LORD MONTACL OF BEAULIEU
called attention to the action of the Education Department in regard to the School Board of Southampton in ordering a second inspection of one of the 10 schools belonging to that School Board on private representations made to the Education Department by the National Union of Teachers, which the Education Department had declined to furnish to the Southampton School Board, and notwithstanding the knowledge that the School Board had refused to apply to the Education Department for a second inspection; and moved for copies of all the Correspondence between the Education Department and the National Union of Teachers and the School Board of Southampton. He was sorry to give the Lord President more trouble after so many long nights' hard work, and would try to be as brief as possible. The matter was local and not of great importance, but it involved a question of principle, concerning, first, the relations between teachers, School Boards, and managers; secondly, the proper discipline and subordination of teachers to managers; and, thirdly, the relations between the latter and the Education Department. The facts were simple. An adverse Report was sent in 1893 regarding an infant school at Northend belonging to the Southampton School Board. The Report reflected somewhat seriously on the head teacher, who, being dissatisfied with it, asked to have an examination of the school. The Board considered the application, and for 211 reasons satisfactory to themselves refused the head mistress's request. Thereupon she appealed to Mr. Yoxall, the Secretary of the Teachers' Union, and induced him to take up her case. He seemed to have made an inspection of the school on his own account, without the permission or knowledge of the Board, not, however, occupying much time over it, for the documents showed he only spent 20 minutes in the inspection. He sent a confidential communication to the Education Department, who thereupon ordered a second inspection of the school. The Board was never consulted about the matter by the Department, and did not refer to it. in any way in ordering the second inspection. In this the Department had shown a great want of courtesy to the school managers, though no doubt they disclaimed any such intention, and the Chairman of the Board had accepted that disclaimer in the best possible spirit. When the Board complained of not having been consulted in the matter they were told it did not really concern them, but only Her Majesty's Inspector, and that the second inspection had been ordered to investigate the charges of harshness and partiality which had been made against him. No doubt it was open to anybody to hear what was to be said on matters of this kind; but as the school was under the responsible management of a Board, they felt that they should have been communicated with in the first instance to ascertain whether they thought Mr. Burrows had acted in any way harshly to the head mistress. This was a very serious matter as regarded school inspections. The first question was, whether the Department was to receive confidential communications from persons outside against their own Inspectors or against school managers and act upon them? Or, still worse, were they to refuse to put those communications or charges into (he hands of the persons against whom they were made? That was one of the worst features of the whole proceeding, because the Department were asked to hand over the charges which had been made. A serious attack had been made upon Her Majesty's Inspector, a man of great ability and known to his Lordship, strictly carrying out his duties without fear or favour, and who, at the same time, had the confidence of almost everybody connected with teaching in that 212 district. The only result of the attack made upon him bad been that the teachers in his district had held a meeting at which they had expressed the greatest confidence in him. But his Lordship was not concerned in defending Her Majesty's Inspector. The School Board were entitled to know what the charges made confidentially against him were, though Mr. Burrows himself had not apparently asked to be supplied with them. The gentleman who undertook to send the charges had the effrontery to say he was trying to defend the Southampton School Hoard against the tyranny of Her Majesty's Inspector, which seemed to be going rather far. Attention should be drawn particularly to the fact that this was altogether a new departure for the Department in matters of this kind. If the Department were to receive from persons outside confidential communications against persons connected with the School Boards an end would be put to all discipline amongst the teachers, who would say—"If we cannot get the Board of Managers to take up our case, we will go to some outside person or the Secretary of some Trades Union, and get him to espouse our cause, and get something done for us which we cannot get done on the merits of the case alone." Under those circumstances, the matter became of serious import. Though this particular case might not appear to be in itself of any great importance as a mere local affair, yet if the application of this new principle was to be universal the relations between School Boards and teachers would become very unpleasant; discipline would be relaxed, and it would no longer be possible to control the teachers if they thought some outside individuals would be listened to by the Department, which would set aside the decisions of school managers and order an inspection to be held which the Board of Management had refused to ask for themselves. He would, therefore, be glad to hear what explanation the Lord President might kindly be able to give on this subject, and he asked, in common justice to the parties concerned, that the School Board should be favoured with the confidential communications on which the Department had acted.
That there be laid before the House conies of all the Correspondence between the Education
Department and the School Board of Southampton with respect to the action of the Education Department, in regard to the School Board of Southampton, in ordering a second inspection of one of the 10 schools belonging to that School Hoard on private representations made to the Education Department by the National Union of Teachers."— (The Lord Montagu of Beaulieu)
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, speaking first of the rights of the Department and not as to how they exercise them, it is the absolute right of the Department to hold an inspection at any time, and, if necessary, without any notice; and that right it cannot possibly forego; but, in the present ease notice was given. It is a perfect mistake to suppose, as the noble Lord appears to do, that there was any inquiry into the conduct of the School Board: it was a totally different thing. The Department received a confidential letter of complaint respecting one of their own Inspectors and of his Report. The noble Lord is under a curious misapprehension if he thinks it is contrary to the discipline and practice of the Department to receive it complaint of that nature from any quarter whatever. Numbers of such complaints are received in all Departments; and it is for the Department to judge whether any and what inquiry should be made into them. In this case two Inspectors were sent down to inquire not into the conduct of the Board at all, but whether their own officer had in any way acted wrongly. It was a great mistake to suppose that there was any intention to review the recommendation that had been made by Mr. Burrows as to the annual grant after the first inspection. This was not at all in controversy: and the object of the second inspection was solely to assist the Department in forming an opinion as to the truth of the charges which had been brought against their own officer. There was no reflection of any sort upon the Southampton School Board. The result of the inquiry was that the Inspector complained of (Mr. Burrows), was entirely exculpated from the charges brought against him to the satisfaction of the Department. With regard to the production of Papers, the matter did not in any way concern the School Board: and I cannot produce confidential Papers with respect to the conduct of one of the Department's officers. I am quite prepared to produce the Correspondence with the Southampton School Board.
