Local schools praised for their lead in field of education 50 years ago
Members and officials of Lisburn Urban ouncil pictured outside Lisburn Technical School in 1924. Mr. Thomas Sinclair, chairman. is fifth from left in the front row and fourth from left in the same row is Mr. Thomas M. Wilson. Town Clerk. E450.
DOWN the years Lisburn schools have been praised for their lead in the field of education in Northern Ireland.
Fifty years ago this month Lisburn Technical School was visited by members of the Bangor Borough Council Technical Instruction Committee who carried out an inspection of the engineering departments with a view to obtaining ideas for the establishment of a similar section in the Bangor school.
The deputation was beaded by Alderman T. D. Hamilton, chairman of the Bangor Committee and was composed of Aldermen J. Cathy and A. McCullagh, Councillors Thomas Henderson, James Campbell and Alexander Davidson, Mr. Robert MacDonald, principal of- Bangor Central Public Elementary School and Mr. Peter Gilchrist, principal of Bangor Technical School and former vice-principal of Lisburn Technical School.
The visitors were received by Mr. Hugh A. Dorman, chairman of Lisburn Urban Council, Mr. Cecil Webb, principal of Lisburn Technical, Mr. Thomas H. MacDonald, Town Clerk, Mr. R. E. L. Clarke, Town Surveyor and Mr. James Shortt, a member of Lisburn Urban Council.
Mr. Webb gave a brief outline of the school. He emphasised that they bad developed the industrial section of the school a great deal beyond the commercial side. There were about 140 in the, commercial school in the evenings and they bad well over 200 attending the evening class. There was a fairly good building section and an encouraging number at the cabinet making.
It took more to develop the trade section rather than the commercial section because the tendency of the parent was to persuade the child to enter an office instead of a workshop. He had taken the opposite attitude--discouraged them from entering the office and endeavoured to promote the desire to enter the workshop.
The result bad been that after 23 or 24 years a great deal more was going on in the trade section than in the commercial section.
Mr. Webb said the success of the school was in large measure due to the loyal co-operation of the staff, the members of which often worked in their spare time in order to improve the facilities for instruction. The work of the school fell under two headings, day work and night work.
In various types of day classes instruction was given to 720 individuals and in the various evening classes instruction was given to 712 individuals, making a total of 1,432.
The work of the day school comprised 120 pupils enrolled in the Junior Technical School and 60 pupils in the Junior Commercial School, all of whom attended 30 hours a week.
There was a class for boys who had passed through the Junior Technical School and were following a fulltime course in engineering and a similar class for girls who had passed through the Junior Commercial School. In addition, there were day classes for adults in domestic subjects and home crafts and 23 classes for senior pupils who came from Public Elementary and Secondary Schools for manual and domestic instruction.
The work, of the evening department comprised classes in science and technology for 300 boys and young men engaged in industrial occupations, 186 in engineering, classes in commercial subjects for 137 persons engaged chiefly in offices and classes in domestic subjects and home crafts for 275 young women who were not free to attend during the day time.
Most of those people attended on three evenings a week. They did not encourage homework. Homework undertaken voluntarily was exceedingly useful, but set as a task it could be very harmful in evening classes.
Mr. Webb said the outstanding feature of the school was the thoroughness of the instruction provided for industrial workers, especially those engaged in mechanical, motor and electrical engineering and the successes achieved by their evening pupils clearly showed how thoroughly they were developing the habits of self-help and perseverance on the part of those boys and young men who availed themselves of their classes.
He added: "In spite of all its success, our school is in some respects a kind of Cinderella. I bear some blame for this more than any other man. I organised the campaign in favour of the transfer of Technical Schools to the Regional Education Committees which were to be set up under the Education Act.
"I did so because I felt that by this means a close coordination of educational effort would result and I must confess that that result has not yet been achieved to anything like the extent that it ought to be.
"I did not realise how much I myself was going to lose by the disappearance of the old Urban Committee. The members of the old Urban Committee took a deep personal interest in this school and did all in their power to make it a success.
' "They attended meetings regularly, personally visited the classes and gave up much time to presiding at examinations. Their interest in the school was an encouragement and inspiration to teachers and pupils. For these reasons I am now convinced that Bangor has done well to retain its own scheme of technical instruction.
"If there is anyone who remembers my former activities in these matters they may regard this as in the nature of a recantation. It really is not that. It is only that I now see that co-ordination of education effort is much longer in coming than I anticipated.
"My remarks must not be construed as in any sense criticism of the Regional Education Committee. They are only the reflections of a man, who, since the inception of technical instruction in this country, as not only done his work as a teacher and as an organiser, but who, from time to time, has played some small part in influencing public opinion and policy in regard to it".