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TEACHERS AND THEIR GRIEVANCES.

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TEACHERS AND THEIR GRIEVANCES. Public Meeting at Aber- ystwyth. Reasonable Security of Tenure. Mr. Vaughan Davies, M.P., on Welsh Education. Under the auspices of the South Wales District Union of the National Union of Teachers a public (meeting was held at the New Market Hall, Aber- ystwyth, on Saturday afternoon last, with the object of hearing and passing a resolution on the Unestion of reasonable security of tenure for teachers in Board and Voluntary Schools. Prof. J. M. Angus, M.A., vice principal of the University College, occupied the chair, and he was supported by Mr Vaughan Davies, M,P. for Cardiganshire I Mr T. H. Jones, chairman of Tenure Committee, I Executive N.U.T. Alderman Peter Jones, J.P., Aberystwyth: Prof. Foster Watson, M.A., Aber- ystwyth; Mr Tom John and Mr W. C. Jenkins, members of the N.U.T. executive; Mr A. W. Swash, Mr Rhys Nicholas, and Mr E. C. Willmott, president, vice-president, and secretary respec- tively of the South Wales District Union, Mr D. J. Saer. Aberystwyth, local secretary. There was also a large attendance of members of the teaching pro- fession, University students, and the leading edu- cationists of the town. The Chairman, in his opening address, ex- pressed his regret at the unavoidable absence of Principal T. F. Roberts, who was to have occupied the chair that day. He said he thought they were agreed that they had met that afternoon to con- sider a matter which was both important and of interest to them all. It was important as involving the position and the work of thousands who, as they all admitted, were doing a very important work to the community, and that with very great efficiency and energy. It was not the time to dilate on that point, but he was sure he would carry them with him if he were to say that the work that was done by their elementary school- masters and mistresses was second to none in im- portance, and was done as efficiently as any in the country (hear, hear). It was important also as in- volving a question of interest to thej whole com- munity, and involving ihe interests of the com- munity. He did not think that they need assume that there was any necessary divergence between the interests of a class and interests of the whole State or community. He would rather hope that they might approach this question with the assump- tion that in offering recognition of the claims of the clas6 it was really entirely consistent with the prosperity and the interests of the whole com- munity. That in fact, as old philosophers used to tell them, "justice and expediency are ultimately inseparable." (Hear, hear). He believed that solu- tion would be submitted to them that afternoon which would be at the same time one recognising the just claims that were put forward, and one that would promote the interest of the whole com- munity, They had the advantage of hearing per- sons who could speak to them with knowledge and authority upon this question, and who would lay the case before them in a way clear to all, Mr E. C. Willmott then announced he had re- ceived letters of apology for inability to attend from Archdeaconj Protheroe. Prof Anwyl, Mr Darlington, Mr Short, Mr Thomas, and several others. Mr T. H. Jones, who attended as deputation from the N.U.T. was the next speaker. He said their country just now needed emphasis laid on the fact that patriotism was not confined to carry- ing a sword. Peace hath her victories no less renowned than those of war." And it was necess- ary that the paths of peace should be patriotically trodden. And that particularly was the case wfth regard to education. They must bear in mind that they were at present entering on a war in arts and crafts in which the race would not be for the swift nor the battle for the strong, but for those who were best educationally trained. A nation's health did not consist only of its broad domains and its natural resources, but also in the intelligence and virtue of its citizens. It was, therefore, well and gratifying for them to see at the beginning of a new century, at the beginning of a new reign, a prominent place being given to education in the Speech from the Throne. But whatever reform might be brought about by the legislation which the Government proposed to bring forward, much of the fruit of those reforms would depend on the conditions under which they were carried out- And they were there that afternoon to discuss one of those conditions, viz., the tenure of teacher's office. It might be well, if at the outset, he told them the exact position of the Union on this ques- tion, because they were constantly misrepresented both in the Press and on the platform. The object of the N.U.T. was not to promote legislation to keep all existing teachers in their present posts. They felt that the establishment of a system which would keep all existing teachers in their places was not desirable, either in the interests of the profession, nor in the interests of education generally. Too well-known were the evils which arose from any members of a class having a freehold in their positions. There were, of course, in the teaching profession, as in all other professions, what were usually called black sheep, i.e.. men and women who were either morally or professionally unfit for their posts. But he was proud to say that the number of such was exceedingly small (Hear, hear). In the Blue Book published for last year