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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 41

The Industrial Schools

The Industrial Schools.

The first article of my instructions was thus worded:—"You

The enquiry entrusted to me has embraced industrial schools.

will enquire into the propriety of using the industrial schools as the training schools of the colony, so as to utilize the labours of the trainees, which are paid for by the State. Whether technical pursuits should be established in these schools with workshops attached, as at Chester, so that boys could learn some trade that would enable them to earn their future livelihood; and whether the girls should be taught domestic economy, as at Warrington;* and generally to advise whether, in your opinion, the trainees should be under better discipline, and if they would be likely to take an interest in the future career of those they have had under their charge."

A reply to these questions must be preceded by a short review of the actual condition of our industrial schools.

There are at present three industrial schools altogether supported


by the State, and two that are subsidized. Coburg is properly a reformatory as well as an industrial school. None enter in but children who have been convicted before a magistrate of some offence, such as larceny. The male side contained, when I last visited it, about 200 boys; who are supposed to do the ordinary work of a State school up to the fourth class, and who are taught tailoring and bootmaking. The female side contained about 35 girls. The class-teaching on the male side was some of the worst I have seen in any school of the colony; but I could not blame the master, who was heavily over-tasked, having no assistance except from monitors. I understood that this arrangement was temporary, during Mr. Duncan's absence from the colony, and I sincerely trust it has been changed. On the girls' side the teaching seemed very good; but here the classes were small, and the regular teacher's place was supplied during her absence by a very capable assistant.
Sunbury is properly an orphanage and truant school combined.


Children who have lost their parents are committed to it by a magistrate's order, no less than children who are troublesome to their parents, or who are charged with vagrancy by the police.

* I have not succeeded in obtaining particulars from England about the Chester and Warrington schools. But it will be seen that arguments, which appear to me irresistible, have induced me to recommend that our present schools be abolished, and the children transferred to reformatories, orphanages, or in some rare cases to day industrial schools.

page 154 The children, as at Coburg, are nominally trained up to the standard, but the teaching, which I have tested by reading over many of the examination papers, gives very meagre results. The causes for this seem to be, that the supply of teachers is inadequate; that a few boys of bad character affect the tone of the school unfavourably; and that the authorities are not very careful whether the standard is reached before they apprentice the boys out. The boys at Sunbury learn farm-work, baking, tailoring, and bootmaking. The situation is bleak; the land badly watered and infested with wire-worm; and the results of the farming are of course not very great. There were about 400 boys at Sunbury when I visited it. Their health seemed to be good.

Royal Park.

The Royal Park establishment has two sides. A large building contains about 200 girls, recruited in the same way as the inmates from Sunbury. These girls appear to suffer from eye-disease* and skin-disease to a degree that calls for searching investigation. Here, again, I have to report that they are placed out before they have properly reached the standard; and the inspector of last year tells me that he found an entire absence of moral tone on the subject of copying. The girls learn housework of all kinds and the use of sewing-machines.

At a short distance from the main building is a small farmhouse, with out-buildings and a few acres of farm. Boys drafted from Sunbury are sent here for various terms, apparently while situations are being found for them. The land is excellent farming land, but the farmer in charge is not left sufficiently to himself to work it profitably, and the boys under his charge are for the most part shifted so rapidly that they can learn little. Having been present at the inspector's examination I can testify that those who were there in November last were, with one exception, very badly taught. One of the mistresses in the school has helped some of them in the evening, but no regular provision is made at Royal Park for their instruction.

The teaching at the industrial schools bad.

Reviewing these facts, I may say that the teaching given at the industrial schools is, without exception, inadequate and bad. No doubt the children are sometimes difficult subjects. Coming, it maybe, from vicious families, or having been neglected when they were young, some of them are perhaps stupid beyond the average of ordinary State school children. Again, life within a strictly policed establishment and its grounds is not favourable to the development of any but a mischievous sharpness. Even at an orphanage it is found that the children are thrown back by their enforced seclusion from the world. On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that many of the children are simply orphans, the children of respectable parents, and who were well trained till the State cared for them. Again, in an industrial school there is no playing truant, and this enormous advantage of regular attendance in early life ought to counterbalance the disad-

* Two or three of the inmates ought to be sent to a blind asylum.

