Ireland. National Education Bd.

Annual report of the commissioners ..., Volume 68 online

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feaiures o^ which is the continuous seated posture of the children ai
school work — if this system is to be generally followed, the accom-
modation now provided will be found insufficient in the majority of
cases. I may remark, en passant, that I am not by any means
persuaded of the advantages of this system over ours for small
schools. The furniture in our schools has been usually provided
to seat about half the number of pupils in maximum attendance.
Consequently, if all the pupils are to be seated without incon-
venient crowding, more desks will have to be provided, for which,
in most cases, there is little additional space available. In
reference to deaks and forms, the furnishing of the schools of this
district is on the whole satisfactory. The equipment of the
schools is, in many cases, very inferior; for example, in one-third
of the schools a suitable clock is not yet provided."

Most of the inspectors report the furniture of the schools as
adeqjiate and fair, in some cases even good. The chief defect in the
desks is want of variable height for different-sized pupils — a defect
which I find also referred to in th& English reports.

Heating, except where turf is plentiful, and sometimes even there,
is still insufficiently attended to, and the school-rooms are seldom
comfortable in cold weather before the afternoon. The ventilation
of school-rooms is often neglected.

The excessive multiplication of schools is the cause of many
defects observed in them, and might very well be made a lever for
effecting improvement. Where schools are over-numerous, grants
should be cancelled at once in cases in which defects remain un-
remedied after attention has been called to th^n.

This excessive multiplication of schools is chiefly observable in
the North of Ireland. As instances, I may mention that Cooks-
town, with 3,500 inhabitants, has ten schools ; Dungannon (3,700
inhabitants), Limavady (2,800), Magherafelt (1,400), have eight
schools each! But it is not confined to the North (though there
most common, owing to religious differences), and there are in every
part of Ireland cases of double schools which might with advantage
be amalgamated.

Mr. Ross remarks on this subject : —

" The distribution of school accommodation accords fairly well
with the requirements of the population, the chief defect being, that
in certain rural localities there has been in the past an undue
multiplication of small schools, a circumstance that tends in many
ways to lower the educational standard in such localities. This
undue multiplication of schools is not confined to rural localities
only ; it is to be met with in an even more objectionable form in
provincial towns, where each clergyman who can muster an at-
tendance of thirty or forty pupils insists upon having a struggling
school of doubtful efficiency under his own control. In towns, such
as I have in view, it would be much better if Managers could see
their way to unite their forces so as to have a well-attended and
well-equipped infant school and a corresponding senior school."

S*AFP. As regards " staffing," Irish schools occupy an unusually favour-

able position, in having one teacher for every thirty-five pupils in
averagei attendance. In England there is only one teacher for every
forty-one pupils ; in Prussia only one for every sixty-three (in rural
schools, sixty-eight), with quite a considerable number of schools in
which there is only one teacher for over 120 pupils, and some in
which om teacher has to instruct 150 and even 170 children.


Heating and

number of
schools in
some parts
of the

Belfast (2)

Digitized by


Northern IXvision of Ireland. 91


The Managers have absolute power of appointment of the Manaqkbs.

teachers and use it; they can also dismiss them with or without

three months' notice, but they very rarely exercise this right unless
for very flagrant misconduct, and practically never for inefficiency.
They do not (except in very rare cases) pay the teachers anything,
and in this matter are merely the channels through which the State
grant passes. They are earnest and regular in visiting their schools,
but they exercise little or no control over the course of instruction
given in them. Only a few among them have expressed unqualified
approval of the new curriculum, but nearly all have determined
that it should receive a fair trial. By their supervision they encou-
rage and stimulate, as a rule, the teachers who are doing good
work, and they act as a wholesome check on teachers who
are inclined to neglect their duties, or to perform them in a
perfunctory fashion. They frequently do excellent service
in promoting regular and punctual attendance of pupils, and
I have known them to effect far more in this way than any
Attendance Officer. Most of the inspectors s^y they fulfil a
useful function, or, as some put it — a good Manager is a real
blessing to a locality. Of course, when it comes to be a matter of
paying school expenses (except for new buildings), they do not do
much, but when a Manager has fifteen or more schools to look after,
it cannot be expected that he — generally the priest of a large poor
parish — will have sufficient funds at his disposal. Mr. McNeill
suggests the formation of local Committees for this latter purpose,
but such Committees would scarcely be willing to provide funds
without having some control, which would certainly be distasteful
to the Managers.

