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Scottish Education - Schools and University
Appendix III. Secondary Education


SECONDARY SCHOOLS.
(By CHARLES S. DOUGALL, M.A., Headmaster of Dollar Institution.)

The issue of "Regulations for the Preliminary Education, Training, and Certification of Teachers for various Grades of Schools," in June, 1906, marked the beginning of a period of the utmost interest and importance in the history of Scottish Secondary Schools. A prefatory note to the Regulations formulated the principle that schools should be classified according to function. Whatever their origin or history, those schools which provided a three years' course of secondary education were to be called ` Intermediate' and those which provided a course extending over at least five years were to be called 'Secondary.' Thus the former distinction between 'Higher Class' and 'Higher Grade' schools was abolished at least as far as nomenclature is concerned.

Further, of the 55 Secondary Schools receiving grants under the Minute of April, 1899, 37 have been recognised as junior Student Centres, and share with 73 Higher Grade Schools the work of training the future teachers of the country. Those Junior Student centres cannot hope to perform their work satisfactorily unless they are closely in touch with the primary schools on the one hand, and with the Training Colleges and Universities on the other. One result of the Regulations, therefore, has been a striking consolidation of the educational forces of the country.

The cost of education has, within recent years, increased at so alarming a rate that the incomes of Secondary Schools - from endowments, fees, common good, or other local sources, - have had to be augmented. Grants from District Committees, with varying conditions as to the provision of free places, &c., were not always satisfactory. Payments on results by the Science and Art Department, and latterly by the Education Department on attendances made in Science and Art Classes, had served their end. The " Regulations as to Grants to Secondary Schools," issued in 1907, came therefore none too soon. The new Regulations offered (a) a grant of 3 on the average attendance of pupils who had passed the `Qualifying examination,' but had not obtained the Intermediate Certificate; and (b) a grant of 5 on the average attendance of pupils who had obtained the Intermediate Certificate. Thus those schools which had not specialised in Science received largely increased grants. At the same time, schools which had been pioneers in the teaching of Experimental Science, were distinct losers by the new regulations. In the case of one such school, the grant has fallen from nearly 3,000 to less than 1,500. Yet the curriculum in this particular school has, for 21 years, been, in its essentials, that which the Department now demands for the Intermediate Certificate.

The whole effect of the Regulations has been to bring the Secondary Schools more directly under the Education Department. Before grants can be earned, curricula must be approved, premises and staff must be declared adequate, and the number of pupils in a class must be restricted. In so far as this makes for increased efficiency, it is altogether well, but there is a danger that teachers and managers, working under stereotyped conditions, may lose that power of initiative which, more than any enactments of department or parliament, tends to the increased efficiency of a school.

There is another danger. Inspection of Secondary Schools has, of necessity, become more rigorous. Specialists must be sent to examine special subjects, and there is a tendency for each Departmental Master to be made to feel that his particular subject is the only important one in the curriculum. Steadily and speedily, the standard of attainment is rising, and, in consequence, the risk of over-pressure is increasing. Fortunately there is also steadily growing the opinion that over-pressure is the one intolerable evil in education. Better send out from our educational factories a sound machine which is yet untried than a wornout instrument which has worked itself done.

In consequence of the changes introduced by the new Regulations, Secondary Schools have, in many cases, found it necessary to add to their buildings as well as to their staffs. How is the increased cost to be met? The local ratepayer is taxed to his utmost capacity. No substantial additions to endowments need be looked for; for the private benefactor seldom seeks to relieve the State of the cost of a duty which it has undertaken. It is therefore more and more necessary that grants from the Imperial Exchequer should be maintained and increased. The establishment of the Education (Scotland) Fund by the Act of 1908 appears to promise substantial aid from the Exchequer. A sum of nearly half a million will be available for the purposes of that fund, one of which is said to be "to secure the maintenance in each Education District of a sufficient number of well-equipped and well-staffed centres of higher education." The success with which this purpose is fulfilled will be proportional to the wisdom of the District Committees. Fortunately before any permanent steps have been taken, the Committees have been re-constituted, and now include representatives of all the interests involved. This re-constitution may mean much for the future of secondary education in Scotland. It may be expected that the Committees will support one or two fully equipped centres of higher education in each district rather than seek to set up a costly and inefficient secondary department in every little township in the district. Ample power is given to bring the pupil to the teacher and the school. It would be sheer waste to attempt to reverse the process.

Another purpose of the Education Fund is "to provide means whereby the opportunities for education at centres of higher education may be brought within the reach of duly qualified pupils in every part of the District." No one will deny the right of the child in the remotest part of a district to the benefits of higher education, but it will be necessary to guard against a misuse of the funds available for bursaries. No bursary should be granted without a reasonable guarantee that the bursar will complete a recognised course of secondary education during his tenure of the bursary. It is not uncommon for a class of 100 in the first year of the Intermediate Course to fall to 60 in the second year, and to 40 or even less in the third year.

The Act of 1908 provides that "the school-board having the management of any school which is a higher class public school within the meaning of the Education Act, 1872, shall be bound to maintain the same in a condition of efficiency as a secondary school, and shall have the same powers of providing for the maintenance thereof from the school fund as they have in respect of any other public school under their management." Such schools will, therefore, no longer run the risk of being treated as step-children. The managers of some small endowed schools will probably elect, or be compelled, to hand over their management to the local school-board, which shall then become liable for the maintenance of the school in a state of efficiency. There are, however, many cases in which it is neither possible nor desirable to transfer the management of an endowed school to the local school-board. The parish is a small rural one; the members of the school-board have little sympathy with higher education ; they have no knowledge of the management of a secondary school. It would be a calamity if to such a board there were entrusted the destinies of a school whose interests are not bounded by the parish or even by the county in which it is situated.

