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Teacher Training for Women

December 5, 1865 — Announcement of a Prize for Common Things, Whitelands Training Institution, London, England


[Read by the Rev. Prebendary Stooks]


LITTLE has occurred since our last annual gathering, in November twelvemonth, to vary the general aspect of Educational questions to which I then adverted, so that the close of the National School year finds Managers and Teachers in much the same position as it did at its commencement. Nevertheless, the year has not been without some distinctive features ; nor has it been without indication as to the course which the educational feeling of the country is likely to carry out in coming years. The most important event has been the appointment of a Committee of the House of Commons, to inquire not only into the efficiency of Teachers and into the management of Schools, but also into those of the Committee of Education itself. The appointment of this Committee clearly demonstrates an intention on the part of Government to yield to the public wish, whenever expressed, for a full scrutiny into all educational management. The Session closed without any Report being made by the Committee, and it may be doubtful whether or not the inquiry will be resumed at an early date in the newly elected Parliament; but, sooner or later, it is safe to be resumed. But however important this inquiry may be, it does not greatly affect us, who, whether as Managers or Teachers, cannot pause to consider its possible bearings on Education; whilst the unceasing flow of individual life into our Schools leaves us scant leisure for aught besides the anxious diurnal consideration, how best to train each little unit as it presents itself to us, first in our Infant, then, as years advance, into our Upper Schools; thence, out into the great School of life and active labour. Upon us, Managers and Teachers, presses unremittingly the practical daily consideration how to engrave permanently that knowledge which “maketh wise unto salvation ”upon the young heart and mind, during its brief hours of instruction, Two new Minutes of the Committee of Council of Education, bearing directly upon the practical parts of Education, will therefore concern us more immediately than the Committee I have above referred to. Both these Minutes are likely to exercise no inconsiderable influence on the education of the country. Both are intended to widen its sphere and to bring a larger number of children under tuition,

One of these Minutes refers to Night-Schools, and is specially intended to give opportunity for a longer continuance of the benefits of School Instruction, than it is possible to seek to ensure for children in Day-Schools; or, if possible, desirable. I use the word “desirable” advisedly, because such prolonged close attendance in schools must necessarily interfere with that outdoor knowledge which it is essential the children of the labouring classes should acquire early, in order to fit them for their probable occupation a knowledge which book-learning is incompetent to give. This Minute affects the work of Schoolmasters rather than that of Schoolmistresses, for Night Schools are, for obvious reasons, more available for boys than girls. Yet I think you should be prepared to give the Minute careful consideration, as Managers might, under certain circumstances, consider it desirable to get up Night-Schools for Girls; and your opinion, as best acquainted with the habits and disposition of your children, might turn the scale of decision as to whether they should do so or not. I should advise you, therefore, before quitting Whitelands, to consult with those under whose direction you are now placed; and I am sure my valued friend, your Reverend Pastor, and that excellent Lady superintending the domestic arrangements of Whitelands, whose daily lives are not the least valuable part of the instruction you receive, would willingly confer and advise with you upon this point. They cannot, of course, foresee all the circumstances under which you may be called to act; but you will obtain from their experience guiding principles, which will help you in forming an opinion as to the expediency of the plan generally, and to judge correctly should you be called upon hereafter to consider its adaptation to your particular Schools.

The other new Minute originated in a suggestion of mine to the Committee of Council of Education. Its object is to bring in groups of small Schools, with separate Teachers, under one organiser. The plan has become known under the title of “The Ambulatory Schoolmaster;” and though originally proposed for Masters, it is far from impossible that a Schoolmistress might sometimes work it with equal or even greater utility and success: for it might well happen, that whilst local help could be obtained in reading, writing, and arithmetic, an organising Mistress would be highly useful to superintend needlework in all its branches, and the general management of a school. I would, therefore, urge you thoroughly to understand the ambulatory or supervising principle. It is one which should commend itself to all certificated Teachers; for, whilst it meets the wishes of those who desire to utilize the desultory teaching power scattered throughout the country — or rather the necessity of doing so (for upon this desultory power we must rely for any school teaching at all in many of our rural and sparsely-populated districts, and in our thickly populated towns),yet it checks the influx of uncertificated Teachers, in some cases, on precisely the same footing with Schools, as regards Government aid, as ‘the certificated- a plan which would seriously interfere with these latter as a body, and deprive the working -classes of the guarantee now given for the sound education of their children.

