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erred disastrously in general policy. It is said, next, that the Board schools have been unfairly placed in dangerous proximity to schools already existing, with the effect; perhaps with the intention, of draining them.
Now, of these two accusations, the former, being general, is the only one really serious. In respect of the latter, we have no doubt that mistakes have been made; it would be very strange if they had not. Some of these seem to have been due to an unfortunate step, taken in 1871, in deference to popular clamour at the delay of getting in statistics, on the proposition of Lord Sandon. It was thought not difficult to put the finger at once on ten spots, in which schools were certainly required, and to commence these without waiting for the figures. But the stern genius of statistics was avenged; and we believe that almost all of these sites proved to be questionable. In other cases the necessary but artificial process of dividing London into blocks, which were defined as much as possible by the boundaries of the chief thoroughfares (often almost as impassable as rivers by young children), may have caused some errors in the position of schools. But, without attempting to examine all the details, we find two considerations tolerably obvious.
The first is that sites in London cannot be always obtained, at least without the tedious and costly process of scheduling, in precisely the position which might be abstractedly most desirable ; and that mere proximity to existing schools in itself proves nothing, because there are many places so densely populated that schools may be within one hundred yards of each other, and yet not be in excess of the requirements of
Thus, for example, there is, we see, one case (in Lisson Grove) where, in a district 500 yards by 1,200 (about one-fifth of a square mile), there is actually a school population of 6,261, and voluntary schools can take only 2,189, leaving 4,072 to the charge of the Board. If it provide for only half of these, and build two schools for 1,000 each, it is clear that it will be far below the necessities of the case; and yet its schools must be quite close to those which previously existed. This is probably a peculiar case: but there must be many others of the same kind. What we should think a more real source of danger to existing schools is the risk of being undersold, wherever the Board school-fees are much lower than
This again may be difficult to avoid : for, if the fees are put low, as they should be for very poor neighbourhoods, there is always a probability that some parents not living in that exact locality, and quite able to pay higher fees,
may nevertheless send their children there. But the School Board ought certainly to ascertain what is a fair charge, considering the circumstances of each neighbourhood, and to keep to this. Otherwise they may injure other schools, and certainly will not improve the independence of the people round.
But there is, as we have said, another consideration, which shows that the Board cannot have been actually in any very flagrant error. Lord Salisbury attacked it on this very point last Session, and choosing three sites out of those in the schedule which seemed to his advisers most objectionable, had them referred to a Select Committee. The evidence taken by that Committee is before the world, and very interesting it is; but the result was that in all the cases taken the decision of the Board was maintained; and we may remark that the majority in every instance contained such names as those of Lord Harrowby and Lord Eversley-men who are not likely to be revolutionary in their policy. If this be so, the mistakes, whatever they are, cannot be very startling or very oppressive in their effect.
But, after all, this is mere skirmishing; the real attack is on the calculation by the Board of the provision to be made.
If this is seriously wrong, injustice and waste must be committed wholesale. The blame, indeed, will have to be shared between the Board, which recommends, and the Education Department, which examines and orders. But this, again, is of minor consequence; the question is simply whether what has been done
Now it is difficult enough to disentangle truth at any time from the conflict of statements and counter-statements; it is a still more formidable thing to enter the bewildering maze of statistics, and hold fast the guiding clue. But let us examine the leading facts. The Board began by ascertaining the children of school age from the Census returns of 1870, and these returns it has corrected and recorrected by enumerators of its own. Probably they are now substantially accurate; and as it is possible to find out the whole accommodation in schools pronounced by the Government Inspectors to be efficient, it might seem easy enough to perform a simple subtraction sum. But unfortunately there are considerations relating to the schools themselves which trouble this simplicity. The first is that school accommodation may be unequally distributed, so that there may be a surplus in one quarter and a deficiency, which that surplus cannot relieve, in another. Thus we find the Bye-laws Committee stating that, of some 88,000 places vacant in voluntary
schools, 40,000 belong to districts which are at present overschooled ; and these cannot well be taken into account. Then again, schools, even if efficient, may not be always 'suitable' to the locality in which they are placed, and, if fed at all, are fed from a distance. In many cases, for example, the fees are too high, and economical necessities forbid that they should be lowered. In London generally it is found that the provision of Infant Schools is far below that made for elder children ; and yet experience shows that it is almost impossible to erect Schools for Infants only with any chance of getting them filled.
It will be seen at once, in the light of these considerations, that statistics cannot be treated roughly in the gross, but must be examined carefully in detail.
