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.Educational Conference at…


.Educational Conference at Lampeter. ADDRESS BY MR. ERNEST GRAY, M.A., M.P. The Mid-Cardiganshire Federation of Elemen- tary Schools, wtpch body was inaugurated at Telinfach a ir -m. tional conference on Saturday last at the Town Ball, Lalnpeter. All interested in education within J the poor law "n'1<; of Aberayron, Lampeter and Tregaron are eligible for membership of the Federation. There was a fairly good attendance on Saturday, but the inclement weather prevented a large number from the outside districts being present. The r ^n.hsi! obicet of the meeting: wa« to hear an address upon the subject, of a National System of Education," by Mr. Ernest Gray, M.A., M.P. (a member of the executive of the National Union of Teachers and Member of Parliament for West Ham). The chair was occupied by the Rev. Principal Bebb, M.A., St. David's College, Lam- j peter. Principal Beob, in introducing the principal: speaker, said when he was asked to take the chair that day he consented to do so chiefly because of kis own ignorance of the whole question of ele- mentary education, and because he thought lie would have a very good opportunity of learning from first-hand authority something with regard to this interesting and difficult problem. He was -also glad to find that his own University of Oxford kad recognised Mr. Gray's great services in the illIe of education by conferring upon him a -degree (applause). And the same, he believed, was also done by Cambridge after seeing the good example Oxford had set (hear, hear and laughter). In a great system there were always a certain number of principles which had to be borne in mind, and so in connection with the system of education there were one or two important principles to which he thought the svstem had to be adapted. He was not going to enter on points of contraversy then, but he did feel strongly that the whole question of religious education had to be faced, and he thought himself from start to finish the relation of religious to secular education had to be con- sidered. They could not graft religious education on to secular growth, and he considered the two must go together from the start. But in connection with the question of system, the real point to con- sider was how those things could be welded together (applause). Mr. Ernest Grey was accorded a hearty reception. In June last. he said, he accepted an invitation to speak on the same subject at Wrexham. and although he managed to get away unharmed, yet he found that when he reached home a number of Welsh educationists went for him very much as Samson (lid for the Philistines it the days gone by. although he would not suggest that they went from him with quite the same weapons (laughter). They rather took to the pen, and very freely criticised the remarks he made, in fact they went as far as to suggest that he was not competent to pronounce judgment, cerainly not on Welsh secondary education. But all their criticisms had not convinced him that he was in error. He was afraid they had tended rather to strengthen some of the opinions he had formed, and he was going to have the audacity that day to venture to repeat some of them, and see what happened. There was only one real criticism that he took objection to, and that in a paper he had never heard of before—the Carnarvon Herald. It said his speech was pedagogic in the worst sense of the term. He could only say, turning over the reports of the meeting, he found that those present had been free in their cheering, and that very evidently the remarks he-had made, unpalatable as they might have been to some newspaper scribes, were certainly appreciated, and recognised, be believed, as truthful, by many of those who did him the honour of attending (hear, hear.) There was no 'one ever more freely recognised that he did the sacrifices that Wales had made on behalf of popular education. No one more fully appreciated the immense amount of enthusiasm that had produced their County Schools. But he had thought, and did still think, that some of the enthusiasm had not been well directed, and in some cases had not been very ably controlled. He hoped he might be able to justify that general criticism before he sat down. But there was one thing he said at Wrexham, which he had said at Aberdare, at Swansea, and on many platforms in Wales, which he must say agair* that day, and that was, that they could never hope to have a sound system of secondary education until they had a thoroughly sound system of primary education (applause.) He said then that the County Schools of Wales were very largely. dependent upon the Elementary Schools of Wales, and that the County Schools would never turn out thoroughly good work until the pupils "which they received from Primary schools were well equipped to take advantage of the system of education given in the Secondary schools. One of his critics—a very oompetant man, a man who bad devoted an immense amount of labour to the course of. the County School—then wrote that he (the speaker) knew nothing of the subject; that the county school was in no sense a continuation school of the primary that the two systems worked as two separate or distinct cycles, having but very little relation to each other, and that therefore