Education in Jersey - Part 1

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John Le Marquand

This article by John Le Marquand, a former president of the States Education Committee, was first published in the 1993 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

Elementary education 1870-1912

There can be little doubt that education in Jersey, today, is held in very high repute, both inside and outside the Island. This has not always been so, and it has been rewarding to look back over the years to record, from historical documents and living memories, how it has slowly evolved. To examine too, the religious, philosophical, political and professional elements that have fashioned it over three or four generations.

This review of Elementary Education begins in 1870 when the States formed the first Comité d’Education Elementaire.

As in England, prior to 1870 there were in the Island many church, private adventure, ‘dame’ and ‘ragged’ schools (for children whose parents could not afford fees). The church schools were built generally adjacent to a church, with the object of teaching 'reading, writing and arithmetic' and, of course, furthering church doctrine and providing leaders in the church community.

They often supplied a much needed social service in combatting crime caused by bored, ragged juveniles, particularly in Saint Helier, deprived of the shelter and adventure of a classroom.

Thirteen church schools were built between 1812 and 1863, 11 Church of England, one Roman Catholic and one Wesleyan.

This pioneering work by the churches over the centuries is deserving of acknowledgement and high praise, dependent as it was on private initiative, subscriptions, endowments and the generosity of many churchmen.

Apart from the churches, however, little interest was shown in the need to teach children of the poorer classes. History books are silent and there are no recorded accounts of political initiative or public clamour for any investment in elementary education.

We were, predominantly, a peasant community depending so much on family child labour at times of harvest, when absenteeism emptied the classrooms in the country schools. This must have been a factor in weakening the community sense of the need for schooling.

The House of Commons voted £20,000 for the promotion of elementary education and Jersey became a beneficiary. Subject to the fulfilment of codes of practice and recorded attainments of standards of 'efficiency' in the reports of His Majesty's school inspectors, submitted to the Privy Council, Jersey church schools received annual grants. It was the birth of a much criticised plan of 'payment by results'.

The part played by HM Inspectors in our elementary education has been vital. They were not only professional inspectors but, also, advisers of policy on which the States and Education Committees became totally reliant for progress in the classrooms. For the church schools, the independence of the professional Inspector was of paramount importance because they depended upon him for 'efficiency' awards upon which grants were allocated.

Inspectors and Privy Council grants

HM Inspectors' reports and Privy Council grants helped lay the foundation of elementary education in the Island. In 1816 the British Government set up a Select Committee to look into education of the poor in England and the churches in Jersey were invited to be involved in the survey. The outcome was the launching in 1833 of a national scheme.

St Joseph's Roman Catholic School

Insufficient schools

As in Jersey, the voluntary system in England failed to supply enough schools and, in 1870, Parliament passed a law which made it obligatory for local authorities in England and Wales to 'fill the gaps' with schools under the control of locally elected Boards. The Act of 1870 called for large capital investment and increased grants to private (church) schools. The English Act did not apply to Jersey and, consequently, Privy Council grants to our elementary schools ceased.

First Elementary Education Committee

This dramatic change jolted the 1871 Law on to the Jersey statute book. The first Comité d'Education Elémentaire was formed with the Bailiff as president, four Jurats, the Dean, two Rectors, three Constables and three Deputies.

In the preamble to the law the States considered that it would be wise to encourage elementary education in the Island generally but, particularly, for the children of the poorer classes. Under the law grants were to be made to those elementary schools that were subsidised previously by the British Treasury.

To have right to the annual grant, schools had to conform to new regulations whereby religious instruction was to be given at the beginning or end of each da, and children of any or no religious denomination had to be admitted.

Payment by results continued. Fees paid by the parents were restricted to ninepence per week and the maximum annual grant was fifteen shillings for each scholar. The costs involved were born equally by the States and the Administrators of the Impots. Regretably, the complete failure by the States to provide much needed new elementary schools, as had been done in England, belied the sentiments expressed in the preamble.

