§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
, in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill to provide for public Elementary Education in England and Wales, said: If ever an apology was due to the House it is due from me to-night;—for, in expounding the principles of a measure so important as that which I have the honour to bring forward, the House might very well expect that clearness and facility of expression, of the want of which I am painfully conscious, and I can assure them that if I allowed myself to dwell upon my own deficiencies I should be hardly able to address them. But I confess I forget these deficiencies, and I believe the House will also forget them, in the important work we all of us have to try this evening to begin.
The subject of primary education is, indeed, one of great and serious importance, and I believe we approach it with a due regard to its importance. We approach it not merely with the hope of doing great good, by removing that ignorance which we are all aware is pregnant with crime and misery, with misfortune to individuals and danger to the community, but with the knowledge that it is possible, in a measure of this kind, with an intention to do good, to do harm. The question of popular education affects not only the intellectual but the moral training of a vast proportion of the population, and therefore we must not forgot that in trying to do great good it is possible to do harm. I am sure, therefore, we all feel that a grave responsibility rests on the House; and whilst there is a feeling 439 of urgent necessity of dealing with the question, there is also a feeling that it must be dealt with wisely and with great care. The knowledge that that feeling of responsibility is acknowledged by the House relieves me of a double task.
I need not detain the House with any reasons for bringing an Education Bill forward, nor need I ask hon. Members opposite to divest themselves of all party considerations in regard to this measure. I will not ask them to do so, because I feel confident they will do so. There never, I believe, was any question presented by any Government to this House which more demanded to be considered apart from any party consideration; nor do I believe there ever was a House of Commons more disposed so to consider it than the House I am now addressing.
Before I enter into details, I will make one remark with regard to the spirit in which the Government has framed this measure. I rejoice that of late the country has manifested so much interest in the subject. A great many meetings have been held, and, as was naturally to be expected, those who take part in them have divided themselves, more or less, into two camps. Those engaged at present in educational efforts endeavour to take care that they should not be interfered with, while, on the other hand, those who say there ought to be a great improvement advocate systems more or less new. I have seen it stated that the Government measure will be a compromise between these two principles; but I may at once say that the Government has not brought forward this measure with any notion of a compromise. It is a measure too important to be dealt with in such a manner. It is our duty to look at the question on all sides, and without professing that we, and much less I, know more about this question than those gentlemen who have been doing their duty in pressing their particular views on the attention of the country, yet it is our duty to look around the question on both sides of it, and to consider the lessons of the past as well as the wants of the present.
Again, we are well aware that by no Bill dealing with this matter can we hope to effect real good, unless it be a Bill which does not merely meet pre- 440 sent necessities, but also is capable of development, so as to meet the necessities of the future Indeed, no Bill would really meet the needs of to-day unless its provisions are likewise adapted to meet the needs of to-morrow.
I am not going to detain the House with any long statement of facts, and still less do I intend to weary you with statistics; but there are two great categories of facts which I would beg you to bear in mind. The first is the broad fact of what we have existing at this moment in regard to primary education. I shall confine myself to that, respecting which we are pretty accurately informed, because it relates to the schools to which we vote Government money. Last year I moved the Education Estimate, and in addition to the money required for the central office, for Inspectors, and for normal schools, I asked for an annual grant of about £415,000 for primary schools in England and Wales. Of those schools about 11,000 were day schools and 2,000 night schools. The number of children upon the registers of those schools was about 1,450,000, and the average attendance about 1,000,000, representing, therefore, the education more or less imperfect of nearly 1,500,000 children. I say the education, according to these Returns, is very imperfect, because the attendance is very irregular, nevertheless the figures I have just referred to represent also a great amount of voluntary zeal, and much willingness on the part of parents to send their children to school. Now, while alluding to voluntary zeal, I must be allowed to state that I think no one could occupy my office without being fully aware of what the country owes to the managers of the schools at present in receipt of Government grants. Both before and during my tenure of that office I have had many opportunities of seeing those gentlemen at work, particularly ministers of religion of all denominations, though perhaps it has been my lot to see more of the clergy of the Church of England than of others. I have seen them at their work, and tried to help them occasionally; I know the sacrifices they have made, and not for a moment do I believe it possible that anyone who considers this question will disregard what they have already done, or will wish to do without their aid in the future. I sometimes hear it objected that 441 they gain great influence by their efforts in promoting education. I believe they have not worked in order to attain that object, though far distant be the time when, in England, self-denying exertions, such as many of these gentlemen have made, will not give them influence!
Having alluded to what we already have, I will now ask—"What is it that we have not?" More or less imperfectly about 1,500,000 children are educated in the schools that we help—that is, they are simply on the registers. But, as I had the honour of stating last year, only two-fifths of the children, of the working classes between the ages of six and ten years are on the registers of the Government schools, and only one-third of those between the ages of ten and twelve. Consequently, of those between six and ten, we have helped about 700,000, more or less, but we have left unhelped 1,000,000; while of those between ten and twelve, we have helped 250,000, and left unhelped at least 500,000. Some hon. Members will think, I daresay, that I leave out of consideration the unaided schools. I do not, however, leave them out of consideration; but it so happens—and we cannot blame them for it—that the schools which do not receive Government assistance are, generally speaking, the worst schools, and those least fitted to give a good education to the children of the working classes. That is the effect of the present system. Exceptions, no doubt, may be picked out; but, speaking generally, my assertion is borne out by the Reports presented annually by our Department, and particularly by the Report of last Session. I may also refer to the Report which will be speedily in the hands of hon. Members, in consequence of the Motion made last year by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly), concerning the educational condition of four great towns—Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham. That Report, I have reason to believe, will abundantly confirm my statement that we cannot depend upon the unaided and uninspected schools. I have not myself had the opportunity of reading that Report, for I was so anxious that it, should be laid before the House with the least possible delay that I did not keep it in my hands for a single hour. But I have had the privilege of corresponding with the two gentlemen who 442 conducted the inquiries; and therefore believe I can give pretty correctly the figures with regard, at all events, to Liverpool, and they are figures which nay well alarm us. It is calculated that in Liverpool the number of children between five and thirteen who night to receive an elementary education is 80,000; but, as far as we can uncertain, 20,000 of them attend no school whatever, while at least another 20,000 attend schools where they get an education not worth having. In Manchester—that is, in the borough of Manchester, not including Salford, there ire about 65,000 children who might be at school, and of this number about 16,000 go to no school at all. I must, however, add that Manchester appears to be better than Liverpool in one respect, that there are fewer schools where he education is not worth having. As a Yorkshireman, I am sorry to say that, from what I hear, Leeds appears to be is bad as Liverpool; and so also, I fear, is Birmingham.
I am not going to deal with facts at any length to-night. My noble Friend my predecessor (Lord Robert Montagu) takes a sanguine view of the present state of education, and quotes a deficiency in attendance of only 300,000 children. I will not now dispute his figures, which, indeed, would make out a case for a Bill; but I am afraid it is a far too sanguine view of the case. It is not, however, necessary to detain the House with any dispute as to the amount of educational destitution, because hon. Members will see, when they read the Bill, that the practical action of it will be limited to the proved need.
I have stated to the House what now exists, and I have endeavoured to form an estimate of what does not exist in regard to the education of the people. Now, what are the results? They are what we might have expected; much imperfect education and much absolute ignorance; good schools become bad schools for children who attend them for only two or three days in the week, or for only a few weeks in the year; and though we have done well in assisting the benevolent gentlemen who have established schools, yet the result of the State leaving the initiative to volunteers, is, that where State help has been most wanted, State help has been least given, and that where it was desirable that 443 State power should be most felt it was not felt at all. In helping those only who help themselves, or who can get others to help them, we have left un-helped those who most need help. Therefore, notwithstanding the large sums of money we have voted, we find a vast number of children badly taught, or utterly untaught, because there are too few schools and too many bad schools, and because there are large numbers of parents in this country who cannot, or will not, send their children to school. Hence comes a demand from all parts of the country for a complete system of national education, and I think it would be as well for us at once to consider the extent of that demand. I believe that the country demands from us that we should at least try to do two things, and that it shall be no fault of ours if we do not succeed in doing them—namely, cover the country with good schools, and get the parents to send their children to those schools. I am aware, indeed, that to hope to arrive at these two results may be thought Utopian; but our only hope of getting over the difficulties before us, is to keep a high ideal before our minds, and to realize to ourselves what it is we are expected to try to do.
The first problem, then, is, "How can we cover the country with good schools?" Now, in trying to solve that problem there are certain conditions which I think hon. Members on both sides of the House will acknowledge we must abide by. First of all, we must not forget the duty of the parents. Then we must not forget our duty to our constituencies, our duty to the taxpayers. Though our constituencies almost, I believe, to a man would spend money, and large sums of money, rather than not do the work, still we must remember that it is upon them that the burden will fall. And thirdly, we must take care not to destroy in building up—not to destroy the existing system in introducing a new one. In solving this problem there must be, consistently with the attainment of our object, the least possible expenditure of public money, the utmost endeavour not to injure existing and efficient schools, and the most careful absence of all encouragement to parents to neglect their children. I trust I have taken the House thus far with me. Our object is to complete the 444 present voluntary system, to fill up gaps, sparing the public money where it can be done without, procuring as much as we can the assistance of the parents, and welcoming as much as we rightly can the co-operation and aid of those benevolent men who desire to assist their neighbours.
Now, I will at once proceed to the main principles that run through all our clauses for securing efficient school provision. They are two in number. Legal enactment, that there shall be efficient schools everywhere throughout the kingdom. Compulsory provision of such schools if and where needed, but not unless proved to be needed. These being the principles, I now come to the actual provisions.
The first provision that would probably suggest itself to the minds of all hon. Members would be a system of organization throughout the country. We take care that the country shall be properly mapped and divided, so that its wants may be duly ascertained. For this, we take present known divisions, and declare them to be school districts, so that upon the passing of this Bill there will be no portion of England or Wales not included in one school district or another. I think it would be convenient if I at once state what these districts would be, although the grounds upon which we have proceeded I will, with the permission of hon. Members, allude to hereafter. We have taken the boundaries of boroughs as regards towns, and parishes as regards the country, and when I say parish, I mean the civil parish and not the ecclesiastical district. With regard to the metropolis, the difficulties of which, from its peculiar position, defy almost all attempts at legislation, we shall be guided very much by the counsel and advice of the metropolitan Members; but after the greatest possible inquiry, we have come to the conclusion that the best districts we can take in the metropolis are, where they exist, the school districts already formed for workhouse schools, and where they do not exist, the boundaries of the vestries. If, then, we get all England and Wales divided into districts, our next duty is to ascertain their educational condition, and for that purpose we take powers to collect Returns which will show us what in each district is the number of schools, of scholars, and of 445 children requiring education. We also take power to send down Inspectors and officers to test the quality of the schools, and find out what education is given. Then, I may at once state that if in any one of these districts we find the elementary education to be sufficient, efficient, and suitable, we leave that district alone. By sufficient, I mean if we find that there are enough schools; by efficient. I mean schools which give a reasonable amount of secular instruction; and by suitable, I mean schools to which, from the absence of religious or other restriction, parents cannot reasonably object; and I may add that for the purpose of ascertaining the condition of these districts, we count all schools that will receive our Inspectors, whether private or public, whether aided or unaided by Government assistance, whether secular or denominational. If we find the district adequately supplied, we let it alone so long as it continues in that state, retaining for ourselves the power to renew the examination from time to time. It would, however, be vain for us not to suppose that we shall find a vast number of districts—I am afraid the enormous majority throughout the area of the country—where the educational provision is insufficient, and where that is so, as it is by public inquiry that that Insufficiency must be ascertained, so it is by public provision that that need must be supplied.
