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has yet been extended to House-to-house Schools. It always seems to me to be a reversal of the natural order of things that those that are least able to help themselves should be called upon to do something-however small it may be in the way of providing money, it is very great to this class of people-in order to provide the building in wbich to hold a school. If they fail to do this, they cannot have the means of education. I think that, if it was suggested to the Minister that some pecuniary aid should be given within reasonable limits, which could be easily regulated by the inspectors in each individual case, the difficulty experienced in this matter would be largely met. My experience has been that the people in these outlying places are oftentimes very eager to avail themselves of education ; but the difficulty is the practical one of money. I would move :
That it be suggested to the Minister that the granting of pecuniary assistance to the residents of isolated places to help them in providing the necessary rooms for Half-time and House-to-house Schools would probably meet this difficulty.
Mr. Sheehy: In connection with this question, I would point out that the 23rd clause of the Public Instruction Act, referred to by Mr. Cooper, provides that the teacher shall be appointed by the Minister. The question is whether aid should be granted in certain cases to the residents by subsidising teachers engaged by them, and providing school materials. In order to test the feeling of the Conference, I move :
That educational advantages should be provided for private schools in localities too thinly populated to support any school prescribed by the regulations. I have in my mind several country schools that have been closed, but which have been continued by teachers engaged by the residents. The Department made no objection whatever to give them the use of the schoolroom, and the books therein, but when those books and the materials were exhausted, no fresh supply was given them. I know of one case where the residents were so anxious to have a school that they applied to have the Provisional School that was closed removed to another site 4 or 5 miles away. They got permission to remove it, and at the present time they have a teacher employed to carry it on.
In my opinion these schools should receive encouragement. I have not much more to say. Everyone here understands as much as I do, perhaps more, about the matter; but I mean to say,
that these small schools that we have closed under the Department and have been continued by the residents should receive every encouragement. I have several of them in my district. The teachers are employed by the residents. We need not inquire whether the accommodation is comfortable or not—that is a matter for the residents; but in the matter of House-to-house Schools the inspector has to find a suitable place for the teachers to lodge. In the case of the other schools he has nothing of this kind to do, and, consequently, they stand on a different footing altogether. Although we might not be prepared to go to the extent of subsidising the teacher, even by a so amount, once a year, provided that the inspector is satisfied with the teaching of the four “ Ř’s,” such schools should get every encouragement in the way of books and materials.
“Mr. Hunt: No doubt these inspectors who affirm the desirability of subsidising private teachers or private efforts mean well ; but I am quite sure that if the Department do not hold the reins very tightly we shall bring trouble upon ourselves. I have a very large district, and, owing to the size of many of the blocks of land taken up by the parents, it is sometimes difficult to meet the education requirements of the people ; but I know that there are very few families, and I make full inquiries when travelling about, who are being educationally neglected Where we are not meeting the educational wants of the outlying districts there are teachers and governesses employed; but there are a few instances where people have to drive their children great distances to attend the school. In the case of the Combarra School, I know that there is one family which has to go 8 miles every school-day to attend the school ; what they feel the want of is a paddock in which to feed their horses. There happens to be a common there, but not a paddock. If the Department would meet such a case as this by fencing in the school-ground, and by fencing in, say, an acre in which the horses may be put by those who drive to school, I think these people will then see that the Department is trying to meet their case. I saw a letter last evening in the Stock and Station Journal, in which the writer spoke of a case-it happens to be in my own district, somewhere between Warren and Quambone, and he says that no Minister has visited that part since the time he has resided there, some twelve or eighteen years, and he suggests that the Department should send forth travelling schools, teachers travelling in a vehicle in which they might live, and visit such outlying families. I believe that this is now done in America. I daresay that there are cases here in which this system might be tried, where we could send somebody out who could visit these out-of-the-way places, and find out the families that are rcall, not being educated.
