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We now proceed to lay before your Grace a statement of the result of the enquiries made by the former commissioners into the state of the parish schools in Ireland, in the year 1788; and also an account of the condition which they appeared to be in, according to the returns made to us in the years 1808 and 1809.
It appears from the returns to the
former board from all the dioceses in
Ireland, excepting five-viz. Armagh, Meath, Elphin, Kilmore, and Cashel, that there were in the year 1788, in the twenty-nine dioceses which furnished these returns, coinprizing eight hundred and thirtyeight benefices, three hundred and sixty-one parish schools, that is, effective schools, to which the incum bents paid the stipend of forty shillings, or more, per annum, to each master; that in seventy-four of these eight hundred and thirty eight bene fices, the respective clergyman paid the salary of forty shillings to a nominal master, who did not keep
school; and that in the remainder of the said number of benefices, being four hundred and three, it did not appear that the incumbents either paid the salary, or caused any school to be kept. It appears also by these returns, that the number of children instructed in 1788, at the parish schools, was about eleven thousand, and the number of school houses about two hundred and one; and also, that the prices paid by the parents of the children at those schools for their instruction, varied from one to three shillings per quarter, and that spelling and reading in all, and writing and arithmetic in some, comprized the course of in
Returns, at our request, have been furnished to us by order of the several archbishops and bishops to their clergy, from all the dioceses in Ireland; these returns, however,
comprize no more than seven hundred and thirty-six* benefices aud unions. But it appears, that in this number of benefices, there are five hundred and forty-nine parish schools at present kept, and the number of children returned as receiving in struction at them, at certain periods of the year, amounts to about twen ty-three thousand. It appears also, that the northern dioceses are best
furnished with parish schools, and school houses; that in the city of Dublin there are as many parish schools and school housest as there are benefices, and that the other parts of the diocese of Dublin are in general well supplied with both; and the same may be affirmed of the diocese of Meath, and of the united dioceses of Leighlin, and comparatively of Ferns, all in the province of Leinster; but it appears, that in the dioceses in Munster and Connaught, not much more than half of the benefices have parish schools;
that the number of school houses in
these is very inconsiderable, and in four dioceses it would appear that there are none. It is evident, however, though it is stated by several of the clergymen of the latter dioceses, in their returns, that the parish schools in those parts of Ireland are fast declining, yet, that on the whole, their number is increasing throughout Ireland, there being, as already stated, five hundred and forty-nine parish schools kept in the seven hundred and thirty-six benefices from which returns have been fur
There are about one thousand, one hundred, and twenty-two benefices in Ireland.
In the parish schools in Dublin most of the children are lodged, dieted and These clothed, as well as instructed. schools are supported by annual charity. sermons, and subscriptions, and some few of them have permanent funds, and the masters and mistresses bave liberal salaries and allowances.
nished to us; whereas it appears, that in the year 1788, there were but three hundred aud sixty-one kept in 837 benefices; it appears likewise, that the number of children instructed at these schools, has more than doubled the number returned in 1789; and had the returns from the parishes in each diocese been fuller, we may presume that it would have appeared that the number of children receiving instruction at these schools, is more considerable than twenty-three thousand; hut the number of parish school houses does not appear to have been increased as much as might have been expected since 1788, being only two hundred and thirty-three in the seven hundred and thirty-six benefices from which we have been furnished with returns. The present course of instruction at these schools, comprises spelling and reading, writing, aud arithmetic in most of them, some of the children are free scholars, but the greater part pay for their tuition at rates, which vary from two shillings and sixpence to three shillings and three pence, three shillings and nine-pence half penny, four shillings and four pence, five shillings and five pence, and in some few cases the rate is we believe as high as eleven shillings and fourpence halfpenny per quarter. These schools are open to children of all religious persuasions. But there are certainly a great many in stances stated in these returns, and particularly in those from the dioceses in the south and west, and in some from the province of Leinster, of Roman Catholics refusing to send their children to be instructed at them; and this refusal is stated to have arisen from an order to that purpose, given by some of the Roman Catholic clergy; in consequence of which, children of their persua sion, who had attended them, had
BELFAST MAG, NO. XXXV.
been immediately withdrawn, and sent to schools opened by Roman Catholics in their neighbourhood.