Now, in taking account of the elementary education before making public provision, we consider as elementary all schools that will allow our Inspectors to visit them; but, when we endeavour to make public provision for the necessities of the public, we deem it our duty to take security that the public gets what it wants, and, therefore, in the schools which we provide, and which we call public elementary schools, we define the conditions upon which schools ought, in our opinion, to receive public aid, and what they should, in our opinion, be responsible for providing. We consider that these public elementary schools should in future be subject to three regulations—one of them an old regulation, and the other two new. The old regulation, which is manifestly a necessary one, is that the school should be kept up to the standard of secular efficiency which Parliament from time to time may think it necessary to exact. 446 The next regulation is a new one, and is one upon which I fear I may have to encounter some difference of opinion, though much loss than I believe would have been the case last year. Inspection is absolutely necessary. Hitherto the inspection has been denominational; we propose that it should no longer be so. At present the state of matters is this—There are denominational Inspectors all through the kingdom, crossing one another continually in the most curious and inconvenient manner. But though there are denominational Inspectors everywhere, and though there are concordats which prevent certain schools from being visited by any but a denominational Inspector, the examination into the doctrines of the denomination applies to only one denomination. It is only in the Church of England that Inspectors have any power to examine with respect to religious doctrine. Now, we do not think that fair to other religious denominations. We think also—and I believe that that opinion is shared by many of the most active members of the Church of England and by many of the most hard-working of the clergy—that such a condition is unfair to the Church itself. I am not going to dwell upon this; but no one can for a moment be blind to the fact that there are different schools of doctrine in the Church; and I hear earnest clergymen complain that the children they instruct are subjected to examination in religious doctrine by an Inspector whose sentiments are different from their own, while an Inspector visiting a Wesleyan or an Independent school has no right whatever to make inquiry into points of religious doctrine. But I go further, and say I do not believe that it is fair to religion. This inspection of religious teaching in Church of England schools misleads. It does not secure the teaching of religion, but it induces religious men, and the ministers of the Church, and the Church in its organization, to relieve themselves, to some extent, of duties they would otherwise perform. I have heard that view stated in the strongest possible manner, and in a form much more clearly than I can do, by a high authority in the Church—by the Archdeacon of Berkshire, who probably has had more experience in connection with schools than most clergymen, and it has been impressed upon me over and over again by clergymen of the 447 Church of England. But if it be unfair to other persuasions—if it be scarcely fair to the Church herself, and no advantage, or a very mixed advantage, to religion, it is most inconvenient and costly, and, I may add, most injurious to the cause of education. It is most costly, for we have men going over the same ground continually; it is most inconvenient, because it prevents the Department from organizing inspection as it would wish to do; and it is most mischievous, because it tends to keep the schools divided one from another by denominational differences, and because it prevents the schoolmasters themselves from agreeing together as they otherwise would do. Therefore we propose that, after a limited period, one of the conditions of public elementary schools shall be that they shall admit any Inspector without any denominational provision. Although we think the time has come for that change, we would not for a moment cast any reproach on those who framed the system which we now find it necessary to change. It was found necessary by those who first took national education in hand to establish denominational inspection, and I cannot allude to that without alluding at the same time to a man to whom probably more than any other we owe national education in England—I mean Sir James Kaye Shuttleworth. Sir James Kaye Shuttleworth established those concordats with the different denominations, and he did so because he found it almost impossible to help it. I do not think he would disapprove the change we are now making; but I am sure that hereafter, in the history of national education, it will be admitted that its origin was mainly due to his exertions.
I come now to another condition upon which also up to this year there would have been much difference of opinion, but as to which I expect there will be very little at present, and that is that after a limited period we attach what is called a Conscience Clause as a condition to the receipt by any elementary school of public money. I do not think there needs much argument to prove the propriety of such a condition. It seems to me quite dear, if we approach the subject without any prejudice, that in taking money from the taxpayer to give his children secular education, we have no right to interferewith his feelings as 448 a parent, or to oblige him to accept for his children religious education to which he objects. Therefore, in voting public money, or making public provision for elementary schools, we hold that they ought not to be schools from which the public would be excluded. The principle of that condition is so clear, and the violation of it has been found so mischievous, that I am glad to find the opposition to the proposed change has almost disappeared. In speaking of this opposition, I am not alluding to my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), who has long taken that view, and who on this question of education, as we must all acknowledge, has been always in advance of most of us on both sides of the House; I but I am alluding to those who up to this year have strongly opposed the Conscience Clause. I find that in the National Education Union, which represents the views of an enormous majority of the clergy engaged in educational work, it is one of the conditions of membership that there should be a Conscience Clause for all schools. I have many accounts of meetings at which the same views have been advocated. I have received an account of a conference convened by the Bishop of Ely, at which many clergymen and laymen from the four counties embraced by his diocese attended, and I am informed that, after a discussion which lasted for several hours, a resolution was passed almost unanimously that for every grant, whether building or other grant, there should be a Conscience Clause as a condition, and that while, on the one hand, there should be perfect liberty of religious teaching, on the other hand there should be perfect liberty of withdrawal by every ' parent from such teaching. It is upon that principle that we have framed the clause, and, as it is so important, perhaps the House will allow me to road the exact words—No scholar shall be required, as a condition of being admitted into or of attending or of enjoying all the benefits of the school, to attend or to abstain from attending any Sunday school, or any place of religious worship, or to learn any such catechism or religious formulary, or to be present at any such lesson or instruction or observance as may have been objected to on religious grounds by the parent of the scholar sending his objection in writing to the managers or principal teacher of the school or one of them.449 That clause has been framed with great care. It is one of the provisions on which we may expect difference of opinion, and we put it before the House with a desire that it should be fully considered, but without any disposition to prejudge what the opinion of the House may be. Before leaving this question, I must say that though there has been exaggeration, with respect to this matter, and though I believe the amount of practical evil is not large, yet I cannot deny that there is practical evil, for I found in my Department more of it than I expected. I have found but very few cases of undue interference when compared with the enormous number of schools; but I have heard of instances which I am sure would be regretted by hon. Members on the other side of the House as well as on this, in which clergymen, from mistaken zeal, have endeavoured to oblige the children coming to their schools to attend Sunday schools against the wish of their parents. I am quite sure that there has been enough of this to make absolutely necessary the provision we propose in the Bill. But it will be a Conscience Clause different from the present clause in one respect. Clergymen of the Church of England felt the present Conscience. Clause to apply particularly to them, although I am sure it was not intended to do so. The proposed clause will apply to all schools, secular as well as denominational, and will give to the parent the power of withdrawing his child from instruction if, on religious grounds, he thinks that instruction to be such as the child ought not to hear. I know there are several hon. Friends of mine who have long studied this matter, and have come to the conclusion that a Conscience Clause, however stringent, would be of little use. I confess that is not the view that I have formed from my personal experience. In the first place, I do not know any case in which our present Conscience Clause has been applied in which it has not been found thoroughly effective; but our new clause will be different in this important respect, that whereas the old clause was applicable only in some cases to building grants, the new one will apply to all grants, and especially to all annual grants. It is perfectly clear in its operation, and I am quite sure that no manager of a school will 450 risk the loss of the annual grant by violating its conditions.
Well, then, if these three regulations are acceptod—an effectual Conscience Clause; undenominational inspection; and compliance with conditions securing secular efficiency—then no other regulations will be enforced, and, especially, the present restrictions against secular schools will be removed. On this point I will not dwell, as it is a foregone conclusion; it was in the Bill of the late Government, and I believe the general, if not the unanimous, feeling is in favour of it. There is, of course, no intention to interfere with schools which have received a past building grant, and which will not accept the Conscience Clause. They will not receive the annual grant; but no interference will be attempted with them on account of the building grant which they have already received.
After this digression, defining what we mean by public elementary schools, I must ask the House to go back with me to the school districts. In very many districts we have found that further provision is necessary. We have said that we must have provision for public elementary schools. The first question then is, by whom is it to be made? Now hero for a time we shall test the voluntary zeal of the district. Not only do we not neglect voluntary help, but on condition of respecting the rights of parents and the rights of conscience, we welcome it. To see, then, whether voluntary help will be forthcoming we give a year. We think we ought to give enough of time to test the zeal and willingness of any volunteers who may be disposed to help; but we ought not to give longer time, because we cannot afford to wait. If that zeal, if that willingness, does not come forward to supply the schools that are required, then the children must no longer remain untaught, and the State must step in.
Now, then, we come at last to what will undoubtedly be looked upon as the most important part of the Bill—namely, the compulsory provision where it is wanted. I have said that there will be compulsory provision where it is wanted—if and where proved to be wanted, but not otherwise. We come now to the machinery for its application where it is proved to be wanted. How do we propose to apply it? By school Boards 451 elected by the district. We have already got the district; we have found out the educational want existing in it—we see that the district must be supplied—we have waited in the hope that some persons would supply it; they have not done so. We, therefore, say that it must be supplied; but by whom? It would be possible for the Government to attempt to supply it by defraying the expenses from the taxes; and I believe that one or two hon. Gentlemen think that would be the best way. No doubt it would be possible for the Government to try to do this; but I believe it would be impossible for them to effect it. I believe it is not in the power of any central Department to undertake such a duty throughout the kingdom. Consider also the enormous power it would give the central administration. Well, then, if Government cannot do it itself by central action, we must still rely upon local agency. Voluntary local agency has failed, therefore our hope is to invoke the help of municipal organization. Therefore, where we have proved the educational need we supply it by local administration—that is, by means of rates aided by money voted by Parliament, expended under local management, with central inspection and control. I wish to be frank with the House, and I therefore say that undoubtedly this proposal will affect a large portion of the kingdom. I believe it will affect almost all the towns, and a great part of the country.
Well, now, as to the area of the district. As regards towns, I think there can be but little doubt. Almost everyone will jump to the conclusion that in boroughs we should take the municipal boundaries; but there may be a difference of opinion as to the rural districts. The Education Bills hitherto brought forward have taken the Union; we take the parish, with the power, of course, to unite parishes together. There are several reasons why we prefer the parish to the Union, though it is a very difficult matter to decide upon, and there is much to be said on both sides. In the first place, there is a vast difference between the condition of town and country with respect to education. Any Bill to be successful must be elastic, to meet that difference. Take the parish in the country, and we at once admit the possibility of that difference, and make the 452 Bill elastic, being in this way able to treat town and country in a different manner. Again, in a country district, the principle of our Bill is better fitted to a small unit of area, because we do not intend to meddle with a district that can safely be left to itself. Another reason is, that many Unions throughout the kingdom are composed of a town surrounded by outlying country parishes. Well, if we had to take the town out of the Union it would be like taking the kernel out of the nut, and making our organization almost impossible. It would be necessary cither to have a school Board to meet these conflicting, or at least entirely different, conditions, or you would be obliged to contend with the disadvantage of taking out the central and more populous district, and of trying to join together by themselves the outlying parishes. It is true, in the Bill which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Bruce) and I myself introduced at the instance of the Manchester Committee, a different division was adopted—namely, the Union; but I find, in framing the Bill, the difficulties to be less in taking the parish, and there is another ground which, though not enough by itself, may yet be added to the other considerations in its favour—namely, that we do not want in this matter more than we can help to keep up pauper associations, but prefer to go back to the traditions of the old parochial schools. I cannot leave this point without just alluding to the reason why we have this difficulty at all, which is almost a disgrace to this country. We are behind almost every other civilized country, whether in America or on the Continent of Europe, in respect to rural municipal; organization; and this drawback meets us not only in connection with education, but when many other social questions affecting the people come before us. The same difficulty applies to London. With respect to London, as I have already said, we have taken the best divisions we could find—the school districts as already established, which, I believe, are working well, and cover nearly the whole metropolis. Where these districts do not exist we take the boundaries of the vestries. In the case of the school districts of the metropolis we need have no provisions for election, because we have already school Boards elected by 453 the different Boards of Guardians within these school districts.
