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Committee of Council on Education, Rev. Sir,
Council-Office, Whitehall, Aug. 10, 1840. The Committee of Council on Education are desirous to obtain information as to the state of Elementary Education in the mining districts of the counties of Durham and Northumberland.
You are therefore directed to proceed to those districts as soon as it may be convenient to you to do so, and to inquire into the state of Education generally, and the nature of the superintendence under which it is placed.
On this head your object will be to ascertain the number and character of the schools for the children of the poorer classes. You will inquire what dame-schools, common day and eveningschools, and Sunday-schools exist; what day-schools connected with the National and British and Foreign School Societies; what endowed schools for the poorer classes; what day-schools connected with churches or the congregations of dissenting chapels, with the number of scholars on the books in each case; the average attendance; the nature and extent of the instruction given; the books used; the qualifications and salary of the teacher; the methods of instruction adopted; the annual income of the school; and such other particulars as may tend to afford the most complete information upon this subject.
In making these inquiries, you will not fail to avail yourself of every facility freely afforded you; you will carefully avoid acting on the presumption that you are invested with any authority to enter or inspect any schools without the express permission of the managers, or to require from any individuals facts or information which they are unwilling to communicate to you. You will rely solely on the voluntary co-operation of the gentlemen, magistrates, clergy, and others to whom you may be introduced, and on the means which you will possess of prosecuting your inquiries in person among the working classes themselves; and you will of course use great caution with respect to the correctness of any statements you may submit to the Committee. By order of the Committee of Council on Education,
(Signed) J. P. KAY The Rev. John Allen, Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools.
King's College, London, Nov. 24, 1840. On the 10th of August last I received instructions from your Lordships to visit the mining districts of Durham and Northumberland, with a view to obtaining information as to the state of Elementary Education in those counties; and, leaving London the same evening, I waited on the Lord Bishop of Durham at Auckland Castle on the 12th, to whom my mission and its objects had been already announced, and whose earnest desire to cooperate with the Committee of Council, for the elevation of the intellectual, moral, and religious condition of the working classes, had been repeatedly expressed and proved.
It was suggested to me that I should consult his Lordship, and any other persons well qualified to advise me, as to the particular locality from which I could most advantageously carry on my inquiries; and, having received from the Right Rev. Prelate a strong recommendation to his clergy, I fixed my head-quarters, in conformity with his advice and that of others, at Newcastle-uponTyne, from which town the railroads and other means of communication afforded an easy access to those coal-fields lying along the Tyne and the Weare, among which my time was chiefly to be spent.
During the afternoon of the 21st of August I received some melancholy tidings, which induced me to return to London without delay. I was at Newcastle again by the end of August, ready to recommence my labours on the 1st of September. On the 3rd of October I finally returned to London.
While, in obedience to your Lordships' commands, I lay before you the results of my inquiries, I would wish to be permitted to entreat your indulgent consideration of my Report upon two several grounds. First, my own inexperience in the prosecution of such inquiries; and, secondly, the largeness of the field in which I was engaged. In justice, however, to others, I must add, that whatever want of precision or other defects may be noticed in the following papers must be attributed wholly to myself. From every one with whom I conversed on the matter I received as much assistance as I could reasonably hope for, each appearing willing and anxious to supply me with all the information within their reach; and many gentlemen, lay as well as clerical, proved themselves most kind friends to me and to my work, by putting themselves to considerable inconvenience to further my
views. It will be seen, from the dates given above, that the inquiry occupied about six weeks: during that time 150 schools were visited, of which number 4 were Sunday-schools, 15 were infantschools, 37 were dame-schools, 46 were common day-schools set on foot by masters on their own account, subject to no superintendence, and attended by children of both sexes; 15 were girls' schools, under the superintendance of the parochial clergy; 14 were boys' schools, and 2 were schools for both sexes, under the same superintendence; 3 were Lancasterian schools for boys; 2 were Lancasterian schools for girls ; 1 was the school in the gaol at Durham; and 11 were schools for children of a superior class, whose payments varied from 10s. 6.1. to ll. ls. and upwards per quarter.
