Secondary Education in England, 1870-1902: Public Activity and Private Enterprise

By John Roach | Go to book overview

6

The Charity Commissioners after 1875

The Endowed Schools Commissioners had defined their principal objectives in their report of 1872 (PP 1872 XXIV:10). They had endeavoured to put the governing bodies on a more popular basis, to grade or classify the schools, to ensure that substantial fees were charged (with free places for able children), to secure some independence for the head teacher, and to introduce modern subjects into the curriculum. The same threads of policy run through the work of the Charity Commissioners after 1874, though there were substantial differences between the two bodies. H.J. Roby told the Bryce Commission that the Charity Commissioners were much more independent of the government of the day than the Endowed Schools Commissioners had been. The Charity Commissioners had, he thought, ‘a certain judicial character, and from long tradition their own method of working’, whereas the Endowed Schools Commissioners had been set up as a government agency to carry out a specific task. On the other hand, that close connection with government strengthened the hand of Lyttelton and his colleagues (BC IV; 433:16543).

Perhaps in the end the very independence of the Charity Commission and of its endowed schools department, which Roby noted, was a factor of weakness rather than of strength. They lacked any effective link with Parliament, with the Cabinet or with other government departments. The faults of the Endowed Schools Commission stand out clearly enough and have not been glossed over here. At least Lyttelton and his associates were men of ideas who saw problems against a wide perspective and were prepared to fight on large issues. Their successors often give the impression of competent and hard-worked officials, narrow in their sympathies and insensitive to the ideas and suggestions of people outside their own rather small circle of lawyers and administrators. Their policies were more moderate than those of their predecessors. The reverse side of that moderation was a tendency to be blinkered and over-cautious. They acted like bureaucrats; their predecessors had acted more like entrepreneurs, and perhaps it was entrepreneurs that the endowed schools needed (Bishop 1971: ch. 12).

In terms of work done the Bryce Commission report of 1895 recorded

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