Page:EB1911 - Volume 08.djvu/1001

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974
[ENGLAND
EDUCATION

with the National Society, as to the rights of ecclesiastical authority. Jewish schools received recognition in 1851 upon condition that the Scriptures of the Old Testament should be daily read in them.

During the middle years of the century various unsuccessful legislative attempts were made to establish a national system of elementary schools upon the basis of rate-aid. These attempts began with the education clauses of Sir Robert Bills of 1842-57. Peel’s Factory Bill of 1842, and were renewed in a series of bills from 1853 to 1857, of which one set was introduced by Lord John Russell on behalf of the Whig government, whilst a second was promoted by an organization called the Manchester and Salford Committee on Education, in the denominational interest, and a third set by an organization called the Lancashire (afterwards the National) Public Schools Association, in the secular interest. The only one of these attempts which calls for notice here is the bill introduced by Lord John Russell (called the Borough Bill, on account of its being restricted to municipal boroughs) in 1853, and forming part of a comprehensive scheme of legislative and administrative reform of which a portion was actually carried into effect. The bill as a measure for elementary education was supplemented by an administrative system of capitation grants for rural areas. The government scheme also comprised a measure dealing with the administration of charitable trusts (which took shape as the Charitable Trusts Act 1853), the constitution of the Department of Science and Art, and university reform upon the lines recommended by the Oxford and Cambridge commissions. The Borough Bill left it optional with municipalities to adopt the act. It provided for the appointment of a school committee, one half of whose members might be non-members of the council. The school committee was merely given power to assist existing voluntary schools out of the rates. No provision was made for public control beyond the requirement of audit; the sole condition as to religious instruction was the acceptance of a conscience clause.

The failure of the Borough Bill did not affect the new system of capitation grants which was introduced by minute of the Committee of Council dated April 2, 1853. These grants were fixed at a scale varying from 3s. to 6s. per head, Capitation grants. payable upon certain conditions, of which the most important were that the school must be under a certificated teacher, and that three-fourths of the children must pass a prescribed examination. In consequence of the failure of the several fresh bills introduced in 1855 by the government, the church party and the secular party respectively amplifying the proposals previously brought forward, the capitation grant was, by minute of January 26, 1856, extended to urban areas. As in the case of all the early grants, the regulations governing the distribution of the capitation grants were framed upon the principle that subventions of public money must be met by local funds derived from voluntary contributions, endowments and school fees; thus the basis of the denominational system as fostered by the state at this stage was one of financial partnership.

In 1856 a purely administrative bill was passed, establishing the office of vice-president of the Committee of Council Education minister, 1856. on Education as a minister responsible to parliament. At the same time, the Science and Art Department was transferred from the Board of Trade to the Committee of Council.

The progress of state-aided education during this period may be measured by the increase of the annual parliamentary grant, which rose from £30,000 in 1839 to £100,000 in 1846, £150,000 in 1851, £396,000 in 1855, and £663,400 in 1858. This expansion was viewed with misgiving Newcastle Commission. by the friends of the denominational system, and by the strong individualist school of that day, who upon wider grounds clung to the old ideal of voluntary initiative. These sections combined with the advocates of further state intervention to press for a commission of inquiry, and at the instance of Sir John Pakington (the eminent Conservative educationist who was responsible for the denominational bills of the ’fifties) a royal commission was appointed in 1858, under the chairmanship of the duke of Newcastle, to inquire into the state of popular education in England, and to consider and report what measures, if any, were required for the extension of sound and cheap elementary instruction to all classes of the people. The Report of the Newcastle Commission, issued in 1861, contains an exhaustive account of the existing condition of elementary education, and, with due allowance for the grave defects revealed, and in particular the glaring inefficiency of the numerous little private-venture schools kept by “dames” and others, the graphic picture drawn by the commissioners constitutes a striking tribute to the sterling qualities of self-help and religious earnestness which were so characteristic of the early Victorian period. It was found that in round numbers about 2,500,000 children were attending day schools, the proportion to population being 1 in 7, as compared with 1 in 9 in France, 1 in 8 in Holland, and 1 in 6 in Prussia, where education was compulsory. On the other hand, of this number only 1,675,000 were in public schools of all kinds, only 1,100,000 in schools liable to inspection, and 917,000 in schools receiving annual grant. The result was that only one child in every twenty was attending a school whose efficiency could be in any way guaranteed by the state. In the constructive portion of their work the comments and recommendations of the commissioners reflected the prevailing perplexity of the public mind. A consistent individualistic minority considered that the annual grant should be withdrawn altogether, and that any further state aid should be confined to building grants, which they would concede not as desirable in themselves but as necessitated out of considerations of fairness to the parishes that had not yet received such aid. The commissioners as a body rejected free and compulsory education in view of the religious difficulty and upon general grounds of individualistic principle. Of the religious difficulty itself the commissioners had some wise words to say which hold good in substance at the present time. In their judgment the considerable evidence they had amassed conclusively proved that the religious difficulty originated with the managers, promoters and organizers of the schools, and not with the parents themselves; yet the indifferent or comparatively passive attitude of the people nowise materially diminished the practical difficulty of introducing a comprehensive system, since it was not with the body of the people but with the founders and supporters of schools that legislators would always have to deal. In view of the solution adopted in 1902 it is of interest to note that the Newcastle Commissioners deliberately rejected the parish as unfit to be taken as the unit of elementary education upon the ground that management by parochial ratepayers must tend to be illiberal and niggardly, bent upon economy of the rates to the detriment of educational interests; accordingly they recommended the constitution of county boards (which in the absence of elective councils must needs originate with quarter sessions) clothed with power to levy a rate for the aid of existing voluntary schools.

The one definite achievement of the Newcastle Commission was the famous system of payment by results, which may be said to have excited a keener and more prolonged controversy than any other measure of a purely Payment by results. educational character. Impressed by the defects of the existing teaching, the commissioners reported that there was only one way of securing efficiency, and that was to institute a searching examination by competent authority of every child in every school to which grants were to be paid, with the view of ascertaining whether the indispensable elements of knowledge were thoroughly acquired, and to make the prospects and position of the teacher dependent to a considerable extent upon the results of this examination. Thus the commissioners hoped to counteract what appeared to them to be the crying defect of the existing training college system, viz. that it tended mainly to adapt the young schoolmaster to advance his higher, rather than to thoroughly ground his junior, pupils. They recognized that to raise the character of the children, both morally and intellectually, was and must always be the highest aim of education, and they were far from desiring to supersede this by any plan of a mere examination into the more mechanical