there were over 60,000 teachers in their primary schools, of whom only seven appeared on the Government's black list. They, however, did not ask for fixity of tenure, but only for reasonable security (Hear, hear). They would not do anything to bolster up incompetency nor give help to any man or woman whose moral character and private life would not bear the strictest investigation, but they wished that those teachers morally and professionally fit should have their positions secured to them. The evil was widely-spread. It was not confined to one particular area of the country, but they would find it in parts of England, and, he was sorry to say it as a Welshman, even in Wales and even in Cardiganshire, though he must say that Aberyst- wyth was free from it. He did not believe the evil could exist there at all, and he wanted them to understand that this meeting was not held at Aber- ystwyth in connection with any particular case, put was held on the general question (applause). In proof of the widely-prevalent nature of the evil, he might say that Mr Acland, when vice-president of the Council, repeatedly referred to it, and so strongly did he feel that he actually drafted a Bill to deal with the question, but, unfortunately, he went out of office before that Bill could become law. His successor in office, Sir John Gorst, had also repeatedly referred to the question, and had &L admitted over and over again that the evil did exist. Those were two gentlemen who, during K their respective periods of office, were in a position ■I to know what was going on in all the schools of the country by the machinery in their possession But stronger evidence could be brought. Some f time ago a committee, known as the Archbishop's Committee, was appointed to deal and make inquiries into the state of education, mainly in the voluntary schools, and on their report the National Society drafted a Bill. In that Bill there was a clause, dealing with the question, and dealing with it so far as board teachers were concerned on the lines which were now advocated. So if the evil did not exist there would be no need for their proposed legislation. Further, the executive of I the N.'J.T. some time ago were anxious to get information respecting the state of primary educa- tion in the rural schools. They sent out inquiry forms, to a large number of schools in all parts of the country. They received about 1,400 replies. One of the questions was this,—" Is the teacher reasonably secured in his position?" Of the 1,400 replies, about 50 per cent definitely stated 11 No." Last year the Tenure Committee of the Union dealt with over 1,000 cases, taken only from those who were members of the Union. He could give them a large number of cases as typical of this evil. One master was dismissed because he refused to sign a new agreement, requiring him to clean the school, light fires, clean windows, look after the drains, clean the gutters. &c. (Laughter). Another was dismissed because he could not extract swee;, music from the church organ (more laughter). The desire of a mistress to teach geography in her .school led to her dis- missal. Giving evidence before a certain com- mission led to the dismissal of a master by a SchAol Board (dfiame). And the master was prescW that day (hear, hear). For refusing to make false entry on a Government form a teacher received his notice of dismissal' (shame). For winning the heart of a curate a mistress received her dismissal (laughter). And he would give them the "opposite, because for refusing to accept the pp( heart of a daughter of a chairman of School Board a master was dismissed (loud laughter). They could laugh at such things, but nevertheless they were serious to them as a profession (hear, hear). How did this affect the general question of education. He thought everyone present, would agree with hirh that if they wanted to get from a workman his best work he must be free from worry arid anxiety. That applied to the mechanics in his manual work, but with infinitely greater force did itapplv to the men and women who were engaged I in training the minds of the vonth of their country, v Insecurity of tenure not only involved worry, atisietv, trouble, and the expense of moving from jus plaoo to another, hut there was also he more J serious aspect of the case—How long that teacher might be out of employment. On that again hung another important consideration. All teachers who now entered the profession were compelled to join the Superannuation Fund, to which they were compelled to contribute. The amount of the superannuation would depend on the length of service. So that if, through dismissal, the teacher was out of employment-and he was almost certain to be out of employment after he was dismissed over the age of 50 or 60—he would be deprived, or partly deprived, of the benefits for which he was compelled to pay. What was the remedy. In the Code there was a form of agreement which the Government had made compulsory in all cases. They held that in that agreement they should have included a clause making the dismissal of a teacher without a reasonably assigned cause in- operative. That would in a very great measure meet the difficulty, with the addition that the teacher or managers, if they so desired, had the right to appeal to the Education Department. It had been said that in this matter they were asking for conditions of employment for teachers which did not generally hold in the case of masters and employees. Even if that were so, he wished them to