“Mr. McCredie: Before the question is put I should like to say that whilst I agree with Mr. Cooper's suggestion, I think we should go a little further. He has suggested that a grant be given in the case of applicants for Half-time or House-to-house Schools. No doubt great hardship is suffered by many of these people if we call upon them to bear the cost of erecting schools, for many of them are among the poorest people in our land. I know that, because of several applications of this kind that I have dealt with personally. It would be a great hardship for them to find the money to build the school, or even to assist in erecting it by their own labour. There is one clause of our regulations that I would like very much to see expunged, and that clause is No. 50 of the regulations framed under the Act. I think that would be a step in the right direction. It states that · Aid will not be granted towards the maintenance of Half-time Schools if suitable rooms are not provided by the applicants.' I can speak from my experience during the last three or four months. Inspectors have sent in applications for Half-time Schools, and I have found it very bard to concur in their recommendations that these schools be established. The Department should do something to meet the case wherever a small average attendance can be assured. I would, therefore, move :
That Clause No. 50 of the regulations framed under the Public Instruction Act of 1880 be expunged, and provision made for the granting of aid in the erection of buildings for Half-time Schools.
“Mr. Lobban: We are to submit a proposal with regard to the question of subsidising teachers engaged by parents to provide educational requirements. It is well-known that on some of the large stations, a stock man, with perhaps three or four children, resides on one portion of the run, and another stockman, also with a family, resides perhaps 10 or more miles away. These people are unable to engage teachers, and, of course, their children have to be provided for by means of itinerant teachers. My experience is this: I have not yet seen a place where the people have not engaged such a teacher, in such circumstances. We are supposed to be legislating for a certain class of people. I have not met any families where there is half a dozen children between them without their having engaged a teacher. Up to the present the only gentleman who has spoken to the latter part of the proposal is Mr. Sheehy. He made a definite proposal. Before we come to vote on this qustion, I want to understand what we really mean by subsidising teachers engaged by parents and providing school requisites.
“ Dr. Morris: I think that the matters brought forward this morning point out to the Conference that the Department should be prepared to strain their purse somewhat rather than allow the terrible state of things described by gentlemen like Mr. Rooney to continue. I think it is a blot upon our civilisation that any responsible human beings should be rising into life under the conditions described and, I am sure, described faithfully—by Mr. Rooney. It rather causes a shudder in my mind that they should be allowed to grow up like kangaroos and wallabies. I think we should be careful about shirking our responsibilities with regard to these persons. I do not think that any sum within reason should be spared to save these children from such utter degradation.
"Mr. Thomas: I have a resolution to move, which, I think, will, perhaps, meet the difficulty. I beg to move :
That the subsidising of teachers engaged by parents presents unsurmountable difficulties, but steps should be taken to_liberalise the existing regulations as to the establishment of Half-time and House-to-house Schools.
“Mr. Bridges : There has been a great deal of talk about this matter, and, perhaps, a certain amount of irrelevant discussion ; but I recognise that the matter is a most important one, and have, therefore, permitted a wider scope than usual in the discussion. I think I am justified in taking these as substantive resolutions instead of taking them as amendments on Mr. Long's motion. Adopting that course, I will put the last resolution first.
"Mr. Thomas' motion was carried, the voting being 26 for and 6 against.
“Mr. Long: I withdraw my motion. We ought all to form our opinions about matters that come directly under our notice. I will say this : that I feel quite sure that to grant pecuniary aid for the erection of buildings for Half-time Schools—I will not say itinerant schools, for I do not think that is provided in the regulations—will operate most prejudicially. Very often there are people who have a small school within accessible distance, but who, if they could get a little building put up for their own particular children a little nearer at hand, would begin agitating for it. No doubt all these matters can be viewed differently, but I certainly think it will operate badly if we do such a thing, more especially if this is to act in regard to itinerant schools as well
. The Department will have such a number of applications as to be exceedingly troublesome, and result in the waste of the official's time.
“Mr. Bridges in referring to a statement made by one of the speakers said that within the last ten years no school with an average of eight had been closed. The Department keeps schools going that have only an average attendance of six. And we have been abused for keeping these particular schools in existence; but we will continue to do it, so long as we may be hopeful that the attendance will increase.''
At the Annual Conference of the National Educational Association of America, held in Boston in July this year, the question of improving the conditions of schools in the rural districts was one of the items on the programme for consideration. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction for Nebraska, Mr. Fowler, was one of the speakers.
