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Report on Milne's Free School, in the Town of Fochabers, in
Elginshire. By Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools, John
GORDON, Esq. MY LORDS,
Edinburgh, December, 1849. Tue town of Fochabers, situate in the parish of Bellie, and at the eastern extremity of the county of Elgin, contains a population of about 1100. It is a burgh of barony, of which his Grace the Duke of Richmond and Lennox is the superior and feudal lord. The inhabitants consist chiefly of tradesmen, shop-keepers, agricultural and day labourers, and salmon fishers. At one extremity of the town, there is the new and elegant erection occupied by“ Milne's Free School." It is in the Elizabethan style of architecture, and contains four class-rooms and apartments for the dwelling of the rector. The ground attached to it, and well enclosed, is two imperial acres in extent; and laid out in playground, garden for the rector, and ornamental lawn in front. The accommodation altogether is such as at once bespeaks the unusual advantages with which this institution has been favoured.
Among the rules laid down by the directors for their guidance, there is one that the seminary shall be annually visited, examined, and reported on by an Inspector.” In compliance with the request which they did me the honour to make, I lately visited and examined the school accordingly; the same office having already been performed, first by Professor Cruickshank, Inspector of Schools aided by the bequest of the late Dr. Milne of Bombay ; and afterwards by Professor Menzies, Inspector of Schools aided by the Dick bequest.
The Milne Free School is endowed with a fund amounting to 16,4151., of which 15,0001. is invested in heritable security—the whole amount yielding an annual produce of 6801.
The donor was Mr, Alexander Milne, a native of Fochabers, afterwards residing at New Orleans, in the State of Louisiana. By his last will and testament, dated 17 October, 1836, he bequeathed to the town of Fochabers 100,000 dollars, to be employed in “ establishing and supporting a free school in Fochabers for the benefit of the parishes of Bellie and Ordifish." The executors declined to make payment of the legacy; and in this they were supported by a decision of the Court of Probates at New Orleans. An appeal was then made to the Supreme Court of the State of Louisiana on behalf of the town of Fochabers, by his Grace the Duke of Richmond as the feudal lord, and by the Baron Bailie ; which resulted in a reversal of the decision of the Court of Probates. The claim of the town of Fochabers to the whole amount of the legacy was confirmed ; and against the month of January, 1848, the sums remitted to the parties who had acted with so inuch energy in the interest of the town of Fochabers, amounted to 21,7151. 8s. 5d. In the mean time, the same parties had procured by Act of Parliament 6 and 7 Victoria, July, 1843, a constitution for the intended seminary, which included the appointment and incorporation of the directors, and at the same time the definition of their powers. The directors thus appointed were the Duke of Richmond, as the feudal lord of The burgh ; the Sheriff depute, or in his absence the Sheriff substitute, of the county of Elgin ; the minister of the parish of Bellie ; the Chamberlain of the Duke of Richmond; the Baron Bailie and three feuars of the town of Fochabers, to be elected in the manner appointed by the Act.
The building was completed in the month of October, 1846, the whole cost of the erection as well as of furnishing and enclosures, amounting to no more than 4338l. In the following month, the institution was opened under three masters, and pupils admitted in terms of the provisions in the will of the testator and in the statute.
The number of children attending in the three divisions under masters at the time of my visit, was 230. Of these, the female pupils who have learnt to read are instructed in knitting, sewing, and other branches of female industry, by a mistress who receives from the bequest an allowance of 401. a year in lieu of school wages. There is also a school in which children under six years of age are taught to read, and which is maintained by an allowance of the same amount from the bequest. This, though part of “Milne's Free Institution,” occupies an apartment of another building, which stands at the entrance to the park of Gordon Castle. Moreover the Act authorizes the directors, in the event of the parish school being removed from the town to a more suitable situation, as to pay to the parish schoolmaster, out of the funds under their control, such a sum of money, not exceeding 401. in any one year, as they shall think fit, subject to the condition that such parish school shall be a free school.' The parish school having been lately removed to Bogmuir, 4 miles distant from the town and about 1 mile from the northern extremity of the parish, where there is a considerable population, the directors accordingly appropriated to that school the sum of 401. a-year, on the condition appointed by the Act ;-in this, designing not merely to extend, so far, the benefits of free education, but also to relieve the institution at Fochabers from the inconvenience occasioned by the resort to it of many pupils from the landward part of the parish, of an age somewhat advanced, and unfit, from defective training, to be classed with the elder pupils at the Institution.* The total number of children in these several schools receiving free education from the bequest is about 500, forming a fifth part, or rather more, of the whole population of Bellie and Ordifish. So far the intention of the benevolent testator is in the course of being accomplished.
