§ THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Sir JOHN GORST,) Cambridge University
, in rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill, was received with cheers. He said: When the Education Bill was introduced I described some of the obstacles to further progress that would have to be surmounted, and in proposing that the Bill be now read a Second time, it is my duty to show the House that the provisions of the Government Bill will overcome those difficulties. The facts which I have stated on the First Reading have never been contradicted, and the inferences drawn from those facts have never been controverted, so that we may start on the further discussion of the Measure upon common grounds. It may be taken for granted that the Voluntary schools cannot be destroyed and that a large proportion of the children will be educated in such schools. It may also be taken for granted that the average Voluntary school has not the means to give as effective an education as the average Board school, and that the inferiority of the organisation of the Voluntary school is chiefly manifest in the inferior teaching staff. It may also be taken that though the public attention has been called to this fact by the needs of the Voluntary schools, yet there are in the country many Board schools which are in exactly the same position, and, therefore, the first problem which Parliament has to solve is to provide some means by which the education given in the Voluntary schools and 556 poorer Board schools can be levelled up, especially in regard to the teaching staff, to the education given in Board schools. Then it may be taken for granted that the education given in the rural districts is extremely bad—["hear, hear!"]—that in rural districts the Board schools are worse than Voluntary schools [Opposition cries of "No, no," and cheers]; that the Act of 1870 creating the School Boards, which has been so conspicuous a success in the great towns and centres of population, has been, on the whole, a failure in the country districts [cries of "No, no," and cheers]; and that universal School Boards in country districts would bring about the degradation of national education. ["Oh, oh," and cheers.] Therefore, the second task which Parliament has set before it is to devise some means of replacing the School Board system in rural districts where it has been a failure ["No, no,"] by some better system. [Cheers.] Then it may be next taken for granted that in secondary education there are conflicting authorities, central and local, spending public money and overlapping and interfering with one another; that this mischief is increasing daily and that the necessity for legislation is urgent. Therefore the third task which Parliament has is to establish some authority which shall co-ordinate secondary education. Lastly, it may be taken for granted that the Education Department is breaking down under the mass of detail involved in dealing separately with each individual school—["hear, hear!"]—that it cannot exercise proper control in matters of broad principle, and that, therefore, the fourth task that Parliament has to accomplish is to devise some measure of decentralisation. [Cheers.] Now these are the four main obstacles to progress which the Government now propose to overcome. How do we propose to do it? By establishing in every county a paramount education authority—[cheers]—with power to supervise and control the general educacation of the children of the country. That is the principle of the Bill. All the rest is detail—detail of great importance and detail which involves very great principles, but detail still; and those who vote against Second Reading of this Bill will be understood to vote against placing the control of education 557 in the hands of local authorities. [Ironical laughter and cheers.] I am now going to show how the provisions of the Bill deal with those several points. I will begin with secondary education, because, so far as secondary education is concerned, the Bill is unopposed. There are no questions raised as to its provisions respecting secondary education, except questions which are proper for consideration in Committee. There has been criticism as to the constitution of the education authority proposed. I will not discuss the question of direct election, because that is a matter for Committee. It is a proposal which was set aside by the Secondary Education Commissioners as not being within the sphere of practical politics. Neither will I say much about a criticism which, I think, has been almost universal—namely, that the Bill ought to contain some provision for obliging county councils to appoint persons of experience in education upon the committees. As the Bill stands, there is nothing to prevent the appointment of experts. That is left entirely to the discretion of the county council itself; but it would be easy, if the general opinion of Parliament were in favour of such a course, to require that a county council, before exercising its powers, should submit to the Education Department a scheme for the appointment of its committee, that that scheme should contain provisions for the appointment of persons possessing knowledge of education, and should be the subject of discussion between the local authority and the Department. That, again, is a matter for Committee. I do not know that I need say anything about the criticism upon the central authority. There is a central authority at present—the Committee of Council on Education. That central authority has the most perfect jurisdiction over the Education Department and the Science and Art Department, and can mould and combine those Departments as it pleases. The Charity Commission is certainly not touched by the Bill. The procedure of the Commission is clumsy, but can be worked and has worked very well under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, and I should myself prefer to look to the Charity Commission for the present rather than attempt to introduce into a 558 Bill already of considerable magnitude so very serious a task as that of dealing with the Charity Commission. ["Hear, hear!"] Finally, there is a proposal that the head of the Education Department should be called the Education Minister and should sit in the Cabinet. Really, for the life of me I cannot see how the Vice President of the Council can possibly be made more wise or more powerful by having his name changed and by his being required to attend the meetings of the Cabinet. [Loud laughter.] Now I come to the most contentious portion of the Bill—that relating to the special aid to be given to Voluntary and Board Schools. That is a matter of very great difficulty, and it is one which ought to be approached in a calm, philosophic spirit—[laughter]—but it is just the point about which sectarian animosity and Party spirit rage. Now, the necessity for this is caused by our educational system, in which we imitate all the older countries, but not the new colonies, in dividing the cost of education between Imperial and local sources. If we take into account the cost of building and the establishment charges, the local authority bears a considerably greater part of the cost of education than the central authorities, but, when the maintenance of children is introduced, you find that the Imperial authority bears the greater part of the expense. In Board Schools the Imperial authorities pay per child 29s. 4¾d. and in Voluntary schools 28s. 5d.; while from local sources—rates, subscriptions, endowments, and school fees, where they are paid—the Board Schools find 21s. 5½d. and the Voluntary schools 10s. 10¾d. That is the average, but when you come to look at individual schools you find that these figures have the greatest possible range of variation. The Imperial contributions in infant schools vary from 9s. a child up to 17s., and in the case of older children they vary from 13s. 6d. to 21s. 6d. The local contributions vary much more widely—viz., from nothing—["hear, hear!"]—to 50s. and upwards. I hear a faint cheer from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which I suppose refers to 1,000 Voluntary schools which were said, in a speech made by him during the Recess, to live entirely on Imperial contributions. Unfortunately when those 559 1,000 schools come to be examined they prove to be apocryphal, because they have fees, endowments, and the proceeds of bazaars to live upon. They do not pay their way, for most of them begin either with a surplus or end with a deficit. But still there is a very small remnant, including Voluntary and Board Schools, which some years have no contributions whatever from local sources, whilst there are others which obtain as much as 50s. and upwards. I am not here to defend the justice of this system of sharing the cost of education. There is a great deal to be said for making education a local burden when the children are educated for the place in which they are born, but now the place is taxed to educate children who, when they attain years of discretion, go off elsewhere to earn their living. The people of West Ham, for instance, are taxed to pay for the education of children who work in London and not in West Ham. There is a similar difficulty in foreign countries. The Germans have a similar system to ours, and they are at this moment passing a Bill through their Legislature which is to give a specific grant to supplement the salaries of teachers in poor rural schools—a provision very like, indeed, that contained in this Bill. The weakness of the present system is this—that the managers of the schools under the strain continually break down. Neither Voluntary nor Board School managers have got the means of making the education given in the school as efficient as it ought to be. There are only three courses open to Parliament. One is to accept the position that a large and fluctuating portion of our schools is to be continually inefficient. The second is to make education wholly an Imperial concern, and to throw upon the localities merely the cost of providing the buildings and staffs. The third is to give special aid to necessitous schools out of Imperial funds. Now, I hope the opponents of the Bill will really make up their minds as to which of these three courses they advocate. If they advocate the last, they will be irresistibly brought to the necessity of having a local education authority. It is impossible for a central department to discriminate between school and school, or to make a selection of those which really 560 require aid. That can be done only by a local authority which has the means of ascertaining the circumstances of each school; and no central department can secure that the grant should be applied really to increase the efficiency of the school. I am going to discuss Clause 4, but I do not pretend for one moment that the amount of special aid to be granted is adequate—[cheers]—to raise the efficiency of the Voluntary and poor Board Schools up to that of the richer Board Schools. It will, however, enable the authority to make a beginning, and if the experiment of distributing the special aid is successful it may then be left to the wisdom of Parliament to make provisions for carrying that sensible experiment further. ["Hear, hear!"] I will only say now that the principles which ought to regulate the distribution of the special aid grant should be—first, that it should be given to the schools that require aid and not to the schools that do not require it; and, secondly, that security should be taken that the money so given should be used for the purpose of improving education efficiency. [Opposition cheers.] I find that no less than two-fifths of all the children in the country are at schools in London and the county boroughs which have Board Schools. These are the parts of the country where education is most efficient and where most money is spent upon it. Of the children in these districts three-sevenths are in Voluntary Schools and four-sevenths in Board Schools, and locally for each child in a Voluntary School the people raise 10s. and for each child in a Board School 25s. In these districts there is a special difficulty in raising subscriptions for Voluntary Schools because each subscriber has to pay his rate for the Board School before finding the 10s. for the Voluntary School. ["Hear, hear!"] How are you to deal with this? Some people say at once let there be painless extinction of Voluntary Schools. Everybody who has really looked into the matter knows that such extinction is impossible. The zeal of the religious bodies is not considered. You could never close the Roman Catholic schools; you could never do it. Again, the ratepayers are not particularly anxious to have the burden of paying the other three-sevenths of the cost of the schools. 561 If these schools are to continue they must, in the interest of education, be made as efficient as the Board Schools. You cannot do that without having a paramount authority which will hold the balance evenly between the Boards and the managers of the Voluntary schools—an authority which will take a calm and dispassionate view of the general educational needs of the district, which will distribute this inadequate special aid grant as far as it will go, and which I have no doubt will, in the interests of the ratepayers and in the interests of the children, very soon clamour for power to make further contributions to Voluntary schools out of the rates; and will exercise pressure on this House such as I do not think the House will be able to resist. I come now to the rural districts, and I would remind the House of the advantages which a large area and a county authority would have in the supervision of the education of such a district. They would be a better, a wiser, and a more instructed authority than a rural School Board. ["Hear, hear!"] Then there would be a certain amount of economy in doing away with the elections and the village offices and officials. By exercising supervision over the school attendance officers they would be better able to secure that the children attended school, because in many districts the school attendance officer is really appointed, not to see the law observed, but to see it broken. [''Hear, hear!"] Then you have the responsibility of providing and organising and training teachers, and I have pointed out that there is nothing in our educational system which more requires revision than some means of training teachers in the rural districts. ["Hear, hear!"] Is the substitution of a central authority of that kind likely to retard education, or to destroy the education that now exists? But it is said that this is to be condemned by Parliament because we are attacking the School Boards. In this Bill, however, there is no attack whatever made directly on the School Boards. [Cheers and cries of "Oh, oh!"] Every School Board, down to the smallest village, can go on if the people wish after this Act is passed, just as before. The only restriction put upon them is in a clause on a matter of detail 562 which can be discussed in Committee—that they cannot increase their maintenance expenditure—[Opposition cheers]—without the consent of that body which directly represents the ratepayers. [Cheers.] Not only is there no attack on existing School Boards, but there is no obstacle to the formation of fresh School Boards. [Cries of "Oh!"] If hon. Gentlemen will examine the Bill, they will see that every place in which the conditions of accommodation would lead now to the appointment of a School Board can have a Board, and an elective one, with the solitary exception of boroughs. [Opposition laughter.] In the boroughs the School Board, instead of being elective, will be a committee of the Town Council. That can very easily be altered—[renewed laughter]—and if any part of the House should think the boroughs are thirsting for elective School Boards, and an Amendment to the effect were brought forward and supported by any body of public opinion, it would be accepted. But I think you will find that the boroughs which have not School Boards at present, and may come hereafter to have them, would very much rather have a committee of the Town Council appointed by the Council than an elected School Board. ["Hear, hear!"] What the Bill really does is to set up in the country districts an alternative system which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, is better suited to the wants of those districts than the Act of 1870. Every parish, every district, every borough will have the option of choosing between the old system and the new. There will be a sort of law of natural selection set up, and I suppose the fittest will survive. [Laughter.] Almost the only feature of the Bill that has met with universal approbation is a proposal to transfer the care and control of destitute children from the Poor Law Guardians to the new educational authority, but that would be impossible without the county authority and without that authority having the functions provided by this Bill. Some ardent persons have suggested that this particular clause should be taken out of the Bill and passed as a separate Bill, but that would not meet the desired end, because the only object of having destitute children under these authorities is 563 that they would be authorities having general control of the education of the children of the county, and, therefore, would be experienced in the management of such children. ["Hear, hear!"] Now I come to the point of decentralisation. You cannot have decentralisation at all without the local education authority, and, therefore, those who vote against those authorities must be against all decentralisation. [Laughter and cheers.] But this, it is said, is decentralisation carried too far. Decentralisation is always a matter of detail—how much you are to delegate and how much you are to retain in the hands of the central authority. [Cheers.] Consequently, those who vote against the Second Reading of this Bill will be opposed to all delegation. [Cheers and cries of "No."] I have been very much surprised at the criticisms which have been passed on this Bill. I can hardly conceive a scheme of decentralisation more cautious, more tentative, and which would keep the control more completely in the hands of the central authority than the scheme in this Bill. In the first place, it is said that the scheme is to destroy the Education Department. That is not the opinion of the Committee of Council on Education; on the contrary, they think that the Department will be greatly strengthened by it. I would point out to the House that this is not a wholesale, abrupt, and instantaneous decentralisation, but a gradual and permissive one. The Committee of the Council are not bound as soon as the Bill is passed to hand over the administration of the public grants to every County Council in the kingdom. They can be handed over to no other County Council except with the sanction of the Education Department, and the Department will select those with whom the experiment will be made. Neither is any County Council forced to take the scheme. The County Council has only to say they do not choose to fall in with the scheme, and there is nothing that compels them to undertake the duties. I do not know who will carry out this Bill if it becomes law, but if I had anything to do with the administration of the Act I should begin by giving the administration of the Government grant to the great county boroughs like Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds, and to 564 the important counties like Lancashire, the West Biding of Yorkshire, and Middlesex, and I have no doubt that the experience that would be thus gained would guide both the County Councils and the Education Department as to the way in which they should proceed. Let me remind the House of the perfectly complete control which is left in the hands of the central authority. In the first place, the administration of the grant must be by the existing code, and that code cannot be altered by the county authorities unless with the consent of the Education Department. Then the Department retains the power of inspection—of approving the inspectors appointed by the local authorities. Schools which considered themselves aggrieved may appeal to the Department, whose orders upon that appeal must be thoroughly carried out by the local authority, and until they are carried out the grant may be withheld. Finally, the Education Authority itself may be superseded if, in the opinion of the Education Department, the management is not adequate. ["Hear, hear!"] Will the House allow me now to say one word on a point of detail? I refer to Clause 27 of the Bill—the so-called religious clause. I wish to say something about this, because I was much surprised that a clause which was intended to make this scheme really one of religious freedom and toleration has been so very ill-received. In our country, where we quarrel so much about religious matters, there is only one principle by which we can obtain peace in our schools—and that is by the recognition of the right of the parent to have his child brought up in the religion which he selects. [Cheers.] That is the only solid ground that we can go upon. I admit that in many cases parents are very indifferent about the form of religion in which their children should be taught, but still this is the only principle you can go upon. ["Hear, hear!"] The attempt made in this clause of the Bill was to enunciate in the law, as distinctly as it could be enunciated, the principle that this parental right should be respected by all managers of schools. [Cheers.] What have you got now? In the Board Schools the parents have no choice; either they have what is called undenominational religious teaching or they 565 can have no religious teaching at all. And in the case of Voluntary schools, they must either accept the religious dogmas of the managers of the schools, or they can have no religious teaching. That is at present the condition of things, and it is a great grievance, especially in country districts, and especially to Nonconformists, because in towns, in the great centres of population where School Boards are for the most part to be found, a parent who cares very strongly about the religious teaching of his child can probably send him to a denominational school. In London, for instance, there are Roman Catholic Schools, Church Schools, and schools of various denominations to which a very earnest parent, who is very particular about the religious teaching his child should receive, could send his child; but in a country village people have not that option. In many country villages there is only the Church school, and now that education is compulsory, the Nonconformist parent must send his child to the Church school, and in many Church schools great consideration is shown to Nonconformist children, and no attempt at dogmatic teaching is made; but there are Church schools, no doubt, where, for conscientious reasons, dogmatic teaching is insisted upon, so far as religious teaching is given at all, and the child must either have this or no religious teaching at all. Let me point out that Clause 27 does not, as has been stated, abolish the Cowper-Temple Clause. I confess I never liked the Cowper-Temple Clause. It seems to me an infringement of liberty. Although every single parent of every child attending a Board School, and every member of the School Board might desire it, the Church Catechism could not be taught in that school because of that clause. It seems to me to make a scarecrow of the law. Moreover, it is not effective, as the difficulty which arose only last Christmas in respect to the use of what is called Gace's Catechism, shows. You have an object lesson in the east of London as to how far this Cowper-Temple Clause is effective. In the East End of London the London School Board has most properly established Jewish Schools, where the Jewish religion is taught by persons approved by the Rabbi. Now, I should 566 very much prefer to the Cowper-Temple Clause a clause which should make it the duty of every School Board and the managers of every school to give that religious instruction which was most in accordance with the wishes of the parents. But Clause 27 does not go as far as that, it merely declares the parental right and forbids the school managers to throw obstacles in the way. The only sense in which it abolishes the Cowper-Temple Clause is that it does exactly what the Birmingham School Board has done; it allows in any School Board instruction to be given in accordance with the religious denomination of the parent. It gives no right of entry to the school to anybody. It does not establish the right to have a score of creeds taught in the same school; it only requires the managers to do that which is reasonable and that which is practicable, and of the reasonableness and practicability of any scheme suggested, the Education Department is made the sole judge. Whether you put a clause of this kind into the Bill or not, I believe there never will be any serious religious difficulty in a school itself, not because of the action of the Cowper-Temple Clause, but because the teachers and the managers of the school are people in favour of religious peace, people who are sensible and reasonable, and I do not believe that this religious peace that is said to prevail now in the schools will be hurt by a clause which declares the right of the parents to have such instruction as they please for their children. Now, this Bill involves no slight whatever upon the Act of 1870. It involves no slight upon the proceedings of the great School Boards, and, above all, it involves no slight upon the memory of that great man by whom the Act of 1870 was passed. [Cheers.] If I have not praised these more than I ought, it is because their merits are so universally recognised that eulogy on my part would be impertinent, and I think the best way of showing our appreciation of the past efforts of legislation is by efforts to make further progress. I claim, therefore, the support of this House for this Bill, not only because the Bill promotes progress, but because, without entrusting to the people themselves, as this Bill does, the work of education, further 567 progress will be impossible. I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill. [Loud cheers.]
§ * MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.),
who was received with loud cheers, said: The right hon. Gentleman began his speech with a number of unproved assumptions; from those assumptions he proceeded to draw what, in the opinion of most of us on this side, were a series of illegitimate inferences; and then he described the result as common ground. [Laughter and cheers.] Apparently, everything that is contentious in the Bill is to be dismissed from consideration, either as being universally accepted or as being a matter of detail which can be more properly discussed in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that we who vote against the Second Reading will be voting against one simple proposition—the proposition of putting education in the hands of the local authorities. You might have thought from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that this was a Bill to establish universal School Boards. [Cheers.] It is just the fact that the Bill does not put education in the hands of local authorities, while it does destroy—as I shall point out presently—the machinery by which education is at present carried on, which makes the foundation of our opposition to it. [Cheers.] Before I proceed to deal with these matters—and I am afraid I shall have to do so in some detail—[''hear, hear!"]—I must acknowledge that the Bill contains provisions, some of them of a valuable and beneficent character, and others such as, at any rate if they stood alone, would afford the foundation for amicable discussion, and, after consideration and amendment, might become the starting-point of new and useful reforms. In the first class I put the proposal which, curiously enough, the right hon. Gentleman has not alluded to, though it is the only one of the provisions of this Bill which bears unmistakable signs of his own authorship. [Cheers.] I mean the proposal to raise the age of compulsory attendance from 11 to 12. [Renewed cheers.] That is a step in advance upon lines which have in recent years been approved and adopted by both Parties in the State. ["Hear, hear!"] Three years ago my 568 right hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham succeeded in persuading Parliament to raise the age to 11. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman oppositee has had the courage to propose this further safeguard against that which I conceive to be the most uneconomic of all forms of waste—namely, the premature employment of half-educated children. [Cheers.] That is a proposal which, so far as I can discover, is threatened with opposition from no quarter of the House except from some of the supporters of the Government. There are other provisions, those in particular which deal with secondary education, which, although they are of a more disputable character, if they were presented alone, would be, in a Parliamentary sense, regarded as non-contentious. They propose to adopt, to some extent at any rate, the recommendations of the Royal Commission which has recently reported, and although, in our judgment, they embody those recommendations in a crude and imperfect form, I am satisfied that if those clauses of the Bill had been submitted to the House as an independent Measure, not only would they not have encountered any opposition upon the Second Reading, but both sides and all sections of the House would have been prepared loyally to co-operate in the task of supplementing their omissions, and strengthening their efficacy. ["Hear, hear!"] I will make another admission. We were told in the Speech from the Throne that the position of Voluntary Schools is "in many places precarious, and requires further assistance from public resources.'' If this Bill had corresponded to the terms of that announcement—if, in other words, it had proposed some additional and even large provision from public resources to maintain a high standard of education where at present it is unduly low; and if that provision had been accompanied by adequate safeguards for the control and the wise expenditure of the money that was granted, although we might have differed, and probably should have differed upon points of detail, it certainly would not have encountered the resistance which this Measure must be prepared to meet. [Cheers.] No, Sir, in this matter we are not the challengers but the challenged. [Cheers.] 569 If Her Majesty's Government had been prepared, as we hoped and believed they might be, to leave this subject in the neutralised territory which it has happily occupied of late years, instead of bringing it into the forefront of political controversy—if they had not thought fit to link proposals, some of them beneficial, others, at any rate innocuous, to a scheme which, whatever may be its intentions, will, in our deliberate judgment, have the effect of revolutionising the foundations, of dislocating the machinery, of impoverishing the results, and embittering the spirit of our whole system of national education—why, then, Sir, the responsibility which now rests upon them would not have arisen. [''Hear, hear!"] These are strong words—[Ministerial cheers and counter cheers]—but there is not one of them which before I sit down I shall not attempt to establish by argument. ["Hear, hear!"] Now, I will ask the House to come to close quarters with the actual provisions of the Measure. As the right hon. Gentleman has told us, the pivot upon which the whole of this scheme hinges and turns is the creation in every county and in every county borough in England and Wales of a new education authority, which is at once to discharge some, and which in course of time is intended to perform all, the functions as to inspection, as to examination, as to control, and as to payment, which are at present vested in the Education Department. [Sir W. HART-DYKE: "No!"] The right hon. Baronet says no. He cannot have heard the speech of the Vice President of the Council upon the First Reading of the Bill. [Cheers.] It was the decentralisation of the control of education which was represented by the right hon. Gentleman, and I think, properly represented, as being the very foundation and the mainspring of the scheme. When the Bill comes into full operation—although I understand from the speech which we have just heard, in its initial stages its provisions are to be tempered by a very invidious process of selection—you will have in England and Wales no less than 126 Education Departments. That is, the number of the counties and of the county boroughs. In the county of Lancaster alone you will have 15 570 Education Departments. I am quite aware that there are provisions in the Bill which enable these authorities by agreement to combine with one another. But I do not think that anyone who is acquainted with the facts of our local life, and adequately appreciates the tenacity and exclusiveness of what I may call our municipal patriotism, its rivalries and jealousies, which are often founded, I agree, upon real diversities of local sentiment and of local interest—I do not believe that anybody who is acquainted with the facts will believe that that power is likely to be very frequently resorted to. Many of these new departments, I will not say all of them, will have or may have educational codes of their own. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the Education Department will scrutinise with jealousy any proposals of the kind that may be made; but, as I shall point out presently, the Education Department, when you have regard to the terms and spririt of the Bill, will do so with maimed powers and with fettered hands. [Cheers.] It is true that the Education Department in name and in theory remains, but it remains in the background, a spectral and disembodied authority—an authority of which you might say with truth that it reigns but it cannot govern; for the very essence of your scheme is in the future as regards the discharge of these very functions which now for more than a generation have been exercised by the Education Department upon uniform principles over the country as a whole, to make local opinion and local feeling predominant and supreme. [Cheers.] This ingenious plan, for the production of what I cannot help thinking will be an educational patchwork and an administrative chaos, is presented to us under the specious name of decentralisation. ["Hear, hear!"] Those of us, of whom I certainly am one, who are strongly in favour of the principle of devolution, who wish to see transferred to local bodies a very large number of the powers and prerogatives which are at present exercised both at Westminster and at Whitehall, are challenged to reconcile our faith in that principle with our opposition to this Measure. I have never had a challenge which I could contemplate with more equanimity or 571 take up with greater confidence. What is the essence of devolution in any intelligible and rational sense of the term? Devolution means the taking away from the central authority of powers which experience has shown that that authority exercises ignorantly or inefficiently, and it means the granting to local authorities, competent by their composition to discharge the task, and with time and energy to spare for it, of powers which can be more fitly and more properly exercised by them. I do not stand here this evening in any sense as an uncompromising or uncritical advocate of the Education Department. I have no doubt, as the right hon. Gentleman told us when he introduced this Bill, there is under the existing system an excess of routine and even of red-tape, a multiplication of gratuitous forms, an accumulation of unnecessary duties. I will go further, and I agree that in our large urban communities—in places like London itself, like Birmingham, like Leeds, and like many other towns—there is in existence an indigenous enthusiasm for education, so keen and so well organised, that it stands in very little need of extraneous supervision and control, and that it might very well be trusted with a wider latitude of action and a larger freedom of making experiments. But the House cannot fall into a greater or more fatal delusion than to measure the educational climate of the country as a whole by the temperature of these great towns. ["Hear, hear!"] I certainly am not exaggerating—and I should have thought I was here upon what the right hon. Gentleman calls common ground—when I say that over large parts of England, at any rate, there is not—we may regret it, we may acquiesce in it, but we are bound to admit it—there is not that local interest in educational progress which, if matters of this kind are to be left entirely to local initiative, is the only security for the maintenance of a high standard of education. [Cheers.] I do not think the right hon. Gentleman himself, with his knowledge of the work of his Department, will question the truth of that statement. I do not hesitate to say that if, throughout the length and breadth of England and Wales during the last 30 years, we have succeeded in constantly 572 raising the minimum standard of educational efficiency, the main credit for the accomplishment of that most beneficent work is to be put down to the impartial, the unsleeping, and the ubiquitous activity of the Education Department. [Cheers.] You are proposing in this Bill to transfer the work of examination and of inspection from that Department, in the first instance at any rate, to the local authorities. Now, may I give the House an illustration drawn from another branch of administration with which I happen myself to be perfectly familiar—I mean the factory department of the Home Office? That is a highly-centralised system of administration, and there are many people who think—I confess I myself used to think—that it might very well, in some of its parts at any rate, be delegated to local authorities. In the year 1891, Parliament did transfer the inspection of workshops, so far as their sanitation was concerned, from the Home Office to the local authorities. When I went to the Home Office, and during the time I was there, I found that that part of their duties—though of course there were exceptions again in the case of large towns—was being systematically neglected over all parts of the country. I do not hesitate to say—and I speak from a certain amount of practical acquaintance with the matter—that if you were to do with factory inspection that which it is proposed by this Bill to do in reference to school inspection, there are many parts of England in which, after the expiration of five years, those laws which were passed for the protection of the lives and limbs of our working population would be a dead letter. [Cheers.] If that is the case in relation to such a matter as factories, it is still more likely to be the case in relation to schools; for remember that, as regards schools, the work of inspection does not merely mean that you are to see that the law is being complied with, but upon that work depends the grant and the receipt of large sums of public money which are not locally raised but voted by Parliament. [Cheers.] I am satisfied—and I speak in no partisan spirit, but merely in the interests of good administration so far as this question is concerned—that it is the 573 presence, or at any rate the liability to the presence, of an inspector who is totally detached from local prepossessions and local influences, who speaks with the authority of a great Department and even of Parliament itself, who is not subject to appointment or dismissal, to rise of salary or promotion in rank according as he makes himself agreeable or disagreeable to the locality concerned—it is the presence of a body of impartial, detached, dispassionate officials of that kind which, both as regards the inspection of schools and of factories, is the most effective security for the uniform observance of the law. [Cheers.] I say I speak in this matter as a strong disciple and advocate of the principle of devolution. Localise management as much as you like. [Cheers.] I will go with the right hon. Gentleman any length in that direction. If he were doing what from his speech we should have inferred he was going to do—to give the management of schools, the appointment and dismissal of the teachers, the everyday control of the education of the place to a representative popular authority—we should be with him to a man. [Cheers.] But that is just what he is not going to do. As regards these all-important questions, the great bulk of the schools, nearly 15,000 out of the 20,000, are to remain as they are at present in irresponsible hands. The thing which you are going to devolve upon the local authority is the very thing which local authorities, so far as our administrative experience in the past goes, are least fitted to perform. Who are these local authorities? They are committees nominated by the County Councils and by the Town Councils of the county boroughs. Do these authorities wish for the task which you are going to intrust to them? [Cheers.] Have any of them asked for it? I know some that have not, and not only not asked for it, but have already evidenced the greatest disinclination to undertake these alien and incongruous duties. [Cheers.] Have they time for it? So far as I know, the great bulk of the work of these bodies is done, not at the meetings of the council, but in numerous committees constantly sitting, and whose time and energy are at present amply occupied by the discharge of the onerous and delicate duties cast upon them by the Local 574 Government Acts. Further, are the ratepayers of the counties—the very persons who are in such distress, according to the Government, that large subventions are at this moment being made to them out of the Imperial Exchequer—prepared to undertake the additional pecuniary burdens which this scheme casts upon them? ["Hear, hear!"] Quite independently of the agreement which may ultimately be come to between the Education Department and the local authorities, the distribution of the special aid grant is a function which they cannot cast off, and for which they will be obliged to equip themselves with offices, a staff of inspectors and examiners capable of seeing that the schools between which this grant is to be allocated are in a fit condition to receive it, and to determine the exact degree of efficiency they possess. That means an enormous addition to the permanent administrative cost of every county and county borough in England and Wales. [Cheers.] If you are going to get any adequate result from it, if you can show that it is likely in any proportionate degree to raise the standard of education, I would not oppose it; but you are going to duplicate inspection. You are going to keep inspectors at Whitehall, while in every county there has to be provided, at the expense of the local ratepayers, a second set of inspectors who are to perform the same functions which are performed by the others. [Cheers.] Let the House consider how this scheme will work out in a large county, where the population is scattered, where the means of communication are imperfect, where even for the ordinary purposes of the County Council the work of administration at present is burdensome to the last degree. You will need in a county like Devonshire, Dorsetshire, or Wiltshire, in permanent session at some place or other—or, I suppose, constantly perambulating about it—this county committee; and if, as will be the case, as experience shows, no body of men, however zealous and however public spirited, can keep abreast of the routine work which is to be taken away from the Education Department, you will throw more and more in all those counties the actual daily control of the work of inspection and examination, not on the committee, but on the permanent staff 575 of officials subordinate in equipment and character to those engaged at present in performing the work. [Cheers.] But the right hon. Gentleman tells us that the Education Department will still remain; the work is to be done locally, but the Education Department will set things right. I can hardly imagine a system more calculated to engender unnecessary friction than this proposal of the Bill. Suppose that the Inspectors of the Department differ from the local inspectors as to the efficiency of a particular set of schools, or the whole of the schools of the county. Who is to decide? The right hon. Gentleman says the Education Department; but the local authority will have a tremendous weapon in its hands when it is able to point out that Parliament, after 50 years' experience, has come to the conclusion that, prima facie, local opinion ought in these matters to prevail; and the Education Department in this House or elsewhere will find that it is in a very different position—a position of impaired and discredited authority for the purpose of making its voice heard and decision predominant as compared with what it is to-day. [Cheers.] I cannot help thinking that the fair conclusion to be drawn from this part of the scheme is that you are taking away from the Education Department duties which no one alleges it does not efficiently perform, and at the same time giving the local authorities duties which there is no indication whatever that they have any desire to assume, but, on the contrary, which there is the best ground for apprehending they will perform less efficiently and successfully. [Cheers.] That is only one aspect, and not the most important aspect, of the changes which this Bill proposes to introduce in our existing educational system. We have at present two great educational authorities in the country—the Department at Whitehall and the School Boards, which have directly or indirectly under control a large majority of the population. What is going to be the effect of the Bill upon the School Boards? The right hon. Gentleman in his speech said in language which seemed to be very carefully chosen, that no attack was made ''directly." [Cheers.] I must ask the House to examine this matter a little in detail. We ought, perhaps, I 576 admit, to have been better prepared than we were for the animosity—I can use no other word—displayed in this Bill to the School Board system. Lord Salisbury's hostility to that system has been long known and, to do him justice, has never been concealed, and has frequently been expressed. In his view, apparently, the School Board system does at once too much and too little. On the one hand it wastes the ratepayers' money—[Ministerial cheers]—in cramming children's minds with unnecessary and indigestible knowledge—["oh, oh!" and cheers]—and, on the other hand, it starves their characters by withholding from them instruction in the dogmas and formulæ of particular sects. It is just a year ago since Lord Salisbury, at the meeting of the National Society, told his clerical supporters that it was their business to capture the Board Schools—To capture them in the first instance under the existing law, and then to capture them under a better law.They have tried to capture them under the existing law, and up to the present moment the attempt has resulted in a disastrous failure. ["Oh, oh!" and cheers.] I believe I am accurate in saying that, since that challenge was thrown down, in, if not all, at any rate a vast majority, of the School Board elections that have taken place, the ratepayers, on behalf of whose consciences and pockets this campaign was to be initiated, have declared in the most unequivocal manner their attachment to the existing system, and their indisposition to change it. [Cheers.] As you have not been able to capture the schools under the existing law, this, I suppose, is the better law which is to give you greater facilities for capture. ["Hear, hear!"] I believe the First Lord of the Treasury shares that view. I observed during the stress of the last General Election—in July 1895—he found time to go down to the borough of St. Helens, a county borough which does not possess a School Board, and which is, as I shall show hereafter, going to be abundantly rewarded under this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman addressing the electors of St. Helens used these words: "I am told that you are threatened here at St. Helens with a School 577 Board." "Threatened'' with a School Board! [Opposition laughter and cheers and counter cheers] These are the Gentlemen who are making no direct attack. [Cheers]. "Threatened" with a School Board, as though it was a scourge or the plague. [Cheers.] Then the right hon. Gentleman continued: "You have not yet got one; I trust you will not." ["Hear, hear!" from Mr. BALFOUR.] The right hon. Gentleman cheers that statement. I am right, therefore, in attributing to him substantial sympathy with Lord Salisbury's views. But this hostility to the School Board system has been reinforced of late, from what I confess was to me a somewhat unexpected quarter. I read, as I suppose we all did, with great interest a speech delivered no later than Friday last in Birmingham—[cheers]—by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies. I read that speech, as I suppose hon. Members in all parts of the House must have read it, with something akin to the same sense of admiring bewilderment which overtakes us when at an earlier stage of our life we first make the discovery that it is equally easy for an accomplished acrobat to stand upon his head or upon his heels. [Laughter.] But in that statement nothing astonished me so much as what my right hon. Friend said about School Boards. I confess that in the passage I am about to read I do discern one slight faint gleam of hope. The right hon. Gentleman is reported to have said:—As long as the School Board is elected by the cumulative vote I say that it represents sects, it represents fads, it represents particular views of any kind, but it does not in any true sense of the word represent the common sense of the ratepayers.[Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN: "Hear, hear!"] That is the opinion of the late Chairman of the Birmingham School Board. ["Hear, hear!" from Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN.] I am going to make my right hon. Friend an amicable proposal. I gather from this statement that the root of his objection to School Boards, the foundation of his allegation that they have a non-representative character, is drawn from the fact that they are elected on the cumulative vote. ["Hear, hear!"] Will my right hon. Friend consent to abandon the clauses in this 578 Bill which cripple and hamper the action of the School Boards and substitute for them a proposal for the abolition of the cumulative vote? [Cheers.] I make that offer in the most perfect good faith—[ironical laughter]—and no doubt, when my right hon. Friend comes to address the House, he will tell us how he is prepared to deal with it. I will only say that if he sees his way—and I can find no other ground in his speech for his contemptuous opinion of the capacity of School Boards for educational administration—to give effect to that opinion it will go a long way to disarm the hostility of many of us who consider that it is one of the most reactionary and objectionable proposals of the Bill. The Vice President of the Council, both on the First Reading and again to-day, has dwelt exclusively upon the imperfections of the small rural Board Schools. He has not said one word—nay, he disclaimed the intention—he has not said one word reflecting upon the great mass of the School Boards of the country. But, because there happen to be in some scattered rural districts School Boards which inadequately perform the duties cast upon them, they are to be made the foundation of an attack upon the mass of the School Boards in the country. But the right hon. Gentleman does not even by his Bill take steps to remedy the evils of which he complains. ["Hear, hear!"] It surely would not pass the wit of man to devise a scheme by which, under a system of grouping and enlargement of the area as regards both rateability and representation, there might be substituted for these small inadequate School Boards an efficient educational authority. Under this Bill the efficient School Boards are to be sacrificed; they are to be hampered and mutilated, and the inefficient School Boards are not going to be improved. I have here figures showing how great has been the growing appreciation of the School Board system during the last ten years. In 1886 there were in the Anglican schools connected with the National Society and the Church of England 1,640,000 children, and in the School Board schools 1,296,000 children, showing a majority in favour of the Anglican schools. But in 1895 there were in the Anglican schools 1,880,000 children and in the Board schools 579 1,975,000 children, so that not only has the relative position of the two classes of schools as regards children in attendance been reversed, but the rate of growth, which in the Anglican schools has been less than a quarter, has been more than half in the Board schools. ["Hear, hear!"] You may say in answer that this gives some claim to denominational schools for additional assistance [Ministerial cheers], but the question I am dealing with is this—Does it constitute any ground for trying to depress the School Board System? I am all for levelling up, but the provisions of this Bill in relation to School Boards are, in my opinion, provisions for levelling down. ["Hear, hear!"] As the right hon. Gentleman has acknowledged in his speech to-day, it is the competition with the School Boards which has forced up the standard of teaching in Voluntary schools, and which has created that strain of which the supporters of the Voluntary schools complain. I ask those who are interested in education, and not merely in the rival claims of this or that sect—["hear, hear!"]—in the interests of education I ask the House to pause before it takes any step which would impair the efficiency of the Board schools. I would say this further of our School Boards—they have attracted to their service in our municipal centres a large number of men who would have stood aloof altogether if they had not existed. If ever an experiment has been justified by its results it was the experiment of intrusting the management of primary education, not to town councils or county councils, bodies having a number of other duties to perform, but to a special body. In that way you secured in the service of education a set of men who, by their training and special qualifications, are peculiarly fitted to discharge the duties of their position. It is quite true, as the Secretary for the Colonies has pointed out, that 25 years ago, when Mr. Forster's Act was brought in, the first proposal was to intrust the work of education in our towns to town councils or committees appointed by them. Whatever might have been said for that proposal prima facie it appears to me that the experience we have had ought to convince us that we have adopted a more excellent plan. The proposal made 580 25 years ago, however, is not the proposal of this Bill, and I believe that it would be far better to abolish the School Boards altogether than to continue them in existence, as this Bill proposes to do, with impaired powers, with fettered hands, and with discredited authority. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman opposite has sought to minimise the effect of the proposals of his Bill as regards the School Boards. Let me point out, therefore, what those proposals are. As regards the special aid grant, every Board School which is entitled to it comes at once under the control of the new Education Authority, the Committee of the County Council. If and when the process of devolution from the Education Department to the local authorities proceeds, the School Boards will become subject to those authorities in other matters also. The local authorities will become their paymasters; they will be charged with the duties of inspection and examination, and they will I have the power of giving or withholding the Parliamentary grant. As regards expenditure by School Boards out of the rates, it is limited for all time either to its present standard or to a maximum of 20s. per child. But at present the average expenditure per child, which is raised by rates, is 18s. 5d., and in many of our large towns it is vastly above 20s. The effect of the proposal in the Bill will be that those large towns will be subject for all time to another authority independent of themselves. Look at the effect of the Bill in the non-county boroughs, of which there are 200. In the Schools of these boroughs there are in attendance 440,000 children, and in every one of these boroughs that has a School Board the state of things will be this—the School Board elected by the ratepayers will be subject, as regards inspection and control, to a Committee of the County Council. For example, the School Board of Dewsbury, or Scarborough, will for those purposes be subject to a Committee of the County Council sitting at Northallerton, whilst as regards the rating for its expenditure it will be subject to its own Town Council. Thus the authority elected for education purposes will be hampered by two other local authorities, neither of whom is specially qualified to deal with educational matters. I say deliberately that 581 I believe it would have been impossible for statesmanship to devise a scheme more calculated to engender friction and misunderstanding—(cheers)—and yet we are told that this Bill contains no direct attack upon the School Boards. One or two words as regards the future of these School Boards. In any municipal borough which hereafter desires to have a School Board, that School Board will not be elected directly ad hoc by the ratepayers as is now done; and in any district outside the boroughs, if, within a month after certain notice has been given, there is no application on the part of the ratepayers for a School Board, the education authority for the county becomes the School Board. In both these cases the actual work of the School Board will be discharged, not by a committee of the County Council or Town Council, but by local managers appointed by them. Both in the boroughs and the counties you will be handing over the every day control of the work of the administration in connection with education to persons appointed out of the Town or County Council and who may have had no connection whatever with schools. Then, I cannot pass by the provision for facilitating the dissolution of School Boards. In future every School Board which is "captured," to use Lord Salisbury's term—any School Board in connection with which there is a majority, possibly of one, hostile to School Board work and favourable to the Voluntary system, will be in a position to make an agreement for its own dissolution, subject to the superintending control of the Education Department, and from that time the power of the county education authority comes into force and the work of school administration in the borough is transferred to that authority. I would wish to summarise the effect of the Bill upon our existing system of educational administration. After making all due allowance—and we have never been niggardly in our acknowledgment of the magnificent work done by the churches and the managers of Voluntary schools—after making every allowance for the value and quantity of that work, we maintain that there are in this country, and have been for the last 25 years, two great propelling forces in 582 education—namely, the Education Department and the School Boards. This Bill proposes to paralyse the one force and to cripple the other. [Cheers.] I pass now to the financial aspect of the question and propose to deal with it under two heads—namely, existing expenditure and the new special grant. As regards existing expenditure: the object of the Bill is to stereotype for all time the scale at present prevailing. ["Hear, hear!"] Here again I agree that we ought perhaps to have been better prepared for this proposal. Lord Salisbury's views about educational expenditure are well known. Many leaders and teachers of men, from Plato downwards, have speculated at different times as to the most pithy and stimulating motto that could be emblazoned over the portals of schools. Lord Salisbury has entered into the same speculation, and his proposal has, at any rate, the merit of complete originality. His motto is—"Nothing is to be learnt here which cannot be taught for a threepenny rate." [Cheers and laughter.] Well, Sir, in comparison with the penurious aspirations of the Prime Minister, I am bound to say the provisions of this Bill are generous and even profuse. What are they? You propose to prescribe three distinct limits to educational expenditure in this country. By the third clause the rate to be paid per scholar, including the fee grant to the educational authority, is never to exceed the existing rate, or 29s. per head, whichever may be the highest. I believe I am right in saying that the rate at the present moment in Voluntary schools averages 28s. 3d., and in Board Schools 29s. 4d. Thus the Voluntary schools have a small margin and the Board Schools have no margin at all; and let the House remember this provision is applied not only to existing schools but to all new schools. However much the educational conditions of the country may change, and however great may be the rise in the stress of foreign competition, for all time to come, so long as this Act of Parliament remains unrepealed, both School Boards and Voluntary schools are to be limited to the existing scale. [Cheers.] Then, under the 19th clause, the ordinary 583 grant, exclusive of the fee grant, is not to exceed the grant for this year, or a sum which is, as far as I can make out, to average 19s. a head. In the case of Voluntary Schools the present average is 18s. 2d., and in the case of Board Schools 19s. 2d.; so that there again the Voluntary schools have a margin of 10d. and the Board Schools no margin at all. See how it will work out. In Birmingham and in London at the present moment the ordinary grant is 19s. 5d. and 19s. 8d. In Bolton it is 21s. 2d.; so that Birmingham and London are never to be able, however much they may improve their educational advantages, to rise to the standard of Bolton. ["Hear, hear!"] Then, lastly, on this point, the School Boards themselves are not, as I have said, to raise a higher rate than the present rate or 20s. per child without the consent of the local authority. Now, I ask, with reference to all these provisions, what is their purpose and object? Why are you going to limit, of all forms of expenditure, the expenditure on education. [Cheers.] At a moment when you are spending upon Naval Defence out of the accumulated funds of last year and out of a mortgage of the funds of future years vast sums of money, at a moment when you are dipping into the surplus of this year and next year to provide special relief for the owners and occupiers of agricultural land, that is the moment selected for placing a limit for all time to come on that which should be the most elastic, and is the most fruitful, and the most beneficent of all forms of expenditure. [Cheers.] I say that this proposal is equally objectionable from a constitutional and from an educational point of view. You are taking advantage of a transient Parliamentary situation to bind the hands of future Houses of Commons in a matter which, under our Constitution, falls peculiarly under the prerogative of this House—namely, the fixing of the amount and distribution of our national expenditure. [Cheers.] Majorities in this House come and go, but there is a place where there is a majority irrevocably devoted to your Party, and once this Act of Parliament is put on the Statute-book it will deprive the House of Commons of that which I conceive to 584 be the most fundamental and invaluable of all its constitutional functions—namely, its absolute freedom to decide how the money raised by taxation shall be spent. [Cheers.] And the matter is equally serious from the point of view of education. Hitherto the great leverage towards a rise in education has been the competition between different classes of schools. By this Bill you are putting them, as it were, in watertight compartments. You are preventing that possibility of rivalry between them which has been the most potent factor in the educational progress in the past. [Cheers.] Well, Sir, I come next to the provisions with reference to the special aid grant which the right hon. Gentleman has exhorted us to approach in a calm and philosophic spirit. I shall endeavour to do so. The question has been asked more than once if we are prepared to abolish Voluntary Schools and to substitute a universal system of School Boards and Board Schools. [Ministerial laughter.] We have been quite content to acquiesce, and we have acquiesced, in the compromise arrived at in 1870, which, be it remembered, was resented—and I think legitimately resented—not only by the Nonconformists, but by educational reformers at the time, like my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies, as giving a very undue amount of favour to Voluntary Schools as compared with Board Schools. I will not suppose that my right hon. Friend has changed his opinions. [Cheers.] No, I do not see why he should do so. We have been referred to the example of Scotland, and I think the First Lord of the Treasury taunted my right hon. Friend the Member for Montrose and myself with ignorance of the educational system of the country we have the honour to represent. It is perfectly true in one sense that the schools of Scotland are denominational schools—that is to say, in the ordinary schools of Scotland the elements of the Presbyterian doctrine are taught, Presbyterianism being the religion of the vast majority of the population of the country, and special provision being made for giving facilities for separate schools for the minorities. But there is another element in the Scottish system to which the right hon. Gentleman has not paid equal attention, and that is that in 585 Scotland there is a School Board in every parish. [Cheers.] You might search Scotland from one end to the other without finding a single parish, in which the parish school is supported by public funds and to which the children of the ratepayers are compelled by law to resort, where the appointment and dismissal of teachers are in the hands of the parish minister or elders. [Cheers.] If you will give us the Scottish system, the denominational question will rapidly solve itself. [Cheers.]
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
Without the Cowper-Temple Clause?
§ * MR. ASQUITH
I should not be at all afraid to meet that. What is the position of Voluntary schools? As I say, so far as I am aware no one proposes to abolish them or to incur the enormous expenditure, estimated at £25,000,000 by the right hon. Gentleman, or even half that sum, that would be involved in taking over the Voluntary schools. I am perfectly ready to reckon the Voluntary schools as an integral part of our educational system; but when these special claims are put forward by the supporters of Voluntary schools to exceptional treatment it is necessary to closely scrutinise the facts. We are told by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and the phrase has become classical, that the Voluntary schools and their supporters are "subjected to an intolerable strain." But what are the facts? Since 1839, when the system of national education was initiated, no less than £58,000,000 sterling of public money has been granted to the Voluntary schools. At the present moment, including the fee grant, very nearly, if not quite, three-fourths of the maintenance is borne by the State. At the outside one-sixth of the cost of maintenance is found by voluntary subscription. ["Hear, hear!"] It is quite true that although subscriptions have not increased per head they have increased in the aggregate since 1870; but that increase, if you have regard to the contemporaneous growth of the wealth and population of the country and in the zeal of men of all parties and faiths in the cause of education, is not very remarkable. ["Hear, hear!"] Nor is it easy to estimate how much of these so-called 586 voluntary subscriptions is really what is know as a voluntary rate, which persons impose upon themselves in the hope that they will thereby avoid the increased expenditure which would result from the establishment of a Board School and more efficient teaching. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not care to dwell on the precise number of Parish schools to which there is no subscription; but it is a remarkable fact that the places where this so-called strain is most felt is some of the large towns in the North of England, where the fees used to be high and the subscriptions have always been low, and where a deficiency has been produced by the abolition of fees and the substitution of a fee grant of only 10s. per head. I find, for instance, in Manchester the average subscription per child is 3s. 6d., and in Liverpool it is as low as 3s. These facts, when dispassionately considered, go far to show that there is no very excessive strain. But I am perfectly prepared to agree—and I believe everybody on this side of the House will agree—that if you can show us that, either in the Voluntary Schools or in the Board Schools, there are cases where, from lack of resources, education is being starved or inefficiently provided; if you can show that the only means of supplying the deficiency and of raising the level of education given to the proper standard is by further grants from the public funds, then, subject to two or three simple conditions, there will be no opposition on our part. ["Hear, hear!"] What are those conditions? They are very intelligible and very rational; and they are certainly supported by the most weighty authorities. The first is that whatever money is given should be impartially distributed—impartially not only as between Voluntary schools themselves, but as between Voluntary and Board Schools. On that point I found myself on the authority of the Lord President of the Council, who, as late as November last, when we supposed that this Bill was in the initial stage of preparation, said:—I do not conceive that it is proposed by any legislation to depart from the principle of statutory equality as regards State aid to Voluntary and Board schools.[Cheers.] In the second place, whatever is given ought to be given under conditions which will secure that it shall be 587 spent on the improvement of education and not in the relief of subscribers and ratepayers. [Cheers.] It is for that reason that we say that a local contribution in one form or another shall be an essential condition of every grant. Unless you have that you have no guarantee, except such as the central authority's inspection affords, against waste and extravagant expenditure. [Cheers.] The Act of 1870 required that the voluntary contribution from local sources should be equivalent to the Parliamentary grant. That was modified in 1876 by the fixing of the 17s. 6d. limit. But on this point again I am content to rely on authority. I will take two authorities, the weight and value of which cannot be disputed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The first is the Bishop of London. In 1888, when he was a member of the Commission on Education then sitting, the Bishop of London moved an Amendment to the majority Report which was thus expressed:—We cannot recommend that in any case the grant from the Department shall exceed the amount provided on the spot; nor is it, in our judgment, a sufficient plea for overriding this principle that the people on the spot are unwilling to contribute enough.[Cheers.] There is another authority, even higher in rank, the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, who, on November 21st last, at a deputation to Lord Salisbury said:—We are willing to have a certain proportion of subscriptions insisted on as a condition of the grant.