Of local interest, apart from the Managers, the inspectors state intelligent
there is practically none. I am not in a position to controvert this interest in
statement^ but I think it is true only of rural schools under Roman schoola
Catholic management. Schools connected with Protestant parishes ^»»ting.
or congregations generally receive a good deal of local attention, I
think, and some funds are raised to supplement the teachers'
salaries, to pay for the repair and cleaning of the schoolhouse and
premises, to provide apparatus, and to give prizes and an annual
treat to the pupils. It is true there is an absence of intelligent
local interest and control, such as exists in Great Britain, and the
following remarks by Mr. Wyse will generally conimend themselves.

Mr. Wyse: —

" In the more remote parts of the district the schools are left Ballymena
almost entirely to themselves, the only supervision ever given to Circuit. .
them being that of the Board's inspector and, to a slight extent,
that of the local Manager. In this attitude of the people there
seems to me to be an essential and important difference between
our schools and those in England. The public interest in England
is not only ever so much greater, it is also (which is no less im-
portant) a much more intelligent and a better educated public
interest. This fact ought, in my opinion, largely to determine the
extent a,nd closeness of the Government supervision of the schools
in each case, that supervision requiring evidently to be more search-
ing^ and more minute in our case."

Digitized by



Mr. Purser^s lieport for l90l.





The method
should be the



On this matter Mr. Hoqan reports : —

" There is a tendency to retain the old bipartite system, a
system which often caused idling and loss of time, most of all in
schools with only one teacher. Many see the benefit of working
the school in one division for Singing, Drawing, Drill, Writing
Arithmetic, or written exercises, and I expect more to be done in
this direction."

There appears to me to be here a misconception. The " old
Efystem " (it is certainly as old as the oldest schools) must have had
some good points to have survived so long, and to be still the
system almost universally followed where one teacher has several
classes to instruct. Of course, when subjects such as Singing and
Drill are first introduced into a school all the pupils may receive
the lessons together, but according as some pupils advance in
knowledge, this becomes almost impossible. As to teaching a
whole school Writing or Arithmetic together, it cannot be done.
All may be at Writing or at Arithmetic at the same time, but the
teacher is either instructing the pupils individually (a very wasteful
use of his time), or he is really teaching one division while the other
division is working by itself — that is to say, he is adopting the
bipartite system. The following remarks by Mr. Wyse appear to
me more correct and true : —

'' Not much change has yet been made in the organisation of the
school-work. I do not think any great change is desirable. The
bipartite system is, in my opinion, the best in schools under one
teacher, and much of the success achieved in our small schools in
the past, has been due to this system. I believe that its adoption
in England would do much to raise the low standard prevalent in
small English schools.''

The organisation or methods to be adopted must be determined
by the teacher and Manager. Mr. M'Nbill puts the inspector's
proper course clearly when he writes: —

" Except when asked for advice, or when some glaring defect is
apparent, I do not interfere with the organisation adopted. One
sees good work so often done in unorthodox ways that one becomes
somewhat shy of interfering.''

And an English inspector puts the same matter in a slightly
different form: —

" If good methods always produced good results the gain would
be immense. Unfortunately it would be rash to make this asser-
tion. It seems to be necessary that the method should be good not
only in itself, but also in the hands of the user."

The inspector may do much to proportion the school-time
properly among the various subjects.

The great gain of the new system is the rousing of the teachers,
especially the more capable teachers, from mere routine to an
intelligent and independent consideration of their work and

All inspectors report that some attempt has been made to group
several classes at one lesson, but this has been done chiefly in sub-
jects of which all pupils are equally ignorant. Grouping in others.

