« VorigeDoorgaan »
of a great community or body of opinion, let us verify whether that community is really in favour of it.
If the members of the Church of England generally demand what their Representative Church Council puts forward, I think Liberals will be bound to assent to the proposal. But do not let us make a mistake and suppose we are pleasing a majority when we are merely adopting the proposal of an energetic minority.
This observation should be made on the Bill and on current interpretations of it. The Bill gives every parent a right to claim threequarters of an hour of general Bible teaching daily from 9 to 9.45, and subject to this right the local authority reserves its power to give or not to give some religious teaching for a period varying with the discretion of that authority.
But many persons have spoken as if in every case the local authority, apart from any request by a parent, was bound to set apart this three-quarters of an hour throughout the school.
That is not the text of the Bill. It would indeed be disastrous if, even in the infant school, children were subject daily to three-quarters of an hour of this teaching.
Even as the clause stands it is a serious departure from the neutrality of the State, and unless insisted upon by the Church of England should not appear in any other Bill. Any further obligation to give this teaching in the absence of an expressed desire should be strenuously opposed.
Certainly this provision, by overruling the discretion of the local authority, emphasises and accentuates the preference for general Bible teaching which is so distasteful to the militant Anglicans of the Representative Church Council.
There was, moreover, a very objectionable amendment put in the Bill by Mr. Runciman, at the request of the Opposition, that the denominational religious teaching allowed to be given by volunteers during school time should be recognised as part of the official teaching of the school and subject to the school discipline.
This would make the head teacher partly responsible for this teaching; whereas it should be given entirely on the responsibility of those desiring it and paying for it. If not, assuming a volunteer teacher is unable to maintain discipline, it might be necessary for a regular teacher of the school to leave his class and come in and restore order; and if the inspector came and found a class in a state of disorder the grant to the school might be reduced by one or more tenths for faults of discipline. Moreover, the head master might have to ask the local authority to veto any particular teacher on account of his inability to maintain discipline. The right of entry for irresponsible outsiders is bad enough in any case, but if the school authorities are to be responsible for the conduct of these classes the position will be intolerable.
Turning now to the contracting-out’ schools : it is essential to a settlement that only a small number of the existing denominational schools shall be allowed to contract out, and that the prevalent and normal type of school throughout the country shall be under public management and free from denominational character.
This was admitted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his letter of the 17th of November, and was reaffirmed by him, after the withdrawal of the Bill, in his letter to Mr. Runciman of the 4th of December.
There are two questions to be considered under this head: (1) Whether these special schools shall remain under the education authority as by clause 4 of Mr. Birrell's Bill, or whether they shall only have relation with the Board of Education ; (2) What is the fair proportion of the yearly cost which those desiring these special schools should bear? As to the first point, I suppose that nearly all would prefer that these
I schools should be provided for on the lines of public management and public support, subject to allowing them to have a special denominational character. Friends of education desire this ; the great body of teachers desire it; the Roman Catholics certainly desire it; and probably those Anglicans who would contract out desire it. Those who have charge of the administration of education desire it, and I believe politicians generally desire it.
The Board of Education most certainly would not maintain an equal standard of efficiency in contracting-out schools. The securities for honest finance in them would often be insufficient, as was repeatedly found in the case of voluntary schools before 1902.
A fixed grant, however liberal, would tend to fall short of an increasing standard of cost and efficiency, and the proposal in the Bill for a gigantic School Board for Anglican and another for Roman Catholic schools would destroy local freedom and be unpopular with the managers of individual schools. I conclude, therefore, that the proper way to deal with exceptional minorities desiring special schools is to work these schools through the local authority, giving exceptional treatment on the religious side, but calling upon those who desire this exceptional treatment to bear their share of the cost proportional to that part of the school curriculum which they withdraw from public management. Mr. Asquith, by putting the burden on the private and denominational managers at 15 per cent. of the cost, indicated that a little less than one-sixth of the cost attached to their special denominational character.
If, as under the Bill, three-quarters of an hour daily is reserved for religious teaching, that is as nearly as possible one-seventh of the school time, or about 14 per cent. And if special religious bodies are allowed to withdraw the religious teaching from public management and also to have the services of a specially selected and denominational
VOL, LXV-No, 383
school staff, they may fairly be called on to bear one-seventh of the cost of maintenance, so that Mr. Asquith's demand for 15 per cent. is very reasonable.