[Cheers.] Thirdly, it ought to be made essential, as a condition of these schools further receiving money from the State, that you should introduce into their management some public representative element. [Cheers.] There are in this country at the present moment 8,000 parishes in which the only school is a Church of England school. In those parishes the Nonconformists are compelled by law to send their children to school, and there is no other place to send them than the Church school. And yet the absolute control, subject to the conscience clause, of the teaching and management of those schools, and of the all-important question, the appointment of the teachers—[cheers]—the 588 determination of what duties those teachers are to perform and subject to what tenure they shall hold their offices—the absolute control is in the hands of irresponsible managers. [Cheers.] I do not propose that we should destroy the denominational schools; and, if we are not to destroy them, I agree that they must continue to be denominational in character. But I am perfectly satisfied that if you can introduce into the management of these schools an element—and I use the word advisedly—of representative management; if, for instance, the provision of this Bill which allows a reasonable number of parents to demand separate religious instruction could be applied to this case, so that a reasonable number of parents might demand representation on the board of managers—[cheers]—then a vast number of the abuses which at present prevail and the grievances under which the rural ratepayers suffer would, from the mere fact of the infusion of this popular element, almost immediately disappear. ["Hear, hear!"] These are reasonable and moderate conditions. There is not one of them which is observed or regarded in the slightest degree by the Bill now before the House. First of all, as to impartiality. We look to this Bill for what the Duke of Devonshire called "statutory equality" between Voluntary and Board Schools. We find that every one of the 14,600 Voluntary schools is to get 4s. for each scholar. Of the 5,000 Board Schools only a mere fraction—the precise figures we do not know until we get fuller returns—are to get anything as of right. The right hon. Gentleman has estimated that of this total special grant £489,000 will go to the Voluntary schools; and only £73,000 to the Board Schools. But that is by no means a complete account of the matter. [Cheers.] For the Voluntary schools are to continue to receive the special grant for poor districts which they at present get under the articles 104 and 105 of the Code. I know that the School Board schools are to get it also; but the great bulk of it at present goes to the Voluntary schools—£60,000 out of £70,000. On the other hand, from the £73,000 which go to the Board Schools you must deduct the £20,000 received at present under the 97th section. Therefore the net 589 result, at the highest, to the School Boards is a sum of something like £50,000—and I do not think they will get it all—and the Voluntary schools get nearly ten times as much. [Cheers.] I will give one or two cases to illustrate the grotesque absurdity of the scheme of distribution in the Bill. The money is to be given without regard to subscriptions, to the number of children in attendance, or to the necessities of the schools. The instances I shall quote are not extreme; I think they are typical. Take Birkenhead and Brighton. They have both practically the same number of children in attendance at their schools—13,700 in one case and 14,400 in the other. In Birkenhead there is a School Board, but a very small number of children attend the Board Schools. The School Board rate is 2½d. At Brighton there is a School Board also, and a large number of children attend the schools. There the School Board rate is 7½d. At Birkenhead the voluntary subscription per head of the children in the Voluntary schools is 1s. 10d. In Brighton the voluntary subscription is 11s. 6d. per child. What does the House suppose that these two towns receive respectively under the Bill? Birkenhead will receive £2,882 and Brighton £1,262. [Loud cheers.] In other words, Brighton, with a School Board rate three times as high as Birkenhead, and with a voluntary subscription eight or nine times as great, will receive less than half the money. [Cheers.] Where does the intolerable strain come in? [Renewed cheers.] Of these two communities take the supporter of the Voluntary schools. In Brighton he is exposed to a considerable strain—a high School Board rate and a high voluntary subscription; in Birkenhead he has to meet a trumpery subscription and a nominal rate of 2½d. in the pound. And yet the less necessitous case gets two or three times as much aid. [Cheers.] I commend what I have said to the hon. Members for Brighton opposite, whose duty it will be to vindicate this Bill to their constituents. ["Hear, hear!"] Let me take another illustration—the towns of Portsmouth and Blackburn. Here again you have the same number of children in attendance in the two towns; and the voluntary subscription is about the same—a little over 3s. per child. In 590 Portsmouth the school rate is 8½d.; in Blackburn it is 2½d.; and, therefore, from that point of view the necessities of Portsmouth are the greater. But under the Bill Portsmouth will get £687, and Blackburn will get £3,456, or five times as much. [Cheers.] I will take one more case—that of St. Helens and Leicester. The First Lord of the Treasury recently visited St. Helens and congratulated the inhabitants on having escaped the curse of a School Board. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] In Leicester there are more than twice as many children at school as at St. Helens—28,500, as compared with 12,800. St. Helens, having no School Board, pays no rate. Leicester has a rate of over 1s. in the pound. The aid given to Leicester, with 1s. rate and with twice the number of children, is £2,038, and the aid given to St. Helens is £2,575. [Cheers.] The Secretary of State for the Colonies said the other day in one of his apologetic letters on this Bill—and I am not complaining of the number of those letters—[laughter and cheers]—that the objections to it were of a purely partisan character. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, in view of the instances I have quoted, which might be multiplied, whether they can conceive a more crude, reckless, and ill-considered scheme for the distribution of public money than that adopted by the Government. [Cheers.] To put the matter in another way. Preston under this Bill, having no School Board, will get 4s. for every child. ["Hear, hear!'' from Mr. TOMLINSON.] Yes, Preston is fortunate in having successfully averted the curse of the School Board. Irrespective of its needs and requirements it gets 4s. for every child. Liverpool, not quite so fortunate, gets 2s. 9d. per child. But in London, where we have a school rate averaging 35s. 2d. per child in the School Board schools, and with a voluntary subscription from the supporters of the denominational schools of 10s. 2d., London only gets 1s. 3d. ["Hear, hear!"] There are some other places still less fortunate. In Burton-on-Trent, where practically the whole of the educational work is transacted by the School Board, the grant falls as low as 6d. In the county of Lancashire there is a population something like a million and a half not under School 591 Boards at all. It is mainly an urban population. The schools are large schools, and are, it is admitted, worked economically and efficiently. The voluntary subscription is very small, and the School Board does not exist at all. And yet Lancashire is going to get 4s. per head under the Bill, while London, with vastly greater educational needs, vastly larger contributions for educational purposes, is to put up with a paltry 1s. 3d. ["Hear, hear!"] I hope I have said enough to show that the statutory equality which the Duke of Devonshire declared to be absolutely essential is grossly violated by this Bill. [Opposition cheers.] Then, as regards the other conditions, I see no effective security that the special aid given will raise the educational standard and will not relieve voluntary subscribers and subscriptions. I am aware there is a special section which directs that the educational authority is, in the first instance, to apply the money for the purpose of improving the teaching staff; and then, so far as it is not, in the opinion of the educational authority, for that purpose, it is practically to be applied to any of the general purposes of the school. You leave this matter entirely in the uncontrolled discretion of these committees of the County Council. I do not suppose that anyone who forecasts the probable working of this Bill can doubt that in a large number of cases these committees will allow themselves to be persuaded that quite enough is already being done by voluntary subscriptions, and that the extra 4s. per head will go for the several purposes of education. ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill does not even profess to give any representative element in the management of the schools. When you take into account, not only the special aid grant of 4s. but the fact that the 17s. 6d. limit is to be abolished, and that, therefore, there is no longer any statutory minimum required of contribution all and further that those schools are to be for the first time exempted from local rates—when you take the pecuniary value of all these subventions into account, it is no exaggeration to say that from four to five thousand Voluntary Schools in this country will be able to subsist without one halfpenny of local contribution and without an iota of popular control in regard to their daily 592 management. I do not hesitate to describe that scheme as an endowment on a vast and unprecedented scale out of public money of a system of denominational teaching. [Loud Opposition cheers.] There is one point only which still remains, and that is Clause 27. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that that clause was conceived in a pacific spirit. It appears to me to be a very curiously contrived eirenicon. ["Hear, hear!"] The principle which has governed us hitherto in this matter has been this. We have two sets of schools. First, the Board schools, entirely supported out of public resources, Imperial and local. In those schools the teaching of any religious formulary or catechism is absolutely prohibited. We have another class of schools—denominational schools—which are largely supported out of the public funds. Yet, as in the view of the framers of the Act of 1870, they were to continue to make substantial contributions of their own, they have given to them the power, while subject to a Conscience Clause, to teach any formulary they please. That is the compromise which has worked for 25 years. What occasion is there to disturb it? [Opposition cheers.] This new clause, which professes to be framed in the interests of Nonconformist parents in our villages, will, so far as those villages are concerned, be an absolute dead letter. [Opposition cheers.] I have never heard any demand put forward on the part of those who are entitled to speak for those bodies for any such privilege as the Bill proposes to give them. And when we know that in a large number of these villages the Conscience Clause itself is a dead letter, for reasons very intelligible, but on which I need not dwell, will it be supposed that the parents of those children, who do not now claim for their children even the exemption allowed by the Conscience Clause, are going to incur—and there is no disguising the fact that they would incur—a considerable amount of odium and disfavour from those who control to a large extent the fortunes of their daily lives, by claiming for their children their distinctive religious teaching in Church schools? [Opposition cheers.] If this clause is to be taken advantage of at all it will be taken advantage of to get rid of the Cowper-Temple Clause in towns. As to that I 593 will only say one word. The religious teaching which is being given in our Board schools is teaching which to a large extent has been moulded and approved by Churchmen. The highest possible testimony has been borne to its value by not a few bishops of the Church. I read a remarkable passage in the speech of one of the most respected bishops, the Bishop of Durham, at Darlington, a day or two ago. He said he did not believe—That the power which was given by this clause would be largely exercised. If the religious instruction given in the Board schools was not all that was required, what was wanting, he said, would be supplied elsewhere. He believed that the greater completeness would be dearly purchased by the interference with the regular course of school instruction.["Hear, hear!"] What evidence is there, I ask, that the parents of the children for whom this religious instruction is provided are dissatisfied? This agitation is a clerical agitation. [Loud Opposition cheers.] It is carried on for the most part by the most extreme members of the clergy, and by a body of laymen who are more clerically-minded than the clergy themselves. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not believe myself that the parents will be found to avail themselves of this clause; but I can conceive that, under the stimulus of a more or less fanatical propaganda, it may be possible to get together in some of our towns a sufficient number of parents to make the demand. I ask the House to consider, if the demand were granted, what its effects would be. What would be its effect upon our local elections? It will introduce into them, with a vastly increased amount of bitterness than we have before experienced, the element of sectarian strife. [Opposition cheers.] What will be its effect upon religious life? It will destroy, or at any rate impair, its charities and amenities. [Opposition cheers.] What will be its effect upon the children themselves? At present in the Board Schools they are taught a form of religious teaching which has this peculiarity, no doubt, that it consists mainly, if not entirely, of those facts and principles upon which all the churches agree. If this clause were carried into effect and worked upon a large scale, you would have those 594 children in the future herded—if I may use the word—into separate theological pens, branded and labelled with the names of their particular sects, and taught under conditions which must compel them, if they have fairly receptive minds, to attach more importance, not to the truths which unite, but to the controversies which divide the religious world. [Opposition cheers.] This is, I suppose, the legislative embodiment of the inalienable right of the parent to have his child taught in any religion at the public expense. But where does this right come from? What is its origin? Where are its sanctions? In what line of any Act of Parliament is any trace of it to be found? It is a metaphysical figment of the newest and crudest invention. [Opposition cheers.] I am convinced that, as regards this clause, the good sense of the country and the parents of the children will repudiate it. But, if it is adopted, it will be found to have a most deleterious and damaging effect upon the whole of our educational work and of our civic life. [Opposition cheers.] I have endeavoured to demonstrate step by step every branch of the general condemnatory proposition with which I started, and of which the Amendment I am about to move is the only adequate Parliamentary expression. We are well aware of the fate which awaits that Amendment in the Division Lobby. It will be rejected, I have no doubt, by an overwhelming majority. [Ministerial cheers and counter cheers.] But this is only the preliminary stage in what is destined to be a stubborn and protracted campaign. [Opposition cheers.] You can succeed, if you are ill-advised enough to try the experiment, by the use of your overbearing Parliamentary majority, in placing this Measure, with its absurdities and injustices, upon the Statute-book. But be assured that, if you do so, you are not settling, but you are opening a controversy. Holding as we do, with as great a strength of conviction as it is possible for men to possess, that this Bill if carried into law would create invidious inequalities; would inflame sectarian strife; would introduce friction and confusion over the whole area of our local government; and would permanently degrade the level of our system of national 595 education, we are bound to give it every opposition in our power, and, as the first step in the performance of that duty, I now beg to move that this Bill be read a Second time this day six months. [Loud Opposition cheers.]
§ * MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said he had pleasure in seconding the Amendment, which had been moved in such a magnificent and argumentative speech. He agreed that this Debate was but the beginning of a mighty struggle. On many platforms the Opposition had been taunted as the Party which sought to destroy institutions. He doubted whether, even in this Parliament, this Bill, in all its naked iniquity, could be passed; but the proposal of it involved the dishonour of an attempt to destroy one of the greatest instruments ever devised for the development of the welfare of this country, by which the education of the children of the people was committed to their freely elected representatives. This Bill was not the Bill of the Royal Commission, it was not a Bill restricted to the memorial of the Archbishops and Bishops, it was not a Bill one would have expected from anything which had gone before. It was a foregone conclusion that grants in aid would be proposed for Voluntary schools, and those who regarded this question from a Liberal standpoint would have offered no objection to a reasonable provision under reasonable conditions to meet the wants of any class of schools. But what was the real character, what were the real intentions of this Bill? A light had been thrown upon them by a speech of the Colonial Secretary at Birmingham and by the recent discussions in Convocation. No one could have anticipated that the Bill would contain so many ingenious devices for divorcing democracy from its heritage in the control of education; still less could anyone have conceived that the Party opposite would have made use of this opportunity for seeking in so many ways to put a strait waistcoat permanently on the development of education. The Colonial Secretary put the preservation of Voluntary Schools as the first object of the Bill, and it was only as the fourth object that he mentioned the promotion and improvement of education. In Convocation the Bill was dealt with as a 596 Bill to cripple and capture the schools of the people. The main proposal of the Bill was to create a new education authority in the Committee of the County Council. Many on both sides of the House had taken the greatest interest in the powers of the County Council in regard to education. In the development of secondary education the County Councils would naturally take an important part, whether in finance or in the adjustment of conflicting claims. But what had been the history of the proposals to hand over elementary education to County Councils? That proposal had not been made by the friends of popular education; it had been suggested by its most persistent opponents. After the passing of the Act of 1870, from 1874 to 1880, the policy of the reactionary party was to discourage, as far as possible, the formation and development of School Boards. As the cost of education went on increasing, in 1876 they introduced the 17s. 6d. limit, which was at that time a material concession to the Voluntary Schools; and also Mr. Pell's clause to facilitate the dissolution of School Boards; and finally, when the Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into elementary education they took the opportunity of suggesting that School Boards should be done away with and their powers handed over to County Councils. This was proposed by several of the official witnesses, and it was formulated in an elaborate Memorandum Lord Sandford laid before the Commission, and pressed on the attention of Parliament during the passing of the Local Government Bill of 1888. In that Bill were included provisions with the special object of transferring the powers of School Boards to county councils. Lord Sandford's memorandum expressly stated, it would be of the greatest advantage to do away with bodies directly elected for educational purposes, and that their abolition would lead to a freer development of the Voluntary Schools. Again, when the Technical Instruction Act was passed in 1889, speeches were made that were dictated by the same motives, and aimed at the same policy. A notable incident in the discussions on technical instruction for that year was the announcement of the true policy of the Liberal Party. When Mr. W. H. Smith 597 abandoned Sir Henry Roscoe's Bill, the right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Acland) gave notice of a Motion that it would only be by the introduction of universal School Boards, that technical education and the continuity of elementary into secondary education could be adequately secured. He was delighted by the announcement which was an anticipation of what they had just heard, that the proposal of indirect, co-optative, undemocratic, and unrepresentative authorities, would be met with a deliberate demand that we should have directly elected educational authorities all over the land, elected for suitable areas, to deal in a free and democratic spirit with all the difficulties of education. What had School Boards done to deserve destruction? For the first five years after 1870 their work was mainly the rescue of gutter children and the bringing of education within the reach of those who had hitherto been neglected. At the time, little condemnation was heard of the School Boards. But then the School Boards stepped forth as the leaders of educational reform, as the imitators of improved methods. And just as they gained strength and power for good the crusade against them set in and their opponents detested and resolved to destroy them. There were, however, some honourable exceptions among the Clergy. In a recent speech at Dover, the Archbishop of Canterbury said—They were told also that they wished to check expenditure, but they did not wish to check the expenditure one bit, because it was no business of theirs if there was any extravagance in connection with the Board Schools. He should not be so very hard upon it, because the Board School was a magnificent system, which had been set on foot in a grand manner, and hat done wonders for the education of the people and also stimulated the education given in Church Schools.That was a generous recognition of the relation between the two classes of schools; but it was not the spirit of this Bill; and it was not the spirit of other leaders of the Church of England. In Convocation the other day a bishop used words which proved that the Bill did not hamstring and hobble School Boards half enough to suit him. "The Bill did introduce some safeguards and checks, but they were too uncertain and elastic." The big boards would still have 598 some margin to expend and there would still be competition between Board Schools and Voluntary Schools. The only fault of the School Boards was that hey had done their work too well. The School Boards had not only given us splendid schools, but new methods of teaching. He was astonished that the other day the right hon. Member for West Birmingham should have spoken of Chinese uniformity of system is a feature of our elementary education. He could not help remembering that the German method of teaching, so beautiful and humanising, was introduced into English schools mainly by the Birmingham School Board, of which the right hon. Gentleman was then an honoured member, but which he now treated with scorn and wished to cast out. But the highest claim of School Boards to the gratitude and support of the English people was that they had developed a type of educational experts, of enthusiastic servants of the people, who, by direct local experience and direct local responsibility in educational work were acquainted with the wants of the people and of the children in the schools. These men wished to work for the further development of education, but would not remain on the School Boards when deprived of all power of initiating new reforms and of carrying out a new and generous policy in the future. Now, to turn to the qualifications of the County Councils to deal with education. It was doubtful whether County Councils worked for the powers given by the Bill. The Northamptonshire County Council had taken the strong step of passing a resolution condemning this Bill. It was not a Liberal Council; he believed it to be of Tory complexion on the whole, and the resolution he referred to was moved by a Liberal Unionist:—That this Council, while thanking the Government for the increased power proposed to be given under the Education Bill to County Councils over Secondary Education would express the hope that no duties relating to the contentious and difficult problems of Elementary Education may be conferred on County Councils.That was a very significant expression of opinion from one of the most business like and capable bodies of local administrators he had ever been brought in contact with. But could the proposed 599 Committee of the County Councils really deal with the question in a satisfactory way? Northamptonshire was a comparatively small county, but in a Debate in Convocation the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Monckton) argued against the workability of the proposed County Council Committees. He said that "his late experience had chiefly been connected with the county of Northampton as Chairman of the Technical Education Committee. There was a practical difficulty in the working of Education Committees—the great distances members had to travel to attend the meetings. He had to travel for an hour and a half to get to Northampton. The journey back was as long. He came from the north of the county and the trains from the north and from the south did not correspond. This matter required adjustment, for some counties were too large to be dealt with as a whole and there must be some further decentralisation." The members of these County Committees could not have the same insight into educational matters that members of a district School Board would have. With regard to the instruction given under the auspices