HL Deb 09 February 1893 vol 8 cc841-8

called attention to the Minute of the Committee of Council on Education in Scotland, dated 31st January, 1893; and asked what opportunity would be given for the consideration of the proposed distribution of the Secondary Education Grant by the Department and of the objections raised by the County and Burgh Committees to the Minute? He said, as the House was aware, in the last Session of Parliament, under the provisions of the Education Act, out of the Local Taxation Account, a sum of £60,000 was allocated for the purposes of secondary education under Minutes of Departments to be submitted to Parliament in urban and rural districts in Scotland. A meeting of the Department was held at the termination of last Session, and a Minute was drawn up of the proposed scheme under that Act. That scheme was circulated in a letter by the Secretary for Scotland to all the School Boards and school authorities in Scotland at the beginning of last December, and, under that Act, Committees were formed in all burghs and counties in Scotland to carry out the Act. Along with that draft Minute a statement was issued in which some important notifications were made to which he would call attention. On the first day of the Session a draft Minute was laid before Parliament. It differed considerably, and in important matters, from the Minute issued by the Secretary for Scotland in December, particularly as regarded the proposals as to the grants to higher class schools. Instead of proposing to allocate the grants upon the average attendance of scholars, it was now proposed only to give the grants upon a number of scholars over 13 years of age, other than free scholars, calculated according to the rules laid down from time to time by the Department. That Minute, altered in important particulars, had not been before the bodies constituted in Scotland, some of which had not yet even met. At all events, the County Committees had not, though the majority of the Burgh Committees had done so; and where they had met they were only making the preliminary inquiries under the terms of the Minute. That Minute was supposed to lie on the Table of the House for one month; and as nearly half the time had passed, he would plead, seeing the important considerations involved in reference to secondary education, that that was too short a time within which to pass a Minute of this description. There was, apparently, no hurry for Parliament passing it, and he thought some delay might be allowed for representations to be made by the Committees formed in Scotland to deal with the subject. For instance, to show how important the question was considered in some of the counties in Scotland the meeting of the Aberdeenshire Committee, held on February 3rd last, came to the unanimous conclusion that in order to secure the equal division of the grant for secondary education in Scotland and the maintenance of the due relation between different parts of the country, and particularly urban and rural areas, it should he distributed and made available in a similar manner to the residue grant upon the basis of rateable value, and they resolved to memorialise the Secretary for Scotland for the distribution of the grant in that way. Aberdeen was one of the most representative counties in Scotland, mid further time should be given for the Committees to meet and call the attention of Parliament to the serious question, involved before the Minute was finally passes. And, curiously, in the letter sent with the draft Minute in December to the Committees by the Secretary, for Scotland it was stated that— The lines would be followed which were indicated by the reports of the County and Burgh Committees, keeping in view the adjustment of the due relations between the different parts of the country in the allocation of the grants of grants within the terms of the Minute. Unless time was given for considering the representations made by those Committees how could that due consideration be given as there promised? Another important matter which had been entirely overlooked in the Minute was provision for outlay upon buildings required in the rural districts of Scotland for the purpose of secondary education which was to be provided in the schools as a condition of the grants. None of the schools in the rural districts had room or proper equipment for secondary education, and it was felt in those districts that they would be cut off for years from participation in the grants; and there was no provision except by general rates (which he knew no means of levying for the purpose) which would enable them to get what they required. The Minute provided no fund for capital expenditure or for assistants in the schools as regarded secondary education. In the north-east of Scotland many of the schools had received large sums under the Dick bequest, and had already provided a certain amount of secondary education by keeping on scholars after they had passed Standard VI. It was very doubtful whether, under the terms of the Minute, those schools would be recognised as secondary and whether they would get a share of the grant. Under those circumstances, he suggested that further time should be given, say until Easter, for considering the Minute which should be allowed to remain for that space upon the Table.


