Laying the Foundation Stone of the Public School at Adelong

18 June 1877 The Sydney Morning Herald

Wednesday last was observed as a close holiday in Adelong, in honour of the laying of the foundation stone of the Public school there by the Hon. F. B. Suttor, Minister of Justice and Public Instruction.

The Hon. F. B. Suttor arrived at 11 a.m. in a buggy, driven by Mr. Lloyd, manager for Cobb and Co.

At 12 o'clock the children, to the number of 400, assembled in front of the old Adelong Hospital - which is at present being used as a Public school, and after being feasted to repletion with confectionery, &c, engaged in foot-racing and other athletic sports, until half-past 2 o'clock, when they were formed into marching order, to take part in the real business of the day.

At the same hour the members of the Golden Age Lodge, I.O.O.F., M.U., headed by a band of musicians, marched to the place where the children assembled.

On arrival at the spot where the stone was to be laid Mr. David Wilson said, - "Mr. Suttor, I have much pleasure, on behalf of the citizens of Adelong, in presenting you with this trowel and mallet."

The trowel and mallet, the former of which was of solid silver, with carved handle, was procured from Messrs. Flavelle, Brothers, George-street, Sydney, and bore the following inscription:- "Presented by the citizens of Adelong to the Hon. F. B. Suttor, Minister for Justice and Education, on the occasion of his laying the foundation stone of the Public school at Adelong, 13th June, 1877."

Mr. Suttor, having thanked Mr. Wilson, proceeded to lay the stone in the usual way, and, having declared it well and truly laid, said :-

Ladies and gentlemen, last but not least, I must include the children whom I see around me in such numbers, and for whose especial benefit this edifice is about to be erected,- I thank you heartily for the honour you have done me in asking me to lay the foundation stone of your Public school, which will be not only an ornament to your town but of incalculable advantage to the children who receive instruction within its walls; and as I have already declared this stone well and truly laid, so I trust the education received by the children will be the foundation well and truly laid of useful and valuable lives - (cheers) - a hope I am sure you will echo.

You have been pleasantly and in- directly reminded that this building will be built entirely at the public expense by the fact that you have not been asked to put your hands into your pockets to contribute to its erection. Up to the commencement of the present Parliament a regulation under the Public Schools Act required that in any locality where a Public school was considered necessary that the inhabitants should contribute one-third towards the cost of erection.

Early in the first session the present Premier, Sir Henry Parkes-(cheers)-moved a resolution to the effect that all schools should be erected at the public expense - (cheers) - a resolution which I am glad to say, if I remember right, was carried unanimously.

I always objected to the resolution because the conditions were not always uniformly enforced; in Sydney, with its dense and wealthy population, the large schools were built entirely out of the public funds, while, in the sparsely populated and comparatively poor districts, the conditions required prevented many schools being erected.

As I have alluded to the Parliament, whatever system members may consider the best, there was no diversity of opinion as to the desirability of spreading the blessings of education throughout the length and breadth of the land-(great applause)-and to bring it within the reach of every child. (Renewed applause.) 

Although this Ħs no easy matter, as you, who know the   country districts as well as I do, are aware that families are living many miles from their nearest neighbour, and it would be very difficult to reach them whatever the system of education might be.

As an instance of the liberality with which the Legislative Assembly deals with votes for educational purposes, I may mention that last week, when the Estimates for my department were under consideration, it voted the munificent sum of £280,000, being an increase of £30,000 on the amounts voted the previous year, without a word of explanation being required, feeling sure that the amount would be judiciously spent by the Council of Education - a body of gentlemen who have the expenditure of this money-and who comprise some of our leading citizens, who deserve the thanks of the community for the able and praiseworthy way in which they devote their energies and time to the laudable object of promoting education in the colony without fee or reward. 

Although I have no desire to take up much of your time, I wish to state as succinctly as I can a few facts relating to the administration of the Act, and the progress of education since the present Schools Act of 1866 came into force.

