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may be made, either-(1.) By the committee of any similar society, representing one or more of the religious communities of the town, or (2.) By ministers of religion in charge of congregations in the town, or (3.) By any person willing to give religious instruction, when the application is sustained by the signatures of the parents of at least 20 children in regular attendance at one of the departments of any Board School.
The Rev. P. Wodehouse, late inspector of the Manchester Diocesan Board of Education, observes in his Report, dated last July :-"Few things strike me more than the very small amount of distinctive Church teaching which is given in Church schools ;” and he adds, “From this it follows, nor have I any hesitation in making the inference, that if the excellent scheme of religious instruction drawn up by the School Board of Manchester for use in their schools is honestly carried out, the children educated in the Manchester Board Schools will know quite as much of the Catechism as the children in half the Church schools of the diocese.”
Assuming that School Boards will continue to exist, it is clearly of the highest importance that the members should be carefully selected. It is often argued, with great force, that their title to support should not be adherence to this or that political party, whether secularist or religious, but experience and ability in education, administrative talents and practical common sense; yet so long as the Boards are invested with extensive power in with holding or permitting religious instruction, it is difficult to understand how party contests can be avoided.
Scotland, in this respect more fortunate than England, retains her old custom of religious instruction by express enactment, free from the uncertain and capricious action of School Board regulations.
Undoubtedly the present system of election has not proved altogether satisfactory, and practical men of all parties are beginning to demand an amendment of the Act, so that power may be given to the Boards under proper regulations, to supply casual vacancies, without resorting to a poll of the constituency. Even now, whilst School Boards have the attraction of novelty, it is difficult to induce the most competent men to undergo the annoyances of a contest.
But whilst all thinking minds seem to converge to one conclusion, when dealing with the evils of School Board elections, opinions differ materially as to the remedy. By some it is held that we ought to fix a wider area than the parish, and taking advantage of the provision of the Act for United School Districts, make the School Board District co-extensive with the Union. It has been argued that “the selection of representatives from this wider circle would perhaps insure the services of men of greater ability and position, who would put an end to local jealousies and local recklessness in the imposition of rates.”
But parishes, already amply supplied with efficient voluntary schools, would of course resist this enforced and ill-assorted union, which, indeed, would be contrary to the spirit, if not to the letter of the Education Act, and there are educationists ready to maintain that the proposal to form extensive districts is quite a mistake. The secretary of the Salisbury Diocesan Board, in his letter to the Bishop of Manchester, insists that though the larger area would give the larger choice of men, it would not give the most choice men. This is a neat epigrammatic way of condensing his argument, but its soundness is questionable. Here is his imaginary School Board in "a benighted country village :"_"The squire or some representative of the landed proprietors, the clergyman, a farmer. These three would occur to every one. Two more are wanted. If Dissent be prevalent in the parish, a representative of that interest would be the fourth; the rector would propose him. An intelligent labouring man, having children in the school, would complete the list.” No doubt these are excellent materials
, and with mutual forbearance, a Board so constituted might satisfactorily conduct the education of the parish. If, however, the squire or the clergyman be rejected in favour of a candidate not upon this list, or if the religious question should become the frequent subject of debate, less harmonious results might safely be predicted.
Mr Routledge, school inspector, observes (p. 142), “It cannot be too deeply impressed on theoretical educationists that it is almost impossible in small country parishes to get together even five people who are at once competent and willing to superintend the process of education. Some members of a Board are frequently less highly educated than the schoolmaster, and surrender themselves blindly to bis dictation and judgment. My colleague, Mr Temple, has quite expressed my own sentiments, when he speaks of the evil inflicted on schools by the absence of that personal help which is given by voluntary committees, but which is often overlooked or neglected by the members of School Boards, composed of farmers or men of business who have no time to spare, and only a very seco
econdary interest in, and a very slight knowledge of, the details of instruction.”
If we now compare and contrast the respective strength and vitality of Board and voluntary schools, an impartial review must surely award the palm of superiority to the latter.