of the Technical Education Committees of the County Councils the practical demonstrations in butter and cheese making had been of some value, but all the witnesses before the Royal Commission on the Depression of Agriculture declared that, as an educational authority, these Technical Instruction Committees had been complete failures, and a waste of public money. The only way in which the County Councils had been of use with regard to secondary and technical education had been in providing funds for scholarships and the development of schools and colleges. But if County Councils cannot discharge even these duties well, what would be the result of giving them enormous and extensive powers under this Bill with regard to the delicate and complicated details of elementary education? In a rural county like Northamptonshire it would mean a large staff and a great increase in the rates. What was the real reason the County Councils had been chosen as the educational authority to distribute grants and control the education of the county and supersede gradually and steadily the School 600 Boards? The real reason was that all the County Councils in England were, with one or two exceptions, Tory and Church bodies. The Committees were to have permissive power to co-opt certain persons to serve as members. It was plain that the County Council members of the Committee would not generally be able to attend. Who would the rest be? In Convocation the Bishop of London said he did not wish to have it laid down that experts should be necessarily co-opted or be restricted to the election representatives of educational interests as had been proposed in the Report of the Secondary Education Commission. What then would happen? These Church and Tory County Councils would co-opt the archdeacons and rural deans, and the local Athelstan Rileys, and Committees so composed would have to deal with the delicate and difficult problems of education. The Bill would hand over the powers of the School Boards, compulsorily, to nominated managers and not to a representative body in the locality. What was the result with regard to Voluntary schools? Financial aid was to be given compulsorily to any association who got the consent of the local managers of Voluntary schools to act for them, and this association need not have a single local manager or representative upon it. It might sit in London or at the Vatican for all they knew. These outside associations would have the absolute administration of large sums of money, would gather round them groups of schools and take over the practical administration of the schools in large rural areas. The Bill was a Bill to exclude local popular control from the schools, and transfer the control to private bodies of managers. Of course, the point to which they attached most importance, was the destruction of the School Board system so far as it was facilitated or carried out in this Bill. One of the points which had been most insisted upon by the friends of national education, was that the Schools Boards should not lose their connection with secondary education, that they should be able to retain their higher grade elementary schools, and their technical and science and continuation schools, and that the continuity and unity of education should 601 be maintained by expanding from School Boards upwards into some control over secondary education, and Bishop Temple demanded the complete severance of elementary from secondary education, and an age limit of fourteen. The Bill would prevent such expansion. The Board were to be killed administratively and financially too. Turning to the religious aspect of the Bill he said, that some of the words of the Vice President of the Council in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, pointed to the possible Amendment of it, and there was no Amendment which would give greater satisfaction on that side of the House, and he ventured to think to some hon. Members on the other side, than the omission of the 27th Clause. That was a Clause which practically and substantially did away with one of the great victories won by the friends of National education in 1870. They won in 1870 the right to directly elect representatives of the people to control education, and they won this principle of religious equality in their schools. What did the Bishop of London say on this subject? He said, that the outside teacher coming into the school would not have the moral weight and influence of the ordinary school teacher, his religious instruction would be inferior and less useful, and further the regular teachers of the school would lose in their influence by not having religious instruction placed in their hands. What was this religious education they were so anxious to have? He happened to read the other day in the Report of the Diocesan Inspector for the Diocese of Chester, the following passage which he should like to call to the attention of the House as showing what, from the Church point of view, was sometimes thought of the religious instruction in these schools—The figures as to religious instruction might be better, but for the following reasons: The first is, I am afraid, the unsystematic use made of the time allotted to religious instruction. There are, unfortunately, some teachers yet who do not give the full time to it marked on their time tables, day by day, throughout the year. It is still too common to take away some of that time and devote it to secular subjects just before the visit of Her Majesty's Inspector. Next there are the schools, few in number, I hope and believe, where merely oral instruction takes the place of reading the Holy Scriptures. There are again, a few schools where it is the 602 custom to give stereotyped answers to stereotyped questions, the Bible being taught and learned like the Church Catechism, so that if the inspector happens to ask the right question he gets a very good and sufficient answer, though probably the child does not in the least understand it. But if he misses the mark there are blank faces and lame or no replies. Such teaching dwarfs and stunts intelligence,That was the religious teaching as found by the Inspector of the Diocese of Chester. The present Bishop of Worcester, who was then Dean of Peterborough, used these words at the Diocesan Conference of Peterborough a year or two ago:—As to the relation of the Board and Denominational Schools, he must confess that he felt very strongly that the School Board system, whether they liked it or not, was the future system of the country. … The Board Schools would swallow up all the others, and he did not think it was just that they should have the two systems going on side by side with the very heavy taxation which the Board system involved. He was honestly prepared to meet the whole difficulty by surrendering to the Board Schools. He knew that was a very unpopular statement to make, but he had no hesitation in saying they would have to do it. The question then arose what they were to do about religious education. It was of the utmost importance; but he was told that religious education to be worth anything must be Church education. He questioned the value of the assertion that, by giving definite religious instruction in their schools, they would so impress people with the importance of their principles that they would attach themselves to the Church. … It was far better that they should do their utmost to ensure that there should be such religious education given as at least should secure that the children were taught the principles of the Christian faith and morals. That was all they could look for.He would quote a few words on the same subject by Canon Bury, one of the ablest churchmen in the Church of England, at the same Conference. Canon Bury said:—The Voluntary system of education which their Church was pledged to continue was a great obstacle to educational progress in the country. The standard of secular education was absolutely kept at a lower level by the Voluntary system. … Wherever the Voluntary system had managed to exclude the School Board system in their larger towns, education was starved. … At the present moment education was kept at a lower level by the Voluntary system, and the country would be advanced in no slight degree if the Voluntary system were superseded by some such system as the Board … What they were really fighting about on the question was not religious education, but for what was distinctly denominational. In other words, they were fighting 603 for Church education. The result of this Church teaching in their National Schools, from a churchman's point of view, was microscopic. They could not make churchmen in their National Schools, and they had no right to do so in schools supported as they were by public money.These quotations showed there were some Churchmen who partially agreed with the opponents of the Bill on the question of religious instruction. The supporters of the Amendment thought there should be no severance between the children of one faith and another in the elementary schools of this country; that it was of infinite importance that they should be taught not to regard each other as heathens and heretics, and be instructed in the common elements of Christian faith, so that they might sympathise with and look upon each other with tolerance and with rational fairness and spirit. He should oppose this Bill to the utmost of his power, because it was, in the first place, an absolutely anti-democratic Bill, which transferred the power over the schools from popularly elected bodies to indirectly elected and irresponsible authorities. He opposed it, in the second place, because he regarded it as detestable in its restraint of all further expansion of education. Elementary education had not gone nearly far enough, and they ought to encourage, instead of hampering and checking, outlay in this direction. It was because the Bill laid the axe against the very principle which had done most to elevate the degraded and neglected children into citizens, and to make them true pioneers of a new future for this country, and it was because it paralysed the whole system, which was working for good throughout the country that he heartily seconded the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill.
§ LORD EDMUND TALBOT (Sussex Chichester)
, in a maiden speech, asked for the kind consideration of the House not only on his own behalf, but also or behalf of the religious community of which, he believed, he was the sole representative on that side of the House. As an English Catholic he welcomed the main principle of this Bill, and thanked the Government for having brought it in. At the same time he was bound to admit that it was absolutely inadequate in its financial clauses, not only for his 604 co-religionists, but also, he believed, for the Church of England. ["Hear, hear!"] If the Government were guided in their financial proposals by the surplus of the past year, then he admitted that, under the circumstances of the moment, it was their duty to consider the requirements of the Navy first, and he, for one, did not grudge one single penny that had been devoted to that purpose. But the fact remained that the 4s. grant was all, apparently, that they were to get, and it was absolutely inadequate to their needs. Not only that, but that had already been forestalled by the new Code. He would take the case of St. Wilfrid's Boys' School, Manchester, as an illustration of what he wished to convey. At the last annual inspection of that school there were 347 children present, and under the 4s. grant they would get £69 8s. But under Article 73 of the new Code the new demands would cause an increased expenditure to that school of £120. From the point of view of his co-religionists this question demanded equal treatment for secular education given in all schools. If the State insisted, as it did rightly insist, on compulsory and free Education, then, as a question of justice, it appeared to him that the State ought to give equal payments to secular education, no matter for what school it gave or to what denomination the school belonged. If a community chose to buy land and to build a school for its own religious purposes, that was, he said, sufficient to set off against its religious teaching, and the secular education coming from that school ought to be paid at the same rate as any Board School. ["Hear, hear!"] That was a question which affected his co-religionists more than any other religious denomination, because of their poverty. It was impossible for hon. Members who had not had personal experience of the difficulties with which the Catholics had to contend to conceive the straits to which they were put in maintaining their schools. In addition to the building of their schools, they had also to provide for the education and the maintenance of their clergy, and to buy land and to build every church which they possessed. If hon. Members wanted proof of their sincere attachment to their Voluntary 605 schools it was to be found in the fact that of the 1,200 odd schools which had already been surrendered to the School Board not one had been a Catholic school. [Cheers.] He noticed that the Catholic demand for equal treatment for secular education was spreading very far and wide amongst their Anglican friends, and if they together saved the country a capital expenditure of over £27,000,000 in addition to the annual cost of administration, then they had a right to demand that for the secular education they gave in their schools they should not be fined on account of their religious convictions, but should be paid at a rate equal to that of the Board School. ["Hear, hear!"] There was one other point especially affecting the Catholics of this country which he should like to urge on the Government. That was the question of unnecessary schools, regarding which there was no provision in the Bill. Out of the 65 separate cases of rejection of unnecessary schools during the last 25 years, 38 were Catholic. If they took the population of England as 30,000,000 and of his coreligionists at, 000,000, this would give them 38 cases refused to 2,000,000 and 27 to the remaining 28,000,000. He would earnestly press this grievance on the attention of the Government. He was not asking for any revolutionary Measure. He was but asking for the adaptation to England of what already existed in Scotland—namely, that some provision should be introduced into the Bill following on the lines of the 67th Clause, he thought it was, of the Scotch Education Act of 1872. It was useless to ignore that this was a religious question—["Hear, hear!"]—and it was a religious question because the people of England were a religious people. They differed, unhappily, in the kind and in the degree of their religious faith, but the fact remained the School Board system suited the religious requirements of the Nonconformists, but it did not suit the requirements of the Church of England, or of his own communion. They did not want any injustice to the Nonconformists, but they did grudge them all the monopoly of conscience in this matter. ["Hear, hear?"] The only final solution of this question appeared to him to be equal treatment, and he could only conceive that that treatment 606 must come partly from the Exchequer and partly from rate aid. He thanked the Government especially for the admission of the principle that Christian parents had a right to demand definite Christian education for their children. [Cheers.] That was the principle which the State by this Bill recognised, and it was a principle for which his coreligionists had fought so hard and suffered so much. [Cheers.]
§ MR. R. WALLACE (Perth),
who also addressed the House for the first time, said, it was impossible, nor was it advisable, to enter into a detailed examination of a Bill of such complexity as the present one, and he would simply endeavour to indicate the reasons why he adopted his present attitude to the Measure. It was with very great regret that he found himself speaking in opposition to any Education Bill, and more especially to a Bill which purported to be intended to increase the efficiency of national education, and which, moreover, he candidly admitted contained many clauses which, if they were separated from the other parts of the Bill, would be most acceptable to him. Although a strong supporter of one system of education, he was prepared to do full justice to other systems, and to remove any unfair restrictions that might have been imposed upon them. But the Bill, while doing justice to the denominational schools, absolutely violated every principle of justice as far as the School Boards were concerned, because it made a deadly attack upon the system upon which they were based—an attack the more deadly, perhaps, because it was partly indirect and was largely concealed by the machinery of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] It was because he believed that to be the character of the Measure that he felt himself constrained most reluctantly to vote against the Second Reading. He could not discover who it was that had induced the Government to bring in a Bill which revolutionised our present system of education. He was satisfied that not one hon. Member in 20 sitting opposite had believed that the Government was about to destroy the existing system of education in order to build up another upon its ruins. ["Hear, hear!"] He had been perfectly prepared to see, as one of the results 607 of the late General Election, the Government proposed to give an increased grant to Voluntary Schools in order to increase their efficiency, but he was not prepared to see them attempt to destroy the whole School Board system, which had done so much good service when the people were unaccustomed to the education of the masses. He desired to see teachers given a right of appeal in case they were given short notice by the managers of a school, and that the increased grant should go towards increasing the efficiency of the schools. If Her Majesty's Government had introduced a Measure which would have had the effect of carrying out those two objects, he was quite sure that it would have met with the most sympathetic consideration from hon. Members sitting on the Opposition side of the House. For his own part, he had never shown any hostility towards the denominational schools, because he entirely agreed with hon. Members opposite that education should be of a religious type. ["Hear, hear!" from the Government Benches.] Nothing would be more disastrous to the interests of the country than that children should be brought up without any religious training. Of course, hon. Members opposite might differ from his view as to what the best form of religious training might be, but he was not going to quarrel with them upon that ground. Hon. Members opposite believed in denominational religious training, while he believed in unsectarian religious training, and that it would be more advantageous for the children of all denominations to be brought up at an unsectarian school together. But, notwithstanding that fact, he was perfectly prepared to do justice to the system believed in by hon. Members opposite, provided they would do equal justice to the system that he was in favour of. The basis of this Bill was said to be a compromise; but how could there be a compromise when all the advantage was given to one side and all the disadvantage to the other? Nothing could be more unfortunate than for the educational system of the country to be made the battle-ground of Party or of political organisations. ["Hear, hear!" and ironical cheers.] Under this Bill for the first time a special grant was given to a particular class, while the 608 other class was to receive nothing at all. Under the proposed system the ratepayers in the towns whose Board Schools were paid for out of the rates, and who would not receive any of the grant under this Bill, would at once dissolve their School Board and establish Voluntary Schools in order that they might participate in the grant. Economists who had joined the London School Board with the view of cutting down the expenses of the schools had soon become converted to the views of their opponents. A few years' practical experience had convinced them of the necessities of the case, and they had become converted educationists. If new members of School Boards discussed the necessity for improved education, they were to be deprived of the means of providing it. The Town or County Council, who knew nothing about education, was to be called in to control the School Board, and they might refuse the grant required. No man who loved education, or who had any sense of self-respect, would consent to sit any longer on a Board which was thus controlled. In future, County Councillors would not be chosen for their knowledge of sanitation, or road-making, or the like, but because of the theological opinions they held. If educational committees were created through the medium of County Councils, there would be a religious battle in every county in the country. At each County Council election candidates would be asked on which side they would vote in regard to denominational or unsectarian education. He could foresee that the result would be to destroy the efficiency of the County Councils themselves, without creating proper educational authorities. In spite of the conciliatory tone of the right hon. Gentleman, his chief objection was to the 27th Clause of the Bill. He could not believe hon. Gentlemen opposite were anxious to see that clause pressed home; many, he was sure, would like to see it withdrawn. [Cries of "No, no."] Were the hon. Gentlemen who dissented anxious to see in the villages of the land federations of Nonconformist churches; were they wishful to show to the children by their sitting in different class-rooms that Christianity was of such a nature that they could not sit side by side? What an object-lesson that would be. But whatever would be 609 the result in the villages, what would be the result in the large towns? Was there any demand for the 27th Clause in London, for instance? Only the other day the most notorious champion of the London School Board, Mr. Diggle, asked that the Board should be exempted from the operation of the Bill. Hitherto there had been no demand that the children in the schools should be withdrawn from the religious teaching given, but he thought it would, in future, be quite easy and possible to get up an agitation in every parish in London which would destroy the present un-sectarian teaching. The parents were largely moved by their spiritual advisers, and if the ministers of the different denominations were determined to have separate religious teaching they could easily raise a demand which would come within the terms of the 27th Clause. The Bill, in his opinion, constituted a dangerous attack upon the School Board system, and he asked supporters of the Government if they were anxious that he and his friends should regard the Measure as a declaration of war? He cared more for conviction than for religious strife. He had been perfectly willing in the past to do everything to mete out the fullest justice to hon. Gentlemen opposite, to give them any grant which was necessary to make their schools efficient, but they would not let him occupy that position longer; they would compel him to take, most unwillingly, a side in the strife. He was willing the compromise should last, that both systems of schools should be permitted to exist side by side; but if hon. Gentlemen were going to attack the un-sectarian system, he and his friends had no alternative but to place themselves in antagonism to hon. Gentlemen. They would do it unwillingly and late in the day, but it would probably be found that those who entered the fight unwillingly and late were not the least stern in the conflict. He believed the Government and their supporters would, by their action, create a cry which would go home to the English people, a cry that no State support should be given to any school which was not under State management. That cry was gaining strength day by day, and he believed that some day hon. Gentlemen opposite 610 would greatly regret the result of their action.