I would, then, concede that in any existing denominational school where a sufficient amount of public school accommodation exists, if two-thirds of the parents desired the school to continue denomi. national, the local authority should undertake that all vacancies of the staff should be filled up, if required, by teachers of the religion taught in the school, and that those teachers should teach the religion hitherto taught under the authority of a parents' committee or denominational organisation. Moreover, that if any teacher failed to give satisfaction to this parents' committee on account of his religious opinions or mode of teaching, the local authority should be called on to transfer him to another school, with an appeal to the Board of Education.
And that, in consideration of this private management and control, the local school managers should pay to the local authority 15 per cent. of the yearly cost of maintenance, and, failing payment, that the school should become an ordinary Council school.
But if this recognition of exceptional schools is to be allowed there must be one or two limitations.
Under the Bill the contracting out would rest with the managers, and if they could get thirty scholars they would be entitled to with. draw a school even of some hundreds of places and some hundreds of scholars from the general school supply of the district. I hold strongly that the claim for exceptional treatment must come from a substantial majority of the parents, not from trustees or managers ; and failing that substantial majority the school must remain under the common school law. Secondly, there must be bona fide within reasonable and convenient reach a public school able to receive all scholars not claiming the special type. Thus the single-school area needs a wider definition. It must include urban districts as well as rural parishes where there is but one school. It must include districts where, though there is more than one school, yet there is no school of a public character available for all children-boys, girls, and infants; and in towns there must be a public school available for the children in the immediate neighbourhood. If these conditions are fulfilled, the exceptional school should be entitled to give a preference in admitting scholars of the denomination.
Such schools should be protected by the imposition of a statutory obligation on the local authority to maintain them in all respects on an equality with the other schools; and in reckoning the cost of maintenance no charge should be made for instruction given at centres, nor for general cost of administration, nor for repairs.
Personally I would be willing, in order that those desiring to maintain such schools should know the limit of their liability, to provide
that in no case should the proportion to be borne by private effort exceed ten shillings per child in average attendance.
The Roman Catholics claim that their demand is for absolutely equal treatment. They say that they pay the education rate equally with others, and should derive an equal benefit from it.
But they pay the rate not as voluntary contributors to a jointstock company, but as citizens, in obedience to the law and for a public purpose defined by law. They claim, however, that they shall participate equally in the financial aid afforded by the law, while withdrawing from the general liability to be subject to the public management involved by the law. But if theoretically it were fair to concede to them a position external to the public-school system of the country, they certainly should not be allowed any share in managing the public system from which they desire to secede, and therefore they would have to be disfranchised from municipal voting if they want the full benefit of public support while withdrawing a most important part of their school system from municipal control. The least they could be called upon to pay is that 15 per cent. of the cost of maintenance which corresponds with the 14 per cent. of the school time given to religious teaching over which the municipal authority has no control; but they ask not only that the public shall bear the full charge of the whole school time, but that the public shall also give them the full control over the services and religious beliefs of the teacher. If they were granted the complete control over the religious teaching, and security that their teachers should give it and be in sympathy with it, they would make a very good bargain if they only contributed 15 per cent. towards the cost of maintenance.
To sum up the situation : I think most people are agreed that the Government, in dealing with the right of entry, met in a very generous way the demands of those who wish it to be real. As to contracting out—the second stipulation on behalf of denominational schools—it is conceded by the Archbishop that they should be exceptional and that their supporters should bear a substantial part of the burden.
I think all would prefer a scheme which keeps these schools within the pale of our general system. All recognise the inexpediency of a definite grant which may become inadequate in the near future. Most persons will agree that special treatment should be conceded to the demand of the local parents, not to collective denominational organisations or Churches. Lastly, if the right of entry be granted it must be granted impartially and to exceptional and unpopular minorities, whether they use a catechism or not. Socialists, Labour Churches, Ethical Societies, Secularists, Positivists, if they can produce a group of parents asking for their teaching and find a teacher, must have the same rights as Anglicans or Roman Catholics or Jews.
Personally I believe that in a few years the right of entry will fall
into disuse. It is unpopular with the teachers; the parents, unless canvassed, will not care to demand it; and it will not be good for the discipline and esprit de corps of the school. Still, it is not for those who dislike this right to tell those who ask for it that they ought not to do so and do not know their own interest.
But when we are near a possible settlement we should do our utmost to promote it. If Mr. Runciman will come to a definite and clear understanding with the Archbishop and his friends—and I think they are not now very far apart—let him then seek counsel with the County Council Association presided over by Lord Belper, and the Education Committee's Association, which represents urban authorities. If these great bodies interested in the administration of education give him their support, he will, I think, find the great majority of the Nonconformists not irreconcilable, and the militant Churchmen who control Convocation, and the Church Council, will be found not really to represent the bulk of the laity of the Church of England.
STANLEY OF ALDERLEY.