Parish Schools

Parish Schools have existed in the Church since the 6th century. Of course we refer to schools for secular instruction. Catechetical schools existed much earlier. SEE CATECHETICS. In the 7th century we find enactments regarding parochial or parish schools. (See Council of Constantinople, A.D. 680, and of Trulla, A.D. 692.) In later times many of these schools were abandoned. and the instruction of the young entrusted to the monastic establishments. After the Reformation parochial schools became quite common in Germany, but with the modern provisions for instruction by the state the parochial schools have been abandoned, except by the Romanists and the Jews. The latter call them Congregational Schools.

In England there is no such thing as a parish school — that is, a school existing for the benefit of the parishioners, endowed by the state. or supported by taxes on the parishioners. Every school beyond charity schools is more or less voluntary in its character, and endowed, if at all, by private benefactors. In Scotland, however, it is essential that in every parish there shall be a parish school, for a statute of 1696 made it compulsory on the heritors — i.e. the chief proprietors — to provide a school-house, and to fix a salary for the teacher. If the heritors neglected to supply a school- house, the presbytery was empowered to order one at the expense of the heritors.

In Scotland, as early as the reign of David I, there were grammar schools in the principal towns, and in many of the monasteries. There were also "lecture schools," as they were called, in which the young were taught to read the vernacular language. These seminaries were placed under the superintendence of the clergy, who held a monopoly of the learning of these remote times. We find, for example, in the cartulary of Kelso that all the churches and schools in Roxburgh were bestowed by David I on the monastery of Kelso, and the schools of Perth and Stirling were confirmed to the monks of Dunfermline by Richard, bishop of St. Andrews, from 1163 to 1173. The first effort of the Scottish Parliament to promote the education of the people was made in the year 1494, when it was enacted, under a penalty of twenty pounds Scots, that all barons and substantial freeholders "should put their eldest sons and heirs to the schools, from they be six or nine years of age and to remain at the grammar schools until they be competently founded and have perfect Latin; and thereafter to remain three years at the schools of arts and jure (law), so that they have knowledge and understanding of the laws, through the which justice may remain universally through all the realm." No provision, however, was made for the education of the common people until the period of the Reformation. In the First Book of Discipline, ch. 7, the importance of schools is strongly inculcated, in order that the youth may have knowledge and learning to profit and comfort the Church. It is declared to be a matter of necessity that "every parish should have one schoolmaster appointed — such a one, at least, as might be able to teach grammar and the Latin tongue, if the town were of any reputation. If it were a country parish, where the people convened to the doctrine only once in the week, then must either the minister or the reader there appointed take care over the children and youth of the parish, to instruct them in the first rudiments, and especially in the Catechism, as we have it now translated in the Book of Common Order, called the 'Order of Geneva.'" It was further provided that "no father, of whatsoever rank, should use his children at his own fancy, especially in youth, but that all were to be compelled to bring up their children in learning and virtue. The rich and powerful were to be exhorted, and, by the censure of the Church, compelled to dedicate their sons to the profit of the Church and commonwealth; and this was to be done at their own expense. The children of the poor were to be supported at the charge of the Church if they showed a genius for letters." It was also appointed that when the ordinary curriculum had been passed through, "the children should either proceed to further knowledge, or else they must be set to some handle craft, or to some other profitable exercise; providing always that first they have the knowledge of God's law and commandments, the use and office of the same, the chief articles of the brief the right forme to pray unto God, the number, use and effect of the sacraments, the true knowledge of Christ Jesus, of his offices and natures, and such other points, without the knowledge whereof neither any man deserves to be called a Christian, neither ought any man to be admitted to the participation of the Lord's table." At this period, however, there was no law which compelled the heritors or parishioners to establish schools or to provide salaries for the teachers. The Church courts of the ministers, in their several parishes, exerted themselves strenuously to supply this defect. Measures were taken by many of the kirk-sessions to provide education for the poor out of the parochial funds, and in cases of youths of promising ability and remarkable diligence, it was not of communion to give an additional sum to prepare them for the university. It was declared that "gif ony puir refuis to come to school, help of sic thing as thay neid and requyr shall be refused to them. And as for sic as ar able to sustein ther bairnes at the school, and do ther dewtie to the teacher for them, thay shall be command it to put them to the school, that thay maybe brought up in the fear of God and virtue; quhilk if thay refuise to do, thay shall be called before the sessioun and admonished of their dewtie."A number of the ministers established and endowed schools at their own expense. Their zealous efforts to promote the education of the people were attended with great success. It appears from a report of the visitation of a number of the parishes in the synod of Fife in 1611 and 1613 that at that early period, of the parishes visited, "those which had were more than double in number to those which had not schools." In 1616 the privy council empowered the bishops, in conjunction with the heritors, to establish a school in every parish in their respective dioceses, and to assess the land for that purpose, for the advancement of true religion, and the training of children — "in civility, godliness, knowledge, and learning." This act; however, was not vigorously carried out, and in 1626 an effort was made by Charles I to remedy the defect. The act of the privy council in 1616 was confirmed by the Parliament in 1633, and under its authority a number of additional schools were erected in the more cultivated districts of the country. Five years later the General Assembly gave directions "for the settling of schools in every parish, and providing entertainment for men able for the charge of teaching youth." A representation was made to his majesty that the "means hitherto