HL Deb 01 April 1898 vol 55 cc1627-33

My Lords, I beg most earnestly to call your Lordships' attention to the Departmental Report just published on the pupil teacher system. On the eve of Legislation promised by the noble Duke (the Lord President of the Council) after Easter on the subject of secondary education we find a Departmental Report issued from the Education Department, which clearly tends to promote the very thing which we all understand, and hope the noble Duke's Measure will counteract. The proposal of the Report to which I call attention is, in effect, to load elementary education more and more with secondary subjects. The proposal is to make secondary subjects, a part of elementary education, and to raise elementary to the standard of secondary instruction. There is a clear distinction between elementary education and secondary instruction, and the confusion which now exists is disastrous to both. It is very desirable that the one should be more distinguished from the other. Elementary education is the training, morally and intellectually, of children for all positions in life. Secondary instruction is required as apprenticeship by that portion of the working class who are going into higher kinds of employment. For instance, Manchester and a Wiltshire village do not require the same educational curriculum. They both require elementary education, but they do not both require the same kind of scientific and technical instruction; yet the recommendations of the Departmental Committee tend to make all education adopt a secondary nature. It is proposed by the Committee that the standard of age, qualification, and pay of all pupil teachers shall be raised to the secondary standard, and that they shall only be taken from secondary schools. As a matter of fact the best pupil teachers we have had have been trained in primary schools. This proposal actually puts pupil teachers out of the reach of the greater number of schools throughout the kingdom. If the age, qualification, and pay of pupil teachers are raised, as this Report proposes, the majority of schools will be unable to use them. The second proposal of the Committee is that no school is to have any pupil teacher which has less than two adult teachers in it. Well, that at once excludes from the employment of pupil teachers almost all the rural schools in the kingdom, and, lest those rural schools deprived of pupil teachers should make use of the cheaper kind of assistance provided for poor schools by Article LXVIII of the Code, the Report proposes to abolish Article LXVIII, so as to deprive them altogether of any kind of primary teaching. Most of our pupil teachers come from the artisan class, but under this Report poor parents will not be able to bring their children up as pupil teachers. If they are not to commence teaching until they are 18 years of age, few parents will be able to wait until then before their children become remunerative. Therefore pupil teachers will have to come from a higher class. That may be very desirable, but you must bear in mind that if the Report is carried out it will prevent poor parents bringing up their children as pupil teachers. The Report is most inconsistent on this subject. The Committee say that early training has made the best pupil teachers, and that early training is of great value in cultivating teaching power. The exact words of the Report are— Some of the best materials for the teaching profession have been drawn from rural schools. It is of the highest importance to keep up the number of pupil teachers whose associations and interests attach them to rural life. That is a statement with which I entirely agree, but it is most inconsistent with the recommendations of the Committee. They say they want teachers of elementary schools to have a broader literary and a higher technical training. That is all very well for the higher schools, but not for the majority of primary schools. They say elsewhere— The time has come when the original idea of training pupil teachers must give way to a higher standard. It was only the other day that Mr. Lyulph Stanley made a similar remark. He said that pupil teachers are an unworthy supply for the higher education now wanted. In fact the pupil teachers are intended to be thrown over altogether, and the teaching proposed is only applicable to the higher schools. Foreign countries are often held up for our imitation. I believe there is no argument so persuasive in either House as "see how much better foreign countries are doing than we are." It is an argument by which I am never attracted. I say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I would much prefer an English lad turned out on our system, bad as it is, than a German or a French lad. But I am sure we shall not be able to compete better with the schools of foreign countries by introducing confusion between elementary and technical instruction. There was a very valuable Yellow Book issued not long ago from the Education Department, called "A Special Report on Subjects of Education," in which the various systems in different countries are more or less described, and I observe that, in France the principle is laid down much more clearly than we have ever laid it down in this country with regard to elementary training. The object of elementary training is said to be to cultivate the heart, the intelligence, and the conscience; and I do not think that that has been borne in mind in the Report. I wish to call attention to another point in the Report with regard to training colleges. It is said that the training colleges are deficient in accommodation. By way of increasing the accommodation it was proposed that there should be a special set of training colleges for rural districts. I think that was a very sensible suggestion, but it was dropped in deference to certain witnesses, who said that these special training colleges would produce an inferior class of teachers. Contempt of manual labour is at the bottom of many of the suggestions in the Report. The object of the Report is to turn labourers into clerks, as if the main purpose for which we were sent into the world were to get into a higher social position. It is suggested by the Commissioners that the training colleges should be part of the University colleges. One would have thought that that was a very great step in advance, and the Commissioners themselves seem to be a little staggered in coming to that conclusion, but they state that at least they think the curriculum of the University colleges is not too high for the training of these teachers. They prefer day training colleges, but they allow that the want of supervision and discipline is a real objection, and they make a half-way-proposal that hostels should be attached to the University colleges, where the discipline of residential colleges might be united with the superior scientific lectures of day colleges. I would implore your Lordships to consider whether this is the line in which we hope the noble Duke (the Lord President of the Council) is going to carry out the proposals which we expect from him after Easter. I cannot help thinking myself, from the remarks he made the other day in the House, that this is not his view; on the contrary, that he would rather simplify, and make more adapted to its special purpose, the elementary education of the country, which would continue to be at the public expense; and that the secondary instruction which his Measure is intended to promote would not, as I understood him to say, be a national system undertaken by the State, but be in the nature of better organisation and aid to secondary and technical institutions, established all over the country by municipalities, private munificence, and in other ways, to meet the wants of different localities. In this the noble Duke showed the good sense which he always shows on every matter with which he deals. I trust that that will be the line, the noble Duke's Measure will take. I do not think I need trouble your Lordships further than to express the hope that before the Government scheme is brought on after Easter your Lordships will look carefully at this Report, which, though it appears to be connected only with the subject of the pupil teachers' system, involves a very great principle in the conduct of the whole system of national education in this country.


