4 MARCH 1876, Page 10


IN. June, 1873, Dr. Mount, one of the Local Government Board Inspectors, was instructed " to make inquiries with the view of ascertaining and reporting to the Board the com- parative total and individual cost of maintenance, of the children in the separate and district Poor-Law Schools during each of the five preceding years." The result of this inquiry would seem to have been presented to the President of the Local Government Board on April 15, 1875, but has only been pub- lished in the present year. The report is only twelve pages in length, with an appendix of twenty-five pages of comparative tables, but its importance is by no means to be judged by its size. It is a model of conciseness and lucid arrangement, and brings out the facts it deals with with an incisiveness which leaves nothing to be desired. These facts are in themselves remarkable, and we believe will startle even those most familiar with the subject, especially if they are inclined, with Mr. Tufnell and others, to think the present system of pauper schools as good as we can fairly hope to get. For while bearing testimony to " the scrupulous and conscientious care" commonly bestowed on these pauper children at the schools, the Report discloses a state of things in relation to their cost which no Government jealous of its administrative character can allow to continue.

It is scarcely credible, but unluckily, too true, that in these pauper schools, filled one and all with children of precisely the same class—who are maintained, be it remembered, out of rates drawn in great measure from the earnings of those to whom every sixpence is of terrible importance—there is nearly as much difference between the average cost per child as between the charges at Eton and those of a county grammar-school. The average gross annual expenditure on each child at the St. Pancras School for the five years from 1869-73 reached £36 16s. 2d. ; that at Mile End, which stands lowest on the list, was £16 10s. But it may be said that the average gross annual expenditure is not a fair test, as the cost of buildings and other permanent works has been included, and the neces- sary outlay on these heads has been far greater at some schools than at others. Let us see, then, how the case stands where no such disturbing element comes in. The cost of provisions is perhaps the fairest test, and here we find the average cost per child ranging from £5 16s. at Bethnal Green, to £9 19s. 92cl. at St. George's-in-the-East. So that under the present system of administration, the ratepayers of one union or parish are called upon for all but double the amount which their next-door neighbours have to pay for precisely the same articles. If this £9 19s. 94d. had been the cost at school of a rich West-End parish, one might have wondere° less. But that such a difference between the prices of bread, meat, and milk, which are the governing items of expenditure, should rule in two neighbouring East - End districts can only be accounted for by a very remarkable diversity of administration. Why, again, should the rate- payers of Central London be called upon to pay 160s. a ton for potatoes, while those of Mile End get their supply for 70s. ? We need not multiply examples, but may refer curious readers to the tables appended to the Report, and particularly to Appendix D (p. 17), in which the extreme prices paid for the various articles used in the schools are set out in striking detail. It is interesting also to observe that the schools in which the dietary of the children is most carefully regulated are by no means those at which the cost is highest. Thus, in the South Metropolitan Schools, which have a different dietary for boys and girls, the average cost of food is £7 14s. 9d., as against £9 19s. 90., at St. George's-in-the-East ; while at Marylebone, the only school where there is a different dietary in summer and winter, and where alone fish, eggs, and fruit are given, the cost is only £7 4s. 3-1d. In the case of other necessaries, in- cluding fuel, clothing, &c., the same extraordinary differences appear, the average cost per child under this head ranging from £2 7s. 90. at the Lambeth, up to £5 10s. lid. at the St. Pancras Schools. If the clothing, again, is taken by itself, this average still holds, one set of ratepayers being called on for more than double the sum paid by their neighbours. Thus the average cost on the five years for clothing ranged from £1 is. 81d. at Mitcham to £2 19s. 42d, at Southall.

But in Dr. Mouat's judgment these monstrous differences in the prices paid for provisions and necessaries are not the most serious part of the indictment against the present managing bodies. " The most important fluctuation of all," he writes (p. 10), " is in the paid establishments of the different schools, whether for general management, education properly so called, or industrial training. So varied are the different institutions in this respect, that it is impossible to institute any useful com- parison between them. [Did ever inspecting-officer report a more astounding conclusion I] In no one particular is a change in these important components of the Poor-law system more imperatively required." " Local interests " and "personal predilections " are the euphonious terms which the courteous Doctor employs, to characterise practises which prevail in the appointment of officers at most of the schools for which we should have to use much coarser terms, if it were necessary to do more than allude to them.

If the disclosures of this Report do not rouse the Ratepayers of the Metropolis to take some action in the matter with the Local Government Board, it is difficult to say what will. The annual average cost of these schools is £170,000, a sum worth looking after even in this metropolis. We are well within the mark when we say that a third of this sum may be saved, for it is idle to pretend that any difference of standard as to the quantity, quality, or cost of the articles consumed need exist in any of these Metropolitan Schools. The same markets are open to all, and it is high time that the money of the rate- payers, should be used to the best advantage in those markets.

But will this ever be the case while the present system of government exists ? Dr. Mouat is chary of drawing conclu- siona; but " has no doubt that, by greater unity of manage- ment, considerable economy, with increased efficiency, might be secured." Of course it could, and with as much benefit to the schools as relief to the ratepayers, whose interests, as well as those of the children, are now sacrificed to local jobbery and prejudice. The success of the London School Board has made us Cockneys indifferent to the cry for the local management of institutions maintained by the rates. A Central Board, partly elected, partly nominated by the Local Government Board, is suggested by Dr. Mount as the proper remedy for the present state of things, and if Mr. Sclater Booth can rise to the occa- sion, he will not want a strong public opinion to back him in carrying through a reform so urgently and obviously needed.

We cannot quit this subject of the cost of pauper children without a word as to the comparative merits of the Boarding-out system in this regard. The highest sum allowed for a boarded-out child by the Local Government Board in England is 5s. a week, so that for £13 a year at the utmost, the child gets fed, clothed, and taught under supervision. At Mile End, the most economically managed of all the Metropolitan Pauper Schools, the cost (as above stated), is £16 10s. ; while if an average of the sixteen schools is taken, it is upwards of £22. From the excellent report of Mr. John wkelton, the Secretary to the " Board of Supervision," we learn that the total cost of a boarded-out child in Scotland, includ- ing school fees and extras of all kinds, ranges from £6 to £10 ; while Professor Ingram, Vice-President of the Statistical Society of Ireland, reckons the cost of a boarded-out child as half that of one maintained in a pauper school in that country. These latter facts would also appear well worthy the careful consideration of the Metropolitan ratepayer.