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|A school inspector's report|
[Editor: In the 1840s the urgent need for reform of Army education was generally recognised in military circles. In April 1844, Sir Henry Hardinge, Secretary at War, appointed the Rev. George R. Gleig Principal Chaplain to the Army. Gleig submitted a report on the state of Army education in September 1844. Hardinge's successor, Sydney Herbert, appointed Professor Henry Moseley of King's College London to provide the Privy Council with a report on the state of education at the Royal Military Asylum. Following is the report Moseley delivered to Secretary at War Herbert.]
PRO DOCUMENT WO 43/796 749
Confidential report issued by the Privy Council
Office, dated 7th April 1846 and addressed to
The Right Honourable
The Lords of the Committee of
Council on Education
In pursuance of your Lordships instructions conveyed to me by the Secretary of the Committee of Council on Education, I have visited the Royal Military Asylum at Chelsea and instituted an enquiry into the 'extent of the instruction and the degree of religious and moral training afforded by the institution'.
I enclose for your information a copy of the regulations for its establishment and government.
The building is erected on land which is held under a lease of which 33 years remain unexpired from Lord Cadogan. It contains in its central portion eight principal rooms each of which is 86 feet long and 34 feet wide, four of them being on the ground floor on either side of the vestibule and four others above. Five of these rooms are used as refectories, one as a music room and one for exercise in gymnastics. The four remaining rooms situated on the ground floor serve the purpose of school rooms. They are lofty apartments having a double row of windows and admitting of a thorough ventilation. The wings of the building, five stories in height, including the attics, are occupied by the dormitories of the boys of which there are four in each story together with apartments for a School Sergeant. Each dormitory is 34 ft 9 in long, 19 ft wide and 9 ft 9 in high and is intended to contain 24 boys two sleeping in each bed.
The ventilation of each dormitory is provided for by a grating communicating with the external air on a level with the floor and by ventilators in the ceiling the space between which and the floor of the dormitory above communicates with the external alr.
The Chapel stands detached at some distance from the principal structure. A ready access supplied to it from the May grounds.
The building supplied accommodation for the residence of 1200 children by a regulation made in the year 1820. The number is however limited to 330. 330 were resident at the time of my inspection of which number 17 were sick.
Of 310 boys whom I examined
They are children born in wedlock of soldiers in actual service in whose selection preference is given
1st To orphans
2nd To children whose fathers have been killed in battle or have died in foreign service
3rd To children who have lost their mothers and whose fathers are absent on duty abroad
4th To those whose fathers are ordered on foreign service
Where these claims for preference do not obtain the regimental character of the parent forms the principal ground of accommodation. To diffuse the benefits of the institution as widely as possible the number of children of the last mentioned class admitted from each regiment is limited to four.
I am informed however that soldiers whose regiments are quartered at a distance manifest very little desire to secure the benefits of the Institution for their children and that although forms of petition are transmitted from time to time to the Commanding Officers, the number of appointments allotted to each regiment is not in many instances filled up.
The children are admitted between the ages of 5 and 10 years and discharged at the
age of 14.
The average time of their residence in the asylum is five years.
To orphans the option of a trade or a regiment is offered on their discharge.
To boys not being orphans who are disqualified from entering the army on their discharge, a trade is offered.
A premium of £10 is paid with each boy bound to a trade and a further sum of £5 given as an award at the expiration of his apprenticeship if the Master to whom he is bound certifies to his good character.
With a boy who is fit for the Army but who prefers a trade no premium is paid.
In the case of a boy who under these circumstances is discharged to his friends, inquiry is first made as to their ability to maintain him and if they are unable to do so he is advised to let the institution provide for him.
Four days holidays are allowed at Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide. The average number of boys whose friends avail themselves of this opportunity of taking them home is 170.
The officers of the Institution are
The assistant officers and servants of the Institution are, the Serjeant Major of Instruction, Six school Serjeants, Two Trade Serjeants, One Serjeant Porter, Two Pioneer Corporals, a Drum Major, 22 Nurses and assistant Nurses.
