Page images

till lately, such knowledge has given to all parties connected with schools, however little the attainment may have answered any useful purpose, it was not to be expected that great variety shoulă be found in the organisation of National schools. Occasionally an intelligent teacher of a moderately sized school had adopted the division into three classes, and the occupation of them, recommended by Mr. Moseley. And in a very few instances methods and arrangements were employed which showed tact and skill. But even our better class of school teachers have not yet arrived at such a point of culture, that they can venture upon much inde. pendent action, or upon a free adaptation of means to varying circumstances; and in nothing was this more apparent than in the monotony that prevailed in the organisation of their schools. They were usually divided into a number of classes, that number having often little connexion with the number or condition of the scholars; and each class was placed under a monitor.

Where paid assistants, or pupil teachers, were employed, there were traces of such useful modifications in organisation, as will doubtless become more frequent when the apprenticeship system has had more time to work. At the same time, I rather regretted the tendency to increase the number of classes, in schools where there were Government apprentices. It would be better to relinquish the traditions of a system contrived for other times and other circumstances.

In one respect there was great variety upon a point of organisation. The parents of the scholars are mostly averse to the employment of their children as monitors, especially where no pecuniary advantage is held out. The teachers have been, on this account, driven to every variety of shift for making a frequent change of monitors, and for employing each monitor as short a time as possible. To dispense with monitors altogether is usually impossible; and the tendency of this way of removing the objection to their employment is manifestly to diminish their efficiency. At the same time, they are frequently so young, and leave school so young, that they could not well be employed in teaching during most of the few hours allotted to them for learning.

In only one school, viz., the excellent school for boys in Holy Trinity District, at Hulme, did I find the circulating system employed; and, in that, with modifications which entirely altered its character. There was simply no head to the class. No marks were recorded, and no rewards given. Thus, instead of affording an additional stimulus, its effect was rather to moderate the spirit of emulation. It was indeed employed principally as a help to the discipline of the school. There were other judicious arrangements, in this school, for the maintenance of order and activity, which show an unusually forward spirit, and an unusual amount of resource, in its teacher.

I found one great and prevailing defect in these schools, which may be mentioned under the head of organisation. The lowest class, in many of them, consisted of mere infants. The head Teacher could give to such a class but little of the requisite attention ; and peculiar methods of teaching are needed for infants; methods, too, which can scarcely succeed, except in the hands of teachers set apart and trained for the purpose. The ordinary teachers of these classes of infants, on the contrary, were, almost always, merely monitors, usually very young, with no peculiar training for their duties, and very incompetent to discharge them.

The juvenile schools are much injured by this mixture of mere infants. The only perfect remedy for the evil is the expensive one of forming a separate infants' school; or that of placing the infants, if not numerous, under a kind and sensible dame. Much might be done, with good superintendence, by placing them constantly under the oldest or best monitor, or pupil teacher, that could be procured for the service; but unfortunately, where the evil occurs, there is not, for the most part, skill and energy

adequate to the success of this plan.

It may be remarked that one cause of infants being found in juvenile schools is the desire of the parents,-a desire to be strenuously resisted by school-managers,—to send their youngest children to the same school with their brothers or sisters. Another, and perhaps a more prevailing cause, is the prejudice, existing amongst the poor, against infants' schools.

Discipline. The discipline in most schools was by far too lax; and this seemed in many instances to be in part the result of the dependence of the schools upon the payments made by the parents of the pupils, and perhaps of the peculiarly independent character of the population. The payments are frequently high, amounting sometimes to 6d. or 7d. a-week for the more advanced children. Moreover, the parents exercise but little control over their children; and it is not an unusual thing for a child to present himself alone to the master of a school, make inquiries as to the terms, and smartly make his own bargain, urging perhaps the lower terms of some neighbouring school, or settling for himself whether he will pay for some accomplishment, for which an extra charge is made. Under such circumstances it is only natural that the discipline of schools should, in many respects, be too frequently relaxed.

In all the schools, however, in which the state of instruction was best, the discipline was also well maintained. The one is indeed to the other as a means essential to the end. Sometimes the means was mistaken for a main end in itself; and, wherever order and discipline were thus viewed, the result was clearly marked by the low state of instruction. One of the most striking instances of good discipline, employed for its just ends, was in the excellent school at Rochdale, consisting chiefly of factory children. The numbers were there so great that, without a high state of discipline, nothing could have been effected. The energetic master of this school was supported in the maintenance of strict discipline by the steady concurrence of the mill-owners,

By far too little attention appeared to be paid to the keeping correct registers of attendance. The pence-book was frequently the only register. In many good schools there was no record of individual attendance; and where such was kept, it often happened that no distinction was made between the scholars that came late and those that were punctual.


As to the methods of instruction I had not much opportunity of forming a judgment, except from what appeared in the results produced; my whole time was usually occupied in ascertaining ihese. As the apprenticeship system works on, it will become more necessary to attend to methods of instruction, and the Inspector must find time for observations upon it,

It did not appear that much of the instruction was given orally, or at least in the way of set oral lessons ; nor indeed, from the scanty amount of teaching power at work, would much oral instruction be possible. The scriptural lesson was naturally that which most frequently was given orally; very generally there was little oral teaching besides.