It has been in operation ten years, and I find that during that time the population of the colony has increased from 431,412 to 629,776, or 46 per cent; the Public schools increasing during the same period from 259 to 503, or about 94 per cent. Besides these, two new class schools came into existence with the Act I refer to, the provisional and half-time schools: of the former I find there were 279, and of the latter 110, making a total increase, without Denominational schools, of 633.

There has been a considerable decrease in the number of Denominational schools - (hear, hear) - they having fallen from 310 to 181, in other words 129 have been closed.

The very large number of 199 new schools have been built, and 61 are in course of erection, and by the end of next year I believe nearly all localities of any importance will be fairly supplied with school accommodation. (Cheers.)

I now wish to say a few words respecting the number of children who are enrolled and in attendance at the schools.

At the end of 1867 I find there were enrolled 64,740, and I desire to take the number as ascertained after the Act had been in force one year rather than take the estimated number at the commencement of that year, about which there seems to be some doubt. 

At the end of 1876 the number enrolled was 111,269, being an increase of 46,529, a number far exceeding the proportionate increase in the population.

Regarding the average attendance the strange fact reveals itself, - that it is considerably higher in the country districts than it is in the metropolitan and thickly-populated towns; it may be that the children have a stronger desire to learn, or that they have not the same desire and opportunity to play truant.

Whatever the cause, the fact remains to the credit of the country children. (Cheers.) The average attendance of the children varies from 66 to 68 per cent, of those on the roll.

Those of you who take any interest in the discussions on the education question have, no doubt, heard various statements as to the number of children who are not receiving education, the number varying from 20,000 to 60,000.

These statements being very hard to prove or disprove; however, the Council of Education considered themselves justified in taking a census between the educational ages of four and fourteen years in the city of Sydney and its suburbs, and found the total to be 35,999, and the apparently large number of 9411 were not attending school.

My personal opinion is, being a parent, that no child should be required to attend school regularly until they are between six and seven years of age at least, for I believe that the mind, as well as the body, should be to a certain extent matured before any great strain is put upon it.

Many doctors whom I have consulted on the matter strongly hold the same views.

Well, taking out all children under seven years of age, and those who could read and write, the number who are wholly illiterate between the ages of seven and fourteen years, and not receiving education, was reduced to 1682, a comparatively small number, although too large when the means are amply provided. 

With regard to the erection of schools the Council of Education has several difficulties to contend with, the chief one being that of obtaining a site.

If a suitable site is sought to be obtained from a private individual, in many instances an exorbitant demand is made for the land, perhaps with the idea that the Council has a strong back. (A laugh.)

When the site is applied for on Crown lands, a considerable delay arises from the difficulty of getting the land surveyed, on account of the insufficiency of the surveying staff; and the sites in many cases being isolated, and the fees for surveying small lots being not very great, the officers do not care to go out of their way to got the work done.

I have consulted my colleague, the Minister for Lands, on this matter, and steps have been taken to have these surveys promptly executed in future. 

With the view of improving the books in the Public schools, the Council of Education have entered into communication with the well-known publishers, Messrs. Collins and Son, and have made satisfactory arrangements with them for books revised specially to suit this colony, and which are expected to better suit the requirements of the schools.

I have only further to add, that the teachers rise in the grades of their profession step by step, and the educational standard of the children is shown to be higher year by year.

The staff of inspectors has been increased, and a greater supervision exercised over the schools generally.

I find that the building here in course of erection is for a school of two departments - a primary school to accommodate 136 pupils, a class-room for 28 pupils, and an infant school with an accommodation for 71, the total number of children provided for being 235.

On the roll of the present school the teacher tells me that he has 210 children, and as I see accommodation in the new building is for only 25 more children, I expect you will soon require to have the building enlarged.

Thanking you again for the reception yon have given me, I assure you that I shall always have the most pleasant recollection of my visit to Adelong.

In the evening a banquet was given to the Hon. F. B. Suttor, in Hodgson's Assembly Hall, at which between fifty and sixty persons sat down.

(From the Gundagai Times.)