The Commandant exercises a general superintendence and control over the interior economy of the Institution.
All the officer assistants and servants are subject to his orders and he is responsible for their conduct.
The Chaplain is responsible for the religious instruction of the Children and exercises
a general supervision over their education.
The Adjutant and Quartermaster is charged with the administration of the discipline.
The task of instruction in secular knowledge devolves upon the School Serjeants.
The Children attend divine service in the Chapel twice on Sunday and on Monday
morning and Friday morning.
On the afternoon of Sunday they are catechised by the Chaplain and he assembles the first fifty boys on two other evenings in the week for religious instruction.
Prayers are read in the dormitories and in the School rooms morning and evening.
The discipline is maintained under the direction of the Commandant and the Adjutant by the School Serjeants.
These men carry canes and are permitted to use them in respect to what are considered minor offences. Offences of a graver character are punished by flogging, by confinement in a cage or a black hole, by carrying a log chained to the person or by the drill.
The punishment of flogging is not inflicted except by the authority of the Commandant and in his presence.
A register of the punishments so inflicted has been kept since the appointment of Col Brown to that office.
I find by reference to this register that in the month which terminated with the 6th of April, 10 floggings of 12 stripes each were inflicted and 2 of 24 stripes and that in the preceding month of February there were inflicted 17 floggings each of 12 stripes.
It will afford your Lordship an opportunity to estimate that state of the discipline of which these facts afford the evidence if I inform you of the number of similar punishments inflicted in a twelvemonth in the Greenwich Schools.
I find that in the Lower School at Greenwich composed of 400 boys there were inflicted in the year 1844 only 21 such punishments and that in the whole School comprising the Nautical Upper and Lower Schools and containing 800 boys there were inflicted in that year 51 floggings. So that as many floggings were inflicted on 350 boys at Chelsea in the six weeks terminating with the 6th April last as upon the 400 boys of the Lower School at Greenwich in a whole twelvemonth. Or taking the whole of the Greenwich Schools, the number of floggings inflicted on 800 boys in a year is one fourth only of the number inflicted in the same time on 350 boys at Chelsea.
The punishments of the drill and the log are those most frequently resorted to. Six boys are on an average daily under the punishment of the drill.
From the 25th of March to the 29th of September the boys rise by beat of drum at 6 o'clock and from the 29th of September to the 25th of March at 7 o'clock.
They are allowed one hour to clean their shoes and to wash. A division of one third then devotes an hour to gymnastic exercises and the rest are occupied in domestic labours pumping water, carrying coals.
They breakfast at 8 o'clock in Summer and 9 o'clock in Winter. At 9 in Summer and at 10 in Winter they commence their studies and continue then until 12.
At 1 o'clock they dine.
From 2 until 4 in Summer and from 3 to 5 in Winter they devote again to the labours of the School.
At 7 o'clock in Summer and 6 o'clock in Winter they sup.
They retire to the dormitories at 6 o'clock in Winter and are locked up until 7 o'clock the next morning.
Diet Table Royal Military Asylum for one Child
The meat is estimated as taken from the butcher including bone. A proportion of the very small children on 6 ounces of meat.
I have ascertained from the above table the quantity of each article of food allowed per week to each boy and I have placed beside it in the following table the quantity of the same article of food allowed per week to a boy in the Greenwich Schools.
Diet per week for each child
The boys of the Greenwich Schools thus appear to be allowed 43Yz more ounces of bread a week than those at Chelsea - being more than half as much again and 13½ more ounces of meat being one third mote.
The average number of boys at one time in the Infirmary is at Chelsea out of 350 boys from 20 to 25. At Greenwich out of 800 boys it is (taken in respect to the whole of last year) 19. One boy died last year at Greenwich and six at Chelsea (and 3 the year before).
This disproportion in the number of cases of sickness and death in the two Institutions receives perhaps in some degree its explanation in the fact that of the boys at Chelsea 170 are under the age of 11 years whereas none are under that age at Greenwich.