This principle seems to me (though I am, perhaps, partial to my own idea) to meet exactly the difficulty felt in the country. It admits the principle of results — now strenuously pressed forward as the best test of useful instruction, but guards the principle that the recognized — I would almost term them, the Parliamentary — School Teachers should require, like every other recognised and public and paid body, some guarantee for their personal character, probity, and ability to teach; a principle held by many to be fully of as much importance as that of results for results obtained in School, and certified to by Inspectors, do not always secure a guarantee to the country on the other character of Teachers. I have often had a fancy that the Certificates of Teachers, and all the Competitive examinations for the Public Service, very much resemble receipts for puddings. They both require that certain conditions should be fulfilled. As great merit  does not necessarily exist in the successful candidate, so likewise the receipt does not necessarily ensure a great cook. The flour, the raisins, the sugar, may be well chosen, and the cloth and cooking-utensils may be clean and bright; still, on trial no two puddings will turn out alike. A lighter hand, a more delicate taste, juster judgment of proportions — all these cannot be calculated beforehand, and the thousand-and-one infinitesimal differences between one person’s work and another’s will always make the old adage true, that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Nevertheless, the preparations made and the receipt were, in both cases, necessary and right; and though you cannot command the best pudding by the receipt, or the highest qualities by the examination, you can secure a knowledge of how to prepare wholesome food and secure average abilities, but beyond this you do not go.

Therefore it is very possible, and this not unfrequently, that the untrained Teachers may some times prove superior to the trained, and the Schools under their management appear to be as well, or even better, managed ; but the broad question, as to which system is of the greater public utility, remains untouched by such instances, The results obtained with untrained Teachers may be equally good; but they are useless as examples. Any system of untrained Teachers would want the stability necessary to uphold a systematic and high standard of teaching, and enable them as a body to stand forth to the people authoritative witnesses of the care taken by Government as to the character of the persons to whom the education of the children of the working-classes is entrusted, The feeling of belonging to a recognised body, called into existence by Parliament for a national object, must give its members a sense of responsibility and dignity: for the position itself implies recognized duties; and recognized duties are responsibility, and responsibility is dignity.

Now this feeling, so conducive to benefit the public service, would be greatly diminished, if not altogether lost, should a body of untrained Teachers be substituted solely for the trained Teachers in our Schools. Whether such a body as the latter continue, however, to exist, and finally root itself among the permanent institutions of the country, will mainly depend upon the general opinion as to its utility to do so. It must be found ever ready to help forward the cause of National Education, for which alone it has sprung into existence, irrespective of class claims. It must never be found obstructive, but the ready handmaid and the fair interpreter of every plan put forward by the Committee of Council of Education for the instruction of the working-classes. And more than this — the members of such an educational body should be found (under the advice of their employers) the originators and active promoters of practical schemes for the diffusion of sound Christian knowledge. Moreover, they should prove themselves willing and anxious to serve in this cause; and this not only during the period of their school management, but whenever and wherever during life opportunity may offer: thus manifesting their own grateful remembrance of the instruction which they have themselves enjoyed in Training Schools.

Should the principle I have set forth in the grouping of Schools under one organiser become engrafted into the working of our School system, think it will increase the demand for trained Teachers, and it may even open to many retired Teachers a sphere of usefulness, and, if I may so express myself, it may enable them to fulfil the obligation contracted in their youth, by giving to tuition some of the later years of life, and it may furnish hints to those who, either from ill-health or other causes, do not at once enter into the ranks of Certificated Teachers, how best to employ their talents. Amongst the number of these who enter Training Schools, there must be yearly many who return to their homes with their hour of work for teaching at least delayed. I would specially call upon these to remember the precious gift which they carry back with them into their families. The methods by which they can make the knowledge available which they have acquired during their school life, must give them great advantages over those companions of their own age who have not been placed in the same position; and the steady and systematised habit of thought to which they have been subjected will make them the sought and safe counsellors of younger companions, to whom they will thus become helpful in many a difficulty. I speak emphatically of their position towards those of their own age: for wisdom, like charity, is not puffed up ; and the thoroughly sound instruction given in Training Schools, far from teaching the young pupil to outstep the modesty of youth and take the place of older advisers, will only enable them to discern better, and more clearly than others, that the experience of age, expressed though it may be in homely guise in cottage homes, is worth more than the inexperienced or the half-educated are capable of estimating, until advancing years bring personal experience to the young. But within its own limits, and amongst those of their own age, boy or girl, the influence of a pious, sober, gentle, Christian-spirited girl, is not easily over-estimated. Her example may keep alive the love of that which is pure and of good repute in her brothers and youthful male relations; and her sisters and her girlish friends will unconsciously learn to imitate that which they love and reverence in her character. In this manner a woman may in early youth begin to exercise something of the motherly influence in her small circle long before she has herself become the centre of a family. When once she assumes this position she is, of course, the pivot upon which turns the domestic affection and welfare of her widened circle during the whole of life; for, as it is in the mother that children must in childhood mainly seek for guidance, comfort, and support, so is she often the chief restraining power when the follies and temptations of riper years succeed,  as time advances childhood’s wants and cares.

