§ Order read, for resuming adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [5th May], "That the Bill be now read a Second time:"—
§ And which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Asquith.)
§ Question again proposed, "that the word 'now' stand part of the Question;" Debate resumed.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said, there was one part of the speech of the noble Lord (Lord George Hamilton) with which he should not deal in detail—he meant the lively theological passages with which his speech closed. He was the less inclined to do so because he was one of those who had never supported the Cowper-Temple Clause; but, at the same time, he regretted the attack made by the noble Lord on the political Nonconformists. He did not think that that attack was deserved by anything that had taken place in the Debate. He did not know how the noble Lord classified the Member for Edgbaston? Was he a political Nonconformist? The hon. Member had asked for money and votes against the Second Reading of this wicked Bill; yet he told them that he intended to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
was glad to hear that the hon. Member was not going to vote for the Second Reading, but he spoke of Amendments which he intended to move in Committee, and he declared that if these were not carried he should vote against the Third Reading. [Mr. DIXON: "Hear, hear!"] He understood, therefore, that the hon. Member 757 meant to abstain from voting, after asking them for their money and votes to oppose the Bill. He came to the statement of the noble Lord, in reply to the late Home Secretary—That the parent of every poor child has a right to demand distinctive religious instruction is recognised in the Industrial school, and Reformatory, and even in the Poor Law system.He denied that there was any analogy between the case of reformatory and Poor Law schools and the Board and Voluntary Schools. In the case of the former the State stood in the place of the parent, and the children were the children of the State, and he even thought that the High Church party had a grievance in the religious instruction not being sufficiently distinctive, inasmuch as in the former schools the children were all classed as "R. C." or "P."; if they were not Roman Catholics they were held to be "Protestants." He came, however, to the main doctrine of the noble Lord, and it was to that he wished to direct himself chiefly—he meant the doctrine that on this question the Conservative Party put "trust in the people." ["Hear, hear!"] They were told, on that side of the House, that, in resisting devolution and decentralisation they were displaying insufficient trust in the people. On the other hand, he and those who thought with him held that by passing that Bill they would show distrust of the people. The whole question was this—Was a committee of a County Council "the people"? To his mind it would seem that in cases best known to him—and they could only test that Bill by cases they knew of—the School Boards were much more "the people" than the committee of a County Council. [Cheers.] He should be prepared to say that the Vice-President of the Council was as much "the people" as the committee of a County Council; for he, after all, was virtually under the control of that House. The working classes were much more accurately represented in that House than on the County Councils. There were only two County Councils where the working classes could be said to be fairly represented, and even in those two cases they would not be adequately represented on the committees to which it was proposed to delegate these powers. The noble Lord justified 758 what he said by the existence of the cumulative vote; but the existence of the cumulative vote could not be accepted as an argument in the noble Lord's favour. They must look at individual cases. Putting aside the general argument, the cumulative vote represented different religious communities, which without it might not be represented at all, and, taking an individual case, the last London School Board election, it could not be denied, represented the views of the people. In the Chelsea Division, which formed the old borough of Chelsea, there was a majority against the School Board policy, although the five Parliamentary Divisions into which his former borough had been divided gave, on the whole, an overwhelming Conservative majority at Parliamentary elections. His argument was that at the School Board election in London, and indeed in other parts of the country, an overwhelming political majority one way was converted into a majority the other way simply owing to the desire of the people to show their independence and to separate themselves from Party in educational matters. Now, how did the County Councils work? How far would popular elements enter into the control County Councils would exercise over School Boards? He thought that too much work had been thrown upon County Councils already—["hear, hear!"]—that if in the reorganisation of our local government we had begun at the bottom—with the parish or vestry—and only given the County Council appellant or controlling work we should have done far better. Unfortunately, we began at the top, and the result had been that an enormous mass of business was thrown on the County Councils, which overweighed them, and which forced some Councils to carry on their work largely by means of paid officials and other Councils by the patience, industry, and patriotic service of men who gave almost the whole of their time to the work. Such men, however, were men like Sir J. Dorington, and they were not, and could not be men of the working or of the lower-middle class. After all, the work that had been thrown upon County Councils hitherto had been work of the nature which people expected 759 would be cast upon them, but the work which the Government proposed to throw on them now was work which laid quite outside the ordinary sphere of the work of such bodies. Whatever might have been the difficulty to cope with the mass of work Parliament had given to County Councils, he maintained the difficulty would be far greater when County Councils were asked to discharge this education work by Committees. The noble Lord agreed, he said, with everything said on the Opposition side in praise of School Boards, and he would have refused to put his name on the back of the Bill if it had been a Bill to depress or to degrade School Boards. Degrade and depress were strong words, but he thought the Bill did both depress and degrade School Boards. It certainly depressed the whole School Board system. Take London for example. The House of Commons was proud that by a unanimous vote it created the School Board for London. Those who were opposed to the creation of School Boards elsewhere concurred in the creation of the School Board for London. How did the Government propose to treat that School Board? Against the wish of the Board and he believed against the wish of the County Council, they proposed to place the County Council over the School Board, and the School Board was elected for educational purposes and the County Council was not. The County Council would have to control the excess rate, and to administer the 4s. grant, and for that purpose it would have to set up machinery. Looking to the small amount of money which would come to London under the Bill, he believed the County Council would have to spend more money on spending the money than would go to the Voluntary Schools. But he understood from the noble Lord that the case of London was given up, that the Government would frame a special agreement for London. [Sir JOHN GORST signified dissent.] Then everything he had said stood good in regard to London. The noble Lord attacked the Opposition because he said they would not give the people control over the education of their own children. He denied in toto the proposition that a Committee of a County Council would afford the people of a district more control over the education of their children 760 than a School Board would. The noble Lord also said there was by the Bill no transfer of authority from the School Boards. That might be true in the very limited sense of the word authority, but there was an undoubted transference of power from the School Boards to the County Council Committees. Take the case of the school attendance officer in those poor and miserable School Board districts which the Vice President and the noble Lord so often quoted. As regarded the greater part of those School Board districts, the transference of the school attendance officer to the Committee of the County Council was undoubted. There would be a transference of very real power from a representative to a much less representative authority. Then there was the power of the Committee of the County Council to stereotype the rate which was paid. A stereotyping of the rate, whatever the needs of education, whatever the change in the value of money, whatever the fall in the assessment, or in the produce of the rate, must in many cases be disastrous to education. There would be an enormous transfer of power and that it was idle for the noble Lord to tell the House that all the Bill did was to provide the School Board with an efficient finance Committee. He could not imagine a greater degradation of a great School Board elected by thousands, and sometimes hundreds of thousands, of people than to put over it a Committee of the County Council for the purpose of even checking its accounts. There were School Boards in the country which had upon them men of business capacity, giving their time to the financial work of the Board, who were at least as great financiers as any Committee a County Council could find. Yesterday, the noble Lord gave them a history of the Bill. Personally, he preferred the history of the Bill given them earlier in the sitting by the hon. Member for Nottingham. It was, he thought, more correct, as well as more entertaining and more illustrative of the truth than the account given by the noble Lord. The Queen's Speech prepared them for a Bill to help Voluntary Schools, and hon. Members would have supported a Bill which would have given additional help to Voluntary Schools consistent with the proper nature of 761 such schools. There was a general willingness to accept some such provision. On the first night of the Session he asked whether the Board Schools in the poorer districts would be included in any consideration given to the Voluntary Schools, and although no further reply was made it was promised that this would be so. But as the Government went on with the consideration of the Bill, they found, according to the noble Lord, that other defects of the system must be remedied. Those defects were alleged by the Secretary for India to be two—first, the cost of the existing system of education in this country. The noble Lord said our system was the most costly in Europe, and he came to the conclusion that the system must either be stereotyped—that was, as to cost, or be cut down. But this was not the only one of our systems which was the most costly in Europe. Our judicial system and the administration of the Army, including the Indian Army, were the most costly in Europe—in fact, the Army was the most costly in the world. But surely the cost was no reason of itself why a system should be stereotyped or cut down. ["Hear, hear!"] The peculiar circumstances in each case must be considered, and he was not one of those who demanded economy at all hazards. The second of the defects discovered was that we were over centralised. In principle he agreed with the noble Lord, and in regard to the administration of the Local Government Board, the Education Department, and some other Departments, he was strongly in favour of decentralisation. But where he took issue with the noble Lord on this point was that the noble Lord applied the principle of decentralisation to the proposed Committees of the County Councils, as local bodies, rather than to the School Boards. ["Hear, hear!"] The noble Lord gave examples of the disadvantages of Departmental centralisation in educational matters, and said the system was driving the best men off the School Boards. It was possible that this was so in some cases. He knew that a similar result was experienced in connection with the Local Government Board, for he had known that many good men had been driven off Boards of Guardians by extreme centralisation, 762 and no one regretted the defect more than he did. But would this disadvantage be met by practically placing the Committee of the County Council over the School Board? He doubted it, for he believed many men on the School Boards would bow more willingly to the Department than to the Committee of the County Council, and that the Bill in this particular would produce, not less, but more friction. ["Hear, hear!"] Decentralisation, then, he contended, should be applied to the School Boards rather than to the Committees of the County Council. ["Hear, hear!"] The Vice President had attached much importance to the point that some of the Board Schools in the rural districts were very feeble and were not doing their duty. So far as that applied to small Boards, which represented only small populations, the real remedy for the defect was, no doubt, to extend the areas of the School Boards by a grouping of parishes—["hear, hear!"]—for the existing areas in these cases were too small to give a School Board with any vitality. But the feebleness of those small Boards gave the Government no reason for placing the large Boards which were doing their work well, and represented large populations, under Committees of the County Council. [Cheers.] The noble Lord on the previous night attacked the late Home Secretary for having apparently, as he thought, regarded the School Boards as a kind of an ark of the Covenant—as bodies that should not under any circumstances be attacked. He said that the late Government attacked every institution in the country, and referred to the Church. But the Church, whatever the views of the people might be about the principle of Establishment, was not, like certain other institutions, an elected authority of the people, and surely there was a distinction between making an attack upon bodies which were directly elected by the great masses of the people and upon institutions which had not that important support. [Cheers.] He was not unfavourable to the co-existence of Voluntary Schools along with Board Schools; at the same time he believed the School Board system was the best portion of the educational system of the country, and that ultimately, but for this Bill, it 763 ought to succeed and would have succeeded in becoming the only really national system. [Cheers.] It was for this reason that many hon. Members regretted that the effect of the Bill would be to discourage new School Boards and tend to the dissolution of the old Boards. ["Hear, hear!"] Extravagance had been adduced as a ground for checking the rate, but that allegation could have no force against the poorer School Board districts of the country. If there were any districts which were extravagant they were the richer districts, such as London and Birmingham, but it was a matter of argument whether there was extravagance even in them, and those places in which the rates were high were much more open to the reproach of starving the schools than of extravagance. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed that some Members had a political dislike to School Boards, but there was no reason for any political or Party feeling of the kind. The School Board system had handed over London to the Tory Party. The Church School system had handed over to the Radicals many rural parishes in which none but Church Schools had ever been known. The School Boards were not the creation of the Liberal Party; they were the creation of the House of Commons. They grew out of the discussions on the Bill of 1870. His right hon. Friend the Member for the Dartford Division (Sir W. Hart Dyke) acted with him as Teller in the Division by which the Amendment for the creation of School Boards was virtually carried. While the present Leader of the Opposition was the only well-known Liberal who supported the Amendment, all the Leaders of the Tory Party with one exception, and almost the entire of the Tory Party, voted for School Boards—[cheers]—and voted for them on the ground that they wished to have a distinctly elected educational authority. [Renewed cheers.] County Councils did not then exist—[Ministerial cheers]—but the objections of trusting such an important matter as education haphazard to committees of town councils or vestries applied with stronger force to the proposal to subject the schools to committees of the County Council who as compared with town council or vestries were far removed from the local districts in which the schools existed. 764 [Cheers.] The School Boards were carried against the Liberal Government of the day; but the Government subsequently came round to that policy of School Boards, and in time it came to be the policy of the whole Liberal Party. He thought it should also be the policy of the Conservatives, and especially of those who put education first, because there was no part of our educational system that had done so much for education as the School Boards. [Cheers.] He had worked out how the Bill would operate in about 40 rural parishes with which he was acquainted. In five of those parishes there were five School Boards. But two of them were School Boards only in name. Those were parishes in which the Church schools had not been doing very well; where there were no great resident landowners; where it was difficult to obtain subscriptions for the schools, and where there were clergymen working well with the Nonconformists. In those parishes the schools were handed over to the School Board; but all the members of the School Board were Churchmen; they were always unanimously elected and the clergyman still called the schools his schools. Under the Bill those schools would probably become Church schools again; but no one would mind, as there was no strong local feeling in the matter. But there were two other rural parishes where there was active political life, where the School Boards were composed of those who were not in political sympathy with the County Council; and in those parishes great friction would undoubtedly be created by placing committees of the County Councils over the schools. ["Hear, hear!"] He had also worked out, in regard to 35 rural parishes in which there were Voluntary Schools, that not enough money was given to the schools of the poor parishes, and that too much money was given to the schools of the rich parishes. ["Hear, hear!"] The last of his 40 cases that he came to was that of Dean Forest, a district which contained under one School Board half the population of his constituency, and rated at a very high educational rate half his constituents. The parishes of Coleford and Newland were contributory parishes. As regarded the parishes of East Dean and West Dean, the school rate was 3s., to which 765 would have to be added the county rate for working the Bill, for the attendance officers, for the distribution of the 4s. grant to the schools, for inspection and for checking the rate.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
We will discuss it in Committee. The promises which had been held out in regard to poor School Board districts where the rates were high were not realised by the Bill. He knew of 13 districts which would receive less under the Bill than they were receiving at the present time. He had found that, taking together all the School Boards which would receive assistance under the Bill, those where the school rate was under 6d. would receive 50 per cent., those where the school rate was over Is. 6d. would only receive 10 per cent., while those where the school rate was over 2s. would receive nothing at all. [Cheers.] That being so, how could the poor districts clause of the Bill be defended? That clause would have to be abandoned and a new scheme framed which would proceed on the principle of helping Voluntary Schools which needed help—not of helping all alike, but of helping poor School Board districts according to their poverty. [Cheers.] The Bill was a backward Bill, inasmuch as it discouraged School Boards. If you looked at the examples of those foreign countries to which reference was made by the Vice President in introducing the Bill, you found that they were going forward more and more in the direction of adopting the School Board principle of an elective authority. Our colonies had the denominational system at one time, but many of them had gone further than he would have wished, and had wholly swept it away, replacing it by other systems. The States of the United States made immense sacrifices to maintain the Common School system, and they were unwilling to make the concessions we were willing to make for Voluntary Schools. They had but one system, and no Church pressure would induce them to abandon the Common School 766 system. Equally so in this country, it was desired to keep what we had of a Common School system working side by side with the Voluntary system. In our colonies there were diverse systems. In Quebec, in which there was an overwhelming French Roman Catholic majority, they had a denominational system, which was the exception in the colonies, as the Irish system was at home. In all the Australasian colonies, with the exception of Western Australia, where we introduced a mixed system, and in four Provinces of the Canadian Dominion, there was what might be called a Common School system, and no other schools were assisted by the State. In 10 out of these 13 colonies there was provision for religious instruction in the public schools. What was wanted here was not a universal Public School system, but that we should keep the progress we had made in the direction of a National system, resting upon an elective basis. The effect of this Bill would be to aim a heavy blow against a system to which many people were devotedly attached. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)