Scofula [a tubercula disease lymph nodes and of bone, with slowly suppurating abscesses. sic] has been mentioned to me as among the most prevalent diseases at Chelsea and the children are described as remarkably subject to chilblains.
The task of instructing the children in all secular knowledge is intrusted to the School Serjeants. They have also the entire charge of them out of School hours.
Three of these men before they filled their present office were Privates in the Army -three others were non-commissioned officers. In respect to their qualifications for the responsible duty of instructing youth I have no other means of forming an opinion than that which is supplied me by the gross ignorance of the boys under their charge and by the information which the Chaplain has obligingly communicated to me in respect to them.
I learn from Mr Clark that they can read but know nothing of the 'stops' - that 'they can also write and know a little of arithmetic, but that the four first rules are as much as ever they can do' and that 'if they had been placed in a row before me and asked the same questions which I had addressed to the Children they would have been found equally unable to answer them'.
At the head of these six School Serjeants is the Serjeant Major of instruction, to whose qualifications for the duties with which he is entrusted I believe all that I have said of his subordinates to be equally applicable.
A statement of the daily routine of the instruction of the boys has been put into my hands of which the following is a copy.
Table of the employment of a Class of boys in the Royal Military Asylum
From this document I gather that the secular instruction of these boys is limited to reading, writing and arithmetic; and that being formed into two principal divisions they pass alternate days in the School rooms and the work shops.
No other trades are taught to them but tailoring and shoemaking and their labours in the workshops are limited to the work of the institution all of which is done by them. Many labourers however connected with the household department devolve upon the boys and I have reason to believe that the School business is greatly interrupted by them not only are the boys but the Serjeants also, frequently called from the School room to assist in the kitchen and the laundry. To such an extent indeed are their services required in the laundry that they would require the constant attendance of not less than eight of the boys there.
Music is taught from 10 o'clock in the morning until 12 to 70 boys of whom 40 compose the band and 30 are Drummers and Fifers. These boys go to school - every afternoon, being exempted from attendance in the Workshops. Whilst the other boys are discharged at 14 years of age these remain until they are IS.
There is no other drill-except for punishment-than a roll call of one quarter of an hour before each meal, when the boys are marched round in slow and quick time.
I found in these Schools none of the apparatus of instruction which I am accustomed to meet with in elementary Schools. There are neither black boards nor easels nor maps nor globes nor any other of the expedients for lightening the labours of the teacher, and aiding the intelligence of the scholar with which my eye had become familiar.
A lending library has been provided for the use of the boys. It contains 263 volumes generally of entertaining reading. Each boy in his 12th, 13th or 14th year is allowed the use of one of these books every other week so that on the alternate weeks he is without a book. The library contains no book which is not small enough to go into a boy's pocket, because he is allowed no box or locker or other place than his pocket in which he can deposit it with safety. The following is a list of the books used in the School rooms.
I do not find the subjects of instruction otherwise specified in the 'regulations' for the government of the Asylum, than by the following paragraph in that Section which prescribes the duties of the Serjeant Major of Instruction 'he shall cause them to proceed to the School business of reading, writing and the four first rules of arithmetic or such other employments as may qualify them for the duties of a soldier or for other subordinate stations in life.' Practically the secular Instruction of the children is limited to Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.
I have examined individually 310 boys in reading. Of the remaining number of 20 boys 17 were in the infirmary .
I find that of those, 47 in number, who are in their 14th and 15th years and who have been resident on an average from 5 to 6 years, 10 only can read with tolerable ease and correctness in the Fourth Book of Lessons of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland. 25 could read the Epistles but could not read the Fourth Lesson Book. 12 could not read with ease and correctness in the Epistles but could read the Gospels.
Of those boys who being in their 13th year had been resident an average period of 4 years 8 could read in the 4th Book, 8 could read with tolerable ease and correctness in the Epistles but could not read in the 4th Book. 27 could read in the Gospels but not in the Epistles.
Of those 46 in number who being in their 12th year have been resident an average period of 3 years, 20 can read pretty well in the Epistles and 26 cannot. 17 can read with ease and correctness in the Gospels, 26 cannot.
