Robert Peel presented a Bill in the Parliament in 1802 in connection with the cruel behaviour and exploitation practised by the mill-owners against the employed children. The mill- owners and many members of the Parliament vehemently opposed this Bill. But the Bill was passed under the name of Factory Act.
Although, the scope of this Act was very limited but it influenced elementary education. This was the first bill against the evil practices followed by the mill-owners. Many other Acts were passed in due course which were boons to the children against exploitation.
The Factory Act as passed through the efforts of Robert Peel included only the child- labourers of those work-houses and apprenticeship which were connected with cotton and wool factories. This Act included the following important reforms:
1. The child-labourers will not work for more than 12 hours a day and they will not work at night.
2. The mill-owners will always maintain healthy atmosphere for their mills by ensuring fresh air and sufficient light in the work-houses.
3. The children in apprenticeship will be taught reading, writing and arithmetic for some time.
4. The children in apprenticeship will receive religious education for an hour every Sunday and they will be sent to Church at least once a month.
The Factory Act proved very helpful and it served as a base for the Education Act of 1870.
The Parochial School Bill of 1807:
White Bread proposed the Bill in the Parliament. This Bill stood for two year provision of free education to the rural children between 7 and 14 years of age. But the capitalists and the Churches opposed this Bill. Therefore, it could not become an Act.
Sir Robert Peel Bill of 1815:
In 1815 Sir Robert Peel introduced a Bill in the Parliament for improving the conditions of the children working in mills. The House of Commons established a secret committee to study this Bill. This committee found that the children working in mills were subjected to inhuman treatment.
They had to work for 16 hours a day. Somewhere the children were compelled to work for 100 hours a week. On committing mistakes they were given cruel punishments. They were not given adequate leisure for taking meals or for rest. The House of Commons in 1819 accepted the Robert Peel Bill with some modifications. But this Act, too, could not be implemented and was neglected like the Act of 1802.
The Act of 1819 was limited only to the Cotton mills. According to this no child below 9 year of age could be employed in a mill and no child between 9 and 13 years of age could be forced to work more than twelve hours per day.
The Parliamentary Committee of 1816:
Samuel White Bread had started a popular education movement. After his death Henry Brougham (1778-1869) took up this movement in the Parliament Due to Henry Brougham’s efforts the Parliament appointed a Parliamentary Committee in 1816 for inspecting the educational institutions meant for the people of Lower Order.
This Committee reported that the children going to schools were not given full facilities. Their attendance, too, was not regular. Henry Brougham demanded that endowments of schools meant for Lower Order should be inspected. He contended that good utilisation of endowments facilitated the work of education. By doing so it would not be necessary to levy new taxes. Many schools opposed this move.
But Brougham brought this Bill before the Parliament in 1820 under the name ‘Parish Schools Bill.
The Parish Schools Bill, 1820:
This Bill was introduced in the Parliament by Henry Brougham for making a national system of education available to the poor children of England and Wales. But the Roman Catholics and other churches opposed this Bill tooth and nail. Consequently this Bill was withdrawn. But it was again taken up by John Arthur Roeback.
John Arthur Roeback and Popular Education:
John Arthur Roeback argued that only organising the means of education was not the development of education. He held that the purpose of education was to develop the moral and intellectual qualities of children. Acquiring information’s could not be considered education unless the same were properly utilised in the right context.
He advocated the establishment of four types of schools, viz., 1. Infant schools, 2. Schools of Industry 3. Evening schools for Adults and Adolescents and 4. Normal schools for Training of Teachers. Roeback emphasised that through endowments, taxations and schools pence (i.e. tuition fees) the financial arrangements for running schools might be made.
The whole country should be divided into school districts and the people of each school district should elect a school committee. The whole education should be under the control and supervision of the Education Minister of the Cabinet. Most of the people supported the Roeback’s views. Still, the Bill could not become an Act.