HL Deb 30 June 1893 vol 14 cc498-504

asked the Government whether it was correct that the Secretary for Scotland had promised a deputation of members of School Boards in Scotland and others that early next year important changes would be made in the Minute of Committee of Council of 1st May dealing with secondary education in Scotland; and, if so, whether those changes would include the reservation of a considerable portion of the funds available for distribution in the form of grants to schools which provide efficient higher instruction for rural districts of Scotland; whether any information could be given at an early date as to the amount of the sum to be reserved for that purpose, and the principles on which it was likely to be distributed, so that the County Committees might be able to take these matters into consideration when entering upon the duty of framing schemes for their respective localities; whether the Secretary for Scotland would, by Circular or otherwise, make it clear to the Committees appointed by his direction for purposes of deliberation and inquiry that they were not to exercise administrative functions of any kind in regard to the schools within their districts, whether landward or burghal; whether the House is to understand that the principle of distributing the Equivalent Grant for Scotland for the years 1892 and 1893 in a fixed ratio according to population only will be adhered to; and, if so, whether the calculation on which the distribution contained in the Appendix to the Letter of the Secretary for Scotland of 1st May is founded can be laid on the Table of the House? He said, their Lordships need not be alarmed that he was going to make a speech commensurate with the length of the question. Of course, it had reference to the Debate and Division which took place a few days ago. They had since received the answer to their Resolution that Her Majesty had been advised to make no change in the Minute. He had read the answer with a feeling of mild surprise, for he thought that on the merits they had made an excellent case. But his surprise at that was nothing as compared with what he felt at the latter part of the Message—that, If the Committee should come to the conclusion that alterations were necessary, those alterations would be made. That was on the 22nd June. On the 8th June the Secretary for Scotland (Sir George Trevelyan) had made an absolute promise to the deputation which went to him that very material changes would be made in the Minute for next year. He understood, from an answer given in another place, that £200 was to be given absolutely to every county next year apart from any division of the money according to population; but to give that sum to each county irrespective of its size, needs, or the number of schools in it was, in his opinion, a wholly illogical and improper method of division. His question had reference to that promise of the Secretary for Scotland. Again, the County and Burgh Committees had to frame schemes; but unless they knew what they had to spend, they could not frame such schemes, and he understood no information had been given to them. He desired to know whether that information could be given at an early date? His fourth question was, whether the Secretary for Scotland would, by Circular or otherwise, make it clear to the Committees that they were not to exercise administrative functions in regard to the schools in their district, the Secretary for Scotland having in his place in Parliament and, in answer to the deputation, disclaimed any such idea. Many School Boards in Scotland had taken alarm as to the powers of those Committees, and the belief existed in burghs as well as in counties that they were intended to be set over the School Boards, and actually in some matters to control them. He thought that a fair construction of the Minute was that the Committees were to have such powers. At the same time, he personally accepted the Secretary for Scotland's disclaimer that those Committees were not to exercise administrative functions; but he thought the fact should be made abundantly clear to the School Boards concerned, in order that their feeling of alarm might be allayed, as it was most important that it should be allayed as soon as possible. He still thought a serious mistake had been made in departing from the Minute of January, and that it would have disastrous results for many years to come in the higher education of Scotland. The next matter was of more or less local concern. Sir George Trevelyan gave in the Appendix to his Letter of the 1st May a table of the amounts of money to be distributed to each county in ratio to its population; and he wished to know what method of calculation had been adopted for that purpose, for by no arithmetical process had he been able to make the sum allotted to his county come out according to its population? It was not a large county, but it looked after its interests with great zeal. It had only got an amount which should be allotted to a population of 26,000, whereas it bad 33,000, which, on the division, would give £467 instead of £376. Probably the Education Department had overlooked the fact that under the Local Government Act the Boundary Commissioners had added the large and populous parish of Alva, formerly in the County of Stirling, to that county, and out of the small pittance given it would have to provide for higher education for the 6,000 taken from the large and prosperous County of Stirling, which would be relieved to that extent That was a great hardship, which there should be no difficulty in remedying. If the Census of Clackmannan for 1891, plus the added parish, were taken, a more just division would be arrived at.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for having put his question in this form. I will not now go into details, but at once answer the inquiries he has made. My answer to the first question is, that it is the case that the Secretary for Scotland undertook, to a deputation of the kind named, that next year a change will be introduced into the Minute of May 1, dealing with the grant for secondary education in Scotland, whereby, before the grant is divided in proportion to population, a sum of £200 will be paid to each Burgh and County Committee, which, if they so recommend, may be allocated to higher class schools at the burgh class, which class was recognised as proper recipients of a special grant under the Minute of January 31. We think that these higher schools deserve special encouragement, and are of benefit at once to the burghs and the rural districts; and where they do not exist in any county we desire to offer encouragement to their establishment. Where no such school exists in any county the sum will still be paid to the County Committee, so as to increase to some extent the share of those districts to which the principle of population brings an unduly small allowance. Upon the other point the noble Lord refers to the fear entertained that these Committees will exercise some administrative functions, and he is desirous that a special Circular should be issued upon that point. In the opinion of the Department no special Circular is required, and for the reason that there is nothing in their functions which can be of an administrative character, and a Circular telling them that they have no administrative functions is therefore unnecessary, because none have been assigned to them. A Circular has already been sent to the Burgh and County Committees asking them to send in their Reports and proposals; but it has already been fully explained that their functions are not in any way of an administrative kind in regard to the schools within their districts, whether landward or burghal. With regard to the second question which the noble Lord asks about the population, the portion of the Equivalent Grant which is assigned to secondary education will be distributed for the financial years 1892 and 1893 on the principle of population. He is correct in saying that the tables do not correspond precisely with the present population. The calculations on which the distribution contained in the Letter of May I was based were made upon the latest Returns of the School Board district populations issued by the Registrar General. The noble Lord is, I dare say, aware that these calculations are governed by the Returns which the Registrar General is required to furnish to the Department.