36 in their 10th year resident and average period of I year. 7 can read in the Gospels,
34 in the 9th year. 7 can read in the Gospels, 27 cannot.
31 in their Sth year. 13 read the Gospels fairly, I8 cannot.
30 from 6 to 8 years of age. 5 read easy lessons, I8 are beginning to read, 7 are in letters and monosyllables.
Thus it appears that out of the whole number of 310 boys whom I examined; I8 - being 6 per cent - read tolerably well in the 4th Book; 77 - being 25 per cent - in the Epistles; 118 - being 3S per cent - in the Gospels.
Your Lordship will be enabled to estimate that degree of proficiency of which this statement affords the evidence by a comparison with the results attained in the Lower School at Greenwich composed of the Sons of Common Sailors as this School is of the Sons of Common Soldiers.
I find then, in respect to 265 boys who compose the three lowest classes of that School - many of whom entered the Institution without being able to read at all, none of whom have been resident more than 3 years and the great majority less than 2 years- that 111 read in the 5th Book, 52 read in the 4th Book.
In the first class composed of 120 boys none of whom have been resident more than 3½ years and a great majority less than 3 years all read the 5th Book.
Thus it appears that at Greenwich out of 400 boys I9/20ths of whom have been resident less than 3 years 2S3 - being 71 per cent - can read the 4th Book, whilst at Chelsea out of 350 boys, nearly one half of whom have been resident more than 3 years and many more than 5 years, I8 only - being 6 per cent - can read the same Book.
That I might judge of the ability of the boys to write and to spell I caused those who were in their 12, 13th and 14th years to write respectively the three following paragraphs upon paper (by dictation).
From the penmanship of these exercises which I enclose for your inspection I think myself mistified in expressing an opinion that no boy in the School can be considered to write a fair hand.
To afford your Lordship however the opportunity of forming a judgement on this matter by comparison I have caused 60 boys of the first class in the Lower School at Greenwich to write from dictation the same paragraph which was written by those boys of the Royal Asylum who are in their 14th year. I enclose those Exercises of the Greenwich boys. Their average time of residence is two years and 3 months - They will serve for a comparison of the spelling of the two Schools as well as the writing.
The average number of errors in spelling which the boys in their 14th year have made in writing out the paragraph which was read to them is 15 and no boy has written it with less than 4 errors. Many of them have not however written out the whole paragraph.
The Exercises of the boys of the 12th and 13th years are scarcely worse than those of the boys of the 14th year. I have indeed been struck with the remarkable uniformity in the attainments or, to speak candidly, the ignorance of these 3 classes of boys thus a year in advance of one another. It seems to show that when a certain stage is reached their education stands still, and that when a corresponding period in the history of the mind is attained it requires other food for its growth than is here ministered to it.
The boys of the Greenwich School in addition to the paragraph written by the boys of the Asylum have written that which follows it in the Book from which it was taken. Whilst the latter, who have been resident an average period of 4 years, in writing the single paragraph have made on an average 15 mistakes in spelling. Many of the former have written the two paragraphs without any error, and their average number of errors in writing them does not appear to exceed 3 or 4. They have been resident an averag, period of 2¼ years.
To test the skill of the Boys ofthe Asylum in arithmetic I proposed to those in their 13th and 14th years the following sums.
1. Each line in a Book contains 45 letters, each page 27 lines, and there are 378 pages in the Book. How many letters are there in the Book
2. Find the cost of 6 tons of iron at 9s 4½ for 1 cwt 9 qr.
The first of these sums was worked correctly by five boys in their 14th year. None of them was however able to explain the way in which he had worked it. No boy in the School could work the second sum.
I feel it would be a great injustice to the boys in their Greenwich School to institute any comparison between their skill in Arithmetic and that of the boys of the Military Asylum.