But the next question that arises is—How are we to elect our school Boards in the provinces, and whom are they to elect? Now, first, who is to elect? Well, the electoral body we have chosen for the towns is the Town Council. I do not think there can be much dispute upon that point. In the country, we have taken the best body we could find—the Select Vestry where there is one, and a Vestry where there is no Select Vestry. Whom are they to elect? Here we have thought the most simple provision after all the best. We allow them to elect whom they think fit. We limit the number; it must not be less than three nor more than twelve. I know that this is a point upon which there will be considerable difference of opinion. I believe there are some hon. Gentlemen who view with jealousy the action of municipal bodies; but, if you make use of them at all, the wisest course is to treat them with fairness and confidence; and judging from the past, I think we may say those bodies have risen to the duties which they have to perform. I myself have known case after case in which a Town Council, or even a rural Vestry, has been a scene of squabbles until it had important duties intrusted to it, and then has risen to the level of those duties, even members who had not distinguished themselves before having shown qualities of the existence of which their neighbours were not previously aware, whilst those whose case was the reverse have been replaced by others. We might certainly add ex officio members to the school Boards; but we have come to the conclusion that no real strength would be given to a Board by putting ex officio members on it. We believe that the very men fit to be ex oflicio members would come in with greater influence, and almost with equal certainty, if subjected to popular election.
Another plan that has been much advocated is, that the Government should exercise a control over these Boards by placing on them their nominees. We have not taken that course. Not that we think there may not be school Boards—although I trust they will be very few—which may obstruct the action of this Bill, but that, when the Government puts its nominees on a Board it becomes, to some extent at least, responsible for 454 the failures of that Board. The Government nominees may be in the minority; nevertheless there they are upon the Board, and the Government will scarcely; be able to deal with the Board as well as if it did not contain its nominees. The powers we take may seem strong, but we believe they are absolutely necessary powers. Those who elect the school Board may elect whoever they please, whether they be or be not on the list of managers of existing schools. But, on the other hand, having left them to elect their own Board, and the Board once elected, we say to them—"The work must be done, and if not done by you, then we, the Government, take powers to step in and declare the school Board in default, to see that the children are not left untaught, to do the work that the Board ought to have done, and to hand it back again to the elected members of the district when they are willing to take it up."
Now I come to a very interesting part of the matter. The school Boards are to provide the education. Who are to pay for it? In the first place, shall we give up the school fees? I know that some earnest friends of education would do that. I at once say that the Government are not prepared to do it. If we did so the sacrifice would be enormous. The parents paid in school fees last year about £120,000. If this scheme works, as I have said we hope it will work, it will very soon cover the country, and that £420,000 per annum would have to be doubled, or even trebled. Nor would it stop there. This would apply to the elementary education chiefly of the working classes. The middle classes would step in—the best portion of the working classes would step in—and say—"There must be free education also for us, and that free education must not be confined to elementary schools." The illustration and example, so often quoted, of America would be quoted again, and we should be told that in the New England States education is free not only in the elementary schools, but free also up to the very highest education of the State. The cost would be such as really might well alarm my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope the country would be ready to incur that cost if necessary; but I think it would be not only unnecessary, but mischievous. Why should 455 we relieve the parent from all payments for the education of his child? we come in and help the parents in all possible ways; but, generally speaking, the enormous majority of them are able, and will continue to be able, to pay those fees. Nevertheless, we do take two powers. We give the school Board power to establish special free schools under special circumstances, which chiefly apply to large towns, where, from the exceeding poverty of the district, or for other very special reasons, they prove to the satisfaction of the Government that such a school is needed, and ought to be established. We require the approval of the Government to be obtained, upon the ground that it would not be fair to the existing schools to allow a free school to be set up unless on very special grounds. On the other hand, it would not be fair to impose on the Town Council of large places like Liverpool or Manchester the duty of meeting the fearful educational destitution that exists by electing a school Board, and not to give them power, if they think it necessary, to establish special schools for special cases. We also empower the school Board to give free tickets to parents who they think realty cannot afford to pay for the education of their children; and we take care that those free tickets shall have no stigma of pauperism attached to them. We do not give up the school fees, and indeed we keep to the present proportions—namely, of about one-third raised from the parents, one-third out of the public taxes, and one-third out of local funds. Where the local funds are not raised by voluntary subscriptions the rates will come into action. I know when I talk of rates that I am touching very delicate ground, and I do not for a moment dispute that the whole system and principle of rating is one of the questions which urgently demand the consideration of this House. I trust, however, that no reasonable Member present would wish to keep the children through out England untaught until that question is solved. After all it is but a very small matter as regards the rate. An education rate would save the prison rate and the pauper rate. It would not be a special rate, but a charge on the poor rate. But should it exceed 3d. in the pound—and I do not believe it will amount to anything like that sum 456 in the vast majority of cases—then there is a clause in the Bill which stipulates that there shall be a very considerable extra grant out of the Parliamentary Votes. I may add that there is power given to the school Boards to borrow money for building purposes on the security of the rates, to be repaid in thirty years.
I come next to the other powers we give to the school Boards. And, first, we give them the power of either providing schools themselves, or of assisting the present schools. Those Gentlemen who have followed this question will, I dare say, recollect that, in the Bill brought in by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department and myself, this principle of assistance to the present schools occupied a much more prominent position than I am now assigning it. In fact, the principle of that Bill was a rate for assistance to the present schools; and the districts could not have the rate with out being, as it were, compelled to assist the present schools on certain fair conditions. That Bill was the result of great thought, not so much on my right hon. Friend's part and on mine, although we bestowed considerable time and pains upon it, as on the part of the Manchester Committee, who devoted the utmost consideration to it. But I confess that, on further examination of the question, we do not think it right—as the House will perceive, from the provisions I have already explained—to insist on the school Board assisting the present schools. We give them, however, power to do so if they please. They have a certain educational destitution to supply. They may do it either by setting up their own public elementary schools, or by assisting the present public elementary schools, those schools—I need not remind the House—being efficient up to a certain standard of secular efficiency, and having the Conscience Clause as I have described. They may either provide schools themselves, or assist the present schools, or they may do both. But there is this condition, that if they do go on the principle of assisting, they must assist-all schools on equal terms. They may not pick out one particular denomination and say—"We shall assist you, but not the others." If they go on the principle of assistance, they must assist every public elementary school.
457 I now come to the point, what position we place the school Boards in, as regards the schools which they themselves provide? The position we propose to put them in is this—we make them managers, and leave them in the same position as that of managers of voluntary schools. And here arises a very important question. I might have avoided it, but I should not be dealing fairly with the House if I did. The religious question is involved in this matter of the position of the school managers. Ought we to restrict the school Boards, in regard to religion, more than we do the managers of voluntary schools? We have come to the conclusion that we ought not. We restrict them, of course, to the extent of a most stringent Conscience Clause. But it may be said—"You ought to go further." I will take the different alternatives that have been suggested; but, before doing so, I must say that I can but think we are making difficulties that do not really exist. I do not want it to be supposed that I imagine there are no difficulties. There are difficulties to honest men; but these are difficulties of theory and of conscience to men as between one another, rather than difficulties in the actual education of the children.
Now, just look at the ages of the children with whom we have to deal. The great majority of them are probably under ten years of age; some are over that age and under twelve, and I fear but comparatively few are over twelve and under fourteen. We want a good secular teaching for these children, a good Christian training, and good schoolmasters. We want these schoolmasters certainly not to feel themselves fettered in any way; but children of these ages can hardly be supposed to require doctrinal or dogmatic teaching to any great extent. It may be said—"Why do you not then prescribe that there shall be no doctrinal teaching—why not, in the first place, prescribe that there shall be no religious teaching at all?" Why do we not prescribe that there shall be no religious teaching? Why, if we did so, out of the religious difficulty we should come to an irreligious difficulty. We want, while considering the rights and feelings of the minority, to do that which the majority of the parents in this country really wish; and we have no doubt whatever that an enormous 458 majority of the parents of this country prefer that there should be a Christian training for their children—that they should be taught to read the Bible. If we are to prevent religious teaching altogether, we must say that the Bible shall not be used in schools at all. But would it not be a monstrous thing that the book which, after all, is the foundation of the religion we profess, should be the only book that was not allowed to be used in our schools? But then it may be said that we ought to have no dogmatic teaching. But how are we to prevent it? Are we to step in and say the Bible may be read, but may not be explained? Are we to pick out Bible lessons with the greatest care in order that nothing of a doctrinal character might be taught to the children? I do not mean to say it would not be better to attempt to do this rather than fail in the effort of meeting this matter. If the general opinion of the country was that we should try that labour, I would endeavour to encounter it; but I say that it is one of detailed supervision which does not belong to the central government, and in which the great probability is the central government would fail.
Again, it would not be for us to prescribe that the Bible must be taught, because there may be parents in some districts who, without any dislike to religion at all, might prefer a purely secular school with the religious teaching given elsewhere, and those parents ought to be allowed to do as they please. But we have met the difficulty in this way. We take note of one fact and we rely upon one principle. The fact is this—that, as the result of experience, this question is found to be a theoretical rather than a practical one. It has been found in the case of the voluntary managers that, however much they may talk about this difficulty in theory, in practice this difficulty has not proved to be so very serious. It has been found that clergymen who have resisted the Conscience Clause, as a provision of an Act of Parliament, have carried out such a clause in their own schools. What we say is—we impose upon the school Board practical work. We say—"It is your duty to be the practical managers, and to see that this education is given;" and we believe that immediately as regards the enor- 459 mous majority of the children the theoretical religious difficulty will disappear. Then, again, the principle to which I have referred is this—the principle of I popular election. The persons who are to constitute the school Board are the members, of the Town Council or the members of the Vestry, and these bodies are elected by the people. We say the members of this Board are persons in whom the parents trust, because they are elected by the parents, and we do not doubt that the parents will take care to elect men that will not raise religious difficulties in the way of education.
I now come to another part of the subject—to that part to which I referred at the beginning of my remarks when I said that the country would expect that we should secure, if possible, the attendance of the children. This attendance question is a difficult question, but we must face it. To leave it alone is to leave the children untaught, and to force the taxpayers and ratepayers to pay for useless schools. I shall at once state what I expect may surprise the House. It is that, after much thought upon the matter, the Government has permitted me to put before the House the principle of direct compulsion. This may seem to be a startling principle; but, although I feel that I have already occupied the House much longer than I should have wished to do, it is a principle of the Bill which I feel I cannot quickly pass over. It has only been within the last few months that thought on the matter has brought me to the conclusion that the principle of direct compulsion ought to be adopted. I would ask the House to follow me while I explain how I have come to this conclusion, and how I believe many of those engaged in the work of education throughout the country have come to it; for no one can doubt that the principle of direct compulsion has latterly made extraordinary way; and that now both sets of educationists are in its favour, for there are as many champions of the old system as advocates of change that are favourable to it. I would first remind the House that we have already admitted the principle of compulsion; we have admitted it in the Short Time Acts. It is a mockery to say that it is new with us, or to use against it the argument that it is "un-English." When we say that, however necessary 460 the labour of children may be to their parents, however impossible it may be for them to keep out of the workhouse without it, we shall not allow children to labour unless they go to school—that is compulsion. There are five different ways in which compulsion may be attempted. There is indirect compulsion by the Act which bears the Speaker's name. That Act might be extended, so that instead of a Board of Guardians having the power of sending children receiving relief to school, their being sent to school might be made a condition of relief. Then there might be an extension of the short-time system, which might be extended to agriculture, and made more efficient with respect to other trades. There is another plan which is not so much compulsion as temptation or inducement; it is that of giving educated children a certificate, by means of which they may be able to get work easier than those who have not one. Then there are two forms of direct compulsion. There is direct compulsion upon certain classes, as in the Industrial Schools Act, and direct compulsion upon all children under a certain age. These systems might all go on together. In some countries some at least of them do go on together. I believe that Short Time Acts and direct compulsion both exist in many of the German States; and if this Bill should pass I think one of the results would be that, without direct reference to the Speaker's Act its operation would be made more general. The school Boards might, and probably often would, make arrangements with the Guardians by means of which certain children might be sent to school. The details of this matter are, however, rather for the Poor Law Board; and in considering it the House will do well to consider also the recommendation of the Poor Belief Committee of 1864, which states that, after all, the business of the Poor Law Board and of the Guardians is to relieve destitution, and not to be the educators of the people.