said, that as Chairman of the Committee appointed by the Department to consider this matter, and upon whose Report this Minute was based, he had to say that they had considered this question of distribution of the grants; and that if the system referred to were adopted, the fact would be over looked that a great disparity existed between the different districts of Scotland in dealing with the fund available for secondary education. While in some favoured spots, including probably the City of Aberdeen, large provision existed for secondary education, in the greater part of Scotland, particularly the Highlands, practically there was none; and if the object of these grants was to provide opportunities for people in poorer circumstances to benefit by secondary education throughout Scotland, a division of the grants according to valuation would necessitate a considerable increase in the £60,000, and in the favoured districts of Scotalnd there would be and amount of money provided which there would, perhaps, be some difficulty in spending. But besides that, as regarded the distribution of the residue and equivalent grants, the noble Marquess must have overlooked the fact that those grants were now distributed not alone to County and large Town Councils, but to the Councils of all burghs of any size in Scotland. In some cases the amounts allocated were but a few pounds. The consequence of distributing a grants for secondary education of £60,000 only would be that the sums allocated would in some cased be so ridiculously small that it would be impossible for the Local authorities to expend them to any advantage, and simply a great waste of money would result.


said, he proposed that the smaller burghs in Scotland should be included in the counties.


said, that might be the noble Marquess's proposal, but that was not the principle on which the grants were now expended, and its adoption would raise difficult question of administration. If the grants were to be distributed in that fashion, the only bodies to whom they could be handed over for administration would be the School boards, and that would be done in very small sums in many cases. The noble Marquess suggested that the County Councils should administer them; but the County Councils were not connected with the educational system of Scotland. Some of the Town Councils were 20 years age, but by the Education Act of 1872 their interest in the burgh schools was transferred to the School Boards, and it would certainly be remarkable if they were now put to administer the Imperial grant. They had not all exercised the option of dividing the equivalent grant for the purpose of technical education, but there were special grounds for that, because technical education had for various reasons been kept somewhat apart form the general scheme of educa- tion. He did not say he favoured that course, and he hoped it would be amended, and that at some future day technical education would be placed in connection with the general system of the country. He could only say that his experience of a large county had convinced him that the present system of administration through the County Councils could not be regarded with satisfaction as a permanent method for the administration of that grant. The noble Marquess in asking for delay had overlooked the purpose for which the County Committees, on behalf of some of which he spoke, were instituted. They were in no sense administrative bodies. That part of the Minute proceeded directly from the Report and the Committee of which he had been Chairman, and they had referred to the position of educational matters in Wales. Without going into details, he would point out that under the Welsh Act there were two distinct systems: the first, inquiry for the formation of schemes, awl the second for administration through the Governing. Bodies thus formed. The recommendation of the Report and the terms of the Minute for Scotland to meet the circumstances in the different countries referred to the first stage only; and the County Committees were now instituted in Scotland solely for inquiry, and not in any way to administer the funds. Inquiries were necessary, because great differences of opinion were expressed as to the position of the particular schools which might be profitably used for secondary education, and a competent opinion had been given—in Aberdeen, for instance—that there were perhaps 12 centres which would be suitable for that purpose. The object of the institution of the County Committees was that Reports on this subject might be presented, and the waste which might have arisen under the original Memorandum of the Department, by which any School Board might have instituted a secondary department, avoided. This, however, was a matter which would require considerable time. It was not proposed in the case of Scotland, as in Wales, that the Reports of the County Committees should embody schemes to become law, hot only that they should report to the Secretary for Scotland, who would deal with their Reports. The reason was obvious: in Wales there was not a uniform system of School Boards, but they had to deal with voluntary schools and other matters, while in Scotland that uniform System existed, and it would be necessary that any scheme for the organition of secondary education there should be formulated by a Minister and put before, the country on official authority. That being the case, delay in this matter would he serious. The primary intention put before Parliament and before the country in the giving of this grant was that something should by done for the Burgh schools of Scotland, winch, owing to various circumstances, had long stood in an anomalous position, and there was no reason whatever why they should not receive some share of this £60,000 now available, or why they should be asked to wait until all the County Committees had reported upon the various matters brought before them. In the Report of the Committee over which he had presided, they specially guarded themselves against any idea that this system Was advocated as the permanent method of distributing the grants, and expressed their opinion that it must be a matter of experience whether the system of capitation grants should prove the most suitable way of assisting secondary education in the future. What the permament system was to be could not be decided until the Secretary for Scotland, or the Government for the time being, took up the question of the organisation of secondary education, and filled up a gap which had long existed in that matter in Scotland. If the noble Marquess would induce his County Council to carefully consider the various points submitted to them it would do something towards obtaining in the end that local control which, no doubt, was Ids object. It was a matter for consideration in Scotland whether something might not be done as in Wales to formulate opinion with regard to the proper method of administering secondary education in the future; but, however that might be, he would impress upon the noble Marquess that these County Committees were in no sense intended to administer the grant, but simply to make inquiries and report, and that the decision of this question must wait until their Reports had been received and considered by the Secretary for Scotland.