§ * MR. W. LUCAS-SHADWELL (Hastings)
said, the fact that the Bill had been generally well received in the country was testimony that the Measure had been drawn in a fair and liberal spirit, and not in the interest of one section of people only. Personally he regarded the Bill as an honest and straightforward attempt to settle a question which had been a great source of contention for many years past. It was absurd and inconsistent for hon. Gentlemen opposite to attack the principle of decentralisation, a principle they had always professed to support. Both the late Vice President of the Council and the late Home Secretary had maintained that the country was not ripe for the proposed delegation of authority, but the impression left on one's mind by the right hon. Gentlemen's speeches was that those gentlemen distrusted local government. He had always understood that the chief complaint made against the Conservative and Unionist Party was that they did not advance fast enough; it now seemed, however, they were marching too fast for the Opposition. To him it was strange that while the people of the country were to be trusted to send representatives to Parliament to decide great questions affecting the integrity of the Empire, their local representatives were not to be trusted with educational matters. He acknowledged that there were certain clauses of the Bill which would be of great benefit to Voluntary Schools. There was the one, for instance, which freed schools from the burden of the rates. Again, there was Clause 25, which enabled County Councils to advance money. He did not speak without some knowledge of the question, for he was actively connected with country schools in his own district. A provision in the Bill, which he was confident would be very popular in the country, was that contained in Section 5 of Clause 2, by which pauper children—the waifs and strays of the street—would be taken away from contact with the workhouse, would be placed in association with other children away from pauper influences, and would thus be given a freer and better chance of a start in life. ["Hear, hear!"] Some hon. 611 Members opposite had commented on the alleged disadvantages of the 27th Clause, and perhaps had tried to sow dissension among Members on the Ministerial side, especially from the Church point of view, with reference to the clause. He was aware that in some quarters, among both clergy and laymen, there was an objection to the clause, but he was certain that the vast majority of Churchmen regarded it as of such enormous importance, that if the clause were cut out they would regard the Bill as worthless. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought the managers of Voluntary Schools might fairly claim more favourable treatment than the Bill gave them, for the 4s. grant was not as much as they had a right to expect, or to which they were in fairness entitled. They were entitled, at least, to a 5s. if not to a 6s. grant. ["Hear, hear!"] A provision in the Bill which would bear very hardly on the poorer country schools was that which directed that endowments should be considered in allocating the grant. There were many poor schools in the country districts which had very small endowments—as low as £5, but the Bill, in its operation, would deprive the schools, poor as they were, of the whole of the benefit derived from those endowments. The effect of this on the poorer country schools would be very severe, and he hoped the Government would take the point into consideration. ["Hear, hear!"] In presence of the bitter opposition with which the Bill was being met by the hon. Gentlemen opposite, he would urge the supporters of Voluntary Schools to do everything in their power to insure its passing into law; for he believed the Measure, in its practical working, would prove to be a solution of many of the difficulties now surrounding the education question, and would place the education of the children of the country on a sounder and more satisfactory basis. [Cheers.]
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ * MR. T. R. LEUTY (Leeds, E.)
felt compelled to read the Bill in the light of the declarations not only of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President himself, but of prominent Members of his Party, the declaration, for 612 example, that in the interest of sectarian education the School Boards must be captured, and also in the light of the complaints of excessive expenditure upon education. He had no sympathy whatever with those complaints. If there was waste let it be stopped; but this expenditure upon the children he regarded as a sacred national duty, while from the point of view of national policy he held it to be the wisest step that could be taken to secure the future well-being and pre-eminence of the nation. It was a great pity they could not agree on some purely national system of teaching their children those things on which they were agreed, leaving those upon which they differed to be taught in some other place and way. That basis was broad enough for all Dissenters to stand upon, but it was not broad enough for the Episcopalians and Dissenters, though there was probably no phase of dissent which was not represented in the Church. He did not wonder that difficulty was found in obtaining subscriptions for the Voluntary Schools. It was very unfair to expect people to pay twice for the same thing, as his memory of the days of church rates taught him. He regretted that the standard set up by the first annual report of the National Society—namely, that the first thing to be taught in the schools should be the national religion as expressed in the liturgy and catechism of the Church—should still be thought to be necessary. He could not understand why people should wish to force abstruse questions of doctrine on children of tender age. But at the same time he wished to respect the attitude of the people who conscientiously held that secular and doctrinal instruction should go together. He did not think that the Bill did safeguard the consciences of such people, however. Certainly the 17s. 6d. limit was going, and he personally did not care how soon it went, because it was tainted with great injustice. It was practically a fine on poverty. That 17s. 6d. limit was fixed by the Act of 1876; and since then free education had been given with the State fee-grant of 10s. Under the 17s. 6d. limit the Church or Catholic school had to reckon the 10s. fee-grant and the South Kensington grants as 613 voluntary contributions, so that no principle was left, and the sooner the limit disappeared the better. But by whom was the financial difficulty of the Voluntary Schools borne? Practically altogether by the teachers. In England and Wales the difference between the income of the Board Schools and the Voluntary Schools was 10s. 4¾d., and the difference in the salaries paid to the teachers was 8s. 9¼d. So that practically the whole of the strain was borne by the teachers. He admitted that it was too late for the nation to attempt to ignore the Voluntary Schools, not by reason of what they had done for the country, but by reason of what was due to the individual conscience. In 1870 the country was told of the immense debt it owed to the Voluntary Schools; but it was not told that as far back as 1807 a Bill passed the House of Commons for establishing a scheme of national education under the charge of the State, and that the Bill was defeated in the House of Lords at the instance of the Bishops, on the ground that it would interfere with the prescriptive right of the Church of England to educate the children of the nation. For two years after Lancaster's Society was founded, Churchmen and Dissenters worked together; but then the Church party covered the country with their own schools, and that was now advanced as a plea for special treatment. Among the many things which must lie laid to the responsibility of the Church as a body, though not to that of individual members of it, was that it had prevented the country from performing its duty to its children from 1807 to 1870. The only logical course was for the State to pay the reasonable cost of secular instruction, and allow those who wished to give that instruction to do so, with safeguards against any part of the money being spent otherwise than on instruction. The wording of the Bill seemed to indicate that the audit therein provided would only apply to schools which received the 4s. grant. There was abundant reason for demanding that no schools should escape that audit. It was a public scandal that public money should have been spent as it had been under the existing system. The Report of the Royal Commission of 1888 declared that teachers had sometimes signed receipts 614 for salaries larger than they received, the difference being put down as a voluntary subscription, in order that more State grant might be obtained. In the annual report of the National Union of Teachers for 1895, it was stated that the teacher of one school had £20 or £30 given him to put into the plate when a collection was made for the school, the sum afterwards being returned to him. If they thought the money given for secular instruction were really devoted to secular instruction, they would give it willingly, subject to the condition that there should be no check on the provision of schools. But their grievances were aggravated by the fact that, if it were proposed to supply either a new Board School or a new Voluntary School, the Education Department refused to sanction the proposal unless it was satisfied that there was not sufficient accommodation in the existing schools. If the nation only paid the cost of education it should not fence round with difficulties the supply of new schools by people out of their own private revenues, or out of the rates freely voted by their representatives. The Vice President of the Council had said that there was no religious difficulty in the schools. Was there no religious difficulty out of the schools? What about the 8,000 parishes in which the children of Nonconformist parents were forced into Church schools, and had no protection, but the ineffective protection of the Conscience Clause, against being taught doctrines which the parents did not believe, or, if they did believe, did not desire their children to be taught at so early an age? To remedy that injustice, they required alternative schools. Another difficulty was the sinister way in which the proposal for a voluntary rate might be made use of. The people of villages, and of towns even, where there was no adequate school accommodation, were to be told that, if they only gave a voluntary rate of one penny or two pence, they would avoid a School Board rate of ninepence or a shilling. But he trusted the people would not allow themselves to be influenced against Board Schools by the offer of what appeared to be a huge bribe. It was a proposal that could be made to work in a sinister way against Dissent, and therefore it could not be reasonably expected that Nonconformists would 615 offer it no opposition. Nonconformists complained also of the way in which the question of training colleges was dealt with. He gathered, from some words which fell from the Vice President of the Council, that large local authorities would probably be able to provide training colleges, but he did not know that specific power to do so was given them in the Bill. Out of the 43 existing training colleges, 30 were under Church management, and only communicants of that Church were allowed to enter them. It was not likely that Nonconformists would be satisfied with an arrangement of that sort. The objection to having an elected educational authority in each district was that it would increase the already large number of local elections. The Bill proposed to take the education of children out of the hands of the poor-law guardians and vest it in a school authority nominated by the County Councils. If the Government went a step further, and placed the entire poor-law administration other than that of education in the hands of the County Councils, they would get rid of one election; and anyone who knew anything of the County Councils must feel that the administration of the poor law would better accompany their other administrative work than would that of education. In conclusion he would say that, if the Bill were designed, as it appeared to be, in a spirit hostile to the School Board system of education, it would be fought inside the House and outside the House, for any attack on that splendid heritage was nothing less than a crime.
§ * SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)
said, this Bill had been described as an "anti-democratic Bill," and he could not conceive how such a description could be applied to it, seeing that it had to be administered by authorities elected on the widest suffrage by the ballot. The last speaker had suggested that the National Society was preceded by the Lancastrian Schools, which led to the formation of the British and Foreign School Society, but he had forgotten that the Church of England previously began educational work through the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. So the Church of England was first in the field, just as in 1870 it was best in the field. He thanked the Government for proposing the abolition 616 of the 17s. 6d. limit. He had himself introduced a Bill to accomplish that object, on the ground that it worked injustice. It was non-educational. The necessities it imposed upon poor schools was of such a character as to prevent them giving the liberal education they desired to give. It also offered temptation to evasion. But he did not believe all the statements that had been made about evasion, and he could only hope the hon. Member who had given an example had taken the trouble to verify the facts of the case. He thanked the Government for having also abolished the burden of rates. Voluntary Schools had to pay them out of the pockets of subscribers, and School Boards paid them out of the pockets of ratepayers. The result was a great injustice and a great wrong. In Wigan there were two comparatively poor schools in the same district, one a Church of England school and the other a Roman Catholic school; and they were fined respectively £40 and £50 a year. He had never visited them without feeling the injustice under which they suffered, and he rejoiced to support an administration which would remove that injustice. His own experience was that Voluntary Schools were highly popular among the working classes, and that children and parents had an affection for them which was inadequately appreciated on the other side of the House. The religious instruction given in them was valued even by Nonconformist parents. He knew a parish in which the religious instruction in a Board School was not satisfactory to Nonconformists; and many of them sent their children by preference to the National School, and willingly allowed them to receive religious instruction from the clergy. He received the information with considerable surprise, and by inquiry he had satisfied himself of the facts. The noble Lord who had spoken had advocated with considerable ability the cause of his Roman Catholic co-religionists, and had rightly spoken of the extra 4s. grant as quite inadequate. He hoped that hon. Members on that side of the House would have the courage of their opinions, and would press upon the Government the extreme necessity and paramount importance of raising that grant. Year by year 617 demands were increasing; and this extra grant, in many cases, would be absorbed by the requirements under the new code of the present year. In considering whether that grant would give statutory equality, regard must be had to grants from rates as well as from taxes. Voluntary Schools received nothing from rates, and it was to bring about some approach to equality that this extra grant was to be given. In districts in which there were School Boards, Voluntary managers had great difficulty in obtaining permission to build new schools. He hoped that this provision would be so altered that those who desired to spend their money in founding and maintaining Voluntary Schools would not be fettered in their enterprise. School Boards appeared to be sprung upon localities by hole and corner action; ample notice ought to be required with local inquiry, so that there might be an opportunity of supplying a deficiency by building Voluntary Schools. It was an injustice to reduce the extra grant on account of endowments, because many of these were of recent foundation, and thus deprived the owner of property in the district of money which he would otherwise have been able to give to the schools. He was greatly surprised at the objections to the 27th Clause. It provided for a method of religious teaching which was already in operation in many parts of Germany, and under which both Roman Catholics and Protestants had access to the schools. Some years ago he visited a school in Germany and found most careful provision made for the teaching of the Jewish religion. Why should the Liberal Party view with terror and alarm the adoption of a similar system in this country? The plan would remove hardship, and he did not believe friction would result from it. As to County Councils they were elected by a wide suffrage, and that they should be distrusted in this matter was a strange phenomenon which he did not understand. The late Home Secretary had spoken of the reluctance of County Councils to undertake the task of administering the Act; but a special committee of the Lancashire County Council had reported in favour of the Bill and recommended County Councils to undertake the administration of it. He would venture to look back to the history of this question. The first 618 inquiry made in recent times was the Duke of Newcastle's Commission in 1861, which recommended for the purposes of education a County Authority. Their suggestion was that Quarter Sessions should elect six of their number and that these six should co-opt not more than six. When Mr. Forster introduced his Elementary Act in 1870, there was no County Authority, but now there were County and District Councils and the Government had acted wisely in making use of those authorities. Of late years County Councils had had great power given them in the matter of education. He would give a few figures showing what Counties and County Boroughs had done in raising money for education. According to the return for 1895, 41 out of 49 County Councils in England applied the whole of the residue to technical education, while 8 County Councils devoted a part to that purpose. Of 61 County Boroughs 55 applied the whole and 5 a part; 11 County boroughs, 51 Boroughs and 86 Urban Districts made liberal grants out of rates. With regard to Wales 13 County Councils and three County Boroughs devoted practically the whole of their money to educational purposes, and taking the total residue paid to County Councils and County Boroughs in England and Wales in 1893–4 £786,768, he found that no less than £634,837 went to education. That amount had since been largely increased by the action of the London County Council. Passing to the minor authorities what had they done towards education? Authority was now given to local authorities to found free libraries, museums and picture galleries. These powers had been used liberally, largely, and wisely for the great benefit of the communities which had the enjoyment of those institutions. If these authorities had been so liberal in such matters how could it be thought that they would be niggardly and stingy when they came to deal with the education of people who had placed them in power. In the details of the Bill no doubt there would be points for discussion. He was not sure that the proposed areas were not in some cases too limited, and it might be necessary to increase the power of combination and union. He would welcome changes in that direction because too 619 limited an area was undesirable for the purpose of wise and sound administration. Complaints had been made about controlling the amount. If they examined the Statute Book they would find that when an authority was entrusted with power to do a certain thing that power was often restricted. This was so in the case of free libraries, baths and washhouses. In almost every case so much in the £ might be allotted. The reason was clear. Any authority having to perform a particular duty might neglect the other claims of the ratepayers and endeavour to spend a large sum in pursuit of a particular object which might be of great value, but which did not occupy the whole field. On the question of the age of compulsory attendance he hoped public opinion would support the Government in raising the school age. The age in this country was lower than on the continent and the Australian colonies, and surely the mother country ought not to be behind one of her youngest children in the matter. With regard to secondary education, the proposals of the Bill would need careful revision in Committee. He hoped every regard would be given to private schools. Many private schools were conducted under circumstances most favourable to education. A considerable sum of money had been invested in these schools, which were doing good service in education. Many improvements made in education had originated with private teachers. They were often more free and responsive to the actual feeling of the times than endowed schools which became more systematic with their action and less alive to the importance of meeting particular wants. He himself believed education would receive a great stimulus when we had a Minister of Education. He believed that just as in the case of agriculture great benefit had arisen from the co-ordination of authorities under one head—the Board of Agriculture—similar benefits would accrue to education by a Minister of Education, who would be a Member of the Cabinet and in perfect equality with the rest of its Members. In conclusion, he did not say that this Bill was necessarily perfect. He never knew a Bill introduced into the House of Commons which was. Mr. Forster's Education Act of 1870 underwent great 620 changes and, as some thought, improvements. No doubt this Bill would undergo corresponding changes. They must not forget how complex education was, how full of wide principles and delicate detail; it excited so much deep feeling and yet in some points was terribly prosaic and even repulsive. He did not regard this Bill as the end of their journey. He rather believed they were opening new paths to be followed by their successors. Mean while they would act wisely if they proceeded. The ground was firm under their feet and he was convinced they might step boldly forward and with confidence, being sure their advance would be to the goal which they all sought—the complete education of an intelligent people.
§ * MR. LAWSON WALTON (Leeds, S.)
said, the hon. Baronet who had just sat down had committed his Party to a policy and a movement which he had described as a journey. On the Opposition side of the House they agreed that the Bill was a marked movement in the educational policy of the country. But in their view it was a movement not forward but backward, and the only sequel to the step now being taken would, sooner or later, be a retracing of their steps and an agreement between both Parties in the State on the common basis of settlement arrived at in 1870. The hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had admitted with candour that the Bill was not without its imperfections, and he should like to point out a few of those imperfections. He thought in this matter the opponents of the Bill were entitled to take up a Conservative attitude. They were on the defensive, and they were resisting a proposal which sought, in material respects, to disturb the educational settlement arrived at by the Act of 1870. There were two main respects in which the disturbance was effected. In the first place, it altered the policy enunciated by the Act of 1870 in regard to the treatment and the subsequent relations between the public schools and the Voluntary Schools, which were carrying on jointly the work of elementary education; and, in the second place, it subverted the main principle of that Measure, which enunciated the doctrine of the non-sectarian character of the public education to be given by the public 621 authorities throughout the country. Was it or was it not admitted that there had been some disturbance of the settlement arrived at in 1870? With amazement he had read in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary recently made at Birmingham a denial of any alteration of the policy of the Act of 1870. If that denial was true, it was a curious coincidence that all those who had been seeking to subvert the settlement of 1870 welcomed this Bill, and all those who struggled to maintain the features of that settlement resisted and deplored the Bill. The author of the Act of 1870 (Mr. Forster), in his Second Reading speech, declared that the policy of the Measure with regard to the future relations between the Board Schools arid the Voluntary Schools of the country was a policy of absorption. It was still, under the present Bill, a policy of absorption. But, under the Act of 1870, it was an absorption of the Voluntary by the Board schools; under the policy of this Bill it was an absorption of the Board schools by the Voluntary Schools. Mr. Forster, in his speech replying to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon), who still occupied a seat in the House, said:—I agree with him in entertaining the hope that, under the provisions of this Bill, School Boards will quickly become universal throughout the country.Mr. Forster deplored the fact as an evil that there were already in possession of the field of education a large number of establishments of voluntary origin, but he said that was an evil which time would cure and that as time went on they would find the new public system which was inaugurated by his Bill would absorb the sporadic, spontaneous Voluntary system into one cohesive national method of dealing with this question. Mr. Forster said:—It is quite true there are a large number of Voluntary Schools in existence in this country, but it is not our fault they are in existence, and it is allowed by all who take an interest in the subject that we must not destroy before we build up.It was not then, in 1870 a question whether Voluntary Schools were to be destroyed or not, it was only a question how and when. ["No, no!"]
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON,), Middlesex, Ealing
interposing, said he thought the hon. Member was reading from Mr. Forster's speech on the scheme that was withdrawn, not on the scheme which was substituted.
