HL Deb 29 March 1895 vol 32 cc445-64

*LORD NORTON rose To call attention to the new edition of the Education Code, which will become law at the end of this week. He said, he thought Parliament ought now to take some notice of the annual additions made to the Code. Year by year modifications were introduced which became law by the simple process of incubation on the Table of the House for 40 days. There had been no fewer than 37 additions to the Code since he himself first codified the accumulated Minutes of Council which he found in the office in 1858; the Code was revised by Lord Sherbrooke, and it then fought an arduous way up to the Act of 1870. The edition of the Code just produced included alterations, some important and some apparently only verbal, which filled an Appendix of 20 pages. The Code had now grown to nearly 100 pages, besides instructions which filled 70 pages more. He would ask their Lordships to consider how much of the time of the schoolmasters and schoolmistresses must be taken up in studying this ever-changing voluminous Code. The apparently verbal alterations in this instance were not quite so insignificant as might at first sight appear. Several of them had been the subjects of questions in the House of Commons to ascertain what they meant, and recently a deputation of publishers of school books to the Department bitterly complained that the requirements of the new Code would render obsolete all the present accepted school books on history. He would only say of the minor alterations that they were calculated by their number to be a hindrance to national education rather than otherwise. Of the larger alterations he would refer to two, both of which he thought were great improvements. The first was the inspection of schools without notice. No formal fixed inspection ever found a school in its normal state. An annual stated inspection might be necessary for obvious reasons, but the surprise visit was a good addition, because it would give Parliament and the Department a more accurate view of the normal condition of the schools. The whole system of Government inspection required revision and simplification, duplicated as it was, by the larger School Boards having their own Inspectors besides. The other larger alteration in the Code to which he wished to call attention was even more important, and certainly beneficial—namely, the introduction of Schedule S, which was a scheme for small schools, and with it he would couple the new facilities given to obtaining masters and mistresses suitable for those small country schools. This was at last a recognition that all schools could not be treated alike, and that a line must be drawn between elementary and secondary instruction. Ever since the Act of 1870 the definition of Elementary Education had been trespassed over surreptitiously, the object being an unobserved stretch of the elementary undertaking, instead of avowedly and properly getting Parliamentary sanction for higher public schools. At present subjects of instruction, from reading words of one syllable up to classics, mechanics, and foreign languages, formed one syllabus for all schools, only classified under the three heads, obligatory, optional, and specific. No definition was given of the proffered subjects of instruction except as of those for which grants were paid, and this mode of definition came of the degraded notion of national education by payment on results, a system which happily was now almost entirely abolished. An excellent comparison between English and German schools, made by the Secretary of the Birmingham School Board, described the English standards of instruction as merely mechanical tests to enable, Inspectors to assign grants from the Treasury, while the German standards were a syllabus of work arranged in suitable stages of instructional adaptation. Lord Taunton's Commission drew attention, in its celebrated Report, drawn up by the present Bishop of London, to the right distinction between school grades, and the necessity of education being adapted to each grade. It also referred to a still more important distinction, which had been greatly lost sight of—that between general education and special apprenticeship to work of any kind. All those distinctions had been confused. The new edition of the Code illustrated this last confusion by adding cottage gardening to the specific subjects of general instruction, which also included amongst sciences, cookery, laundry, and dairy work, subjects which were no part of general education. This confusion, bad as it was, was worse confounded by handing over half a million a year to the County Councils throughout the country to undertake technical instruction. The necessity of concentrating the several departments connected with education had been strongly urged, but here was a strange addition to Whitehall, South Kensington, the Charity Commission, and the Home Office undertaking of industrial schools, the only public technical schools we had. The Royal Commission on Secondary Education promised a speedy Report, in which it was understood this confusion of education would be a main topic. The present system was wasteful, conflicting, and obstructive of many better kinds of undertaking. Mr. Mather, M.P. for Salford, in his great engineering works, had for many years provided technical instruction for the younger among his workmen, and it was only after he despaired of his example being generally followed that he gave in his support to the legislation on the subject which had mischievously superseded such private enterprise. At all events, it was high time to reduce to something like a national system the miscellaneous schemes of county councils to dispose of their half-million a year. The report of the Primate's Committee, of which Lord Cross was chairman, laid great stress on the necessity of drawing the line between elementary and secondary education. These considerations seemed to support two main improvements; first, the enormous advantage the country would derive from having a distinct Minister of Education, under whom all the ever-multiplying departments would be concentrated and systematised; and, secondly, the cessation of annual editions of the Code. Continuity and certainty were more important than even improvements incessantly pouring in. Alterations required from time to time should be subjects of Minutes of Council, and immediately presented for sanction to Parliament. There was such unanimity in this view that the Government might now express their readiness to adopt it. He hoped he had not unduly called attention to the delegated legislation of a Department largely using the name of Parliament.


