the roof, and live large panes which opened in the large windows. He had seen all the maps fluttering on the walls, so that no complaint could be made of want of air. These alterations, he was told, would cost £50. Formerly the Education Department supplied plans for schools, as he knew, for he obtained them when he had occasion to build a now school, and no one would complain if the Department issued new plans every year for use when required for new schools; but it was unreasonable when much expense had been incurrred to call upon schools to change square for round, and to call for ventilators in a roof like those of a cow-house whore there were circular windows for the same purpose. He had seen a school about four miles North of Chester with a kitchener for warming the children's dinners; it might be expected that the Department would immediately require kitcheners to be placed in every school, or that it might order them to be removed from objections to the savoury smell of the dishes distracting the attention of the children. As to Clutton School, he had not seen the official letter stating the demands of the Department, neither could he ascertain them when he called there last Thursday; but lie had boon told that the Department asked for cloak-rooms, porches, and thicker walls. The landowner concerned with this school, and whoso estate paid £14 a year to it, said that this sum and the grants never cleared the expenses; but ho complained principally of the bullying ways of the Department. Those two schools in Cheshire were voluntary schools, with Church teaching, which accounted for these tyrannical and peremptory requirements; but there was no accounting for the threats of suppression launched by the Department against the British and Foreign School at Holyhead, since its religious teaching was entirely undenominational, or of that invertebrate Board school kind, that no persons who eared for religious instruction would give anything to uphold that school. The grievance was, therefore, entirely financial. The Department insisted on structural alterations which would cost £200 or £300, which there was no probablity or possibility of obtaining. In that case what was the Department going to do? Would it order the School Board to acquire a new site and to build a new school at the expense of the ratepayers of Holyhead, who were poor enough already, and was the existing school to be made derelict at the caprice of the Department and the consulting architect? This architect wanted more windows in the gables, and most likely did not know that Holyhead was said at the Meteorological Department to be the place where the winds were most violent in the Kingdom, The walls and roof of this school looked new, though it was built in 1848, at a cost of £567, to hold 350 children. In 1858 a new class-room was added at a cost of £292. In 1878 the premises were re-arranged at a cost of £174—all voluntary subscriptions; and this year the school had been put in proper repair at a cost of £50. The friend of the Vice President, Mr. Lyulph Stanley, had visited this school last year, and said that with some repairs the building was good. He had offered the only piece of ground he possessed adjoining this school for an infant's class-room; but it did not satisfy the Department; and the other adjoining land belonged to Jesus College, Oxford, which did not wish to sell it. But what necessity was there for enlarging this school? There were vacant places in the National school and in the Board schools; and if there were not, the simplest course would be to build a new school in some other part of the town. But the Board schools could hold more, and the National schools were by no means full, and the mountain-side Board school was comparatively empty, owing to an inefficient teacher. The consequence was that the mountain children crowded up the British and Foreign and other Board schools in the town. This would not happen if the mountain school were efficient as it used to be. No doubt the British and Foreign School was too full; but no one looking at the town, and knowing the present supply of accommodation, could fail to think it sufficient if fairly distributed. When the Department dictated such lavish expenditure by people who were severely taxed by the so-called "free education," it was no wonder that such official tyranny should arouse feelings of execration, perhaps soon to burst out into imprecation against the Vice President, and which might reach the Lord President when people got to know that ho not only left him a free hand, but also supported him. He had heard persons casting about for the motives which could possibly influence the Vice President in making these exactions against other than Church schools, and suspecting that the influence was that of some Builders' Union or the good of the building trade. This, of course, was idle nonsense; but he wished it were so, as that would be a more human motive, and, on the whole, less exasperating, than this purposeless tyranny. He had recently heard that the Vice President had not spared Wesleyan and Baptist schools. He certainly appeared to have inscribed over the portals of his office Christianos ad leones, which, in modern English, meant "Christians must go to the dogs." There were others who explained his action by the doctrine first brought to Europe by Pythagoras, and who conceived that his soul once animated one of the hon. that devoured the early Christians in the Roman amphitheatre, and then passed into the Emperor Julian. When M. Louis Veuillot, the editor of L' Univers, was alive, he wrote with so much vigour against the ideas which now reigned in the Education Department, that one of his readers said that if the early Christians resembled M. Veuillot, then he pitied the hon. It was time that we had in this country a writer of similar energy to restrain the Education Department. Earlier in the Session he had called the attention of the Lord President to the number of suicides. He did not mean to press the great increase of suicides, since much of that might be due to physical causes, such as the great heat; but he asked if the noble Earl had noted the letter of Ernest Clark, and other foolish and wicked incitements to suicides, in the columns of The Daily Chronicle, one of the chief supporters of the Government, which The Spectator called "Toying with Suicide," and he asked if the noble Earl felt no responsibility for the future increase of those crimes, which must inevitably follow from the irreligious education which the Vice President was endeavouring to force upon and spread over the country?