§ * MR. LAWSON WALTON
said he was reading from Mr. Forster's speech on the Second Reading of the Bill of 1870. Mr. Forster contemplated the extinction of Voluntary Schools as hampering and impeding the establishment of a national system of comprehensive education, and looked forward to these Voluntary Schools being gradually absorbed by schools which were national in their character, which were controlled by the popular will, and which were supported by public funds in the execution of the work of popular education. What was the policy of this Bill? It was as he had said a policy of absorption. It proposed to reverse that which was contemplated in 1870, and the Voluntary system must, under the operation of the clauses of this Bill gradually absorb and destroy the School Board system of this country. The Government were giving to Voluntary Schools so great an advantage, they were tempting the educational areas of the country by so large an offer to abandon the School Board system in favour of the Voluntary system, that the inevitable tendency of the Bill would be to alter the method of education through the instrumentality of public bodies, popularly elected, and hand it over to bodies irresponsible to public opinion, receiving without public control, grants of public money for the work of secular education. What would be the consequence of that system? He could quite understand the House might deliberately adopt a system of education of that sort, but he did not believe hon. Members opposite were prepared to adopt a system which involved such a result as he had contemplated. They spoke of Voluntary Schools. How could they use such a term in regard to schools participating in the benefits this Bill would confer without any condition stipulating for voluntary contributions towards the work of education. How could they describe the work in any sense as voluntary when this limit of the grant of 4s. was destroyed, and when 623 they had unlimited contributions from the State, proportionate to the necessities of these schools? How could they, in any sense, describe these denominational seminaries as Voluntary Schools? They were mere State agencies, denominational in character, irresponsible to public opinion, supported by public money, to which was delegated the duty of imparting secular instruction to the young. That seemed to him, with great deference to those who differed from him, a sort of religious endowment. Let him ask the House to consider whether it was so or not. In the first place, what was the motive which actuated the managers of these denominational seminaries in undertaking the secular instruction of the young? He would not speculate as to the motive, because it had been admitted by the Bishop of London, who in 1860, before the Duke of Newcastle's Commission, said that the predominant motive in education was a wish to propagate religious opinions among the young. But what was the consequence? The consequence was that they were to intrust to denominational bodies the duty of secular education, not because they were prompted by zeal for the secular instruction of the young, but because they were prompted by anxiety to disseminate their distinctive opinions among the next generation. That, he contended, was a form of indirect religious endowment. So far as he could judge there was no Protestant communion which was interested in this mode of securing indirect religious endowment through the provisions of this Bill, except the Anglican communion. He would ask hon. Members, were they prepared to delegate the duty of secular education from the State, which they represented and which they controlled, to any religious organisation, however largely it might command the confidence of the community? It seemed to him that the duty of training the young in the elementary obligations of citizenship was a duty which devolved upon the State as a civil community. Yet they were proposing, by this method of denominational endowment and advantage, to constitute an educational machinery through which they would educate the next generation of Englishmen at the hands of a clerical body permeated by no zeal for their 624 secular culture—[Ministerial cries of "Oh!'' and Opposition cheers]—by no anxiety to secure the mere ends of civic welfare and of an orderly and advantageous citizenship, but influenced by a wish to control the lives and the future of the next generation with a view to the needs of the denomination with which they were connected. If hon. Members opposite accepted the proposition that the result of favouring Voluntary education, or what he would call denominational education, at the expense of Board School education must be to give denominational seminaries the control of the education of the people, he thought they would allow that by that means they threw into the hands of the teachers of their denominations the general secular instruction, and if they threw into the hands of a particular sect or denomination the general secular control of the people, they did involve themselves in the consequence that what was a State burden and what was a civic burden had been delegated to a mere religious organisation. What was the qualification of any State church to undertake such a duty? If the connection between the Church and secular education were necessary and non-accidental, he should admit the right and the claim of the clergy to control the education of the people. But he submitted that the connection was merely accidental. Where did they find in the sacred mandate to St. Peter any commission to impart secular teaching? It was true that the Church had assumed the duty, but it was true, also, that the Church had assumed many civic duties. It assumed the guardianship of the poor; it assumed the care of the sick, and all credit to it; and it assumed, through the agencies of its vestries, all the duties of local government and control, and all credit to it. But as the State had awoke to the full measure of its own responsibility, it had relieved the Church, one by one, of its various self-imposed obligations. Curiously enough, the Church never protested when the State relieved it of the custody of the poor, and why should it protest when the State assumed the education of the country? Was it not obvious that the motive which led to the protest in this matter was that by parting with the control of the education of the young the 625 Church, or the clerical party in the Church, was parting with a strong and powerful instrument for controlling not merely the faith, but the allegiance to itself and to the establishment of a large section of the people. An appeal had been made on behalf of the denominational schools as a vested interest. It was said they were doing an injustice to the denominational schools. Were they in this Bill dealing with institutions having vested interests or proprietary claims, or were they considering merely the needs of the community in regard to education? If they were dealing with institutions having vested interests, he should understand the claim put forward on behalf of those volunteers who had engaged in the work of education. But how could they do injustice to Voluntary Schools when they had undertaken a civic duty on behalf of the State and when the State stepped in to relieve them of that obligation? In this matter they had had some valuable counsel from the Bishop of Hereford, who was one of the very few Liberal Members on the Episcopal Bench. He pointed out that the real field for voluntary effort was not in the struggle to control the secular education of the young, but was in connection with all those Sunday school efforts which were in association with the Church, and in which the same objects might be far more effectually accomplished without creating any friction, and without involving any very serious struggle. The hon. Member who had just spoken had referred to what had been described as the meritorious claim of the denominations in connection with the establishment of these schools. With the exception of the Anglican communion, so little importance was attached to this claim that it had been relinquished in favour of a School Board system.
§ * MR. LAWSON WALTON
said he should have said Protestant. But the interruption of the noble Lord did not dislocate his argument, for he had always understood that the Roman Catholic Schools were entitled to different treatment. His argument was confined to a Protestant system of education in which there was a common Protestant basis of religious teaching 626 which might be given to all, and only in regard to a national system on a Protestant basis did he wish to refer. The meritorious claim which was put forward on the part of the Anglican communion was one of which the whole merit vanished when they considered the motive which gave rise to the creation of the schools which placed the State under obligation. If they followed the history of the clerical struggle against the establishment of a popular system of education they would find that the whole so-called merit entirely disappeared. From 1807 to 1870 the small beggarly instalment of popular instruction which the Churches gave was only given to avert a threatened reform under which a popular system was established. What was the attitude which the Churches took up in 1870? They postponed the operation of the Bill for twelve months, so that in the course of the twelve months there might be an opportunity afforded for the erection throughout the country of Voluntary Schools. As a result, over 3,342 applications for State building grants in aid of Voluntary Schools were made, the consequence being that £268,721 was voted, and 216,000 seats were supplied in seminaries of a distinctly denominational character. The nature of that meritorious claim was, therefore, to forestall the Board Schools, and to defeat the competition of the national system of education. This Bill not only reversed the policy of the Act of 1870 in regard to the mutual relations between public elementary schools and Voluntary Schools, but he submitted that the principle of this Measure was entirely in antagonism to the main principles of the Act of 1870 in regard to sectarian education. The root of the compromise of the Act of 1870 was that public schools, publicly controlled, should not impart distinctly sectarian education. It would not be contested that the Cowper-Temple Clause was introduced in the Act of 1870 with the object of giving effect to that feature of the compromise. It was now said that the Cowper-Temple Clause was not repealed; but if they were to have on public school premises distinctly sectarian teaching imparted with the countenance of the managers of those schools, they would find that the Cowper-Temple 627 Clause, though not in terms, had in effect been altogether abolished. Surely, if this Bill be not a repeal of the Cowper-Temple Clause, it disappointed all the expectations of those who had been ardently clamouring for this change. When Lord Salisbury spoke of capturing the School Boards he used the phrase in reference to the movement of the Church party with the object of securing the Board Schools as an agency of their Church work. At the Church Congress there was a deliverance from Canon Daniel, who, amid applause, denounced the Cowper-Temple Clause as "an abiding monument of the sacrifice of ecclesiastical principle to political expediency''; and he regarded the abandonment by the Church of its claim to utilise the public machinery of the State for denominational purposes as a base surrender. There was no secret in the fact that from 1870 down to the present time the clerical party in the country had been endeavouring to use for denominational purposes, not merely those schools immediately connected with their own Communion, but also to use the schools established by the public authorities with a view to the same object. This scheme was open to very grave objections from the religious point of view. It carried sectarian bitterness into a social stratum altogether lower than that affected by such bitterness at the present time. He did not suppose that among the labouring classes those refinements which divided the Christianity of superior persons existed or had any operation. This Bill proposed to create them, to accentuate them. As the outcome of labelling every child of the humblest social class in the schools with a distinct denominational badge, they would have their children's children a nation of bigots, who had been taught to regard far more seriously those small and petty controversies over which they differed, rather than those great doctrines with regard to which they were all united. It seemed to him to be a very grave objection to any scheme which perpetuated denominationalism, which carried it a generation further, and which carried it a social stratum lower. Why should it be necessary to introduce the gall of clericalism into the religious instruction which was to be given in the schools? Why 628 was it not sufficient to teach the Beatitudes of the New Testament without adding the anathemas of the Athanasian Creed? Some of them had hoped that the time would come when Dissent would cease to involve social consequences, but this Bill, by emphasising existing differences, would render the realisation of that hope impossible. They were told that the acceptance of this Measure by Nonconformists was to be secured by the offer of an equal right to use the schools for the purpose of imparting their own religious doctrines. But, as the late Home Secretary had pointed out, that offer had been resented, and described as futile by the denominational bodies concerned. Surely the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge must have smiled like some philosopher who looked upon all religions as equally foolish, when he devised the machinery which this Bill proposed to set up in connection with denominational teaching. In every village school there would be classes for Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Calvinists, etc., who might all be taught by their respective teachers to consign one another to eternal perdition. [Ministerial cries of "Oh!"] In one class, for example, the doctrine would be taught that baptismal regeneration was essential to salvation, whilst in another class that doctrine would be treated as a superstition. Could the Members of that House, as reasonable men, think it practicable to collect together in a village school these various sects with their antagonistic doctrines? If the right hon. Gentleman had shown that the existing system of education was effete, and that an expanding nation ought to make larger provision for the educational needs of the people, the Opposition would have been ready to support him. But the right hon. Gentleman had not said anything of that kind, and this Bill was, in fact, put forward in accordance with a sectarian and clerical demand. The clerical claim to have distinct denominational seminaries entirely supported by the State was recognised in this Bill, as was also the claim that the public schools should be utilised for the dissemination of distinct doctrinal tenets. The Measure was nothing else than a concession to the clerical agitation which began with the birth of the present century, and which would continue until 629 the clergy had obtained complete control over the education of the people. Believing that the Bill was a violation of the principles of progress, and that it would not add to the happiness or increase the enlightenment, or develop the refinement of the children of the nation, he trusted that the House would reject it. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said that a large portion of the speech of the hon. and learned Member consisted of very erroneous generalities. He could only come to the conclusion that the hon. and learned Member had given but very superficial attention to the subject. The hon. and learned Member's account of the kind of religious instruction given in Church of England Schools was not accurate. But if the hon. Member asked those who sat on the Ministerial side of the House whether they thought that the religious instruction of the young was the most important instruction which they could receive, the answer was, emphatically, "Yes." The hon. and learned Gentleman did not attempt the more arduous task which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife endeavoured to carry out. The right hon. Gentleman had some difficulty in the position he undertook to maintain. In the first place, representing as he did a great body of Home Rulers and those who believed in devolution of local government, he had to explain why he objected to devolution in the matter of education; and although he was bound to admit that the same pecuniary assistance was necessary for Voluntary Schools, he had to explain why he objected to the pecuniary assistance proposed in the Bill. These Home Rulers, who were afraid of local government were a very astonishing body of men. There was a very remarkable phrase in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman when he said that there was much greater security in the government of those who were not liable to dismissal. He wished the right hon. Gentleman had used that argument when he was discussing the House of Lords. He observed that when the right hon. Gentleman proposed to disestablish and make provincial the Church in Wales, he did not seem to have that great regard for the central authority which he seemed to have acquired since last year. 630 It was extraordinary how selective these Radicals were. In dealing with a subject like this nothing was more atrocious than to disestablish the central authority in favour of the county authority; but when it came to a difference between a county and a borough, it was all the other way. As far as he could understand, the right hon. Gentleman was only in favour of devolution when there was what he called an indigenous enthusiasm in the body of the locality concerned. That meant a Radical majority. The fact was, the House had to deal with a state of things which absolutely called for a remedy, and he did not believe there was anybody who really paid attention to this subject who did not admit that a point had been reached at which something must be done. The right hon. Gentleman spoke with admiration of the School Boards, though his treatment of the cumulative vote was doubtful; but that was only one of the objections to the School Board system. When hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in want of an argument, they had but one resource, and that was to turn to the literary publications of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen. He could not say how far the right hon. Gentleman who was Chairman of the Secondary Education Commission wrote the Report himself, but he signed it, and he found in it an interesting passage bearing on the success of School Boards. It was to this effect:—The electorate is already overburdened with elections, and it becomes us to consider well before adding another item to their overfull programme. This is the real necessity, as it is certain that an increase in the number of elections tends to beget carelessness in the electors who begin to feel that what comes so often requires little thought when it does come.He would ask the House to mark the last words of this passage:—The School Board in small areas can hardly be regarded as a satisfactory institution. The mode of election to it was frequently condemned, and it seemed to be without a friend among our witnesses.That was the last Report of a public body called upon to consider the condition of the public educational system and the merits of the School Board. In these circumstances he did not think it was necessary to say anything more 631 as to the success of School Boards. The fact was, that a very great difficulty had arisen. It was not merely that the cost of education under School Boards had risen in 20 years from £1 15s. to £2 15s. per head taking England all over. It was not that enormous rise in cost, but the difference between the cost in Board and Voluntary Schools was a perpetually increasing difference. That difference became worse every day, and the longer it was put off the more difficult it would be to deal with it when the time came. He wondered whether the House realised the amount of indebtedness the School Boards were throwing on the localities under the present law. In six years the increase in loans outstanding in England and Wales was £5,750,000. He did not think that anyone would say that that was a satisfactory state of things. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary thought that the London School Board had done very well. But was not the expense of the London School Board a matter about which the House of Commons would have something to say? The cost of the education given by the London School Board was 20s. per child more than that given in Voluntary Schools or in the Board Schools in places like Manchester. Having examined into the matter, he found that out of every five teachers employed by the London School Board, one was superfluous. To give the House an idea of what indigenous enthusiasm produced, he might say that the qualifications required from head teachers under the London School Board were that they should be able to teach electricity and magnetism, physiology, botany, agriculture—and in London, too—["Hear, hear!" and a laugh]—acoustics, geology, physiography, biology, and vegetable morphology—whatever that might be. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] The salaries, which were the outcome of indigenous enthusiasm, were also remarkable. In order to be quite fair he would compare the salaries given by the London School Board with those given by the Manchester School Board. The salaries of head masters in London were 11 per cent. higher than those given in Manchester, of assistant masters 50 per cent. more, and of mistresses 100 per cent. higher. It was, therefore, not surprising 632 that in six years the expenditure upon teachers by the London School Board had nearly doubled.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, that the teachers in Voluntary Schools had to put up with much lower, and yet they did not fall down. ["Hear, hear!"] He could, of course, go on pointing out to what an extent the ratepayers suffered in consequence of the extravagant expenditure of the London School Board. He did not, of course, mean to say that all the money spent by the London School Board was wasted, because, no doubt, they secured their children far greater advantages than the Voluntary Schools could offer. No doubt the expenditure of the latter class of schools would increase in the future by reason of the competition that would arise among them. The Voluntary Schools did not desire to waste money, but, at the same time, they did require to have at their command such funds as would enable them to compete on something like equal terms with the London School Board. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon Gentleman the late Home Secretary demanded that a grant similar to that proposed to be made under this Bill to the Voluntary Schools should be made to the Board Schools. But did the right hon. Gentleman really believe that this grant of 4s. would materially assist Board Schools, which were maintained out of the rates? [An HON. MEMBER: "It would relieve the ratepayers to that extent."] He was afraid that the School Board would find a use for the money without applying it to the relief of the ratepayers. Of course, if the grant were made to the School Boards on the understanding that the rates were not to be raised in the future, that would confer a benefit upon the ratepayers. That, however, was most improbable. He asked the House to consider what were the rights of the Voluntary Schools? Their rights were that the cost of the whole secular education given to the children in those schools should be defrayed by the State, that was supposing that they should deem it necessary for them to insist upon their rights. Englishmen and Irishmen too were prepared to do a great deal for the State without being paid for it, but they were 633 only prepared to go to a certain extent. They hoped to have a much larger subvention from outside sources than they had to enable them to compete with the School Boards. The country was not indifferent to religious education, and that was where the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down made his mistake. He said that generally the people did not care for a religious education for their children, but the truth was that the great body of the people believed in religious education, and in providing religious education they were really benefiting the State, and placing the State under an obligation. He would put it to the House in this way, that those parents who desired to have their children religiously educated—he did not care what creed or what particular denomination to which the parents belonged—had, at all events, a frame of mind which was worthy of every encouragement, even from the point of view of men who did not believe in religious education at all. And why? Because they knew that the religiously-educated child was likely to make a good citizen. Why should these children have a worse secular education than any other child?