said, that if all their discussions were of the same character as the argument of the right hon. Baronet, they would not have so much difficulty in coming to satisfactory conclusions. But the right hon. Gentleman had followed the right hon. Member for Fife in endeavouring to detract from the merits of the proposed local authority, although it was to be formed from a body which for years past had been advocated by the Party opposite. With reference to the vexed question as between Board Schools and Voluntary Schools, when he was at the Education Department he did not show any particular favour to one system or the other, and he believed he endeavoured to preserve an equal keel between them. He now believed it was utterly impossible, in the crisis at which we had arrived, to place School Boards in the position in which the right hon. Gentleman would like to place them. There was, naturally, some jealousy of the School Board system, which, he admitted, had done much for education. Out of doors it was being asked what all this excitement was about, and whence came this vehement denunciation of the Measure. There were three sources of opposition. The first existed 767 to-day as it did in 1870, and it was the old antagonism between Church and Dissent. In pointing to this he cast no slight on Nonconformist opinions. But the opposition they had to meet was, first and foremost, that of political Dissenters, who dreaded that this Measure would in some way assist the Church Establishment and Church Schools. Secondly, there was the pure and simple School Board opposition, such as that of the right hon. Baronet and the hon. Member for the Edgbaston Division of Birmingham (Mr. Dixon). They and their friends had believed that education could only be carried on by School Boards, and it was a disappointment to them to see the position occupied by Voluntary Schools. Then there was the general opposition offered by hon. Members opposite as a political Party. He could not understand, from the point of view of political partisanship or interest in education, the violent denunciations of the Bill. The School Board, having rates behind them, had long gone beyond elementary and encroached upon secondary education, and this competition had been disastrous to Voluntary Schools, with their limited resources. The depression of agriculture had affected the finances of small rural schools. The Votes for Elementary Education had reached £7,122,000, of which £4,256,000 was spent in grants for scholars in elementary schools. Yet only £120,000 went to evening schools, to continue the good work begun in the day schools. This was a blot that ought to be removed. The Government were driven to bring in a comprehensive Measure by the Report of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education, which showed that, while we were squandering large sums on elementary education, there was waste and lack of co-ordination between the elementary schools and the Universities. The Government, therefore, had not been content to deal only with elementary education, but had wisely attempted to deal with the whole question of National education. The Commission stated that on no point were they more unanimous than that of the necessity of local authorities to a National system of elementary education. The right hon. Member for Fife thought the proposed local authorities would turn out to be the most 768 feeble, quarrelsome bodies it would be possible to set up, but, at the same time, he cut the ground from under his feet by stating that the proposals of the Bill, as regarded secondary education, met his cordial approval. How could it be argued that these new authorities, though perfectly able and competent to deal with secondary education and produce a good system out of the chaos and confusion produced by the various authorities dealing with them, when they took the Code in their hands and dealt with elementary education would prove nothing but mere wreckers and destroyers of the School Board system? The Government were wise in making the local authorities the foundation of their Scheme. He said advisedly that not only was their Scheme the best that could be devised, but the only possible solution of the educational dilemma in which they were placed. When he heard the proposed local authorities impugned by those who for years had been clamouring for them and had been able to test their efficiency to administer county and local affairs, it was difficult to deal with patience with those who now urged that these local authorities were utterly useless for the purpose for which they were intended by this Bill. Complaints had for years been made of the delays of the Education Department in attending to matters of detail. There was no better served branch of the Civil Service than the Education Department, but the delays had been due to the enormous mass of detail that it had to deal with. The Bill, by putting these details into the hands of those personally acquainted with the wants and circumstances of each locality (who would be able to deal at once with them), would put an end to all that unavoidable delay. He denied that friction was likely to arise between the local authorities and the Education Department, and said the notion was contrary to experience and utterly absurd. The right hon. Member for Fife said the Bill would be a retrograde Measure and education would be retarded rather than promoted by it, because in some parts of the country the people were not so keen about education as in others. But hon. Members who looked at the Bill would find that heavy penalties could be imposed on local 769 authorities which neglected their duty. The circumstances of every school in the country were known to the Education Department, and if there was any dereliction of duty those penalties would be enforced. At the same time an appeal would be allowed in the case of any school that suffered injustice in any shape. He urged that the local authorities could be trusted to do their duty. Let the House remember the work they had been doing with regard to technical education since 1889. A Blue-book issued by the Science and Art Department, which he held in his hand, proved that a splendid network of technical education had been spread throughout the counties and boroughs of England by these local authorities, a task of which they were entirely ignorant when they undertook it. The matter of technical instruction, intricate and difficult as it was to deal with, had now been in the hands of the local authorities for many years. He did not mean to say they had not made mistakes in carrying out the provisions of the Technical Instruction Act, but in the various counties throughout the country splendid work was being done by them on behalf of technical instruction. Yet they were told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that, if they dared entrust such local authorities with the elementary education of their children, their chief object would be to wreck the School Board system. Hon. Members seemed to regard the Bill as a serious inroad and attack upon School Boards. He said advisedly, as an educationist first and a Party man afterwards, that, if he thought such injury would be inflicted, he would not vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, and it was because he earnestly believed this Measure would improve and preserve the existing system of education that he gave it his hearty support, The late Home Secretary urged upon the House the foolish and fallacious argument that the very first step of the local bodies, which were to be created in their counties, would be to demolish and destroy some of the most successful schools existing in their districts. Was ever such a preposterous idea urged upon the House of Commons? What would they put in place of these schools? They would have to put some good educational system in their place; therefore, to pre-suppose any such folly 770 on the part of these new bodies was almost a farce. The right hon. Member for Fife said that this was a Bill to destroy School Boards. But what was the first thing that was set forth in the second clause of the Bill? And, after all, these local authorities had to commence their work with the Code in one hand and this Bill in another. The second clause ran:—It shall be the duty of the education authority to supplement and not to supplant such existing organisations for educational purposes as for the time being supply efficient instruction.There was a direct command that they were not to do, and that they would be severely fined if they did, what the right hon. Gentleman had foreshadowed. In Section 13 there was equally emphatic language as to what they were to do and what not to do in regard to this Bill. It was there stated:—An education authority in the performance of their duties shall not, subject to the express provision of this Act with respect to the special aid grant, give any preference or advantage to any school on the ground that it is or is not provided by a School Board.He thought for an Act of Parliament that was unusually plain English, and it distinctly indicated that the local authorities were not to commence their work by doing that which the right hon. Member for Fife had alleged they would do. There was no doubt that the School Boards in the large towns were doing very great educational work, to which they had superadded other work of secondary education in the higher grade schools. The right hon. Member for Aberdeen seemed to think there would be jealousy between the new municipal and the School Board authorities. For his own part he did not believe there would be anything of the kind as regarded the working of this Measure. No new authority would do anything half as silly or unpopular, or expensive, as to damage these schools, and he believed it would be utterly impossible for any new local authority to do anything of the kind. With regard to the special grant, that was a very important point, and one which he should like to deal with, perhaps, in a more critical spirit than he was inclined to deal with other portions of the Bill. The first question they had 771 to ask themselves was, what was the main object of this special grant? It was, as he understood, to help schools which were financially weak, and which could not keep their heads above water for educational purposes. It was proposed that this grant should be given chiefly to Voluntary Schools, and only in certain cases to Board Schools. Would this special grant of 4s. carry out the object they had in view? He said that in very many cases it would not. He knew the difficulty there was in devising, some means to be fair all round, which would help the poor Board Schools and Voluntary Schools alike, and yet be efficient for the purpose at which it aimed. The clause was excellent in one way. It indicated the only and best way in which an inefficient school could be made efficient and made to pay. That was through additions to the teaching staff. A well-taught, well-found school—whether Voluntary or Board—with good apparatus and teachers, could, under the present Code, always pay its way by the grant which it would earn. If a school under such conditions did not pay its way, there was something bad about its management and pecuniary control. But many Board and Voluntary Schools could not do anything of the kind. The failure was in the teaching staff, and the clause rightly pointed out that this fund must first be applied for the improvement of the teaching staff. So far, so good. How would it affect a little country school of 50 pupils, which was, perhaps, able to keep its head above water in good times, but owing to agricultural depression and the subsequent falling off in subscriptions was no longer able to do so? To such a school it would give an extra grant of £10, but such an amount would be practically useless for giving that increased teaching staff which would enable it to secure success. It would require to effect this something like £25 or £30. Some change would have to be made with regard to this grant and its distribution. If this was to be a just and fair1 Bill it must not help the Voluntary School, and pretend up to a certain point to assist the Board School, and then secure the one and leave the Board School out in the cold. Unless it was a fair and just Bill it would not be a lasting settlement, and would only open 772 up future controversy and Debate in that House. He knew very much might be said for the principle of federation and association in this Bill, but would federation take place throughout the length and breadth of the country? He had his doubts about it. Although federation would be an excellent thing, yet he said again, even where this federation took place, and where they might have an association of managers and have this money paid over to them for distribution among the poor schools, he believed it would not prove sufficient to meet all the cases that came within their jurisdiction. Whilst he was anxious that this grant should be very generous and better applied to secure the real object they had in view, he also wished to urge that, when applied, the grant should be a reality as regarded Voluntary Schools. He did not know whether the local authorities would have the power to secure the maintenance of the existing subscriptions in schools, but he believed their power was very wide in the Bill. He was anxious that this new grant should be made a reality, and that it should only be made in those cases where the subscriptions were kept up to an amount equal to the average of the five previous years. It would be making the Bill ridiculous and absurd if the grant was not to go actually to education, and if the grant given to a school was to be balanced by a reduction of subscriptions to that precise amount. He would the more urge this because now, for the first time, they would have a local authority on the spot, able to exert the right influence of friend and neighbour, and to impress on the locality the necessity of not only renewing the old subscriptions, but of giving even more than they had hitherto done. He was now going to refer to a subject over which there had been perhaps, more wrangling in the House than upon any other question. He meant what was called the religious difficulty. He well remembered the struggles which took place in 1870 over what was then called, and, he supposed, they must still call, the religious question. He hoped to discuss this question without any bigotry or narrow mindedness, for he was one of those who said, in regard to all the religious questions they had to face in this country, "Come one, come all!" so far as dealing with 773 the vast mass of misery and crime which was in their midst was concerned. He approached this question apart from any sectarian bias, for, although a strong Churchman, and an admirer and supporter of what he thought was the splendid union between their religion and the State, he made absolutely no distinction on his estate as regarded any help to be given between Church and Dissent, and so long as he had had the pleasure of owning an acre of land he had made no difference as regarded these matters. It was very curious that the real battle-ground of this question was in that House and on the platform. They heard very little of it from the parents. They hardly ever heard the thing mentioned, and he thought they must boast that, although there had been great and bitter struggles in old days between Church and Dissent, still, so far as their own lives were concerned, and so far as their political relations had been concerned, there had been a softening and a liberalising influence as regarded this great question. So far so good, and the greater was the pity that they had got to discuss and to wrangle over the question again. It was a curious fact, and it used to strike him when he was Vice-President of the Council, that during their Debates on the Education Estimates in Committee of Supply, that he did not believe that any hon. Member who searched "Hansard" through since 1870 could find a serious Debate on the Estimates with regard to this question. They had heard, practically, nothing of it in this House except the unfortunate difference which his noble Friend the Secretary of State for India alluded to yesterday as regarded London. They had cared nothing about it, and the parents of these children had cared less. It was, in a great measure, a theoretical rather than a practical question, and he remembered that his right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, who had been Vice President of the Council, in a speech which he made 20 years ago, stated that a working man had told him that this difficulty had been made for, and not by, the working classes. Why had they got it in their midst? He supposed that so long as they had these unfortunate differences between Church and Dissent, between Establishment and Disestablishment, so long 774 would they have this difficulty to deal with. The late Mr. Horsman in 1870 stated that this difficulty arose from the rivalry of sects, from the conflict of creeds, which was a legacy from the old bitter wars that in bad times were prosecuted between Dissenters and the State Church. That was Mr. Horsman's view then, and he supposed it was the same difficulty they had to combat now, and from the same cause. He should not attempt here to deal with those who would rather see no religion taught to their little children at all than see religion of a denominational kind, possibly given in a portion of a building supported by the State. He would rather venture to deal with those who honestly thought and believed that the chief and most important element in the training of the youth which was to command the future destiny of their country was that an earnest Christian teaching should be given to them. He had been puzzling over the matter, and he could not for the life of him understand what was the complaint of hon. Members opposite in regard to this part of the Bill. Was the proposal an unequal one? If hon. Members opposite would be frank with them, and would tell them that they objected to it because it might be possible that denominational teaching should be given in a Board school out of school hours, then they could understand what they meant. But at present the denunciations had been so vague and so wanting in conciseness, that it was almost impossible for them to appreciate their meaning. He said that these proposals were the fairest and the most liberal that had yet been made on this vexed question. He would like to quote some words which Mr. Gladstone used in reply to an Amendment moved by his hon. Friend the Member for the Edgbaston Division of Birmingham on the Second Reading of the Bill of 1870, and he believed it was in consequence of those words that his hon. Friend withdrew his Amendment to the Bill. Mr. Gladstone said:—We have arrived at a point when it is rather hard to make a charge of an intentional or a general violation of the principles of religions equality against a Measure which, attempting to legislate for education all over the country and for education in a spirit of 775 studied respect for religion, notwithstanding does not contain, from one end of it to the other, one single word which takes special notice anywhere of the Established Church of the country, or grants to that Church in any form any privilege whatever except those that are conceded to every other body, great and small, of professors of religion, be it what it may.He wanted to take those words, which were more appropriate than any he could use, and apply them to the proposal of this Bill, and he wanted, in all fairness, to ask, was there any hon. Member who would read Clause 27 carefully over and then say that the language he had quoted did not precisely and exactly conform to the terms and meaning of that clause? A more just, a more earnest, and a more sensible effort was never made to settle a vexed question than was embodied in Clause 27. The absolute religious equality contained in the proposal of the Bill would carry it not only through Committee, but would gain for it the honest support of every parent who read and understood it in every town and village throughout the country. It was all very well for hon. Members opposite to declaim against the clause, but they seemed to overlook the fact that it had been used and applied for years past without even a whisper of discontent or complaint, not in some obscure village in the West of England, but in the huge centres of population. The test had thus been applied in these large communities, and it was a farce to come to Parliament to-day, and say that it should not be applied all over the country. No one would assert that the Bill was perfect, but it placed in the hands of the new local authorities an engine which they would be able to use in order to settle the question once for all in the districts over which their power extended. In that respect the central authority was weak, but the real recommendation which this part of the scheme had, was that it placed the whole of this important question in the hands of the localities themselves. No doubt the task would be a difficult one, but it would have to be carried out gradually. He believed that in Committee they would be able so to shape the provisions of the Bill as to enable every local authority in town and country to combine with the Charity Commissioners and other authorities so as to establish a perfect system of 776 secondary education which might lead up from our Elementary Schools to the Universities. Though in some respects the Bill might be altered in Committee, he had no doubt that its main principle would be preserved. The Measure would be essentially a popular one amongst all classes of the community, and one which would confer a great blessing on the people.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
