HL Deb 26 April 1910 vol 5 cc715-35

My Lords, in rising to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying him to withhold his assent to the scheme under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act which relates to the Denbigh Share of Howell's Charity for Girls' Schools in Wales, I must remind the House that a scheme practically identical with the present one was rejected by this House in July, 1897, upon a Resolution moved by the late Archbishop Temple. That rejection was supported by the late Marquess of Salisbury, who, at infinite pains, had gone into the whole history and details of this school and endowment.

This scheme relates to the share of Howell's Charity which belongs to the school named after him at Denbigh. This charity was founded in 1540 by Thomas Howell to provide marriage portions for maidens being orphans, with priority to his own kindred. The Drapers' Company were appointed under his will the trustees and administrators of this charity. Claimants for the benefit of this charity were to produce a certificate of their kinship to the founder from the Bishop of Llandaff, or, if the See were vacant, from the Dean and Chapter of the same diocese in which Monmouthshire, the home of the Howell family, is situated. The charity grew greatly in value, and an Act of Parliament was passed in 1852 empowering the Court of Chancery to extend the said charity to the establishment, maintenance, and benefit of schools in Wales for the instruction of girls, and maintaining, clothing, and providing portions for the orphan inmates educated in the schools so established. The Court of Chancery, acting upon the doctrine of cy-près, considered that if the money was more than enough for the original purpose of the founder, the remainder should be spent in educating children, especially orphans. In accordance with this scheme Howell's School was established for North Wales, and Denbigh Was selected as a central position.

The school was opened in 1860. Religious instruction was to be given in accordance with the principles of the Church of England, and so it has continued until the present time; but the acceptance of that religious instruction is entirely voluntary, and the children go either to Church or to Chapel, as their parents or guardians desire. The provision of the scheme on this point runs thus:— But the said schools and establishments shall be open to female children of parents of all religious tenets, and no child shall be required to learn the Catechism of the Church of England in case her parents or next friends shall express in writing to the governors their objections, on conscientious grounds, to her doing so, and in all other respects the religious scruples of the parents and guardians shall be respected. During the twenty years that I have been chairman of the governing body there has not been a single case of any complaint or difficulty touching the religious instruction in the school. It is clear from the founder's will that he was a man of very definite religious convictions. But 370 years is a long time ago, and I do not now, nor did I in 1897, argue for the rejection of this scheme merely on this ground. I can say without hesitation that there has been no sectarian bias or preference shown in the management of this school. In proof of that statement stands the fact that at present half the day scholars are the children of Nonconformists. No inquiry is made as to the religious belief of children entering the school, and I am only able to give this denominational figure in reference to the day scholars, because it happens that as residents in the town and neighbourhood the religious persuasion of their parents is known. With regard to the boarders, no inquiry whatever is made on this point, the only personal detail given in the application being the occupation of the father; and looking over the applications of the last five or six years, I find that there were eighteen applications for the admission of children of clergymen, of whom nine were elected, while during the same period there were seven applications for the admission of children of Nonconformist Ministers, of whom six were elected. Among the day scholars in the school was the daughter of a Nonconformist Minister who resides in Denbigh and deservedly occupies a distinguished position in the principality.

The local governors are appointed by the Drapers' Company, and to those who know the splendid work done by this Company in the promotion of higher education, this fact itself is ample security for the impartiality and the competence of the local governors. But while I repudiate the existence of any sectarian bias in the administration of this school, I recognise that religious instruction has always occupied a secure and an adequate position in its curriculum, and this fact is, I know, one of the reasons why entrance into the school is so eagerly sought for by Nonconformists as well as Churchmen. In 1897 I supported the rejection of the scheme largely on educational grounds. I consider that those grounds to-day, more than ever, not only justify but demand the rejection of this scheme. The scheme now laid on your Lordships' Table proposes to make this a Denbigh county school, to be graded as a public elementary school. Here let me point out that Howell's School was established for the whole of North Wales and was not limited to the county of Denbigh, and for this limitation there is no justification either in history or in justice. Not a farthing of its endowment comes from Denbighshire or from anyone remotely connected with Denbighshire. The accident of its position is the only claim which the county of Denbigh can make to this school. This fact is tacitly admitted in the scheme itself by the constitution of the proposed governing body.

