[From Education Week,1926]
R.B. MOORE, Esq.,
H.M. Attorney General, Isle of Man.
The history of education in the Isle of Man prior to the Education Act, 1872, is largely a record of the magnificent efforts made from time to time by successive Bishops in whom the Island was greatly blessed. Prior to 1675 there were no schools or educational institutions. Such education as the children received was given by the clergy as part of their normal duty, and was of a very limited and precarious kind. With the coming, however, of Bishop Barrow a new era began. After greatly improving the position of the clergy he turned his attention to the much neglected education, and established a school in every parish, and obtained. from King Charles II a Royal Bounty of £100 a year for the improvement of the Ministry and the instruction of youth, such annuity to be allowed to six petty schools and to the incumbents of 11 parishes. Eleven years previously, Bishop Barrow had induced Charles, Earl of Derby, to grant certain impropriate tithes for the benefit of the ministers, and for the establishment of a free school in the Isle of Man. The free school was established at Castletown. His next step was to purchase the estates of Ballagilley and Hango Hill near Castletown as an endowment for a still higher form of education, with the ultimate idea of founding a University in the Isle of Man. By these great efforts, the good Bishop designed a complete ladder from the little parish school to the University. In the year 1672 his educational efforts were greatly assisted by an Order he induced the Earl Charles to make, establishing, in effect, compulsory education . "All farmers and tenants in my Isle of Mann of what degree or quality soever doe and shall send their oldest sonnes and all other their children to such pettie schools as soone as they are capable wherein if any doe fail or be remiss they shall not onely be fined severely, but their children made uncapable of bearing any office or place of trust."
Bishop Barrows work was ably carried on by the saintly Bishop Wilson. He was instrumental in developing the school at Castletown, and establishing a Grammar School at Douglas, and was enabled, through large endowments received from Lady Elizabeth Hastings, to relieve the clergy of their teaching duties, and to appoint masters and mistresses to take charge of the schools. These teachers were licensed by the Bishop "to instruct the children in learning and good manners, to be diligent in teaching them the Church catechism and their prayers , and to bring them up in the fear of God". By the Ecclesiastical Ordinances of 1703, it was provided that "for the promoting of religion, learning, and good manners, all persons shall be obliged to send their children as soon as they are capable of receiving instruction, to some petty School, and to continue them there until the said children can read English distinctly, unless the parents give a just cause to excuse themselves, approved of by the Ordinary in open Court ; and that such persons who shall neglect sending their children to be so taught shall (upon a Presentment made thereof by the Minister, Churchwardens, or Chapter Quest) be fined in one shilling and Quarter to the use of the Schoolmaster, who may refuse to teach those children who do not come constantly to school (unless for such causes as shall be approved of by the minister of the parish) and their parents shall be fined as if they did altogether refuse to send them to school."
It is interesting to compare the salaries paid to teachers with the present Burnham Scale. Masters were paid a salary of about £4, with an addition of 6d per quarter from the parent of every child who should be taught to read English, and 9d. per quarter for those who could both read and write. Poor children were, however, taught gratis. This scale remained in operation until 1813, when the fees were increased to 2s. lid. for each child who could read, and 3s. 6d. for each child who could read and write, and so it remained until 1872.
During this period education was assisted by various endowments, mostly from Manx persons who had left the Island. Under the Christian endowment the Clothworkers School, Peel, was founded, and from other sources the Peel Mathematical and Grammar Schools. A Grammar School was also established in Ramsey, and in 1833 the Bishop Barrow Trust found expression in that excellent institution, King Williams College. This College was destroyed by fire in 1844, and again owing to the efforts of the holder of the See, Bishop Short, the College was speedily rebuilt.
Elementary Education was much improved with the assistance of the National Society, and a Lancastrian School was established in Athol Street, Douglas. But in spite of all that had been done the general standard of education throughout the Island was lamentably low. The pittance paid to the schoolmasters of the petty schools was insufficient to provide for their maintenance, and instead of qualified teachers being employed, the duties were discharged by maimed soldiers, tailors, or any person with sufficient knowledge to distinguish a round 0 from a crooked S and to wield a strong stick. Readers of Tom Browns "Tommy Big Eyes" will be familiar with his description of the school at the Lhen, and of the master who made many a pair of breeches during school hours and taught all he knew from memory, being unable to tell when a book was right side up and when it was wrong.
Into this condition of complete inefficiency the Education Act of 1872 came, establishing for the first time a system of national education, and placing a large share of its cost on the revenue of the Island. The Act followed in the main the English Education Act of 1870, the charter of modern education , but in three respects Tynwald had the courage to go in advance of the English Act. In the first place School Boards were established in every town and parish. In England a Board was only constituted in the districts where education was deficient, and not for many years after the Act was passed were School Boards established throughout England.
In the second place the Manx Act made attendance at School compulsory, in this respect continuing the order of Earl Charles, in 1672. The duty of enforcing the attendance was not given to the School Boards in England until 1876.
In the third place the Manx Act provided that every elementary school, except those in connection with the Church of Rome, must provide non-sectarian instruction in religious subjects, and for the reading of the Bible with suitable explanations. In the English Act religious instruction in Board Schools was optional, and earned for those schools the description by their enemies as "Godless".
These differences made the transfer of the parochial schools to the School Boards an easy and agreeable matter, and in the course of the intervening years all the old parochial schools were handed over to the School Boards, and the religious controversies which had done so much to hinder the work of education in England have been practically unknown in this Island.
The next step was the Education Act of 1892, which established free education in provided schools, the last remnant of school fees in elementary schools being abolished by the Act of 1920. In 1893 the Education Acts were consolidated and amended, and owing to the foresight and guidance of Sir Spencer Walpole, the then Governor, the provisions were drawn so widely as to enable evening classes and higher education schools to be established in due course without the necessity of further legislation. The first Higher Education School was established in Douglas in 1894, and developed into the present Douglas Secondary School. It was inevitable, though in some senses regrettable, that the nationalisation of education should seal the fate of the various grammar schools throughout the Island, but they had served their day, and with the limited means at their disposal had done good work, but they could not compete with the organisations established by public authority.
The last step in the history of Manx Education was the passing of the Education Act, 1920, resulting in the abolition of the 21 School Boards throughout the Island, and the four Higher Education Boards, and the substitution in their place of one I.O.M. Education Authority. This Act also saved the remaining voluntary schools from destruction by allowing them substantial additional grants, and introducing into their management representatives of the Authority.
The work of the Education Authority in administering the Act of 1920 is the subject of another article, and our record must end here. Suffice it to say that the Isle of Man has for nearly 400 years been blessed with the guidance of great and good men, who, by their efforts and personal sacrifices, have kept alive the flame of education, and helped to spread it among the community, not neglecting even the very poor, and that when England was prepared 50 years ago to make a great forward effort the Isle of Man had in its Legislature a Governor of wisdom and foresight and a Parliament that did not fail to take a most courageous stand. Nor were there wanting throughout the Island men of public spirit, who under the leadership of the late Attorney-General, Mr. G. A. Ring,. brought the education of this Island up to a standard that compared favourably with the best education given in the other parts of the British Isles.
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 1999