Do not, however, mistake me, or imagine that, whilst I thus refer to a mother’s influence, I class the father’s as second to hers, either as an example or as a constraining power for good or evil. Far from it. A woman rules the family after her husband’s spirit: his influence is unavoidably felt, and he is either her mainstay in the trials of life or the weight which crushes her. If she have linked herself either to a man of careless habits, or to an irreligious man, or to one simply idle and self-indulgent, she will have a hard fight in her life’s battle; and when striving to train her children and to implant good seed in their minds,though she can indeed preserve herself personally blameless,she must feel lonely, doubtful, and depressed, if, side by side with the good wheat of religious precept and counsel, she has sown the tares of a husband’s silent but all — powerful example. Whether the wheat or the tares will bear the most fruit in the heart of their children it may never be given to her to know; and her most earnest endeavour may never be able to compensate them for her own forfeiture of the power to say to them,“Honour thy father: “even if successful, the task of counteracting the influence of a father’s words and acts, when teaching a child the commandment to which God has attached a specific blessing, must needs be a heavy and discouraging one. Of course it is not wholly possible to foresee the various accidents of life in which a woman ma be placed after marriage, nor the changes which sometimes take place in character, but she can exercise and use in the choice of her companion for life at least something of the same caution a prudent woman exercises in selecting her gown. Thus much she can and should do. It is possible in both cases to have some approximate idea of what will wear well, and suit your ideas of what is really good. If, after due care, the selection should prove un fortunate, she must be patient,and by sedulously and affectionately fostering the good dispositionswhich she knew existed in her husband when she married him ,she may win him from bad habits or from evil counsellors, and circumvent their endeavours to lead him astray. If she have previously exercised a wise discretion in her choice, she can seek with more confidence a blessing upon her endeavours from Him to Whom all prayer cometh, Who will not, indeed, turn from the weak or the erring who may come to Him for help and guidance, but the order of Whose Providence does not remove from us the consequences of our own acts. If, on the other hand, the strong arm on which the woman must chiefly depend for sustenance for herself and family is that of one on whom she can fully lean also for sustaining inward support in the day of sorrow, or during the often-recurring anxieties of life, and to whom she can point as an example and guide to her children,then, indeed, I believe the mother’s power for good is as unbounded as is compatible with the free choice of good or evil, which is man’s noble inheritance. For we must never forget that “ No man may deliver his brother, nor make agreement unto God for him : for it cost more to redeem their souls: so that he must let that alone for ever” (Ps. xlix. 7, 8); and that, therefore, with all our care, our dear ones must each work out singly their own salvation to enter into the inheritance promised to mankind in Christ.

Parents are the natural and legal guardians of their children; the word itself beautifully suggesting a parent’s duty to guard them from evil, moral as well as bodily, during the tender years of pupilage. This guardianship cannot last long. The child soon becomes the responsible man or woman, who is bound to honour and love you by duty and nature — bound, indeed, by God’s command to honour you, even though you have failed in your duty, but who should be bound by gratitude for the protecting shield cast over infancy and early youth. Still religious sentiment cannot be expected to be very strongly developed in children who see religion neglected or openly defied by its natural guardians, and, therefore, it often comes to pass that the School has to supply the vacant guardianship of the child’s heart, and I know of no part of school instruction which should be made more constantly the subject of prayerful reflection by Teachers than how to do it. It is not, and cannot be, an easy task for the School to supplement the omissions of a parent, or to overcome the evils imparted through the conversation and example a child witnesses in its own home. As a rule, the parents of the children now swarming into our Schools were born in an age when Education was by no means as general as it now is; and there exists a tendency, even with well-meaning persons, to throw the whole burden of a child’s education on the School. The endeavour to remedy this mostly comes within the province of the Clergy, many whom are are keenly alive to this danger, and earnestly try to obviate its results by impressing on parents the paramount importance of home-teaching on the child’s character, and its vast influence in moulding it to virtue or vice — an influence which no outer teaching, though it may greatly counteract, can wholly overcome. So to speak, the brand may be snatched from the burning, rarely, indeed, unscathed by the scorching fire of example; but it is scarcely possible that children should habitually hear ungenerous sentiments, silly gossip, loose morality, or witness striking discordance between precepts and practice, without imbibing something of the tone of those they live with, whether this be a hypocritical assumption of piety, or a more or less flagrant violation of recognised duties.