said, he had no such claim to their Lordships' indulgence as his noble Friend, who had the double honour of being the first to codify the multitudinous minutes of the Committee of Council on Education, and also to codify the various Sanitary Acts, to the great advantage of the public. He could only plead his deep interest in education for over half-a-century, and especially in primary and secondary education, both of which were materially affected by this Code. He had the satisfaction of congratulating the Government and the country this year again on a decided approach to conformity with the dictates of fairness and common sense, with which earlier Codes were so long and persistently at variance. If any example of that was necessary it would be found in the system of payment by results, which was the cause of so much worry to the teachers and over-pressure to some children, and so much impediment to the progress of other brighter or more industrious children. That was happily abolished not long ago. He pointed out that, in regard to the system of inspection, surprise visits were not an absolute novelty, because they had been introduced by his noble relative when at the Board of Education, and with great success. In the days of payment by results, most of the grant to the school was determined by the number of children who passed from one standard to another. Now, instead of the grant mainly depending on that, it depended on the report of the inspector on the general state and efficiency of the school. Under the present Code the children might be taught in different classes different subjects, instead of being expected to make exactly the same progress year after year in each of what were popularly known as the three R's. They further found that the proficiency formerly exacted in grammar, parsing, and spelling—which he had always thought occupied a disproportionate amount of the limited time that could be devoted to all studies, by the children, had been wisely diminished. As one who had always advocated drilling for all boys in schools—from the Duke's son to the pauper's—he saw, with great satisfaction, the strong, and at the same time, reasonable recommendations in favour of drill and physical exercises. Then he must mention last, but by no means the least welcome, the introduction of a really distinct system of study applicable to small schools. On the whole they had great reason to be grateful for these improvements. But he must be allowed to say the Department still announced its requirements in too positive a tone, whether those requirements were in accord, or at variance with previous requirements. He could give various instances. Here was one. For many years the Department, autocratically laid down, eight feet square of floor space, and 80 cubic feet per child in habitual attendance as the minimum admissible for schools and class rooms. The Department had now no less autocratically, required that it should be ten feet instead of eight, and this without condescending to give any reasons, much less to quote any professional expert's opinion in support of the changes. Sic volo, sic jubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas. And requirements intimated in that way were rather apt to predispose to objection instead of willing assent. He would not say of the Department as was said of a celebrated Professor at Cambridge, in his day, that science was its forte; but he would say that omniscience was still, as it had been, its foible. To give one instance. They were startled some years ago, at the Exeter Diocesan Conference, by learning that he thought the excessive cost of the board of students at the Training College had been augmented, because the Government Inspector had ordered that the students there should have beer. He (Earl Fortescue) never heard that Inspector's name. No doubt he took a high University degree, but he felt confident that Inspector had not taken a degree in medicine, or had any claim to be reckoned an authority on diet. He gave this order in a diocese at that time presided over by the present Bishop of London, who was a rigid total abstainer, and an exceptionally good pedestrian, and was then able to outwalk almost every one of his clergy. On the whole, however, this imperative and autocratic tone had been very much mitigated, and there was a very gratifying approach (especially in the instructions to Inspectors) this year, to the considerate and conciliatory tone of a highly successful administrator, who was, too early, lost to his country, his (Lord Fortescue's) distinguished chief and lamented friend, Mr. Charles Buller. He remembered shortly after their installation at the newly constituted Poor Law Board—he as its first President and himself as its Secretary—that Mr. Buller said he thought the Board should seek to be influential rather than authoritative, that it should try to enlist the sense and feelings of the Guardians in favour of its requirements, instead of too freely resorting to its legal powers. They accordingly adopted that line in their official cummunications and with this result, that at the end of the year he, was complimented in Parliament and also in the Press on the much more reasonable and lenient administration of Poor Law, whereas, as a matter of fact, they had suppressed various abuses and checked a good deal of mischievous laxity. But they did it almost entirely by letters of courteous remonstrance to the Guardians with appeals to the results of experience, and very rarely by the exercise of the really very extensive statutory authority of the Board. Their immediate predecessors, who were rather ungracious in their communications, incurred much odium, and yet acquiesced, passively, in a good deal of laxity, and not seldom timidly gave way when they were boldly, not to say insolently, resisted. He would only say further, that he thought the recent structural requirements—and it was to them he more especially referred when commenting on the absence of reasons or the citation of the authority of experts on the subject—these seemed to him to be not unreasonable. But he had heard complaints of their rapid fulfilment being somewhat harshly urged or enforced upon Voluntary