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, his contention was that the Board School, apart from the waste of money, was able to provide a better education than they could provide. He asked why children who received a religious education had a worse secular education than the others? To this there was no answer, unless they were prepared to accept a logical conclusion and give more money to the voluntary schools. He turned then to the foundation of his argument, the remedies provided by the Bill before the House. He was bound to say, although he was very grateful to the Government, although he saw in the Bill an earnest attempt to recognise the claims which the denominational schools had on the country, he was disappointed with the financial relations of the Bill. [A laugh.] There was first the proposal to relieve the schools from paying rates. In some places that would be a reform. Then there was the 17s. 6d. limit, which was not of great importance. He was afraid 634 moreover, from the form in which Clause 3 was drawn, that it would not give relief even to the extent supposed. There would be no relief in places like Bolton, Blackburn and Preston, because they were already above this rate. He should not have ventured to dwell on this matter, because unless the Government were willing to amend this proposal, they must accept it. In London, the Board Schools paid £1 more per child than the Voluntary Schools. The Board Schools had the great advantage of unlimited command over the rates. With regard to the 4s. grant, how long would it be before, by the advance of the School Boards, they would be in the same position with regard to voluntary schools that they were now in? To abolish the penny fee in the north of England would be equivalent to the 4s. grant. There were only two of the greater School Boards which were above the 20s. limit, and the power of the educational authorities to increase the rate did not begin until 10s. per child was reached. Personally, he did not believe that even where the educational authority could interfere they would. No doubt it would stop waste in the case of the London School Board, but it would not stop the legitimate progress of education. It was clear the cause of education had risen and would rise every day, and, if the voluntary schools were not able to meet the increase, they would be transferred either to the School Board or the educational authority. He believed there was a remedy for the present state of things. Difficulty had arisen from the fact that the School Board had command of the rates. Voluntary schools should also have that command to some extent. [An HON. MEMBER: "With control?"] He would deal with control in a moment. The hon. Gentleman would admit that at any rate such a plan as he suggested would have this great advantage, that if some share in the rates were afforded the voluntary schools, it would not be necessary to restrict education. He did not understand objections made to rate-aid. It was said by some persons that the Nonconformists would refuse to pay the rates. He did not believe they would, and he could not see upon what ground they would refuse. It was said it would be like the old Church rate. It would not be the least like the Church rate. In old 635 days, when rates were paid for the maintenance of the Church, the country was not under any obligation to the congregation, but the country was under a great obligation to the parents of the children, because they compelled the parents to send their children to school. And, moreover, in old days the Church rates were privileged rates, they were paid to one particular denomination, but in this case rates were to go to all denominations who had Voluntary schools. Then, again, the old church rates were intended for religious ministration. It was not intended that these rates should be for religious ministration at all, but for secular education given in denominational schools. How could the argument be sustainable at all, when Nonconformists paid with grumbling, taxes, a large part of which went to the maintenence of Voluntary schools? If anybody had a right to make an objection towards paying taxes for religious purposes the Church of England had. Did they not pay rates every day towards the support of unsectarian religion in Board Schools? If he were to be told that such a remedy as he proposed would be impossible because Nonconformists would refuse to pay the rates, all he could say was that the time would come when Churchmen would have to consider whether they should go on paying rates for unsectarian teaching in Board Schools. As to the question of local control, there was complete local control given by this Bill. ["Oh!"] Yes, there was local control of Voluntary Schools. The body which now now had most control over the schools was the Education Department, and they had almost unlimited control. They had power which came from the fact that they gave the money and could refuse the money if they were not satisfied. That power was going to be handed over to the educational authority. If the highest educational claims were not fulfilled, the Department could refuse the grants. The control, in fact, would be complete, and, as far as he 636 could see, the power of control might extend, not only to the 4s. grant, but to all grants, because, as he read Clause 3, the local authority might, under the agreement, exercise all the powers of the Department, and might in that way control the whole of the Parliamentary grants. The 4s. grant was, no doubt, a substantial boon to the Voluntary schools, but it was one which in a few years would be discounted when they had the same problem again before them for solution, while preserving the denominational character of the Voluntary Schools. He believed, however, that if the suggestion of the kind he had brought before House—and he did not refer to any special method of carrying it out—it might be possible to solve this question as far as it admitted of solution. The proposals of the Government contained within themselves great opportunities of conferring advantage on the cause of education and on the Voluntary schools. They were not perfect, certainly, but he hoped the House, in the course of the Debates on the subject, would be able to turn the Bill into one that would be a thorough settlement of the question. [Cheers.] He thanked the Government for having recognised the wants and necessities of the case, and was glad they had abandoned the barren path of political jealousies and class hatreds which entered largely into the discussions of the subject in the last Parliament. The matter was one which touched some of the highest ideals which could influence any Parliament or any Statesman. The cause of the education, and, above all, the religious education, of the children was an object worthy of the men of all classes of this great country, and he hoped that before the Session was brought to a close they might be enabled, by strengthening the proposals before them, to produce a Measure that would satisfy alike the demands of those who valued the general education of the children and those who valued also, what was still higher, the religious welfare 637 of the people of the future. [Cheers.]
§ * MR. GEORGE DIXON (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
said, he understood the noble Lord who had just spoken to contend that the Bill would give complete control to the local authority of the Voluntary Schools as well as the Board Schools. Now this is what he and his friends had desired for years past. The position they had always held, the argument they had always brought forward, was, that they would not object to Voluntary Schools having increased funds placed at their disposal if, along with those augmented funds, control of the schools was given to the ratepayers or the parents of the children who attended the schools. ["Hear, hear!"] He had listened with great interest to the speech of his right hon. Friend the Vice President, who used these words:—The principle of the Bill is the placing of the control of education in the hands of the local authorities.and he added,—Those who are in favour of that principle can vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, and those who are opposed to it will, of course, vote against the Second Reading.Well, if that was the main principle of the Bill, he was in favour of it. But if it were the main principle of the Bill, then he would suggest that certain alterations might be made in what he understood to be details of the Measure, and in reference to which, seeing that they were not important matters of principle, the Government might be willing to make concessions. In considering the Bill he had been very much in favour of the transfer of industrial and reformatory schools to the new local authority, and he had been glad to know that there was to be a full and complete audit of the accounts of voluntary schools, and that the age of total exemption was to be raised from 11 to 12 years. In these circumstances he hoped they would approach the consideration of the details with the 638 single and sole hope of amending the Bill. With reference to the clause providing for religious instruction he would not say much, but having been Chairman of the Birmingham School Board for 20 years—[cheers]—he knew that the religious difficulty had been one of the greatest magnitude and had seriously impeded the proper and full development of the secular education of the people. [Cheers.] Therefore he should have been especially glad if a clause could have been introduced which would have finally settled this question. But he found that the clause in the Bill had not been accepted by a large portion of the country as a satisfactory settlement. Not only so, but it had been stated over and over again that the difficulties would be increased. ["Hear, hear!"] If that was so he hoped the Government would seriously consider the question, and he would be glad if they came to the conclusion that it would be better to withdraw the clause. [Cheers.] In regard to decentralisation they all, he thought, approved of that principle, but the question arose as to the extent to which, and the speed with which it should be carried out, and it appeared to him very possible that under the Bill the action of the Department might be far too rapid. Take the case in the country districts. It was proposed that the new educational authority should have the examination of the scholars by their own inspectors and the distribution of the grant. Was it certain that proper inspectors would be appointed? Was it not very probable that in many districts, if not in all, the character of the inspectors would be inferior to those they now had under the Department? ["Hear, hear!"] That might arise partly from the fact that in these localities there might not be the same high class of men, but also from the tendency to economise. His suggestion was that the Government should carefully consider whether it would not be worth while to continue the present system of inspection by her Majesty's 639 inspectors in order that they might have reports on which they could rely, and that they could know whether education was falling or rising. ["Hear, hear!"] In Birmingham, and, he presumed, in other large towns, the School Boards had inspectors, but they did not take the place of the Government inspectors. It was impossible that the members of the School Board could go into every school and study what was being done. They therefore had head masters and other capable men, who did for them what the managers of voluntary schools were supposed to do in the case of their schools. They should continue that system of inspection in addition to the Government inspection, for they did not want the Government inspection to be withdrawn. He was strongly of opinion that it would be a desirable thing that the Government should say—we will carry out our plans with reference to the agricultural districts; there the new local authority shall have the powers given in the Bill; and in the large towns we will continue the present system, and let the School Boards go on precisely in the same way that they have done hitherto. [Opposition cheers.] If that were done it would be diminishing the amount of decentralisation which was proposed, but it would be a much safer course for the Government to take; and, later, when these new educational authorities had been at work for some years, further development might be desirable. But he strongly objected on the part of the School Boards to the plan recommended in the Bill of interfering with their work and diminishing—or, at any rate, not allowing to increase—the amount of grant given by the central department or the amount of rate given by the ratepayers. [Opposition cheers.] He would give an illustration. They had in Birmingham—of course, they had it also in other places—two higher-grade schools, and those higher-grade schools under the Bill would probably be called secondary schools. Now, these schools had done very valuable 640 work indeed. [Opposition cheers.] The intention in the formation of them was that the children in the elementary schools should have a little more instruction given to them, especially in science, but also in arts, which should enable them to do better work by which afterwards to maintain themselves. These children, when they had this education at first, could not find situations that were really high enough for the education that they had had, and it seemed as if these schools were to be a disappointment. But after a time the thing reversed, and now these children so educated were desired by the manufacturers to such an extent that the demand for them was greater than the supply. [Opposition cheers.] Had not these schools been a great benefit to the town, not merely to the children, but the manufacturing interest in the district? If the new educational authority were to be introduced into Birmingham, the first question that would arise would be, ought not these schools to be made over to the new authority? If that were done, where was the money to come from to enable the new authority to carry them on? They were limited in the Bill to a 1d. rate, and the 1d. rate would be wanted, and more than wanted, for other parts of their work. ["Hear, hear!"] But that was not the only difficulty. In Birmingham they wanted to erect more of these schools, and of course the School Board could do it out of the rates; but how would the new authority do it? If they had not the money to carry on the existing schools, how could they build more? The intention of the Bill appeared to be that they should be made over. He saw no advantage in that whatsoever. [Opposition cheers.] The money would come out of the rates just the same, and the School Board, who had formed them and carried them on successfully for so long, and understood the object and the best means to carry out that object, he thought, should be able to carry on that work better than 641 the new authority that had had no training for it. [Opposition cheers.] Again, the School Board were not to have any more money beyond the money they had at present. He would draw attention to the meaning of that. What had they done during the 25 years they had been working in Birmingham? What had been done was this. Before the Act of 1870 was passed he went into the best school in Birmingham to ascertain how the work was carried on. He found one good master—the head master—and seven pupil teachers. Not a single trained assistant. What was the position now? He would say nothing about school building; but there were now class-rooms for all the children, and in each there was an adult teacher, who was generally, but not invariably, trained and certificated. ["Hear, hear!"] They were called extravagant and wasteful. ["Hear, hear!" from Ministerial Benches.] How had they wasted the money? [Opposition cheers.] It had been spent in providing better teachers than ever they had before. [Cheers.] What was said by Mr. Diggle—a very able man, who understood the School Board question perhaps better than any other man—when he was Chairman of the London School Board?—"It is all very well to have fine buildings; but the main point is to have a good teacher." ["Hear, hear!"] In Birmingham they had been steadily working up to that; they had not yet done all that they wished to do, but what this Bill said was, "You shall do no more." [Loud Opposition cheers.] Some few years ago a number of private persons established a day training college in Birmingham, and it was now placed under the management of the Masons' College. Forty pupils entered every year on the understanding that at the end of the course, places should be found for them in the Birmingham Board Schools. That was an incentive to them to enter; but it meant that they must be paid the salaries of trained adult teachers. Under the Bill this plan could 642 not be continued. [Cheers.] The whole system of this college would be attacked, and possibly would have to be given up, and that referred to every class of teacher. What was the extravagance? Was it the acknowledgment of the true importance of having good teachers by steadily increasing the salaries of the teachers in order that the best might be secured? ["Hear, hear!"] The ratepayers of Birmingham knew that that was not extravagance, but that they gained by such expenditure; for if it took money out of one pocket, it put more into the other, and they intended to continue this system. But the Bill said "No." [Opposition cheers and dissent from the FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY.] It said "No" with this exception—that the Town Council might approve of the expenditure. But what a liability that was. [Opposition cheers.] The town councils had many important interests to look after, and they might prefer them to education, and what would be the position of the School Board? The School Board believed the increased expenditure to be desirable; and the Town Council, perhaps, did not, and decided in the matter. Who were they who were thus authorised to decide this important question? [Opposition cheers.] They were excellent men in their way, but they had not been trained up to the work of education, and did not understand all its various details and the necessity for changes. More than that. When the question came to be discussed by the Town Council, the Members of the School Board would not be there to enlighten them. Objections were often raised in ignorance, but the men who knew all about the matter could not be there to demonstrate the justice of their demands. The system was bad. [Opposition cheers.] Rather than be controlled in this way, he would prefer to see all authority taken out of the hands of the School Boards and handed over to the new authority. [Opposition cheers.] But he 643 trusted the Government would see their way to exempt the School Boards from the new system, and allow them to carry on their work in the future as they had done in the past. Nothing in the Bill had surprised him so much as the proposal of the 4s. per head special aid grant for Voluntary Schools and for Voluntary Schools only. It had not been asked for before the introduction of the Bill by Churchmen or Roman Catholics. They had said, "If there is to be an increased grant, let it be an increase all round," and he could not understand why the Government should propose to give this special grant to country districts which had made no sacrifices for education, and deny it to large towns where schools had been established out of the rates. Though he was extremely anxious to consider the Measure in a fair and impartial way, if that clause remained in the Bill, he should be obliged to vote against its Third Reading. [Opposition cheers.] It was believed by many that the Board Schools were competing in an unfair way with the Voluntary Schools. On the contrary, he thought the establishment of Board Schools had advantaged the Voluntary Schools. The Board Schools had increased the attendance in the Voluntary Schools. It was said that the Board Schools had taken the best teachers from the parish Schools; but that was because the Board Schools paid the highest salaries. He did not want to place any difficulty in the way of the Voluntary Schools getting the extra grant of 4s., on the contrary, he desired that they should have it; but he did ask for some control over these schools. It was said it was given; but let them see whether it was efficient and sufficient. If, in the the course of a few years, it was found not to be so, then a demand would be made for control and it would be given; but let it be clearly understood that in proportion to the increase of money must be the increase in efficiency. He took 644 it for granted the Bill would be carried; but it would depend upon the concessions which the Government chose to make what the results of its operations would be. He was not one of those who thought the Government wanted to do the wrong thing or that they were influenced by wrong motives, not at all. He believed they desired to improve the education of the country; and he believed they would consider suggestions. One suggestion he would make was that the authority should have power to appoint a manager for every Voluntary School to see that it was carried on properly. He hoped the Government would consider the Amendment that would be put on the Paper, and would make local control as perfect as possible, and grant the concessions that were asked for. [Cheers.]
§ * MR. J. H. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
said, he could not help thinking that in the two speeches to which they had just listened they saw typified two great transitions in the evolution of education. The hon. Member for Birmingham was an honoured educationalist—the "old man fallen upon evil days," but he was still strong in his original faith, to which he held on as best he could upon his present side of the House, to his belief in National education. The noble Lord typified a new generation on that side of the House. It was characterised by obvious sincerity, and its sincerity was the only excuse for it. Anxious for the spiritual enlightenment of the people, the new school would close their eyes to intellectual light by repressing Board Schools. So anxious were hon. Members to advance the interests of one class of schools that they would legislate to prevent another class of schools from advancing one step further.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE,
interposing, said he desired to correct the hon. Member, for the remedy he desired to apply would not repress either class of schools, but would, he believed, raise the standard of both.
§ * Mr. YOXALL
continued that the noble Lord supported a Bill, the direct tendency of which was to bring down Board schools to the level of Voluntary schools. He would grant to the noble Lord that the only effective way to bring about something like equality of income between the two classes of schools would be to give Voluntary schools a share of the local rate, and he believed his friends on that side of the House would be prepared to grant a share of the local rate if the Voluntary schools would, at the same time, come under proper local control. The Education Department at present had no local control over Voluntary Schools. It said to them:—You will take our grants on certain conditions, expend your money so as to be within the four corners of the law, and we will send down an inspector to see that the money has actually been expended; and, if receipts and vouchers are given, we do not interfere with the administration of it.The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill confessed that the Department were unable to remedy some of the worst scandals of management, owing to the lack of proper control over the Voluntary schools. In his opinion the Bill belied its title; it would not help the Voluntary schools, it would damage the Board schools, it would do little good to secondary education and much harm to elementary education. He had hoped the Vice President would that night announce the intention of the Government to omit some of the clauses and to modify others, and that the result of the Debate would be to amend the Bill in Committee. He could assure the Government that on that side of the House they would do their best to amend it. But on the whole, as the Bill stood, he believed it to be a thoroughly bad Bill, and could give abundant reasons for that statement. Hon Members opposite said that the Bill would improve the position of Voluntary schools, but that was a delusion in the vast majority of cases. There were 7,000 schools which had 60 scholars or less. These had, as a rule, but one qualified teacher, and she would have five classes and an infant class—sometimes six or seven classes in all to teach. That teacher had to take needlework, drawing, and Kindergarten; she had to rush about 646 from one class to another, teaching one while neglecting the others; and, however energetic and earnest she might be, it could not be wondered at that her work was transient and inefficient. These were mainly Voluntary schools, and how much would the Bill help them? Each school required the employment of a second adult teacher, who, if at all qualified, would cost £50 a year, and towards that the Bill offered an additional grant of £12. There were 59 schools in Somersetshire, 75 in Lincolnshire, 161 in Yorkshire, and, altogether, 1,000 in the English counties alone, with 30 scholars or less, and to these the Bill offered at most an additional grant of £6. Farmed schools, which were run for profit or loss, and not for educational purposes alone, would obtain in special aid £60, £80, or £100; and the school which was the poorest and required the most aid would get £6, £8, or £10. This was preposterously inadequate to the pressing needs of these schools. The Bill did not attempt in the least to meet the requirements of Voluntary schools. The chief requirement of Voluntary schools was equality of income with Board schools. The income of the Board schools on the average was £2 10s. 8d. per scholar; the average income per head of Church of England schools was £1 18s. l0d.; to make up the difference 11s. 3d. was required, and the Government offered 4s., leaving still a difference of 7s. 3d. The difference between Roman Catholic and Board schools would be 9s. 3d., after the 4s. grant had been given; the Bill would not help the Voluntary Schools.
§ At this point, it being midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.