HL Deb 01 August 1898 vol 63 cc666-80

My Lords, I need hardly gay at this period of the Session I do not propose to ask your Lordships to make any progress, even to the extent of giving them a Second Reading, with the Bills which I am going to introduce; but as no other stage of them can be taken during the present Session, it will perhaps be convenient that I should be permitted to make a statement—which I am afraid must be rather long, but which I will endeavour to make as short as I can—as to the principal objects aimed at by these Bills. I must, in the first place, refer to a Report of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education, which was appointed by the late Government, and presided over by Mr. Bryce, and which made its Report in 1895, and also to the Education Bill introduced by the present Government in 1896. Your Lordships may remember that two of the principal recommendations of the Royal Commission were the establishment of a central authority and of local authorities for the purposes of secondary education, and I think that in their Report they attach about an equal importance to both. The Bill of 1896, dealing, as it did, with a great variety of subjects affecting both elementary and secondary education, did not contain any provision as to the establishment of a central authority. It did, however, provide for the establishment of county educational authorities, who were charged in the first place with certain duties concerning elementary education, with which at the present time I am not concerned. They were also empowered, for the purpose of promoting education other than elementary, to aid any school to provide such education, to establish such schools, and also to establish and maintain scholarships, to supply, or aid in supplying teachers, to make inquiries as to education in any local schools, and to publish the result of such inquiries, and to aid any establishment or organisation for the training of teachers, elementary or secondary. In order to enable them, to perform these duties, the powers of county councils for the purposes of technical instruction were conferred on them, and the local taxation fund—or, as it is variously known, the beer money or whisky money—was placed at their disposal. A further power was also conferred upon the Science and Art Department to entrust the new authorities, by arrangement, with the administration of science and art grants in their areas. In fact, the provisions of the Bill of 1896 provided in the main for the carrying out of the recommendations of the Commission on Secondary Education as to the constitution of local authorities. In the earlier discussion on that Bill, whilst very strong objections were taken to many of the provisions concerning elementary education, these provisions as to secondary education were, on the whole, much more favourably received; but very early in the discussions in Committee in the other House, great differences of opinion manifested themselves both as to the areas and as to the constitution of the proposed local authorities, and the first fatal blow which the Bill received in Committee of the House of Commons was the Amendment which was forced upon the Government largely by their own followers, the effect of which was to include municipal boroughs of over 20,000 population as educational areas under the Bill. In the opinion of the Royal Commission, and also, I believe, in that of almost all educational experts, the area of the local authorities to which secondary education should be entrusted, ought certainly not to be less than that of a county or county borough. But I do not disguise from myself the fact that the spirit of municipal patriotism, or pride—I will not venture to call it the spirit of municipal jealousy and narrowness—was then still so strong, and I believe is still so strong, that any attempt to create an authority which would merge for all educational purposes the large boroughs in the counties in which they are situated, would still meet with very strong and deter- mined opposition. That part of the question, therefore, appears to stand in this position: the principle of decentralisation of secondary education has met with very general acceptance, but almost insuperable difficulties still exist to prevent the practical application of the principle. My Lords, if in 1896 we had been dealing with secondary education alone, I should have felt great doubt—I still feel great doubt—whether it would be wise to attempt to constitute local authorities with defined powers without the preliminary, or, at all events, concurrent establishment of a central authority. If we could have overcome the difficulties which we had to encounter as between counties and county boroughs on the one hand, and smaller urban authorities on the other, I doubt whether those authorities could have done much in, reorganising the educational arrangements of their counties. They would have had to deal with school boards as to the higher grade schools, many of which are practically giving secondary education, and they would have had to deal with managers of science and art classes, and with the governors of endowed schools, under schemes of the Charity Commissioners, and with schools under private management so far as they might have been willing to come into any general organisation. For this purpose they would have had to enter into communication and correspondence with the Education Department, with the Science and Art Department, and with the Charity Commissioners, and from none of these Departments, organised as they at present are, do I think that they could1 have obtained all the guidance and assistance which they would require. None of those Departments have ever, so far as I am aware, been accustomed to look at educational questions as a whole, or to work together with each other for the co-ordination of educational agencies. I do not know whether airy President or Vice-President of the Council has ever attempted to place before Parliament a complete and well-defined scheme of the objects to which elementary education should be directed; but I am quite sure it has never been the duty of any Minister to attempt to place either before his colleagues, or before Parliament, any complete and well-defined scheme of the objects to which the secondary education of the country ought to be directed. This is, I submit, an indefensible position of affairs. Beginning from some small grants for the encouragement of the teaching of the elementary principles of science and art, the Department of Science and Art is now maintaining