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Scottish Education - Schools and University
Appendix I. Primary Schools

(By JOHN WATSON, B.A. (Lond.), Headmaster of Broughton
Higher Grade School, Edinburgh.)


Nothing can more strikingly show the inadequacy of the school premises in 1872 than the fact that in 34 years (1873-1907) the School Boards of Scotland spent upwards of ten and a half million pounds on the erecting, enlarging and improving of school buildings. Of this vast sum 578,000 was contributed from the imperial funds the rest was from the local rates, on which 5,740,000 yet remain as a burden. The building activity still (1908) continues; but it takes the form of providing Higher Grade and Supplementary Schools, and of improving existing buildings, providing shelter-sheds, supplying pure water, improving lavatories, and, generally speaking, making the schools more comfortable and more in accordance with modern educational and sanitary requirements. In such directions, as well as in providing for the natural increase of the population, and for the shifting-especially in mining districts-from one industrial centre to another, building is likely to continue for some time to come. In it there seems to be no finality. It has not been confined to School Boards. The Roman Catholic Schools in Scotland in 1872 numbered 22; in 1907 there were 208.


The Schools under inspection in 1872 had room for 281,688 scholars. In 1907 accommodation was provided for well over a million. In the same year the army of Scottish teachers was 21,220 strong, of whom over 15,000 were trained; 2,614 untrained; and 3,585 Juveniles (Pupil Teachers). A comparison with 1906 shows a remarkable change in the composition of this force. The trained teachers had increased by 835; whilst the untrained and Pupil Teachers had decreased by 180 and 738 respectively. Since then the diminution in the number of Pupil Teachers employed has been greatly accelerated. Many of the larger Boards, such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, have ceased to employ them, and smaller Boards have not been slow to follow their example. The system is doomed. The day appears to be at hand when only trained, adult teachers will be employed in our Scottish Schools.


The type of education in recent years has been gradually changing. There is less striving after mechanical accuracy. Greater efforts are being made to render the pupils intelligent and self-reliant. In arithmetic, for instance, long sums are discarded ; but much time is devoted to mental arithmetic and to the working of short sums of a practical nature. The time allotted to Parsing has been greatly reduced. The teaching of Composition has vastly improved.


Promotion is no longer a yearly occurrence--regulated by H. M. Inspector's visit-for duxes and dunces alike. Bright pupils may be advanced at any period of the year. Many schools aim at bridging the gulf between the Infant Department and the Qualifying Examination in five years. Under the old regime the normal period for doing this would have been six years. H. M. Inspectors, as a rule, favour the shortened time. Children of more than average ability can easily do it those with less should not attempt it.


This has assumed a kindlier aspect. Mutual confidence between teacher and pupil is very common, and will probably become more so as the size of classes is reduced, and other conditions of teaching are made more favourable.


By the Act of 1890 provision was made for the instruction of blind, and deaf-mute children ; and powers were given to School Boards by the Education of Defective Children (Scotland) Act (1906) to deal with children who are epileptic, crippled, or defective. Some of the larger School Boards have made profitable use of these powers.


'The educational event of 1908 was the passing of the long-looked-for Education (Scotland) Act, which came into force on the 1st of January, 1909. Many of the defects of the old system, notably cumulative voting, 'small areas,' the lack of correlation between the various classes of schools, and the inequalities of rating in different districts, have been allowed to remain. The time available was too limited for the discussion of such controversial subjects. Much, however, has been done. The physical welfare of the children occupies a prominent place. School Boards may provide for the accommodation, equipment, apparatus and service for preparing and supplying meals to them; but the cost of the food itself (except in special cases) must either be met by the parents or defrayed by voluntary contributions. Where necessary, clothing also may be supplied ; and parents who through neglect or carelessness send their children to school in a filthy or verminous condition, may be prosecuted. Agencies may be established and maintained for collecting and distributing information as to employments open to children when they leave school. School Boards may, and-when required by the Department-shall provide for the medical inspection and supervision of the pupils in their districts, one-half of the cost being paid out of the district education fund. Parents are required to provide efficient education for their children between the ages of 5 and 14 years. The dates of entering and leaving school, however, may not coincide with the birthdays of the pupils. Power has been conferred on School Boards to prescribe two or more dates per year at which scholars may be admitted to school or leave it, and pupils must be enrolled on the prescribed date succeeding the fifth anniversary of their birthday, and must not leave (unless exempted by the Board) before the prescribed date after they have reached the age of fourteen.


For young persons above that age suitable provision shall be made in day or evening continuation classes or in both for physical training and for instruction in the laws of health and in the crafts and industries practised in the district. School Boards "have the power to make bye-laws to enforce attendance at these classes up to, but not beyond, the age of seventeen.


The position of the teachers has been distinctly improved by the Act. The right of appeal to the Department in the case of dismissal gives them greater security of tenure. The repeal of the restriction to grant retiring allowances imposed on School Boards by the Elementary School Teachers' (Superannuation) Act, 1898, is in itself a great gain. But the greatest is the prospect of a satisfactory solution of the superannuation problem for teachers in all classes of schools. The Department has been instructed to prepare a Superannuation Scheme applicable to teachers and to constitute and administer a Superannuation Fund for Scottish teachers, which fund shall consist of six per cent. of the teachers' yearly salaries (four per cent. payable by teachers and two per cent by School Boards) with an additional yearly sum payable from what is henceforth to be known as the Education (Scotland) Fund. The retiring allowances to teachers are to be in proportion to their salaries and length of service.

The Education (Scotland) Fund just referred to, shall consist of nearly all sums payable for education in Scotland except university grants, the school grants under the Code, and a fee grant of twelve shillings per child in average attendance at non-fee-paying schools. It is to be distributed by the Department and not by local bodies. The Fund is to be applied to providing for the expenses of inspection of intermediate and secondary schools, to payments to the Universities and central institutions such as Technical, Agricultural and Art Colleges, to Provincial Committees for the Training of Teachers, and to the Superannuation Fund already mentioned.


The balance is to be allocated for education in districts under local management, and is to be known as `The District Education Fund.' From it payments are to be made to School Boards and other governing bodies for pupils attending Intermediate or Secondary Schools within their districts but residing outwith them; and bursaries are to be provided to enable duly qualified pupils to obtain education at approved supplementary courses, Intermediate and Secondary Schools, Training Centres, Agricultural, Technical, and Training Colleges, and the Universities.

The Act of 1872 provided specially for children of average strength and ability; the Act of 1908 descends farther and soars higher. It cares, on the one hand, for the feeble in mind or body as well as for the hungry and the naked; and, on the other, for the strong in intellect who promise to become captains of industry, or leaders in the world of Commerce, Science, Art, Literature, or Thought. If it is carried out in the spirit in which it has been conceived no Scottish lad of `pregnant pairts' need lack his opportunity.

It may be added that the School Boards elected since the passing of the Act of 1908 have entered on their new duties in a most praiseworthy spirit. They have fixed dates for entering and leaving school, made arrangements for the appointment of medical officers, and, as a rule, granted additional allowances to teachers who had retired under the Superannuation Act of 1898.

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