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abortive Bill of 1896 was designed at one and the same time to assist voluntary schools; to provide machinery for the extinction of school boards; and to create local authorities for secondary education who might ultimately manage education of all kinds within their respective areas. The Bill stirred up all the elements of jealousy lurking among the various local authorities which compete for educational functions, and its failure left the voluntary schools where they were. The Act of 1897 gave an aid grant of five shillings per scholar to voluntary schools, but this and the abolition of the limit of 17s. 6d. to the Parliamentary grant * have not redressed the balance. Financial inequality must necessarily mean unequal efficiency. It is idle to try to build a great educational system upon these jarring elements; such a system must begin from below and work up from the sure foundation of sound training in the rudiments of knowledge.
Thus we have to face a combined financial and religious difficulty. Let us take the financial difficulty first. There are more than 14,000 voluntary schools, educating more than 3,000,000 children. Voluntary contributions for the maintenance of these amounted, in 1900, to the sum of 800,602Z. But whereas the average cost of each child in a voluntary school was 21. 6s. A\d.t the board school child cost on an average 21. 17s. 7\d. To the cost of the board school child the rates contributed lZ. 58. 6±d. in each case, and to each voluntary school child subscriptions contributed 6s. 4fd. The average of the board school charge is raised by the inclusion of London, where every child in a board school cost SI. 15s. 9±d., towards which sum rates contributed 21. 3s. 7£<i. If we exclude London we get a cost per child of 21. 12s. 7hl. in board schools, and of 21. 5s. 9d. in voluntary schools, leaving a difference in cost, roughly speaking, of seven shillings a child.
This difference in cost may, and doubtless does in some cases, mean extravagance on the part of the school boards. It is not easy to practise strict economy when you have full
* This means that from 1876-1897, if the contributions from voluntary contributions, rates, fees, endowments, or other sources did not amount to more than 17s. 6d. per child, the Parliamentary grant did not exceed that sum, although a larger grant might have been earned. Tbe abolition of fees had reduced the power of the voluntary schools to meet the Parliamentary grant by a corresponding contribution, and the removal of the limit restored the power to obtain the full grant earned.
power to spend other people's money in a cause which you believe to be good. But the difference does more probably mean that the voluntary schools throughout the country are not maintained at the same standard of efficiency as board schools. To bring the two kinds of schools up to a uniform standard of efficiency involves a heavy charge either on the rates or on the Exchequer. If we strike off from the items of payment towards the maintenance of the child in a voluntary school the amount of voluntary contributions, and then add to the items of charge the sum necessary to bring him up to the level of the board school child, we get an additional charge on the rates (and the charge would naturally fall on the rates) of about two millions. This does not include London.
But if the voluntary schools are to disappear, they must be replaced, and the ratepayer or taxpayer must provide, by the purchase of existing schools or the erection of new ones, for school accommodation corresponding to that of the existing 14,000 voluntary schools.
Yet the children must be educated; and it is necessary to ask whether there is any reason, other than that of cost, which prevents the State from requiring that all schools receiving a Parliamentary grant should be placed under popular control, and thus securing that the same standard of efficiency is maintained over the whole field of elementary education.
This brings us to the religious difficulty. The conditions of religious teaching in board schools are set forth in the Cowper Temple clause, s. 14, of the Act of 1870:—'No 'religious catechism or religious formulary which is dis'tinctive of any religious denomination shall be taught in 'the school.' Under this clause the Bible may be read and taught as a historical and moral exercise. In some board schools the Apostles' Creed is taught by a sort of compromise and on sufferance; but those answers in the Church Catechism which describe the Christian's duty to God and to his neighbour have been held on the highest legal authority to be denominational.
Those who maintain the usefulness and the justice of this clause employ a somewhat illogical combination of arguments. It is alleged, on the one hand, that the State has nothing to do with religious teaching, but should confine itself to secular instruction; and, on the other hand, that the religious teaching given by board school teachers is often, for all practical purposes, denominational, that it is
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given by teachers who are members of the Church of England, and should therefore be satisfactory to churchmen.
These arguments are, no doubt, self-contradictory; but even if the contention as to the character of board school teaching stood alone it would not meet the case.
Firstly, it proceeds on the assumption that the Church of England is the only religious denomination interested in the matter. There were in the year 1900 no less than 1,045 Roman Catholic schools and 438 Wesleyan schools, besides the 11,777 Church of England schools. This shows that the desire for denominational teaching is not confined to the Church of England, and that if teaching satisfactory to English churchmen is given in board schools the law is not observed, and the teaching cannot satisfy other members who may attend the school.
