We are glad to find that the classes instituted by the London School Board for the special instruction of children incapable, by reason of physical or mental infirmity, of being taught in the ordinary elementary day school, are making good progress under the superintendence of Mrs. Burgwin. From her report for the year ending March, 1893, we learn that 265 such children had been under special instruction at six centres, these having been opened in July, 1892, in poor and populous districts of the metropolis. The pupils have as a rule been selected from those attending the ordinary schools, upon the recommendation of head teachers, with the approval of the Medical Officer to the Board and the Superintendent of Special Instruction. More centres are in contemplation; indeed, it is hoped ultimately to provide “special classes” at convenient distances throughout the metropolitan area. From a personal visit to two of these centres, in Clerkenwell and St. Luke's respectively, we are able to speak very favourably of the methods of instruction, and of the results so far as they could be gathered from the first nine months' experience. To deal successfully with groups of children more or less abnormal demands, of course, a comparatively large teaching staff, and we are glad to find that the ratio of teachers to pupils is about 1 to 30. Considering that individual study of each pupil's peculiarity is called for, even a larger ratio of teachers would be justified. The system of teaching adopted follows somewhat on the lines of that found serviceable in institutions for imbeciles; sense culture, manual training, and above all, the development, by enticing methods, of the faculty of attention, forming important items. Lessons are brief and of a practical character, and the afternoons are devoted chiefly to manual occupations, such as modelling in clay, weaving in papers and cane, macramé work and needlework, “great care being taken that these occupations shall not develop into a mere mechanical process, but each have a definite object to be reached. “Lessons in articulation and gymnastic exercises are of frequent occurrence.” We did not see any evidence of “musical drill,” but considering the beneficial influence music has, specially upon this class of minds, we venture to think that the provision of pianos in connection with these special classes would not be an unpardonable extravagance.
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