I must first beg my noble Friend to accept my most humble apology for not having understood his rhetorical figure; and, therefore, I at once disclaim what I may have said with regard to the "chimney sweep." I may say that I did read the article of Mr. Frederic Harrison, and, therefore, I ought to have understood my noble Friend's reference; but the fact is that he introduces so many tropes, rhetorical figures, and even denunciations of everybody, that it is sometimes rather difficult to follow him. He has called me, for instance, to-night a tyrant; but the next time we meet he will, no doubt, tell mo that he has known me for 51 years; that it is impossible he could intend to impute that to me; and that he hopes I will not take offence. Well, I have known my noble Friend for 51 years, and I will only say that I do not think there is anything he could say of me at which I could take any offence whatever. The truth is that my noble Friend has Vice President on the brain. He attributes to everything my right hon. Friend does a diabolical ingenuity, the last proof of which is that since the Vice President came into Office my noble Friend finds that there has been an increase of suicide. When I hear it stated that I have a Colleague whose policy is so disastrous as to lead to an increase of suicide, I ask myself naturally what can it all mean; and I think I have found an answer in the fact that my noble Friend is under the persuasion that anyone who promotes education in any school which is not a voluntary school is an enemy to all religion. That is a most strange doctrine, and one to which, for my own part, I cannot subscribe. But my noble Friend has answered himself to some extent, because he said that Mr. Acland did not confine his attention only to Church schools, but extended it to British and foreign and other schools also. I can assure my noble Friend that the intention of the Department is to apply the Rules which they think necessary for the promotion of education with perfect impartiality to all schools, whether Church or voluntary, whether connected with the Church of England, or the Wesleyans, or any other denomination. The duty of the Department is simply to administer the law fairly and reasonably in the interests of all parties. I will now come to the matters to which my noble Friend has specially called my attention. With regard to the school at Holyhead, the Inspector reported that the school wanted Improvements. My noble Friend asked what would happen if the improvements are not made. If it should turn out on examination that the improvements are absolutely necessary, and are not made, my noble Friend knows very well what will follow. With regard to the school at Tilston, the Inspectors have reported that the accommodation is not sufficient, and one of the requirements is a proper cloak-room. Up to the present the Department has not received any answer from the Managers. If the Managers will write to the Department stating their views their explanation will be fully considered. With regard to Glutton, a cloak-room, among other things, is wanted, and I am told that the walls are only 9 inches thick. Anybody who knows anything about building must be aware that a wall only 9 inches thick is very unsatisfactory. A wall properly constructed should be 14 inches thick. The Department has called upon the Managers to make the walls somewhat thicker; but it is not intended to impose any disability upon them because of the thinness of the walls. I am perfectly well aware that Inspectors are not always in favour with the Managers of schools; but the Department must trust the Inspectors they employ. No doubt it is annoying to find, after what is called for has been done, that an Inspector points out something else which requires to be remedied. When people are called upon by the Inspectors to bring schools up to a proper standard a certain amount of dissatisfaction must be expected. All I can say is that I will give my most vigorous support to the Vice President in his efforts to bring the schools up to their proper requirements; at the same time, I have spoken to my right hon. Friend on the subject, and he desires as much as myself that these things should be done in a fair and reasonable spirit. Each case must be judged by itself. I do not think the cases brought forward by my noble Friend show any violent or tyrannical action on the part of the Department; but I can assure him that, whether we lie called tyrants or not, in the interests of the children to be educated we are resolved to see that the requirements of the law are fully and entirely carried out.


said, he was glad to hear from the noble Earl that the representations of the Managers would be considered, because the Inspectors were not wholly to be relied upon. He had heard great complaints of them from different parts of the country. He did not say that the noble Earl was a tyrant, but that the Department was tyrannical. What was complained of was that the noble Earl did not look into these cases himself. The law was laid down by the Education Act of 1870; but the Department seemed now to assume to make Codes for itself, which were imperfectly discussed in Parliament. They had no right to force children of three years into the schools in order to save their mothers the trouble of taking care of them. As to the thickness of walls, Lord Harrowby referred to that in the Notice he had put on the Paper for l he consideration of their Lordships.