Digitized by


Northern Division of Ireland. -OS

and^ indeed, in these once a marked difference of knowledge has Oboanisatiom
been attained, cannot, as a rule, be carried out without unfairness ^^"^ Mmods.
to pupils who either know less or more than the average, if not to putiju n\
both. Mr. O'Connor writes as follows on this point : — Circuit.

" In the smaller schools the standards are grouped sometimes in
two divisions and sometimes in one for Singing and Drill. In
Drawing and Manual Work grouping has also so far been conveni-
ently adopted, as the exercises given have been largely those pre
scribed for the junior standards. In other subjects the old method
of teaching the standards separately has been continued, and it
appears to be the best. Collective teaching of standards of equal
proficiency is an awkward expedient. It is a Siamese race, in which
the partners are badly matched as to length of stride."

A modification of the programme to suit small schools with onej Modification
teacher seems essential. It was, no doubt, partly with this inten- of Programme
tion that the Commisioners, in their Code, laid down that the^^J^^*^^
Revised Programme was a maximum, and left it open to Managers, ^sjj^able
and to teachers through their Managers, to suggest modifications.
Unfortunately very little advantage has been taken of this privilege,
and where it has been done the suggestions have not always been,
favourably received. Probably one reason why suggestions for a
local curriculum have not been submitted is, that the teacher for
various re^teons omitted, and for the present has the right to omit,
some subjects. Thus, Elementary Science was omitted because the
teacher had not been trained to teach it; or, if trained, had not
received a supply of apparatus. Cookery was omitted in girls'
schools for similar reasons. Geography and History were not
taught because suitable Geographical and Historical Readers had
not been approved by the Manager. Manual Training has so far
been limited almost everywhere to Paper-folding — a poor substitute
at best for Kindergarten, which unfortunately has been largely
dropped — and no suitable exercise has been provided generally for
any but the lowest classes. Even Singiug and Drawing, which have
been most extensively adopted, are still absent from the list of
school-subjects in many cases. In this manner the course of in-
struction, instead of being more extended, has, in not a few schools,
become decidedly more restricted, especially in the senior classes.
I shall confine myself to one extract on this matter.

Mr. M'Glade : —

" In all the schools under notice the Revised Programme of the siigo Circuit.
Commisioners has been adopted, and no alternative courses of any
ordinary branches in it were submitted for approval. Each indi-
vidual teacher, in deciding the curriculum for his school, pro-
ceeded on simple and commonsense lines. He took up as many of
the branches as he could teach, having regard to his own qualifica-
tions and to the teaching facilities afforded him."

Some Inspectors state that the greater variety of subjects has
made school more attractive to the pupils.

Mr. Eabdlby: —

" As a general rule it may be said that the introduction of the Londonderry
revised programme has made the schools much brighter for the Circuit.
pupils by the greater variety of occupations."

Digitized by



Mr. Purser^s RepoH for 1901.

OaQABiBAnoB Mr. Craig: —

,.. " The pupils themselves as a rule like school, and the introduction

of the new scheme has made school life much brighter and happier
for them, and if only the interest of the parents could be aroused
and their co-operation secured, a great improvement would soon be


Belfast (2)

Mr. Kelly: —

" It is too soon, perhaps, to gauge accurately the effects of the
new scheme on the attendance, but I am of opinion that it has made
school-life more attractive to the pupils. The diversity of the
occupation and the appeal to the observation and intelligence would
naturally tend to popularise the schools."