Next, as to the short-time system. It may be revised. The Workshops Act and the Bleachfields Act may be made more stringent—the short-time system may be extended to agriculture—and we may, and should, take care that education be really given in the schools which short-time children attend—that 461 these schools should be real schools and not sham schools. But we have decided not to include these measures in this Bill, as they fall rather within the province of the Home Office. I can only hope and trust that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department will find time, if not this Session, at any rate next Session, before the school Boards are at work—for they cannot come into work this Session—to revise the Short Time Acts so as to enable them to assist the operation of this Act. But it may be said—Why not rely on this indirect compulsion? The fact is, we cannot rely on it entirety. My experience of it, like that of any other employer of labour, whose works are in a village separated from other schools, and where the arrangements for work and school can be made to fit one another, is that the short-time system acts to great advantage. But even in such a case, it does not, in all instances, effect all that is desirable, for we find that parents neglect the education of their children before sending them to school. But we also find that there is an idea springing up amongst both working men and employers, that if you apply the short-time system alone it is scarcely fair. When you rely solely upon that you may act hardly with regard to well-intentioned parents who wish their children to earn an honest living, and leave uninterfered with the idle children and the careless parents. Again, unless you apply it to every kind of employment the tendency is to cause the child to be shifted from one form of employment to another; while it would require a most skilfully organized army of Inspector to apply it to every kind of employment But this indirect compulsion will be made easier if we are not afraid to declare the principle upon which it is really based, and to embody this principle in an Act of Parliament—namely, that it is the duty of the parent to send his child to school. There is a point upon which I confess, I have changed my opinion. I believe that last year I stated in this House that in America, although they had a compulsory provision, it was so rarely put in force as to be of no effect. Further study of the matter has convinced me that, while it is as seldom put in force in America as in the parts of Germany where a similar provision exists, yet it is acknowledged to have had 462 a great effect, since it embodies a moral force which has made education more universal. And there is the important fact to be remembered—that in no country has education been really a success in which this principle has not at one time been acknowledged, and that remark applies to Scotland as well as to the New England States, and to Germany. So much for the principle. But hon. Members will ask—"Why do you put that provision in the present Act?" Of course, it will be impossible to apply the principle until we get the school Boards at work and the schools in existence. We cannot apply it to schools which do not exist, or which we do not acknowledge to be, and which have not proved themselves to be, efficient schools. The reason for the application of the principle now is this—We must deprive the school Boards of any excuse for not making full provision, and they would have that excuse if we did not give them power to see that the schools which they provided were attended. They would say—"What is the good of putting us to the expense of providing schools when you give us no power to fill them?" We must also have some consideration for those school Boards in large towns who have hard duties to perform. Take the town of Liverpool, to which I have already alluded. We must not impose these duties upon Liverpool, and leave the Boards with their hands tied. They will have to raise a large sum of money, and at great expenditure of energy and trouble will have to undertake to supply these schools, and therefore they may well say—"You ought to trust the with the power of seeing that these schools are filled." What we do in the Act is no more than this. We give power to the school Boards to frame bye-laws for the compulsory attendance of all children within their district from five to twelve. They must see that no parent is under a penalty—which is restricted to 5s.—for not sending his child to school if he can show reasonable excuse; reasonable excuse being either education elsewhere, or sickness, or some unavoidable cause, or there not being a public elementary school within a mile. These bye-laws are not to come into operation unless they are approved by the Government, and unless they have been laid on the table of this and the other House of Parliament forty days, and have not been dis- 463 sented from. Thus, with these checks, supplied by the necessary sanction of the Government, of this House, and of the public opinion of the district, every precaution is taken in the application of the principle.
There is one other power with regard lo attendance. We put the school Board, wherever it is elected, in the place of the present body for managing Industrial Schools. In boroughs this body is the Town Council; but it will be more convenient that the school Board should have the power, and in one respect we give to the latter more power than the Town Council at present possesses. Under the existing law none or the local bodies can establish Industrial Schools, unless there is first of all some voluntary initiative in the case. We do not consider it necessary to apply that provision to the school Boards, as the action of the ratepayers and municipality may be considered as the voluntary initiative; and, therefore, we give power to the school Boards at once to establish Industrial Schools. I believe myself that the Industrial Schools Act might be considerably amended, and that power might be given to make it available for day scholars, as well as for boarders, so as to enable very poor children to get their dinners, together with their teaching, without the necessity of being also lodged. That is a question, however, to be considered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department either this or next Session.
There is only another provision to which I will allude. There are many small school endowments which were not touched by the Endowed Schools Bill of last year, because they were endowments of schools receiving assistance from Government. We give power to the governing bodies of these endowments to suggest schemes which, if approved by the Government, may come into operation.
I have now described the principal provisions of this Bill. Before I sit down I hope the House will allow me to say one word upon the spirit in which this measure is submitted by the Government to them. In measures of constructive legislation, it seems to me that the purpose—the end aimed at—matters much; and the precise method matters comparatively little. What is our purpose in this Bill? Briefly this, to bring 464 elementary education within the reach of every English hone, aye, and within the reach of those children who have no homes. This is what we aim at in this Bill; and this is what I believe this Bill will do. I believe it will do it eventually, and not only eventually, but speedily. To do it will require enormous? labour on the part of the Government; I but if the House passes this Bill with the approbation of the country, no Government will be able to refuse that labour. Now this purpose we cannot allow, with our assent, to be frustrated; unless this Bill provides a complete national system of education, our efforts in framing it, your time in considering it, will have been wasted. Again, there are many points which have to be taken into consideration. There are rights of parents; rights of minorities; rights of conscience, which must be respected; but, within these limits—the attainment of our purpose, the due regard to individuals, I hardly need say that in a measure of this kind the Government will receive with the greatest possible attention every suggestion from either side of the House. The Bill will be in the hands of Members, I hope, to-morrow; certainly on Saturday. They will find that the clauses have been prepared with care, and I think that they are consistent one with another; but we shall be ready to consider every Amendment with the most careful attention.
But I confess I am sanguine—hon. Members may think me too sanguine—that in its main provisions the Bill will become law. And I will very shortly give the reason why I am thus sanguine. We think that it will be supported by both those who wish to protect the present system of education and those who wish to change it. On the one hand, we acknowledge and make the utmost possible use of present educational efforts—of the efforts of the members and of those who sympathize with the views of the Educational Union; on the other hand, we assert in the strongest language that it is the duty of Government to take care that in every locality throughout the kingdom elementary education is provided by help of local agency, and that is the principle of the Educational League. I know there are many hon. Members, men who are as zealous in the cause of education as I am myself, who object to a rate because they dislike 465 the interference of the ratepayers with their schools. To such men I say—"Do the work without a rate, and we will not interfere, but if you do not do the work the education of the children must not be neglected because you dislike a rate." Again, what is the principle relied upon by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) and the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), to whom so much credit is due for stimulating educational zeal in the country? It is the education of the people's children by the people's officers, chosen in their local assemblies, controlled by the people's representatives in Parliament. That is the principle on which our Bill is based; it is the ultimate force which rests behind every clause.
But I am not going to repeat my arguments, I have already detained you too long, and have only one further remark to make before I sit down. I have said that this is a very serious question; I would further say that whatever we do in the matter should be done quickly. We must not delay. Upon the speedy provision of elementary education depends our industrial prosperity. It is of no use trying to give technical teaching to our artizans without elementary education; uneducated labourers—and many of our labourers are utterly uneducated—are, for the most part, unskilled labourers, and if we leave our work-folk any longer unskilled, notwithstanding their strong sinews and determined energy, they will become overmatched in the competition of the world. Upon this speedy provision depends also, I fully believe, the good, the safe working of our constitutional system. To its honour, Parliament has lately decided that England shall in future be governed by popular government. I am one of those who would not wait until the people were educated before I would trust them with political power. If we had thus waited we might have waited long for education; but now that we have given them political power we must not wait any longer to give them education. There are questions demanding answers, problems which must be solved, which ignorant constituencies are ill-fitted to solve. Upon this speedy provision of education depends also our national power. Civilized communities throughout the world are massing themselves together, each mass being measured by its force; 466 and if we are to hold our position among men of our own race or among the nations of the world we must make up the smallness of our numbers by increasing the intellectual force of the individual.