It will be observed that the scheme gives a preference to residents in the counties of Denbigh and Flint. I ask the House to notice particularly this point. If these two counties have a co-equal claim to this school, it is important to remember that while the County Council of Denbighshire are the promoters of this scheme, the County Council of Flintshire are as strongly opposed to it and in favour of its rejection.

The transformation proposed in the scheme means the educational degradation of the school. I desire to make this point quite clear. The Welsh Intermediate Education Act, in the administration of which I have been privileged to take a considerable part, resulted in the unforeseen appropriation of most of our old grammar schools by the county authorities. This appropriation was in the majority of cases an educational disaster. Llandovery and Brecon Schools, happily saved from that appropriation, are to-day not only incomparably the best schools in Wales, but take a high rank among the public schools of England. I recognise that the county schools are doing useful Work, but they suffer from a cast-iron uniformity and educationally provide a purely secondary education. The promoters of this scheme aim at a rigid conformity in type, whereas nonconformity in type is essential to a system which desires to meet the educational needs of the whole community. To reduce Howell's School to a level with, and to make it an exact copy of, the numerous secondary schools in Wales would be not only to destroy its primary purpose, but to eliminate a high school at present separate and almost alone, and one which performs the most useful educational work. A thing may be good though not the same, and better because not the same.

It may be asked how far does the history of Howell's School since the rejection of the scheme thirteen years ago, justify these statements. In 1897 the staff of the school consisted of a headmistress and six governesses. Not one member of that staff held any University qualification or any of those educational certificates now considered essential for such a position. The present staff consists of eleven resident mistresses, the headmistress being a graduate in honours of London University and formerly senior mathematical lecturer at Westfield College. Four of the assistant mistresses are graduates in honours from London, Aberdeen, and Victoria Universities, two have taken honours at Oxford and Cambridge, two are licentiates of the Royal Academy of Music, one holds the art class teachers' certificate, and one comes from the Anstey Physical Training College. These ladies, who are especially competent to appreciate the educational changes proposed in this scheme, have notified their intention of leaving the school if the scheme is passed; the reason for that determination is in no sense denominational, but they feel that the transformation of the school into a county school would make it impossible for them to continue in their positions without a serious sacrifice of professional or educational status. During the last five years sixteen pupils in this school have passed the London Matriculation, four have gained scholarships, fourteen have gone on to University work, and five are now preparing for University scholarships, and to this list might be added a large number of other honours, but enough has been said to show that this school is doing excellent work which no other girls' school in Wales is attempting. If this scheme were passed that work would be rudely interrupted. In 1897 the numbers in the school were eighty; they are now 138, and the urgent need of the school to-day, for which there are abundant funds, is the carrying out of the new buildings approved by the Drapers' Company. The Drapers' Company, competent and unbiassed judges, exercise a close supervision over this school. They visit and inspect the school regularly, and they are among the strenuous opponents of this scheme. If the case for the rejection of this scheme in 1897 was strong, it is infinitely stronger to-day, and I ask the House to repeat the verdict which they then gave—a verdict abundantly justified by the educational results since achieved by this school as a consequence of that rejection.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying him to withhold his assent to the scheme under the Welsh Intermediate Education Acts which relates to the Denbigh Share of Howell's Charity for Girls' Schools in Wales.—(The Lord Bishop of St. Asaph.)


My Lords, I think it is unfortunate that the right rev. Prelate should have moved the rejection of this scheme and not have indicated, in the event of the scheme being rejected, any suggestions he might have to make for a settlement of this question. I have not the slightest doubt that, not only in Denbighshire but in North Wales generally, substantial benefits would be derived from this scheme, and it would be welcomed. The representative governors are not limited in the scheme to Denbighshire or Flintshire; all the counties in North Wales are to be represented on the new governing body, and the scholarships are to be open to the whole of North Wales. The right rev. Prelate referred to this school as a high school. It is also in a sense a charity school. The right rev. Prelate very properly laid no great stress on the religious views of the founder, because the founder at that time would have been subject by law to execution if he had not believed in the seven sacraments. Therefore when the Court of Chancery attached this school to the Church of England I do not think it can be considered that they were giving any effect to the will of the founder.