central colleges of science and art at a cost of about £26,000 a year, and it is also distributing a public grant of £276,000, divided among local institutions, some of which profess to give the highest scientific and artistic teaching, ranging from highly equipped schools and colleges to the most elementary village classes. Local authorities have also been induced to tax themselves to a small extent, and a sum of £800,000 of public money has been placed at their disposal absolutely, for the same object. There is at present no demarcation—no definite line of demiarcaition—between elementary and secondary education, and therefore it is impossible to distinguish between ordinary elementary schools and the higher grade schools, or to state with any approach to accuracy what amount of public money derived either from the Exchequer or from the rates is now being applied by school boards to what is practically secondary education. In addition to that, Parliament has made itself responsible for the reorganisation of most of the old educational endowments with an approximate income of not less than £800,000. Thus we have a sum of not less than a million provided directly by Parliament, which is now being expended on certain branches of secondary education, in addition to further sums, which it is impossible accurately to estimate, derived from rates, the expenditure of which the Government has undertaken more or less to control. To these large figures may be added an immense number of private proprietary schools all over the country, a great number of which it is believed would be only too willing, in return for some public recognition, and perhaps some limited public support, to come into a general educational scheme. It seems to me that it is quite time that the direct administration of such of these agencies as derive direct support from public funds, as well as the indirect influence which can be brought to bear upon others which are not so circumstanced, should come under the consideration of Parliament through a Minister who shall be understood to be directly responsible for the direction to be given to secondary as well as to elementary education. As an instance of the class of question with which such a Minister would be called upon to deal, I may mention that not long ago an important memorial was presented to the Prime Minister and to myself from the Associated Chambers of Commerce, asking that the same description of aid as is now given to instruction in science and art by the Government should be extended to subjects of a commercial character. I am not now expressing any opinion as to whether this ought to be done or not. Evidently it is a question of very great importance, and under existing conditions it is a question which has to be considered by all the Departments concerned—by the Education Department, by the Science and Art Department, and by the Treasury—almost entirety on the advice and with, the assistance of the Science and Art Department, which must necessarily look at it from the point of view of its own resources and its own regulations, whereas it is a question which ought evidently to be considered from the widest point of view, and in connection with the whole system of education in the country, whether given in public or private schools. I need not say that, in recommending the establishment of a central authority, responsible for secondary as well as primary education, I have not in my mind the establishment of any system of strict uniformity such as must necessarily exist in relation to elementary education. I believe, on the contrary, that the principle laid down in the Report of the Royal Commission, and adopted in the Bill of 1896, was a sound principle—that local authorities should be created, and that much should be left to their discretion. But I also think that a central authority has become an almost indispensable preliminary to the constitution of any satisfactory local organisation. The ground upon which we have to build is not clear. We have already created local authorities of all kinds, and of all dimensions. We have school boards under the Education Acts; we have county and borough authorities under the Technical Education Acts; and we have committees of managers under the regulations of the Committee of Council. Some of these are dispensing large sums raised locally, and all of them are dispensing very considerable sums which have been placed at their disposal by Parliament, so that it will not be easy to displace them. Many of the areas which these authorities administer are too small to enable them to form anything like a properly co-ordinated system. But the point, as I have already said, on which the Bill of 1896 actually broke down was the revolt of non-county boroughs against the counties and county boroughs, and I believe that similar opposition would still be found to exist against any similar proposals which might be made at the present time. But, on the other hand, there are some signs that these authorities, although they cannot easily be displaced, may be induced to combine more or less voluntarily. A tentative suggestion has recently been introduced into the Science and Art Directory, by which county organisations have been invited to assume certain responsibilities to the Department, and minor authorities and committees have been invited to group themselves for certain purposes under these organisations, and that attempt has met with a certain amount of success. However, I am aware that a great deal of misapprehension exists in relation to this clause, and the change in the directory, and perhaps I may be permitted to state as briefly as I can what its purport and intention is. Where, in a county or county borough, an organisation for secondary education exists which has been recognised by the Department of Science and Art, that Department has notified its willingness to hold it responsible for the science and art instruction within that area. Grants earned by schools and classes in that area will be paid to and distributed by the county organisation. That organisation will perform, in respect of a great number of schools and classes, the duties which are now discharged by numerous separate bodies of managers. This arrangement is at present purely voluntary. Under it no school board acting under the Science and Art Department regulations, no managers of a Voluntary school receiving grants from the Science and Art Department, no local committee of any kind, can be compelled to come into this organisation. In counties this clause is being adopted