The Royal Park school must be excepted, as the attendance there is very irregular from the sickliness of the inmates.

page 155 vantages of a slow intellect or a backward education. The children ought to be rather better than average State scholars instead of decidedly worse.
The first cause of these deficiencies seems to me to lie in the

Defective classification of the industrial schools.

imperfect classification of the children. At Coburg girls who have been sentenced for petty larceny are put to associate with girls who have been taken from Chinese brothels. At Sunbury the orphan children of respectable parents are mixed up with street vagabonds, or with boys who have learned anything but good on the Nelson. The practice of these establishments is to discourage all publicity. At Sunbury the head master was lately reprimanded for mentioning in his report that he was not adequately supplied with school furniture. Not long ago some of the boys there tried to set fire to a ward. They were sent to Coburg, but the matter was hushed up, and excited no attention. Now I need scarcely say that, when the moral tone of a school is bad, the teaching is not likely to be satisfactory.
In the next place, these institutions generally have less than

Insufficient staff of teachers.

the proper staff of teachers. I forbear to press this charge, as the deficiency may have been due only to Mr. Duncan's temporary absence.
But the fatal fault of all has been that the authorities have

The children are taught too little and work under disadvantages.

aimed at reducing the instruction given to the minimum allowed by law. In the higher classes, for instance, the children only attend half a day. The idea is that they are to do manual work during the greater part of the day, and so fit themselves for a situation when they leave school. Practically the result of this method has not been encouraging. The value of the work done by the children is small; and I am informed that they learn nothing but the rougher kinds of farm-work adequately. It stands to reason that it should be so. Boys and girls, as a rule, require constant supervision; and their labour can only be made profitable when there is a fair proportion of overseers. The best mechanics and artisans are not easily induced to become instructors in industrial schools. But, above all, the children work under a constant sense of discouragement. They know that, when they leave school, and are placed out by the department, they will get little or no value for their labour during the first three years. A boy who knows the value of work is well aware that sixpence or a shilling a week, in addition of course to board, lodging, and clothes, does not represent what he could earn if he were free to make contracts for himself. Hence the industrial school system appears to combine every conceivable defect. It teaches badly, it supervises badly, and it offers no inducement to work.
Some of these defects might, of course, easily be cured. A

The fault lies in the system even more than its details.

regulation in the spirit of the present Act, which should forbid the officials to assign children as servants to themselves, and which should direct them to give preference to the best situations offered and not to priority of application, would strike at the root of much that is most vicious. But it is monstrous that the State should be burdened with such a charge as it has at present; and some method of reducing the cost is imperatively page 156 demanded. If we are right in telling parents that they must educate their children before they can profit by their labour, we ought to deal in the same manner with those who are thrown upon the State's fatherhood. Our industrial schools must reproduce family life, instead of being appendages to the gaol.

Good and bad children should be kept separate.

I assume as preliminary conditions to all improvement that some method for drafting the children consigned to an industrial school must be devised. There should be some depôt in which they are watched for two or three weeks, until their characters are known. Vicious boys and girls should then be sent to a reformatory (under an improved system of management), unless an orphanage will take charge of them, as it will in some cases.

Young children should be boarded out.

With young children there is no difficulty. They can be boarded out on fairly economical terms with families who will adopt them as children, and where their treatment will be watched by boards of visitors. This system has been found to answer so well that the Protestant Orphanage (of Brighton) is adopting it very extensively. The elder children are more difficult to board out. Families do not care, in many instances, to take charge of any but young children, whom they may treat as their own, and who will grow up as part of themselves. Happily two of our public charities will help us in most cases.

The Abbotsford Industrial School.

The Lady Superior of the Convent of the Good Shepherd, Abbotsford, informs me that she is willing to take charge of as many girls as the State will send her at 6s. a week, and to provide any new buildings that may be required for their accommodation. Having paid two visits to this institution and been present at the inspector's examination, I can cordially recommend it as possessing nearly all the merits which our Government schools unfortunately want. The children are drafted when they enter, and those with bad habits separated, till they are quite reclaimed, from the others. Good conduct entitles them, after probation, to rise into the higher ranks. In this way there is a constant incentive to reformation. Independent observers (Protestants) have told me that children educated at Abbotsford contrast very favourably by their fearless open manner with the nurselings of our industrial schools. The inspector remarked to me at an examination where I was present, that there were no attempts to copy here as at the Royal Park. As regards comfort and health, the rooms are sufficiently though simply furnished; the dietary is excellent; and the general health of the inmates very good. There are two weak points at present in the institution: the hospital is too small and ought to be considerably enlarged to provide for emergencies; and, the teaching, though just sufficient to bring the pupils up to the standard, is faulty in many respects. The teachers have not been properly trained, and show the want of a good method in their work, doing what they do by the aid of longer school-hours than are customary at State schools, and, as the inspector pointed out to me, by their splendid enthusiasm. They have, I believe, a trained teacher among them, but they evidently require to study the system taught at the Government Training College page 157 more thoroughly if they would save themselves and their pupils trouble and time. Still, with all shortcomings, the Abbotsford institution is so good that it will be a happy day for the Catholic girls at the Royal Park if the State transfers them en masse to Abbotsford.* The saving to the State will be about 25 per cent, of its present expenditure.
I may speak with equal, though with different, praise of the