I take exception to the suggestion made by the right rev. Prelate that this scheme would result in the degradation of the school from a high school to a secondary school. In the general language of the Charity Commission and the Board of Education I do not know that there is any distinction between a high school and a secondary school. Everything between the elementary school and the University is classed as secondary education. I see by this scheme that the ordinary leaving age is fixed at seventeen; yet any scholar whom the headmistress thinks fit to continue may remain in the school up to the age of nineteen. Therefore it is clear that the course of education which may be given up to the age of nineteen covers all that we include in secondary education. The right rev. Prelate did not tell us the age of the present scholars in the school, and what is the usual leaving age.


A great many of them go on to the Universities when they get scholarships, and five are preparing for scholarships now. The usual leaving age, I think, would be from eighteen to nineteen.


I am sorry that the right rev. Prelate spoke so slightingly of the Welsh county schools, which, notwithstanding sparse population and small numbers, are doing excellent work, and do send to the University a large number of their students who do credit to themselves there. I do not think it can be suggested that if the changes contemplated in the scheme were to come into effect you would lower the class of teaching in this school or get a smaller proportion of the students to go on to the University. The school, no doubt, has been conducted in a liberal and fair way, and very nearly as many daughters of Nonconformist Ministers have secured scholarships as have been obtained by daughters of Ministers of the Church of England. We know that if a school in Wales is really to meet the wants of the neighbourhood it must liberally meet the feelings of the Nonconformist population, who are in a great majority.

The right rev. Prelate did not mention that in the present scheme under which the school is governed there is an obligation upon the whole of the teaching staff to sign a declaration that they are members of the Church of England. In a school where apparently half of the scholars are Nonconformist, and where there is this liberal provision that they can withdraw themselves from the Catechism and are at liberty to go to the place of worship of their family on the Sunday, there cannot be any necessity for requiring that the whole staff should be drawn from the Church of England. I had no notice that this Motion was coming on, and I have therefore not had an opportunity of putting myself in communication with the Denbighshire people, but we in North Wales are quite familiar with Howell's School. The question of its government has been before the public in previous years, and a similar scheme was rejected thirteen years ago. I believe that marriage portions and such things are a little antiquated. The school Would be more useful if the large endowments were made more available, and if you look at this scheme you will see that there is a very liberal provision of scholarships for poor children throughout the whole of North Wales. The school is an important one from its wealth and its handsome buildings, and, considering the nature of the population of North Wales, it would have won more confidence if some disposition had been shown to relax the exclusive method of selecting the staff.

We are told that the Drapers' Company are opposed to this new scheme. I do not know that they have petitioned against it, but if the right rev. Prelate states from his knowledge that the Drapers' Company are opposed I take it to be so. In a country with a scattered population like that of North Wales it is an advantage that there should be one or two schools like this with largely the character of boarding schools. There has been great pressure from the Board of Education and from the Central Welsh Board to endeavour in the rural schools of North Wales to differentiate the curriculum and to earmark one or two schools as giving a more advanced education. There is no doubt that a great number of the children who go to the county schools in Wales are forced to leave between the ages of sixteen and seventeen, and if we could pick out some schools in which the curriculum should lead up to the University it would be a great gain, and it would be a greater gain still if we could make them boarding schools. Therefore I have no fault to find with this school retaining the character of a boarding school. I am glad to see that the scheme provides bursaries and provision for railway fares where such provision is necessary. Therefore I think the scheme is very well drawn, and I believe it would tend to make the school more available for the population of North Wales.