This would be more satisfactory if accompanied by such proof as
increased attendance of pupils, or greater regularity of attendance
on the part of those on rolls. There may be an improvement in
some classes; for instance, there ought to be with the infants, who
are undoubtedly receiving more attention than formerly, and are
not now confined to reading, spelling, and counting. There is, how-
ever, a danger with these pupils and in all classes of carrying this
variety of subjects too far, and of taking up work unsuitable to the
age and capacity of the pupils. Everyone will admit that it is a
mistake to make a child of eight years spend his next three years
learning a matter which at eleven he could readily matter in one
year; for which reason some hold that formal lessons in Reading
and Writing should not begin at so early an age as three or four
years. As Mr. Semple states in the passage already quoted: —
" Children sent at five or six are, at the expiration of two or three
years, quite as advanced as those sent two years earlier " ; and it is
well known that abroad the school-going age begins at six.

An excessive variety of subjects leads to a frittering away of the
teacher's and pupils' time and energies. Concentrption of mind
and effort is absolutely necessary to ensure mental progress. How
to combine variety of subject and interest with thoroughness is one
of the great problems to be solved. The difficulty is great, and great
allowance must be made in judging of the work done by the schools
during the present transition period.


Belfast (1)

Sligo Circuit.

My personal knowledge of what progress has been made in various
subjects throughout the northern half of Ireland is not sufficient to
enable me to pronounce definitely on the matter. I shall, there-
fore, give my own impressions very briefly, and shall give more
copious extracts from the Inspectors' reports.

Dr. Mohan: —

" I cannot discover any increase of intelligence or smartness on
the part of the pupils. It is too soon yet to pronounce an opinion on
the effects of the new programme."

Mr. Dewar: —

" It is not quite easy to pronounce with accuracy on the influence
which the new code and new methods have exerted on the pupils.
As a rule, in the generality of the schools, one does not remark a
difference in the intelligence or smartness of the pupils since the

Digitized by


Northern Division of Ireland. 95

introduction of the new code. But limiting the comparison to those PaoFionoroT.
schools in which the new code subjects have been more fully intro- „.. "^7" ..
(luced, and to the pupils of these schools who are regular attenders, *°
one can safely affirm that pupils trained under the new code have
keener powers of observation and comparison, defter fingers for
manipulating, and more erect and graceful carriage than pupils
trained under the old system ; but the former would compare un-
favourably with the latter in the skill and accuracy with which ques-
tions in Grammar or Arithmetic based on the provisions of the new
code would be treated/'

But more Inspectors are of opinion that the new course has been Improvement
productive of greater intelligence — ^shown most notably by the im- »» reading and
provement in Reading and Composition. compoBition.

Dr. Beatty: —

" In the Newry district the progress made was distinctly credit- Ballymena
able; not merely in the introduction of new branches, such as Sing- Circuit,
ing, Drawing, and Drill, but also in the improved methods of teach-
ing Reading and some other subjects. Its effect in sharpening the
intelligence of the children was, it seems to me, quite observable in
that district."

Mr. Ross: —

" Evidence is not lacking that the instruction under the new pro- Belfast (2)
gramme is appealing successfully to the intelligence of the pupils. Circuit
The subject that shows most distinct advance is Reading. Much
intelligence, patience, and perseverance are being brought to bear
in the teaching of this branch, and with the happiest results.. The
requirement that the answers in Subject-matter should be in fully
formed sentences is also receiving attention. This will prove ulti-
mately a great help in Composition, and even now quite creditable
efforts in expressing their thoughts in writing are to be met with
among the exercises of Fourth Standard."

Mr. M'Glade:-^

" I should say the intelligence of the junior pupils is very much siig„ circuit
improved. They have got more work to do, the training of the
senses is attended to, and from the beginning the teaching is con-
ducted on sound inter-connected principles, such as teaching things,
not mere words ; proceeding from the known to the unknown, from
the concrete to the abstract, &c., with the result that the children
show increased powers of observing, of thinking, and of expressing
themselves clearly. The senior pupils have made good progress in,
English, as tested by their proficiency in Reading and Composition.
They show^ more intelligence in the former and more facility in the
latter. How far they have gained in intellectual or mental power
from the educational training of the entire new course, is a point
which can scarcely be decided until more experience is had of the
working of the new methods."