The Brighton Orphanage.

Protestant Orphanage, now moved from Emerald Hill to Brighton. Here, education has been a strong, not a weak, point. The children had the advantage at Emerald Hill of attending one of our best State schools, where the last head master—Mr. William Edwards—died literally of over-work, and where his successor carries on his work with scarcely inferior success. It has also been of use to the orphans, I think, that they mixed with other children in this school, and it allows me to say that they can hold their own evenly against the competition of average town children. I have not seen the Brighton home, but the building at Emerald Hill was an excellent one, and kept with scrupulous cleanliness. A pleasing feature of it was a library for the use of the children. The system which the managers of the Protestant Orphanage are at present adopting is to board out the children as fast as it can be done, and the Brighton building is therefore looked upon only as a depot. I believe this policy to be a wise one. The weak point of a Protestant institution of this kind is that it is unavoidably short-handed, as it lacks the unbought services which the members of Catholic sisterhoods give to the poor. The teaching, the discipline, and the organization may be (as I believe they are) excellent, but nothing can supply the want of mothers, when it is a question of personal influence. Therefore it seems better that private homes should be found, where this is possible, for the orphans, and family life substituted for life in a public institution. The State need not, I think, object to this policy. I am told, unofficially, but from a source that is almost official, that the Brighton Orphanage would undertake the charge of all our Protestant children at 6s. a week. Here again the State would gain largely by transferring its charge, and the children would most assuredly not lose.
There remain the Catholic boys to be provided for, and, unhappily,

Catholic boys.

there is at present no Catholic orphanage to which these can be sent. I can only suggest that the same organization which must be employed to draft the children at the depot, and to distribute them between reformatories and orphanages, should be used to place the Catholic boys out in families of their own faith. It has occurred to me that Catholic schoolmasters might, in many cases, be willing to receive them, and that none could be better fitted to care for them. I am encouraged to hope that Catholic charity may found an orphanage for these poor boys,

* Or to St. Joseph's, Geelong, which I believe may be spoken of quite as highly as the Convent of the Good Shepherd, but which only receives from 25 to 30 inmates, where Abbotsford takes in about 200. However, the Lady Superior of St. Joseph's informs me that, if encouraged to do so, she could easily provide accommodation for 60 or 70. It should be understood that, under the new arrangement, the convents should be freed from the obligation to spend 2s. 6d. a week additional on each child. So long as State inspectors ascertain by repeated visits that the children are well fed, clothed, and taught, the convents may be allowed to secure their results as they can.

See, however, p. 160, note, for a certain off set to this economy.

page 158 if it receives some positive assurance that the institution will be treated by Government in the same way that I have proposed should be done with Brighton and St. Mary's.

Value of the children's labour very small.

It will be seen that the plan I suggest renounces all idea of directly reimbursing the State by the proceeds of the children's labour. On this point I would say that the present returns are, unintentionally no doubt, very deceptive. For instance, the industrial schools are credited with the value of vegetables and fruit raised at Sunbury and Royal Park, and consumed by the inmates, but they are not debited with any rent for the land, and no estimate is given of the cost at which these trifling results are obtained. Were the salaries of instructors, the rent of laud, and the transport of Royal Park produce to Sunbury; put against the proceeds of labour, the profit to the State would appear, as it is, infinitesimal. Meanwhile the education of the children is thrown back, that they may spend three or four, instead of two, hours a day in the attempt to repay the State its charges.