I can understand a powerful and generous City Company, which have shown a keen interest in education, not liking interference with their prerogatives. Hitherto the Drapers' Company have governed the school, and this scheme brings in a large element of local representation. I cannot help thinking that perhaps some compromise might be effected by which the Drapers might have a stronger representation than is given in this scheme, and also a substantial admixture of local educational people might be secured. The scheme as founded by the Court of Chancery was a scheme for the benefit of North Wales, and I think it would be a good thing if the people of North Wales had substantial representation upon it. In so far as the school is a day school it will necessarily be a Denbighshire school in consequence of the limits of travelling. I suppose it is hopeless to divide the House, but we shall hear what His Majesty's Government have to say. The question ought not to be treated as a controversial one, but as a question of how best to make this substantial endowment beneficial to the people of North Wales. I know what a strong feeling there is in this matter, and I think it would be a pity, when the position of ecclesiastical parties in Wales is rather strained, that a conciliatory action should not be adopted. I therefore hope that if the scheme is rejected we may hear something indicating that we may look for a friendly settlement of this matter.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down has not given an altogether true version of the history of this school. This is a school in which the teaching of the Church of England has always been given. We have heard from the right rev. Prelate that the school has been conducted on absolutely liberal and impartial principles, and that a great number of Nonconformist children have been educated in the school. Not a single complaint has ever been made on the part of Nonconformists as to the education given. Surely the liberality with which the authorities have treated Nonconformist children should not be made a reason for practically destroying the religious teaching with which the school has always been associated. Imagine the case reversed. Suppose this had been an undenominational school and an attempt had been made to convert it into a denominational school. Would not the noble Lord be the firs to complain of such a proceeding? The action proposed is like that of the bird which appears at this season of the year, the cuckoo, which, after receiving kind treatment in another's nest, turns out the rightful owner. That is exactly what it is proposed to do in connection with this school. It would not only be unjust if this scheme were allowed to go through; it would not be to the advantage of higher education in Wales.

I have looked through the debate which took place in 1897, and I would like to remind your Lordships how the late Lord Salisbury characterised the scheme of that day. Lord Salisbury said— Under an appearance of educational reform we might really be conducting a scheme of theological piracy. That is precisely what this scheme is. Under the Act your Lordships have a perfect right to veto the scheme if you think it unjust, and I am quite satisfied that nobody who knows anything about the history of this school and the facts of the case will think that this scheme is otherwise than unjust. For is it conceivable that these highly-qualified teachers would have declared their intention to resign their places if they had supposed that the scheme proposed would be to the advantage of education or of North Wales generally?


My Lords, I am not altogether clear on what grounds your Lordships are really asked to object to the scheme which is now before the House. When the right rev. Prelate who moved the Motion addressed us he laid no emphasis at all on the denominational side of the question. He left it rather severely alone; and it is only in the speech of the noble Viscount who has just sat down that that part of the question has been introduced. As it has been introduced I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I say something in the first place on that point.

There was appointed in the year 1880 a Departmental Committee, of which the late Lord Aberdare was Chairman and Lord Cawdor was a member. That Committee inquired into the condition of intermediate education in Wales and the measures necessary for its improvement. The Committee reported that the Howell's Schools were founded by means of a charity originally bequeathed free from any denominational trusts, and that an educational character was first imprinted on the charity by the scheme of the Court of Chancery. The Court of Chancery directed the establishment of two female orphanages, and at the same time introduced provisions the practical effect of which has been to make the schools Church of England institutions. The Committee went on to say— In view of the terms of the original Foundation and the effect of certain provisions of the Endowed Schools Act the Howell School must be made wholly unsectarian, and similar changes appear to be called for in the constitution of the governing body. That is a very conclusive statement which it seems the Committee had no hesitation whatever in making, and I hope it will have some influence on your Lordships to-night.

Partly as the result of the Report of that Departmental Committee, the Intermediate Education Act of 1889 contained provisions affecting the powers of the Charity Commissioners and of the county councils in regard to various endowed educational institutions in Wales. The policy of that Act was to place certain powers in the hands of the county councils; and what your Lordships are really being asked to do this evening is to reverse, in regard to this particular institution, the policy of that Act, and without any exhaustive inquiry to refuse to allow the local authority, which in 1889 was considered worthy and capable, to exercise the power given at that time. We are often told that we ought to trust the men on the spot, and I hope on this occasion your Lordships will realise that these county councils, knowing a great deal about the needs of the localities, are well able to prepare a scheme such as is required by the neighbourhood.