In many of the parish schools, the parish clerks are also the schoolmasters, and some of the masters are paid by the incumbents a higher salary than forty shillings per an num, in some cases five, and in a few others ten guineas per annum, with the advantages of a house and garden rent free. But these allowances, &c. are voluntary aud during pleasure; and we have observed, that in most cases, those schools are the greatest, where the allowances are most liberal. But throughout the returns sent in to us, there is a general complaint of the want of school houses, and of the difficulty of procuring properly qualified masters, on account of the inadequacy of the salaries, and the want of proper accommodation for them and their scholars; it is stated to us also, that the number of the children at tending these schools varies at different periods of the year, being generally the lowest at those season's (in spring and harvest) when any employment is to be had for chil dren, their parents at such times keeping them from the schools, for the sake of the small pittance they can earn by weeding the crops and binding the harvest, which small pittance (generally not more than three or four pence per day,) is however an object to their indi gent parents. In one return only it is stated (return from the union of Sligo, diocese of Elphin) by the clergyman, that many of the poor people of his parish were averse fron sending their children to school, con. ceiving that the sedentary habits required there, unfitted them for bodily labour. But we are persuaded, that, generally speaking, a very great and almost universal desire exists at this moment among the PPP
poor of this country, to give their children some kind of school education; among the many instances of this general inclination stated in the returns, we shall select the following. In the return from the union of Castlemore, diocese of Killala, in which benefice there are ten schools, one of which is a parish school, it is stated, that six hundred children attend these different schools, "but that double the number could and would attend, were they not prevented by the poverty of their parents, who cannot afford to pay for their instruction."-The curate who makes the return from the parish of Upper Langfield, in the diocese of Derry, states, that in his parish, "the population though poor is numerous, amounting to nearly fifteen hundred souls, about three-fifths Romanists, the remainder composed of the established church, and dissenters, all striving to a degree at once exemplary and affecting, to give their children as much learning as possible; so that if there were a roomy and commodious school-house, it would quickly be filled. The present school is kept in a small dark and inconvenient building, lent by a farmer."
And in a return from Drumaul (diocese of Down and Connor) the general disposition in the lower or ders for educating their children is mentioned, and as a proof of it, it is stated, that "in two or three instances the poorer parishioners have erected school houses by a voluntary subscription among themselves." And in the return from the Union of Kilbride and Multifarnham, in the diocese of Meath, à more remarkable fact is stated, namely, that "a night school was kept at Multifarnham, "to accommodate the children obliged to labour in the day:" at which school one hundred and thirteen children are returned as attend
ing. The clergyman who makes this return, gives it as his opinion, "that the parents, in the choice of a master, are governed more by his merit and proximity, than by his religion, though, all circumstances equal, they would prefer a master of their own religion." And in a return from the parish of Lea, diocese of Kildare, a fact is stated, which seems to corroborate this opinion, viz. That the parish school was flourishing, until Roman Catholic priest encouraged a Roman Catholic to set up a school in opposition to it, and was at first successful in drawing off such pupils as were Roman Catholics. And further, that charges having been fabricated against the Protestant parish school master, which occasioned his dismissal; another was appointed, who shortly after dying, the former master was recalled, and replaced at the request of those very people who bad exhibited the false charges against him, and who solicited his return, as the Roman Catholic schoolmaster had disappointed their hopes." It certainly, however, appears from our returns, that religious prejudi ces in too many parts of this coun try, but more particularly in the south and west, have operated against the attendance on the parish schools. For very many instances are stated of Roman Catholic children who had attended them, having been withdrawn by order of their priests, and never suffered to return; and a very strong instance of a mutual religious prejudice in this respect, is stated in a return from the parish of Ballesidare, docese of Killala, namely, that "there seems to be a general determination in that parish on the part of the Roman Catholics, not to send their children to Protestant schools, and vice versa." But we observe in the other returns from the same dio
cese, that Protestant and Roman Catholic children are mixed in the parish as well as in the other schools; we find also in the other dioceses, Protestant children returned as going to schools kept by Roman Catholics; and from the general returns from all the dioceses, it is evident, that a large proportion of the children attending the parish schools through out Ireland, are of the Roman Catholic religion.