Summary in respect to the Technical
Looking at this School simply with reference to their technical instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic which according to the tenor of 'the regulations' is perhaps all that was contemplated in its Institution - I am of opinion that in the whole of my experience now extensive in the inspection of elementary Schools, I have visited none so little deserving of commendation; taking into my view that the State stands in the place of a Parent to the greater number of the children who compose it, that these children remain in it a period amply sufficient for the accomplishment of the highest purposes of Education, that it is maintained under public expense and may claim in those senses the character of a model on which the public education of the Country should be formed, I hesitate to give expression to the opinions I entertain in respect to it.
Looking at the class of persons from which the Chaplain is required to select his teacher, I consider that it would be unjust however to attribute its inefficiency to him.
I find a sufficient explanation of it in the 'regulations' under which the School is conducted and particularly in that regulation which limits the instruction to reading, writing and the first four rules of arithmetic. I have always observed that where little is aimed at in an elementary school that little is ill done. Where nothing but the technical branches of instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic are taught, there the children read badly, write ill and know but little of arithmetic - but that where a higher standard of instruction is taught and other elements of instruction are included in the course than these, there these lower branches are more perfectly taught. However anomalous this may appear it admits of an explanation and I can speak of it as a fact of which my experience supplies me with ample proof in many other schools and in those at Greenwich.
I believe therefore that whilst the total disqualification of the School Sergeants for the office of Instruction is one cause of the bad reading, writing and cyphering of the boys of the Military Asylum, another is that their Instruction is limited to those subjects.
A remarkable deficiency in general knowledge and intelligence is observable amongst the children. I have rarely pursued an official enquiry with sentiments of so much pain as that which I have thought it my duty to institute into the advantages these children have enjoyed in respect to the cultivation of that faculty which distinguishes them as intelligent beings, the capacity proper to their years to reflect, to reason and to understand.
I have found them entirely incapable of comprehending the lesson book, out of which I caused them to read or, I believe, any portion of it. They cannot answer me slmplest questions as to the meaning of the words which compose it; they do not possess that collateral knowledge which is necessary to the intelligence of its subject matter nor, had all these resources been at their command, would they I am convinced have been found to possess the power so far to fix their judgement as to collect from the greater number of its sentences the ideas they are intended to convey.
In reading, they make a measured pause after every word as in marching they stop after every step. In their manner of reading no reference whatever to the connection of the words is apparent or to the sense. No ray of intelligence lights up their faces as they read nor do they give any other sign of interest in what they read. I have taken no notes of the answers I received from them to questions suggested by the lessons they were reading. The following occur however to my recollection. As samples they will convey a more favorable impression than would have been derived from listening to the whole. Not any of these in their 14th year (some of them being band-boys were probably in their 15th year) could tell what was meant by the 'British Empire' and none of them who 'the immediate successor of David was' although they all knew perfectly well that the next King to David was Solomon. Some of them know a little of English History, but of the simplest Elements of Geography they are utterly ignorant and they know nothing of English Grammar - elements of instruction which are now common to almost every parish school in the Kingdom.
Something more is necessary for the Education of these children than for those of an ordinary school.
It is obvious that something more is required for the education of these children than for those of an ordinary school to bring them even to the same degree of intelligence. Admitted at a tender age, not allowed to pass the gates of the Asylum except for 4 days at 3 different times in the year and at least half of them orphans or friendless children for whom this privilege is never sought, the State takes upon itself in respect to them the entire responsibilities of a parent. Their case does not find a parallel in that of the child of an ordinary elementary school. That child by daily contact of its mind with the mindl of its parents has at least some of the faculties of intelligence roused into constan activity and often greatly sharpened by that struggle with the physical elements of existence in which it is necessary that every member of the household should take a part. The parents too going daily into the world cannot fail to bring back with then some elements of general knowledge and diffuse it throughout the family. But it is not so with these children. From the moment they pass the walls of the Asylum every avenue to the external world closes upon them and all the knowledge they acquire must come to them through their teachers or not at all. To limit their instruction to reading, writing and arithmetic is thus to leave them with far less than half those means of education which other poor children possess. To supply to them , through their teachers, nothing to reflect and to reason upon and to understand is to leave their powers of reflection, of reason and intelligence to stagnate.