extensively, and apparently without much opposition, but in many, perhaps most, of the county boroughs it is still looked upon with some suspicion. In these boroughs there are two public bodies which are actively engaged in the management of science and art schools and classes, and which more or less interfere with and overlap each other. We have, first, the technical instruction committee of the municipal, council, working under the Technical Instruction Act, and possessing certain rating powers and disposing of the local, taxation residue. We have, next, the school board, with no statutory authority, extending the operation of elementary and evening schools, under the Evening School Code, into the region of science and art, and applying the rates, to that purpose. The object of this clause is to invite these two bodies, who are engaged in similar, and in many cases competing, work, to come to an agreement whereby science and art instruction in the boroughs can be carried out under one comprehensive system, adapted to the wants of the district. That is the intention of the clause, but the organisation which is recognised by the Department, and which is necessarily founded upon the technical instruction, committee of the borough which possesses the rating power, and disposes of the Government grant, is still regarded in many of these boroughs with a considerable amount of suspicion. Some school boards see in it an intention of displacing them, or, at all events, limiting their spheres of operation. But I believe the difficulty not to be insuperable, and these organisations have been formed already in some of the county boroughs. But something in the nature of organised opposition on the part of the Association of School Boards is being carried on against them, owing, I believe, to misapprehension as to the objects of the clause to a great degree. However, the difficulty is not insurmountable, and it certainly is one which the ratepayers have the very strongest interest in overcoming; but, at the same time, the objection which, as I have shown, has been raised to this tentative Measure supplies a proof of the difficult; which we should encounter if we were to endeavour to establish any such system by force of law. But I have very little doubt that if a central authority were established which would inspire confidence, it might, by the advice and guidance which it would give, while avoiding any appearance of compulsion induce the ratepayers from motives of economy, and educational reformers from motives of efficiency, to insist upon the adoption of some such system as that to which I have referred, either voluntarily or by legislation. The Bills which I ask leave to introduce do not aim at the present creation of local educational authorities. We are perfectly well aware that the establishment of such authorities must come, and before long, and I am not without hope that the discussion which will probably follow the introduction of these Bills may show that the difficulties are not so great or insuperable as they might appear to be. The objects of all of us who are concerned with this question cannot be very wide apart. We all desire to see the establishment of a sound system of secondary schools, which shall be open alike to the most promising students from the elementary schools, and to the middle classes generally. We all desire to see these schools providing an education to which can be added that specialised education applicable to the industrial and commercial pursuits which we must have if we are to retain our place in the competition of the world. We all desire that these objects should be attained without any undue burdens being cast on the taxpayers and ratepayers. We desire that those who benefit from these schools should contribute equitably to their cost; and when so much substantive agreement exists, as I believe exists, I do not think that any petty jealousies or rivalries, which are at present delaying the more complete organisation of our secondary schools, can permanently be permitted to obstruct that object. Those rivalries have been called into existence to a very large extent by the fortuitous, piecemeal, and haphazard process by which our educational system has up to the present time been constructed. These rivalries exist mainly between municipalities and school boards, both popularly-elected bodies, both representing the same people, both having substantially the same interests; and I do not think that these rivalries, although they undoubtedly exist at present, when the question comes to be more considered and better understood, will be permitted permanently to obstruct the establishment of a sound system of secondary education. But although we feel certain that the establishment of a local authority is merely a question of time, we believe it is one that can afford to wait, perhaps, for another year or two; at all events, we do not think it would be wise to postpone or endanger what we believe to be a still more pressing reform, in order to enable us to produce what might appear at first sight to be a more complete and comprehensive Measure. Therefore the Bills I have to propose are of an extremely limited character. The first proposes to create a central educational authority. Much of what is done in it could probably be done by administrative order by the Government; but in order to obtain Parliamentary sanction to the policy which we propose, we have thought it more desirable to embody the whole of our proposals in a Bill. At the present time the President of the Council, or the Vice-President of the Council, is, for many purposes, the Minister of Education; but under them are what are virtually two distinct Departments—the Education Department and the Department of Science and Art. We propose to bring these two Departments together, and to make them divisions of one office, and probably under the control of one permanent secretary. We propose to put an end to the Committee of Council, and to the office of Vice-President of the Committee of Council. We propose to create a Board of Education on the model of the Board of Trade, the Local Government Board, and the Board of Agriculture. A President and a Vice-President, or a President alone, of this Board may be appointed. If the Education Minister should be in the House of Lords, it is provided that the President of the Council will be the President of the Board, and the Department will be represented by the Vice-President in the House of Commons. If the Minister of Education should be in the House of Commons he will have the office