HL Deb 21 July 1899 vol 74 cc1524-31

I rise to ask the Lord President of the Council if, in the reorganisation of the Education Office, it is intended to appoint a Principal Assistant Secretary for Secondary Education of equal official status with the Principal Assistant Secretaries responsible for primary and for technical education respectively. Since I first put the question on the Paper it has been answered in the House of Commons in a way which is altogether satisfactory, and my only excuse for again putting it down is to give my noble friend the Lord President of the Council the opportunity, if he thinks fit, of making a statement on the subject, and somewhat amplifying the information which we have already received. I will explain to your Lordships why I put this question on the Paper. Many of the secondary schools of the country, including the large public schools, expressed their willingness to fall into line with a general education scheme, and they did so in the belief that in the Education Office, as reorganised, there would be a Department devoted exclusively to what I may call, for want of a better name, secondary education proper. When it appeared in the newspapers that in the new organisation of the office there would be two principal departments, one for secondary and one for primary education, and that the secondary department would be subdivided into secondary proper and technical education, it seemed to the authorities of those schools that in their communications with the Education Department, as reorganised, they would be relegated to an official twice removed from the head of the Department, instead of one immediately subordinate to him. I am informed that that is not going to be the case now, and that the division of the office—we were informed so in the House of Commons—is to be tripartite, namely, primary, secondary proper, and technical education. The fear of the authorities of these large schools and of the Universities to some extent was, that if a bipartite division had remained, secondary education, or the literary part of secondary education, might have been considerably prejudiced, and that would have been especially the case if the head of the united Secondary Education Department had been one qualified rather by his knowledge of technical than literary subjects. I do not think it is necessary for me to labour this point, but I venture to make this remark, that if a double arrangement had been maintained, or if it is ever hereafter reverted to, it seems to me, without unduly depreciating the very great importance of technical education in this country, it is of paramount importance to the best educational interests of the country that the head of the Secondary Department should be one who is qualified by his general knowledge of secondary education proper, and that technical education should be, at any rate, only a branch of that large division. I understand that the division of the new office will be tripartite, as the Schools and Universities desire. I should like to ask my noble friend the Lord President of the Council if he can give the House some information with regard to the Departmental Committee which is to supervise the reorganisation of the Edu- cation Office, and to state whether, on the Committee, secondary education proper will be represented as well as the Treasury, the Education Office, and the Science and Art Department.


My Lords, perhaps it would be more convenient to the noble Duke if I were to put one or two questions to him before he answers the noble Earl, so that he may not have the trouble of making two speeches on the same subject. I do not altogether take the same view as that taken by the noble Earl who has just sat down. When the Board of Education Bill was passing through this House I ventured to say that I hoped the plan advocated by some persons of dividing Secondary Education into two branches in the office would not be adopted. To divide the office into three branches, and to call one Primary, the other Secondary, and the third Technical, is really a misuse of the word "Secondary." A great deal of technical education is quite as much secondary education as literary education. My noble friend talked of secondary education proper. That is not a convenient title, but it shows how difficult it is to adopt this division. Surely the natural division of the Education Office is into departments dealing with primary and secondary education. My noble friend has urged that this division should not be made, because literary education would suffer. I entirely agree with my noble friend in desiring that literary education should not suffer, but I confess that I look at the matter from a different point of view. My fear is that if the new Education Office is divided into tripartite arrangements of Primary, Secondary, and Technical Education Departments, literary education will suffer. No doubt some years ago the promotion of technical education was a matter of urgent importance. It is a matter of great importance now, but in consequence of the grants which were made—in the rather singular manner we all remember—to county councils for the promotion of education being confined to technical education, the result has been to give a stimulus to technical education, as compared with literary education, which is injuring the latter; and one of the great objects of my noble friend in his reorganisation ought to be to put literary education in the provinces in its proper position by enabling the county councils to apply their funds in aid of literary secondary education, as well as of technical secondary education. I am not now speaking, as my noble friend has spoken, on behalf of the large public schools, but I believe that an increasing amount of what may be called technical education is being taught in these schools. I know many University colleges in the country in which technical education is being taught alongside with literary education. The principal University colleges of the present day give both kinds of education, and if you adopt a tripartite arrangement you will put these colleges under two different Departments. You will be perpetuating the somewhat narrow spirit of the Science and Art Department, you will not he raising secondary education and placing it on one equal footing, but you will be compelling those institutions which recognise the importance of secondary education in all its branches to go to two secretaries in the Education Office, who will probably look at the matter from a competitive point of view, which is very undesirable. What is the present state of things? You have confined the use which has been made of what we call in the North of England the whisky money, or the beer money, to technical education. What has been the consequence? The meaning of technical education has been stretched to almost breaking point, and anything in the world which is not Latin, Greek, History, or, possibly, Philosophy, is called technical education. This is a very unreal state of things, and I would ask the noble Duke not so utterly to commit himself as to preclude him from reconsidering this matter. I am sure that if there is any danger on the side alluded to by my noble friend, there is also great danger of literary education suffering from the tripartite arrangement.