acknowledged that the right hon. Gentleman during his tenure of office at the Education Department had carried out a liberal and enlightened policy, and had held the balance evenly between the two sides in the controversy. Speaking as one who was interested in education, he said it appeared that some hon. Gentlemen opposite thought that the Opposition side of the House objected to the portion of the Bill which dealt with secondary education. The right hon. Gentleman and his Friends were mistaken in that idea. On the contrary, they gave their hearty assent to the secondary education part of the Measure, though they regretted that it had not been separated from the question of elementary education. By mixing up the two questions he thought they were not likely to improve, but rather to hamper, secondary education. In dealing with elementary education they had to apply to the proposal of the Government the simple test—Is it likely that in reforming our national system of education we shall really in the end increase the efficiency of our educational system?They had to consider, not the interests of any persons or particular schools or sects, but whether, in carrying out a revolution in elementary education, the children, mentally, morally and physically, would be benefited by the new system. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the onus lay on the opponents of the Bill to make out a case against it; but it seemed to him that the onus rather lay on those who were proposing this revolutionary scheme. They had to show that the present system had failed, and that this substitute was likely to produce more efficient results. The Vice President said that the Bill promoted progress, and without it progress was impossible. He 777 did not know whether any attempt had been made to show that the great Act of 1870, and the system of education then founded, had broken down in principle. An Education Commission which sat, the majority of whom were Moderates and not Progressives, came to the conclusion, after three years' inquiry, that the Act of 1870 had in no sense broken down, though it was open and subject to improvement and consideration. The conclusions of that Commission had not been contested. But the whole argument in favour of this Bill was that it was necessary to maintain the existence of Voluntary Schools, and that without such a Bill as this Voluntary Schools would practically disappear. Whatever might have been the feeling in the country a few years ago, there had been a change as to the attitude taken up in reference to Voluntary Schools, and no educationist wished either to injure or extinguish the Voluntary system. As far as he was concerned he was willing to give additional sums to the maintenance of our voluntary system on two grounds: first, that the schools were to be increased in efficiency; and, secondly, that the parents of children were to be allowed to have some choice of schools. The proposals of the Government, while more expensive, would not increase the efficiency of the schools, and, if carried out, they would diminish the choice of the parents as to schools. He did not go so far as to say with some irresponsible persons outside that this Bill was going to destroy our School Boards. That at least would not be the case in our large towns, but it would do much to hamper their development, and to that extent it degraded our School Board system of education. The noble Lord opposite, speaking of the question of cost, said that under this new system there would be considerable economy. For his part he did not see where the economy in our national system of education was going to be introduced. There was to be an additional payment immediately of £500,000 or £600,000, the Education Department was to maintain all its staff, and additional expenditure for staffs, inspectors, etc., would be increased by the local authorities. In respect of some matters the present expenditure 778 would be duplicated and even triplicated. They had heard a good deal about the difficulty the Education Department experienced in carrying out its work. It was a confession of weakness on the part of the Department that the country should be asked to revolutionise its system of education, because the Department was unable to cut its red tape and to reduce the number of the returns at present made to it. The change was proposed to be effected in accordance with a demand for devolution and decentralisation. The Opposition had been taunted over and over again in that Debate on the ground that they were now opposing the principle of decentralisation. The position which they took up with regard to this question of education and decentralisation was a simple one. They said that the public conscience generally was more advanced on such questions as education, sanitation and factory legislation than the opinion of localities. They said that if localities were left to work out their own salvation in these matters the results which were obtained at present would still be obtained in the large towns and more enlightened places, but that in rural districts, where education was not popular, the results would be bad, and that the inspectorship especially would be poor. The complaint made in some quarters against the Education Department was that it raised the standard of education too high, and in those quarters, if the pressure of the Department was removed, there would very likely be inefficiency and a lowering of the educational level. The House ought certainly to insist on the appointment of impartial, independent and unprejudiced inspectors. Under the provisions of the Bill as they stood, the inspectors would probably be less highly paid officials than they were now, and they would unfortunately be subject to local influences, and the result would be that their supervision would not be as stringent as it was now. There would grow up a vast variety of standards of education throughout the country. In many cases the minimum would be lowered, and where there was a progressive tendency the present maximum would not be raised in consequence of the lack of the necessary funds. In country districts the difficulty which the 779 members of the County Councils experienced was the difficulty of carrying out the work thrown upon them. In a county it was often difficult for the members of the Council to get from one part of it to another. The difficulty was not of great consequence when the Council met only four or five times a year, but the meetings would have to be much more frequent when this Bill had became law, and he feared it would be almost impossible to induce gentlemen to undertake these new duties in many country places. Physical considerations would prevent them. The result would be that the work would get more and more into the hands of clerks and local officials, than whom he could conceive no worse supervisors of our system of education. Then turn to the large boroughs. These already suffered under excess of work. Take the London County Council for example. When the London County Council came to that House proposing to add to their programme such undertakings as the working of the Tramways or the Water Supply, hon. Members opposite always said that the Council tried to take too much upon their shoulders, and that their duties ought not to be added to. Yet these same Gentlemen now proposed to make the London County Council the supervisor of an expenditure of over £2,000,000 and of the education of 700,000 children. For some time the Council applied the whole of their Technical Education money, not to Technical Education, but to the relief of the rates. He did not blame the Council for that, thinking that they were perhaps right not to do things in a hurry, but it showed that they were not at once ready as an educational body to deal with a difficult and intricate educational question. He trusted that London, which in many respect stood in a different position from other municipalities, would receive some special treatment under the scheme that was to be introduced. The London School Board, which was a much older body than the London County Council, and which was directly representative of the ratepayers, might, at all events, claim differential treatment. What it was vital to make sure of under this legisla lation was, first that the whole of the special grant would go to the efficiency 780 of schools and none of it to the reduction of subscriptions, and secondly that it would go to necessitous schools and not to schools which did not require additional relief. As to the 17s. 6d. limit, it was true that it injured certain free but efficient, schools, and that in itself it was not altogether a fair and just plan. That was its vice. But the virtue of the 17s. 6d. limit was that it kept up the voluntary subscriptions, and if that was abolished there was left only the pious hope of the Archbishop of Canterbury that the subscriptions would be kept up. ["Hear, hear!"] As to the scheme for distributing the special grant, he could not see that it was in any way going to carry out the object of the Government. Their object was one with which he sympathised. They wished, as he understood, to relieve the necessitous schools so as to enable them to bring themselves up to the proper standard of efficiency. If they had proposed to do that under a system something like that which existed at present, namely, a system of special grants to small and poverty-stricken schools, he did not think there would have been much opposition. But what was the definition of necessitous schools given by the right hon. Gentleman? He said that necessitous schools were those in which the voluntary subcriptions were high, at the same time that the School Board rates were high, those smaller schools in which the expenses of administration were large in proportion to the cost of maintenance, and Roman Catholic Schools. But the scheme as it stood at present would, in no sense of the term, relieve schools coming within those three classes, chiefly or at all. There would be greater relief where subscriptions were low. It would give a large grant to the larger schools, but in the case of the smaller schools, which really required it, hardly any relief at all, and Roman Catholic Schools would certainly receive nothing at all additional over other classes of schools. In fact, this part of the scheme seemed to him to be the worst blot on the Bill, and he felt that there was no justification whatever for confining their special grant to Voluntary Schools. He would take two cases. He lived part of the year in Cromer and part of the year in London. In Cromer they had up till 781 lately been living on a voluntary rate. A short time ago the School Board system was adopted; yet under this Bill, though their necessities were exactly the same as they would have been had they continued under the voluntary system, they would receive no grant at all. Then in London, with 700,000 children on the roll, they would only receive £178,000. London was mulcted because it had been, progressive, and London had to pay for those places which had neglected their national duty. He could not look upon this Bill, as it stood, as one designed to promote progress. Looking at it all round, it hampered and crippled the Education Department and the great School Boards. It semed to him that while the Bill revolutionised the whole system of education, it showed no justification for the great change it was making, and instead of bringing about greater efficiency would, on the contrary, lessen efficiency and give really no local control.
§ MR. ALFRED LYTTELTON (Warwick and Leamington.)
said, he would not have ventured to address the House for the first time on a question of such difficulty and complexity were it not that the late Prime Minister had last week given a challenge to the Members of the Liberal Unionist Party in the House. Lord Rosebery said that this Bill would probably pass the House with a very large majority, and addressing himself to the Members of the Liberal Unionist Party, he said that inasmuch as the Bill would bring no risk to the Government, they were at liberty—and he invited them so to do—to assert the principles which were common to the old Liberal Party at any rate before the year 1870. That challenge had been echoed by his right hon. Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill, and by several other Members who spoke after him. They had spoken of the Bill as the result of a clerical agitation, as promoted either by the clergy or by men more clerical than the clergy. He confessed he could hardly recognise himself, nor any of his hon. Friends about him, in that description. He did not accept the challenge in order to enter into the barren controversy of endeavouring to prove his own consistency or the inconsistency of hon. Members opposite. To vindicate one's own consistency was unimportant, and 782 to establish the inconsistency of an opponent was not persuasive. He was going to respond to the challenge because from his heart he believed that the main principles of their Bill were not inconsistent, but rather harmonious, to those old Liberal principles in which he had been brought up, and which, he believed, were held not only by members of the Liberal Unionist Party, but were also the heritage of hon. Members opposite. He submitted that fundamental principles were not touched in many of the subjects spoken of in the Debate. No one could say that fundamental principles were involved in the question of decentralisation, or the questions of secondary education and the limitation of the grant were even in the matters raised by Clause 27. It seemed to him, with great deference to those who viewed that clause with suspicion—the Member for Leeds and the late Home Secretary—that they used language with regard to it which astonished him—language of almost grotesque exaggeration. His right hon. Friend near him had pointed out that the provisions of the clause had been in operation in some of the larger towns, and certain it was that, throughout America and throughout Canada, with the exception of one Province, free access was given to ministers of all denominations to the school fabric without giving rise to that state of things which hon. Gentlemen opposite imagined, and children received the denominational teaching their parents desired them to receive. He came back to the point he wished to urge on the House—namely, the question whether the accusation against the Liberal Unionists was justified, that they were violating the fundamental principles of the old Liberalism in granting a subsidy from the State to denominational schools. It was said that the State was a secular body, and that it had nothing to do with religion. He would concede that for the sake of argument, but the inference he drew from those two premisses was wholly different from that which was drawn by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Their inference was that the State had no right to subsidise Voluntary Schools. On that he joined issue. The true inference was that the State should at any rate extend a benevolent neutrality to those who offered religious education in addition to the 783 secular education which the State demanded. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said, "We demand secular education from the parents and children." On his side they replied:—Granted. You shall have it; but we say that something else in addition to secular education shall be given. Religious education shall be added to the secular education, and, in addition to that intelligence which is derived from secular studies, we offer that wisdom which is the result of religious education.Those who supported this Bill said that they could draw from sources to which those who opposed it had no access, and that the Measure would add to the efficiency of secular education instead of detracting from its value. ["Hear, hear!"] What, then, was the position in which they stood? The supporters of denominational religious education were willing to give what hon. Members opposite asked for—namely, full secular education such as the present law required—but they also proposed to add to that secular education, and to pay for something additional in the Voluntary Schools. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen, had asserted yesterday that the Voluntary Schools were asking to be paid for the religious instruction which they gave; but the right hon. Gentleman was altogether mistaken upon the point. The Voluntary Schools gave that religions instruction as well as a considerable portion of the secular education out of their own money. ["Hear, hear!"] The position of hon. Gentlemen opposite was that, because the Voluntary Schools wished to add something to secular education, they should be placed in a worse position than was occupied by those who did not desire to make that addition to it. They all knew the good sturdy principle of old Liberalism, that every man should be free to worship God after his own fashion, and, as a corollary to that principle, he would say that a parent had an unalienable right to educate his child in his own religion. It had been said that that principle was not embodied in any Statute. No, perhaps not, because it formed a part of the common law of the land. ["Hear, hear!"] He would lay down a third principle in connection with this question—namely, that no man, by reason of his religious convictions, should be abated one of his 784 privileges. How did those principles work out in practice? The Voluntary Schools provided the secular education which the State demanded that they should give, but they also provided religious instruction at their own expense; but, because they gave that additional instruction, hon. Gentlemen opposite said that the State ought not to recognise the service they did to secular education. He submitted that amounted to a denial by hon. Members opposite, and not by the Voluntary Schools, of the principles which formed the basis of the creed of the old Liberals. ["Hear, hear!"] It was making the position of those who held religious convictions worse than that of those who did not hold them. ["Hear, hear!"] If he might say so without offence, he thought that he had placed the arguments of hon. Members opposite upon a better footing than they were entitled to stand on, because many hon. Members opposite would not have the hardihood to maintain that the State was a purely secular institution. The State provided chaplains in the Army and the Navy, and in the gaols, and why should it not equally provide religious instruction in the schools? It was said by hon. Members opposite that the Voluntary Schools must accept the teaching that they chose to sanction, or else that they should be placed in a worse position than those who did accept it. In his view that amounted to secular intolerance. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite in effect said: "Because the people of this country will not accept the particular line of doctrine or compromise which was accepted in 1870, because of their religious convictions, therefore they shall be placed in a much worse pecuniary position than is occupied by those who do accept it." ["Hear, hear!"] It might, however, fairly be said that he had missed one great point made by hon. Members opposite—namely, that some of them would not object to the provision in the Bill with regard to the subsidising of Voluntary Schools provided it was accompanied by a sufficient amount of control. ["Hear, hear!"] But what was the meaning of the word "control?" When the State prescribed the secular curriculum for Voluntary Schools, and saw that the standards were properly kept up in the 785 most minute particular, could it be said that it had no control over those schools? ["Hear, hear!"] He admitted that in some sense it might be said that they were without local control, and he himself—and he believed the promoters of the Bill—would be very glad if the managers of those schools would freely offer the parents of the children who were educated in them some representation upon the board of management. Hon. Members opposite had argued that this was a wrong time of all others in which to take any action that would diminish the educational prestige of this country, having regard to the immense commercial competition that we had to face, and that we could not afford to detract in the least degree from the position of the Board Schools. He would not support the Bill for a moment if he thought that it was in any way calculated to detract from the educational power of the country, but he believed that that which had made the name of England honoured throughout the world—the good faith that was inculcated by the religious teaching given in our Voluntary Schools—would be promoted by this Bill. It was because he believed that this Measure would help those who had made the most strenuous sacrifices for the cause of education and of religious teaching, especially the Roman Catholics, that he heartily supported the Second Reading of this Bill. [Cheers.]
