10 AUGUST 1907, Page 15



Srlt,-1 have only just read your article on the above (Spectator, July 27th). It contains statements so unjust to the preparatory schools and so far from the facts of the case that I hope you will allow me space to correct the misunder- standing to which it may give rise. You say " Of course many preparatory schoolmasters condemn the present Osborne system, and we do not wish didactically to disregard their objections; but before considering them seriously, we at least should like to know how far they are inspired by the fact that the system does not fit in with their curriculum." You say also just above : "They (the parents) have to decide before the boy is ten year§ old that they wish him to prepare himself to satisfy the Admiralty, and this means in most cases that he must cease to develop along the ordinary lines of private and public education." These two statements are closely bound up together. The reason why many preparatory schoolmasters dislike the Osborne system has nothing to do with the need for any special preparation. When the scheme was formulated, the Preparatory Schools' Association as a body, and a good many preparatory schoolmasters individually were consulted as to the course of preliminary teaching to be followed ; the result was that a little boy preparing for Osborne does exactly the same work as boys preparing for the modern sides of public schools. He does no Greek or Latin verses, but in all other respects he does follow exactly the ordinary lines of what you call " private education." Moreover, it is not in the least necessary for the parent to decide before the boy is ten years old. The application for admission to the interview may be sent in up to within a few weeks of the time when a boy is called up—i.e., any time up to the age of twelve to twelve and a half—and the applicant is in no way handicapped by the lateness of the application, or by the fact that no change has been necessary in his training. The objection of the preparatory-school master has nothing to do with the curriculum, but is founded on two reasons which, I venture to think, you, Sir, will approve. These are, first, that in order to secure time for the requisite naval training it is thought necessary to take a boy away from his preparatory school a year too soon, too soon because it is just at that age that the good preparatory- school boy is beginning to get the best that his school can give him, morally, physically, and intellectually, and thus a break in the boy's training occurs which the public schools, by their almost universal practice of taking boys from thirteen and a half to fourteen, have agreed to put a year later ; and secondly, the preparatory schoolmaster dis- likes the system because it does not, in his opinion, tend to select the best boys. The pick of the preparatory schoolboys are kept by their parents at their schools up to thirteen and a half to fourteen or fourteen and a half in order to compete for public-school scholarships. The Navy offers by no means a cheap education, and rightly so, and the parent of a pro- mising boy naturally prefers to give the boy some chance of helping to pay for his education. If he sends him to Osborne at twelve and a half, that chance is taken away. If the Admiralty could see their way to raise the age of admission to Osborne by a year,—i.e., till thirteen and a half to fourteen, they would be more likely to catch some of the boys who now go up for scholarships, if not those who win them. And lastly, the reason why Osborne unfits a boy for entrance to a public school is that, while there, he has dropped Latin, and specialised in subjects not usually required at a public school.