schools in these times of general depression. Speaking of the general depression, this certainly was an unfortunate time to impose the expense of the purchase of a large number of new books upon the ratepayers (but more especially on the subscribers to Voluntary schools), owing to a slight change in the system of teaching history. He had very little doubt that it was a judicious change, and that the teaching of history a good deal by biographies of celebrated men was likely to leave a more lasting impression on young minds than any other way. But he hoped great forbearance would be exercised, and that a change necessitating the purchase of new books might be gradually and considerately effected, He could not speak of voluntary schools without just saying that he felt the flagrant injustice with which they were treated in being compelled to pay rates when the self-denying subscriptions paid in their support were the means of effecting a great saving in the rates. He thought also that the 17s. 6d. limit could only be considered a fine on efficiency, provided it was conjoined with poverty. The hardship of that seemed to him to be very gross indeed. Then there was one example of what he believed to be religious inequality—of course, maintained in the name of religious liberty—he meant the positive exclusion of Ministers of the Established Church of England and presumably also of Scotland—though their doctrines were not alike in every particular—from posts which seemed to be legally open to Nonconformist ministers. With regard to secondary education, he would only say that the degree to which it was materially affected by this and by previous Codes seemed to him to be undeniable. He agreed with the Bishop of London that the schools which were called advanced elementary schools ought more properly to be called non-elementary schools, and grants in support of them were a most undesirable way of giving aid from the public purse to secondary education. There were named in the Code no fewer than 20 specific subjects; and, having read the names of 14 of them, he asked their Lordships what subjects of study were left for secondary education, or, indeed, for University education, except Greek, Hebrew, and a few other ancient languages, a certain number of modern ones, and some unenumerated sciences, such as astronomy and biology. Even the 20 subjects were liable to be added to, because other subjects than those named might, if sanctioned by the Department, be taken as specific subjects, on certain conditions. As one who had taken a lifelong interest in, and devoted much attention, time and money to, primary and secondary education, he had always protested, and he must again protest, against what he could not call a system, but what was really an anomalous, costly, and erroneous mode of applying public aid and public regulations to what was miscalled elementary education in what were miscalled elementary schools.


said, it seemed to him that, on the whole, the new Code was a very good Code, and its authors deserved the thanks of all those who were interested in education for the care that had been taken to make a variety of small but nevertheless really valuable improvements. There were details in it which he confessed, were rather objectionable, but they were matters of detail. For instance, there was too much concession to that spirit of the time which wanted to teach everybody everything, which meant teaching everybody a little of everything, and very often led on to teaching nobody very much of anything. This was the tendency of too much of our education in the present day, because there were many who desired to promote and improve education in every possible way and few who understood how to do it. The consequence was that encouragement was given to things which did not improve it at all. He did not like the compulsory addition, in Standards I., II., and III., of object lessons and of someone suitable occupation. He did not say it was a bad thing children should have these; but what they had to do already was quite enough for them. If we wanted to make any addition it should be something which would stand the children in good stead through life, which would drill them in the use of their understandings, and not a number of trivial things, which might be very good in their way, but which took up too much time. The great number of specific subjects had been mentioned, and although they were not compulsory, still they distracted attention; and it would be better to leave much of this instruction to the teachers, to be given voluntarily, if they liked, without paying grants to them for it. He did not object to a teacher, if he had a fancy for a particular study, devoting a part of his time and that of his scholars to the subject; and very often he could do a great deal of good in that way; but to pay him for doing it was quite another matter. If he had separate payment for teaching separate subjects, the concentration of thought upon them distracted attention from the general course of school instruction, and the teaching of them almost compelled him to damage the organisation of the school for the purpose. Meanwhile, the scientific instruction given in elementary schools was not worth anything; it could not be thorough because there was not time enough for it. It was a sort of dilettante kind of knowledge that was obtained, superficial knowledge that would make a little show in conversation with friends, but not valuable knowledge based upon exact information and strict reasoning. No doubt this was acceptable to people generally, who were for teaching everybody everything on earth. Public opinion, as it was called, would be against him; but a man who had actual work to do was not much influenced by public opinion on a matter which belonged to experts. It was a good thing to teach history by means of biographies, and in that respect the Code was improved; but it was necessary to look at the cost It was a serious thing to require school managers suddenly to buy a large number of new books. That was not all; for the National Society got good books written by authors who were specially competent; and, if such books were to be suddenly rendered useless, not