§ * MR S. SMITH (Flintshire)
said that he wished to make some observations on this most important Bill, not as a Party politician, but as one who had long taken a deep interest in the education of the people. We had made marvellous progress since 1870; from being one of the worst educated countries we were rapidly coming abreast of the most advanced nations, and probably Germany and Switzerland were the only countries that were now decidedly ahead of us. We must therefore take great care not to set the clock back in this age of intense industrial competition. The great feature of the Act of 1870 was the establishment of School Boards and public schools, where the children of the State had equal rights and where education became the affair of the citizen, not of the Churches. No one could deny that this principle had proved far more fruitful than its 786 authors expected; education had advanced by leaps and bounds these past 25 years, and the Board School was now one of the finest institutions in the country. The Voluntary Schools had also been immensely improved by competition with the Board Schools, and he could not conceive any adequate ground for tampering with machinery that had worked so admirably. Of all the public bodies in this country none had worked so well as School Boards. They had elicited an extraordinary amount of earnest, self-denying, unpaid service; they had brought to the front men of the first capabilities and the finest patriotism, and some of them had virtually given their lives to this noble work. Education required men who were experts; it had become almost a technical art, and so it had come about that our School Boards had become almost permanent bodies, their Chairmen had often sat for 10,15, and even 20 years, and they had been free from the incessant party strife and constant change that beset political bodies. For this reason he was utterly opposed to the leading principle of this Bill, which was to substitute County and Town Councils for School Boards as the chief educational authorities. In his opinion it was an attempt to substitute the worse for the better authority. He could not conceive that County and Town Councils, which were shifting bodies, elected for totally different objects, would supply that permanent framework of highly-trained experts who were needed to keep up a high standard of education. School Boards were not abolished by this Bill, but they would gradually die of inanition; they would become subordinate bodies, and would no longer attract the best men. A great blow would be struck at the upward march of education; and, if the Bill passed in its present form, the nation would repent of it hereafter. Another great blot in the Bill was the virtual repeal of the Cowper-Temple Clause, and the re-opening in the Board Schools of this country of the floodgates of sectarian strife. For 25 years there had been a truce of God in the religious education of our Board Schools; it had, by the law of the survival of the fittest, adapted itself most thoroughly to the needs of the English people; almost all 787 our great School Boards had adopted a system of simple elementary Scriptural instruction suited to young children. This system, if he might say so, was Christian and Biblical, without being theological or sectarian; it was founded on that common deposit of truth in which all Churches agreed; and it enabled the various Churches to build upon it, in later life, their own distinctive dogmas. It perfectly satisfied the laity of this country; it satisfied, virtually, all the Protestant Nonconformists, and also the vast majority of Church people; hardly a case had arisen of children being withdrawn from religious instruction, except among Jews and Roman Catholics, who usually had schools of their own. He ventured to say that, but for a section of the clergy of the Anglican Church, they would never have heard of the claim to set up separate religious instruction in our Board Schools. It was simply an outgrowth of the enormous increase of sacerdotalism in the Anglican Church. They were not contented that little children, under the age of 13 should be given the teaching of Christ in his own words, but they must thrust on their immature minds such dogmas as Transubstantiation, the Apostolic Succession, the heresy of dissent, and some went so far as to insist on the duty of the Confessional and the adoration of the Virgin. They had to deal with an arrogant and aggressive faction which wished to undo the Reformation in this country. He altogether objected to our Board Schools being turned into battlefields of opposing sects. He objected to the children of a Board School, who at present joined in common prayer and praise, being penned off into several compartments where each sect would teach its own special dogmas, and where the children would learn to church one another. The inevitable result of this system would be that the ministers of each denomination would make the schools the battleground of their distinctive dogmas; all the controversial points of theology would be emphasised, and the common groundwork of Christianity would be thrown into the shade. They would have such teaching by the high Anglicans as the following:—(Q.) In what light must we view those who have never been baptised?—As the heathen, be they 788 old or young, notwithstanding that they may be in the habit of attending Divine worship. (Q.) In what light are we to consider Dissenters?—As heretics, and in our Litany we expressly pray to be delivered from the sins of false doctrine, heresy and schism. (Q.) Is then their worship a laudable service?—No, because they worship God according to their own evil and corrupt imaginations, and not according to His revealed will, and therefore their worship is idolatrous." This catechism was taught in some of the Voluntary Schools, and teaching of this class was rapidly coming into the Church Schools of this country. He altogether objected to its entering the Board Schools, and he should equally object to these schools being made the battleground of High Calvinism, or Arminianism, or any other form of Dissent. The nation did not want ecclesiastical Christianity taught in its common schools; it did not want the religion of priests, it wanted the religion of the New Testament. No greater blow could be struck at the religion of this country than by allowing the schools to be dominated by Athelstane Rileys, however sincere. The inevitable effect would be the ultimate secularisation of the schools of this country. He should greatly deplore this; but if they had to choose between handing over the schools to ecclesiastics, or confining them to secular instruction, he should prefer the latter. But many of the clergy were entirely satisfied with the present system of Board School instruction. Archdeacon Sinclair said of the London School Board:—We prepared a syllabus every year, which, except that it could not teach any catechism, was as good as anything in any Voluntary School. You are all aware that, if any School Board desire it, they are permitted by the law to teach the Apostles' Creed, as well as the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commannments. The Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments, being the ipsissima verba of the Bible, can, of course, be taught without question wherever the Bible is adopted; and although it would probably be impossible in London even formally to adopt the Apostles' Creed in a School Board syllabus, yet the provisions of the syllabus and the questions in the examination papers were, according to the wishes of the whole Scripture Sub-committee, drawn up in accordance with the general principles of the Apostles' Creed. No statement of the New Testament, however miraculous, was considered in the smallest degree out of place in syllabus and questions.789 And the Archbishop of Canterbury had recently spoken in high terms of the religious instruction given in the London Board Schools. He (Mr. Smith) spoke from his own knowledge as to the syllabus of religious instruction given in the Board Schools of Liverpool; it was an admirable compendium of elementary Scripture knowledge, and met the views of Churchmen and Nonconformists alike. He entirely objected to breaking up the system which was working excellently well, and opening the gate to Mediæval ecclesiasticism. ["Hear, hear!"] But the proposal to open the Board Schools to sectarian teaching was gilded by the concession that in Church Schools the children of Nonconformists may also have separate religious instruction. This did not remove the real objection that Protestant Nonconformists have to Church Schools, to which they are obliged in 8,000 parishes to send their children in default of any other. The teaching staff were all required to belong to the Church of England. If a bright and intelligent child wished to become a teacher it must forsake the faith of its parents; this was felt peculiarly in Wales, where in some of the rural parishes seven-eighths of the people were Nonconformists, and yet were obliged to send their children to Church Schools. The whole atmosphere of these schools and all their social influence was, in many parishes, used to crush Dissent; the clergymen in some cases taught that Dissenters were almost outside the pale of salvation. The teachers had often been trained in training colleges where so-called Catholic doctrines were being more and more inculcated. In ways innumerable the children of Dissenters were placed at a disadvantage. What they wanted was, not that their children should be gathered into a separate classroom to be taught by their own ministers, but that they should have a right to a public school controlled by their own representatives, where both teachers and taught should stand upon the same footing. They objected to be a kind of pariah, barely tolerated; they claimed absolute equality. Now, this Bill endowed these sectarian schools with 4s. per child additional grant; at present 80 per cent, of their cost was defrayed from public sources, soon it would be 85 or 90 per cent., and it became 790 almost a parody to call such schools Voluntary; they were State-paid schools handed over to the parish clergymen. ["Hear, hear!"] The object of the Bill was to strengthen and perpetuate these schools. The main object of Liberals and Nonconformists was to gradually substitute National and Un-sectarian Schools; but not violently or needlessly to upset a system that had done good service in the past. The injustice was not so much when parents had a choice of Board or Church Schools; it was acutely felt in rural districts when there was no choice, but when the only available school was used to proselytise Dissenters, and often to stigmatise their deepest convictions. These were the principal grounds upon which he opposed this revolutionary Bill. It would unsettle everything, and throw the whole question of National Education into the cauldron of strife, and he trusted that, even yet, the Government would withdraw some of its most obnoxious proposals. He could not sit down, however, without giving his hearty approval to two proposals in the Bill; one to raise the age of exemption from 11 to 12, as recommended unanimously at the Berlin Conference. The great fault of their system was that children left school far too soon; and he would strongly advise raising the age of total exemption to 13, with some provision in agricultural districts to be excused school attendance in summer and autumn, when there was a pressure of field work, and also full provision for evening continuation schools. The other provision to which he alluded was the optional proposal to transfer the care and maintenance of pauper children from the Poor Law Guardians to the Education Authority. He could not too highly commend this proposal. Parliament had recently been presented with the Report of the Departmental Committee appointed to inquire into the London Poor Law Schools. It was as painful reading as one could well imagine; it proved up to the hilt the utter failure of the existing system; it proved it to be excessively costly and very injurious to the children both physically and mentally, and a sure means of perpetuating hereditary pauperism. These huge pauper schools were homes of ophthalmia, ringworm and skin 791 disease. One of the best authorities said:—The mental condition of the girls has been a source of great amazement to me; their dulness and incapacity, and especially the animalism of their tempers. …. I am bound to say that evil habits are much more prevalent than I think the public have any conception of in all Poor Law establishments of a barrack class in which girls are aggregated.It was a disgrace to their Poor Law system that these abuses had so long been rampant; and now the opportunity had arrived for breaking up these huge, costly, and unwholesome establishments, and allowing the children to mix in the common life of the nation, and attend the common schools of the country, untainted by pauper associations. He trusted this part of the Bill would be adhered to fully, and so 60,000 or 80,000 imprisoned children would have a chance of breathing the pure air of healthy school life. [Cheers.] These good features, however, did not touch the general framework of the Bill, which was reactionary in character, and subservient to clericalism, and would meet with the strongest opposition from all true Liberals and educationists. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
would not be tempted by the militant Protestant speech of the hon. Member for Flintshire, who had just sat down, whose earnestness in this as in other causes they all respected, to follow him into the tempting paths of theological controversy. He desired rather to show by a few facts and figures that the County Councils, even in the rural counties, were quite capable of taking charge of, at any rate, the greater part of the duties conferred upon them by this Bill. Only five years ago the Technical Instruction Act threw a difficult and novel educational work upon inexperienced County Councils, and the results were to be seen recorded with approval in the recent Report of the Secondary Education Commission. It was necessarily an experimental work, and when experiments were carried out even by experienced bodies it was not strange if a certain amount of money was not spent as well as it might be. But the experiments in question had been of the greatest value, and year by year the money had found its way into the best channel, 792 and at this moment there was very little of it that was not spent in a way that was beneficial to the country generally. In the large agricultural county, difficult to organise, which he represented, they had spent considerable sums not only on purely technical classes, but on improving the buildings of secondary schools, maintaining those schools and inspecting them to see that they were efficient. They were at the present moment supporting no less than 150 night schools, scarcely any of which existed five years ago. The greater part of the expense of this was paid by the County Council, and many of them could not exist but for the effective aid they got from the local authority. They had a completely organised system of scholarships to carry on promising children from the elementary to the secondary and higher schools. They spent also considerable sums in training elementary teachers. Here was a county authority, and it was but a specimen of many, which had done all this, it had gained valuable experience in doing it, it had efficient offices and efficient officers, and at this moment it was ready and competent to undertake further duties of the same educational character. The right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary stated in horrified tones that, if the Bill passed, 126 educational departments would have to be set up all over the country. Was the House aware that nearly all these so-called "educational departments" already existed? It was absurd to contend that if the County Councils were competent to perform the higher and more responsible duty of superintending secondary schools and evening schools, they were not equally competent to carry out what, after all, was the rather mechanical work of looking after elementary education under the provisions of the Code. Some modifications, however, he admitted, would have to be carried out in Committee. There must, for example, be an efficient staff of inspectors placed at their disposal, and sufficient funds provided to carry out their new duties. Then there were the obvious advantages of decentralisation. The present rigid system, under which, as a rule, the same education was provided for rural and town children alike, was capable of great improvement. They 793 wanted more variety and elasticity, and that was one of the advantages which would result from having the same authority for secondary and elementary education. He could give examples. He had found in many country schools English grammar taught as a matter of course. In his opinion, the limited time at the disposal of many country children might be better spent than in learning the dry rules and barren examples contained in English grammar. He had been told by country schoolmasters, when trying to enforce this view, that they could not adopt the far more fruitful subject of elementary science, teaching the laws of nature and habits of observation, first, because they had not the necessary apparatus—which, by the way, County Councils would, under this Bill, be able to place at their disposal—and secondly, because Her Majesty's Inspector told them they would not get so good a grant. The local authority could remedy these defects. They could also see that rigid and absurd rules with regard to playgrounds and minor matters were not applied in country districts, where the children had often an open moor at their very feet—["hear, hear!"]—although, of course, these rules were necessary in our large towns. They would, under the Bill, get rid of many of the complications and difficulties which now beset evening school work. They could also organise a proper system of grouping of schools for peripatetic instruction. An ordinary schoolmistress could not be expected to teach all kinds of new subjects. There must be peripatetic instruction, and the only way for that for country schools was by grouping, and that could only be done by a local authority with a much larger area than any of the present elementary school managers.
§ * MR. HOBHOUSE
said, he himself had done it in regard to evening schools under the Technical Instruction Act. Do not let them forget that these local authorities would be under the control of an intelligent central Department. They would be bound to carry out the Code efficiently and properly, and therefore there was no reason to fear that the 794 standard of education would be lowered even in the agricultural counties. There was no doubt that if the authorities were to work satisfactorily they must be thoroughly efficient in their constitution as well as resting upon a popular basis. The popular basis was provided in the Bill, but he did not see anything that made it necessary to require these committees to associate with themselves persons of educational experience. The Secondary Education Commission—and he wished the Government had followed a little more closely the suggestion of that Commission in respect to the constitution of the local authorities—particularly insisted on the association with popularly elected bodies of experts in education. He thought the Bill would be greatly improved from the educational point of view if they made it necessary that the committees should co-opt a certain number of persons who had actual experience in education. ["Hear, hear!"] With such an authority as he suggested, covering a large area, he saw no reason why secondary and elementary education should not be improved hand-in-hand, and made more suitable to the needs of the people, as well as more satisfactory in their results. He did not wish to enter on the more controversial points raised by the question of special-aid grants, except to say, in passing, that he thought it was rather a pity that, in creating a local educational authority and in giving aid, which they desired to be permanently effective aid, to the Voluntary Schools, the Government were not bold enough to provide that, where the local educational authority, at the request of the school managers, put representatives of those managers on the authority, they should also have the power to aid the school managers out of local resources. ["Hear, hear!"] That would have been a perfectly logical and satisfactory solution of the question. Hon. Gentlemen who supported the rejection of the Bill took upon themselves a grave responsibility. The rejection of the Bill meant, of course, the rejection of all that was contained in the Bill. They would negative the decentralising of education, they would negative the proposal to reorganise secondary education and to place secondary and elementary education under the control of the same 795 authority. They would negative what seemed to him a most valuable proposal, namely, a proper audit of school accounts, and the permanent application of the technical education funds to educational purposes, and they would also negative the proposal to raise the standard of age in elementary schools. Why should they refuse all those advantages which the Bill offered? Because they objected, he supposed, to giving any aid to the Voluntary Schools, or if that was not so because they had a rooted objection to one or two disputable clauses at the end of the Bill. He conceived that in the interest of education that would be an unwise course. When they came to the Committee stage let them discuss, and if they could, reject those controversial clauses, but let them not lose the opportunity of improving the Bill in the interest of education. Let them, if they could, defer their theological controversies until they came to a later stage, and try and approach the measure in a calm and philosophical spirit.