My Lords, I have already stated that it is impossible to sketch out completely what will he the organisation of the future Education Department until the Departmental Committee appointed to inquire into the matter has reported. If my noble friend had given me notice I could have furnished him to-day with the names of the members of the Departmental Committee, but they will include Sir Horace Walpole (of the India Office), as Chairman of the Committee; Sir George Kekewich, Secretary of the Education Department; Captain Abney, principal Assistant-Secretary of the Science and Art Department; Mr. Spring-Rice, of the Treasury; and Mr. Tucker, principal Assistant-Secretary of the Education Department. My noble friend asked me whether the interests of Secondary Education would be represented on this Committee. As the list of names. which I have given will show, it is a purely Departmental Committee upon which no special form of education will he directly represented. Nor do I think, looking to the duties of this Committee, which are simply to organise a Department so as to enable it to discharge the new functions imposed upon it, it is desirable that the Committee should consist of persons particularly interested in any special form of education. It is far better to have it composed of persons of great administrative experience, who will be able to ascertain, so far as is necessary, the views of the various educational authorities. I quite admit, however, that, although I look to a great deal of assistance from this Committee, there are certain principles upon which educational authorities have a right to receive some information, and which are, perhaps, too important to be left entirely to the discretion of any Committee, however-able may be the members of whom it is composed, and I will endeavour to state, as to those general principles, the views which I entertain as to the future organisation of the Department. I understand that some misapprehension has been caused by recent appointments which have been made in consequence of the resignation, at the expiration of his term of service, of Sir John Donnelly, late Secretary of the Science and Art Department. As a first step towards bringing together-under one head the whole of the Education Department, Sir John Kekewich, the Secretary of the Education Department, has been appointed in addition to the position of Secretary of the Science and Art Department, and two principal Assistant Secretaries have been appointed in respect of Elementary and Science and Art instruction to discharge the duties. which had hitherto been discharged by Sir John Kekewich and Sir John Donnelly respectively. Some misapprehension has been raised by these appoint- ments in the minds of conductors of public schools, who think that this is a permanent arrangement, and was intended to place them in a subordinate position under a Department in the nature of the existing Science and Art Department, but that misapprehension is unfounded. This arrangement is purely a provisional one until the new Act comes into force, and there is no doubt that it will require some modification when, under the new Board of Education Act, the Board has to discharge wider duties than it now possesses in respect of Secondary Education. Notwithstanding the caution which has been given me by the noble Marquess opposite, I have no hesitation in saying that I am disposed to think that something in the nature of a tripartite organisation of the Department will be necessary. However, in saying that, I must not be understood to accept the principle of division suggested by the question of my noble friend, who divides the Board into primary, secondary, and technical Education Departments. That division takes no account whatever of the Science and Art instruction which has been carried on by the Science and Art Department, and which, of course, must be continued, or it assumes that the Science and Art teaching will become part of the secondary Education division. In my opinion, that would not be a convenient arrangement, and I am inclined to think that it will be necessary that Scientific, Artistic, and Technical Education will have to be continued to a great extent under a division similar in character to that which exists in the Science and Art Department. I quite admit that there are duties relating to what my noble friend has called Secondary Education proper, which will, on the passing of the Act, be for the first time entrusted to the Education Department, and which could not he properly and advantageously entrusted to such a Department as the present Science and Art Department. I think it will be necessary that a third division should be created, which will be independent of, and equally responsible to, the Permanent Secretary, as the divisions charged with Primary Education and Science and Art and Technical Education. In all the speculations which I have seen on the subject of the organisation of this Department, sufficient regard has not been had to the extremely close connection that there will be between the various divisions of the Board in their subordination to the permanent head. Schools and educational authorities will, I conceive, have to deal not only with one division, but with the Department as a whole. There will he many cases, as, indeed, there are now, when the same school may have to communicate with more than one Department. For instance, it may be that while the public schools, great or small, will be mainly concerned with the Secondary Education division of the Department, they will, as to their science course of instruction, be in communication with the Science and Art division, and it may very well be that the inspectors specially attached to that division may be usefully employed to conduct the scientific examination of those schools. On the other hand, the County Council, in whose name the noble Marquess opposite spoke just now, will, so far as their existing work is concerned, be mainly in communication with the Science and Art Department; but if future legislation, as I hope it will, enables them to assume larger duties in regard to what is called education proper, there is nothing to prevent them, in so far as those duties are concerned, entering into direct communication with the Department charged more with the literary side of secondary education. I can assure those who are connected with the great public schools of the country that there is not the slightest intention of placing them in a position of undue subordination to any existing authority connected with the Science and Art Department. On the other hand, I do not think that any disposition will be, found in the new Department to check or hamper the county councils in the direction of extending, as I hope they will extend, that education which they have given in certain scientific and technical subjects to the promotion of a wider and more complete course of secondary education.


My Lords, this is, of course, a matter concerning the internal management of the Department, and it will depend upon the spirit in which the Department is administered as a whole. Nothing to my mind would be more disastrous than to separate these Departments. They should constitute practically two Departments. There is great fear entertained that under another name there may be perpetuated a system which, in the opinion of a great many persons, has not worked well up to the present. I am anxious to impress upon the noble Duke that what is wanted is that Secondary Education and questions connected with it should be considered as a whole, because I do not think there is anything more disastrous than the severing of good, sound, general education from scientific and artistic education. The practical working of the Department will depend largely upon the kind of authority which is exercised by the Permanent Under Secretary. My only reason for making these few observations is lest by any chance you should in any way drift into the former state of things in this new Department.

House adjourned at twenty minutes before Seven o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.