only was a burden thrown on managers, but the profits of authors were cut off, and there would be difficulty in getting books written in future. Some of the new rules relating to improvements in buildings were very severe if they were intended to be applied to schools already in existence. It was ordered, for example, that— The vegetable soil within the area of the building should be removed, the whole space covered by a layer of concrete not less than 6 in. thick, and air bricks inserted in opposite walls to insure a thorough current of air under floors for ventilation to joists. This was not a bad recommendation when you were building a school; but, if it were to be enforced on a school already in existence, it would be a very difficult thing to do, and it would cost a great deal of money. Therefore the condition ought not to be imposed on managers whose schools have been already approved by the Department. As far as he could see, the Code did not say whether these rules were to be applied to schools now in existence within a short time. He supposed he was not a very hard critic when he said that the Department had contrived somehow or other to alarm people with the fear that they wanted to drive this matter very fast. The Department ought to try to carry the managers with them, and to show them that these things were being done for the good of their schools, and that they were not being bullied. A little gentle pressure would do a great deal in that way. He thought a substitution of surprise visits for the present fixed visits was a very doubtful proposal. To have surprise visits was an excellent thing, but to substitute them for the ordinary parade day was by no means likely to encourage masters to do their best. A school was a very highly organised piece of machinery which must be worked by definite rules and definite hours, and, though he thought surprise visits were very useful, the regular visits ought not to be superseded. There was one thing more he wished very much to have something like an explanation of. A passage occurred in the Code in which it was stated— In order that a school may be properly organised it should be arranged that the number of children habitually present at any one time under the instruction of a teacher," etc. What was meant by "habitually present at any one time"? He could understand average attendances, that was definite enough; but he could not follow what was intended by the expression he had quoted. This was a matter that ought to have been worded in such a way as to enable teachers and managers generally to understand it without difficulty. Therefore, he would be very glad if an explanation were given and published in some way as speedily as possible. He wished to express his gratitude for two things which he thought would be a very great relief. The scheme for small schools was exceptionally good, and would do a great deal of real service. Of course, as time went on, it might be that the details of the scheme might want some amendment, but as it stood he did not think a better scheme could have been launched. The other matter, which deserved the gratitude of all school managers, was the relief given to those who were wishing for assistant teachers. They would get them with much greater ease in consequence of the new regulation allowing those who had passed through certain specified, well-known Examinations, such as the Local Oxford and Cambridge Examinations, to go into schools and work as assistant teachers. That would certainly be a relief to a great many small schools, and he thought it was probable that teachers of a somewhat higher social rank would be obtained. That, he thought, would be a great gain to elementary education, though that was, perhaps, not a very democratic thing to say. It was a very great gain to employ those who from their earliest years had been accustomed to a cultivated atmosphere of thought and conversation, and always accustomed to something like a position of command. They found discipline very much easier in consequence, and their mode of teaching was distinctly very much better than was usual. That was all he had to say about the Code, but he wished very much to emphasise what had been already said about the importance of distinctly defining the work which elementary schools were to do. For that purpose it was absolutely necessary that there should be an organised system of secondary education, and he welcomed with great satisfaction the appointment of a Royal Commission which was to report on that matter, and he hoped that when once that Report appeared as little time as possible would be lost in legislating upon the subject, in such a way as to make it no longer possible to say that advanced education must be given in elementary schools because there were no other schools in which to give it. There ought to be other schools. It spoilt elementary schools when they had to take in such an enormous range. If it were possible he would like to get the elementary schools back to their proper work. They would do it very much better if relieved from the present tendency to be always stepping up into something else; and for the sake of the elementary schools, quite as much as for the sake of the secondary schools, he wished that a scheme of secondary schools could be formed as speedily as possible. Education was a thing which really depended on organisation; and the teaching of boys, if it was to be efficient, turned very much on how they were put into their classes, what their subjects were to be, and how they were to be taught. When he was at Rugby he found this invariable mark of bad preparatory schools—that the boys had been taken into subjects they were not ready for, and that even when a boy was only beginning to learn Greek he had nevertheless been reading Thucydides. The same thing applied in every direction. The importance of a proper system of secondary education consisted, not merely in the fact that there was a large body of children who were not properly taught, but the education even of those who were properly educated was being damaged under the present system. Therefore he had thought it his duty to press this matter on the House and the Government.