The payments at the common day-schools ordinarily varied from 3d. or 4d. to 8d. or 10d. per week, according to the proficiency of the scholar. The payments at the national schools were somewhat less, usually ranging from 2d. to 4d. per week. The payments at the dame-schools were found to be 2d., 3d., 4d., and occasionally 6d.
of the children were commonly under 12; a few stay at school till 14, but it is very rarely that a pitman's son can be found at a day-school after 9.
In addition to the 150 schools mentioned above, the school-rooms and masters of some 20 other schools were visited ; and three days out of the last week of my stay in the North were spent among the lead-miners in Alston Moor, Allendale, and Weardale. The results obtained during a very hasty inspection of 26 schools situate in these latter districts will be given separately.—(Appendix A.)
It must be premised, indeed, that many of my visits to the schools in the colliery districts of the Tyne and the Weare were merely rapid glances, from which little could be gathered except general impressions as to the orderly behaviour, cleanliness, and attention of the scholars, with such information as might be supplied from the answers given to a few abrupt inquiries put to the masters.
In 7 out of the 15 infant-schools visited the mistresses had never received any sufficient training, and, as it appeared, made very feeble attempts to draw out the faculties of the children, acting as if their chief business was to teach their scholars to repeat a few rhymes, and to go through certain manual and bodily exercises. Two of these 15 schools were under a master; most of them were well supplied with prints, and all except one were fitted up with a gallery ; none of them had gardens attached, nor were they supplied with any gymnastic apparatus. A cabinet of natural objects might be procured for all with very little exertion on the part of the superintendent; as the children would, if the matter were proposed to them, make no contemptible collection for themselves.
The dame-schools appeared to me to be divisible generally into two classes; those kept by persons fond of children, and of cleanly and orderly habits, -and these, however scanty may be their means of imparting instruction, (the mistresses confining themselves almost entirely to teaching a little reading and knitting or sewing,). cannot altogether fail of attaining some of the highest ends of education, as far as regards the formation of character,-and those kept by widows and others who are compelled by necessity to seek some employment by which they may eke out their scanty nieans of subsistence, without any real feelings of interest in their work. Many of this latter class presented a most melancholy aspect; the room commonly used as a living-room, and filled with a very unwholesome atmosphere; the mistress apparently one whose kindly feelings had been long since frozen up, and who was regarded with terror by several rows of children, more than half of whom were in many cases without any means whatever of employing their time.
In nine-tenths of the common day-schools visited I found no profession made of giving any religious instruction: this, as it was said, was left to the Sunday-school; but as, ordinarily, no care is taken by the masters that their pupils shall attend Sunday-schools, the common day-schools of which I am speaking must be considered, I fear, in the worst sense of the words, merely secular schools. The masters appeared in most cases to be very ill educated, and the schools being matters of private speculation, except in a few instances where school-rooms were found by the owners of collieries, they are subject to no inspection, and are consequently in a great measure beyond the reach of those beneficial influences which could not fail to be produced by intercourse with persons of superior intelligence, and from the opportunities of visiting good schools, and of becoming acquainted with the most approved methods of instruction. Of education, in that sense of the word which includes the training and the endeavour to perfect the faculties of the entire man, there is none. No superintendence is exercised over the children during the hours of relaxation, and in but too many instances it seemed that the constant use of words of harsh reproof, and no unfrequent recurrence to the strap, was needed to preserve tolerable quiet and some slight appearance of order. The strap, the common instrument of punishment, is not, indeed, a very formidable weapon, but the frequent use of it, while it bears witness to the little real respect paid to the master, must lower the character of the children, teaching them to estimate actions, not by any fixed standard of right and wrong, but by the immediate sensible results produced on the caprice or bad temper of another.
In very few of these schools was any acknowledgment made of dependence on the only source of all good by public prayers at the opening or close of the day. I have no note of singing being taught in any one of them : it is certainly not taught in by far the larger proportion of them.
The deficiency of books was most lamentable; in the majority some slates and copybooks, a few pages of a spelling-book or an entire one, treatises on arithmetic and mensuration, with the Bible or Testament, were almost the only visible means of instruction. A few children indeed, in one or two of the schools, used Pinnock's Catechism of Geography; I met also with one or two short Histories of England. Almost all of these schools were