But there are many men, I doubt not many Members of this House—and these not the least earnest to do their duty, or the least able to help their fellows—who are swayed not so much by these general considerations as by the condition of the individuals around them. Well, then, to these gentlemen let me say one word—I am not a fanatic in this matter of education, I know well that knowledge is not virtue—that no education, much less elementary education, gives power to resist temptation—is a safeguard against calamity; but we all know that want of education—that ignorance is weakness, and that weakness in this hard struggling world generally brings misfortune—often leads to vice. Let us then each of us think of our own homes, of the villages in which we have to live, of the towns in which it is our lot to be busy; and do we not know child after child—boys or girls—growing up to probable crime, to still more probable misery, because badly taught or utterly untaught? Dare we then take on ourselves the responsibility of allowing this ignorance and this weakness to continue one year longer than we can help? Not doubting that these considerations will weigh with the House as they have with the Government, I venture to submit this measure to the House, and therefore, Sir, I beg to move for leave to bring in a Bill to provide for public Elementary Education in England and Wales.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, it was impossible at that time to criticize in detail such a complicated measure, introduced with a fairness and ability which all must admit. He rose to ask for explanations on certain points, and to make a few remarks on certain provisions which he did not think would be acceptable to the country. In the first place, the Vice President had said there was to be no more denominational inspection. He did not feel sure what he meant by that. Did he merely mean that the Inspectors were no longer to examine in religion? It was at present the rule that they should not examine in religion for the Government. It was true that they examined for the 467 Archbishop, and sent their reports to him; but there was no examination in religion on behalf of the Government. This had been fully explained to the House by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, during the debates on the Revised Code. What then was the meaning of "denominational inspection?" In what did it consist? What was the essence of denominational inspection? It was the power of veto which every religious body had on the appointments of the Inspectors which were to inspect the schools connected severally with those religious bodies. This was the result of the great Management Clauses controversy which terminated in 1851. Each of the religious bodies—the Church of England, the Wesleyans, the Roman Catholics, the Jewish, and the British and Foreign Society—had their own fight with the Government; and, after they had carried it on many years, there was a treaty of peace with each religious body, and forms of trust deeds were agreed upon, which gave the religious bodies the right of veto which they now possessed. There was in each case a solemn concordat; a formal treaty of peace was entered into and signed by the State on the one hand, and by each religious body on the other. Each of these concordats had received additional sanction whenever a new school was built, for it was embodied in the trust deed. Did the right hon. Gentleman intend to abolish a contract so formally entered into, in order to get rid of the name "denominational inspection?" Had he asked the representatives of those religious bodies whether they would agree to the proposal? If he had not, then he not only broke faith with each religious body, and set at naught the pledged word of the State; but he also broke all those treaties of peace, 16,000 in number, and made enemies of all the school managers. He asked again, had the religious bodies agreed to give up their right of veto on the appointments of Inspectors? Had the right hon. Gentleman consulted the religious denominations, or those who represented them, in this matter? He wished to know whether or not the right of veto was to be taken away? The next point to which he would advert was the proposed admission of secular schools. It was true that the late Government had determined to admit secular schools to the receipt of 468 grants. But how did they propose to do so? By drawing up a new form of trust deed, or now management clauses for them; for they said they would see whether the people of England liked secular schools or not. The late Government were confident that the people of England preferred religious schools to secular, and so they determined to put both kinds upon an equal footing, to start them fair in the race, and prove that secular schools would not succeed. It was well known that the British and Foreign Society's schools—and even they belonged to the denominations, and were by no means secular—had no hold on the country. The managers of these schools were religious men, the masters belonged to religious denominations, the Bible was read in those schools, but no Catechisms or formularies were taught. The result was that this Society had no hold on public opinion, and that the schools in which distinctive religious teaching was given were preferred by the people. From the year 1833 until the year 1861, but few of these schools had been built; the Commissioners affirmed that not 14 per cent of the schools under the Privy Council belonged to the British and Foreign Society. If these were not in favour, how much less favour would secular schools ever obtain? The right hon. Gentleman said that he proposed to admit secular schools; he therefore desired to put the question whether this was to be done by drawing up a now trust deed, as the late Government had proposed? If so, secular and denominational schools would be equally treated; if not, then the means of doing so should be carefully considered. Thirdly, the right hon. Gentleman had said that every civil parish—not ecclesiastical parish—was at once to become a school district. If this was merely for the purposes of the Census, it was well; but he must remind him that many of these parishes had no inhabitants at all, and very many more had not twenty inhabitants. He supposed, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman did not intend to enact that every parish should have a school. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER said there was a provision for the union of parishes.] This answer disposed of the difficulty to which he referred. The right hon. Gentleman had said that if a parish was "well supplied" it should be left alone. But what did he mean by 469 "well supplied?" Was it to remain with the Government of the day, by its arbitrary fiat, to say that a parish was not well supplied, and that a heavy rate must he imposed on it? Would all unaided schools be at once excluded from consideration? [Mr. W. E. FORSTER said he had stated that unaided schools were to be taken into account.] He was glad to hear that, in considering whether a parish was "well supplied" with schools, unaided schools were to be taken into account. For there were about 7,000 parishes now well supplied with unaided Church schools; while the schools of only 5,000 parishes received assistance from the State. Yet the former were excellent schools, inspected by the diocesan Inspectors, and contained as many scholars as all the Dissenting, the Scotch, and the British schools under the Privy Council. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to dame schools. These were in most cases, at the time the Commissioners reported, inferior schools; and so the name acquired an opprobrium. But the case was very different now. In a parish of less than 100 inhabitants they could not have a large school, because the numbers were small, and the subscriptions were small. It was necessary, therefore, to have a cottage school, kept by some mistress, and under the immediate care of the clergyman of the Church of England. These schools were small in number, only 662, with 14,674 children, according to the National Society's Report. These were not had schools, and were confined to parishes in which there could be no other schools. If these schools were to be admitted, as he supposed they would be if the education they gave was reasonably good, there would be very few places in which the present Bill would be operative. As the right hon. Gentleman had alluded, rather disparagingly, to some statistics which he had adduced last year, and which had not been controverted, he trusted he might be permitted to allude briefly to the statistics given by the Vice President. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the case of Liverpool, where he said there were 80,000 children between the ages of five and thirteen. Of those he said that 20,000 were in no school; and 20,000 more went to inferior schools. The Commissioners thought that for the children of the working classes, six years of schooling would be sufficient. 470 Now, as there are eight years between five and thirteen, if every one of those children were to attend school for six years, three-fourths of the number ought to be at school in each year; and, according to the showing of the right hon. Gentleman, there were three-fourths at school. In Liverpool precisely three-fourths of the children between the ages of five and thirteen were at school; so that according to the right hon. Gentleman's own showing the number that ought to be at school were at school; and the only fault to be found was that 20,000 were at had schools.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
What I stated was that out of 80,000 children at Liverpool 20,000 were at no school at all, and 20,000 more were at schools where they were receiving no education; worth having.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, that that was precisely what he had said; every child which should be at school was at school, but one quarter were at had schools, which perhaps might be improved. With regard to Manchester the same might be said; for the Vice-President had shown, that of 65,000 children between the ages of five and thirteen, only 16,000 were not at school in each year. He thought therefore that the right hon. Gentleman had failed to convince the House that there was any educational destitution either at Liverpool or at Manchester. He alluded also to certain statistics that he (Lord Robert Montagu) had produced last year; those figures were furnished by the office of the right hon. Gentleman, and there was no doubt in his own mind of their accuracy. He believed, moreover, that the Vice President had carefully considered them, and was not prepared to dispute them. He (Lord Robert Montagu) was anxious to show that he had not deceived or misled the House by inaccurate statistics; he might therefore mention that he had that day made calculations upon another basis, and that they showed nearly the same results. These figures were calculated for the year 1868. In order that every child should be at school for six years, there should be at school in each year 3,424,564; the scholars actually in aided schools were 1,527,665, which left to be accounted for 1,896,899. By the Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission, it appeared that there were of boys alone requiring secondary edu- 471 cation 1.25 per cent of the population, or 255,000, which left 1,641,899, including girls of the upper and middle classes. From this should be deducted for children in reformatories, factories, workhouses, Birkbeck schools, &c., say, 100,000. There remained 1,541,899, including the aforesaid girls. Now in 1858 there were in unaided public schools 651,393. Had this number increased since 1858? If so, it was because there was vastly more education than at that time; for the aided public schools had also increased very rapidly. But if education had increased so much both in aided and unaided schools, what had become of the small deficiency reported in 1861? At all events, there were now in unaided Church schools alone, of a good stamp 571,890 (leaving only 116,503 for other public unaided schools). Private schools for the poor in 1858 contained 33 per cent of the population; but the number, according to the Commissioners, decreased 1.2 per annum. Even if the number in private schools were supposed to have remained the same, the result of these figures was, that it left for children not at school 313,970; but from this there must be subtracted something on account of the girls of the upper and middle classes. This bore out the result supplied by the figures furnished to him while in the Privy Council Office. The right hon. Gentleman said that the fault of the present system was that it only helped those who helped themselves. Well, that was the very essence of the present system, and was the object which the statesmen who originated it had in view. They had said that they would not resort to a forcing system, but would give assistance in proportion as education was appreciated and desired, while they at the same time applied a stimulus and a spur to the local desire for education. To this conclusion those great statesmen of former days, who were opposed to what is called "the paternal theory of Government," had necessarily arrived. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman had read the speech of Sir Robert Peel in 1839, in which he said that the object of the new system, as it was then, was not to cram education down the throats of the people, but to stimulate and help forward education. This system existed in full force until it received a chock from the present 472 Chancellor of the Exchequer when he brought in his Revised Code. He knew that the Revised Code had done a great deal of good in its way, but it certainly gave a check to the growth of schools, and to the increase in the number of scholars. The present Home Secretary had stated in that House in 1867 that—The Revised Code had aggravated one of the evils most strongly urged against our system—namely, that it gave aid where it was least wanted, and withheld it where the need was sorest."—[3 Hansard, clxxxv. 1158.]The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster); ought, therefore, to complain of his colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Government of Lord Palmerston, but for whom the number of schools would have increased more rapidly, and but for whom there would now have been no educational destitution. If the old system had been remedied with a less ruthless hand, and if the right hon. Gentleman opposite had not given way to the desire to decrease expenditure, there would not now have been any educational destitution. It was true that the grants for education were then very large, reaching to nearly £1,000,000 sterling a-year. But that was partly because education was spreading so rapidly. The object of the Revised Code was to decrease these enormous grants for education. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time himself stated that his object was to decrease that expenditure; and a decrease of expenditure meant a decrease in the means of supplying education. The right hon. Gentleman in 1867—enamoured of the system to which he had given birth—had said—You are not contented, although the work is done better and cheaper (under the Revised Code). You are not satisfied, but you must all begin tinkering and pulling to pieces the system which has produced such results."—[Ibid. 1162.]Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had now given his assent to a Bill which tinkered the present system, and pulled it to pieces more than any other Government had pretended to do. There was another point. The Government proposed that in the country the Vestry or Select Vestry was to elect the managers of the schools, and in some cases were to be the managers themselves. These new managers were to impose a rate for 473 the maintenance of the schools. In towns, however, the Town Council was to elect the managers. Now, were persons in the country so much more intelligent than those who lived in towns that there a Vestry should be competent to do that which required in towns a Town Council for its due performance? He should have thought that in the rural districts electors would have been fixed upon who were of the same class in life as those who were taken in the towns. Again, such a system was like the letting in of water. It was impossible to say where it would stop. If they placed the schools in the hands of the Vestries it would be found that there would be but one object pursued, that of grinding down the expense. Wherever the governing and taxing body was selected from a small area, the effect was a great restriction on the expenditure. Where the area was larger, local jealousies were neutralized, and larger views obtained. It was the case in regard to the poor, as the lamentable facts relating to the St. Pancras Guardians exemplified; and as to education the same result would follow. They would soon see the same result in England as had been brought about in Canada and in America; the system would be administered as cheaply as possible, and education would be greatly deteriorated. He must remind the right hon. Gentleman that if he once allowed a resort to a system of rates numbers of persons would seek to evade the duty, which they now considered to be binding upon them, that of supporting schools. There was at present great voluntary support to schools; it was a matter of charity; and the burden was very unequal, because it varied according to the charitable feeling of individuals. Even these persons, at times, were conscious of the burden and of its inequality; so that under this Bill many would resort to rates to save their subscriptions. As the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government remarked in the great Education Debates of April 11, 1856, such a system would put an end not only to voluntary subscriptions but also, as a consequence, to that interest in education which ought to be felt throughout the whole community. He now came to the last point in the proposed measure on which he would touch, he meant compulsory education. This would be found very hard and oppressive 474 on the labourer. In towns, and also in the rural districts, there were a great many children who were sent to work in order to keep their parents out of the poor-house; a few shillings a-week, which a poor man received for the labour of his children, often proved just sufficient to keep him from destitution. A widow often depended upon the work of her boys. The sick and infirm had no one else to look to. But the Bill provided that wherever there was "reasonable excuse" the magistrates should not convict parents for not sending their children to school. Now, if there was once made a loophole for escape from the law, where would evasion stop? One case might occur which was quite sufficient to justify an acquittal. The next day there would be a case somewhat less hard; but the benevolent would think it hard enough, and would be supported by the previous decision. The tendency ever was to make a loop-hole gradually wider and wider, until at last it would be difficult to secure any conviction at all under the Act; and the compulsory system in England, like that of America, would fall so much into desuetude that its very existence would be forgotten. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the Factory Acts; but in the case of factories the time that was given to education was taken from labour. What he meant by this was that the supply of children for that particular labour was in this was decreased, and therefore wages increased and the poor did not lose. Moreover it could not press on those who depended on their children's earnings; as these parents merely sent them to other work, and so escaped the law. But it would be very different when compulsory education became universal. It would then reach all, and the poor would suffer. Moreover, how was the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman to be carried out? Who were to see that all the children attended school? Why, it would be necessary to have an "army of Inspectors"—to use the expression of the Vice President—as well as an army of police to see that the provisions of the Bill were properly carried out. Let them consider what an expense that alone would occasion to over locality. Lastly, he would ask, why were the Government driven to resort to these means? They proposed this elaborate scheme, because they had departed altogether from the principle of 475 the present system; they gave up the voluntary principle, under which, after all, education was proceeding rapidly. There had been added year by year 980 new schools, and 136,000 children. Was not that a rapid increase? The light hon. Gentleman proposed to enforce the building of schools and to compel parents to send their children to them before persons had come to appreciate the education which was to be forced upon them. He departed altogether from the principles supported by the late Sir Robert Peel and Lord Melbourne, and resorted to a press-gang system instead. When educational destitution was so slight as it was at present, it would have been far better to foster the present system by removing all the deterring causes, by relaxing the onerous restrictions and requirements, and by giving more liberal grants. The success would then be much greater than they could reasonably hope for under this scheme of compulsion.