Pupils are admitted, at the same time, to both the Milne School and the parish school from other parishes; but they are not admitted free. The number of extra-parochial pupils at the Milne Schools is eight; the amount of fees received on their account, about 51. per annum.
It is commonly supposed that instruction, when entirely gratuitous, is apt to be not much valued ; but the notion does not appear to be supported by the experience of the Milne School. The late Rector, Mr. Anderson, observes that “the attendance at this seminary may in general terms be pronounced to be regular. In the higher departments it is almost perfect, as in these there rarely occurs a case of absence, unless arising from ill health or some other uncontrollable cause. In the lower departments, the number of absentees who cannot produce any sufficient excuse is considerable, although the percentage of absence is as low as in the best attended schools in the country.”
The bequest was intended for the benefit of all children in the parish,including those who are under no need to be relieved from the ordinary cost of education; as if the donor, by so large and indiscriminate a gift, had desired to mark his own sense of the equal value of education to all, and to encourage such a regard for it as might appear in his own substantial testimony to its importance. It is a less singular feature of the bequest, that it favours alike all religious denominations in the parish ; nearly two thirds of all the children of the Milne Schools belonging to the
* The retirement of the parochial teacher having become desirable, this object was effected by the heritors permitting him to retain the legal salary, with allowances besides from the Duke of Richmond and from the trustees of the Dick bequest; while the services of a substitute were secured with the grant of 401. above mentioned, aud with further allowances from the Duke of Richmond and from the Dick fuu.
Established and Free churches, and nearly one third to the Roman Catholic. The donor himself, it may be remarked, was of the latter connexion, and willing that his gift should have a really catholic application.
The late rector, in his report to the directors, observes that there is always about 20 per cent., or one in every five of the whole population, receiving education in the parish” (where there are several schools besides those mentioned), “and that during the months of January and February the number rises to nearly 35 per cent., or one in four of the whole inhabitants of the parish.” There can be no doubt that this unusual proportion of the population at school is mainly owing to the encouragements given by the bequest.
The bequest has been applied in as many forms as can be supposed requisite to complete the means of education for a parish. There are the infant school, the school of female industry, and the juvenile school, in three separate divisions. Even the less necessary sehool of industry for boys is not altogether unknown here, some approach to it being made in the lessons which the English master has occasionally given in the principles of agricultural chemistry. These have ceased for a time, but they are meant to be resumed; and they can be here given with every advantage, from competent skill on the teacher's part, and a sufficient apparatus at his command. One cause of the little progress that has been made in this branch of instruction elsewhere is, that it has been given to too young a class of pupils ; whereas it had better been reserved for those about to leave school, and for other young persons already occupied in agricultural work. There is reason to expect that this branch will soon receive, here, the attention due to its practical uses, and at the same time to its interest merely as an element of knowledge.
Apart from its adjuncts afore mentioned, the Milne Institution in its three divisions forms one of those academies which occupy a place betwixt the parish schools and the universities, and of which there are too few in Scotland. Yet it takes this position, not so much from anything in the programme of its instruction, which is not found in schools of a lower class, as from the partition of the work of instruction among so many masters. The rector or head master's duty is to instruct in the Latin, Greek, and French languages; in mathematics, pure and prac tical; in the practical parts of natural philosophy; the outlines of astronomy; English composition and history. He has also a general superintendence of the other departments of the institution. The English master has assigned to him all the usual elementary branches ; the commercial master, writing and arithmetic. The number of pupils instructed in each of these branches at the time referred to was as follows: Latin 17 English Grammar
. 200 Mathematics
7 Already the proportion of pupils under tuition in the higher branches exceeds what is common in the parish schools ; and there is reason to expect it will soon increase, looking to the various circumstances that favour and even seem to necessitate a more considerable development of the institution.
The institution will not fail to profit, in particular, from such advantages as these : -1. The uncommon care which the directors, and more especially his Grace the Duke of Richmond, exercise in overseeing its concerns, and attending to all its interests; and their desire, which amounts to an ambition, that it should be nothing less than the model school of the district. 2. The competency of the masters to advance it to that distinction; for in knowledge and ability they are equal to the task ; and they are men on whose best endeavours the directors deem that they
may safely rely, although, by the free constitution of the school, their recompense does not vary, in the usual way, according to the measure of their success. Even now the seminary, under such care and conduct, exhibits some points of excellence which promise highly for the future.
The first obvious appearance of good management is in the order, quiet, and attention maintained throughout the school. This is to be attributed mainly to the conduct of each master in his department; but, in part, also to the aid which he derives from the supervision of the rector, and from the employment of the pupil teachers, whose apprenticeship has been sanctioned by your Lordships; at the same time, the ample and spacious accommodation lends its usual facility to discipline.