My Lords, my noble Friend (the Earl of Eight) has, to a considerable extent, anticipated what I had to say in answer to the noble Marquess. The matter has been for a considerable time under consideration, as the noble Marquess knows. A Committee was appointed by the late Government over which the noble Earl presided, and they made a Report. A Minute was laid before Parliament just before the close of last Session, and the present Minute, which was laid on the Table on the first day of the present Session, does not differ materially from it; indeed, the point referred to by the noble Marquess is practically the only one in which there is a difference of any importance. Neither do I see that the difference is a serious one. I am informed it was introduced merely for the purpose of enabling the calculations to be more easily made, as was thought in the first year in carrying out the previous Minute. My noble Friend has pointed out exactly what I was about to say—namely, that the function of these County Committees is somewhat misapprehended by the noble Marquess. They were appointed for the purpose of recommending what schools should receive grants, and were not to administer them. I do not profess to be well acquainted with the state of education in Scotland, but I am told that there are two classes of opinion in this matter. There are some who think that secondary education ought to be concentrated in large schools; others that it should be given in schools scattered over the country. The Secretary for Scotland has by no means adopted the view that only the large towns or larger schools should be favoured, and the very object of the Minute of which the noble Marquess complains is to ensure a fair distribution for the rural districts. It is in order, as far as possible, to secure such fair distribution that these Committees have been organised—to point out which shall receive the grants. The intention of the grant was not to create secondary schools, hut to aid existing schools. It is obvious that if an attempt were to be made with £60,000 to create secondary schools all over Scotland the result would be that only a very small number of places would be benefited. Very small schools only could be created, and existing schools must be able to avail themselves of the grant. It is open to noble Lords to discuss the proposed distribution at any time within the statutory period during which the Minute is required to lie on the Table in both Houses of Parliament when any objections made will be listened to and carefully considered. The Minute has been framed with a sincere desire to distribute fairly and equitably over Scotland the amount of money available in the Department; and I do not think it would be desirable to place in the hands of Local Bodies the entire control of the money to be expended. The Department is desirous that while the County Committees should be able to express their opinion as to the schools to be assisted, the conditions on which the grants are to be made should remain in the hands of the Secretary for Scotland. I do not think they could be satisfactorily administered in any other manner. I shall be glad to give the noble Marquess any other information I can, but I cannot hold out to him any hope that the matter will be delayed or the Minute withdrawn.


said, the Lord President of the Council had misunderstood him as saying that the distribution of the grant should be left to the County Committees. He was, of course, aware that it was to be under the control of the Scotch Education Department but his plea for delay was that they should hear what, those Committees had to say before committing themselves to the Minute, and allowing it to become law.


Perhaps, in confusing somewhat the Scotch and English systems, I omitted to say that the general funds given for the assistance of education are available for these schools, because in Scotland the secondary are not entirely separate from the other schools, and any school requiring to do so can come for such assistance as is given under ordinary circumstances.