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rectifying some of these evils, by throwing all the executive work on comparatively small committees, and reserving the general meetings of the Board for the consultative functions, the discussion of main principles, and the performance of the more distinctly legislative duties, for which alone they are fit.* It has been the fashion to find fault with the Boards for wasting time in lengthy discussions and party conflicts. But it was really a part of their functions as representative bodies to discuss and to fight. Our wonder rather is, that, burdened by these necessities, and impeded by their cumbrous organisation, they have done so much in their executive character.
For we think that, speaking generally, they have worked well in all the communities, which were of sufficient size to supply fair material for the Board, and give it enough to do. The instances of questionable and injurious action are generally found in the small parishes, where the Boards were appointed rather for political and ecclesiastical than for really educational purposes, and where their members were not men of sufficient education, ability, and social station to inspire confidence and to influence public opinion. In these little cliques all the evils of a clique-factiousness, jobbery, waste--are but too apt to make themselves felt. The consideration is a very serious one, in view of that extension of the Board system over the whole country, for which some parties are so anxious. In London, and in all towns of large or even of moderate size, the Boards, now laying down their office, will be able to show considerable and valuable work- going very far towards the supply of educational deficiency, and doing at least something for the solution of other and more difficult educational problems. The London School Board, in a clear and modest summary of their work recently published, show that they have now, for the first. time, made a thorough Educational Census; that they have taken steps for the erection of ninety-nine schools (of which thirty-six are already open), and have meanwhile hired 105. buildings as temporary schools, accommodating 21,203 children, and taken over 75 schools with 21,828 school places; that they have settled a scheme of education, and organised a large staff of teachers and inspectors ; that they have also established an organisation for carrying out their compulsory bye-laws; that they have taken up 2,100 cases of destitute children under the
* Thus we observe, in the Memorandum of the London School Board, that in the course of the last year, there have been 121 Board Meetings, but nearly 2,000 meetings of Committees, either central or divisional.
VOL. CXXXIX. NO. CCLXXXIII.
Industrial Schools Act, and filled all the Industrial Schools in and near London to overflowing. Whatever may be thought of the wisdom or unwisdom of their proceedings, they have at least shown that Boards can not only talk and fight, but work; and the other Boards, of whose proceedings we have any accurate account, are proceeding in much the same steps.
It is perhaps necessary to say a few words here on the expense of this School Board work, because much stress has been recently laid upon its costliness, partly, perhaps, for economical reasons, but in far greater degree for ulterior purposes, political or ecclesiastical. But we must confess that we cannot regard this question as of primary consequence. Let it be at once acknowledged that the new system will always be more costly than the Voluntary system, because it has to deal with the most difficult cases and the poorest localities, because it can command less unpaid assistance, because it must do its work, let the cost be what it may. Still we do not believe that the country will really grudge any necessary expense incurred in a work of transcendent importance; we might even calculate that almost any such expenditure will be abundantly repaid in the diminution of the heavy and galling burdens of our pauperism and crime. But after all, in towns even of moderate size, the burden does not seem likely to be excessive. The rate of 3d. in the pound contemplated in the Act is seldom reached, hardly ever exceeded; and, while this is the case, we cannot think that there is much reason to cry out.*
If free schools were universally introduced, the case would, of course, be widely different. The rate must eventually be at least quadrupled; and all experience leads us to anticipate evil instead of good, both social and educational, from the change. But we do not regard this as a practical question. Whatever some few theorists may say, the cause of free schools is at present hopeless, and we think that it has been losing rather than gaining ground during the last three years.
But this leads us naturally to the next question,—How has the working out of the new system affected the old organisation which has hitherto borne the brunt of the Educational battle? It was declared over and over again in 1870, and Mr. Forster,
* In London the rate has been as yet under Id., and is not likely to exceed 2d. for years to come. The same is the case in most of the large towns. In Leeds, where the need was great and the work singularly well done, we see that a rate of about 3d. is contemplated as possible some years hence.
in his recent speech at Liverpool, manfully reiterated the statement, that the object of the Act was to supplement
and not to destroy or supplant the existing schools. But there are, as we have already remarked on the authority of the Prime Minister, two antagonistic opinions on this matter, both of which may assert themselves freely within the four corners of the Act-one approving of the Voluntary system, and only wishing to do by law what it cannot do—the other disliking that system utterly, and accordingly desiring for it a gradual painless extinction, which will, at no distant time, leave the ground clear to be occupied by Board schools only. Which of these opinions is likely to find the Education Act more malleable to its purpose? That they are not likely to lie down in peace together is obvious enough. Books and pamphlets pour in upon us, breathing war; and we have hardly yet recovered from the excitement of the placards and handbills in the recent School Board Election for London, clamouring against secularism and waste on the one side, and denouncing priestly education on the other. What is the truth about the matter? Can the two systems co-exist, or must the new Board system gradually absorb or undermine the old ?