But, after allowing for these things, we see that the main question at issue between the Board and its critics is one of principle. The Board has considered it right to provide for all the children, who, after making allowance for unavoidable causes of absence, ought to be at school. It is contended, on the other hand, that it should provide only for those who at present are likely to be actually persuaded or compelled to
receive instruction’; and some critics go so far as to say that the existing schools ought to be filled, before any fresh schools are built in their neighbourhood. Now, on this question of general principle, it may be remarked that the number of children, who can be got to school, is a vague and fluctuating number, depending on the efficiency of the working of compulsion, and on the tone of public opinion respecting it; and therefore that it can hardly be taken as a basis for calculating legal obligations. And it has been strongly contended that compulsion cannot be justly or effectively worked, while there are only schools, of which the mass are denominational, for children to go to.
But what is more to the purpose is, that the Board have very little choice in the matter. The Education Act expressly directs them to provide sufficient school accommodation for the children of school age in each district ; and the Department is prepared to require that this provision shall be carried out. * Of course common sense demands that such a direction shall be construed with some reasonable latitude. It would be absurd, knowing the inevitable inaccuracies of all
At Manchester we observe that the School Board estimated the provision to be made at 4,606 places; but the Education Department interfered, estimated the needful provision at 8,283 places, and ordered it to be supplied. At Birmingham the Department objected to the percentage of absence allowed as unavoidable; and so increased the deficiency to be provided for.
statistical inquiries, and the impossibility of carrying out perfectly any compulsory system, to extend the building of schools to the theoretical limit. But there is no doubt that the right basis of calculation is where the Board has placed it, and the only question is whether they have construed it in this reasonable spirit.
Now, how stand the facts on this subject? The Statistical Committee, in March 1872, reported to the Board and the Board to the Education Department, that there were in London 681,101 children of school age. Now the usual theory, stated
. by the Education Department to be 'not only theoretically
but practically correct,' and (we believe) hitherto taken as a basis of calculation by the National Society, is that from the gross amount one-seventh should be deducted for children of superior class, and from the remainder 17.5 per cent. for all causes of absence, permanent and temporary. This would give, as nearly as possible, 500,000 children to be provided for. But the Board, carefully examining the various causes of absence (illness, tender age, work as whole-timers and half-timers, and the like) came to the conclusion that it was necessary to provide for only 454,783 children. They then calculated the provision actually existing in schools pronounced to be efficient (prevailing on the Department to give six months' grace to those partially efficient '),* and the result gives at the present time a total of 313,561 school places in efficient schools. The whole deficiency would therefore be about 141,000, but by some corrections of error it was reduced (in July 1873) to 139,275. It should be observed that the Board here reckon all existing efficient schools as available, although it is (as we have seen) of opinion that 40,000 places are really useless. What then did it do? It obtained from the Department leave to supply 112,000 places; and ир time of laying down office we find that it has only put in train arrangements for permanent provision for 86,870 children.
We find it, from this calculation, difficult to doubt that the late Board acted with great caution, that its calculations were moderate, and its operations so kept within those calculations as to leave an ample margin. If all the Boards in England have shown the same spirit, we cannot see any ground of complaint. But we notice that Canon Gregory and many others have been returned to the new London School Board, pledged to re-examine and, if need be, rectify these
* That is, efficient in respect of accommodation, but not in teaching; or efficient in teaching, but not in accommodation.
calculations. We are glad that it is so, and we hope that they will redeem their pledge. All bodies entrusted with public funds require to be watched ; and none can complain, if the vigilance used is free from obstinate prejudice and factious opposition.
We pass on, therefore, without much anxiety on the foregoing head, to consider the question of the actual working of the compulsory powers entrusted to the Boards. These have been employed on a large scale; by the Education Report of 1872, we see that nearly nine millions of the population of England and Wales are now subject to them, and that, putting London out of the question, this number includes 74 per cent. of the borough population. The powers originally given were in some points defective; several defects have been remedied by the Amendment Act of 1873; some still remain, and leave the Boards very much at the mercy of the magistrates to whom they appeal. We cannot, moreover, doubt that these powers will have to be aided by a large extension of the principle of indirect compulsion,' recognised in the Factory and Workshop Acts, and in Mr. Read's new Act as to children engaged in Agricultural labour. Still they are very considerable powers, and ought to produce a considerable effect. The anticipations of resistance to the process of compulsion, as one foreign to our English habits and traditions, have not been realised; and the magistracy generally (with some marked exceptions) have supported them fairly. What has been the result ?
We are not yet able to answer the question authoritatively for the whole country; but we believe that there is no doubt that Mr. Forster's anticipations in June last have been realised, and the general result is briefly this—that in the year 1866-7, the average attendance was 911,681; in the year 1870-1, 1,231,434; in the year 1872-3 it will prove to be
; about 1,500,000. This means that in the last two years the increase is exactly the same which was made in the four years preceding-that is, compulsion exercised over only about twofifths of the population has doubled the increase of attendance over the whole, which might perhaps* have been expected on the old system. We also observe that the increase in 1872-3, when compulsion had fairly got to work, was more than double the increase in 1871-2, when the compulsory
* We say "perhaps,' for it may be doubted whether the voluntary system had not by its expansion nearly reached the residuum with which it would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to deal.