of President, and there will be no Vice-President, and the Department will be represented in this House by some arrangement such as has been found practicable in the case of other Departments. We think that the present time is extremely opportune for such a reorganisation of the Education Department. Next year the Secretary, for the Science and Art Department retires under the age rule. The office which he holds is one that has never escaped criticism, and perhaps the strength of Sir John Donnelly's convictions, and the energy with which he has supported them, has exposed him to even a larger share of criticism than some of his predecessors. I think it only due to Sir John Donnelly to state that the Government has never possessed a more devoted public servant, and that, under conditions which have often been extremely difficult, I believe the Department has, under his administration, taken part in the very great development both of scientific and artistic training. But the changed conditions of education, the growth of the Department itself, the growing conviction of the necessity for a better and a more special technical training for our people—a conviction that has found expression in the Technical Instruction Acts—all these have rendered a revision of the scope and character of the Department absolutely necessary at the present time. I believe that revision will be greatly assisted if we are able to obtain, what we are asking Parliament to give, sanction for the establishment of one central responsible department which shall be charged with the supervision of secondary as well as elementary education, and of all the agencies appertaining to both. The Bill, I need hardly say, will not contain the details of the proposed organisation. They cannot well be promulgated until Parliament has given its sanction to the principle of the establishment of a central authority. But I may say that the reorganisation will not necessarily be confined to the Department of Science and Art. It would be entirely a mistake to suppose that there is any intention of simply merging the Department of Science and Art into that of Education. The Education Department itself may probably under our plan require some reorga- nisation. Some of the duties which are performed by the Education Department—such as those in relation to training colleges, to training pupil teachers, to the higher-grade schools—pertain rather to secondary than to elementary education; and it may be that it will be found expedient to group those functions which are now discharged by the Education Department, with others which are now discharged by the Science and Art Department under a Secondary Education Department proper, while a third division may possibly be charged with the supervision of the more technical branches of science and art instruction, and at the same time the control and management of the science and art museums which exist both in the Metropolis and the provinces. These details of reorganisation will have, of course, to be worked out by the Departments concerned—by the Education Department, by the Science and Art Department, and by the Treasury—and that is a work which will be undertaken in anticipation of the approval which we hope we may obtain in another Session to the proposals we are now making. I do not know whether there are any of your Lordships' House who are interested in the subject of economy. It has been said, I believe, that no one in the House of Commons cares about economy except the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or, perhaps, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. But, I am afraid that I am not of opinion that this proposed re-arrangement need necessarily lead us, or ought to lead us, to any increased expenditure on administration. It is, of course, impossible for me to say what this Parliament or future Parliaments may think fit to spend directly on secondary, technical, scientific, or artistic education. But, so far as administration is concerned, which is all we are dealing with at present, I see no reason why this arrangement should lead to any increased expenditure. I rather think it will tend towards economy. Already by the transfer of drawing in elementary schools from the Science and Art to the Education Department a very considerable saving has been effected; and, in my opinion, the system under which grants in aid to science and art teaching are now dispensed is, in consequence of the rapid and unforeseen extension of the system—a system which, has extended and developed from very small beginnings indeed, so cumbrous and complicated, and, therefore, so costly, that I shall be very much disappointed indeed, if, under a reorganised system, and a scientific rearrangement of duties, a very considerable economy in administration cannot be brought about. I have said that a great deal of what we proposed to do could no doubt be done simply by an administrative order to which the sanction of Parliament might be given when the Estimates are presented; but, as I have said, we thought it better to embody the main principles in this Bill. But one portion of the duties which we propose to transfer under the Education Department cannot be transferred without legislation. I refer to the supervision of endowed schools under schemes which have been formed by the Charity Commissioners. Logic and symmetry might perhaps appear to require that the whole of the powers of the Charity Commissioners, so far as they relate to educational endowments, should be transferred to the Education Department. But the subject of endowments is so delicate, the distinction between charitable and educational objects and charitable trusts, the extent to which the necessities of special cases are to be regarded, the sectarian questions which they involve, are all so difficult and controversial in character, that we have hesitated to propose to transfer all such questions from a quasi-judicial to a political authority. Under this Bill, therefore, the administration of charitable trusts and the framing of schemes under the Endowed Schools Act will remain untouched except that an instruction will be given to the Charity Commissioners to frame schemes, so far as they are educational, in consultation with the Education Board, and the Education Board will have power to move the Charity Commissioners to promote or alter schemes where such promotion or alteration is necessary. But all these educational schemes contain a provision with regard to the educational examination of the schools, and the result of that examination is