Prophecies are proverbially dangerous; and we shall not venture in this case to assume the prophetic office. But we are convinced that in the long run, the answer must depend on two further questions, which only experience can decide,—whether the voluntary schools have a peculiar province and peculiar powers of their own, and whether they command in any special degree the confidence of the English people? If they do, then no political agitation, no rivalry of School Boards, no fanaticism of mere theorists, are likely to destroy them; if they do not, then their extinction is only a question of time, and no fear of expense, no support of classes interested in their maintenance, no vis inertiæ, great as this is in English society, will eventually save them. But we are inclined to answer both questions in the affirmative, and therefore to believe that the voluntary schools, if they have fair play, will not be destroyed by the existence of the new system. Those that are badly managed, or conducted in a narrow and proselytising spirit, will probably be improved off the face of the earth, and few will regret them; but those which know how really to bring out the advantages of the Voluntary system will be stimulated by a healthy rivalry, and will gradually settle into peculiar spheres of their own. In country districts they will probably occupy
the main portion of the ground; in towns, where the two kinds of schools co-exist side by side, we are inclined to believe that the voluntary schools will, at any rate for some years to come, draw their scholars from the highest and lowest of those strata of society, which are served by elementary schools. They will have the aristocracy of the working classes on the one hand; they alone will be fully able to lay hold, on the other, of those utterly destitute children, for whom Ragged Schools were originally started, who require the energy of an almost missionary spirit and the unfettered action of voluntary management, to draw them in, to keep them in, and, if it be absolutely necessary, to turn out such as are hopelessly refractory. The Board schools, at least in London, seem likely to draw most of their scholars from a class between the two-poor but not the poorest, neglected but not utterly outcast. * This, however, is a matter of opinion, and we are aware that it runs counter to ordinary theory on this subject. It must not be mixed up with the broad principle, of which we feel convinced, that if the voluntary schools have a raison d'être they will continue to exist.
It is, of course, quite true that, wherever School Boards are established, voluntary schools are placed at great disadvantage. The Boards can draw upon a purse practically inexhaustible, while every shilling of taxation imposed tends to diminish the subscriptions, on which the voluntary schools rely; they can therefore erect better buildings, give better salaries, charge lower fees than their rivals; they are not liable to the ebb and flow of voluntary liberality, but can draw from an unfailing source; they have powers to take sites where they choose by compulsory process, and so to plant their schools exactly where they are most needed. All these advantages are solid and effective; they must tell in the long run as a dead weight, against one set of schools, in favour of the other. So important are they, that those who look only to material sources of strength may well expect to see the voluntary schools hopelessly distanced. But there are elements in the question not material but very real, and to overlook these is to commit a very serious error. The voluntary schools have on their side, first, a far greater amount of sympathy and enthusiasm in working than
* The Board Inspector says, “ The majority of the children are of a • lower grade than those attending voluntary schools,' but we find that the Board has not yet established a single Free School in London; and yet that the free schools which do exist are so crowded that they are beginning to institute a discriminating scrutiny, with a view to the exclusion of those who could fairly be called upon to pay some fees.
can be found under a legal system; they have, next, a greater freedom and elasticity of action, which can often solve by a stroke of the pen difficulties on which School Boards would have formally to debate; they can be conducted far more economically; they can, moreover, use much unpriced and priceless labour (as, for example, from the clergy) which, as a rule, School Boards are prevented by various jealousies from accepting; and, lastly, they enjoy an undoubted power of giving in more efficient and unfettered vigour the religious teaching, which the great majority of English parents obviously desire for their children. These are excellences which cannot be calculated in money or blazoned in statistical returns; but yet they are of substantial and even inestimable value. And in a community like our own, of unbounded wealth and almost unbounded liberality, if the Voluntary system proves that it has any peculiar value, and accordingly evokes in its support the irresistible powers of philanthropy and religious zeal, it will, we believe, live on and flourish, even if menaced by the most dangerous rivalry and overweighted by the most serious disadvantages. The Church of England has hitherto naturally and wisely supplied the great bulk of these voluntary schools.* It is a part of her duty as the National Church to the welfare of the nation that she should do so; it is clear enough that the attack upon the voluntary schools is simply one form of the crusade against the Church Establishment. It will be at once her duty and her wisdom, in spite of many discouragements, to go on boldly and earnestly in this very important function. The remarkable extension of Church Schools, in 1870,7 shows that at this moment those who shape Church policy are alive to this conviction : we trust,
* Thus in 1872, of schools under Government inspection, there were (in England and Wales) in
Church of England Schools . . 1,671,957 children
Board Schools . . . . 18,790 , † We find by the Report of the Committee of Council for 1872, that in 1870 3,342 applications were made for grants towards the erection or enlargement of schools (mostly Church schools); of these 2,319 had been approved up to May 31st, 1873; 335 had been rejected ; 397 had been withdrawn ; 291 were still under consideration. Even in the cases where the applications were rejected or withdrawn, it does not follow that the schools were not built or enlarged. The sum granted in 1872 was 96,1761. ; this was met by voluntary subscriptions to the amount of 399,8251.; and the result was a provision for 86,542 children. This does not look like decay of the voluntary system.