My Lords, I am afraid it is quite impossible for me to undertake to follow my noble Friend in the criticisms which he has made on the Report of the Departmental Committee on the pupil teacher system, for the reason that it has not been in my power to give, up to the present, the full attention and consideration to that Report which evidently my noble Friend has given to it. I may say that it has not been necessary, up to the present time, that I should have given it that consideration. It was thought desirable that the Report of the Committee should be published without any delay, in order that it might be considered by the managers of schools, Board and Voluntary; by the teachers, and by the public generally, but there was no intention whatever of taking any action upon that Report until it had had that consideration. It would, I may point out to my noble Friend, be impossible to take any action upon it until the Code of 1899 is in course of preparation, and certainly no steps will be taken to carry out the recommendations in this Report until the opinions which may be expressed upon it by managers and others have been fully obtained and fully considered. Under these circumstances, and, as I have stated, having up to the present had no opportunity of making myself fully acquainted with the contents of the Report or the views upon it of the Vice-President of the Council, or any other advisers in the Education Department, I think I should be very unwilling either to express my assent or dissent to the criticisms which have fallen from my noble Friend, and to anticipate the decision which may be come to upon it by the Department, and ultimately by the Government. I must, however, say that I should be very sorry indeed to be supposed to accept, in whole or in part, the criticisms of my noble Friend. But, however much he may desire—and I have no doubt many of your Lordships desire—that an extremely hard and fast line should be drawn between elementary and secondary education, and that the line should be drawn at a somewhat low level, nevertheless, the fact remains that the training of the teachers is at the present time, and always must be, to a considerable extent, of a secondary character. It is essential to any efficient system of education that the teachers should possess a somewhat more advanced knowledge, even in the elementary subjects which they teach, than that which they are expected to impart. Therefore, I cannot admit that the recommendations of the Committee for enabling pupil teachers and the candidates for teacherships to obtain something in the nature of secondary education would necessarily tend to raise the standard of elementary teaching in general beyond that level which it ought to attain. With this protest and this explanation, and for the reason that I do not propose, on the present occasion, to follow my noble Friend in his criticism of the Report, I must add that I do not think that this would be a convenient opportunity for anticipating any statement which I may have to make at a later period of the Session in regard to the subject of secondary education.


My Lords, I hope the deep interest which, for more than 50 years I have taken in elementary, and for more than 40 years in secondary, education, and the time and labour I have bestowed upon them, may plead my excuse in detaining your Lordships with a very few words on the present occasion. The noble Duke, the Lord President of the Council, said he contemplated that the publication of the Departmental Committee's Report would be the means of eliciting the opinions of managers of Board and Voluntary schools on the subject. The Committee seems to me to have been of a rather one-sided character. There were plenty of inspectors and headmasters and mistresses of training colleges upon it, but there was not a single manager to represent either the interests of Board or Voluntary schools and to give the benefit of practical experience of the working of these schools. One thing this Committee's Report has done—namely, to confirm and corroborate the evidence previously abundantly existing as to the chaotic state into which the question of education has been drifting. We find that algebra, physiology, botany, chemistry—not astronomy, though that may be taught with the sanction of the Department—French and German, Latin, and even Hebrew in various cases, are taught in what are called elementary schools. The line drawn is not between elementary and secondary schools, but between the latter and the great Universities of the country. It is that utter absence of any division between elementary and secondary education which has been stigmatised over and over again by those who are most conversant with, and are the best authorities on, education as most disastrous to both. It truly seems a mystery, now that education is State und rate-paid, that well-to-do parents should, at the expense of the ratepayers and taxpayers, get instruction in these really advanced subjects imparted to their children gratuitously, instead of access being given freely to secondary schools by scholarships to those poor children who are capable of turning the instruction to good account. I am glad the noble Duke has not committed himself to introduce all the recommendations contained in the Report of the Departmental Committee, and that he wishes to collect the opinions of those best qualified to give opinions on the subject. More than 30 years ago I referred to the great advantage of those wishing to become pupil teachers and schoolmasters mixing, up to a certain degree, with other students destined for different callings, and I am glad to see that this Report takes a similar view. It seems to me that this recommendation is one which may be very advantageously adapted. The Report says— The intellectual horizon of the pupil teachers now in the training colleges is contracted by associating in their studies exclusively with those who are preparing for the same calling. That is very much what I advocated 30 years ago. Then I cannot see why pupil teachers, the great majority of whom are drawn from the wage-earning class, should cost, in the training colleges, £10 to £20 a year more than is paid by independent persons of the middle-classes for their children, in schools where they get, as tested by the local examinations of the Universities, a first-class education. I have again and again protested against the needless expensiveness of the training colleges, and their exclusive devotion to those who are destined for one particular calling. I apologise for troubling your Lordships, and I conclude by expressing my satisfaction that the Government is not committed to the recommendations of the Departmental Committee.

The subject then dropped.