In the commercial department arithmetic is well taught on the rational method; that is, with an intelligent and clear explanation of the principles. In the rector's, it is enough to say that one class has already attained to considerable proficiency in translating from English into Latin, and that the study of pure mathematics proceeds in a very promising manner. In the division for English reading, the exercises are such and so conducted as befits a school of the first class : the art of teaching to those who have been taught, but for nine months, becomes a secondary matter of attention; the real study is the narrative, description, discourse, or whatever it may be, that forms the subject of the reading lesson. _Etymology, writing to dictation, writing of abstracts and short essays in English composition (the latter taught by the rector), are, of course, not wanting here. The religious instruction, under charge of the rector and the English master, is conducted in the most skilful manner, embracing, as usual, the principles of religion and sacred history, as well as very special expositions of the moral truths contained in the precepts, promises, and parables of Scripture. The text books employed for this purpose are, as usual, the Bible and Shorter Catechism for all ; except for the Roman Catholic children, who do not choose to be instructed from the latter. In these and other respects, the Milne School, as yet only three years in operation, already exhibits a proficiency answerable to the great advantages it enjoys.
There can be no doubt that it belongs to schools of the rank to which this pertains, to exhibit a better method in their treatment of the elementary branches than is at all common in those elementary schools to which they may stand in the relation of a model or example. Without describing how these branches are taught in most elementary schools, it may be here noticed, in one or two instances, how it is desirable they should be taught. l. The religious instruction might be divided with advantage into its several distinct parts, embracing the sacred history of the Old Testament, with its five or six great epochs distinguished; New Testament history, Christian doctrine, Christian morals, with special reference to the Commandments and to the parables and discourses of the Saviour. For the most part, all of these things are mixed together, and none of them in consequence are so well taught as they otherwise might be. If, but on one of those sections, the instruction were given in a very thorough manner, the result would perhaps, in any point of view, be preferable to an imperfect and confused notion of the whole: though it cannot be said that of itself any one of these would be sufficient. 2. History, as taught in most elementary schools, is only the history of England or Scotland; whereas, that even this may have its due significance, it is necessary there should be, at the same time, a very general view of other history besides, both ancient and modern. This general view there are good reasons for presenting first of all. At the same time, it is a matter of some moment to regulate aright the measure of attention due respectively to general history and to the bistory of the native country. On this point, there are some indications of opinion in the historical questions which your Lordships have directed to be proposed to candidates for certificate of merit
In a course of history for elementary schools, it would argue no undue partiality, if as much time and attention were allowed to the history of the native country as to all the rest together. In like manner, the different parts of the subject claim more or less attention in an elementary course of Geography; and for much the same reason as in the case of history, the geography of the native country may and ought to be studied with the greatest degree of particularity. Next in the order of importance to the pupil is the quarter of the world to which the native country belongs; and all school books of geography declare the less interest in the other quarters by the less amount of information which they afford concerning them. Another portion of this study is the great globe itself in its most remarkable divisions of land and water : some general notions of which it is of manifest use to impart at the very threshold. It happens, however, in very many elementary schools that neither the proper order is observed in taking up these different portions of the subject, nor is that degree of attention bestowed which each of them respectively requires.
On these and other points of method the Milne School is fully competent to afford the best example; and on the whole it may be said to be even now in the course of fulfilling effectually all the purposes of the benevolent testator, and of profiting from the various advantages conferred upon it by the bequest and by the statute.
I have the honor to be, &c.,
JOAN GORDON To the Right Honorable the Lords of the
Committee of Council on Education.
Report on the Sessional Schools of Edinburgh, Glasgoro, Aberdeen, Dundee, and Perth. By the Rev. John GORDON.
Edinburgh, November, 1849. MY LORDS,
I have the honor to present to your Lordships my Report on a class of schools commonly called Sessional schools, and so called from their connection with Kirk Sessions. The number of these inspected by me, and now to be referred to, is 50. Other schools of the same description, and in like manner attached to the Established Church, exist in Scotland; their total number is supposed to be about 100. The schools which I have now to notice, occur in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, and Perth; the rest, whether in towns or elsewhere, are generally established in districts that have been formed into parishes, quoad sacra.
The schools of this class appear to have originated in views of two distinct kinds, which may be here noticed, as not without an influence still perceptible in determining the character of the schools to which they severally gave rise.
1. In the beginning of the year 1812, the Established Clergy of Edinburgh were induced, by some recent instances of startling depravity among the youth of the lower classes of that city, to inquire very closely into their moral condition. The