his criticism of the county school was quite wide of the mark. A day or two after there came to his hands the report of the Charity Commissioners for England and Wales upon the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, and the way it was being carried out in Wales. There he found that the statements he made at Wrexham were very far below the mark, when he suggested that the county schools drew a large number of their scholars from the primary schools. He found, according to the report, that they were drawing as many as 70 per cent. of their scholars from the primary schools. Paragraph -seven of the report said that out of 6,912 scholars, no less than 4,974, or 70 per cent. had proceeded to the county schools from public elementary or higher grade elementary schools. He had no objec- "tion, quite the reverse, to the county school being fed by children from the elementary school, always provided that they did not take the child out of the primary school too young, and that they left it in the primary school until it had acquired an education which would suit it for the work in the secondary school (applause). Therefore, he had said that he had thought that in some county schools children were being taken at too early an age, and that as one of the results of that they did not stay very long in the county school. They remained for one, or at the most, two years' course, and before the child tad been able to reap the full benefit, and before the country had been able to reap the full benefit which should accrue from a number of pupils going through an entire course, a very large proportion of those pupils left the County School. He found the Charity Commissioners, after what he had stated at Wrexham, were writing exactly the same thing. Therefore, the criticism held against him must be held against those who were really pro- fessing to watch the secondary education in the Principality of Wale- (hear, hear), Because the Charity Commissioners wrote thus—" In Wales and Monmouth between the primary and the secondary school, there is emphatically an open door." I am delighted," interjected the speaker, that there is an open door, a wide open door." But he would strongly emphasize the next passage written by the Commissioners. They said:—"All the more need for viligance and care that the scholars who pass through it bring with them such a sound prepara- tory training as would enable them to profit durably by the course of higher and under study by which they were thus admitted." Again, they went on to point out that for scholars proceeding from the Elementary to the County School, the latter was in the nature of a continuation school. His critic had said he was altogether wrong in attempting to describe a County School as in any sense a con- tinuation school; but it could not serve its purpose unless the scholar continued to attend throughout its organised course of instruction. Not simply one year, but at least three years, before a child could hope to reap anything like real benefit from a secondary school course. The short time," said the chief inspector, "during which the pupils remain at school constitute one of the great difficulties with which we have to contend." He wished to drive home the point that they could not build tip an ornate structure with gilded domes and decorated ninnacles upon a rotten foundation. If they wanted the system to do good to the country at large they must make certain that the founda- tion, which was fixed in the primary school, had a thoroughly solid, secure foundation, upon which the whole edifice might be constructed, and upon which it might work. Only by that means could it he regarded adequate and durable; Now, was the foundation, was the work of the primary schools of Wales at the present time to be regarded in a thoroughly satisfactory condition ? No honest critic could answer that in the affirmative. They were t.n,a<t to admit that the primary schools of I Wales 1 "ft very much indeed to be desired. He | would go further, and say that the primary schools | in both England and Wales were in a most un- satisfactory condition. But as far as he could see, taking Wales as a whole, the Principality did not compare favourably with England as a whole. What were the first essentials of durability and success in primary schools ? Naturally, that they should Kive children there to teach. They had no church without a congregation, and no school without scholars. How did they stand ? How did Wales compare in this matter of attenciance ? The It English counties gave them a percentage attend- ance of very nearly 82. Tha# was, of every 100 children who ought to be in school in England, 18 were av. ay every half-day or to take it in round nu rn bers, England and Wales together had 5,600,000 childr< :->. ii the school registers, of whom there were 4,500,000 in average attendance, sc that every half- day or the school year 1,100,000 of the children were absent. That was by no means satisfactory, H A certain number of those children were sick others were necessarily at home—domestic affairs required their presence at home ratner than at school. But that would not in any way account for the 1,100,000 children. Everyone acquainted with the primary schools of England kuuw very well that nearly all that number might be in school if the