reported to the Charity Commission. They also institute from time to time an administrative inspection of these schools, of their own, as to the management of the funds of the school and other matters. The educational examination and the administrative inspection, so far as it relates to educational matters will be transferred to the new Department. In other respects the present powers of the Charity Commissioners will not be interfered with by the Bill. But for the first time a most important part of our educational system will be under the cognisance, and to a certain extent under the guidance of a responsible Minister of Education. The Royal Commission laid considerable stress on the appointment and constitution of an educational council with consultative and administrative powers. We have been unable to accept those recommendations as a whole. For the purpose of forming and maintaining a registry of teachers a separate and more or less independent council is necessary. A Bill for the purpose of establishing such a council was introduced in 1896. As far as I am aware no opposition was manifested to that Bill, but it was not proceeded with after the failure of the other education Bill. That Bill I propose to-day to re-introduce. It provides a council for this purpose only, some of whose members will be nominated by the Crown, some by the universities, and ultimately it will contain members directly representative of the registered teachers themselves. But we have not seen our way to give to this council or to any other council wider statutory powers. We recognise, however, that the advice of educational experts may be of great value to the Board of Education. We have taken power to authorise the President of the Board of Education to appoint an educational committee to advise the Board on such matters as may be referred to it. Such a committee in all probability will be largely founded upon the registration council. In our opinion it would only tend to hamper the responsibility of a Minister if a consultative council were appointed by statute and endowed with statutory powers; in our opinion the Minister must be responsible for the choice of his advisers as well as the action which he takes upon that advice. While it is desirable, almost necessary, that the registration council of teachers should have a fixed and permanent character, it has been thought desirable to reserve complete discretion to the Minister as to the choice of his advisers as well as of his administrative officers. I have now endeavoured to explain what these Bills contain, and also I have touched, perhaps, at greater length upon what they do not contain. It may appear to be a somewhat rash act to submit proposals of this character to be exposed to discussion and criticism during the long months of a comparatively unoccupied recess. It may be so, but for my part I can only say that I welcome the fullest discussion and criticism. I welcome discussion on a subject in which, in my opinion, too little interest has been hitherto felt by the general public as distinguished from professional experts, and I only trust that these proposals may receive very full examination and criticism. I have no doubt that they will be condemned by some on account of their incompleteness; I have admitted that they are incomplete, and incomplete on a vital and essential point, but I have endeavoured to show that we have not been insensible to the importance or the urgency of that portion of the question which we propose at present to postpone. If we have postponed it, it is because we are convinced that the constitution, preliminarily, or concurrently, of a strong central authority is necessary for the equally important, perhaps more important object—the creation of strong local authorities also. If the discussion which may follow the introduction of this Measure shows that we have over-rated the difficulties which I think still exist to the constitution of satisfactory local authorities, it may still be possible in another Session to enlarge the scope of this Bill. But, however that may be, we feel confident that these limited proposals, standing even alone, will be an important step in the direction of placing our national education upon a sounder and more satisfactory basis. I beg leave to introduce these Bills.


I am not about to embark on criticism of the very important proposals, which have been explained to us so fully and clearly by the noble Duke, but I wish to make one observation, only subject, of course, to further consideration, on a point which is of great importance. I heard with very great regret that so small a change was to be made as to the powers of the Charity Commissioners. My reason is this: the endowed schools play so very large a part in the secondary education of this country that I am afraid any Measure that does not in some way more completely place those schools under the control of the Department which the noble Duke intends to found will practically be by no means sufficient, and may prove to a considerable extent a failure. I do not at all wish to anticipate that it will be so, but I certainly hoped that the Government would have had the courage to deal more completely with the Charity Commission. The subject is an extremely difficult one; that I fully admit; but if you reflect upon the powers of the Charity Commission—knowing, as I do, from a little personal experience, how impossible it is to bring any action against the Commissioners themselves—I hardly see how the existence of two such authorities as the central Department and the Charity Commissioners can be made to work efficiently, if it can be made to work harmoniously. While I have made this criticism, I am quite certain that those who are far more able to express an opinion upon this subject will, in the Recess, give the fullest consideration to these Measures which the noble Duke has brought forward, and I welcome, if he will allow me to say so, the courage which he has shown in placing them before the public, convinced as I am that the chances of placing some efficient Measure on the Statute Book will be far more likely to be advanced by a full examination of the proposals than by keeping them secret until they are produced before Parliament. My satisfaction will be great if it should be found that there is a general approval of the scope of the Measures which the noble Duke has proposed.

Motion made, and Question put— That the Bill relating to the subject of secondary education and the Bill relating to the registration of teachers be read a first time.

Agreed to.