At first sight, it may be supposed that in secular learning the Board Schools must have an indisputable advantage, as the Board can command resources beyond the means of private persons. But this advantage is apparent, rather than real.
Profuse expenditure will not insure good schools, and the British ratepayer will become very impatient under the burthen. Voluntary managers, if they are prudent and in earnest, will look closely into details, be ready to encourage the teachers in their work, offer their sympathy and aid in time of trouble, have a kindly word for the parents of the children and the children themselves, and thus secure a legitimate influence practically beyond the reach of a Board with its rigid and mechanical action, its byelaws and routine.
In every other respect a parish enjoying the ministrations of a faithful and intelligent pastor must almost inevitably suffer by the transfer of a school to a Board.
The religious training of the young is of course the foremost question ; upon this familiar topic further comments are surely superfluous; but there are other points of important though minor consideration.
If the parish clergyman has not free access to the school, his means of usefulness are seriously impaired. For the Sunday school, for Confirmation classes, and a variety of parochial institutions, such a building is essential. It is to be feared, that if admitted only on sufferance and at stated hours, the visits of the clergyman, perhaps not now too frequent, would become rare indeed, and some trifling dispute might close the doors against him.
After all, the only safe, the only just, reliance that voluntary schools can entertain, is summed up in the word “efficiency.” Apart from this practical test, all appeals to exertions and sacrifices in the past will fall idly upon the ears of the public at large.
Whatever credit managers may claim and receive on these grounds, will not be allowed to supersede the demand for efficient education in its widest sense, and it is to be regretted that many influential persons lend force to the arguments of those who systematically disparage voluntary schools, when they declare that under the existing competition with Board Schools, the former must gradually dwindle and perish.
Undoubtedly, the compulsory payment of rates to maintain Board Schools by those who tax themselves heavily to maintain efficient voluntary schools is a real grievance, and it is not surprising that there should be a great and growing demand for a system, analogous to that of Canada, whereby the ratepayer can assign his rate to the class of schools which he prefers.
The adoption of this system would probably tend to the discontinuance of many Board Schools, as provided by the 18th section of the Act, and in effect restrict the duties of the Board to the enforcement of bye-laws and the distribution of the school-rate.
It remains for the advocates of the plan to show how it can be worked in practice, as it would inevitably be more complicated in this country than in Canada.
Another problem awaits solution to which I can only incidentally refer, and that is the constitution or selection of some local authority, armed with power to frame and adopt bye-laws under the Education Department, for the purpose of enforcing attendance at school, without resorting to the cumbrous machinery or the initiating contest of School Boards.
The present aspect of affairs, though not without cause for anxiety, is, on the whole, calculated to encourage and stimulate all who are engaged in the noble work of national education.
With energy, perseverance, and union, the difficulties which beset the path may speedily be overcome, and a solid basis of combined religious and secular instruction may be laid, penetrating to the lowest and most neglected ranks of society, so that the desire of many hearts may at length be fulfilled, and a sound elementary education may be brought within the reach of every English child.
The Rev. E. JACKSON, M.A., Perpetual Curate of St James's
Church, Leeds, and Honorary Canon of Ripon. That I have been requested to read a paper on the important subject to which this meeting of the Congress is devote 1, is, I conceive, owing to the fact of my having been long practically connected with public elementary education, and to the additional fact of my occupying a seat on the School Board of the borough of Leeds; a School Board, which by very high authority has been pronounced one of the most successful in the kingdom.
It is from this particular stand-point of the public elementary educational provision of Leeds, as supplied by the School Board, and by other bodies, that I would consider the subject assigned to me.
In doing this, I will first offer such carefully-prepared statistical information as I have been able to procure, and then from such statement of facts proceed to draw some, at least in my judgment, important conclusions.
The first of these facts, to which I would invite the attention of my auditory is this, that in the ten years from 1860 to 1870, the whole of the additional public elementary school accommodation, provided by the Church of England, and other religious bodies, in Leeds, did little more than meet the need for such additional accommodation for one of those ten years, and further, that a considerable part of that additional school accommodation was of a temporary and unsatisfactory character.