It is of interest that the English Government showed willingness to continue to inspect eElementary schools in the Island, but from this time forth the States would pay for the service and the schools subject to inspection had to fulfil the conditions laid down by the English Education Act of 1870.

Thus HM Inspectors remained very much in command of policy. There was no doubt that it was the expressed purpose of the States to continue in line with the principles of elementary education in force in England. This is perfectly understandable as the States had no Department of Education, nor yet, for a very long time, a Director of Education from whom to seek professional advice on matters of policy.

Compulsory education

Notwithstanding the fact that no new elementary schools had been built further legislation was enacted in 1894 which made Elementary Education compulsory for every child in the Island from five to twelve years of age. Exemption from attendance was granted if there was no school within two miles of the residence of children. The policy of educational fees continued, the Constables coming to the aid of those families in need. No power was retained under the 1894 law for the enforced provision of extra school accommodation.

St James's School, a Church of England school

States Grants

An attempt was made in 1887 to encourage the construction of schools by the parishes, by a States offer of fifty per cent towards the cost, but only St Saviour and St Martin responded to the scheme.

It was the report of HM Inspector at this time that spurred the States on to greater effort. It stated that a whole group of schools in the Island was below the standards required under the English Act of1870. There was no compulsory provision of new schools in Jersey and there was a serious deficiency in eleven of the twelve parishes.

Because of this lack of accommodation many private adventure schools had opened wherein the instruction was worthless. The States were informed that the British Government, having regard to the nature of the report, expressed grave doubts as to whether it was justified in permitting the visits of HM Inspectors to continue.

Nationalisation of elementary schools

The 1912 law on Primary Instruction was a further watershed in Jersey's educational history. It brought about the nationalisation of elementary education in the Island. The Projet de Loi sur l'Instruction Primaire was passed by the States on 5 August 1909, and, after three long years following petitions to His Majesty in Council, received Royal sanction on 16 December 1912.

This was the dramatic moment of complete 'take-over' by the States. Under the law, all parish schools automatically came under the supervision, administraion and manage¬ment of a newly formed committee of the States called the Comite d'Instruction Primaire composed of the Bailiff as president, four Jurats, the Dean, two Rectors, three Constables and three Deputies.

The operative date of the law was 1 February 1913, when the States entered into occupation of the 14 Parish schools. All private (curch) schools hitherto subsidized by the States and all those schools certified as being 'efficient' under the 1899 law that wished to come into the new States Education scheme had to make application one month from the date of promulgation of the law.

The terms of entry were undoubtedly tough and even draconian for Church foundation schools and the future of schools that failed to enter looked bleak indeed. From the operative date no States grants would be paid to elementary schools outside the scheme.

Managers of parish and church schools were dismissed and a Conseil Scolaire for each Parish was set-up in their place. This was composed of the Constable, five rate payers (seven in Saint Helier) elected every three years and one additional member from each church school in the parish. The responsibilities of the councils were very limited, no more than to check registers and watch over repairs of all schools distinguished by the new title of 'Public Elementary School'.

At long last, and again under the most serious censure from the Imperial Government, the law of 1899 was enacted under which the onus was put legally on the shoulders of each parish to provide the necessary schools, geographically placed, 'to fill the gaps' left by the voluntary system.

Half the cost of construction of these new parochial schools was to be paid for by the States. Parochial and church schools classified as 'efficient' were entitled to the amount declared payable by HM Inspectors, plus a States grant based on average attendances during the year and as an encouragement for the teaching of French.

Parish rate

These grants met only about fifty per cent of the total cost of running a school. A parish rate was introduced to meet the deficit on the parish elementary schools only.

Under the law an elected Conseil Paroissial was formed in each parish composed of the Constable, who was the president, the Rector and five rate payers. The councils were the managers of the new parish schools and they appointed and dismissed teachers, fixed their salaries and provided all the paraphernalia required.