existing law relating to attendance was altered. The law was defective, firstly, because it was not properly enforced, and secondly, :.Lu it might —improved for the nation' advantage, They were the same children persistently irregular; the same families who kept their children at home year after year. They sent their children regularly irregular to school they had sent tnem irregular with persistent regularity. They were always irreg- ular they bad always no end of ridiculous excuses, or they failed to give any excuse at all. There were 18 out of every 100, and that same 18 dav after I cia), day after day. Two-and-a-nalf houio vvccli were fritted away marking registers. Since he spoke at Wrexham, he bad noticed in reading over the report that he advocated what took place at Geneva in the matter of school attendance. Since 1 then he had had an opportunity of visiting a num- < ber of schools in Switzerland and Germany, and he could assure them their mouths would water if i they saw the register in a German primary school or a Swiss primary school. He saw the register of one class of 20 girls, and on the page there was not a single mark—neither a line or a naught, indicating that not one of those children had ever been absent during the I school year so far as it had expired. The school j year commenced in April, and he was there in j October. These were girls of 13 years of age, I always wanted at home to mind the baby and run errands. In another class of 44 scholars—which was considered an abnormally large class-he was given the percentages of attendance from 1st April till October. In April it was 98 per cent; May, 97; June, 97t; but in August it fell to 96, but they apologised for the 96 per cent, and said they had had an epidemic of fever in the district, and that had lowered the attendance considerably. They would like to see 96 per cent in London or anything like it. They would like to see 90 per cent in the English counties, and he would rejoice if he could see 90 per cent in the Principality of Wales, and would need no apology for tumbling down to 96. But when be picked up the Depart- mental Returns for the county of Cardigan he found that the percentage attendance for the last year was 72'9. They would put it and 73, and so out of every 100 children in this county there were 27 away every half day. Now, where were they ? He admitted the distance the children had to travel, and he knew something of the mountain paths. But they were not worse than the Austrian tyrols, and he had seen children who had to be at school by eight o'clock in the morning trotting along those mountain paths. Yes, mountains; not the little' hills of Wales; and going with a regularity that would fairly take away the breath from school attendance authorities in the Prin- cipality of Wales. They went to school regularly, although wanted home. When the day was over he had seen those children driving home the cows or calling in the pigs, and otherwise busy on the farm. Switzerland was a hilly district. He believed the hills there were as difficult to negotiateas the hills of Wales; the mountain paths wercsubject tothe effect of storms; so it would not do for Welsh educa- tionists to take refuge behind the hills. He had in his bag the school law for the canton of Berne. If a child were absent two half days in the month then must the teacher register that and notify the school authority. The school authority must send two of their members to the school to see that that was perfectly correct. The parent was then summoned to appear before the school attendance authority and fined up to six francs—5s. The next time that the child was away two times in a month the fine was doubled, and the next time the second fine was doubled and so they doubled the fine every time the child was away (laughter). If fines had no effect, the parent was then sent to prison, and the child was sent to an industrial school. They did not play with it there. If a child was not present, a note was presented when the school opened from the parent saying that the child was sick. The teacher doubted that note, and it was immediately sent to the school doctor, and the doctor straightway visited the home. He examined the child, and if he was satisfied that he was sick the matter ended. If not he transferred the note to the nearest policeman, and within an hour Tommy was in school (laughter and applause). Did they do anything to the parent? Yes, they cautioned him once, and then fined him. The law allowed them to send a parent to prison for twenty-one days, but they had never bad a case of that kind, for every parent realised that they must send their children to school. They, however, could not get into their heads that con- ception of regular attendance which the German and Swiss parent had. Their notion was the right one, that the child ought to go to school not merely for the benefit of the child, but for the benefit of the nation at large. One thing he could never make out at home was how was it that the 82 per cent. of parents who sent their children regularly to school did not bring pressure to bear on the 18 per cent. who did not, and compel them to discharge their duty, because no man could over-estimate the amount of mischief done to an elementary school by the 18 per cent. who attended irregularly (hear, hear). Mr Grey then proceeded to describe the gingerly and tenderly way in which parents who would not com- ply with one of the first duties of a citizen were dealt with in this country. And Cardiqan-he would not compare it with Germany, he dare not, and he would not compare it with Switzerland, with the tyrol- he would compare it with the other counties in Wales. Angelsey had a percentage of 74, Brecon 73. Cardigan 73, Carnarvon 7St, Car- marthen 76, Denbigh 73, Flint 75, Glamorgan 78, Merioneth 76, Montgomery 74, Pembroke 72, and Radnor 74. Cardigan did not stand well even amongst the counties of Wales, which came out with a percentage attendance of 758, and the counties of England with 815. The coun- ties of England were lamentably below the counties of Scotland in this matter, for the Scotchman was a cannie man. and he realised that if he could not leave his boy" baubees" he would leave him something better-the chance of winning them for himself (applause). But Scotland was lamentably behind the German, for the German said Yes, we will build a magnificent school, and put into it the best teachers and the best apparatus that money can buy (cheers). And we will put into it the best teachers that are to be found in the country, and England will pay for it." He walked round a new school in Germany with the master; and remarked that it would cost a lot of money. He said Yes, and sometimes our people grumble a little, but we always solace by saying, Never you mind, the Englishman will pay." Then he added in broken German, Made in Germany." Then he could see through it, and if they wanted a further illustration of the truth of the remark they had only to go to the I banks of the Rhine and see the barges and small steamers there laden with goods made in Germany to be sold in the English market. Made as the product of German brains, not because their brains .ere worse, but because they systematically neglected the brain of the'young (applause). Two or three of the gentlemen who acted as Com- missioners for technical education some years ago paid a second visit to Germany to report on the progress made with technical institutions there. They made a report in the shape of a letter to the Duke of Devonshire, and while pointing out that the technical institutions had gone ahead at a great rate they made this pregnant remark-" The Germans admit thaL the success of their technical schools is due to the excellence of the primary school." The Town Council of Manchester sent a deputation from its technical education committee also to Germany and Austria, ancf they came back with exactly the same verdict. Ask the Ger- man what made his primary school good, and he had no hesitation whatever in telling them first, that they had the children always there, and second, they got the best teachers that many could provide. The more he looked into it, and the more he examined the schools at home and abroad the more firmly was he convinced that they would never get their money's worth until they got these children regularly to school. He always under- stood the Britisher r.ever cared what it cost as long as he could get full value for his money. He could say that in this he dia not get the full value for his money. The speaker then turned to another subject. The education code recognised in their schools he did not know how many classes of teachers. There was the certificated teacher; then there was the man who did not go to college, but got his certificate -.3 the result of his practical work and his study at home. And then they had the younk man or young woman who, having passed the Queen's scholarship examination, could get no forrader, and stopped there. There were a few graduates, but no more than a dozen, so they were not worth mentioning. Then they employed children, and a' y^tng ladies. He had great, affection for young ladies—(laughter)—over the age of 18 (renewed laughter). But his affection was limited to school hours. The fact that she had that certificate which she could not avoid did not make her qualified. Her only other qualification was that she had been vaccinated. Vaccination might be good or bad. He was not at Leicester, and therefore, it was not within his province to argue" it at that moment, but he thought they would agree that vaccination did not necessarily make a good teacher. The code said she must be under the age of 18. but unfortunately they never put tl i other terminus in, and did not say when she must retire. He had seen them at 73 in infants schools, in girls' schools, and sometimes in boys' schools. There were 15,000 of these young ladies at work in the primary schools or England and Wales—18 and vaccinated (laughter). And the father and mother who bad made a great sacrifice to send their child to school never dreamt that this young lady whom teachers called an artirle 68—was the teacher. Now j he was hoping that Cardigan stood well in the j matter of staffing its schools. What was the ideal! Germany was the ideal. No teacher was engaged without a diploma, and in some of the towns they were not taken until they had had a few years of experience. Switzerland never saw a pupil teacher. They were richer than Switearland and he thought they could do as well as Germany, and yet in those places they would never dream of squandering their monev on pupil