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ * MR. J. W. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough)
said, he looked upon the Bill as the most barefaced and audacious attempt to reward partisans and secure the domination of a party that had ever been made in this country. Charles II. did considerable in that line, but he contented himself with giving away the nation's land and the nation's money, whereas the present Government proposed to sacrifice the welfare of the nation for Party purposes. The spirit of the Prime Minister breathed in every line of the Bill. Its text was, "Let us capture the School Boards in the interest of the Church of England." The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Dartford Division of Kent had said that the denunciation of the Bill was vague. He hoped his denunciation would not be vague. He was a county Member and the representative of agricultural labourers, and one of his strongest objections to the Bill was that the Committee to be set up by the County Councils would surrender the schools of the country districts into the hands of 796 the parson, and would stereotype and make permanent for ever parson rule in the villages. If the right hon. Baronet asked him what inscription he would put upon his banner in this fight, he would reply: "Away with parson rule in our villages!" One objection to handing over the education of the children to the parsons was that the funds which had been left to the Church for education had been misapplied to other purposes. He would read a quotation from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, not for the purpose of giving annoyance, but because the right hon. Gentleman said what he wanted to say, so much better than he could do it himself, or for the matter of that so much better than any other politician whose speeches he had read. He was therefore always glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's assistance in expressing his meaning. On one occasion the right hon. Gentleman said:—Education ought to be free, and the additional cost should be provided from national resources.And then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say:—There seems to me to be no national resources more appropriate for restoring the freedom of the schools than those vast endowments which are now appropriated to the service of a single sect, but which were originally intended for the benefit of the whole nation, and were designed for the promotion of education as well as for the service of religion.On another occasion the right hon. Gentleman said:—I hope to live to see the time when voluntary zeal will provide for religious work, and will set free those vast endowments which were originally intended, amongst ather purposes, for the improvement of the condition of the poor and the education of the people, as well as to the special objects to which they have since been exclusively devoted.For his part he should like to see the whole cost of education thrown upon national resources, so that education might be absolutely national, absolutely free, unsectarian, independent of all private subscription, and untrammelled by private interference; and further, he should like to see all schools receiving 797 grants of public money under the management of public bodies specially elected for that purpose. What he had said about the clergy did not apply to that large numbers of self-sacrificing men who devoted their whole time to doing good. The man he attacked was the self-satisfied rector, who thought everything was for the best in this best of all possible worlds, and who preached, because he believed, the hateful text: "The poor ye will always have with ye." The Bill was evidently regarded as a Measure of Church defence. That was proved by the fact that a very large number of the petitions presented to the House, asking for aid for Voluntary Schools, were sent to Members by Charles A. Wells, clerical secretary to the Church Defence Institution, with a lithographed letter requesting that they might be presented to the House. If that evidence was not sufficient, there were the words of the Archdeacon of Carmarthen, who, speaking at Swansea on April 22nd, said, "he believed the Government had gone as far as they dared to serve the Church." He was not surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite did not like the Board Schools. He should be surprised if any Tory liked the Board Schools. In the Board Schools the children were inculcated with a spirit of independence. They learned there how their fathers had suffered under former generations of Tories—[Ministerial laughter]—and it was not be wondered at that they did not love the Tories. In the Board Schools the children were not taught to curtsey to the squire or to the parson. In the Church Schools the children were taught to fall down and worship the great god of the Clerical party—the landowner. Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but he knew what he was talking about. He saw it too frequently. What the children were being taught in thousands of villages today might be summed up in the words:—God bless the Squire and the Squire's relations,And make us know our proper stations.[Laughter]—to which, in view of the Agriculture Rating Bill, would probably 798 be added, "And give us strength to pay their share of the rates." [Laughter.] The Church had always been against progress. The great historian Macaulay said:—When the church of this country was at the zenith of its power, then the morals of the people were at their lowest ebb.Those words were taught in the Board Schools, and that was why the party opposite hated the Board Schools. No doubt he would be charged with setting class against class. But if that were necessary for the purpose of assisting those who lived by labour, and enabled others to live without labour, he should not hesitate to do it, because it was a charge that was always hurled against those who discovered abuses and endeavoured to remedy them. Clergymen claimed that they were concerned for the education of the, children. A more astounding statement had never been made. They were asked to believe that the country parson, forsooth! was consumed with a devouring zeal to educate his flock. But the parsons knew very well that their power had its only abiding foundation in the ignorance of the people, and therefore they desired to limit that amount of knowledge that could be fitly imparted to what they were pleased to call the lower orders. John Ruskin truly described the position when he wrote:—You imply that a certain portion of mankind must be employed in degrading work, and that, to fit them for this work, it is necessary to limit their knowledge, their active powers, and their enjoyments, from childhood upwards, so that that they may not be able to conceive of any state better than the one they were born in, nor possess any knowledge or acquirements inconsistent with the coarseness, or disturbing the monotony of their vulgar occupation. And by their labour in this contracted state of mind, we superior beings are to be maintained; and always to be curtseyed to by the properly ignorant little girls, and capped by the properly ignorant little boys whenever we pass by.He for one did not admit that the country owed a deep debt of gratitude to the clergy; as the son of a working man he denied that the clergy had any claim to gratitude. In thousands of villages to-day there were men and 799 women who could neither read nor write. A return presented within the last few days furnished a good object-lesson. During the last 10 years the Education Department had refused to recognise for the purposes of the grant 28 proposed new schools, because there was plenty of school accommodation in the neighbourhood in which it was proposed to put them. Of these, 15 were projected by Roman Catholics, 10 by the Church of England, and 3 by other bodies. Therefore, it must have been proposed to start these schools, not for educational but for some other purposes; the fact was they were wanted to enable priest and parson to get children into their clutches. It was said that the Bill was to relieve an intolerable strain. Strain on whom? Not on the subscribers, but on the teachers undoubtedly. He maintained that the subscribers to our Voluntary Schools contributed very little indeed towards the cost of education. In the main their subscriptions were to be set opposite the salaries of organists, choirmasters, and other factotums of the parson. ["Oh, oh!" and cheers.] He had advertisements taken from the columns of the Schoolmaster which gave curious information as to the duties expected to be performed by schoolmasters and schoolmistresses in Church of England Schools. He would read extracts from some of the advertisements:—Wanted, certificated master to take charge of village school. Must be fully qualified to train Church choir and to play organ when required.Mistress wanted immediately. Churchwoman, communicant. Sunday schools. £40 a year.Or 15s. 4½d. per week of seven days for an educated woman, who had much better have gone into a factory.Wanted for a mixed school, average attendance 70 to 74, a man and wife or master and mistress. Must be communicants and good Churchmen. Able to take organ and accompany full choral services and train choir. Salaries £70 and £30.Wanted in a small village school, a certificated mistress with sister or friend to help with the infants. Drawing. Able to play American organ in church. Sunday school. Churchwoman and communicant.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby) rose to Order, and asked whether the hon. Member was in order in reading these advertisements.
§ * MR. LOGAN
continued, and said he was endeavouring to make good his contention that the subscriptions to Voluntary Schools were to be placed, not to the Education account, but to the payment of salaries to organists, choirmasters and others. Another advertisement ran:—Certificated master. Sunday School. Organ in church. Harmonium. Wife teach needlework and infants. Furnished cottage. £80 in all. Train choir.Or 30s. 9d. per week for an educated man and his wife, seven days per week, besides evening work. What was objectionable in the advertisements was likely in the reality to be much worse. Was it surprising that men and women who were asked to work in this manner for a mere pittance should be lacking in energy during school hours; and that, if they could obtain employment under School Boards, they would not consent to endure such drudgery any longer than they were compelled to do? No wonder the teaching in Voluntary Schools was inferior, and that County Council Scholarships were chiefly carried off by scholars from the Board Schools, as they had been in recent competitions in Leicestershire. This effort to bolster up Church Schools and to destroy Board Schools was not made in the interests of children. It was said that the inability of Church Schools to earn full grants was owing to their poverty, and he wanted to prick that bubble. In the year 1894–5 the total expenses of the School Boards averaged per scholar £2 8s. 9¾d., and that of Church Schools £1 18s. 1¾d., giving a difference in favour of Church Schools of 10s. 8d. per head. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes; but in almost all cases School Boards had built schools, and had to continue building, and the cost of the buildings was raised by loans. The payment of interest and the repayment of principal was an item of expenditure not falling upon Church Schools—at all events, not recently; and when the Voluntaryists did build, a considerable portion of the cost came out of the Imperial Exchequer. It must not be ignored that of the total expenditure of 801 School Boards 15 per cent, was on account of loans and the interest upon them, and the ratepayers possessed the property represented by that 15 per cent.; but no matter how much money was spent upon Church Schools, not a brick belonged to the ratepayers. This 15 per cent, which went for loans and interest accounted for 7s. 3¾d. per child of School Board expenditure. Then the salaries of teachers in Church Schools were less by 8s. 7¼d. than were salaries in Board Schools. This 8s. 7¼d., plus the 7s. 3¾d. for loans and interest, made a total of 15s. 11d. per head which Church Schools did not bear, leaving a sum equal to 5s. 3d. per scholar in Church Schools unaccounted for. When they took into consideration the amounts expended on new schools and on salaries, the Church was, according to the statements of hon. Members opposite, spending in other branches of educational expenditure, 5s. 3d. per child more than the School Boards, and the pretence, therefore, that Church school education was inferior to that given in Board Schools for lack of funds fell to the ground. Hon. Members opposite had said a great deal about decentralisation. That was another object-lesson of the way in which hon. Members opposite saw fit to wear Radical clothing—which did not fit them very well. [Laughter.] He advocated decentralisation, but he was not foolish enough to suggest that they should decentralise our Army, or Navy, or Education, which ought to be as much a national object as that of national defence. It was our greatest defence, and yet the Government proposed to parochialise it for Party purposes. The Government would carry the Bill. [Ministerial cheers.] Yes, even if more monstrous than it was, by the aid of what used to be called "items" and "mechanical majorities." But they would not carry it until the country thoroughly understood its purport. In the last Parliament the Liberal Government were frequently asked whether they had a mandate from the country for what they were doing. Did hon. Members opposite pretend that they had a mandate from the country for this Bill? [Ministerial, cheers.] Would they go to the country on it. The Government was anxious to push forward these rewards to their political 802 friends in the hope that by the time the General Election came they would be forgotten. But the Government would find this Bill would rankle in the minds of the people; and although the result might be to temporarily put back education in this country, he was certain the effect would be to permanently damage the Party opposite, and more than that, to put back the cause of religious education which they had at heart. [Cheers.]
§ MR. ERNEST GRAY (West Ham, S.)