The population of the State of Nebraska is a little less than that of New South Wales. Agriculture is the leading industry, stock-raising is only second in importance to agriculture, while fruit-growing and dairy and poultry farming are important and growing industries. The public school enrolment in 1896-7 was 266,317, the expenditure, £684,248. The State has passed a law which provides for the free education of pupils, who have not opportunities for advanced classes in their own districts, in neighbouring High Schools. Nebraska claims the lowest rate of illiteracy of any State in the Union.
Mr. Fowler favours the consolidation of small rural schools into a common Central School, to and from which pupils should be conveyed from every part of the district by means of covered vans or waggons. The plan of centralisation of schools in some form is adopted by several of the States. The chief merits of such a plan are: It permits of a better classification inasmuch as pupils work in graded schools under better methods; it affords an opportunity for more effective teaching in such subjects as drawing, music, and Nature study; it insures fewer and better teachers; it quickens public interest in the schools; the health of the children is better for they are less exposed to dangers arising from travelling in bad weather. Finally, the plan makes for contentment with farm life, inasmuch as boys and girls may secure through the common Central School the advantages of a higher education similar to those obtained by pupils living in large centres of population.
Mr. John T. Prince, the agent of the Massachusetts State Board of Education considers it is a matter of grave doubt whether some features of the rural schools consolidation plan should be made subjects of legislation. He is of opinion that it would not be well to fix by law the maximum distance at which pupils may be conveyed to school, the minimum sum for the transportation of each pupil, or the provision for the payment of a sum of money for each pupil or family living at a distance from the school, with the understanding that the father may or may not perform the service of transportation for which he is paid. He doubts the wisdom of closing schools for the purpose of consolidation on the grounds of economy, or because they are small, and contends that in any reform in the direction of consolidating the schools, the question of efficiency should be the only or chief determining factor. He considers that the most legislation needed is a general law permitting schools to be closed and the pupils conveyed at public expense, whenever in the estimation of the County Board it was desirable to do so.
The State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mr. Bayliss, Springfield, Illinois, gave particulars of his experience in the consolidation of rural schools.
The State of Illinois has a population of nearly 5,000,000. The Public School enrolment in 1896–7 was 920,425; private, 138,512 ; expenditure, £3,267,110. The manufacturing industries are very extensive, and a large amount of mining and agriculture is carried on in some parts of the State.
The consolidation of the schools in the State of Illinois is in Mr. Bayliss' opinion the result of local conditions. In the State there are, he says, more than a thousand schools with fewer than fifteen scholars ; six or seven hundred schools with less than ten scholars ; and two hundred others where the attendance is less than five. He advocates consolidation, and points out that all that is asked in the State is permission to consolidate where it appears to be advisable. Approximately he believes the plan would give thousands of children a better chance.
Judging from the general tone of the discussion it would seem that the great aim of the Americans is to bring the child to the school and not so much to send the teacher to the child. The success of the Central School system has been established in some of the Eastern States of America, and in the State of Ohio. The first Central School in Ohio was opened in Kingsville Township, Ashtabula Co., in 1892 cut of the school is shown on page . The picture shows the pupils leaving the school at the close of the day to enter the waggons.
The cut on page
shows the loaded waggons en route for home. Each waggon is provided with a hood and curtains which give effective shelter from winds and storms. The drivers, who also act as daily mail carriers, are as carefully selected as the teachers of the schools, and they are placed under a bond to faithfully perform their work.
The Central School, Gustavus Township, Trumbull Co., Ohio, takes the place of nine small schools. The school has four departments and four teachers as against nine in the scattered schools. The average daily attendance has increased in two years from 125 pupils in the nine small schools to 144 in the Central School. But a still greater success is seen in the large enrolment in the High School room of the institution. More than one-third of the pupils, boys and girls, are receiving the higher education, and at the same time all the advantage of the home, where they are able to spend their evenings with their parents secure from the temptations of town or city life. In scattered small schools High School education is impossible.
On the question of cost the Superintendent, Cook Co., Illinois, in recommending the scheme of Central Schools in Ohio to his own people in 1900, said :-“On the whole, the evidence seenis to be that the school expense in the Ohio townships is about what it was before the consolidation ; possibly it is somewhat greater, but the school facilities furnished, including the High School, the regularity of attendance, the absence of tardiness, the increased number of months during each school year, and the comfort of the children, are strong factors in estimating the expense. It would seem that the schools are at least twice as effective and the cost about the same."