We shall now conclude this re
port, by submitting the following observations to your Grace's consi deration :
First, That for the original objects of their institution, namely, the introduction and diffusion of the English language in Ireland, the parish schools can no longer be deemed necessary.
Second, That for the purposes to which they were afterwards converted, namely, the advancement of the Protestant religion, and the education of the lower classes, they have proved in a certain degree useful, where they have been continued, but in both respects inadequate, on account of the extent and population of the several parishes; so that in truth, if one school were well established within each benefice or union, unless the children were forced to be educated as the act expres ses, at such places where they could learn the English tongue, it would ill supply the want of instruction to the inhabitants, who for the most part live not, collected in villages and hamlets, but in abodes dispersed through the range of perhaps 10,000 Irish acres. No one establishment could be placed so central as not to be inconveniently distant from many who would wish to attend it for daily instruction. Children of tender years, though of sufficient age to be capable of learning, cannot go very far from home for educa
tion; the impediments in the way are obvious, even if a difference of religious persuasion did not create further obstacles.
Third, that the present imperfect. state of the greater number of the parish schools, has arisen from various causes, which it has not been in the power of the clergy to counteract; and that their efforts to establish schools in their respective districts, taught by Protestant' masters, have necessarily been attended with difficulty, and frequently with disappoint
ment, from the want of masters, from the want of funds, from the want of
co-operation, from the want of buildings and accommodation, which, if provided, could not for any length of time be supported, as there is no provision by the laws for repairs. To which we may add, the insufficiency of the stipend which general usage has so long established, and which even in that proportion, cannot legally be demanded. These circumstan
ces will fully account, why the proportion of parish schools is so much below the number of benefices or unions in Ireland.
With respect to the oath beforementioned, taken by the clergy at institution, to keep, or cause to be kept, an English school according to the provisions of the act of Henry the eighth, we have to observe, that from the great change that has ta ken place in the circumstances which for which it was intended to provide, gave occasion to its enactment, and a literal observance of it seems not only to be no longer necessary, but even possible; and that from the little advantage to be expected, were the clergy to comply only literally with its legal injunction, and from the difficulties which stand in the way of a general compliance with it in any sense; it may deserve consideration
whether it should be continued to be administered, or whether, in consequence of that total change in the situation of the lower classes, whom these schools were designed to civilize, and to teach to speak, rather than to read English, the clergy ought not to be relieved from the obligation thus imposed on them, by a repeal of that part of the statute which imposes it. Yet in those parishes where parochial schools are already established, or could be so, we are of opinion, it would be proper that some measure should be adopted for the continuance of the present, and the encouragement of future similar establishments, as far as may be practicable.
But we are fully persuaded of their inadequacy, as a system of general education of the poor, even if it were practicable to establish an effective one in every unión.
And this inadequacy is the reason of our not entering more fully into the consideration of any plan for put.
ting them into a more effective situa. tion, as such a plan might possibly interfere with or be superseded by a general system for the education of the oor, the consideration of which is reserved for the conclusion of our labours. We shall nevertheless at present observe, that not any funds however great, or the best considered establishment, an substantially carry into effect either any improvement in the parish schools, or any general system of instruction of the lower orders of the community, until the want of persons duly qualified to undertake the education of the lower classes be remedied, and till some institution be formed to prepare pers sons for that important office. Council-Chamber, Dublin Castle, Castle,
Nov. 2d, 1810,
An abstract of the returns of Parish Schools, made to the Board of Education.