Reference has been made both by the right rev. Prelate and the noble Viscount who has just sat down to a debate which took place on a former occasion. A scheme very similar to that now before your Lordships was then defended by the late Duke of Devonshire, Lord President of the Council, and it is interesting to note that he had the support of one or two noble Lords who, I am afraid, are not often found in the Lobby with His Majesty's Government. I hope that in the Division which will take place to-night we shall have their support. There is this to be said in defence of the proposed scheme, that it is precisely similar to one concerning the Howell's School at Llandaff, to which no objection was taken and which passed through your Lordships' House. As to the provision made in this scheme with relation to the religious side of education, I do not think it possible, granted that a scheme is to be made, for any other provisions to be made under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act. I think it should be obvious to your Lordships, since this endowment is applicable to secondary education in the county of Denbigh, that the county council should certainly have considerable influence on the governing body, and that influence is to be shared under the present scheme by various other county councils.

I would be the last person to suggest, and I am sure nobody connected with the Education Office would wish to suggest, that the present education given at this school is not excellent; but it is not impossible that benefit may ensue from extending the education to a larger class of girls than receive it at present. If that is the result, as we believe it to be the object of the scheme, I venture to hope that your Lordships will not oppose its passage on the present occasion. The only objection which came from the right rev. Prelate who moved the rejection of the scheme is that the school would be turned from a high school into a secondary school. In the circumstances the best answer is that the presumption is that the school as it should be and as it is likely to be of advantage to the people in the neighbourhood can be better judged by the county council and the joint intermediate committee which drew up this scheme. And as they were the body to whom under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act the duty of drawing up a scheme was entrusted, I venture to hope your Lordships will not interfere with the scheme they have drawn up and which we believe to be needed by the people in that neighbourhood.


My Lords, I should like to say a few words before we come to a decision. Speaking for myself, I am not ordinarily at all in favour of fussy or restless interference on the part of either House of Parliament with schemes which are drawn up by educational authorities, either central or local, upon whom rests the responsibility for such schemes. It frequently happens that some charity or institution of an educational kind requires to be readjusted to meet existing circumstances, and the responsibility then devolves upon the authority, local or central, to draw up a scheme for doing what they regard as necessary; and in such cases it seems to me that the onus probandi rests entirely upon those Who object to the scheme which the local or central authority, in the exercise of their undoubted responsibility, are called upon to prepare.

But the case is surely entirely different where an institution, scholastic or other, which is going on with perfect success and satisfactorily is suddenly called upon to stand and deliver, to give up the status which it at present possesses and to be reconstituted under a scheme which comes, so to speak, out of the blue sky. In that case the onus probandi rests entirely upon those who desire to make the change. They must show that there is some reason for a new departure of that kind, that something has gone wrong, that somebody is aggrieved, that some demand, extremely weighty, is being made of a sort which it would be unfair to resist, and that therefore an institution which is now doing good work must be interfered with and changed. I have listened in vain to-night for the slightest evidence that there is any reason for making a change in this case. I have not heard of a single person taking exception to the present conduct of the school. If I did hear of a single person being aggrieved I should wish to look most carefully at all the facts before I resisted an endeavour to set right a grievance which had thus been pointed out; but I find nothing of that kind alleged.

Those in favour of this scheme do not deny that the school is doing admirable work, and that it is prepared to extend its buildings because the demand is large for that increase. The children of Nonconformist Ministers are welcomed within its walls and are there finding all that they desire, and not a trace has been pointed out to us of any difficulty or objection. One argument used in favour of the scheme by the noble Earl who spoke on behalf of His Majesty's Government was that such a plan would be in accordance with the Act of 1889 for promoting intermediate education in Wales. I hold that Act in my hand. It says it shall be the duty of the education committee of the county to submit schemes and to specify the way in which the educational endowments in the county ought to be used for the purpose of such schemes. Can that properly be made to apply to a boarding school so non-local as this is? The noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, is a distinguished alumnus of Eton. Eton College lies in Buckinghamshire. If the Welsh Act were made applicable to England, would the noble Earl say that it was desirable that the county of Bucks should prepare a scheme for upsetting existing arrangements and starting a new school? That is an extreme case to take, but it is not totally different in kind from what is here proposed. As a matter of fact, no part of the endowment of this school is derived from Denbighshire itself.