appointed for schools of all sorts have both been little and ill paid," and presbyteries were ordered to see "that every parish should have a school where children are to be bred in reading, writing, and grounds of religion." The revival of the Presbyterian form of Church government, which took place at this period, gave a powerful impetus to the cause of education, and there is good reason to believe that soon after that time schools were generally established in almost every part of the Lowlands of Scotland. We are told by Kirkton that before the restoration of Charles II "every village had a school, every family almost had a Bible; yea, in most of the country all the children of age could read the Scriptures." The dissensions which soon after broke out in Scotland unfortunately prevented the nation from reaping the benefits of this judicious policy, and threatened to reduce the whole country to a state of absolute barbarism. After the Revolution, however, had established peace and order in the kingdom, an act was passed in 1696 which declared that "there be a school founded and a schoolmaster appointed in every parish (not already provided), by advice of the presbyteries; and to this purpose that the heritors do in every congregation meet among themselves and provide a commodious house for a school, and modify a stipend to the schoolmaster, which shall not be under 100 merks (£5 11s. 1 1/3 d.), nor above 200 merks (£11 2s. 22d.), to be paid yearly at two terms." The teacher was required to subscribe the Confession of Faith, and to promise to conform to the Worship and to submit to the discipline of the Established Church. The right of appointing the schoolmaster and selecting the branches to be taught was vested in the heritors of each parish; while the duty of examining the teacher before his induction to office, and of judging of his qualifications, and of superintending and visiting the school, was intrusted to the presbytery. This famous act laid the foundation of Scotland's proudest 'distinction,' and has proved one main source of her subsequent prosperity. For more than a century after the enactment of this law the Scottish parochial schools were wholly overlooked by the legislature. The monuments of the schoolmasters, in consequence, remained stationary, while those of every other profession and trade increased; and therefore their social status, acquirements, and influence were greatly deteriorated. Their depressed condition at length attracted the attention of the legislature, and in 1803 an act was passed which declared "that the salary of each parochial schoolmaster in every parish in Scotland should not be under the sum of 300 merks Scots (£16 13s. 4d.) per annum, nor above the sum of 400 merks (£22 4s. 5.5d.), except in cases where it is necessary to have-two or more parochial schoolmasters in one parish." The heritors were also required to provide a dwelling-house, of not more than two rooms, for the teacher. At the same tine the right of electing the' schoolmaster and managing the school was limited to those heritors who possessed a hundred pounds Scots of valued rent, and to the minister of the parish; and the teachers were placed wholly under the jurisdiction- of their respective presbyteries, and were deprived of the right of appeal to the superior courts. The act further provided that the salaries are to be revised every twenty-five years, the average price of oatmeal during the preceding twenty-five regulating the salaries during the succeeding twenty- five. At the first revision, in 1828, an addition was made. to the salaries of the parochial teachers-the maximum was raised to £34 4s. 4d., and the minimum to £25 13s. 3d.; but these sums were reduced nearly one third at the second revision, which fell due in 1853, but was delayed by temporary acts until 1857. Various attempts were made during the interval to increase the emoluments of the schoolmasters, and to adapt the system to the existing state of the country, but the prejudices and conflicting interests of rival sects rendered them abortive. At length an act was passed in the session of i861, mainly through the exertions of lord-advocate Moncrieff, which has made a number of important changes in the constitution of the parochial schools. The minimum salary has been raised to £35 and the maximum to £70 a year, with a house of not less than three apartments, besides the kitchen. Instead of the examination by the presbytery, the schoolmaster elect is to be examined by a board chosen by the university court of one or other of the four Scottish universities, and composed of six professors (three of whom must be professors of divinity), or by their deputies, one half of whom must be graduates of arts, and the other ministers or licentiates of the Church of Scotland. The electors may, if they shall see fit, nominate two or. three persons to be tried by the examiners, whose duty it shall be to determine which of them is the best qualified for the office. The parochial teachers are not now required to subscribe the Confession of Faith or the formula of the Established Church, or to profess that they will submit themselves to its government and discipline. But before induction into office the schoolmaster elect must solemnly declare that in the discharge of his official duties he will never endeavor, directly or indirectly, to inculcate any opinions opposed to the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures or to the doctrines contained in the Shorter Catechism; and that he will faithfully conform thereto in the instruction of his pupils; and that he will not exercise the functions of his office to the prejudice or subversion of the Church of Scotland, as by law established, or of its doctrines and privileges. If any schoolmaster should be guilty of contravening this declaration, the secretary of state may, on the complaint of the presbytery or heritors, appoint a commission to inquire into the case, and to censure, suspend, or deprive the offender, as they shall find to be just, provided that this sentence shall not take effect until it has been confirmed by the secretary of state. A schoolmaster charged with immoral conduct, or cruel and improper treatment of his scholars, is henceforth to be tried, not by the presbytery, but by the sheriff of the county, on a complaint being made by the heritors or minister, or of any six heads of families in the parish whose children are attending the school. The sheriffs decision is final, and not. subject to review. When the schoolmaster of any parish is disqualified, through infirmity or old age, or has been found, on a report by one of her majesty's inspectors of schools, to have failed, from negligence or inattention, efficiently to discharge his duties, a meeting of the heritors and ministers may compel him to resign his office. But they are empowered to grant him a retiring allowance, amounting to at least two thirds of his salary.

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