said, he had listened to many startling statements during the discussion of the Bill, but he had never heard anything to equal that of the hon. Member who had just sat down. Either his opportunities of observation had been extremely limited, or his powers of generalisation were simply remarkable. A more grotesque misconception of the part played by the clergy in popular education he had never heard from any intellectual man. [Cheers and Opposition cries of "Oh!"] One had only to travel in rural districts to see the hand of the clergy everywhere, and nowhere more than in the Voluntary Schools which were a standing memorial of the work accomplished during the present century, and particularly during the last 25 years, under conditions of exceptional difficulty. The hon. Member alluded to the frequent imposition of extraneous duties on teachers, and made it an argument why the Bill should not be proceeded with. He himself admitted that Parliament might furnish an opportunity for removing the evil. The hon. Member for Poplar said the duty rested with the Government and their followers to prove the necessity for the Bill, and the onus did not lie with the Opposition to prove that it was unnecessary. But the Vice President of the Council showed the necessity for the Bill. He stated clearly the condition of primary and secondary education, and on that statement they on that side of the House founded their justification for legislation. Unless the hon. Member had limited his observation to the work of the London School Board alone, it was impossible for him to escape the conclusion that legislation was absolutely necessary if the schools of the country were to be brought up to a reasonable state of efficiency, and the money now spent was not to remain unproductive. He contended 803 that a large amount of money now devoted to the purpose of elementary education was being wasted for want of a few more shillings to make the present expenditure absolutely effective. The Bill had been described as revolutionary. He accepted with pleasure that description of the Bill. In his opinion nothing short of a revolution in educational affairs would meet the difficulties of the present situation, and he was certain that if the Government had come to the public with proposals of the childish simplicity of those advanced from the other side, they would have been overwhelmed with ridicule, and taunted with tinkering with the subject instead of coming before the House with a statesmanlike proposal. More than one speaker had said that the Bill was intended to destroy the School Boards. If that were the object or effect of the Bill, he for one would not support a single line of it. He believed too much in the magnificent work accomplished by the larger School Boards to do anything to advance any proposition which would tend to injure School Boards, speaking generally. When they came to deal with small School Boards, everything bad that had been said with regard to the management of Voluntary Schools might be said with even greater force with regard to the work of education under small School Boards. So his objection was not that the Bill left Board Schools unattacked, but did not go far enough in the way of removing altogether the small School Boards. The hon. Member for Perth said the Bill did not attempt to destroy the School Boards by direct means, but it indirectly implied that the 4s. additional grant would be a great temptation to a locality to transfer Board Schools to the county authority or transform them into Voluntary Schools, and they would yield to it, and Voluntary Schools would increase, and the Board Schools be indirectly destroyed. If the value of the affection of the people for Board Schools was not more than 4s. per child, many of the laudatory phrases which had been used on the subject were misplaced. For himself he did not think such a result was likely to ensue. Those who had availed themselves of the advantages and realised the benefits of the School Board system were not likely to throw them 804 away. Much had been said as to the constitution of the proposed new authorities. A new authority was absolutely necessary if they were to deal with secondary and primary education at the same time, and he believed it was universally admitted amongst those who had any knowledge of the work, that the time was ripe for some proposal dealing effectively with primary and secondary education in one and the same Measure, and under one and the same authority. What were the essentials of any new authority? It must have attached to it responsibilities and functions sufficiently important to attract to it the best people in the county. It must also cover an area sufficiently large to evenly distribute the cost of education. The County Council area met both these essential conditions. Personally, he frankly admitted he would prefer the establishment of a county board of education, elected for the direct purpose of education—[cheers]—having under its control primary and secondary education, being directly responsible to the electors of the county, and with wide responsibility direct responsibility too. But such boards would completely replace the whole of the School Boards of the country, and greater opposition would have been raised to such a scheme than had been raised to this. The establishment of an authority for the express purpose of education was an ideal, but he was afraid any responsible Government would find the realisation of such an ideal beyond the range of practical politics. If they had, therefore, to choose some existing authority he could not conceive an authority better than that of the County Council on whose shoulders to place the additional work. Personally, he had been greatly surprised at the tone adopted by Gentlemen opposite towards the County Council, which he thought they had regarded as the ideal of municipal life. Had any other authority been suggested by the Government they would have heard complaints from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who would have asked what the County Council had done to deserve the treatment of having the powers it already administered taken out of its hands. He was half afraid the criticism was not so much directed against the Bill as against the Government which had placed the Bill before 805 the House, and that whatever scheme had been put before the country it would undoubtedly have been condemned as the only wrong one, and every other possible one would have been right. He admitted fully his preference for a directly elected body if it could have been secured, but he was afraid the opposition that would have been offered to it by hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been as acute and as strenuous as the opposition to the present proposal. He had alluded to the contempt which had been thrown on the County Council now it was proposed to grant to it this additional duty, and it had been asked, Had the County Council time for this work? Judging from the applications for more work which the London County Council made to that House, he was open to the belief that the County Councils had plenty of time in which to undertake this work. It had also been said that no enthusiasm was aroused in many of the County Councils for this work. There was no obligation on the part of the Education Department to transfer its control. As the Vice President pointed out in his speech on the Second Reading, the Department would naturally proceed very slowly with this work. It would grant to those County Councils which had shown a capacity and readiness for the work such agreements as were provided for under the Bill, and to other County Councils which had not shown the same readiness there would be no haste in according agreements—which, by the way, would subsequently have to be submitted to the House, so that any possible evil would be avoided. From what he knew of the actual working of the schools, and from what he had seen of the working of the Education Department for many years, particularly that which administered the science and arts branch, he was perfectly convinced there was an absolute necessity for a large devolution of the powers and functions at present possessed by the Education Department, and that decentralisation of its work and the removal of a mass of detail to the locality would be a distinct blessing to every one of the schools, which meant to every one of the children in those schools. It had become utterly impossible for the central Department to carry out with justness and promptitude the 806 mass of detail which constantly fell upon it. What had been a more fruitful source of friction between the localities and the central Department than that of the condition of school buildings, and upon what authority, other than the local authority, should be thrown the duty of inspection of school buildings, and the certifying of their proper sanitary condition, ventilation, and heating? It was utterly impossible for the Department's Inspectors to undertake all these various duties. In the first place they were not trained for that kind of work, they were trained to judge of the efficiency of a school; they were not architects or sanitary surveyors, therefore it was desirable that the inspection of school buildings should be thrown on some competent local authority, and in that alone would be full justification for the principle of decentralisation. There was one difficulty he saw in the Bill in this principle of devolution—a danger he trusted the Bill in its future stages would avoid. He hoped the inspection of children and of schools for the certification of their educational efficiency would not be of a dual character, that it would not be conducted by the central Department and by the local authority as well. The Secretary of State for India in the Debate on the previous day, said that under the present form of management at Whitehall they worried to death both School Boards and teachers. He ventured to say that if this dual form of inspection was to obtain in their schools they would worry School Boards, Voluntary managers, teachers and children, and would inspect them to death. He was certain that such a dual system of inspection would in itself be sufficient to break down the scheme, and he hoped there would be no such system set up. The financial clauses of the Bill were naturally those which came in for the greatest criticism. It was said that a treatment was being given to Voluntary Schools which was denied to Board Schools, and that this Bill set up for the first time the principle of differentiation. He ventured to submit that the principle of difference of treatment had been in progress for the last 25 years; that the Board Schools of the country had had the possession of funds of which the Voluntary Schools had never had any control whatever. 807 When the School Board system was established it was never for a moment imagined that the Voluntary School system would continue to exist, and the consequence was it was never imagined that the School Board rate would reach the figure it had now obtained. He offered no protest against that rate. He did not recognise any extravagance, for he believed the money had been well spent. But these were conditions now prevailing which were not anticipated at the time of the creation of the School Boards, and Parliament was being asked to redress a grievance which had arisen during the progress of the last quarter of a century and to put Voluntary Schools on the same equality or footing which they never really had enjoyed. He welcomed the proposal of the Government to extend the system of grants to poor schools, to the poor Board Schools as well as to the poor Voluntary Schools. But was the relief in any way adequate? The amount of relief granted in some districts was absolutely a minus quantity, and they would be worse off under the provisions of the Bill than they were at present. Take his constituency of West Ham. Their School Board rate would be 2s. 6d. in the pound for the year ending September next. Hon. Members might think there had been gross extravagance on the part of the Board, but a few figures would dispel that idea. The population of the district was 260,000, the average attendance in the schools was nearly 35,000 children for the year ending September last, and the rateable value of the district was only £932,000. Given their rateable value and their child population in the schools, and they could at once calculate what the rate in the pound must have been. It was not extravagance; it was simply due to the excessive poverty. The population of the district was only worth, taking the rate able value, £3 10s. per head. Another district which had been referred to, the Forest of Dean, was worth £1 per head compared with Bournemouth, where it was £8 15s. Manchester, which had just double the population of West Ham, had in its Board Schools almost exactly the same number of children. It was evident that the other children in Manchester were either attending Voluntary Schools or that the people, 808 being richer, had availed themselves of the secondary schools. Nearly all the children in West Ham attended the Board Schools. But the rate for School Board purposes in Manchester, with exactly the same number of children and with twice the population, was only one-fourth of that which prevailed in West Ham. He must say that seemed to him an injustice, which the House ought to redress at the earliest possible moment. Education was not a mere local advantage; it was a national boon, and theoretically the whole cost of national education should be met by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It appeared to him that some greater relief ought to be granted than was proposed under the Bill. The proposal was that 4s. for each child in attendance in the school was to be paid to the county authority. If the School Board district was co-terminous with the administrative county, and they had no other School Board to which to devote any part of the money, the whole grant would go to that one School Board. Absolutely, if this district received help under Section 97 of the Act of 1870, it could not divert any part of the money to Voluntary Schools. They ought of necessity to get the whole of the 4s. grant, and if they were not to have it, then their position was certainly worse than he had imagined it to be. The fact that they had already drawn assistance under Section 97, caused them to pay out of the new grant, as a first charge, more than they had received under that Section, and the ultimate relief that they would obtain in the district was only equivalent to a rate of l½d. in the pound, while they were paying a rate equal to 2s. 6d, in the pound. He asked whether it was sufficient for a district with a quarter of a million of people to receive, by this long promised scheme of relief, 1½d. in the pound, while the people were groaning under a rate of 2s. 6d. As an instance of what local municipalities would accomplish under such conditions, he might mention that the whole of the money commonly known as "the whisky money," had been devoted by this municipality to the purposes of technical education. They had not sought to reduce their rates, but they had devoted every penny they could secure to technical education, and he 809 submitted that where a district was discharging its responsibility with full effect it might fairly appeal for some measure of relief to be granted by that House. He wanted to show, apart from his own district, how grotesquely this scheme worked out. A poor district—always assuming that there was only one poor Board School district within the area of the County Council—receiving now ½d. per child out of the grant under Section 97 stood to win 3s. 8½d. per child under the new scheme. A district which had already received 4s. under Section 97 did not get a penny of relief. He would give another example of its working. The provision of Section 97 was that the threepenny rate should produce 7s. 6d. per child in average attendance at the schools. If the threepenny rate now produced 7s. 5½d. per child, the district would gain 3s. 11½d. under the Bill; but if the threepenny rate now produced 7s. 6d.—only a halfpenny more—the district lost all aid under the Bill. He ventured to say that when they got into Committee that clause would not stand an hour's criticism. He admitted the difficulty which the Government had had in framing the scheme, but he was not going to admit that it was impossible to frame a scheme which would deal justly with all districts by granting a sufficient measure of relief. Beyond doubt, the special Aid Grant of 4s. to the Voluntary Schools was utterly inadequate, and it was absolutely essential that this should be emphasised before the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The basis of distribution, too, was, to his mind, altogether unfair and unjust. It was 4s. to the school which was well-to-do, and 4s. to the starved little schools. Everybody knew full well that it was much more expensive per head of average attendance to carry on an establishment with an attendance of 30 children than it was to carry on an establishment of 300 children, and yet they were both under the Bill to receive special aid. There were numbers of those little schools doing the best work they could accomplish under the circumstances, with an attendance of 30 or under. What grant would they get, what special assistance would they get out of this 4s per head? £6. What would £6 provide a school of 30? Had hon. Members any idea of the sort of life which was 810 led in one of those little village schools, and had they any conception of the education which was being denied to a villager's child through the accident of birth? They were crowded together in unsuitable rooms, badly lighted and badly ventilated; six classes of elder scholars and two classes of infants—eight little classes with two or three infants in each of them, and one miserable teacher seeking to accomplish an utterly impossible task. What relief would this £6 give? It would not pay for a pupil teacher in the school; it would not pay for one of those despised teachers allowed under Article 68 of the Code—that was a totally untrained person over 18 years of age. It would not meet the miserable stipend now meted out to some of those persons. Talk about paying for a qualified teacher, that was quite out of the question. It would not raise the salary of a teacher now engaged in the school to anything like the average salary paid throughout the country. It was totally and entirely inadequate, and the amount could not be too strongly condemned in his opinion. If a school had an endowment what would it get? It must first deduct the endowment from the 4s. grant, and it might take the balance. He wanted to show how distinctly unfairly this would operate in many districts. If a school was in receipt of an endowment of £50, that was the first charge on an estate and was paid over annually by the present owner. Were it not for that charge on the estate, the present owner would contribute a voluntary subscription to the school. If he contributed in this way, the school could take the whole of the 4s. grant, but having contributed in the shape of an endowment, that endowment had to be deducted from the 4s. grant. He knew that in many instances the endowment would sweep away the entire grant, and there would be no additional aid to those schools whatever. On the other hand he knew it might fairly be argued that until the endowments were deducted, the endowments, amounting in all, he believed, to £154,000, would not be available for the special aid to poorer schools. As far as he read the Bill, the Government was relying on the endowments to give special aid to the poorest schools, but the method of distribution had little to 811 be said in its favour, and he ventured to think that the whole of the clause, so far as it concerned the special-aid grant to Voluntary and to Board Schools, would not be found in the Bill when it left that House. The difficulties were particularly great in the schools belonging to the Roman Catholics. An hon. Member rose the other day and said that he was the sole representative on that side of the House of that particular faith. That might be true, and probably was, but he would venture to say that the hon. Member was not the sole sympathiser on that side of the House with those who had established and maintained schools for the benefit of children of Roman Catholic parents. He had received a note from one of the hardest-working Roman Catholic priests in the East-end of London, in which he said that—This proposed grant in aid of 4s. is the least satisfactory part of the Bill. Its advantages to Voluntary Schools are most illusory, and I am apprehensive that it will turn out to be positively disadvantageous.The writer then went on to show what would happen in his own school. The net gain of income, from the 4s. aid, would be £180, but the whole of this would go, in the ordinary course of things, in order to meet the increased requirements of Article 73 of the Code. And he added—If this is the case in the ordinary course of things, what would be the case in the extraordinary course of things which would arise where, in virtue of the additional demands re staff, salary, apparatus, and the like, the powers that be claim that they are entitled to make, forsooth, on account of the generous treatment they have given to us.He went on to add—astatement with which he also agreed—that there was a danger, in these Roman Catholic schools, that the voluntary subscriptions would fall off. There was another feature in regard to the financial work of the Bill to which he felt compelled to offer his most strenuous opposition—an unjustifiable and unworkable proposal—and that was the clause which provided for the establishment of what the Secretary for India amusingly described as an efficient Finance Committee. What was the Finance Committee? It might be a County Council, a Borough Council, 812 or a District Council; he did not care which; they were equally bad. They had set up under the Bill one authority with knowledge of the work and another with no knowledge of the work, and determined to lengthen the Bill. He maintained that knowledge and responsibility should go together; those who contracted the bill should meet it direct with the ratepayers. If they were extravagant in any sense there was direct contact with the ratepayers every three years, and the ratepayer could exercise control if he chose. What would be the position under this clause? The County Council would say: "Your bill is too long, your estimate is too high." The School Board had purchased its articles, and had entered into its contracts, and had carried out its work; but the County Council had the power not to honour the precept, and the body which had incurred the responsibility was not present to defend itself before the County Council. The proposal was distinctly vicious and unworkable, and no self-respecting man would remain on the School Board in such circumstances, because constant friction was bound to ensue. The Secretary for India stated his reason for this revision, and in the right hon. Gentleman's reason he found considerable relief. But the reason would not stand examination for a moment. The extravagance of the Board, he understood, arose from its desire to secure an additional Parliamentary grant, and therefore it indulged in all kinds of extravagance; it expended large sums of money itself in order to secure an additional few pence under the grant. The extravagance was due to their effort to obtain a few more pence. One or two cases were quoted, and he had looked through the Blue-book in order to see how the cases bore out the argument. He discovered that in both cases the income from school pence was omitted, and that the income from rates was given of Blackburn as against Bolton; but a wide difference existed between the rate per child in the two cases. The figures of the school pence tended also in the other direction—6¾d. in Blackburn and 1s. 5d. in Bolton. Would anyone believe that the Blackburn expenditure was incurred for the purpose of the few pence more per child from the State? What became of 813 the desire of the School Board of the district to increase the additional efficiency of their schools? If the argument of the right hon. Gentleman held good, then he supposed that it would apply to every intelligent School Board throughout the country. They would all embark in extravagant schemes of expenditure in order to obtain the Government grant. Let the House apply the case to Hull and Portsmouth. Why did they not embark in this expenditure to receive Government grants? There was every reason why they should, because he noticed that among the Board Schools noted in the Blue-book, Hull was fined heaviest, and Portsmouth the next heaviest, under the 7s. 6d. limit. The fine imposed on Hull was 1s. 8¾d., and on Portsmouth 9½d., per child. There seemed, therefore, to be a great inducement to avoid that fine by bringing up their local contributions. But the School Board rate in Hull was 5s. 2d., and the school pence 1s. l¼d.; in Portsmouth, with no school fees, the total rate was equivalent to 5s. 3¼d. per child in average attendance. Educational efficiency had largely gone with expenditure, for it was notorious, that of the Board Schools mentioned in the list, Hull and Portsmouth occupied positions which were; by no means enviable, and that the condition of their schools left much to be desired. With regard to this contribution from local sources, those two School Board districts contributed per child less absolutely than the much-abused district of Preston, where no School Board existed at all. If this be the reason for the extravagance and the attempt to claim the additional Parliamentary grant, he suggested that the proper way to remove extravagance would be to remove the temptation, and to make the grant payable from the Educational Department per child a fixed amount, varying with the Code from year to year, the amount depending simply on average attendance—a single capitation grant. At the present time the children were turned into grant-earning machines—2s. for geography, 2s. for grammar, 6d. for singing, and 1s. 6d. for sitting still. Members of School Boards and voluntary managers were but human after all, and they encouraged teachers to take up the greatest number of subjects in order to earn the grant. 