The County Council of Denbighshire desire to make this change, for what reason I do not completely understand; the County Council of Flintshire, the other county interested, is equally strongly opposed to the change. In these circumstances is there really ground for upsetting an institution which holds the position held by this school to-day? I think it will be agreed that we have good ground for opposing the scheme unless it can be shown that something is wrong or that religiously, educationally, or socially the change would be a gain. It has been pointed out that this scheme proposes to deal with an endowment existing in Denbighshire correspondingly with the treatment that was given some years ago to a school at Llandaff which drew its endowments from the same source and that that change has worked well. I do not know enough of the details to contradict that last statement, but I should be a little surprised to find—indeed I think I can say that the contrary is the case—that there has been no deterioration in the character of the education given in the school at Llandaff which was correspondingly changed in its character some years ago.

I regard this project as an example of a somewhat pedantic desire for uniformity on the part of a county council, which not unnaturally would like to have mainly under its control institutions which exist within its borders although their funds are derived from elsewhere. I not only think that this is a somewhat unfair demand, but I believe that to give effect to such a desire would be distinctly harmful from an educational point of view. We have been in recent educational discussions pressing the great advantage on educational grounds of having a variety of type of schools under different kinds of regulation and under varied forms of control. I believe that the endeavour to reduce to a level of uniformity all schools of a higher grade character that are in a particular area is not only not necessary but is harmful and detrimental to educational interests. Our foremost living authority, Professor Sadler, is never tired of emphasising the gain that comes to a county or neighbourhood from possessing various types of schools. If in this case there could be shown sufficient ground for asking for a change I should be ready with all my heart to consider how the grievance ought to be met or how the difficulty could be overcome, but to be told, because the secondary schools in Wales are at present doing splendid work which we all admire, that therefore another school not belonging at present to that category is to be brought within it, and that we are to do that in face of the fact that the highly-skilled teachers within its walls feel the contrast to be so great that they would not continue to serve on its staff—that is a proposition which seems to call for more reason for making a change than we have heard to-night. I hope your Lordships will decline to give sanction to this scheme, not because of anything mischievous within it but because no necessity whatever has been shown for making the change.


I think I ought to say a few words in reply to what has been said by the most rev. Primate. I do not know whether any of your Lordships have taken the trouble to look back at the debate which took place on this subject in 1897, but those who have done so or who carry remembrance of it in their minds will realise that it assumed a very different character from the debate which has taken place this afternoon. On that occasion the scheme was moved by the then Lord President of the Council, the Duke of Devonshire; it was a scheme similar in character to this, and it was objected to by the Archbishop of Canterbury and by other speakers, including, I think, the noble Viscount opposite, solely on the ground that it was taking away from the Church of England something which belonged to it. No educational argument, so far as I can remember, was employed in that debate, except by the President of the Council, who was then responsible for education. The Prime Minister (the late Lord Salisbury), however, moved by the arguments—the religious arguments—put forward from the Right Rev. Bench, threw over his own Lord President, with the result that the scheme was discarded. That was an unusual operation to take place on the Front Bench, and in some cases I should have imagined might even have led to the resignation of the Minister responsible for the Department. But no such result followed, and the scheme was thrown out.

To-day we have had a different series of arguments. The argument, however, which was so freely employed in 1897 was again pressed home by the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, and in view of that I think it is important to consider what the history of this charity really is. It is not the case of a pious founder whose wishes are, as we sometimes hear in other cases, to be over-ridden in obedience to new-fangled ideas in regard to education. There is no evidence that the founder was pious. I hope he may have been; but what he did on this occasion was to set apart a considerable sum of money. I think the amount in the coinage of the time was rather over 8,000 ducats—a sum of £4,000; and he set that sum apart for the benefit of orphan girls of his family. Unlike the famous character in the "Merchant of Venice" who lamented the simultaneous disappearance of his daughter and his ducats, he devoted the ducats to his daughters and to his future female descendants. Not only was there nothing denominational in his legacy but there was nothing educational, and it was not until well on into the nineteenth century that the charity or bequest assumed an educational form at all.