§ *"LORD KNUTSFORD
My Lords, after hearing the explanation given, I must say I do not think the answer of the noble Earl is altogether satisfactory as regards the action of the Department towards the School Board. The Department might, in common courtesy and justice, have asked the School Board for an explanation of the circumstances of the examination which had been complained of. Of course, the Department must receive confidential communications; but in this case it has taken action upon such a communication: and as that action affected the School Board, I think some information as to the nature of the communication should have been given to the Board. The noble Earl docs not seem to me to appreciate that this charge against the Inspector was based mainly upon his examination of this infant school: there may have been other charges, but surely it was the proper thing for the Department to ask for a statement of the circumstances connected with that examination before they hold a second examination, and had they done so they would have found that the Board were satisfied with the Inspectors1 Report. Instead of taking this course, they communicate behind the back of the School Board with Mr. Yoxall and the head teacher. That, I think, was an unfair thing to the School Board, and I must say that feeling has not been relieved by the answer of the noble Earl. He says there was no charge against the Board, but they were implicated in the matter, as it was their infant school which was examined, and they had declined to ask for a, second examination. The action of the head teacher was thus an appeal against them: and the Department should not, without communicating with them, have sent down to have another special examination. The Department is bound, of course, to read confidential Reports from anyone who may choose to send them; but before acting upon one which bears, as in this case, upon School Board matters, they should, I am disposed to think, say to whoever makes the Report—"We are prepared to act upon this. but we shall not hold ourselves bound to treat it as confidential." This course is often taken, and I think it would have been the proper course in this case.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
With great deference to my noble Friend, I 215 must say I entirely dissent from him. I think it would be most prejudicial to the Public Service to admit that a confidential Report with regard to one of the officers of a, Department is to be produced. My noble Friend is far more versed in these matters than I am; but as I understand it is suggested that the Board should have been recognised as having a kind of right to take part in the inquiry—
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
That was a matter solely in the discretion of the two Inspectors who were sent down.
§ LORD KNUTSFORD
Then I have not made myself understood. What I am pointing out is the fault, of the Department in not asking for an explanation of the circumstances before they determined to send down these two special Inspectors.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
That is entirely a matter of discretion. Of course, I do not know the precise circumstances sufficiently to say there might not be a difference of opinion as to the mode of procedure in this particular matter; but it seems to me that, where an inquiry is being made into the conduct of an officer, possibly it would not be prudent to make other inquiries beforehand. To do that would be very likely to prevent your arriving at the truth, and it would not have been fair to the Inspector. Something very different was required to exonerate him, and the proper course, as I think, was taken of sending down two Inspectors to make the inquiry in the manner they thought most desirable. My noble Friend thinks the proper mode would have been to communicate first with the Board. I do not think so at all. If it had been a matter affecting the conduct of the Hoard, then I admit they should have been consulted in the first instance; but I think this is just the kind of matter in which the Department should send down its Inspectors to find out the truth in the best way they could without communicating with the Board, and that by doing so they were more likely to arrive at a fair and just conclusion.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
said, he had not stated that charges were made against the Board. The whole matter arose out of the inspection of the school, and the complaint was 216 made by the schoolmistress, who had made representations to the Board. The Board had refused to ask the intervention of the Department; and then the schoolmistress appealed to Mr. Yoxall, of the National Union of Teachers, at whose instance the Department ordered inquiry without communicating with the Board. If there had been charges to be dealt with outside, that would have been a different matter: but the School Board had refused to ask the Department to order a, re-inspection, and they had nevertheless ordered it on the ipse dixit of a person entirely outside. The School Board should have been communicated with.
LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord HERSCHELL): My Lords, it seems to me that this case involves a matter of some importance. It is most valuable to every Department that it should receive confidential communications, and should exercise its own judgment with regard to the extent to which it will act upon them. If such communications could not be received most important knowledge, which it is most, important a Department should have, would fail to reach them. Therefore, I should certainly regard it as most unfortunate that any Department should not be entitled to receive confidential communications from any quarter, and to act upon them absolutely at its own discretion. Personally, I must protest against the doctrine that a Public Department has not the right to act, as it may think expedient for the public interest in a, confidential matter, and that the Department is not the sole and exclusive judge of the best mode of prosecuting its inquiry.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
Does the noble Lord move for the production of the Correspondence with the Board, leaving out that with the National Union of Teachers?
§ Motion, as amended, agreed to.
§ House adjourned at half past Five o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter past Four o'clock.