§ MOTION FOR AN ADDRESS.
§ (12.59.) MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
moved—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her to withhold Her assent to the Code (1892) of the Scotch Education Department unless and until Article 133 thereof be amended by omitting the words 'five and fourteen,' and substituting therefor 'three and fifteen.'I do not intend to detain the House at this late hour. The object of my Motion is simply to put the Scottish parent upon an equal footing with the English parent. An English parent has now the right of free education for his children between the ages of 3 and 15 years; but by the Scotch Code the Scottish parent has only the right to have free education for his children between the ages of 5 and 14. Obviously, such a state of things should not be allowed to continue. It arose in this way. The English Education Bill was brought in, and therein the ages of children to whom the principle of free education was applied was from 5 to 861 14; and two days after the introduction of this Bill an Amendment of the Scotch Code was adopted, after being laid on the Table, by making the age limit in Scotland the same as that in England, from 5 to 14. But while in Committee the limit of age in the English Bill was altered from 3 to 15, and what I ask now is that the Scotch Code should be altered to correspond with the English age. The absurdity of the matter is this: that while the Code in Scotland provides that the period within which a child shall receive free education is between the ages of 5 and 14, in fact there is not a School Board in Scotland which recognises the restriction. It was quoted against us that the Glasgow Board restricted the age, but, in point of fact, they give free education irrespective of age. There is not a School Board in Scotland which recognises the limit you have provided. This is the absurdity of the situation: that you have a statutory limitation and not a School Board cares to exercise it. It is an illustration of the manner in which hon. Gentlemen opposite vote in favour of a law altogether contrary to the sentiment of the nation on whom it is imposed. I beg to move my Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her to withhold Her assent to the Code (1892) of the Scotch Education Department unless and until Article 133 thereof be amended by omitting the words; five and fourteen,' and substituting therefor 'throe and fifteen.'"—(Mr. Caldwell.)
§ (1.2.) SIR C. J. PEARSON
I certainly have nothing to complain of in the way in winch this Motion has been introduced, and I will try to imitate the brevity of the hon. Member. The age limit, which at present is from 5 to 14, was discussed last Session in this House, and I expected the hon. Gentleman would have taken up the point then made—namely, whether the opinions of the educational Governing Bodies of the country or of the people were in favour of the change the hon. Gentleman desires should be made. I am not conscious of any desire in that direction; not a single representation on the point has reached me from any Governing Body, and we have not heard from the hon. Gentleman what would seem tome a most important observation— 862 could he have made it—that there is any desire for the change. The sole argument he has submitted to the House is this: that because the age as regards England was changed while the English Elementary Education Bill was in Committee last year, a similar change should be made in Scotland. That is the hon. Gentleman's sole argument. Well, but the cogency of that argument depends altogether upon how far the analogy of England in this matter fits the case of Scotland, and I think it would be easy to demonstrate that it does not fit at all. It is, perhaps, enough for me to make this general assertion: that in the case of England the change of the age limit from 5 to 14 to 3 to 15 meant a large augmentation of the grant, while in Scotland it would not mean the increase of the grant by one penny. This shows certainly the different system that prevails in Scotland. The reason, of course, is that the Scottish grant is a lump sum not calculated per head of the children, but distributed according to average attendance; and, therefore, the only effect of the Address which the hon. Gentleman has proposed being carried would be to increase the divisor and decrease the dividend. An additional objection, it appears to me, of a very strong nature, is that it would impose a new burden on the School Boards. Although my hon. Friend is correct in saying that at this moment School Boards do not carry into force the powers which they have, yet the result of carrying this Motion would be to make it less easy for them to do certain things which at present rest within their discretion—a discretion which has not yet been impugned. That, I think, is a strong objection to the Motion on its merits. I need not do more than indicate the other objections. In the first place, to reduce the age would be to impair parental responsibility. In the second place, it would lead to a large increase of the cost in certain directions, both in the direction of increased accommodation and increased staff; while the addition of a year to the age of 14 would certainly have the effect of infringing on the year in which secondary or higher education begins; it would tend to confuse the distinction which at present exists in our educational system in Scotland. I need not, however, enter largely into the 863 merits of the question. I rest my reply on the ground the hon. Gentleman has taken up, and I say the analogy of England does not hold good.
§ (1.9.) MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)
I think I can answer the right hon. Gentleman in two words. He has claimed that this grant is dealt with in a different fashion in England to what it is in Scotland. Now, we in Scotland have not our grant distributed to us on the same basis as the English grant at all. Our grant depends on the number of children attending in England—an arrangement we protest against and which we will not accept. The point I wish to make is this: that really, by the admission of the right hon. Gentleman, this restriction is not carried out by any Board in Scotland, and what we maintain is that to lay down a rule in the Education Code which is not adopted by any School Board is a ridiculous farce, and without the Amendment your Article in the Code is useless.
§ Question put.
§ (1.13.) The House divided:—Ayes 25; Noes 94.—(Div. List, No. 32.)