No doubt a better system than that of industrial schools might easily be devised. Yet even Mettray,* where the methods employed were tenderness and an appeal to the sense of honour, and where the success achieved was very great, has been dependent for its support on voluntary contributions. The reasons M. Cochin assigns for this apply to all reformatories, that masses of young children separated from their families require numerous teachers, not only to direct their work but to maintain discipline and to form character, and that the children are necessarily placed out just as their labour begins to become profitable. Were the children whom the State takes charge of properly separated, so that those tainted with crime were not left to influence the innocent, the charge of supervision might no doubt be reduced. But an orphanage, conducted with the smallest possible staff, would then suffer from the objection that its inmates did not fall under any strong personal influence.

The State must renounce the idea of profit.

To myself it seems that the State cannot dispense with applying the principles of the compulsory Act to itself. It tells parents that they must first educate their children and set them to work afterwards. It must do this with its own orphans. If the plan I have suggested be followed the children will all be boarded out, except the Catholic girls sent to Abbotsford, and perhaps a few older children for whom it may be difficult for a time to find homes. Those who are boarded out, and those sent to Abbotsford, will alike fall under the provisions of the compulsory Act. Dealing thus with these, the State will be bound to deal similarly with the Catholic boys who may be left on its hands, should it decide to keep them together instead of distributing them among Catholic families. Only I would say that I do not wish it to be supposed that the children kept or boarded out are to do no manual work. By all means let them be made useful about the house or the farm where they live, as the children of their foster-parents are. I would back children who have spent three years

* Cochin's Notice sur Mettray, pp. 40, 41.

page 159 in the country, under this system, for real usefulness against any èléves of Sunbury. The essentials I contend for are, that the State is to look first to their bringing up, and is to expect no profit from their work except that which will come indirectly but certainly, as they are boarded out at lower rates than would be charged if they were a mere burden on a family.
When the children reach the age of 12 they ought to have

Children brought up It the cost of the State should not be given back to their parents.

passed the standards, and the question will then arise, what is to be done with them? Let me first say, that under no circumstances ought they, I think, to be given back, as they sometimes! now are, to the parents or relatives who have quietly looked on while the State was supporting them, until these have defrayed the whole charges of State maintenance.* It is intolerable that, as sometimes happens, a man able to support his child should hand it over to the State because it is refractory, or because he finds that he can spend his wages more pleasantly than in feeding and clothing it, and should yet be allowed to intercept the profits of the child's labour when it becomes self-supporting. I believe this abuse only needs to be stated to be abolished. I assume then that the child who has passed the standards will remain under State guardianship in the hands of the orphanages. Hitherto the Brighton Orphanage has received a fee of £5 for every orphan it has placed out, and has funded a portion of the small wages that were paid for the benefit of the child at 15. The industrial schools have followed the same system, except that, while they obtain rather smaller wages for their protégés, they receive no fee on putting them out. Practically, I believe, a child licensed from Sunbury or Royal Park has been given to its employer for board and lodging, and the trifle funded during the first year; as the clothes it takes with it are sufficient to last twelve months, and the pocket-money is very often not paid. It is certain that employers frequently regard themselves as armed with excessive power over the children—keep back their wages, beat them, withhold proper food, and over-work them. There is no real security against these abuses. The police are ordered not to interfere if they can avoid it; the clergy have declined to report on licensed children in their districts, and the visiting committees of ladies are apt to neglect their work, and when they perform it to question the employers instead of the children, or the children in presence of the employers. The late acting superintendent, Mr. Neal, informed me that he did not think the fact of an employer having thrashed a boy ten or twelve times in a year any reason why that employer should not have children assigned to him. The children licensed out under the present system are therefore dissatisfied with their condition, are apt to work languidly, and

* One of the most awful eases that has ever come under my notice has been that of ft child, given away to a merciful foster-parent while it was quite young by its mother, and enticed back by her when it was old enough for a Chinese brothel.

Mr. Duncan on the other hand says, "The rule should be not to board out the children of parents living in the colony and known to be of good character although impoverished in circumstances."—Report for 1875, p. 4. Unless "impoverished" means "disabled from work," I should like to substitute a rule not to receive any such children into the schools.

An orphan child of 13 put out to service from St. Joseph's, Geelong, earns £12 the first year. A girl of the same age put out to service from the State industrial schools gets its clothes and £1 6s. the first year. In the first case the employer contributes £1 to the outfit; in the second the whole charge falls upon the State.

page 160 often abscond, although they know that the police will be instantly put on their track. If the system were expressly designed to train liars and malingerers, it could hardly have been better framed.

Foster-parents to nave the first claim to the children's labour.