They also appointed three school attendance officers whose duty it was to report monthly to the Conseil Paroissial in cases of contravention of the law on compulsory attendance. Parents and guardians were to see that children between the ages of five and 13 were receiving efficient instruction in 'reading, writing and arithmetic'.

Infringement was subject to fines of two shillings and sixpence, five shillings then ten shillings or, in default of payment, a maximum of 48 hours imprisonment. Children over eight years of age were permitted to take part in agricultural work for a maximum of six weeks in one year.

The law of 1899 was a masterpiece of legislation. Democratic, liberal and far sighted, its promulgation augured well for the future of all schools. It was almost a duplicate of the 1870 English Act and demonstrates how much the States depended on policy advice from HM inspectors. Nine parochial schools were built at this time at a total cost of £21,000.

The real devastating blow however, for the church foundation schools, was the power granted by the law to the Comite d'Instruction Primaire, to appoint and dismiss all teachers in public elementary schools. This was the rub that caused the law's three-year delay and formed the basis of the petitions to His Majesty by the Managers of Church of England and Roman Catholic schools, praying that the sanction of the law should be with¬held until such time as a full inquiry be made into the rights and claims of the petitioners.

St Anne's Roman Catholic School

Church of England petition

The petitioners were highly critical of the fact that the Projet de Loi sur l'Instruction Primaire was taken out of normal States session in its first, second and third readings. It was claimed, too, that the Projet de Loi (1909) was unfair in that more than half of the children in eementary schools were being educated in Church of England schools which had been inspected by HM Inspectors, were certified as efficient and were grant-aided by the States.

Moreover the property of the Church school was vested in the name of trustees who were bound by the terms of the trust to educate children of the poorer classes in accordance with the teaching of the church and by teachers of the Established Church.

Religious instruction

Religious instruction, whilst made compulsory in all public elementary schools, had to be limited to the reading and explanation of the Old and New Testaments and no catechism, formulary or ceremony distinctive of any religious denomination could be taught by teachers. But there was a right of entry to public elementary schools for ministers of the three main denominations, Church of England, Roman Catholic and Wesleyan, or by persons nominated by them, to give more extended religious instruction each morning between 9.15 and 9.45.

Roman Catholic petition

Substantially, the Roman Catholic petition expressed the same deep anxiety about the future of Elementary education under the terms of the projet. If their schools stayed out of the national scheme there would be no more grants-in-aid and great difficulty in obtaining qualified teachers because of the rules of the Board of Education on employment of College trained teachers in non-Government inspected schools.

To be deprived of the fundamental right to nominate teachers to their schools would mean that they would have inflicted on them teachers who might be alien to the faith of the children they would be called upon to teach.

Appeal to Winston Churchill

It must be of unfading interest that representatives of the Roman Catholic hierarchy were granted an interview in connection with their petition with Winston Churchill, who was Home Secretary at the time, on 8 March 1910. It is recorded that, whilst he did not profess to be conversant with all the details of the case, he expressed his desire to see that Catholics were not unfairly treated.

Archbishop of Canterbury

On 30 October 1909 the Bishop of Winchester had written hurriedly to the Attorney-General in Jersey seeking all possible information on the projet, arguments for and against, an English copy of the projet and the write-up in the press because the Archbishop of Canterbury was anxious to speak with him about it.

The Attorney-General, who had a seat on the Education Committee in the same capacity as he had in the House, that is with the right to speak but not to vote, gave his views at length in long hand.

The Attorney had spoken in the debate in the House and was not happy with some aspects of the projet. He gave it as his opinion that the injury to education resulting from the suppression of all managers of church schools would be devastating and, with regard to the Roman Catholics, the Bill appeared to him to be a carefully designed scheme to crush these schools out of existence - an injustice.

States lose patience

Prolonged correspondence ensued between the Bailiff of Jersey and the Privy Council and conferences were held between the Committee of Primary Instruction and managers of Roman Catholic schools, which included the Bishop of Portsmouth, on the overriding problem of the appointment of school teachers to Roman Catholic schools.