It is not worth while to discuss the question how it was that at that time the Court of Chancery placed the bequest in the hands of the Church of England. That would involve an historical disquisition; but at any rate I confess I do not quite understand what fell from the right rev. Prelate as to the rule of cy-près, of which we used to hear so much in the debates on the Education Bill, having brought about that particular result, because I cannot see that, so far as the terms of the original bequest are concerned, the Church of England was involved in any way whatever. It is quite true that this school conducted on Church of England lines has been conducted in a liberal and tolerant spirit. We may be quite sure that if the right rev. Prelate has anything to do with its management it certainly would be so. That has not been disputed. But I think, on the point of view of what is called theological piracy, it is relevant to ask what is the particular claim of the Church of England on this large foundation as compared with the claim of any other religious denomination? The fact to which attention was drawn by my noble friend behind me, Lord Sheffield, that not merely the headmistress but all the mistresses of the school have to declare themselves members of the Church of England—a fact which was not commented on by the right rev. Prelate although I think it is worthy of consideration—does undoubtedly stamp a special denominational character upon the school which in our opinion it ought not to bear, and I take it that at any rate some change in those arrangements was contemplated by the Committee of which the noble Earl, Lord Cawdor, was a member, when they stated that in their view this particular school ought to assume an undenominational character.

The religious argument, as I have said, has not been strongly pressed. We have been told that this scheme ought to be rejected on educational grounds. I am in full agreement with one remark which fell from the most rev. Primate. It is not wise, I entirely agree, in the name of county education or in any other name to attempt to stereotype all public secondary schools. Quite the contrary; and I think my noble friend behind me, Lord Sheffield, expressed agreement with the same view. I quite agree that in the case of this particular school, its history being what it is, it would be most desirable that its character—a somewhat different character from that of the ordinary secondary school—should be maintained. But why should it not be maintained under this scheme? We have heard a statement that it will not be. But why should it not be? I should have thought that the proposals in the scheme for joint representation of several different counties would have had a marked effect in ensuring that result. I can understand the dislike of those who have regarded this as a Church school to some extent to seeing that character altered. That is an argument with which I can sympathise, although I do not agree with it. But I do not see what reason there is to fear that the character of the school would be seriously altered if this scheme became law.

The right rev. Prelate told us that the ladies who are mistresses there would desire to terminate their engagements if the scheme became law. I cannot think that that would really be a reasonable action on their part unless the character of the school was in any way altered. If the character of the school were lowered one could quite understand that, with the praiseworthy object of maintaining their own status as mistresses of a school of the highest class, they would then desire to leave it, but until some such untoward result as that followed I do not think it would be a reasonable course for them to sever their connection with the school, I do not know whether one of the main objections taken on educational grounds by the right rev. Prelate is the fact that the school Would be subject to the examinations of the Central Board. I believe that those who are responsible for the scheme consider that it would be very desirable that such examinations should be held, but, at the same time, if that fact were considered to stamp the school too strongly as an ordinary secondary school, I can conceive that it might be possible to meet the objectors on that point. But apart from that, and if the main objection at the back of the minds of those who desire to destroy this scheme is that the character of this school as a Church of England school is no longer to be maintained, then I am afraid it will be impossible to meet the objectors on that point.

I should like to appeal to your Lordships to think twice before you throw out this scheme, I was going to say a second time, but apparently it can hardly be called a second time because now we are asked to throw it out on entirely different grounds from those which were advanced on a former occasion. And I cannot help thinking that the second set of arguments which have been produced on this occasion, although I can believe that in some ways they are of a character to appeal to your Lordships even more strongly than those which were advanced thirteen years ago—I cannot think that on that point either the right rev. Prelate can be said to have proved his case. I trust that your Lordships will not follow him into the Lobby.


The section in the Act provides that— There shall be once in every year under the direction of the governors, in concert with the Welsh Board, an examination and inspection of the scholars by a competent examiner or examiners. I would point out that that does not put them under the ordinary examination of the Central Welsh Board.