I shall not have the audacity to add much to the masterly exposition of the most capable educational expert to whom your Lordships have just listened. I wish, however, to be allowed to express my conviction that what he said was both masterly and true. It has been well said that our system of education cannot bear comparison in one, or two respects with the education on the Continent. Anyone who has read Dr. Döllinger's recent volume of Essays must have been struck by the comparison which he draws between part of our education and part of the German education. I believe that the secret of our backwardness in some respects is to be found in the way in which we treat the education of boys at a particular age. Between 12 and 16 years of age is the most important period in the education of a youth. If a boy is to have a good secondary education, and to be fitted by it for his work in life, he ought to leave the elementary school at the age of 12 and go to a good secondary school. Unfortunately, there are not enough secondary schools. We have a certain number of very good schools of that class in Westminster, in Manchester, Yorkshire, and Wales, and no doubt Legislation will produce still more. But in this matter of secondary education we are still "running about with the shell on our heads." For what happens to boys of 12 and over? They cannot be sent to secondary schools, and so they remain in elementary schools until they are 15 years of age, or even more. Additional subjects must be taught them if they are to maintain any interest in their studies. The masters know this, and, therefore, a long list of subjects is provided in order to make sure that some in the list shall be sufficiently new for the boys to take an interest in them. The teachings of these subjects cannot, however, be efficient, and when the boys who have taken up two or three of them are sent to a secondary school, it is found that they cannot make up for the time which has been lost. Therefore, I am glad that attention has been drawn to the insufficient number of secondary schools. With encouragement a great many secondary schools would, I believe, spring up, and would be self-supporting, that is, if their fees were not forthwith cut down. But, as an interim measure, one of the best things we could do would be to provide exhibitions in order to assist clever and forward boys to go to such secondary schools as we have. However, we shall all be wiser in regard to this subject when the Report of the Royal Commission is published. I am only anxious that time should not be lost, and that something should be done to prevent a waste of intellectual material among our boys at a very critical age. The frequent changes in the Code are found to be very harassing all over the country. The change in regard to History, I believe, will be a good change, but the insisting upon the changes being effected at a given moment will cause very great hardship to those whom the Bishop of London has spoken. The National Society, the publishers and authors, will find themselves with their shelves loaded with an enormous number of books which will be of no further use. I hope, therefore, that it may be possible to give due notice. It would be well, perhaps, to let the Code come out biennially, and if that change should be successful it might afterwards be presented triennially. I recognise the immense benefit which the new Code will confer upon schools by the regulation that boys and girls who have passed the Oxford and Cambridge examinations may be appointed assistant teachers for a year and afterwards teachers in small schools. That change will make a great difference in the staffs of our schools. In spite of what has already been done, a cry is heard on all sides for good teachers, and it is wise to provide in the way proposed for the addition of a large body of assistant teachers for our small schools. It will be a good thing to introduce into the schools this new social class, who, in their turn, will be benefited by being given a useful and happy occupation.


