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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 opened between the hours of 7 and 9 in the evening during the winter, for the instruction of pitmen, and others not able to attend during the day.
There appeared to be a great want of any well-organized system of instruction.
The master, while engaged with one class, seemed in most instances liable to numberless interruptions from individual applications for aid. The school-rooms were commonly fitted with forms and desks, but with a few exceptions no other apparatus was visible. The desks, as they are usually placed lengthwise through the room, while they cause the children to face one another, shield a considerable number from the observation of the master. A better disposition of these would be that of Joseph Lancaster, all looking one way, towards the master's seat. An arrangement yet more preferable might be made, in most instances with very little expense, according to the figure in the margin, which is taken from the plan in the volume of minutes published by the committee of council, (B. No. 2,) in which
the desks and benches are turned so as to afford facilities for teaching the scholars in three divisions, or for giving contemporaneous instruction to the entire school. In not more than 4 out of the 46 did I find that any of the children were taught to draw; they were not provided with maps or blackened boards; they have no drills nor manual exercises; no play-grounds, nor provision for recreation. In about one fourth of the schools, the boys and the girls sat on separate benches; on this matter of arrangement of the sexes I do not feel competent to offer any opinion, as my observation has not enabled me to ascertain any general results.
But little attention seemed to be paid to the cleanliness of the children. In very few instances did I find a window opened for ventilation, and where a large number of children were gathered into a small confined room, the atmosphere, highly offensive to a stranger, must prove most pernicious to the lungs and skin of the inmates, slowly but surely undermining their health and strength.
The parochial schools were better ventilated, and in most instances filled with cleaner children than those assembled in the common day-schools, although the rate of payment is considera
bly lower. In most the system of mutual instruction is strictly adhered to, the masters making, as far as I could learn, little attempts to teach the children to exercise their mental faculties, by requiring written answers to written questions, or by resorting to ellipsis, or the suggestive method of instruction. The children were usually found to be orderly in their demeanour; and in the better schools, both parochial and those under no superintendence, writing seemed to be fairly, and arithmetic very successfully, taught. Children of the age of 12 were not unfrequently to be found solving problems in mensuration, and many in ,both classes of schools were found learning practical land-surveying. The reading was, in almost all cases, indifferent, and, in nearly every instance in which the experiment was tried, an attempt to get the meaning of the words read failed. I met with only one instance of a pupil-teacher. All the parochial schools were opened and closed with prayer, and the church catechism was repeated by the children with tolerable accuracy ; but in schools even of the better class, little or no meaning seemed to be attached to the more difficult words.
cases indeed the explanation furnished in the glossary attached to the broken catechism was readily given, but this, as far as I could judge, was as much a matter of rote as the rest. Of the books used, there was seldom any deficiency; those commonly read were Sellon's Abridgment, Bishop Gastreli's Faith and Practice of a Christian (an excellent tract), the National School Society's reading books, and the Bible. The Lord's prayer, and the collect for the week, were learnt by almost all the children ; but, besides these, the children were not commonly taught private prayers to repeat at home, nor have I reason to believe that much inquiry is made by their teachers how much they have profited by the public ordinances of religion. One matter for regret which was continually forced on my thoughts while visiting these church-schools was, i hat the masters, though in many instances appearing to be serious minded men, seemed to have no wish to do more for their scholars than help them to acquire a knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic, with psalmody. If these objects were attained, and the children could say their catechism and the collect for the week, and in one or two instances some texts of Scripture, the masters generally seemed to think their work was perfectly done. It is not meant to undervalue these acquirements, doubtless they prove often the means to good ; but I never found in my conversation with the masters that they felt it to be their duty to endeavour to form the characters of the children, or to lead them to think, or even to convey to them instruction apart from the routine noticed above. The sphere of reading and information of the masters will, I fear, be generally found to lie in a very narrow compass, and it is no wonder if, as long as they are not better educated, they slow little anxiety about improvement. In some of these schools
an attempt was made to maintain some connexion with the scholars after they had gone out into the world; a matter which, if well attended to, would doubtless prove of signal use in keeping them in the right course. I have no note of any of the children in the church-schools being taught to draw.