Much will have been done to cure all this, when the orphans and neglected children are treated as such simply, and not as criminals under police surveillance. We cannot give complete liberty to boys and girls under 15, but we may make the restraints upon them gentle and honourable. Assuming them to be all boarded out, I think their foster-parents should have the first claim to their labour under the present condition of feeding and clothing them, allowing them a trifle as pocket-money, and funding a fair sum yearly, which they may be paid later on, with the orphanage. The orphanage has, I admit, a perfect right to recoup itself part of its expenses by the fee of £5 which the Brighton Orphanage now charges. Such a payment may act beneficially, by giving the employer an interest in attaching the child licensed to him to his service. But it is a question, I think, whether it would not be altogether better for this sum also to be kept in reserve, and added to the wage fund that accumulates year by year for the licensed child in cases where the child's conduct has been thoroughly satisfactory. On the other hand, if the child has left its place now and again, coming to reside in the orphanage at intervals, the expenses of such residence, which cannot be forbidden to homeless children, might fairly be defrayed out of the apprenticeship fee. My object in recommending that this sum should be renounced in cases of good conduct is that I know children who have once entered service soon learn to scrutinize their wages jealously, and are discontented with deductions, however justified. The great point to the State is, not that it or the orphanage should receive £5 head money, but that children reared under difficulties should be made efficient workmen by every possible incentive.

Possible use of day industrial schools.

Should the day industrial schools whose foundation I have suggested be established, I would recommend that the head teacher in each be required to receive a few inmates from among the children who are not good enough for an orphanage and who yet seem too good for Coburg. Half a dozen schools with as many boarders a-piece would pretty well dispose of this class.

Diminished expenditure under the proposed system.

I have reckoned the saving by the adoption of the system I recommend at 25 per cent, on present expenditure.* But this

* I base this on the returns of 1876, 1875, and 1874 for all the schools in which the whole expense was defrayed by the State. I omit the Nelson, because wages were there charged to another fund; Sandhurst for the same reason; and the convent schools of Abbotsford and Geelong, because the children were boarded out in these by a contract very favorable to the State, and not quite fair to the convents. I do not allow for maintenance money (the money obtained from parents), as that will apply to any system indifferently. In other respects taking the department's own figures, I find that the cost of a child at the industrial schools averaged, in 1876, £20 1s. 11½d.; in 1875, £20 15s. 03/8d.; and in 1874, £21 10s. 117/8d., or roughly about £20 16s. a year. Even this is an under-estimate, as I have shown; rent for buildings and land, and the first cost of farm stock, not being allowed for. The cost of 600 children, at £20 16s. a year, is £12,480. Boarded out in convents and orphanages, at 6s a week, it would be £9,360, and the State would thus save 25 per cent. But as the rate of payment on children already boarded out would have to be increased from 5s. to 6s., there would be a loss of from £400 to £500 a year on this item. In the last returns printed, the number of children in State industrial schools was nearly 800, but it is now smaller; and I have allowed a margin for the case of vicious children whom a Protestant orphanage would not receive. The Catholic schools, from their larger number of instructors, and from the system of drafting, are not fettered in this way; and two girls taken from a Chinese camp were actually sent to St. Joseph's, at Geelong! It is a curious commentary on the present system. Of course, Coburg or a Magdalen asylum would be the proper place for children of this kind.

A return presented to Parliament on 5th March 1878 shows that the cost of buildings has been £136,000. At five per cent, this represents nearly £7,000 a year, which ought to be added to the official estimate of £28,724.

page 161 only represents the saving on the maintenance and care of the children, who will he placed out at 6s. a week instead of being supported at 8s. There will be further economies. The buildings and grounds at Sunbury will be vacated, and may be turned to some other use, though the position is unfortunate. But the greatest gain will be that commitments will, I am certain, become rarer when there are no longer large buildings to fill, and children will be less in request, when there is no longer a large staff requiring occupation. It is monstrous that a young boy, entitled to more than £400, and the child of respectable parents, should have been committed by a magistrate's order to an industrial school, which is practically a penal establishment. Yet not only has this happened, but it took four months of constant applications to a Minister whose kindness was never wearied that this child might be handed over to the care of a gentleman who was willing to adopt him, and the property vested in the hands of two most respectable trustees. With not much more than a thirtieth the population of England, and with more even conditions of national well-being, we have about one-tenth the English number of children in industrial and reformatory schools—that is, three times as many as we should have by English proportions. This indeed seems to me very like communism.
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