« ForrigeFortsett »
the power of the promoters of the school to judge of the progress it is making
It is a labour, moreover, in which the master might, with advantage, be assisted by the elder boys of the school.
of the three register books, that which is the most laborious to keep, and which is usually the worst kept, is the class register, To the keeping of this book it is required that the names of the children in each class should be re-written once a fortnight. It would not be difficult to devise a method by which the particulars
а recorded in that book might be registered with less trouble.
The names are usually called over in each class by the monitor of the class. In the best schools, however, the master calls them over himself, the attendance of each child being thus brought to his personal knowledge, and any irregularity made to assume, in the eyes of the children, a graver and more serious character,
Notwithstanding that so many valuable results might be collected from the registers at present in use, they are deficient in the following respects :
1. They supply, in respect to each child, no information as to the means of its previous instruction, the time it had been under such instruction, or the knowledge it had acquired when it entered the school.
2. They make no record of the child's progress, from class to class, to be consulted whilst the child is yet at the school, and whilst, therefore, any neglect may yet be remedied.
3. They preserve, after the child has left the school, no evidence of the benefit it has derived from attending it, or of the alleged causes of its withdrawal, or of its future destination.
I have drawn out the form of a register of admission, progress, &c., in which these particulars might be recorded, and appended it to this Report (Appendix A., No. 4). I attach great importance to those columns of it in which it is proposed to record the date of the child's admission to each successive class of the school, affording as it would to the clergyman and the committee of the school the means of judging of the progress which each individual child is making through the school.
There is in every school a mass of children whose tendency it is to gravitate, and who are allowed to do so, and to beconie the dregs of the school. To raise them would be a severe task upon the master's patience or his industry, or, with his other occupations, he finds it altogether beyond his ability ; and he has the less reason to bestir himself in the matter, as it is the part of his school of which nobody takes notice. It is in respect to this mass—making from month to month no progress in the school remaining perpetually at the bottom, and under the influence of that monotonous and mechanical system which characterizes the teaching of the lower classes that the school principally changes its occupants. The more forward and promising children remain ; their parents
are commonly those best to do in the world, and there is the more reason to keep them at school, as they are getting on well with their learning; besides, they are the most useful monitors, and the utmost influence of the master, and sometimes of the clergyman, is therefore used to retain them. But the mass of which I speak, representing the dulness and ignorance of the little community, composed for the most part of those children whose parents are the poorest, and amongst whom education is in the lowest estimation, is in a state of perpetual change, unobserved by the managers, and seen without regret by the master; for it relieves him continually of the heaviest portion of his responsibilities. It is to this mass that I am desirous to direct the attention of the clergyman on the school committee by those columns of my register, in which I propose that “the date of the child's admission into each successive class of the school should be recorded;" convinced that the instruction of the children who compose it is more important than any other function of the school, and that if it be duly attended to, no other useful object of the school will be neglected.* In schools, the maintenance of which
future time be aided by public grants, there can be no difficulty in causing such registers as your Lordships may direct to be provided for their use, to be regularly kept.
When a new register book was sought from the office, that which had been filled up might be returned; and thus a record would be preserved of the name of every child whose education had been aided by a public grant, and of the results with which, so far as that child was concerned, the grant had been applied.
Annual returns might be collected from it by the master, under a prescribed form, and transmitted to the office, certified by the managers of the school.
Whilst by these means an efficient system of registration might, in the course of time, be extended to all the schools under your Lordships' inspection, it would be well if some expedient of present application could be devised for determining approximately the average period of each child's continuance at school, an average about which there is more difference of opinion than about any other connected with the statistics of schools; which involves, nevertheless, conclusions of a more positive nature perhaps than any other as to their present efficiency, and which, if ascertained with accuracy from year to year in respect to a great number of schools,
* I speak in this matter from experience. As Inspector of the Royal Naval Schools at Greenwich I receive twice a-year from those schools returns including the particulars referred to in the text. Very important results have followed from the attention which the masters have thus been induced to give to them. A class of boys who were formerly suffered to remain unheeded in the lowest classes are now absorbed into general circulation, and find their way to the highest ; and if asked to assign a cause which more than any other has contributed to the high standard of instruction attained in those schools, I should fix upon this.
would, more certainly than any other, indicate the progress of elementary instruction.
It has occurred to me that in the case of schools, the attendance on which has reached a normal state, remaining steadily the same from year to year, this average might be determined approximately, if the inspector were to ascertain, in respect to the children who are present when he visits the school, the average time during which these children have been in the school, and were then to double that number. The clegree of approximation will depend upon the num. ber of schools and children which this average covers. * (See Appendix B.)
The Arrangement of the Desks in Schools. I have usually found the desks in schools arranged round the walls of the school-room, so as to leave the entire central area open for the formation of the squares in which the children are taught by the monitors. It is not common to find these desks occupied, except at the hour set apart for teaching writing ; indeed, they seem to be set apart specially for that use; and however faulty the arrangement may be which places all the children whilst they are writing with their backs to the master, it is considered to be amply compensated by the facilities which it supplies to the master to see what each child is writing, to direct him in forming the letters, and to guide his pen.