Doubtless many board school teachers are members of the Church of England, and can give teaching satisfactory to members of that Church, but this is largely due to the fact that the majority of the training colleges are now denominational and Anglican. This state of things may not last, nor is it desirable that so important a department of our educational system should be left, to so large an extent, in the hands of any religious denomination. Hereafter the trained teacher may have passed through an undenominational college, and may not possess either the training or the inclination to give the denominational teaching which is now given by some board school teachers in such satisfactory measure and quality.
But no attempt has been made to meet the most serious objection which may be brought against the Cowper Temple clause. This enactment does not merely affect the character of the religious teaching which may be given: it clearly admits of an education from which all religious teaching is omitted. And this is an objection which is felt by many who may not care to press the claims of one denomination against another, but who do not desire to see education become wholly secular. In fact, the objectors to the present form of settlement may be ranged in three groups—first, those who desire, generally, that religious teaching should form a part of education; next, those who hold more definitely that every child should be brought up in the faith of his parents; and, lastly, those who desire to see the clergy of the Church of England retain their control over the elementary education of the country.
To these last the Bill of 1902 offers little attraction. Its proposals would appear to proceed on this broad and reasonable line of argument, that to allow the voluntary schools to struggle on under their present conditions would for a long time to come maintain differences of staff, of equipment, of standard, which destroy the uniform quality of our elementary education; that to replace them by universal board schools would throw a heavy burden on the ratepayer or the taxpayer; while to secularise all schools would offend the convictions of very many who, without desiring to clericalise education, are unwilling that it should be divorced from the religious life of the community.
The terms proposed in the Bill are sure to be sharply criticised, but they seem to offer at least the basis of a fair compromise. The managers of a voluntary school are to provide the building, to keep it in repair, and, if required, are to make alterations and improvements; they are to admit a representation of the local authority amounting to one-third of their number; they are to be subject to a veto, on secular grounds, to their appointment of teachers, and to any direction which the local authority may give as to the secular instruction in the school. This last provision would empower the local authority to require the dismissal, on secular grounds, of an incompetent teacher. In return the school will be maintained and kept efficient by the local authority out of the rates.
Such, in outline, is the proposed solution of the difficulty as regards the maintenance of existing schools. But there is a further concession to the voluntary principle.
To understand this it must be borne in mind that a new school is not recognised by the Education Department for the purpose of the Parliamentary grant unless there is an existing deficiency of school places in the area. Hence a Church school may exist as the only school in a district, maintained by voluntary effort, although a large majority of the scholars may be children of nonconformist parents. While it exists, and affords an adequate supply of school places, no other school can be recognised by the Board of Education. The Bill proposes to correct this hardship, not by allowing the required religious instruction to be given in the existing school, but by enabling any denomination, or the local authority, to give notice that it proposes to build a school. An appeal is to lie to the Board of Education by the local authority, by the managers of any existing school, or by any ten ratepayers within the area, on the ground that the school is not required, or that an existing school is better suited to meet the wants of the district. The board is to decide, having regard to the interests of secular education, to the wishes of the parents as to the education of their children, and to the economy of the rates.
This part of the scheme is open to criticism on several grounds. It does not help those who are not wealthy enough to provide a school; and it burdens the area with two schools where, in many cases, for all purposes of secular instruction, one would suffice. Moreover, since voluntary schools under the Act of 1897 obtain a grant of five shillings per child, the Bill, as framed, gave a preference to such schools in the event of an appeal—a preference based on the economy of the rates.*
Such is the solution of the religious difficulty proposed by the Government in substitution of the present arrangement, whereby denominational teaching is given in voluntary schools subject to a conscience clause, while in board schools no denominational teaching may be given, and no religious teaching need be given.
Another suggested solution is the repeal of the Cowper Temple clause. This would leave to those who had the control and management of the schools the decision whether there should be any, and what, religious teaching. Every child would be protected by the conscience clause; no child would receive teaching of which its parents disapproved; but the board or managers with the whole range of denominations to choose from would make their selection, or determine that all should be excluded. If this should ever be accepted as a solution, we must face the certainty of vehement contests between the advocates of different kinds of sectarian teaching, the possibility that the character of the teaching might vary with the fluctuations in the strength of parties on the board of managers, and the strong probability that repose from religious controversy might be found in the acceptance of a religious teaching
* This objection is removed by the proposals laid before the House of Commons by Mr. Balfour on June 23. The sums paid to voluntary schools and the smaller sums paid to necessitous board schools under the Acts of 1897 will be withdrawn, and their amounta (860,000/.), together with a sum of 900,000J. contributed by the Treasury, will be paid to all schools alike. Four shillings a head will be paid for every child in average attendance, and the residue will be divided, in proportion to their necessity, among districts where a penny rate produces less than ten shillings per child.