Cross Report (1888)

1888 Cross Report (text)

Cross Report (1888)
Final Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Elementary Education Acts, England and Wales

London: HM Stationery Office

Background notes

Historical context

In the decade between 1870 and 1880 Parliament passed four Elementary Education Acts (1870, 1873, 1876 and 1880) which created England's first state system of universal elementary education.

Richard Assheton Cross

In 1886, Richard Assheton Cross (1823-1914) (pictured) was appointed to lead an inquiry into the effectiveness of the system which these Acts had provided for.

Cross was educated at Rugby School and Trinity College Cambridge, and was called to the Bar in 1849.

He entered Parliament as a Conservative in 1857, first as one of two MPs for Preston, and later - in 1868 - as MP for South West Lancashire. He served two periods as Home Secretary (1874-1880 and 1885-1886).

In 1886 he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Cross.

The Commission's Final Report

The Commission was divided over its conclusions. Fifteen members signed the majority report, which made 198 main recommendations, summarised on pages 208-223. Eight members felt unable to do so, and instead, they submitted minority reports (pages 237-394), explaining that:

We regret to be unable to sign the report which has been agreed to by the majority of our colleagues. After a long period of co-operation in the work of hearing witnesses, digesting returns, and deliberating upon conclusions, we should have been glad if we could have so far agreed with them as to have been able to sign their report, subject to reservations as to certain points of dissent. But unfortunately in the present case the differences of opinion, which apply as much to the general tone and arguments of the report as to its summary of conclusions, have been so many and so important that our signature would have conveyed a false impression. The proposal, more especially that voluntary schools should be enabled to claim aid from rates, would, it appears to us, re-open the whole settlement of 1870; and, further, while we recognise that the formation of the character of the children attending our elementary schools is of paramount importance alike to the children, the parents, and the nation, we fear that the recommendations regarding religious instruction contained in the report of the majority would lead to a renewal of bitter disputes and rivalries, which were and are happily subsiding. These differences alone, even in the absence of any others, compel us to set forth our conclusions in this report (page 237).

The Report online

The complete volume (with the exception of pages 395-488) is presented in a single web page. (Pages 395-488 contain a Summary of the Statistical Report and a List of the Recorded Divisions of the Commission. Readers who wish to see them can download the full report in a variety of formats from the Internet Archive website.)

I have omitted the marginal headings and the many footnotes - sometimes more than twenty on a page - referring to witness testimony. I have corrected a dozen or so printing errors, and modernised some of the punctuation.

Otherwise, the text you see here is as printed in the original.

The above notes were prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 5 May 2019.