To check and correct these and other evils, to confirm and encourage virtuous tendencies, is the object of Christian instruction, and we may hope that the vigorous and loving efforts now made all over the country to bring the young under its pious influence will be blessed, and that we may be training up parents for the coming century who will show forth in their homes the pure light of Gospel truth, and shed its gentle and purifying influence over the Home-School of domestic life. The dawn of that century is even now beginning to colour faintly our own horizon. In thirty -five years hence, when the bells of our churches shall be ringing out not only the new year but the new century, most of you to whom I address these passing words will scarcely have passed middle life, and the children now entering our Schools will have scarcely attained it; so that we cannot but feel very near to the future children of 1900, and that we are in great measure responsible for the parents we are now training for them in our Schools, and thus much of their happiness and welfare is dependent upon us, workers of the present century. On the whole, I think it may be asserted that, with many short-comings to lament over, we are doing our duty to the children of the future. No educational movement, comparable in magnitude and importance to that which has taken place in England in our own day, has occurred since the Reformation, when the unspeakable able blessing of religious liberty seems to have aroused in the hearts of nobles, merchants, and scholars, a sense of the duty of disseminating religious instruction generally and widely amongst the people. The Grammar-Schools and other pious establishments founded at this time, and scattered throughout the length and breadth of the land, remain faithful witnesses to the strength of this feeling, to the existence of which our Universities had given evidence in an earlier age : but neither of those periods can compete with the present century for the anxiety manifested that the poor should have the Gospel preached to them ; and whatever events the coming century, the sound of whose distant waves are beginning to be almost heard beating on the sands of the shore of our own life, may reveal, I doubt whether any of them could cause to us the surprise and thankfulness with which some who may still remember the early years of this century must witness the present position which Education holds in England. At that date, the most sanguine enthusiasts as to the future of Schools, if any such existed then, could not have conceived such a scene as will take place at Whitelands on the 5th day of December, 1865. Such a body of young women as you are, acknowledged Teachers of National Schools, supported out of the public revenue, found no place at the opening of this century, even in the dreams of promoters of education amongst the working-classes. But this consideration, far from making us falter, by thinking how much has been effected, should only stimulate us to renewed exertions to place the work our century has begun on the firm basis of incontrovertible utility. One of the agencies through which we seek to ensure the success of the great work of our century is to be found in the body to which you belong- a body of Trained Teachers. And whether this becomes a permanent Institution of England will, as I have said before, depend much on the personal conduct of each member of the body. And, again, this personal conduct will very greatly depend on the light in which Teachers regard their calling. If, as I have asserted on former occasions, they enter upon it with worldly objects paramount in their minds, their conduct will imperceptibly fall below the standard required from Christian Teachers, and the country will not receive them as such, nor endorse their existence as essential to School-teaching. If, on the other hand, the work is undertaken in a Missionary spirit, they will seek to do their best; and we know the promise attached to this seeking.

How truly Missionary this School-work is in character, and the blessing which often times follows humble and feeble efforts, one will tell you who will, I believe, be present at the annual distribution of my Prizes on Tuesday next. Prebendary Stooks’ long acquaintance with a large and populous London parish, and his present position as Hon. Sec. to the Bishop of London’s Mission Fund, will enable him to speak emphatically upon this point, as he has the experience of a large and varied personal experience of the great field of School Mission — work which London offers — a field which, if duly cultivated, would produce incalculable blessings to the whole of England; I might also add, of the wide, wide world. To him I will leave, therefore, to enlarge upon the spirit in which Managers and Teachers must not only carry on the work, but the spirit, of Evangelisation, if they hope that Schools should bear fitting fruit: and I will now bid you farewell for this year, with such expressions of sympathy for you and your work, and of never-failing interest in both, which, as my connexion with you lengthens, becomes only deeper and broader. To my regret, circumstances have prevented m y personally distributing m y Prizes amongst you at the close of your School this year; but my cousin, Mrs. Ryder, has kindly consented to present to each of the Prizeholders my little annual gift, and will express m y earnest wishes for their individual well-doing, as well as for that of Whitelands generally, with the sincere hope that we may all be spared to see another year of our own century, and that in next December I may, as heretofore, meet you all once more face to face.



Source: Address of Miss Burdett Coutts to the Pupils of the Whitelands Training Institution, on the Occasion of the Distribution of her Prizes for Common Things, December 5, 1865. Read by the Rev. Prebendary Stooks, (London: Strangeways & Walden, 1866), pp. 1-8.