There can be little doubt that the members of the Privy Council realised the delicate issues involved in the problem. The Bailiff, the Civil Head of the Island, was president of the Committee of Primary Instruction and the membership included the Dean and two Rectors all on the side of the Established Church. There was, however, not a single representative of the Roman Catholic faith in the States.

It was made very clear, in letters to the Privy Council, that the patience of the States was running out. There appeared no solution to the problem of the appointment of teachers to church schools and this prevented the Privy Council from recommending His Majesty to give Royal Assent to the projet.

On 8 July 1912, a strongly worded letter was addressed to the Lords of the Council from the Bailiff of Jersey, informing them that, unless the States were favoured with some definite and favourable information regarding the assent to the Education Bill, "the States of Jersey will insist upon exercising their constitutional right to be heard by means either of their representatives or by counsel”.

The reply from Whitehall that arrangements were in hand to receive a States delegation was immediately forthcoming (here it must be assumed that the Roman Catholics' meeting with Winston Churchill was bearing fruit). The Bailiff was informed that a delegation of representatives from Roman Catholic schools in Jersey would be invited also.

Grouville Parish School, built in 1855

Historic conference

The historic conference held by the Lords of the Committee of Council for the Affairs of Jersey and Guernsey, in regard to the Jersey Primary Education Bill, took place on Thursday, 14 November 1912. Viscount Morley presided and, significantly demonstrating the importance attached to the conference, Mr J A Pease, President of the Board of Education, was present. The Representatives of the States were led by the Bailiff, Sir William Venables Vernon and those of the Roman Catholic community by the Right Reverend, the Bishop of Portsmouth.

The Bailiff expressed the deep anxiety of the States to find a solution to the one outstanding problem, that of the appointment of teachers to church schools under the new law on Primary Instruction.

To meet the wishes of the Privy Council the States had very reluctantly established a Conseil Scolaire upon which transferred church schools would have representatives. He insisted on maintaining the prerogative of the Primary Education Committee to nominate and dismiss teachers to all public elementary schools.

One suggestion, coming from the Bailiff at a time when the Roman Catholic delegation had withdrawn from the conference table, found favour with their Lordships. Sir William Vernon stated that one solution which commended itself to the States delegation was that, at a time when the Education Committee appointed a teacher to a 'transferred church school', the name would be submitted to the Conseille Scolaire.

Finally it would be left to the parents of the children to decide whether they agreed to the appointment. This could not be on religious grounds, as it was one of the essential clauses that there should be no religious tests for teachers. On the return of the Catholic delegation to conference, the Lord President explained the new proposals and the Bishop of Portsmouth stated very clearly and precisely that they were always willing to accept the decision of the majority of parents. So the Projet de Loi was amended and the Law of 1912 received Royal Sanction.

1902 English Education Act

It is clear that the 1902 English Education Act, like so many others, encouraged HM Inspectors to advise the States to adopt the policy of centralised control of elementary education in the Island. But the conditions and circumstances were in many respects different from that of England. There were, for example, proportionately many more Roman Catholic schools in the Island than there were in England when the 1912 law was framed. These schools, generally, were for French speaking children.

As in the English Act, the States, under the 1909 Projet, undertook to meet all the costs of secular education. However, there were fundamental differences in the two laws affecting church schools. In England, a new system of decentralisation was introduced, whereby the management of church schools would be composed of four managers appointed by the trustees and two by the Local Education Authority. In council schools six members were appointed to management by the authority.

Moreover, and this is the great divide, the managers of church schools in England appointed teachers, subject to the agreement of the local authority. They could dismiss teachers, too, without the consent of the authority, but only on the grounds of inefficiency in the teaching of religious instruction. Generally the act was considered a step forward and gave a great element of assurance that church schools would retain their characteristics.

In contrast, under the 1912 law, the Comite d'Instruction Primaire appointed and dismissed all teachers in public elementary schools. If the appointment was to a church school the matter had to be referred to the Conseil Scolaire.