said, that the material upon which those responsible for the Code had to operate was very youthful, and ought, therefore, to be treated with great care. If they tried to cram every kind of knowledge into the little brains of children between infancy and the ages of 12 and 14 they would probably do the children an injury for life. It was not wise to distract their attention wholly for social practical matters. As a former Vice President of the Council, he wished to express his sympathy with the present talented Vice President. In the last two years it had been his fate to speak more than once in opposition to the action of the Vice President, but it was impossible not to thank him cordially for much that the present Code contained. The grouping of small schools was a specially wise change, and he believed that it would be a boon to teachers. The change respecting assistant teachers was also very satisfactory. Another matter for which the Vice President deserved thanks was the proposed increase in teachers pensions. This would put an end to a great hardship. He was glad that the Vice President impressed upon teachers the advisability of moral training for the children and of discipline. It was generally agreed that inspectors ought to impress this most carefully upon masters and mistresses. The use of biographical teaching he had himself advocated many years ago. It was almost a scandal that our children learnt so little in school about the history of their country, and the historical knowledge which they needed could probably be best imparted through biographies. Abroad, children knew much more of their national history before they finished their elementary curriculum than English children did. He agreed with much that had been said by the Bishop of London as to the importance of not overloading the elementary subjects. Before the Royal Commission that sat in 1888, it was stated that children often forget subsequently all that they had learned at school. They ought to make sure that children should, at all events, not lose the power of good writing, good reading, and good arithmetic. If their attention was distracted to too great an extent with fancy subjects there was a danger of these fundamental requirements being neglected. He remembered Mr. Bright, in the other House, appealing to the educational authorities never to overlook those three important subjects. He rather doubted the advisability of substituting inspectors' visits without notice for the formal visits on examination days. Surprise visits were, no doubt, useful, but if examination days were done away with completely the standard of learning might be interfered with and an enormous power would be put into the hands of fanciful inspectors. The matter which really pressed upon all schools and school managers was the constant feeling of uncertainty as to changes in regard to buildings and in respect of the Code. He had often wondered whether they could not do with a triennial Code, but he knew this was a very difficult thing to manage. He thought, however, that all who were interested in education ought to consider well whether it was absolutely necessary to make annual changes in the Code. In regard to buildings, while admitting that some changes were necessary, he thought that those changes should have been spread over several years. He heard, too, of requirements being made on the top of other requirements, and this tended to create a feeling of uncertainty and a belief that the rules properly applicable to new school buildings would actually permeate through the older schools. He thought that the Education Department should pledge themselves to a negative by saying that these changes should not be required in the case of schools already existing. It especially behoved those who were interested in poor country schools to see that the requirements of the Department were not very excessive. In regard to the all-important subject of secondary education, he joined with the right rev. Prelates in rejoicing that they would soon have a Report from the Royal Commission, and he looked forward with pleasure to the results of that Commission. If they could separate secondary from primary education they would do more to improve the former than the latter. He felt that primary education was suffering from trying to do too many things, and by requiring from the primary teachers a vast number of subjects. In conclusion, he thanked the Vice President for the present Code, which, he thought, would be of advantage to most of those schools in the country which were labouring under serious disadvantages.


I will first deal with the point raised as to building grants. The requirement of 10 feet square per child is not new in this Code; it has appeared in the Code for a year or two past. It only applies, however, to new schools. In regard to ventilating shafts, it is not intended that the present requirements should apply to old schools, or even to schools now being built if they have considerably advanced towards completion on the old plans. These requirements are only, or chiefly, intended to apply to quite new schools. I am grateful to all the noble Lords who have spoken for the kind way in which they have received the Code on this occasion. They have said very little in censure, and much in praise, of it. There appears, however, to be a general feeling that the changes have been too rapidly made. My noble Friend opposite, who was the author of the first Code, said that it was only 14 pages in length, while the present Code covered 80 pages; but surely he, having given birth to a little one, would not have it remain for ever in a state of infancy, but would wish it to grow as the state of education and the requirements of the country grow. I would point out that from 1886 to 1890 there were no changes in the Code. There is good reason for that. The Royal Commission on Education was sitting, and the Commissioners were contemplating serious changes in education. The Council Office in those circumstances held its hand until they ascertained what the Royal Commission would recommend. In 1890 the Conservative Government were in power, and as soon as the Report of the Royal Commission was published they began to see how they could adapt the Code to the requirements of the Commission. In 1890, therefore, considerable changes were made in the Code, and since then changes had year by year taken place in order to meet new conditions. In many cases, however, the changes were only in administration, and were not connected with the actual duties of the school managers. Your Lordships have now been pleased to commend most of the changes made except the history schedule, though even in this you admit that the changes are