În some cases parallel desks have been erected by the aid of your Lordships' grants, but even here the object which was principally had in view in proposing that arrangement of desks -the facility that it affords for oral instruction-appears generally to have been lost sight of. They usually stand unoccupied, like the desks on the old construction, except at the hours set apart for teaching writing, and limiting them to this use, the masters are not unfrequently disposed to prefer the arrangement which enabled them better to overlook the children, and consider these parallel desks an encumbrance to the school.
In but very few instances, moreover, have I found these desks constructed of those dimensions and so arranged in groups as conveniently to serve the purpose of oral instruction, if the master were disposed so to employ them. It is obvious, indeed, that in
, the disposal of them, this special purpose is generally lost sight of. Sometimes they are so long that the line of children seated at them cannot be at once within the compass of the master's eye; and sometimes they are so wide and so far apart, that those behind are beyond the distance at which, in the noise of the school, he can conveniently be heard. And, in one instance, I found that their use for the object contemplated in your Lordships' grant had been, to a considerable extent, sacrificed by a contrivance which made them convertible into tea-tables.
* The average time at school of the boys attending the Battersea Village School, at Christmas last, had been about two years and three months, and 20 had left the school during the preceding twelve months, whose average time in the school had been somewhat more than four years. Thus, this example agrees tolerably well with the rule, applied under the disadvantage of a small number of scholars and a single school.
As the proper use of parallel desks appears to me eminently calculated to raise the standard of instruction in our elementary schools, and as their adaptation and convenience for that use is dependent, to a greater extent than persons unaccustomed to the use of them may imagine, upon the dimensions which may be given to them, and their arrangement, I have appended to this Report a statement of the precise dimensions of that group of desks in the Battersea Village School which has been found by experience to be the most convenient; and I have added to it, for the information of persons not conversant with details thus technical, a perspective drawing of this group. It stands on the level floor, and is found to answer the purpose quite as well as others in the same school placed on an inclined platform.
In the Battersea School, such a group of desks is assigned to every class, and constantly occupied by it. The children read, write and cipher, and are instructed orally in religious knowledge, geography, history, &c., seated continually at these desks, or relieving the sitting posture by standing up together at the word of command, or separately, when they read or are under examination. I am disposed, however, to think, that an arrangement, such as that described in my last Report under the name of the "tripartite organization of a school,” by which the children are made to ex. change their sitting for a standing posture, during somewhat longer periods, shift their positions in the school once or twice in the morning, and vary their teachers, is more favourable to that state of mental activity which it is so difficult to keep up in a school during the whole time that the children are assembled.
The Religious Instruction in Schools. I know how many are the exceptions to that rule which would ascribe to the labouring community of this country a general unfitness for the religious education of their own children. I shall nevertheless be borne out, I am convinced, by the experience of those
persons who are most intimately conversant with their condition, when I state that if, as a class, these, the children of our poorer brethren, are to be instructed in the doctrines and precepts of our holy religion, and brought up as Christians, it must be in our elementary schools; and I have accordingly found that in all the schools which I have visited, whilst religious instruction enters in various proportions into the prescribed course, as compared with secular instruction, the first place is invariably assigned to it. In the higher classes, a very considerable amount of Scriptural knowledge is, in fact, often acquired.
The children of these classes are usually acquainted with the outline of Scripture history, and have committed portions of the Scripture to memory,—Psalms, or texts of Scripture having reference to the most important points of Christian doctrine and practice. Frequently I have found them conversant with the Prophecies having reference to the advent of the Messiah ; with few exceptions, they can repeat the Catechism; and in some cases, they have been carefully taught to understand it.
According to that judgment which I am able to form, from recollections extending over so long a period as that which intervenes between my successive visits to the same school, I am led to believe that a steady progress is, in this respect more than any other, to be perceived. I attribute this to the increasing interest which the clergy are everywhere taking in the business of elementary instruction, an interest which, while it is felt in every other part of the business of the school, makes itself most apparent in this.
Notwithstanding the favourable view which I have thus been led to take of the progress of religious instruction in our schools, there are some elements in which it appears to me to be deficient. I have found in it, for instance, nothing to represent those admonitions which a religious parent is accustomed to address to his children, with a personal application to the conscience of each, and an individual knowledge of its necessities, and which, appealing to the heart and the affections, have an influence with children greater than that which they yield to reason or to authority. I have moreover, thought, that in the exclusive direction to religious objects which the teaching in some schools receives, the exercise of that discretion was wanting, by which a pious and judicious parent would provide, in respect to the education of his own children, that due care should be taken to encourage a veneration for the Scriptures, and impress them with a due sense of their importance, and that, of all the subjects in which they are instructed, religion should be made the least burdensome to them.
I am well aware how many are the practical difficulties which surround this question; but the cause of elementary education now ranks among its friends so many men of piety and of zeal, and of great ability, that it is impossible not to hope for some wellconsidered revision of this, the most important element of it. An influence might thus, I believe, be given to our schools on the moral condition of the people, hitherto unknown to them.
In any such influence, the schoolmaster must be a principal agent. The value of that time which the clergyman may be enabled to devote to the labours of the school, it is, I know, impossible to overrate; but these labours are only a part of those proper to his office, and it is, after all, upon the schoolmaster, under whose control the conduct of the child is placed during so many hours of the day, that the place of the parent, in respect to its
* The book commonly in use for this purpose is a selection from Bishop Gastrel's Institutes, entitled “ Faith and Duty."