§ MR. DIXON
expressed his gratitude to his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council (Mr. Forster) for the measure he proposed to introduce, and he congratulated the Government for their sanction to it. He felt persuaded that the country generally would support them in their endeavours to carry its provisions out. He believed that the promise given in the Speech from the Throne was now fully redeemed by the introduction of this Bill, and in supplementing it by giving compulsory power of attendance through the school Boards throughout the country. The school Boards formed the backbone of the Bill, and made it a measure which he felt assured would be acceptable to the country. There were, however, some provisions of the Bill which, in his opinion, deserved the serious consideration of the House, and which, he thought should be modified. He did not look upon it, for instance, as wise that whole year should be allowed to elapse before the school Boards caused the necessary schools to be erected. He hoped that that point would not be insisted upon by the Government. With regard to the religious difficulty, he entertained little doubt that the view which was gaining ground throughout the country, that no Conscience Clause could be devised which would prove satisfactory to a large portion of the population, was becoming too strong to be successfully 476 resisted even by the most powerful Government. In all probability, therefore, it would be regarded as the great weakness of the Bill that the separation which it was desirable should be made between religious and secular instruction should be left to the decision of an innumerable number of Boards throughout the country, into whose election religious feeling must necessarily enter, instead of being directly effected by Parliament. He could not, under these circumstances, look with approval on the method by which his right hon. Friend proposed the religious difficulty should be met, although, in leaving to the various Boards the means of solving it, the way was paved for its ultimate removal. He was sorry it should be thought necessary to give merely permissive powers to the school Boards to enforce compulsory attendance. That House ought to decide whether it should not only be made compulsory on parents to send their children, but on the school Boards to enforce such attendance. He was not surprised to find the Government shrinking from the responsibility of abolishing entirely all school fees. But his faith in the principle of the Bill was great, and his confidence in its wisdom was so full that he had no doubt the time would soon arrive when the school Boards would be convinced of the utility of entirely abolishing those fees. As he understood, power would be given to the school Boards to solve this question. Although he did not think the way to this end was the wisest, and certainly would not be the shortest, he was nevertheless convinced that its solution would be ultimately reached. He would not say he regretted to find no clauses in the Bill providing for the establishment of a purely educational Department of the Government, because he hoped that the omission of such clauses merely meant that such clauses could not find a proper place in the Bill. He, however, hoped that before the Session was over a measure of that character would be introduced. The experience of even the last two months was sufficient to convince them of the absolute necessity of establishing the office of a Minister of Education, whose duty should be to attend exclusively to the working of the system. He felt quite sure that the people at large would be satisfied with the efforts of the Government, and he was still 477 more certain that those efforts would be crowned with success.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he had heard with the most unqualified satisfaction the speech of his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council, which was one becoming the boldness and sagacity of his character. His right hon. Friend had that evening initiated a scheme which would ultimately be found to carry education home to every child in the country, although it might not be, logically and theoretically, all that could be desired had he had a tabula rasâ to work upon. But the Government had called into existence 20,000 or 30,000 schools, and no statesman could diminish their utility, or sweep them away. What was proposed was to supplement them. As an individual he was grateful to his right hon. Friend, and he thanked God he had lived to hear a speech from him introducing so admirable a scheme of education to the House. The school Boards were provided by the Bill, with the machinery necessary to secure the attendance of children at schools, and he could not bring himself to believe that they would neglect the duty which would devolve upon them in that respect, or that public opinion would neglect to enforce its performance. He should like to ask hon. Members what they meant when they talked about education. In Germany the term signified that the child had been at school from six to fourteen years of age; but some persons in this country seemed to imagine that it was sufficient for the child's name to have once appeared on the school books for its education to be completed. When the frightful ignorance prevailing among the lower classes was more generally known all scruples against compulsory education would vanish. He had never regarded the religious difficulty as being of any considerable magnitude, because he believed that the people of this country generally desired that their children should receive religious teaching, and in support of that proposition he might state that a very able man belonging to the working classes had told him that the religious difficulty had been made for and not by the lower classes. They desired that their children should be taught the principles of Christianity, the best proof of which was in the fact that 3,000,000 children belonging to the working classes were in attendance at 478 Sunday schools. He did not desire to enter into the details of the measure now under discussion, but he regarded it as a step in the right direction, and calculated to secure at no distant date a general system of national education. Until such a system was adopted as would render the inhabitants of this country the best educated people in the world neither he nor those hon. Members who acted with him should be satisfied. He cordially agreed with the right hon. Gentleman as to the necessity that existed for the creation of a Minister of Education, under whose control all the schools throughout the country should be placed.
§ MR. MELLY
, as one who had taken the deepest interest in the subject of education, offered his most hearty thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for introducing this great, wise, and courageous measure. Hon. Members might congratulate themselves on the circumstance that under the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman their labours on behalf of education were likely to terminate so successfully. It was a grim satisfaction to him that the statistics he had ventured to lay before that House last year, showing the educational destitution of Liverpool, should have been confirmed and acted upon by Her Majesty's officials, and that the plan he had then shadowed forth had been adopted in the present Bill. He wished, however, to ask the right hon. Gentleman these two questions—First, how the number of new schools necessary in large towns was to be arrived at; and, secondly, what portion of the cost of building these new schools would be contributed out of the Consolidated Fund? In the proposition which he laid before the House last year he had suggested that power should be given in large cities to compel uneducated children to attend free secular schools, and he observed that the right hon. Gentleman now proposed in his Bill that the municipal authorities of such large towns were to have power to elect a school Board, which were to have the power of erecting free schools, and if they pleased to direct that no religious education should be given which might be hostile to the feelings of the children whose attendance they compelled. He wished the Bill God speed as it went down into the country, as one of the noblest messages of peace and goodwill to all classes. 479 This was the greatest been that had ever been offered by any Administration or the House to the people it was called on to govern.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
said, he should be much pleased if this or any other Bill could attain the object stated by the Vice President. He asked him carefully to consider, and especially in the case of large boroughs, how far it was likely the Councils would make the best school Boards. He considered that both in boroughs and in rural districts the Boards of Guardians would be found practically far better administrative Boards for educational purposes, and for this reason, that nearly every Board of Guardians in England had something to do, and for some time past had had to do, with education, and had already a staff trained for its purposes. At the same time he should prefer a school Board chosen independently, either of the Borough Council or the Board of Guardians; but if it were impossible to form such independent Boards, he would then select, in boroughs as well as in rural districts, the Boards of Guardians rather than the Municipal Councils, because not only the Boards of Guardians were more accustomed and more conversant with such work, but because—not meaning anything disrespectful to the individual members—he thought the Town Councils had quite enough to do in looking after duties strictly municipal, such as the police, paving and lighting of streets, and cognate occupations. In the Country the magistrates were ex officio guardians of their immediate districts, and it was extremely desirable that their interest in education and school teaching should be retained in carrying out the new system. In the borough of Leeds there were at least four Boards of Guardians and only one Town Council; and what he could not understand was that the Industrial Schools under the control of those Boards of Guardians should not be much better prepared and fitted to deal with the education of children in their several districts than would be the Town Council of the borough, to which body it was proposed by the Bill to commit the duty. One or two members of the Town Council of Leeds represented districts which were some six or seven miles apart, and which had no feeling whatever in common; and it often happened that Town Councils acted in opposition to the 480 wishes of the inhabitants of the boroughs themselves. He was convinced that, on the whole, the work of education in boroughs would be better done by Boards of Guardians, unless they could form an independent school Board selected from the magistracy, the Town Councils, and from individuals who took a special interest in education.
§ MR. COWPER-TEMPLE
said, he would not attempt to discuss the details of the measure at present, but he was anxious to say how gratified he had been with the spirit in which the plan had been introduced. That spirit was one of tolerance and comprehensiveness. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster) had made a great stride towards meeting the difficulties of education in the country, and he had so advanced upon principles which had guided many excellent men during the last few years in their labours and sacrifices for the cause of education. Under the measure before them the Churchman, the Dissenter, and the Secularist could all work in union; those who believed that religious education was the only basis of morality, and those who believed religious teaching of less importance to mental culture, would under this system be able to carry out their views. But while commending the proposals to extend perfect freedom to managers of voluntary schools in matters of religion, he thought it would have been most wise if similar freedom were extended to those municipal bodies whoso duty it would be to supply the deficiencies of voluntary communities, thus avoiding the necessity of laying down any precise rule upon the matter. If the Bill became law, as he believed it would, he believed it would be a lasting measure, because it would suit the different views and feelings of the various localities in which it would operate.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
, although of course reserving to himself the right to question the policy of some of the details of the measure, was sure that both political parties in the constituency of Liverpool, which he represented, would cordially welcome the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He trusted some one having more authority to speak for the Conservative party than himself would do away with the impression, which might have arisen from a speech they had heard from their Benches tonight, that the Members of the Opposi- 481 tion were insensible to the great educational deficiency at present existing. He could assure the House that such was not the case. For his part,—and many others around him felt as strongly as he did,—he was deeply conscious both of the educational necessities of the country, and of the need of prompt action in the matter. Whether the figures as to the educational condition of Liverpool, which had been quoted by the right hon. Gentleman were quite correct he was not prepared to say; he was inclined to think they were exaggerated, and the right hon. Gentleman would rejoice with him if it could be proved the figures quoted were exaggerated. During the present winter he had availed himself of an opportunity, which had been afforded him through the action of the Bishop of London's Fund, of inquiring into the educational condition of the people, not only in connection with the work of the Established Church, but also that of the other religious bodies in the metropolis; and he owned he had been surprised to find how much greater was the need for school accommodation than he had previously been led to suppose; the need was indeed pressing and grievous; out of the 400 Church of England parishes or thereabouts in the metropolis, from almost all of which full and careful Returns had at the end of the year been received by the Committee of the Bishop's Fund, seventy at least had urgently appealed, by means of their incumbents, to the Bishop's; Fund for additional schools. Before sitting down he would throw out one suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, which he believed to be of the utmost importance as regards the increase of schools in towns—namely, that power should be taken in the Bill for the compulsory acquisition of school sites in towns, for he did not see why it should not be acknowledged that if railways and other works of public utility should be granted compulsory powers for the acquisition of land in large towns, the most valuable improvements of all should not have the like advantage. He complimented the right hon. Gentleman on the spirit of conciliation towards all parties in which the measure had been framed; he rejoiced in Ms encouragement of local effort, and the anti-centralizing tendencies of his Bill, and judged from his speech that he felt as deeply as anyone 482 in the House the importance of Christian education.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he was disappointed to find that the compulsion was to be optional or permissive. The question of compulsion involved a great principle, and it appeared to him that the Government could not compel every parent to educate his child if an optional and permissive character were given to this part of the measure. Inasmuch as a great principle of policy and legislation was concerned in this matter, he held that the House must decide for the whole country whether the compulsion should be optional or permissive. If the State stepped before the parent to defend the child who had been wronged by the lack of education—if the State exercised that power in Birmingham, which would be perfectly right, it must do the same thing in behalf of a child residing in Manchester or in Liverpool. Until the objection were removed it would not be correct to describe the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman as a complete measure of national education. It was not enough to say that education was provided for all the children in the country; education had been offered through the noble effort of voluntaryism, but hundreds of thousands of children, restrained by the indifference, the selfishness, or avarice of their parents, had not accepted it. To provide, then, was not enough. Parliament should guarantee to every child an education. It seemed strange and even anomalous that Town Councils should be compelled to provide schools, and yet that children should be left by Parliament free to stay away from them. He must say that the right hon. Gentleman had developed gradually in respect of this question of compulsion. He recollected that the right hon. Gentleman's first Bill was for voluntary rating, then followed another Bill for compulsory rating, and now the right hon. Gentleman expressed himself in favour of direct compulsion, though only in an optional and permissive form. He felt persuaded that the people of England would not be satisfied until there was a law to guarantee an education to every child in the land. He hoped his right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) would accept these remarks in the spirit in which they were made, for no one could feel more grateful to him than he did for the measure which he 483 had introduced in such an admirable speech.