teachers nor on Articles 6tf. Coming to tlleÍr own country. Out of every 100 teachers in their schools they employed 39 who were properly qualified, six who had passed the scholarship, 43 children and 12 vaccinated young ladies (laughter). So 61 per cent of the teachers in the County of Cardigan should not be there. He knew be would catch it, but he could not help it. He could not 1I\(?a!Ue 8 a mere 2:lc:cd duty wih which a r..llt!0n could be charged with than the education of its young. They were having an excellent object lesson just now in South Africa- The taxpayer would not pay the necessary money for an efficient army properly armed. They had got to the test, where they found how very severely the army was lacking, not in bravery, not in gallantry, but lick- ing in numbers and equipment, and now they bad to cast around right and left dragging men, rushing for money. They were meeting the German and Austrian people on another battlefield every day. Not the battlefield where physical force would win the victory, but where intellectualism would win the day. And the readiness to spend money in the education army was enabling the German to beat them again and again. They spent and spent upon their schools, and secured adult qualified teachers and regular attendance, and the Englishman paid. He was not satisfied at going on at this rate. He did not see why they should not spend a little bit more and get proper attendance and qualified teachers, and make the German pay. (applause). Cardigan bad only 39 per. cent. of certificated teachers, England 48, and London 81 (hear, hear). But were they to go on in this tinkering fashion year after year ? Were they to continue these rivalries between Board and Voluntary schools 7 Were they to go on in this mad, blind way? They had5,600,000 children under the control of 24,000 school boards, and goodness knew how many school attendance com- mittees which were not school boards. Every argument they could consider led them to one conclusion, that either the whole or almost the entire cost of education ought to be borne by the central exchequer. He admitted that that might not be possible, although it was the ideal plan. A county board of education for primary schools was what the country was dying for, and until they had got that with county rates under their control, they would have this perpetual bickering and inefficiency. He bad no fear in saying that the time bad come when the dual system should disappear, when board and voluntary schools should dissappear. But he did net believe in getting rid of religious education. His own firm belief was that they would not make a good citizen without religious education. He believed that religion in the hands of a skilled teacher was the best disciplinary in- fluence that he could exercise. Sooner or later they would be driven to the one conclusion to which every thinker was being driven in England. That the school board system as it now ex- isted had had its day, that the time had come when voluntary and board should join hands. And there were a number of people, and he was one, who went a stage further, and said let them not only amalgamate the board and voluntary schools with religious and secular teaching in both, but let them then join hands with the second- ary school authority, and thus get one county board of education dealing with every rung in the ladder from the lowest kindergarten right up to the highest secondary school (loud applause). At the conclusion of the address, questions and discussion were invited, but neither were forth- coming.. Mr Tivy Jones (mayor) then proposed a vote of thanks to Mr Grey for his able address. Professor Walker, St. David's College, in second- ing, asked in what way the Germans with their system managed to avoid the evils of centraliza- tion. The resolution was carried with aoclamation, and Mr Grey, in acknowledging, said with regard y 11 to the question of centralization, in Switzerland the municipality provided the school building, the lighting, firing, and the cleaning, and the remainder of the cost was borne by the central authority. Mr Grey also added that the head- master of the school in Munich had no class of his own. His main function day by day was to advise parents what to do with their children. Mr Grey then proposed the thanks of the meeting to Pro- fessor Bebb for presiding. Mr. John Jenkins seconded. Principal Bebb, in reply, said he felt very strongly that the distinction between voluntary and board schools must be done away with. Was it not possible for the country to agree to pay for secular education, and to make arrangements to have religious education according to the different denominations by the elergy and ministers. The meeting then terminated. ANNUAL MEETING OF THE FEDERATION. In the afternoon the first annual meeting of the ederation was held, when the joint secretaries, Messrs. Daniel Watkins and William Lewis, pre- sented the constitution and regulations by which the Federation will be governed. These were approved of with but few alterations, the only one of any importance being a slight increase in the sub- scription fees. The schoolmasters present were afterwards kindly invited by Principal Bebb to meet Mr. Grey at tea at the College Hall, where there was a good attendance and an agreeable time spent.