Mr. D. P. FitzGekald: —

" The improvement in the proficiency under the new scheme is Longford
not yet very marked. Schools which were good in the past still Circuit
maintain their reputation ; in the majority fair or very fair progress
is being naad^i in ihose which were bad no change for the better has

Digitized by



Mr. Purser^s Report for 1901.

PBononeNOT. been effected. In theae latter under no scheme could effective work
— : be done, and until they are placed in charge of better qualified or
^cuit more efficient teachers, no better record can be expected."

Mr. Young: —

" I have not, so far, met with evidence of increased intelligence
on the part of pupils of the senior standards. There is, however, I
think, a general improvement in the style of the Reading. Soma
advance ha« been made in the junior standards in encouraging the
pupils to think and observe for themselves. This is to be attributed to
an improvement in the style of the Object Lessons, though very much
remains to be done in this direction. The transition stage from the
old to the revised programme has not yet been parsed, so that it
would be difficult at present to form an estimate of the educational
effects of the change.''

Mr. Cbaig: —
Longford " 1 ^^^ of opinion that there U on the whole a great improvement

Circuit in Beading. In the higher standards there is an honest effort being

made to train the children to read clearly, easily, and naturally.
First Standard is, however, still left too much to senior scholars,
who cannot teach Reading, and the pupils are allowed to repeat the
words in a monotonous tone, pausing after every word, instead of
after each group denoting a single idea.

" Composition is now taught concurrently with Grammar from
the Third Standard upwards, but even from the very first the chil-
dren are taught to give their oral answers in complete and correct
sentences. The formation of sentences, oral and written, in the
beginning, the description of familiar things and places, the careful
statement of facts acquired in object lessons, reproduction of short
stories 4ind Lett/erwriting, are the principal means employed to train
the pupils to express themselves clearly and in correct language,
when endeavouring to explain facts, and describe occurrences within
their own observation and experience."

This is undoubtedly a great gain. I think it is open to question
if too much is not expected in the matter of Residing from our
National School pupils; certainly less " finish " or style is looked for
from pupils of Secondary Schools. It is all the more gratifying to
find improvement generally claimed for the two subjects mentioned.
They have certainly received more attention than in the past. It
should be remembered, however, that a very large number of pupils
remained a second year in the same classes, and were reading the
same book or an easier book during that second year.

The new books adopted are in general not much, if at all, better
than the Board's Readers (Sixth excepted), but they are for the
most part simpler in language and matter. Some, however, want
I'evision in this respect. Here is an extract from an early lesson in
a Fourth Reader — ^presumably, therefore, for small children of ten
or eleven years of age : —

" Whither go the clouds and wind so eagerly. If, like guilty
spirits, they repair to some dread conference with powers like them-
selves, in what wild region do the elements hold council, or where
unbend in terrible disport."

Some doubt is expressed as to whether progress has been ma<ie in
Writing and Spelling ; my own impression is that the latter has not
improved. The change from Parsing to Analysis (the latter little
understood by most teachers) has probably had at least temporarily
a bad effect on formal Grammar.

Digitized by


Northern Division of Ireland, 97

All agree that Geography is much worse ; in fact geographical INtonmssat,
knowledge can scarcely be said to ei^ist except as a survival of the """*
past. Teaching Histcry or Geography through Readers alone is
scarcely feasible below the highest standards. The mere difficulty
of making out the words prevents anything like adequi^te attention
to the matter on the part of the pupils. Concentration here is also
necessary, and one thing at a time.

As regards Arithmetic, I will quote only a few Inspectors, but Arithmotio,
nearly all have referred to the subject in their reports. As a rule*
the teaching is found to be more intelligent, but yet fails to reach
the children's understanding; and there is rather a noticeable
decline in accuracy and in the pow^ of dealing with numbers*

Mr. Daly: —

** In Arithmetic the improvement is not so marked, though some Clones

Online LibraryIreland. National Education BdAnnual report of the commissioners ..., Volume 68 → online text (page 19 of 50)