Consolidation of schools, which has proved satisfactory in some American States, is practicable in some of our rural districts. It is necessary to give our boys and girls engaged with their parents in farm life an opportunity for obtaining an education something like what is given to town children, and the question to be considered is what is the best way of reaching this end ? Consolidation of schools into one common Central School is one way. Another plan has been suggested in our own State, viz. :providing scholarships from the small country schools to the nearest District Model Schools, which should be situated in every town of importance. The awarding of such scholarships might very well be entrusted to the Inspector at the time of his annual visit. In consultation with the teacher he could find out without the process of a minute examination what pupils have the intelligence and the desire to go further in their studies. Of the two schemes the plan of consolidation of schools is preferred to the plan of scholarships because (a) of the better preparation which the pupils receive under it, and (6) of the greater numbers which are likely to benefit by it.
One of the great purposes of the Commissioner's report is to educate the parents, as well as the children, of the State. At present the parents do not realise the difference between school and school ; particularly is this the case in the country.
Parents in every small centre of population agitate until they get a school building, utterly unmindful of the fact that the multiplication of these small schools deprives their children of a lot of advantages appertaining to schools of a higher standard. The statement is often made that the city has all the educational advantages, and that the country has to be satisfied with a lower grade standard of instruction.
Some steps should be taken to bring home to the parents concerned the great difference between the standard of instruction in Provisional, or Ninth or Tenth Class Schools, and in that of a Third or Fourth Class School. If parents could be led to dispossess their minds of the idea that by getting a certain amount of Government money spent in small centres of population they were consulting the best interests of their children, a great reform would be effected, because it is not merely the establishment of any sort of school that means the advancement of their children's education, but rather the establishment of such a school as will result in their children being thoroughly taught to the standard of town schools.
If our Inspectors were instructed to continuously address the parents in the different centres on this point, the Commissioner thinks that the Department would have less applications for the establishment of sinall schools teaching the three “R's," and that these small communities would combine to secure the establishment of a school of higher standard, which would give their children equal advantages with those attending schools in the populous areas. In this connection the Department should undoubtedly assist parents in the matter of conveying children to schools so established.
One good concentrated school would supply the educational wants of a community which now has to rely on several small schools of no particular character.
The amalgamation of several small schools into a school of the Fourth Class, for example, would ensure, in the first place, the appointment of a head teacher of good attainments, and trained assistant teachers. With the better qualified teachers higher standards of work could be reached. A parent would
not be under the expense or inconvenience of sending his child from home if he wished to give him a good education. The local Central School could be so organised that there would be no general necessity for such a course. Many, if not all, the subjects taught in the city schools, could be taught in the Central School.
The establishment of Central Schools need not in any way clash with the District Model Schools. The former are intended to give certain educational advantages to children living away from towns, the latter are designed to give the best public school education to the children of a town and district. The District Model School no doubt would have a wide curriculum, and possibly would teach some subjects beyond the course of the Central School, and some parents, for very good reasons, might desire to send their children to it. To meet the wishes of such parents, it might be considered advisable to have a scheme of scholarships providing admission from the Central Schools, on the completion of the course by the pupils, to the District Model Schools.
On the mere question of cost, the Central School system would prove cheaper than the present arrangement of separate small schools, because the Department would be relieved of the necessity of building and repairing small schools, as well as of paying salaries to teachers, and providing school material. Even if the scheme cost more, the great benefit conferred upon the children in the matter of providing a higher education would warrant the change.
The Commissioner makes these recommendations because he feels convinced that the community would benefit considerably if our small schools were considerably reduced in number, and a more uniform quality of education given to the whole of the children of the State. At present, without doubt, the children of the towns and cities have many educational advantages over the children spread through the country.
The propositions, which were carried in the New South Wales Conference, outline methods for a very liberal treatment of schools situated in the sparsely populated districts of the State, and the action of the Minister of Public Instruction in putting into effect some of the best features of the resolutions is an earnest of bis sympathy in the movement.
Sydney: William Applegate Gullick, Government Printer.—1904