By the minute of the Department, dated 27th April, 1899, a certain sum was set aside for distribution among secondary schools in Scotland. For the year 1907-8, 55 schools received a total sum of 33,950 in grants under this minute. Of this total, 13,300 was paid to schools not under the management of school-boards. In many schools the salaries of teachers depend in whole or in part upon the continuance of this grant. But, by the Education Act, the grant is included in the Education Fund. In its stead, there will be paid to the managers of an endowed school, for each pupil whose parents are ordinarily resident outwith the school-board district in which the school is situated, a sum calculated as the equivalent of the expenditure from the endowment of the school upon the education of such pupil. The amount of this grant will therefore depend upon the average attendance in the first place, and, in the second, upon the number of pupils from outside parishes. There is thus considerable room for variation from year to year. A further payment may be made to the governing body of an endowed school from the education fund of the district, provided the cost of education in the school is not excessive as compared with that in other schools in the district. Here again the endowed schools are at the mercy of the District Committees.

To secure uniformity in the methods of awarding bursaries throughout a district, the Act provides that where the annual revenue of any endowment, applicable to the granting of bursaries, does not exceed 50, it shall be paid over to the District Committee to be administered by that Committee; and where the annual revenue available for bursaries exceeds 50, but does not exceed 1,000, it shall be applied by the Governing Body in conformity with the bursary scheme framed by the District Committee. The rights of schools or individuals to preference in the allocation of the bursaries are duly safeguarded. Overlapping should thus be prevented, and provided that District Committees and Governors of Endowed Schools work together, the various bursary schemes should become more effective for the purpose they were destined to fulfil.

One other provision of the Education Act may be noted. For the first time in the history of Scottish legislation, teachers in all public schools,-primary and secondary, endowed and central,-are offered pensions upon terms which are, to say the least, just and reasonable. Thus there is definitely established the important principle that teachers of every grade and engaged in every class of school, are members of one profession, entitled to one method of treatment in this matter of pensions.

Throughout the period under review, the question of the conditions upon which Intermediate and Leaving Certificates should be awarded has been a matter of earnest consideration. The question is an important one. Indeed it is not too much to say that the nature of its solution will determine the nature of the curricula of the Secondary Schools. The conditions for the Intermediate Certificate may now be regarded as fixed. Candidates for this Certificate must have followed an approved course of study in an Intermediate or Secondary School for at least three years. That course of study must include English, History, Geography; Mathematics, Arithmetic; one language other than English ; Experimental Science; and Drawing. The attainments of the candidates in each subject are tested by examinations at the end of the course, the standard being normally that of the Lower Grade Leaving Certificate, although excellence in one subject may, to a certain extent, compensate for deficiency in another. Marks given by the teachers in each subject, and a general mark by the Headmaster, are taken into account in awarding or withholding the Certificates.

The new conditions have been subjected to much criticism on the ground that they impose a uniform curriculum upon the pupils at the Intermediate stage. It may be taken that, in the majority of cases, the school week is divided into 35 periods of some 45 minutes each. These are allocated as follows:-English, History and Geography, 7 to 9 periods; Mathematics and Arithmetic, 6 to 8; Science, 4; Drawing, 3; Foreign Language, 5 to 7; Physical exercises, 1 or 2; leaving in the most favourable case only 9 periods per week available for any specialisation on the part of individual pupils. This is not the place to discuss the general question of specialisation. It need only be pointed out that, on the one hand, there is general agreement that, if a uniform curriculum is desirable at this stage, that imposed by the Department is worthy of all commendation; and, on the other hand, that the Royal Commissioners of 1868, in their day, found chaos in the Secondary Schools of Scotland because of the absence of any fixed curriculum.

It was hoped that by the change of the date of the examinations from June to March or April an opportunity would be given for consultation between visiting Inspectors and teachers upon all cases in which the 'reasoned verdict' of the teacher differed widely from the results of the written examinations. Unfortunately this hope has not yet been realised. The written examinations, with all the accidents to which youthful examinees are prone, are still the main factor in the determination of the result. The machinery by which a true verdict may be arrived at has been invented. It remains to devise means to make that machinery work with the maximum efficiency.

The regulations for the Leaving Certificate proper are still under consideration. Here the difficulties are enormously increased by the fact that the Leaving Certificate has become the principal passport to the Universities. Important changes are imminent in the regulations for the Preliminary examinations, Bursary competitions, and Degrees, in the Scottish Universities, and the time is not opportune for criticism of the existing conditions. One hopes that the day is not far distant when the possession of a Certificate testifying to the successful completion of a definite course of instruction in a Secondary School will exempt its holder from any further preliminary examination before entrance upon a course for a degree in a University. The broad lines upon which Leaving Certificates will in future be granted have been sufficiently indicated in recent circulars of the Department. Schools will submit curricula of studies extending over two or three years after the Intermediate Certificate has been gained. Specialisation, now that the general culture implied by the Intermediate Certificate has been attained, will be encouraged. English will be compulsory in every case, but otherwise there will be complete freedom to formulate courses complete in themselves, and having some definite bearing upon the future lifework of the candidates. As in the case of the Intermediate Certificate, account will be taken of the opinions of teachers as to the fitness of a candidate before a certificate is awarded or withheld.

For some years the Education Department has been steadily developing a great scheme of Secondary Education in Scotland. It has perforce proceeded slowly and gradually. Its whole aim was not apparent in the first circulars and minutes. But now the end is in sight, the full development of the scheme is at hand. It will find Scotland in the possession of means for Higher Education such as she never before could boast. Buildings and equipment are being supplied ; teachers are being educated and trained; and the capable child in the remotest part of the country has open to him a clear path from the primary school to the University or the Technical College. All this is the result of the steadily pursued policy of the Education Department.


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