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I do not rise with any intention to offer any comments with regard to a Bill of this immense magnitude and importance. We should have the Bill before us before we attempt to pass a judgment on its contents. But I cannot refrain from offering a few remarks; and, in fact, the object of my rising was to state that I never listened to a speech with more heartfelt satisfaction than to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in introducing this measure. I have worked for many years for the accomplishment of this object, and which I should rejoice to see settled under the auspices of my right hon. Friend. And I am here to speak the sentiment of many friends near me on this side of the House when I say that I have listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with the greatest satisfaction. I do not, however, pledge myself to any particular course; but what I say is, that the right hon. Gentleman's speech, as a speech, did him great credit. As a speech it required no apology, as the plan it unfolded is a great and comprehensive one. Indeed, were it not great and comprehensive it would not be suitable to the occasion on which it is brought forward; and I think we are greatly indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for the fair and conciliatory spirit which pervaded his statement. There are, however, one or two remarks which I am desirous to make, and, in the first place, I will venture to express my regret with respect to what I confess I regard as a very serious omission from the Bill. I am extremely sorry that Her Majesty's Government have not thought it their duty to combine with this proposal of a great educational measure for the whole of the country that which seems to me to be almost required together with it—namely, a more satisfactory organization of the Education Department. I will not now enter into that question in detail; but I confess I was much surprised when I heard my right hon. Friend use the words—"If I am permitted by the Government to state so-and-so." At the end of his speech the right hon. Gentleman alluded most justly to the great labour which would be undertaken by the Education Department in carrying out the complicated provisions of this Bill. Now, I have thought for a long 484 time past that the Department which is intrusted with the conduct of the education of this country ought to be a Department the constitution of which we could understand. I do not think any man understands the constitution of the present Department. I would not say a word of disrespect to Earl De Grey, and I have no doubt that he is, like most of us in these enlightened days, a good friend of education. Indeed, I have good reason to believe that he is so; but what do we know of Earl De Grey as head of the Department? I am perfectly convinced—and we have had ample proof of it to-night—that few men are more competent on this subject than my right hon, Friend opposite, and is he the Education Minister? No, he is not. What do the schoolmasters all over the country receive from day to day? Letters in the name of "My Lords," but who "My Lords" are, and who inspires that which comes in the name of "My Lords," they have no idea. I held this opinion before, and I am confirmed in it by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and after the description of the plan which he developed to-night the country ought to require from Her Majesty's Government that the Education Department should be a distinct Department of the State, with a responsible Minister at its head. I think every one will agree with me when I say that my only regret with respect to my right hon. Friend's speech is that he did not make it as the responsible Minister of Public Instruction. [Ministerial cheers.] I am glad to hear the cheers with which my remarks are received on the other side of the House, and I may, perhaps, be allowed to add that at the recent conference, impartially and fairly conducted, which met at the Society of Arts to consider the subject of education, one of the resolutions moved referred to the necessity of having a responsible and properly-constituted Education Department, and all parties present at the conference cordially agreed in that opinion. With respect to the Bill before us, I think it would be premature to enter to-night into any elaborate criticism of it. I would only say that, as a whole, I am thankful for the measure. It is evidently intended to meet the requirements and wishes of the country, and I heartily congratulate my right hon. Friend on having been the organ, in whatever capacity, of intro- 485 ducing this Bill to the notice of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by referring to what nobody will dispute—namely, the necessity of education; and he remarked with great truth that the public would have been disappointed if the present Government, with the power and the strength which they possess in this House, had not introduced it. I have always said that this question would never be settled but by a strong Government, and now that there is a strong Government, we should have had a right to complain if they had neglected to undertake the settlement of this great question. My right hon. Friend then used an expression which leads me to make a remark on a point which I hope the House and the country will bear in mind. My right hon. Friend spoke of imperfect education. Now, I believe that expression exactly describes the great requirement of the country. It is not so much that we want now schools. We do, indeed, urgently want new schools in some places, but chiefly in crowded districts, and compared with the number of existing schools the number of new ones required is unimportant. The two chief defects of the present system are the imperfect education our schools give, and the short period of time for which children are allowed to be educated and trained, even in the best schools of the kingdom. I, therefore, do hope that this country will bear in mind that one of the greatest evils that we have to meet is the defects of our system of education. I will now touch for a moment on a part of my right hon. Friend's speech which I confess I heard with doubt, though I beg to be understood as not expressing an adverse opinion, because it is desirable that we should impartially and maturely consider the provisions of the Bill. I was, however, much surprised when the right hon. Gentleman stated the decision at which he said, after much deliberation, he had arrived, that the best area for the conduct of this new system will be the parish. I will not give a positive opinion until I have seen the Bill and ascertained how the Government propose to carry it out; but it seems to me that there is some inconsistency in giving the Town Council the power of electing the Board of Education in the borough and giving it the parish in the rural district. In a large borough there 486 will be a very large number of parishes, and there would be a very popularly elected Education Board; but in the case of a parish in rural districts there are many cases in which, in order to obtain a well-conducted school, we have been obliged to join three or four parishes together. I cannot understand, however, what machinery my right hon. Friend proposes for combining parishes. There certainly ought to be administrative power somewhere to combine small parishes, where the geographical arrangement allows of it, in order that one school may be established for those parishes. I understood my right hon. Friend to say that, in arranging the rural districts, his object was that no child should have to go more than one mile to school.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
What I said was that if a child lived more than a mile from the school the fact, would be deemed a reasonable excuse against compulsion being resorted to.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I see I did not exactly follow him in his remarks. I think, however, that a mile is too small a limit. I know a case where four parishes are thrown together to maintain a school, and in several instances the children in the more remote parts of the district have to go upwards of two miles to school, and I never heard of the slightest complaint on the subject at any season of the year. This is a point which I trust my right hon. Friend will reconsider. We should proceed according to common sense, and it is certainly impossible to justify the proceeding, which we have seen in recent years, of sending out Inspectors of different denominations, one to visit one class of schools and another to visit another. Another point for which I have long-contended, though in a miserable minority, I am very glad to find is also included in the scope of the Bill, and that is that whenever public money is granted then a Conscience Clause should be in existence. I trust that whatever may be the area of the educational districts, whether in large towns or in small parishes, and whatever may be the constitution of the local Boards, the right hon. Gentleman will preserve a distinct, clear, and overruling power in the hands of the Educational Department, following in that respect the analogy to the Poor Law system, in which the central authority 487 has power to see that the local Boards do not neglect their duty. Upon the subject of school fees I go entirely with the right hon. Gentleman. I ought, perhaps, to confess frankly that in a Bill which I introduced in 1855, in many I respects not dissimilar from that which has been proposed to-night, different proposals as to these fees were made, But, on more prolonged reflection, and looking upon it partly as a question of policy, it would, I think, be folly to throw away the half million of money which the pence of the school children produce, while, as a question of morality, it is unquestionably desirable that the parents should be first to make a contribution towards the education of their children. The part of the Bill which is among the most important is that relating to compulsion. I confess that I was startled when my right hon. Friend announced that he had determined to resort to direct compulsion; and, without at all condemning the decision at which he has arrived, I wish to reserve my opinion upon that point. I have, at the same time, quite made up my mind, after much reflection, that compulsion must be resorted to. I have arrived at that conclusion with reluctance; but I do not believe that without compulsion we can have anything like a satisfactory national system that will bring, as it ought to do, education to the door of every citizen of this country, however humble. Whether that compulsion should be direct or indirect is, however, a grave and serious question. But no one could have listened to the frank, honest, and full statement of my right hon. Friend to-night without feeling that he had arrived at the decision which he announced only after full and careful consideration. I believe that a great deal will depend upon the way in which the different portions of the Bill, especially those relating to compulsion, are proposed to be carried out. A right hon. Friend, who was sitting beside me at the time, suggested to my right hon. Friend, that he had not stated—supposing the compulsion to be direct—for how long a period of the year the children were to be obliged to attend school. I am speaking only from my first impression; but I do not think that the reply of my right hon. Friend was quite satisfactory. If I rightly followed his answer, he said that this most important question of the extent of the compulsion, 488 the period during which the children are to be compulsorily withdrawn from work and sent to school, was to be decided by the bye-laws of each Board. My first impression was that it is not a wise decision. I entreat my right hon. Friend to bear in mind that the introduction of direct compulsion is a great and serious change in the law and practice of this country. You cannot withdraw children from labour, whether for a long or short time, without involving loss to that extent upon the parent. I think it would I be prudent on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to qualify this enactment of compulsory education, which is wholly new to this country, by letting it be distinctly understood what it is really to amount to. If the extent to which children are to be withdrawn from labour and sent to school is to be a matter left for settlement by law in every parish and in every Town Council, the whole thing will be left in a state of great uncertainty, and you will necessarily create a great deal of alarm. For the sake of your own Bill, I advise you not to leave in doubt your proposals and intentions on the subject of compulsion; and that parents and children should know what residuum of time, after their period of education is completed, is to be left to them for their usual occupations. Another question is this—that I understand my right hon. Friend proposes to establish Education Boards in every district.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Allow me to explain. For the purposes of the Bill, all England will be divided into school districts; but school Boards will not be appointed unless the educational need of the district is proved.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I am extremely glad to hear the explanation of my right hon. Friend, which removes all my apprehensions. I reserve the discussion of any other points until the Bill is before us. I repeat the extreme satisfaction with which I have heard the statement of my right hon. Friend, and my earnest hope is that by the wisdom of Parliament the measure may be carried to a satisfactory conclusion, and will give us that which my right hon. Friend, in earnest, eloquent, and impressive language, enforced upon us at the close of his speech—namely, that real system of national education which is so essential to the prosperity and domestic happiness of the country.
§ Mr. HIBBERT
said, he thought there 489 was great advantage in using the parish as the unit and nucleus of the system. There were numbers of parishes through out the country in which good school accommodation was provided, and everything was carried on in the most satisfactory manner. If the area were enlarged in the manner which the right hon. Baronet proposed, other parishes, in which, possibly, schools had not been provided would be added on to the parish already well supplied, and the good parish would be called upon to contribute to the deficiencies of the bad. He was much pleased to hear that his right hon. Friend and the Government had come to the conclusion that the system of compulsory attendance must be brought into operation; but he regretted that the system, apparently, was not to be one of general application. The question of whether there was to be compulsory attendance or not, and the extent to which this attendance was to be carried, was apparently left to the district Boards. But suppose one district Board passed a bye-law in favour of compulsory attendance, while the parish just outside refused to pass such a bye-law. What would be the feelings of labouring men within the district where compulsion was enforced, when the children of others labouring at a little distance were not brought under any similar regulations? He hoped when his right hon. Friend came to mature his scheme he would legislate not only with respect to compulsory attendance for the whole country, but also lay down in definite language the number of attendances each child must have in the year, for it would be most unfortunate if Boards in one district fixed one number of attendances as necessary and other Boards another number. He did not quite understand the explanation which the right hon. Gentleman gave as to whether the system of compulsion would be brought into operation in those parishes where there was sufficient and satisfactory school accommodation. As far as he understood, it was only to be brought into operation where school Boards were appointed. If such were the case he thought that the Government would do better to swallow the whole pill, for if compulsory education were good for one part of the country it would be good for another. From his experience of the working classes, he must say he had found them, almost to 490 a man, in favour of the system of compulsory attendance. There was only a very small proportion of the labouring class on whom it would over be necessary to enforce it. With respect to the attendance of a child at a distant school whether the distance should be one mile and a half or two miles, would, probably be settled in Committee; but the distance of one mile was certainly too small, for many children paying their own fees attended school voluntarily at much greater distances. He should like to see the school Boards composed of men not elected for the purpose of representing the Church or the Dissenters, but paying attention to the education of the children of the district rather than for the benefit of their particular denomination. This would lead to a much more satisfactory working of those district Boards, as otherwise we should have sectarian strife as in the days of Church rates. He should also be glad if schools in a small rural district, with the number of scholars—say under 100—which could not be carried on by the amount of aid received from Government without very large contributions from those residing in the locality, could get grants at a higher rate than schools in towns with 400 or 500 scholars. With these views he certainly gave his congratulations most heartily to the right hon. Gentleman, and wished him every success in passing the Bill through the House.
