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Family Notices




A 'BREACH OF PROMISE' BILL. AFTER the disastrous defeat of the last Education Bill, we were perhaps rather prepared for a revival of the contro versy in a somewhat confused form: and the proposals of the Government, as put forth in Mr. BALFOUR'S speech on Monday night, certainly offer ground for good work on behalf of progressive education. The new bill promises to be even more vulnerable than the old, at-id it is without doubt a better indi- cation of the true inwardness of the clerical demands in education. It seems to be a short cut, and may, as in the case of Paddy the Piper, occasion a delay. It was understood that the bill would be a short one, and that it should be passed before the 31st of March, in order to secure the promised financial aid for the Voluntary Schools during the cur- rent year. That was not the case we only get a resolution to the eSect:—' That it is is expedient (a) to authorise the payment out of moneys to be provided by Parlia ment, of an aid grant to Voluntary Schools not exceeding 5s. per scholar for the whole number of scholars in those schools (b) to repeal, as regards day schools, so much of section 19 of the Elementary Education Act, 1876, as imposes a limit on the Par- liamentary grant to elementary schools in England and Wa'es; and (s) to make pro- vision for the exemption from the rates of Voluntary Schools.' This means the giving of Y,616,000, to- o gether with other advantages, to the Volun- tary Schools, but it also means much more than would outwardly appear, and much less than the House was led to anticipate on the withdrawal of the late bill. Mr. ACLAND aptly characterised the bill as a breach of promise' bill, and his quotations from speeches and articles, especially those of Sir JOHN GORST, amply demonstrate the difficulties of the Government in attempting to satisfy the demands of the clerical section of their supporters. And with reference to this, one would like to know the reason why Sir JOHN GORST has been so un- ceremoniously cast off, and whether the explanation is to be found in the atti- tude taken up by him in more than one recent article on the Education question. In November, writing to the Nineteenth Century, Sir JOHN GORST said In any grant made by the Exchequer to country schools, it would be difficult to defend upon any principle of justice its restriction to those under voluntary management.' This, coupled with the intention of last year's bill and the present proposal as laid down by Mr. BALFOUR, seems to show why Sir JOHN has been ousted; and it certainly shows that the attitude of the Goverment towards what Mr. BALFOUR was pleased to call school board schools,'is really not what that gentle- man would have us believe when he said that the temptation to add to the question of the relief of Voluntary schools, the ques. tion of relieving the necessitous Board Schools was a most tempting one.' There may be many things that, in the language of a politician who also poses as a writer of some repute, are rather 'tempting tempta- tions' to 'gentlemen on this side of the House,' but the country will require stronger proof than Mr. BALFOUR was able to give that the relief of necessitous Board Schools is one of them. Mr. BALFOUR was at first magnificently lofty; he could even afford to dare the House with the statement, I We on this side of the House have always been in favour of relieving hard-pressed ratepayers,' a statement calculated to brand his utter- ance as somewhat insincere even were there no opening for the Opposition reply that the Government relieved the landlords at the cost of the ratepayers. Such pomposity, however, but poorly conceals a'previous hu miliating failure, and Mr. BALFOUR was forced to climb down. He spoke about the great extravagance of education as con- ducted by Board Schools.' The Opposition would not have this, and Mr. BALFOUR came down to 'occasional great extrava- gance,' and then to great cost' only, and this tendency to tone down is further evinced in one of Mr. BALFOUR'S closing sentences, If the bill does fail, I shall feel that the Government have done well to in- troduce it.' Does this mean -that Mr. BALFOUR and his colleagues anticipate another defeat in their attempt to sacrifice the educational interests of the country to those of the established Church ? We fancy that it does, and it should be easy for an united and determined Opposition to deal with this bill as successfully as they dealt with its predecessor, inasmuch as the pre- sent proposals are shorn of the pretence of doing justice to the weak Board School with which the former proposals were accom- panied, the issue being thus narrowed so as to be almost perfectly in keeping with the dictum of the Prime Minister about cap- turing the Board Schools. In any matter likely to produce a debate, it is perhaps well for a man to define his standpoint. How well he does it is another matter. Mr. BALFOUR says Of course, every shilling that goes to the school that does not require it, or goes to the school that requires it less than another school, is pro tanto, not used to the best advantage.' Now this supplies a good standard of criticism of the Govern- ment proposals. It would appear from these words that the main concern of the Government is to further the cause of edu- cation in the country generally, but. a per- usal of Mr. BALFOUR'S speech reveals nothing more than a desire to assist one class of schools—which is a totally different aim. Schools, it is true, should exist and that only for the purpose of education, and, not to quibble with words, any measures directed to benefit certain schools should be taken as intended to benefit education, but that this is not the present intention of the Goverment is evident from the words of Mr. BALFOUR quoted above. He has to deal with two classes of schools; he admits that 'every shilling that goes to the school that requires it less than another school is not used to the best advantage;' he also admits that there are necessitous Board Schools, to relieve which was to him a very tempting temptation.' Now, if the whole of the Voluntary Schools are taken, there are amongst them many which requi 0 the shilling' much less than the small rural Board Schools, yet, the Voluntary Schools only are proposed to be dealt with, and the case of the Board Schools, the 'tempting temptation' notwithstanding, is but an object which ought to be dealt with at a very early date by the Imperial Parlia- ment,' This, indeed, seems a very 'piece- meal fashion of carrying out the principles laid down by Mr. BALFOUR, and the coun- try must see that a vast sum of money is not only not used to the best advantage of edu- cation, but deliberately used for the benefit o sectarian schools. But this is not the only point upon which the Government proposals have been limited to suit the tastes of the clerical faction. Last year's bill admitted the principle of representative control, but the present proposals do nothing of the kind; the 17s. 6d. limit is to be abolished; Volun- tary Schools are to be exempted from rates, and a grant of 5s. per scholar is to be made, but the people will have no voice whatever in the control of the schools. We remem- ber that some people spoke of the democra- tic element introduced into last year's bill, discovered in the local authority proposed to be given under that bill that has gone; and the 'authority responsible for distri- bution under this bill must necessarily and obviously "fee the Education Depart- ment.' Again, there is some obscurity about the formation of associations of Voluntary Schools which shall have the right, not to control the distribution of this money, but to advise the Department how that money can best be expended.' Mr. BALFOUR'S contention hat these associa- tions can have no other object than to pro- mote the efficiency of the schools which form them, while individual managers may allow that question to lapse, seems on the face of it plausible enough bat the special provi- sion enabling the Education Department, to refuse assistance out of the aid grant to a school which unreasonably refuses to join an association' is open to question in more than one lespect. The schools which will associate will thereby become pos- sessed of an undue power, and those which will refuse will be penalised. An attempt was made on Tuesday night to bring the necessitous Board Schools within the scope of the resolution, but the amendment was defeated, and Mr. BAL- FOUR'S proposal was carried. Notwith- standing, the prospects of the new Educa. tion Bill are not particularly bright. The country is gradually grasping the significance of the fact that the days of clericalism are over; and let us hope for ever therearedis- sensions among the Government's own sup- porters, we have practically, as Mr. ACLAND pointed out, three education ministers, and no two of them agreee. The Opposition should be united and determined, and the fate of this new proposal should be a more disastrous failure than that of its predeces- sor. The controversy in which the whole subject of the Act of 1870 would be recast' may be nearer than Mr. BALFOUR and some of (his friends pretend to believe it only rests on a determined Opposition to serve education by bringing it about, since no- thing but the degradation of the Board Schools will satisfy the reactionary party.

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