The chief variety in method was afforded by an occasional employment of Mr. Stow's form of simultaneous teaching, by teachers trained in Scotland. In very few cases did it seem to be successfully employed. It might be, that the system was not sufficiently worked out; but certainly, in most of the schools where it was adopted, the results were unsatisfactory. Only a small portion of the scholars had been kept in an active state; and the knowledge of that portion was vague and loose.

In some schools, however, gallery lessons of this character have been given with good results.


Reading.–Very few of the teachers are able to read well, to judge from the favorable specimens of the class, that have had the advantages afforded in training colleges. It is, therefore, scarcely to be expected that the scholars should be proficient in reading. Moreover, the large number of scholars usually taught in the same room, the noise that is unavoidable, and the small portion of the time allotted to reading, during which each scholar can have the advantage of the head-teacher's attention, render it ex tremely difficult to carry out this part of the instruction. A fair


proportion perhaps of the children attain to reading with some fluency, but very few can be said to read with any tolerable regard to expression. In general the reading is extremely monotonous ; and it is well if there be nothing decidedly false, or bad, in

The importance to the scholars of their ability to read intelligently, and with appropriate and agreeable expression, has scarcely perhaps been realized. To read fluently is to the child a valuable attainment; he can then employ the art with pleasure and profit, and he has a key with which to open many a storehouse of pleasant and precious things. But in being trained to read with appropriate expression, he receives a culture which is the more valuable, from its being precisely suited to his age and circumstances. To give language its appropriate utterance, the mind must be exercised upon the ideas conveyed; and the exercise required is just that which the child is able to profit by, supposing the reading-book well chosen.

Moreover, it is of great moment that as many as possible, amongst the poor, should be able to read aloud, so as to be well understood, and listened to with pleasure. It tends to make home more attractive, and to relieve the weariness of the sickbed ; to increase the poor man's comforts and supports; to civilize and christianize him.

In the Dutch schools this point receives the attention which it deserves, and apparently with great success.

WRITING.—This part of the instruction is usually well attended to, and with fair success. The parents value writing highly, and thus great encouragement is given both to scholars and teachers.

No very systematic teaching was employed. Some schools used copy-books with sloping lines, as in Mulhauser's system; and the character of the writing in most of these schools was very good. The chief advantage seemed to arise from the aid which the lines afforded towards giving to the parts of each letter the proper proportions. An unusual degree of freedom and regularity was thus given to the hand-writing.

ARITHMETIC.—This is a branch of instruction valued by the parents of the children, and therefore by their teachers. In most of the schools, and in some very indifferent ones, it was cultivated with considerable success.

Great improvement however might, and doubtless will henceforth, be made in the methods of teaching. It was usual to find a satisfactory degree of expertness in working from the common rules, whilst the children were unable to write from dictation a nuniber above 10,000.

Rarely were schools met with, in which the scholars understood the processes of the first four simple rules. I mean the elder scholars, of course ; for I am far from thinking that the reasons of the rules ought to be, in all cases, taught to young children with the rules themselves. The reverse order seems, in general, the proper one: first, to ensure a familiarity with numbers, the symbols for them, and the mode of dealing with them; and then to discuss the reasons for the familiarized operations. A teacher with knowledge and tact will however, from the first, make his instructions in a suitable measure intelligent; and the Battersea books on calculation, and the Battersea experience, it may be added, show that more may be done in this way than has commonly been supposed. Any person, moreover, will have been convinced of this who has visited schools in France, where arithmetic is made a chief means of culture, and is peculiarly well and intelligently taught.

Some attention has been paid to mental calculation in most of the better class of schools; but it was rarely carried beyond a few hackneyed rules, or practised in such a manner as to call forth and exercise the faculties to any very good purpose. It is to be regretted that exercises in mental calculation should not be employed at every stage of the pupil's progress, for developing his conceptions of the relation of number, and rendering his use of arithmetical rules more intelligent. Children may easily be converted into machines for ready-reckoning, but, in a practical view, this is scarcely worth while; and, for the scholar's education, exercises .gone through in this spirit are of small service. I was glad to meet with no instance of the tricks by which apparently prodigious results, in power and rapidity of calculation, are sometimes produced in order to astonish.

Religious KNOWLEDGE.--I have always given great prominence to the examination into the religious instruction in schools, not merely on account of its supreme importance in regard to the moral influence of the school, but also because it affords the best test of the intelligence of the scholars.

The Inspector's visit should be so conducted as to leave an impression of the weight he attaches to the most important part of what the children have to learn, and should be made to support the best influences that are working upon their hearts. But the degree of moral influence at work is not to be ascertained during a brief visit, with the usual routine of the school broken through, when teachers and taught are in a state of excitement, and the Inspector has enough to do in getting at the most palpable of the facts he is looking for. On this account I have been careful to record but little of my impressions regarding moral influence, and hare preferred stating facts for the certainty of which I could be answerable; and the most valuable of these facts are apparent in the state of religious knowledge. The whole of the scholar's real education tells upon this, and the results come out best here.

Every part of a child's secular instruction, as it is called, would be just as important as the most secular-minded can make it, if its only object were to strengthen, complete, and realize his attain

« PreviousContinue »