814 He could not help feeling that the financial proposals of the Bill were exceedingly inadequate; but was he for that reason to vote for the rejection of the whole Measure? Great as were the defects of the Bill, there was in it the framework, the skeleton, of a thoroughly good Measure? [Opposition laughter.] He was not so foolish as to reject an entire scheme because he disagreed with one or two of its component parts. As he understood the case, the Government were not irrevocably pledged to the financial clause, and therefore there would be opportunities of amendment in Committee. It had been said that the Bill would destroy the Board Schools, but that was an error, because it stated distinctly that the duty of the newly-constituted authority would be to supplement and not to supplant any good organisation that supplied efficient education. With the exception of the objectionable clause relating to financial control, there was nothing in the Bill to hamper or cripple any efficient School Board. He had greater apprehension that harm would accrue to Voluntary Schools than to Board Schools. One reason for that apprehension was the abolition of the 17s. 6d. limit. If a vicar could say to his parishioners, "If you contribute so much we shall get the Government grant," that was a strong inducement to them to subscribe, but that inducement would go with the abolition of the 17s. 6d. limit. After its abolition, where the local contributions, plus the Government grant, were not sufficient to maintain a school in a state of efficiency, the school ought, without delay, to be transferred to the newly-constituted authority. He had no desire to see schools maintained in a languishing condition; the quickest death was the best for inefficient schools A clause in the Bill which had been much criticised was that dealing with religious education. He was a Churchman, and his sympathies were wholly on the side of Church Schools when they were efficient; but he was exceedingly doubtful whether this clause, fair and just as it appeared to be on paper, would work out well. [Opposition cheers.] At present the Cowper-Temple Clause was working satisfactorily. He had never found a parent who objected to the Cowper-Temple Clause, or who had ever pretended that 815 he had any grievance with regard to religious education. He agreed with the Vice President of the Council that the larger, if not the entire, part of the agitation had been built up by persons who had an interest in keeping it going. He ventured to suggest that the system of denominational teaching had not had a sufficiently long trial in Birmingham to enable a fair judgment as to its effect to be arrived at. At present, although A went to chapel and B went to church, the little ones were not careful to examine into the reason. They learnt together in the same class without objection from their parents, and they learnt the elements of a common Christianity, and if the vicars and curates entered the schools and carried on separate lessons, he greatly feared that a narrow prejudice would be fixed on the child's mind from earliest infancy. He admitted that on paper the whole scheme appeared fair. He admitted the contention and the arguments brought forward by the hon. Gentleman who sat near to him. His argument was sound, but one had to know something of the conditions of school life, the separation of the children day by day, and the object-lesson most readily grasped by children, the object-lesson of a certain member going off in one direction to learn a particular catechism or creed which the children drafted into another direction were forbidden to learn. He could not conceive that the scheme would work. He did not believe that it would be workable in a large school, and he was surprised to hear the phrase used last night by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India. The noble Lord appeared to him to say: "Yes, we recognise the grievance and here is our remedy, but we advise you not to make use of it." He was bound to say that he agreed with that advice. He thought that the whole thing should be left severely alone. On this question of religious education the London School Board had, in his opinion, done much to detract from the praise accorded to School Boards. Its action had turned that body, in his opinion, into an object more or less of contempt. All its good work had been lost by reason of continued religious disputes, "and he earnestly hoped that these religious troubles would not be brought within the four walls of the schools. He had criticised the Bill in the modern sense, that was 816 to say, he had devoted his remarks to those portions of the Bill which, in his opinion were defective. [Ironical Opposition cheers.] Those who looked at the Bill from the other side of the House had, no doubt, not attempted to look for the good points in the Bill, though they were loud in their laudations of the late Vice President when he brought in a simple Bill which enacted one-half of one clause in this Bill, raising the agricultural half-timer to the level of the factory half-timer. There was another provision in the Bill to which he wished to refer, and that was the provision dealing with the auditing of accounts. The Bill provided for the auditing of accounts, but it did not say that all accounts were to be audited. [Opposition laughter.] Well, "all" was only a little word. No doubt its omission was only a draftsman's slip; but he felt it to be his duty to call attention to it. He was desirous that the accounts of all schools should be audited, and he thought it as well that the House should be quite clear as to what they meant by an audit. He wanted something more than a mere examination of accounts. His interpretation of the word "audit" was that power should be given to the district auditor to go behind the vouchers, if necessary, in Board Schools and Voluntary Schools alike. He was desirous that there should be the fullest and most complete audit of accounts. A step had been taken in the right direction, and an alteration of a word or two would make the provision satisfactory and complete. With regard to secondary education, he had realised, and he thought the House must have realised generally, that the changes which would be brought about by the Bill in secondary education had been necessary for many years past. The parents of children attending secondary schools required a guarantee that their children should not be instructed by quack teachers. The law forbade the employment of a quack doctor for the purpose of experimentalising on the body of a child, and he thought the time had come when the quack should be prevented from experimentalising on the mind of the child. There were many proposals in the Bill which both sides of the House could join in supporting. He felt that he had unduly trespassed upon the time of the House, but he felt strongly upon the 817 subject. In his opinion the great bulk of the Bill would have the effect, not of lowering, but of raising the standard of education. He believed that the Measure had been described outside of the House as a ridiculous attempt on the part of Her Majesty's Government to raise the lowest of the schools. That, in his opinion, was a very proper object to accomplish. If the Measure did not entirely carry out the intentions of its framers, it could easily be amended in Committee. For his part, he took this Bill as being an honest attempt on the part of the Government to advance and not to retard education. He believed that it would help Voluntary Schools, while it would not injure the Board Schools in the slightest degree. In that belief, he should give the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill his most hearty support.
§ * SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said that he hoped that they should have the pleasure of listening to many such speeches in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill as had just been delivered by the right Gentleman. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that his own speech would have that imitative character which was the sincerest form of flattery. The hon. Member for Warwick, whose speech they had all been eager to hear, and to which they had listened with pleasure, had thrown out a good-humoured challenge to hon. Members sitting upon the opposite side of the House, asking them to contest his assertion that the Bill was framed in accordance with the old Liberal principles. He did not feel himself competent to answer that challenge himself, but he would reply to it in the words of one to whom the hon. Gentleman would give very great weight. The words he referred to were spoken in 1876, when he supposed that the hon. Gentleman would admit that the old Liberal principles were acted upon, and which, at the same time, were spoken at so recent a time as to be applicable to the present day. In 1876 the Duke of Devonshire laid down, with the greatest precision and with the most perfect frankness, his view of the question. The noble Duke then said:The Act of 1870 was in the nature of a compromise between the advocates of denominational and National education. That Act contained 818 much that Nonconformists disliked exceedingly, but it contained two provisions and principles, one of which was a palliative of the essential vice of the Measure, and the other was undoubtedly a redeeming element. The Act of 1870 proceeded on the principle that denominational education should be established in those districts where the existence of a certain amount of voluntary effort in support of schools showed that the feeling of the locality was in favour of the system.The noble Duke proceeded to say:The second principle was the establishment of School Boards. It was declared by Parliament that in districts where the community was not willing to come forward and make voluntary contributions in favour of denominational schools, the management should be not in the hands of magistrates or ministers of any denomination, but in the hands of representatives directly elected by the people. The principle was one which was in the eyes of many a redeeming feature of the Act of 1870. There are many of us—I do not scruple to say I was one of them—who believe that the principle of the School Boards is the right and true principle in this matter. We believe that being the right and true principle it will in the end prevail.He begged the pardon of the House for reading such a long extract, but he thought that the challenge of the hon. and learned Gentleman deserved that it should be read. He thought that this Bill undid both those principles. The first of them, that the money given by the State should be met by money given by the denomination, was, before 1876, rigorously adhered to, but in 1876 a relaxation of it was made; only a limit was laid down so that the amount to be subscribed by the State should not exceed 17s. 6d. The Duke of Devonshire was so shocked at the original principle being violated that he opposed, on the Report, the Bill whose Second Reading he had supported; and now came this Bill, by which not only the 17s. 6d. limit (the existence of which the Duke of Devonshire did not regard as justifying him in doing anything but oppose the Bill of 1876) was abolished, but which swept away all limits whatever from this time forward. Not only would the full amount of 17s. 6d. be given, but 4s. in addition would be given without a single penny being required to be subscribed by the Voluntary Schools to meet the amount. With regard to the second principle, which related to the School Board system, the hon. Member for Dartford, in a speech that was listened to with great interest by the whole House because the hon. Gentleman, in it, 819 made reference to his own intense interest in education—for which he was bound to say the hon. Gentleman had done as much as any man in the House, and had done it in a single minded spirit—asked what all this excitement was about, and whence came this detestation of the Bill brought in by Her Majesty's Government? He would tell the hon. Gentleman that the excitement in the House on the subject, which undoubtedly was felt by every Nonconformist in the country, and by the advocates of the School Board system, was raised by the threat that was embodied in the Bill, and which was still more evident in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council on the Second Reading of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman told them that they must take it for granted that the education given in rural districts was extremely bad, and that that given in the Board Schools was worse than that given by the Voluntary Schools. In the first place, he contended that education in the rural districts was not everywhere or always bad, but that it depended upon whether or not the managers of the Board Schools or the owners of the Voluntary Schools did their duty. It was the duty of the owners of the soil, who drew all the surplus revenue of the soil, to provide the small contribution—not one and a-half per cent. on the rent—which was required to supplement the Government Grant, and to give a good education to the children of those who lived on the soil. Many owners did their duty, but bad rural education existed in districts where the landlords were unwilling or unable to give that infinitesimal contribution which was necessary to call forth the Government grants and to give an impetus to education, and where they at the same time resisted a School Board, which would levy an equal rate on all the owners of the district. He wished to repudiate with some indignation the attack which the right hon. Gentleman had made upon rural School Boards. ["Hear, hear!"] The reasons which he gave were absolutely inadequate. He had told them how a benevolent gentleman in the Ipswich district, who kept a labour bureau, found that of the youths who came to work one-half were badly educated and only one quarter well educated.
§ * SIR G. TREVELYAN
said the deduction which the right hon. Gentleman drew was that the only salvation of rural education was the parson's village school. Ipswich was in the middle of the Wood-bridge Electoral Division of Suffolk, in which there were three unions, and in this district there were 91 Voluntary Schools and 25 Board Schools, and he ventured to say that a very large percentage of those who came from these Board Schools had not forgotten what they had learnt. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted from the Report of a Chief Inspector in the East of England, who spoke slightingly of small Board Schools on account of their parsimony. But he might have quoted from the Report of the Chief Inspector of Wales, who said that in many small schools, mostly Board Schools, highly satisfactory results were often obtained, but that in a considerable number of other schools, mostly Voluntary Schools, in which the staff was generally weak, the results were often poor and indifferent. The Chief Inspector of Yorkshire also gave a very curious account of 11 small market towns, in ten of which the state of education was not satisfactory and the accommodation bad, while in Tad-caster, the only one in which there was a School Board, the accommodation was good and the state of education fairly satisfactory. Boys retained what they learnt at school by getting into a high standard and staying as long as they could in the school, and a Government Report issued recently on the standards of exemption from school in the different districts showed that the School Boards had a much higher standard of exemption than the Voluntary Schools. In Leicestershire, in the Billesdon Union, out of 37 parishes there were three which did not exempt children till Standard V. was reached, and they were all School Boards. In Bingham Union, in Nottinghamshire, out of 42 parishes there were five which did not exempt children till Standard V., and all were School Boards. In the Bishop Stortford Union of Essex and Hertford, out of 20 parishes four did not exempt children till Standard V., and all of them were School Boards. In the Chepstow Union of Gloucester and Monmouth, out of 43 parishes five did not exempt children till Standard V., 821 and they were all School Boards. In the Tynemouth Union of Northumberland, out of 18 parishes all except two did not exempt before Standard V., and those two which kept the children till Standard VI. were both School Boards. In the Dunmow Union of Essex, out of 30 parishes there were seven which kept the children till Standard V. was reached, and all of those were School Boards. In this respect the rural School Boards held a very good place, but in the School Boards of great cities there never was greater energy or self devotion shown than in carrying out what the Duke of Devonshire had called National, as opposed to denominational, education. The charge of extravagance had practically broken down. A most extraordinary charge had lately been brought against School Boards. It had been found out that they gave a denominational education. They were told that Nonconformists in School Board schools had their own religion taught at the public cost. [An HON. MEMBER, "Hear, hear!"] He must say that in this statement there was a depth of indifference to what Nonconformists thought and believed which he should have deemed to be impossible in a country which owed so much to Nonconformists. [Cheers.] Had the Nonconformist Churches no tenets of their own? There were the Baptists, the Society of Friends, the Unitarians—they had all separate tenets; and there were the Presbyterians with special catechisms, the longer and the shorter. The fact was that the special views of the Nonconformists were absolutely excluded from the Board Schools, as were the views of the Anglicans and Roman Catholics. Under one of the clauses of the Bill the County Council was placed in a position to check the expenditure of the School Board, and whoever held the purse had the power. The clause made the School Board a subordinate authority. He did not think there was a Gentleman in the House who could say truly and really that he thought that the City Councils of Manchester or Birmingham had that minute insight into education in those cities which would enable them to check the admirable School Boards there. If that were so in such places, what would be the position of county councils which knew nothing 822 whatever and which did not contain a single representative of the district where the School Board existed? Where was it shown that the School Board had been extravagant? Reference had been made to Walthamstow and West Ham, but these communities were to all intents and purposes part of London. They were exceptional districts; and he perfectly agreed with the hon. Member opposite that these exceptional cases had been treated with something like feebleness. It was no fault on the part of the poor people who worked in London that they had to go out to these districts to live. The weapon which was used for undermining the School Boards was one that was novel in this country. Up to this time people who contributed to the taxes shared and shared alike. Now certain districts were to get 4s. for each scholar out of the taxes, which were paid by all, while other districts would get nothing whatever. He would draw an illustration from three villages. One of them was a very large village; another was a good sized flourishing village; then there were two small parishes which arranged to club together and get a small School Board The work of education was well done. There were no quarrels between the parents and schoolmasters. Capital reports were obtained. It was quite impossible that the Voluntary Schools could do