If the representative of the church school objected to the nomination, on substantial grounds, an enquiry had to be held and, if the majority of the heads of families of the children at the school also objected, the Committee would proceed to make another nomination. It was a very cumbersome and asinine addendum to the law. It never would have worked and, apparently, was never tested in any church school. It is still the law of the land.

On 1 February 1913, the day when the Law came into operation, 14 parish schools automatically came under direct control of the Education Committee and 13 church schools, which had been in receipt of a States grant prior to the 1912 Law, applied for admission to the new education scheme.

St Mary's School
Parish schools
  • La Motte Street
  • Brighton Road
  • First Tower
  • Saint Lawrence
  • Beaumont
  • La Moye
  • Les Landes
  • Saint Mary
  • SaintJohn
  • Saint Martin
  • Saint Saviour
  • Saint Clement
  • Grouville
  • Trinity

Church of England Schools

  • Halkett Place
  • Saint Mark
  • Saint James
  • Saint Paul
  • Saint Matthew
  • Saint Peter
  • Saint Ouen
  • Saint Luke
  • Gorey Hilgrove
  • Gorey Station
  • Saint Brelade
Brighton Road School, a parish run school

Other denominations

  • Saint Ouen (Wesleyan)
  • Vauxhall (Roman Catholic)

The following ten Roman Catholic schools which were termed 'efficient' under the 1899 Law also applied to be taken over. These schools were built for French-speaking children in the second half of the 19th century and accommodated some 900 pupils.

  • Val Plaisant (girls)
  • Val Plaisant (boys)
  • Saint Matthew (Saint Mary South for Girls)
  • Saint Matthew (Coin Varin for Boys)
  • Saint Aubin
  • Saint Ouen (Grantez)
  • Saint Martin (Saint Martin Queruee)
  • Grouville (Saint Joseph and Grouville Arsenal)
  • Saint John (Hautes Croix).

Teighmore a school run in association with Doctor Barnado's Home also came under the scheme.

The compulsory school age was from six to fourteen.

Praise and problems

The parish schools gave a new lease of life to elementary education. Purpose-built, solid granite buildings all provided an environment conducive to better teaching and easier learning. Very quickly there emerged, as green shoots of optimism, in town and country alike, parental backing of the new schools.

In 1913 the Inspector reported to the States that the schools which had come under the direct management of the Comite d'Instruction Primaire had accomplished the readjustments most successfully and, in many important ways, the conditions under which the schools were working had been much improved.

In 1914 the HMI report states that the changes brought about by the 1912 law were showing their full effect and were found to have resulted in greater efficiency and harmonious working. Again for the year ending October 1915, HMI. described education as being on trial since the outbreak of war.

As part of the permanent state of emergency the States had made education purely voluntary for all children above Standard II. The new belief in the value of schooling by parents Island-wide was demonstrated dramatically by the attendance figures in the Education Committee's report to the States. The total registration of pupils in 1914 was 5,797 and in 1915 it had dropped by only 193. Even more encouraging, the average attendance in Public Elementary schools had shown an increase in 1916 over 1915.

Praise and encouragement continued to come from Whitehall in these troubled times. Despite the call-up of male teachers to the colours, schools were tackling their job with increased vigour and confidence, because of the States' progressive policy of increasing the numbers of qualified staff since the nationalisation of elementary education. At the end of 1916 the proportion of trained certificated teachers to the total staff had almost doubled.

As the Island faced up to the years of peace there would be many vexing and urgent problems in education calling for courage, determination and vision. A review of school accommodation in Saint Helier made very sombre reading. Half the population lived in Saint Helier and there was drastic overcrowding in many of the small and totally inadequate buildings. Saint Paul's and Saint James's schools were two examples of overcrowding.

At Saint James the whole of the girls' school was taught in one room, 57 feet by 18 feet. This one room contained five classes with a total of 100 to 120 of some of the poorest children in the town.

Above all there would be the need for secondary education for all children and for adequate teacher training facilities if the Island was to keep abreast of modern developments.

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