To deprive a child of its freedom from an early age, to shut out from it the light of the sun, to minister to it insufficient element for the support of its body - by a process lil this to check its physical development and dwarf its stature - would be an offence cognizable I believe by the laws.
It is only in this way that I can convey to you my sense of the injustice which has been done these children in debarring them almost from their infancy from every element instruction proper to the growth of their intellectual life.
Nothing appeared to me more worthy of observation than the extent to which the religious instruction of the children was impaired by the deficiency of their general intelligence.
I have rarely heard children questioned in religious knowledge with so much clearness and judgement as by Mr Clark, and as I listened to his examination it was impossible not to feel how redeeming a feature in the course of instruction of this place were the lessons of piety and virtue which these poor boys have so long been accustomed to receive from his lips. I can well understand that his admonitions have been carefully measured up and that when they recall in after life the period of their childhood to them too often alas - otherwise without a friend - the recollection of him is associated with all they have learned to love and to venerate.
Still it was impossible not to be struck with the remarkable character of simplicity which he was compelled to give to the questions he addressed to boys of 13 and 14 years of age and the difficulty which he experienced in eliciting from them any answer which required the slightest independant exercise of the judgement or intelligence. With respect to the principal facts of Scripture history they are well informed but I have found them imperfectly acquainted with the Catechism. In the existing stock of their secular instructions I believe indeed that it would be impossible to make them comprehend it.
I have been requested by your Lordship to report to you upon the extent of instruction and upon the degree of moral and religious training which the Institution affords. As to all that concerns the instruction Religious and Secular, I have now completed the task with which you have honoured me.
The question of the religious and moral training of the children is one on which I have a great difficulty in expressing an opinion. It is scarcely to be judged of except with other opportunities of estimating it than have been afforded to me.
So far as the personal influence of the Chaplain, so venerable for his years and his character, is concerned, nothing can be more favourable than the circumstances of religious and moral training in which the children are placed.
In respect to the School Serjeants with whom they are brought in contact far more intimately and more continually than with any other class of persons connected with the Institution, I have learned nothing unfavourable nor anything on the other hand to distinguish them favourably from the like number of non-commissioned officers and privates of good character who might be selected for another service.
I have no reason to suppose that the example of these men operates in any respect unfavorably for the highest interests of the children. Looking upon them in the light of agents in the religious and moral training of children I see in them however no fitness nor any qualifications proper to a moral action on the minds of the children nor are these likely in my opinion to be found in men of their class. So far as the amount of punishment inflicted may be supposed to afford an evidence of the moral and religious training of the institution I draw from it an unfavourable conclusion and I am desirous to call your Lordships attention particularly to one regulation the tendency of which is I conceive in this respect most prejudicial. It is that by which these boys many of them in their 14th and 15th years are locked up without light in their dormitories from 6½ o'clock in the evening in Winter until 7 the next morning.
A paper has been placed in my hands in which are recorded the characters of those soldiers at present serving in the Army who have been educated in this School. I am informed however that the characters here referred to are the military characters of the men and that no other element of the moral character than sobriety is usually included under the military characters so recorded.
In concluding the estimate I have been led to form of this School - an estimate far more unfavourable than that which I have ever recorded of any other - I am desirous to call your Lordships attention to the fact that the period during which the boys reside (an average period of five years) is amply sufficient for the full accomplishment of all those great purposes of religious influence and secular instruction which appear to me to have devolved upon the State, when in receiving these children - many of whom are orphans almost from their infancy - to look upon itself the whole responsibility of a parent in respect to them.
I am desirous to convey to your Lordships the sense I entertain of the courtesy and kindness which I have experienced from the Commandant, the Chaplain and the other officers of the Institution in answering the enquiries of which I have now recorded the results.
They have promoted the objects of my Inspection by every means in their power and answered the questions I have addressed them with the greatest candour.
[Editor This document is reproduced with acknowledgement to the National Archives, Kew.]