§ MR. WALTER
said, that having had the pleasure on one or two occasions of working with his right hon. Friend the Vice President on educational questions, he felt it his duty not to lose this opportunity of tendering to him his hearty congratulations on the able and effective manner in which he had introduced this great question. And he particularly congratulated his right hon. Friend upon the occasion he had chosen for the introduction of the subject, because for some months past the country had been rather distracted, he must say, by the existence of two Leagues, holding some what opposite opinions on the subject, and though, as Shakespeare told us—'Tis dangerousTo come between the fell incensed pointsOf mighty opposites;yet his right hon. Friend had not shrunk from the danger, but encountered it manfully; and though he disclaimed the idea of his measure being a compromise be- 491 tween the two contending parties, yet, he must say, his right hon. Friend had managed with great skill to bestow on each of them such a modicum of their favourite theories as must tend, he thought, to render his Bill extremely acceptable to both. He had secured to the National Union the advantage of non-interference with the religions character of their schools, and, on the other hand, he had administered a slight dose, but still a dose, of compulsory education to the friends of the League. There were one or two points to which he wished to advert, which, in common with his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) and other hon. Members, struck him as requiring the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. He thought, in the first place, it would be well for him to bear in mind the remarks offered to him by his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich with regard to the improved organization of the Education Board itself. Like many other Members, he had sometimes had the honour of being in communication with "My Lords." Last week he received a letter from "My Lords" and replied to it, and he was quite sure that the exalted persons in question had not the slightest idea, of the subject on which they corresponded. He even believed that important body was not free from blame in regard to the difficulties and obstructions hitherto interposed in the way of education. He could mention a remarkable case which had occurred to himself. About three years ago he found a school necessary for a district with which he was connected and he applied to the Board for a building grant. The Board sent down one of their Inspectors, who reported that no school was necessary, and the application was refused. He, however, thought that he knew the circumstances of the locality to which he referred rather better, and consequently he built the school himself; but, having done so, he was determined that the Board should contribute something in the way of annual assistance to the school. The result was that the school, which had been declared unnecessary, and to the building of which the Board refused to contribute 6d., contained 200 scholars, and was at this moment in receipt of an annual grant of £70. There was great force in what his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich said with regard to the parochial question. No doubt our 492 parishes were time-honoured, most interesting, and important divisions, but they were about the most anomalous and irrational divisions in the country; and he agreed with his right hon. Friend that some machinery ought to be provided in this Bill for the amalgamation of parishes where they were too small to maintain a separate school. It should also be observed that the civil and ecclesiastical boundaries of parishes were not always conterminous, and unless care was taken some difficulty would arise in working that part of the scheme. Very often an ecclesiastical district was formed by portions being taken out of several parishes, and these ecclesiastical districts generally had schools attached to them; it would be necessary, therefore, in dealing with that question, to bear in mind this distinction, otherwise injustice might be done to ecclesiastical districts which were composed of separate parishes. He also thought some objection might be taken to the election of educational Boards by Vestries. He was by no means sure that the Vestry in a country parish was a good body to elect such Boards; he would rather venture to suggest, although he did so without having much considered the question, that jurymen would be a more fit body; certainly they would form a more popular body than vestrymen to elect an educational Board. With regard to the compulsory part of the scheme, he must say it struck him his right hon. Friend had shown very great ingenuity in the manner of introducing it; for, although the principle of compulsion was introduced in the Bill, it was guarded in such a manner as to be practically optional, and he hoped that occasion would not arise for its being frequently enforced. He was one of those who were opposed on principle to direct compulsion. He thought the loss of self-respect involved in the notion that parents were so insensible to their duties to their children as to require the aid of the Legislature to compel them to discharge those duties would be greater than any gain to be derived by the limited number of persons to whom such compulsion would be applied. He did not, however, object to such a power being kept in reserve, nor did he object to any amount of indirect compulsion, such as an enactment that no child should be employed in labour until he had passed an examination in reading, writing, and 493 arithmetic. It was, however, a very serious matter to apply the system of direct compulsion to the whole of the population, and the attempt to do so would raise a more difficult question than those Gentlemen who were in favour of compulsory education appeared to have any notion of. Having made these few remarks he would conclude by expressing his satisfaction at the prospect of seeing this question at Length settled once for all.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he did not rise to check the discussion, which was very interesting, and helpful to him and to the Government. But he was afraid it was more helpful to him than to the House, because it was throughout founded on his exposition of the Bill, and though he had endeavoured to make that exposition as full as possible, he could not be sure that when hon. Members came to have the Bill itself in their hands, they would not see cause to modify some of their conclusions. He was very much obliged for the friendly way in which his measure had been received; but that was no more than he expected, for he was sure that both sides of the House were equally determined that a good measure of education should now be passed. There were one or two observations that had been made in the course of the discussion to which he would refer. His right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington) had expressed his doubts as to the propriety of taking the parish as a unit. He would only say that he would be obliged if his right hon. Friend could point out a more convenient unit. But in the Bill there were many clauses giving power to combine parishes. There were clauses for what were called "united parishes" and "contributory parishes."
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
It rests with the Education Department of the Government. On the educational need of any district being discovered, it will rest with the Government to form such school district as is suitable for the locality. Then the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) suggested that it would be better that the election of the school Boards should be vested in the Boards of Guardians rather than in the Town Councils. But there was this objection to the Boards of Guardians, that they were not chosen from a perfectly equal 494 body of electors. They were about to give great power to the school Boards. It was the only principle in the Scotch Bill of last year that was never objected to in that House—that the school Board should be left to meet the religious difficulty in the best way it could; and they still thought it right so to leave it, guarding of course the rights of minorities. But then that must be left in the hands of a Board which was elected by the parents themselves, voting on a footing of perfect equality, where the rich and the poor met together. Then the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Molly) asked how it was proposed to ascertain the amount of educational destitution in large towns. There were clauses in the Bill which provided for that. Officers were appointed whose business it would be to furnish the information, and though it might perhaps involve greater labour, it need not take a longer time than in the rural districts. The hon. Member also asked if larger grants would be given for the building of schools in large towns. Now he might say that the Bill did not interfere with the present arrangement of Parliamentary grants; but if this Bill became law, then the whole subject of Parliamentary grants must come under revision. He did not know that there was any other point on which he need address them.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would explain how he proposed to alter the present system of inspection without breaking the contracts with the religious bodies?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he thought the noble Lord was in error on that point. He understood his noble Friend to say that the Inspectors in Church of England schools were not responsible to the Government for examination in religious instruction.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
did not say that. What he said was, that the Inspectors did not interfere with the religious teaching, and did not examine in religion for the Government but for the Archbishop. But the point concerning which he now asked, was whether the right of veto on the appointment of Inspectors was to be taken away?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he thought that could hardly be a correct explanation of the case, for his noble Friend must know that in the Revised Code the Inspectors were instructed to find out 495 whether the religious instruction was satisfactory, and to recommend a diminution of the grant if it was not. That looked as if the Inspectors were responsible to the Government. But he would frankly state to the House that he considered that Parliament had a perfect right to alter the conditions of the grant, and to say that for the future it should not be given except upon certain express conditions.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
asked if the religious bodies had consented to let their contracts with the State be broken?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, they did not consider themselves bound to ask the religious bodies, and they had not done so. But he knew that there were many hard-working clergymen of the Church of England, of all schools of thought, who on the whole supported the new plan. There was one other remark of the noble Lord's he would notice. The noble Lord asked whether he would consider all the elementary schools in the country as making a part in national education. He had already said that he was prepared so to consider them if they would allow the visits of Inspectors; if not, they would take no account of them whatever. He had only one other remark to make, and that was upon the subject of compulsory education. He was quite aware the friends of compulsion would hold that the measure lacked completeness, because it was not extended over the whole kingdom. But his hon. Friend must bear this in mind, that the principle was new. He believed it would be a surprise to the country to-morrow when they found this principle of compulsion in the Bill. Now they would not advance those principles if they attempted to go one foot beyond where public opinion was prepared to follow. And public opinion was not to be gathered at public meetings, where people voted for what would not apply to themselves—they must consider those to whom it might apply, and who might find indirect means of thwarting it. Then it might be said why have it at all? For two reasons; to take away from a district an excuse for not making provision, and to prevent a willing district from providing means which were not made use of. He had now only to repeat his gratitude for the manner in which the measure had been received by the House. He could assure hon. Gentle- 496 men that he would bear their various observations in mind. His intention was to take the second reading of the Bill upon the 14th of March. If the House assented to the second reading there was no intention to commit the Bill before Easter.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I entirely recognize the force of what has been said as to its not being desirable to discuss the details of the measure until we have the Bill before us. It must, however, be some time before it can be fully discussed, and in the meantime it will go to the country, and points in it will probably be better understood from explanations given in this House than from a perusal of the text. I think it is really important that an answer should be given to a question put by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) with reference to the point touched upon by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) which was not clearly understood. We understand that this is an attempt to engraft upon the present system an enlarged system, and I think it is an admirable line for the Bill to take; but the attempt is one which will involve the Government in considerable difficulties of detail. One of these difficulties arises in this way. The Government proposes to leave those districts in which education appears to be satisfactory as they are, and we have had it explained that in those districts there shall be no school Boards constituted. We are told that the school Board is to have the power of compelling the attendance of children; that would apply, of course, to those districts in which it is found by Inspectors that the present state of things is not satisfactory, and in which school Boards are formed on the representative principle. Then you have the case of a district in which you find there is ample provision made at present for its wants—that there are a good school and good teachers, that the education is of a proper character, and that, speaking generally, the school is well attended. I want to know, and the hon. Member for Oldham put the question—Will the managers of that school have the power of calling upon the children to attend, and compelling them to attend?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I beg pardon for not having answered the question, but I thought I had done so by implica- 497 tion. We give the power of compulsion only to school Boards, and in the case put there is no Board. In a district in which the educational need has been proved, if it has been supplied within the year we allow for its supply, there will be no school Board, and the compulsory clause will not apply. There may be instances of a district in which there are public elementary schools managed, as at present by voluntary managers, as well as schools under the school Board; and in such a case none but the school Board would have the power of compulsion.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I do not wish to discuss the question; I only wish to point out how the difficulty may arise in many cases. You may have a school district in which everything that can be done voluntary effort is done; you may have a parish, of 500, in which there ought to be 200 children at school; and 180 may come and twenty may stay away. You do not propose to give the power of compulsion over those twenty. Are you or are you not to say that this is a district in which you have a satisfactory provision? I do not wish to press the right hon. Gentleman to give us more details now; but I hope that, by answers to questions or in some way, this and one or two other points may be elucidated, so that the country may understand what the particular bearings of the Bill are upon these points, before the discussion takes place upon the second reading. In a matter of this sort, a great deal depends upon carrying the feeling of the country with you, and this will have to be done if you are to pass a satisfactory measure. I am glad to see a disposition manifested on both sides to accept the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman. There is much in his statement for which we have to thank him personally, and the Government in general. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am disposed to give every possible assistance in order to get the Bill put into a satisfactory shape; but there will, of course, be questions of detail requiring the most careful consideration, and it is essential, as I have said, to carry the opinion of the country with us if we are to accomplish the difficult and delicate task of welding a number of systems into a single one that will work harmoniously and beneficially.
§ MR. WHALLEY
doubted whether there was sufficient feeling on the subject in the country to enable Parliament to legislate; but even assuming that there was, the right hon. Gentleman in his admirable and lucid exposition had not shown in what respect the present system had failed, nor how his measure would remedy that failure. Under the circumstances, he thought it would be highly expedient that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. His experience of conferring education upon children irrespective of their parents had not been satisfactory; the result was not the diminution of crime or of pauperism; there did not follow any of the effects which we desired to achieve by a national system of education.
Motion agreed to.
Bill to provide for public Elementary Education in England and Wales, ordered to be brought in by Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSTER and Mr. Secretary BRUCE.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 33.]