for the better, though they have doubtless produced some inconveniences. The exempting Standard V. is that which exempts men from attendance in school; but a lad who got total exemption from history knew nothing of the history of recent times; and the whole object of this schedule is to enable boys who go out to their work in life to know something of history down to the present day, and not to be limited to history down to the times of the Tudors. Some noble Lords have said that this is hard on schools which have a supply of books on hand, and upon the National Society, which will have to buy new books, and upon publishers who have a stock of the old books on hand. There is no such obligation if the matter is read with other parts of the Code, and any school committee sending in a request to be allowed to educate in history upon the old Code until its stock of books be exhausted would receive that permission at once. Lest, however, there should be any confusion on the point, I have to-day laid upon the Table a Minute from the Education Department, which will make the old history alternative with the new history, so that school managers will be able to adopt the new history if they like, or they will go on with the old history until their present stock of books is exhausted, or until they can afford to buy the new ones and have the more rational history taught. I will now say a few words in answer to the right rev. Prelate's objections to the definition conveyed by the words "habitually present." It is a very difficult matter to frame a thoroughly satisfactory definition. I made an attempt at it last year, and I made a mess of it. The purpose of the Department has been to frame a more elastic definition than that implied by "average attendance," which was a statistical number, derived from the attendance for the whole year. In summer time a school may not have half its attendance, while in winter it may be overcrowded, and the expression "habitually present" is intended to meet cases of that kind. The Vice President has, however, promised to give attention to this definition, and as soon as he has time, which will be very soon, he will consider the subject and see whether he can make the definition more intelligible. I now come to the question of specific subjects. The Bishop of London said he disliked these specific subjects because they constituted an attempt to teach everybody everything. I would say that; the object of these specific subjects is to teach everybody something. Their object was to give some food which the three R's, or the spoon and knife of education, which enabled a boy to take in—in other words, that boys should know what were the purposes of their elementary knowledge and should improve that knowledge in after life. ["Hear, hear!"] I would here point out, in answer to objections as to the number of the specific subjects mentioned in the Code, that no one is allowed to take more than two. A schoolmaster who might be able to teach well a couple of those subjects might select any two and teach those. But the right rev. Prelates have a great fear that we are using the elementary schools for purposes of secondary education—[Opposition Cheers]—but the moment you have a well-organized system of schools for the upper classes, and a system of main schools for the other and poorer classes, it would be unnecessary to teach many of these subjects in the elementary schools. You have not, however, got them now. What made us, in Scotland, so far in advance of the education in England? It was because we had these subjects, from the time of John Knox onwards, taught in our elementary schools. That is why such an active part was taken in insisting that the scholars of the elementary schools should learn mathematics, Latin, French, and other subjects. It was found of infinite value to give the poor parochial children a taste to induce them to go to the popular Universities. The General Assembly for a great many years had sent circulars to the Presbyteries entreating them to hold inquests and find out boys of what is called "pregnant parts," and, when they find such a boy, to ascertain what he has learnt of the higher subjects in the school, and to make a subscription in the church to send him to the University. It is that which made the Universities of the people, and that is what we are now doing until we have secondary schools. Until we get a system of secondary education—until we get a good system of colleges throughout the country, it is wise, if possible, to give the scholars in the elementary schools a taste for learning some of these subjects. The necessities of the time have obliged this country to establish technical schools all over the country, and when the boys have learnt some of these subjects they can go on into their own little colleges, polytechnics, or technical schools, and make themselves more proficient. If we were in the position of Switzerland, and could establish improvement schools everywhere, and could by law compel the children to go to them at evening time to pursue their education, then these specific subjects would cease to be part of the Code. But until you get something of that kind do not discount the specific subjects in your education. They are of value as giving an idea to the children that their education should not end with the elementary school, that they go on, and, having a taste for certain special subjects, should improve themselves, and, at the same time, add to the intelligence of the country. For it is only by the increase of intelligence and technical knowledge that this country can hope to compete with other countries in the future. I think I have now answered most of the points to which my attention has been drawn, and I can only again express satisfaction that the Code this year has received so favourable a reception from all parts of the public in all parts of the kingdom.


said, the noble Lord had not referred to the matter of the surprise visits. The experiment might be a valuable one, but, at the same time, he hoped that the annual inspection would not be discontinued.


I can say nothing about that until we have more experience. It is true that we have a little experience on the point in connection with the infant schools, in regard to which the set day of visit has been changed to an occasional visit, practically an annual visit, of the inspector at a time not specified. In this case the system has worked well. I have no authority to say anything more, except that this surprise visit, as it is termed, has been introduced after the experience of the infant schools and in the hope that it will work equally good results in the other schools.

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