said, the alteration was made two years ago.


The Registrar General has never issued any certificate of changes to the Education Department which would enable them to act. Subsequent alterations by the Boundary Commissioners have not been embodied in any Returns of School Board population by the Registrar General; but the Department has been in communication with him on the subject, and, in conjunction with him, has ascertained the effect of these changes upon the population of each district. The differences are very immaterial in all but the cases of Perth and Clackmannan, the relations of which have been altered to an extent which influences the grant by less than by £100. We have every hope that the Registrar General will furnish a certified Return of any changes, and before actually making the allocation in these cases we shall use every means to adjust the matter correctly.


urged upon the noble Earl and upon the Department that in future years greater consideration should be given to the position of the Board schools which should receive larger sums. This year a large sum was to be distributed upon principles, as had been practically admitted, which the Department could not justify. When the fund became available great hopes were held out to the Board and burgh schools that the means of extending their usefulness would be supplied to them. The serious evil under which the present system of education in Scotland laboured was generally felt to be that the children were taken from the schools at too early an age—12 or 13—and put to employments for which they were utterly unfitted; and this money, if handed to the Board schools for purposes of secondary education, would enable the children to be kept longer in them. He was far from undervaluing what had been done by the endowed schools; but it was rather hard that the greater part of this money now available should be handed over under this Departmental Minute to schools already richly endowed, while children were obliged to leave the Board schools at so early an age for want of the means of retaining them. He sympathised very much with what Lord Balfour had said as to the Committees set up to intervene between the Department and the School Boards. That was all very well as a merely temporary expedient in January; but it had now been made permanent, and something in the guise of Home Rule under the Department had been made permanent in Scotland. It would not do to say that the Committees would not interfere in the management of the details of the schools, for they would, undoubtedly, have a most potent influence if they were able to frame schemes and say they would not recommend particular schools who would not adopt their views. That was an evil which would require to be jealously guarded against. He would have been glad, therefore, if a caution could have been given to those Committees. If it were not to be given the administration of their functions must be very carefully attended to. A further observation should be made in regard to the administration of the funds in future years, as to the composition of these Committees. Though in the counties half the members were to come from the representatives of Board schools, those schools were only, in the burghs, to be represented to the extent of one-third. That would prove in the result a serious matter, because, if the other two-thirds were deeply inte- rested in the endowed institutions, the schemes suggested to the Department would be much more favourable to them than should be the case. This was a matter on which the Board schools had naturally taken great alarm. The Education Department could not be congratulated upon the course they had taken in this business. They had first asked the advice of the different Committees as to how the money should be distributed, and had then changed their policy in the face of that advice. Next, when the Minute was laid on the Table of the House, Lord Playfair, who had to support it, began by saying he disapproved of its main features. In the third place, the House had, on Motion of Lord Balfour, condemned the Minute. Notwithstanding, in the face of all those things, the Department had passed it. The result had been that they had produced great discontent in the distribution of the fund; and it would be but poor consolation to the School Boards for them to say now—"We admit we have blundered hitherto, but we will put it right next year." The Department should in future years take these matters into consideration, and he trusted that the claims of the Board schools would be more fully considered in the future, and that an adequate amount of funds would be distributed to them.

[The subject then dropped.]