remember that the conditions and the circum- stances were most unusual. No one could become a teacher, or be apprenticed as papil teacher, with- out the consent of the Board of Education. The certificate-the teacher's diploma-was issued by the Board; the teacher was appointed subject to the agreement of the Board; and during the whole of his. or her, professional career they were under the supervision of the Board. The only thing in the teacher's career which the Board of Education could not do was to interfere in his dismissal, and they wanted the Board of Education to have a voice in that matter also (applause). They had expected that Sir John Gorst would have been able to deal with this question by means of a minute. He promised to do so, but after consulting Law Officers of the Crown some obstacles arose, and he was prevented from carrying out his wish. He believed Sir John Gorst was in earnest in the matter, and wished to deal with it. Mr Balfour, in the House of Commons that week, had promised that something should be done, and the object of this meeting, and of similar gatherings throughout the country, was to get them to feel that they had public opinion behind them in dealing with this question, and that they were in favour of having something done immediately (applause). Mr Vaughan Davies, M.P., was the next speaker, and was warmly received. He said he had been asked to propose the following resolution :—"That as the widespread prevalence of insecurity of teachers' tenure of office seriously militates against the efficiency of the schools and the educational interests of the children, and the evil having been accentuated by the recent establishment of a com- pulsory Superannuation Scheme in primary schools, this meeting regards with great satisfaction the promise of the Government to deal with the question of teachers' tenure of office at an early date." Mr Davies said it was not necessary to tell the schoolmasters and mistresses of Cardiganshire th..deep interest he had always taken in their life and in their work, and this was not the first time he had stood on a public platform to give Lis views on their behalf. Twelve years ago, when he was chairman of a School Board in Cardiganshire, a schoolmaster fell out in his social life with some of his neighbours, and they thought to pay him out by getting rid of him. He was glad to say that he was able to block the way, and that schoolmaster still occupied his position (Hear, hear). He said that to show that he had not taken up this matter simply because he was member for the county. He did not take it up in a political light, but be- cause he beiievedjit was in the interest of education (applause). They could not expect a man to carry out the duties of a schoolmaster if they continue to bind them down by the present law, and not allow them to be free men. The man who did not know what moment he might be dismissed was not a free man. Because they had been told that only one case had occurred in Cardiganshire—which all of them would remember, because it was so disgrace- ful-that was no argument for not supporting this movement, because every schoolmaster in Car- ndiganshire was in the same position, and liable to be treated in the same manner. He could assure all educationalists and headmasters that in Sir John Gorst they had a great friend (Hear, hear). He had had many conversations with him in the House of Commons, and he knew of no one more wishful to do anything for education than he. If he did not carry out his views it was not his fault but the Government's fault. They were only asking what most other countries had-a Court of Appeal. To give them the freehold of their positions he would distinctly refuse, to do (hear hear). But as long as they did their work as schoolmasters he thought they ought to be protected (applause). His opinion was that a schoolmaster should be allowed to take an interest in the local affairs of the district in which he was in. It was ridiculous to shut him up because he was a schoolmaster. If a schoolmaster had common sense he would not go and run foul of every neighbour he had. And that was one reason why some schoolmasters in Cardiganshire had got into disgrace because they had taken too much interest in what was not of interest to their school. If the matter came to the House of Commons, anything he could do to promote their interests, whether it was by giving security of tenure or in any other way, they could rely upon his vote and support (hear hear). He looked for the future success of Wales in its eduoation, and they could not fight the great battle of life unless they educated the people. Whether their great system in Wales was the best he left others to say. He heard a great deal about the Welsh system of education; almost too much. He would rather hear a great deal more about the results, because when he found Wales standing so low in the roll of educational countries, he wished to know the reason. How was it they were behind Scotland? He did not believe the intellect of the Welshman was inferior to that of the Scotchman or the Englishman, although they all knew that the Englishman was a supreme being in his own estimation (laughter). Still, why was it that they in Wales were so far behind ? There must be some reason for it. He would like to have that reason explained, for with the great buildings they had, with their colleges, intermediate schools, and their board add national schools, why was it they were always at the tail-end of these educated countries ? Those people who wandered about Wales and who one met sometimes in an English county had better make up, and do a little more to put little more life into the educational system, and not pass abstract resolutions that came to nothing. They should try to do something to raise the education of this country higher than it was. He did not care one single straw as to what anyone said about the system. What he wanted was to see Wales holding a higher position in the educational world than she did now. -Where was their great commercial education in Wales ? Ninety per cent. of them had to earn their bread in commercial life, and yet be did not know of a single school in Wales that gave a thorough com- mercial education. Only last week two Welshmen came to him in London and asked him to help them to get into some of the great commercial houses. He took them, and they were put through the mill, and be was sorry to say, they failed. They could not show him a single school where they gave an education in French and German, which was essential for commercial lifeo When he went into those houses he found that their clerks were foreigners, Germans more particularly. They might say that this was outside the resolution, but the whole thing was wrapped up in the conditions of schoolmasters. It vtas neccessary to give them the opportunity of fitting their boys for a commercial life, and of providing them with all the necessities for getting on in life. And the first thing to do was to give the teachers a life free from all anxiety as to the safety of their positions (applause). Aid. Peter Jones, in seconding the resolution, said there was very little for him to dwell upon except to suggest a remedy. The remedy in part submitted by Mr Jones was a feasible one. Take, for instance, the appointments made in connection with Boards of Guardians. In the first instance, when the appointment was made, it had to be ratified by the Department. If that person con- ducted matters properly, attended to the work pertaining to his office, and maintained a good moral character, he was sure of that appointment is long as he was able to perform the duties. rherefore, all they asked with regard to the school- masters was to carry into effect what was in oper- ation in connection with the Union Department throughout the whole country (Hear, hear). It had been stated that the schoolmasters were in great terror. He hardly thought that that was correct, because his experience aa a member of the Aber- ystwyth School Board since its formation in 1870 was that they had not been obliged to go in for a single dismissal. What they regretted very much was that the teachers left their employment. How- ever, as far as the Board at Aberystwyth was con- cerned. their experience bad been that theteachers bad gone in thoroughly for their work, and per- formed it in such a way as to redound to the credit )f any set of men. He thought it was only reason- ible that they should be a>sured in their positions. There were cases, as had been mentioned that day, ind which, no doubt, could be multiplied, Of tiaving been turned out of their appointments for iimsy reasons. In his opinion they should not be placed trader any disabilities either political or social. Why should a schoolmaster, when they •cnew he was the most enlightened man of that dis- trict, not be able to represent that district on its mrious public bodies (applause). They were to the fore in Cardiganshire in that respect, and had >ne or t\fo excellent members in connection with ttounfy affairs who occupied positions as school- masters (Hear, hear). Their representative had ilri»ady promised that he would support this, and ie was certain that in so doing he would carry into t-fiVct the wishes and desires of those who elected dm to the proud position he now occupied applause). Prof. Foster Watson, in supporting the resolution, said it was a matter of congratulation that when a question of importance to teachers was brought forward in Aberystwyth they found the represent- atives of the University, secondary, and elementary education co-operating (Hear, hear). He thought there were signs that in England they were coming to recognise that as a nation they would have to pay far more deference, far more respect to- those people who had put themselves ^ide for the work. and by dint of long training am; by Iiijt of long: ex- perience had made education their own subject and devoted their lives to it. They took good care as a nation to see that their teachers were efficient. They provided an army of inspector* for that pur- pose and they satisfied themselves by the number of results which were put down in the reports of those inspectors. But as a nation, surely, it would be better if, instead of taking such pleasure in these- restrictive and critical! methods as being the sole ones to be employed there was that force of stim- ulation and that force of sympathy given to the teachers in their task so as to make the work go forward voluntarily and with the fullest confidence and readiness from the teachers (applause). They could not get the best part of a teacher's life given to his work of teaching in any other way than by., sympathy and stimulation, which came from feeling; that the best part of the teachers's work was being appreciated. It was easy, by putting the wrong conditions to work, to confine the teacher's at- tention to merely doing his minimum. It was easy to get his mind fixed on a certain resentment against the forces that had been brought