better. What was the difference between these villages and the villages round them? The difference was that in the one case the clergyman and the squire and a few rich farmers pay the subscriptions. The soil pays for the education in the Voluntary School; but in the School Board villages the soil likewise pays; the people who live on the soil pay, but they pay by means of rates instead of subscriptions, but none the less it comes out of the community in both cases; and yet because, in one case, the people pay by rates they were not going to get anything out of the taxes to which they contributed, whereas, in the other, because the people pay by subscriptions, they were to have the 4s. grant. Something would have to be done about Scotland and the equivalent grant, and if it was unjust that Scotland should not have an equivalent grant on account of the taxes which she pays, why was it not equally unjust that 823 Manchester, and Birmingham, and the Warwickshire villages, and London, which would pay by itself about one-fifth of the taxation of the country, should not have an equivalent grant when Scotland was going to have it? If when the promised Scotch Bill was brought in it was found that the 4s. grant was given fairly all round, to School Boards and Denominational Schools alike, or upon some other principle which all Scotch Members might approve, then Ministers would have paid a compliment to Scotland which they had not paid to England, but if they attempted to give the grant to the Voluntary Schools and not to the Board Schools, then he did not think this Session would be long enough to pass the Scotch Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] He objected exceedingly to the new form of School Board in country districts. Why was not a Parish Council in the small area of a parish equally to be trusted to name the School Board as the Town Council in a large area of a town? [Cheers.] And here again he asked was this principle in regard to rural districts to be applied to Scotland? Were three Members going to be foisted on every Scotch School Board, who were to be selected for them by the County Council? He could not imagine that what would be absolutely repudiated in Scotland would be good for England. But he had a much more serious charge against the Bill, and that was that at a time when our whole educational system was going "to be upset in a revolutionary manner," to use words spoken from the opposite Benches, the 8,000 parishes where there were no School Boards were to be left without any representation of the parents. In that they certainly never could acquiesce, and he found it extremely difficult to understand how certain Gentlemen opposite could acquiesce in such a final settlement of our system. The Duke of Devonshire spoke with the greatest warmth on this question. He said:—Pecuniary support is not the only element of schools. The parents and the children are also important elements for consideration, and I do not know that we are to assume it as a settled principle that the pecuniary supporters of the schools alone are to be consulted about the management, and that the parents are not to be allowed unless under certain circumstances to have any share in the management of the schools.824 Those were the noble Duke's views, and they were the views of the Opposition. He regretted greatly that this great change had been made in education without even any talk of putting on the management of the county schools any representative of the parents or ratepayers. But the most serious aspect of the Bill was the successive blows dealt at the undenominational character of education. Hitherto rates had been kept free from denominational purposes, but henceforth the educational authority might vote money out of the county rates to aid Denominational Schools of the higher class, and to supply and pay teachers for such schools, as far as he could see, with no conscience clause whatever. Under Clause 25 the educational authority might lend the ratepayers' money to Voluntary Schools for the purpose of building and enlargement. The security was perhaps the very worst to be found in the country. But then the clause went on to make a worse security still, until the ratepayers might as well, as far as the chances of repayment were concerned, throw their money into the sea. Then the Bill gave money to Denominational Training Colleges; and under Clause 24 guardians were allowed to contribute to the enlargement of schools where poor children were taught. In the Bill of 1870 there was one infringement and one only of that principle, and that was that parents of indigent children were allowed to have the children paid for at Denominational Schools out of the rates. The present Secretary of State for the Colonies said on that ground alone factious opposition might be offered to the Bill. He did not say they ought to offer factious opposition, to this Bill; but he maintained that a Bill which in four cases violated that principle ought to be carefully considered in Committee. He did not propose to use strong words in reference to Clause 27 which had been used on both sides of the House and out of the House, but he desired to point to one provision in it to which sufficient attention had not been called. Under Clause 27 denominational instruction might be given in all schools. Board or Voluntary. It was said that provision was the one which had been adopted at Birmingham, but it was not so; it was not the Birmingham provision at all. The Birmingham plan allowed 825 ministers to give religious instruction out of school hours, but it was no part of the school course. The Government plan allowed such instruction to be given in the school hours—in the school time—and, above all, there was nothing in the clause to show that it might not be given by the teachers. Just see what the result would be. At present, in the Church Schools all over England and Wales, there was a religious test applied to the teachers, but henceforth there would be one applied to the teachers in the Board Schools. ["Oh!"] That was the view of the teachers, and he thought they knew their position very much better than Members of Parliament knew it. At the recent Conference the teachers resolved:—Conference foresees in the proposed revision of this clause a vast amount of unnecessary and deplorable controversy. If the Government proposals are put into force, Conference must enter an emphatic protest against the selection of permanent teachers, with a view to the exceptional religious instruction for which the Bill proposes to provide, as this would lead to the imposition of theological tests upon teachers.That was the view of the teachers, and they were right. The teachers were most indignant at the policy of Mr. Riley on the School Board, but if the clause passed the policy of Mr. Riley would get some sort of justification. If it became the duty of the teachers under the London School Board to teach dogmatic opinion in school hours, there would be some reason for asking them whether they believed those dogmas or not. There was one other provision against which he must protest, and that was the provision in Clause 19 limiting the contributions in the best schools to 20s. a child. That was locking up the treasury, taking out the key, and handing it over to the Lords. [Cheers.] Henceforward, without the consent of the Lords, the sum which Parliament had year by year voted for education could not be increased beyond 20s. per child. This was a vicious system, founded on the same principle as the Agricultural Rating Bill, which, unless repealed with the consent of the Lords, bound Parliament for five years. ["Hear, hear!"] The Vice President of the Council in his speech said that hon. Members ought to support or oppose this Education Bill as they liked or disliked the educational 826 authority it set up. He could not accept that interpretation of their duties. [Cheers.] There were a whole host of provisions in this Bill which quite threw into the shade the question of the educational authority. This Bill was framed for the discouragement and destruction of the School Board system of England and Wales—[cheers]—a system which had succeeded so well that perhaps it had never met its match in any institution which had only lasted for 25 years. The Bill violated in many particulars the undenominational principles of the Act of 1870. It did nothing to raise the dignity and assert the just rights of the teachers. It did nothing towards placing on the boards of management of Voluntary Schools representatives of the public and of the parents. It left the training colleges, in which almost all of our teachers were trained, the same close forcing-houses of sectarian opinions. To this Bill, for what it did, for what it undid, and for what it failed to do, he and those around him felt bound to give their opposition. And if the Bill passed in its present shape—and he earnestly hoped that it would not—the harm which it would do to the present system of education would not, at any rate, be on their consciences and at their doors. [Cheers.]
§ MAJOR F. C. RASCH (Essex, S. E.)
said, that he wished to call attention to one clause of the Bill only, and that was Clause 21. Since he had been a Member of the House of Commons he had taken a general, rather than a particular, interest in this educational question, because in the eastern counties it was thought that this educational system, valuable as it was, cost a great deal of money, for which all the change that might have been expected was not received. As an agricultural man, he was bound to say that they must draw the line somewhere, and it was impossible for them to swallow Clause 21. He hoped hon. Members would not think that, in making this objection, he was simply a reactionary and retrograde Tory. He was generally considered a person of dangerously advanced views in the agricultural district which he represented, and he hoped the House would not accept the statement of the hon. Member who said that he and his friends wished to keep the children of the agricultural labourer in brutalised ignorance, in 827 order that they might the more readily receive the miserable dole of 14s. a week. That was the gist of the conciliatory speech of the hon. Member for the Loughborough Division. If agricultural labourers were earning only from 12s. to 14s. a week, it was not the fault of hon. Members on his side of the House, but of the Party of hon. Members opposite, because they always favoured a policy which led to low prices and high rates. [Opposition cries of "Oh!"] During the time of the passing of the Budget Bill of 1894 the right hon. Member for Monmouth time after time thanked God that prices were low and that wheat was below 20s. a quarter, and he had seen the whole of the Liberal Members follow the two hon. Members for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow into the Lobby in support of a resolution to place extra taxation on the land. [Cheers.] The other night the senior Member for Northampton said that "Hodge was not such a fool as he looked," meaning, of course, the agricultural labourer. He readily admitted that the agricultural labourer was not a fool, and a good proof of it was the fact that the agricultural labourers had returned two-thirds of hon. Members on the Ministerial Benches. [Cheers and laughter.] His experience of the agricultural labourer, in the eastern counties at all events, was to convince him that, while the labourer wanted his children to be fairly educated—to know, for instance, the three R's—he was not anxious for them to remain at school to be taught abstruse subjects which could be of little, if any, use to them in life. What did hon. Members think the children of agricultural labourers became in after life—Civil Service Commissioners, Civil Service clerks, or Members of Parliament? Why, most of the children went on the land when they grew up; some of the boys joined the Army, and made good recruits, too, and a few of them drifted into the towns. Boys of this class did not want a high-class system of education. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Because their occupation in after life did not require it. It must not be forgotten that boys in the agricultural counties—in Essex, at all events—were able to earn 3s. a week by doing what might be called light agricultural work, and this amount was an important item to the 828 household of the parents ["Hear, hear!"] The other day the late Home Secretary said that he did not approve of the premature employment of half-educated children. What did the right hon. Gentleman mean by the "premature employment" of those children? Did he think that they were treated like nigger children in India, and driven out to work in the cotton fields? The work those agricultural children did was of a perfectly healthy and very useful kind, and by it they gained expert practical knowledge with regard to the work they would have to do in after life. At the same time they helped their parents to keep the home. Surely there was no special reason why the children should not do this work. All he knew was that an infinity of harm would be done them if they were prevented from doing it. ["Hear, hear!"] Why did not the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President come to a compromise with the Members of agricultural constituencies on this matter? Why might not an arrangement be made by which the children should go to school up to the age of 11, and afterwards be made to attend school say for two hours a day at a convenient time? Then the children might be able to work in the fields, and at the same time be crammed with such further education as the right hon. gentleman thought necessary. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] That was a moderate proposal, and one which he thought the right hon. Gentleman need not refuse. [Laughter.] He knew many hon. Gentlemen did not agree with what he was saying; but a great many people did, and among them were the agricultural labourers of the eastern counties. On Tuesday last, at a meeting of the Central Chambers of Agriculture—a most intelligent and representative body under the presidency of the hon. Member for Durham—a two-thirds majority voted for the abolition of the 21st Clause. Still he knew he had not much to hope from the Vice President, who would keep all children at school until they were 14 if he thought the country would stand it; and he knew also that he had little to hope from Ministers who had a majority of 150 or 200 behind them, and who, in such circumstances, would not pay much attention to suggestions or proposals coming from the rank and file. He also noticed that the views of the 829 right hon. Gentleman in regard to agriculture were very crude. The right hon. Gentleman thought he could bring back the agricultural millennium by putting the unemployed mechanics of the towns on Essex lands, giving them spades and making them dig. [Laughter.] If, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman's ideas were as crude upon the subject of the improvement of agriculture, they were like to be imperfect also in regard to the education of the children of the agricultural labourers. The most unpopular man in Essex, if the 21st Clause was passed, would be the man from the Education Department. He did not think his life would be a happy one. There were two points worthy of consideration. One was in regard to the position of the teachers. They complained that they were liable to dismissal without appeal, either because they went to church or did not go to church, or because they played the organ or did not play the organ. [Laughter.] He thought they should have the right to appeal to some authority. The other matter referred to the charges for school buildings. In some districts of Essex the school rate was as high as 2s. 10d. in the £. But these people did not object to the rate so long as it went for the purposes of education. What they did object to was that a great deal of money was spent on the construction and reconstruction of school buildings ordered by the Education Department. He thought that one-third of these charges should be paid out of the National Exchequer. But, unless the Vice President of the Council was prepared to modify the 21st Clause, he was prepared to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. He did not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite would consider him a very eligible recruit, but considering that they were below their strength, they might accept him in the Lobby. However, he was prepared, in the interest of the agricultural labourers whom he represented, to vote against the 21st Clause.
§ * MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
said, he approached the subject of the Bill from two points of view—the first educational and the second that of personal experience. The great question to be considered was, how did the Bill influence the getting of children to school, the keeping of them there, and the character of the education they 830 received? He did not at all consider the subject in relation to its bearing upon this or that religious denomination, or its relation to any particular political party. It had been his honour during the past quarter of a century to have been a member of one School Board, Chairman of another; and during the last 10 years he had been a manager of a denominational school in the parish in which he resided. It seemed to him that, 25 years having elapsed since the last great education Act, there was a certain advantage in being able to take a retrospective glance over what had been done since then, particularly in respect to the changes that were desirable in our educational system. In references that were made to the Act of 1870 it was of ten spoken of as a compromise, but some of them knew that no such term could be applied to the Measure in all its length and breadth. It was carried against the opposition of 80 or 100 of the advanced Liberal Party, led in the main by the present hon. Member for the Edgbaston Division of Birmingham (Mr. Dixon). There was no doubt that, if the wishes of that advanced section of the Liberal Party had been consulted, it would have been a much better Measure from their point of view than it was. In reply to the hon. Member named, Mr. Forster expressed the hope that School Boards would become universal under the provisions of the Bill. Well, School Boards had not become universal; Denominational Schools occupied a large part of the field, and were likely to do so for some time to come. The right hon. Member for Fife (Mr. Asquith) had been challenged to say whether he would insist upon the Cowper-Temple Clause if the Scotch representative principle were adopted in England. For himself, he would say that he valued the representative principle so much that he would willingly exchange it for the Cowper-Temple Clause; that is, if the people of England and Wales were given the right of electing the members of the governing bodies of Voluntary Schools as well as Board Schools. The Government ought to make up their minds with respect to the Act of 1870, because there had been two voices from the Treasury Bench about it. The Vice President said its merits were so well known, and the results 831 of Mr. Forster's policy were admitted to be so great and good, that it would be impertinent to praise them; but the Secretary for India said that the influence of those who carried the Act had waned enormously, and he implied that the Act of 1870 was not at all of the character that the Vice President ascribed to it. He wished to hear from the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, on behalf of the Government, whether this Bill was intended to supplant or supplement the Act of 1870, to be a development or reversal of that Measure. The Bill of 1870 was due to the efforts of a large number of educational reformers throughout the land, reinforced by the determination of organised trades and the artisan classes, to have a better education for their children. It was noticeable that there had been no popular demand for this Bill. The Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy were the fons et origo of this Measure. He had no desire to speak disrespectfully of the clergy, but it was to the clerical sacerdotal element that the Bill was due. He hoped that when the Bill was in Committee they would ascertain what were the cross-currents in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill. His speeches on the Bill had been models of lucidity, but there was a curious want of earnestness about them. The right hon. Gentleman was brought up at the feet of Mr. Disraeli. There lingered about him traces of his master, and there were curious touches of sardonic humour in his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill. So far as he could make out, the Bill had two principles. It attempted to redress certain grievances and it proposed a certain policy of decentralisation. Those grievances were of two kinds, financial and religious. Hon. Gentlemen opposite thought some of these schools were starving and that there was not sufficient freedom from the point of view of denominational teaching. The Vice-President told them that the poverty of certain schools affected the teaching in them, and, in order to remedy that, it was proposed to give certain special grants. But the financial grievance was not only one of poverty. He happened to be a Member in whose constituency there was a district not so grievously afflicted as West Ham, and not quite such a bad case as that of the 832 parish in the Forest of Dean. But there was a large colliery district in his division which had a very high School Board rate, because in the adjoining parishes house accommodation was not provided for the miners. The population was, therefore, concentrated in the district to which he referred. It was not a poor district in the ordinary sense of the word, but the School Board had to bear the expense of educating the children of their neighbours. Although they took care to maintain the education at a high standard it was at the cost of an extremely high rate which ought really to be shared by the district around. With regard to Clause 4—the special grant Clause—he ventured to say, a more ridiculous clause for the purpose for which it was put in the Bill could hardly be conceived. As to it, two or three nights might, without the slightest hint of unduly delaying the proceedings, be occupied in its discussion. There was a very curious matter bearing upon the financial aspect of the Bill which, he thought, had escaped attention. No doubt it had been put into the Bill with consideration, but when they went into Committee it would be easy to show that most unforeseen consequencees would arise from it. He alluded to the repeal in the Schedule of sub-Sections 2 and 3 of Section 1 of the Local Taxation, Customs and Excise Act, 1890, and Section 2 of the Technical Instruction Act of 1891, and their substitution by Clause 2 of this Bill.
§ And, it being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.