Small yards were attached to some, but these were in no instances furnished with circular swings or means of recreation, nor was any superintendence habitually exercised over the children during the period of relaxation.
The parents' hearts might often times be reached in a very effectual manner, if a small card, printed with texts of Scripture, or moral apologues, maxims, &c., were given to each child at night to be talked over, or learnt, as the case might be, as the lesson
for the following day.
In the girls' schools that I visited, half the time of the children was devoted to needlework, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of which was commonly appropriated to the purchase of small articles of clothing for the use of the children. In almost all the girls' schools that were subject to any superintendence, the children appeared to me clean and orderly; but I should not estimate the amount of instruction given in most of them at a very high rate.
As a class, the masters of the Lancasterian schools appeared to aim at more in the instruction of their pupils than the masters of the parochial schools: they seemed more alive, more stirring. In two of these schools good maps were drawn by some of the pupils. I doubt, however, whether the education given in such schools has not rather the tendency to press some children forward to rise out of their own sphere of life than to elevate the candition of the mass. The Scriptures were read in all, and nearly all were opened with prayer and singing. They were well furnished with the sheet-lessons of the British and Foreign School Society, and with Bibles. As far as regards moral training, and the superintendence of the children out of school-hours, they seemed equally defective with the schools I have just now noticed. All of these schools, with the exception of one where there was a small endowment, were in towns, and, consequently, not accessible to the children of the pitmen.
As a means towards forming some more accurate estimate of the provision made for supplying instruction to the lower classes in · particular neighbourhoods, certain parishes or districts were selected as specimens, within the limits of which I visited nearly every school. The districts so selected were the parishes of Wallsend, Heworth, and Chester-le-Street; the town of North Shields ; the chapelries of Hetton-le-Hole and South Hetton; the collieries of Haswell, Littletown, Piddington, Lower Piddington, and Belmont. I must premise, however, that in the details which follow I have not felt myself called upon to particularize what appeared to me the merits or the defects of such schools as, not having received aid from Government since the 3rd day of June, 1839, were not formally subject to my inspection. My general impressions with reference to this matter must be gathered from the foregoing paragraphs.*
Wallsend parish, containing some of the oldest collieries in the North, stretches for three miles and a half along the north bank of the Tyne; its greatest width may be somewhat above two miles. The present population is calculated at about 5500, consisting chiefly of men employed in collieries, roperies, agricultural labour, and those collected into one or two small reservoirs of trade by the side of the river. There is one church (containing 750 sitings; 300 free) in which two full services are celebrated every Sunday. The present incumbent has held the living (a perpetual curacy) between 10 and 11 years. In the parish there are 8 Dissenting meeting-houses : namely, 3 Wesleyan Methodist, 2 Primitive Methodist, 1 Seceders, 1 Independent, and 1 Protestant Methodist : all of these, with the exception of one, have, as I believe, Sunday-schools attached to them. The church was in ruins for 10 years, about 30 years ago.
There is one stone-built national schoolroom, roofed with tiles, unceiled, provided with a small porch, measuring on the inside 42 feet by 21, well lighted and ventilated, on the slope of a hill close to the church, opened in 1833. There are 150 children on the books, of whom perhaps 100, on an average of both sexes, attend daily. The Sunday-school is somewhat larger. The master of the school has the weekly pence of the children (2d. each), and a house. The funds of the school-of which Lord Crewe's trustees contribute annually 51., the Bishop of Durham 31., some of the colliery agents Il. each-go to supply books, the rent of the master's house, &c. But few of the children belong to the pitmen. Their fathers are chiefly millers, shipwrights, keelmen, labourers, and small tradesmen. A boy goes through the school in about four years. On the day I visited the school there were 84 present, divided into five classes : of these 25 read well, and 24 more read decently; 49 were writing in copybooks, the rest used slates only. There are no rewards; the children being taught that learning is itself a reward. The school is opened and closed with prayer; the Scriptures are read daily; the pastor of the parish takes on himself the religious instruction; some of the children committed passages of Scripture to memory. There is sufficient accommodation in the church for the children, and their proper behaviour there is attended to.
* I feel, on reviewing what I have written, that much of what follows would have assumed a more satisfactory shape had my inquiries been more complete, so as to have enabled me to present some results to your Lordships in a Tabular form.