in against his work to cripple it. But that was not what was wanted. They wanted to increase the margin of usefulness of the teachers, and make the most of him as a man in the work he bad to do. It was necessary, before the best work was got out of a teacher, that the public should realise this, and that the community should provide satisfactory conditions for him. In a word, the teacher's cause was the nation's cause (applause). Mr W. C. Jenkins who also spoke to the resolution, referred to the remarks made by Mr Vaughan Davies. Although he said this country compared badly with the Continental countries, an effort was now being made in Wales to make up for the lost' ground. At the Swansea Intermediate School they had on their staff a teacher who was engaged giving instruction in modern languages and, further than that, at the Central Higher Grade School, Swansea, an opportunity was now being given to children of the industrial classes in the third and fourth years to go into either the literature department or the commercial department. Mr Davies had also com- pared Wales educationally with Scotland. Go into any part of the .world they would, and they would find the ubiquitus Scotchman. Why was it ? Mr Davies had asked the question. He thought he could answer it in a simple way. It was because the children of Scotland had had a better opportunity educationally than the children of Wales (hear, hear). He regretted to say that at the present moment an effort was being made to cramp educational progress,, whereas in Scotland a boy or girl could remain in school till 18 years of age. Regarding the resolution, what was first of all asked for was efficiency and moral character in the teacher, and they then wanted the public to say that the School Board or Board of Management should not get rid of a teacher because of any other external reasons. The ques- tion was asked why the teachers wanted this special immunity, which was'not given to industrial classes. It was not a question of the pressure of economic law in regard to security of tenure. They never got cases where teachers of a school were dismissed wholly. It was not because of the working of the inexorable law of supply and demand; but it was because in some cases members of school boards and managers acted with caprice and whim. He thought it ought to be made more easy for the teachers to supplement the work in the schools by public work-outside the schools. Too often they forgot that the teacher existed in the dual capacity of teacher and citizen.. They had their citizen leaders in the school, and the teachers were supposed to lay the seeds of good citizenship. He thought that looking round the whole question it would be to the educational and the national advantage If teachers were so placed as to be independent and free, from the arrogance of the one man manager and the petty tyranny and the injustice and petty-fogging of pentagonal 19 school boards (cheers). The resolution, on being put to the meeting, was carried unanimously, and on the motion of Mr E. C. Willmott, seconded by Mr D. J. Saer, it was resolved that copies of it be forwarded to the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Salisbury, Mr Balfour, Sir John Gorst, and other members of the Government. Mr Tom John proposed a vote of thanks to the speakers. In doing so he said what the teachers asked for was a common-sense security of tenure. They had had plenty of platitudes. No class of people in the country had been told so many times "What fine people we are, and what fine work we are doing." They wanted to tell those kind, sympath- etic friends they would do infinitely better work if they would support them in getting this common- sense security of tenure. They had been called by Lord Rosebery the captains and guides of the democracy. One of those captains and guides of the democracy on one occasion was chairman of a parish meeting and had the unpleasant task of calling the Vicar to order (laughter). The result yvas that the teacher bad to go. He (the speaker) called that a capricious, whimsical, fantastical, non-common-sense reason (laughter and applause). They bad had a case in Cardiganshire, and they had to thank the member of Parliament for the county for the valuable help he gave on that occasion (hear, hear). Other people, of course,. took lessons from incidents, and there was, not the least doubt that that Cardiganshire case was also a lesson to a good number of others who might have been inclined that way. But they wanted to prevent the possibilities. As they had been told, they were supposed to teach and mould the character of the nation, but what man could mould if his hands were trembling with fear (hear,, hear). Referring to the pre-eminence of Scotland educa- tionally, he s^id that the schoolmaster had had? a recognised place there for years and years. That country also spent per child on education the sum of R,2 lis 3id, England 92 10s 5d, Wales £ 2.7s, and Cardiganshire L2 4 Merionethshire, however, spent P,2 19s, and stood abreast almost with the best in Scotland, and what they wanted in Wales was more Merionetbshires (applause). Mr Rees Nicholas having seconded the resolu- tion, it was put and carried with acclamation. Mr A. W. Swash proposed, and Mr David Samuel, headmaster Aberystwyth County School, seconded, a vote of thanks to the Chairman,, and this was carried unanimously. The meeting then terminated.

Merionethshire Winter Assizes.

ABERDOVEY.

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