Let me next point out what was the exact state of public elementary education in Leeds, as shown by a return made by order of the House of Commons, in the year 1869, the year before the passing of the Education
The Leeds School Board was elected at the end of 1870, but it was not until the beginning of 1872 that any schools were opened, the intervening time being occupied with preliminary inquiries and correspondence with the Education Department in London. The Board, therefore, in July last bad really been in active operation only three years and a half. At that date the following was the return of Board Schools :
11,847 While the ascertained numbers in schools belonging to the religious bodies were :
Attendance. Church of England
12,556 Other Religious Bodies
4,611 Total 27,600
These figures show the very remarkable result, that after the three years and a half of the School Board's practical operations, 18,603 children were on the roll on Board Schools, while the children in the schools of the Church of England and other religious bodies actually exceeded by 6021 the number on the roll, when the School Board began to work, while the total increase on the roll has been 104 per cent. Very striking as this result is, it is readily accounted for; the employment of special officers to look after the attendance of children at school, and the putting in force the provision for compulsory attendance, explain this extraordinary difference in the aggregate number of children at school. From the commencement of the operation of the bye-laws for enforcing attendance, nearly 7000 notices have been sent to parents whose children were absent from school, and 436 prosecutions before the magistrate instituted, followed by the infliction of a fine varying from one to five shillings. It is proper to note, that in all cases, before even the notices are sent from the Board, the attendance officers have visited the parties in fault, and sought to persuade them to send their children to school, so as to avoid the necessity of legal proceedings, and also that before the case actually takes the form of a summons before the magistrate, the parent has the opportunity of appearing before a committee of the School Board, and of stating anything in explanation or mitigation of the case.
And here a few words should be given to the vexed question (how needlessly a vexed question the Leeds experience makes clearly to appear) of the famous 25th clause of the Education Act. It may then be emphatically stated, that in Leeds no difficulty whatever has been found in carrying out that provision of the Act. On the contrary, it is the decided conviction of the most active members and officers of the Board, that without the 25th clause, it would have been simply impossible to have worked the compulsory bye-laws, and thus have attained the valuable results which compulsory attendance has secured. Whenever a parent can show to the satisfaction of the committee of the Board, whose duty it is to consider such cases, that there is real indigence, that the child is kept away from an inability to pay the school fees, tickets for free attendance are invariably given, the Board paying the fees at other schools, remitting them at their own; freedom being allowed to the parent in the choice of the school to which his child shall be sent.
Whilst thus the Leeds School Board uses its utmost diligence to enforce attendance, there is everything done to attract children to school, and to make the parents place a higher value upon the education of their children. The Board has twenty-six evening schools, with nearly 2000 scholars ; 1800 scholars passed the examination of the science and art department; the Kindergarten system for infant schools is being introduced, and swimming is taught weekly to the elder boys.
Lessons on physiology and the laws of health, so valuable that they have recently been published and elicited warm and general approbation, have been delivered before the more advanced scholars; while a system of rewards, including illuminated cards and books, for good attendance has been commenced, which promises the best results.
The Board now has no fewer than ninety-seven head teachers, seventytwo assistant teachers, and 403 pupil-teachers in its employ ; but this nunber, though appearing so large, will have to be continually increased.
The population of the borough of Leeds is computed to be at the present time upwards of 280,000,—for which the adequate public elementary school provision would be about 52,000 ;- the total existing accommodation is, however, but 47,000,--showing a deficiency of 5000,—while the annual increase of the population calls for additional elementary school provision for 1000 children, at a cost of say from £7000 to £8000 in school sites, buildings, and apparatus, and of at least £500 a year in maintenance, exclu sive of children's payments and Government grants.
In all the Leeds Board Schools, the Bible is required to be read with singing and prayer. And here again no difficulty has been found ; the conscience clause is respected in all cases, where its protection is claimed. Whether or not the Bible teaching in the schools, and still more the