My Lords, I desire, with the permission of the House, to say two or three words in justification of the vote which I shall give if the right rev. Prelate goes to a Division. The noble Earl opposite has taken us back to the somewhat memorable episode of 1897, when the scheme then put forward by the Education Department was thrown out by your Lordships' House. That was, perhaps, a somewhat remarkable illustration of the independence of opinion and judgment for which I think this House does not always receive sufficient credit, but which undoubtedly does prevail within it. It is, perhaps, remarkable that in all the years that have passed since 1897 nothing more has been heard of the necessity for a change in the management of Howell's School, and the question which I venture to think we have to ask ourselves to-day is whether really any case has been made out for imposing a new scheme upon this school.

I am certainly not going to drag in the pious founder. There is no occasion to do so. I do not think that in this particular instance we need go further back than the year 1852. In that year an Act of Parliament was passed regulating the affairs of Howell's School, and in that Statute the scope of its operations was placed under the control of the Court of Chancery, and it is a modern scheme authorised by the Court of Chancery which is now in force and under which the school is now managed. Let me enumerate, in the briefest and baldest manner, the facts of the case as I gather them from what has been stated to-night and from what I have found in the Papers which I have been allowed to see. In the first place, although the religious teaching in these schools is given in accordance with the principles of the Church of England it is not contested that the whole administration of the scheme is carrfed on on the most liberal lines. That has been conceded by two or three noble Lords who have addressed us. No suggestion has been made to-night that there is any denominational bias in the teaching given at the school. That is one fact which I do not think will be contested.

Then, again, I do not think it will be contested that the school has been most successfully administered and carried on, and that it has done an immense amount of excellent work for education throughout North Wales; and not only that, but that it supplies what is clearly a want in that part of the kingdom. It is, I understand, the only school of this grade in the whole of North Wales. In the next place, the school is adequately staffed, and I am bound to say that it does make an impression upon my mind when I am told that the whole of the teachers have signified their intention of giving up their appointments if this change is brought about in the government of the school. That seems to me conclusive evidence that the change is a real change, and not, as was suggested to us just now, a comparatively unim- portant change dealing only with matters of detail. Again, it is not contested that the record of the school is excellent. A large number of honours have been won by the pupils, and their number has steadily increased from year to year. Then, my Lords—a very important fact—the school pays its own way; it does not ask for a brass farthing of public money; and I am told—I do not know whether correctly—that if this scheme was put into effect £2,000 or £3,000 of public money would be necessary to enable the proposed scheme to be carried out. Finally we are told, and it is not contradicted, that the parents desire the school to be conducted as it is now, and we are also told on equally good authority that of the two counties concerned in the school Flintshire is strongly opposed to an alteration of the present scheme.

If the facts are as I have stated them—and I believe they are—what is the case for a change? Surely, as the most rev. Primate said just now, the onus lies with those who ask us to tear up these arrangements by the roots and substitute other arrangements. I have been told that all this has been done without any public inquiry. Is that the case? I am also told that the remonstrance put in by the Drapers' Company, who have been concerned in the government of the school, has been brushed on one side. I am bound to say that I cannot hear of all these things without a suspicion that this is another case of what I cannot help believing to be injudicious meddling on the part of the Welsh Department of the Board of Education. That Department—I cannot refrain from saying it—is not above suspicion, and those of your Lordships who have taken the pains to read the remarkable judgment lately delivered in the case of the Swansea school which my noble friend (Earl Cawdor) brought before the House last year can have come to no other conclusion but that that Department is one that requires to be watched with the utmost attention. The judgments of the Master of the Rolls and of Lord Justice Farwell came to this, that the Department was open to the imputation either of ignorance of the law or of a perverse interpretation of it. I do not know which horn of the dilemma they prefer. At any rate, after listening to this debate without any particular prejudice in favour of one side or the other, I am bound to say that the right rev. Prelate seemed to me to show con- clusively that no sufficient case had been made for a disturbance of the scheme under which this school is at present administered.

On Question, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying him

Resolved in the affirmative: Ordered accordingly: The said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.