HC Deb 16 April 1875 vol 223 cc1113-4

asked the Vice President of the Council, What are the steps, if any, which the Government intend taking to give effect to the suggestions made by a deputation from several large towns, introduced to him in January last, with respect to the obstacles presented by inefficient private schools to the enforcing of attendance at Board Schools?


Sir, this subject is a large and a difficult one, and has for some time engaged the attention of the Government. These private adventure schools—that is, schools frequented by the same classes as attend the public elementary schools, but kept by private individuals for their own profit and receiving no public money—are numerous, and are said to be increasing in towns where direct compulsion is in force. Though some are held to be fairly good, many are reported to be very bad as respects teaching, and to be wretched and unhealthy in their accommodation for the children. The question was well brought before us some two or three months ago by an influential and able deputation of leading members of school boards, who stated that these schools were more and more used as a means of evading the operations of the compulsory bye-laws, as they are not open to inspection and need not keep any register of attendance. We have been asked by means of new legislation to secure the regular inspection of all these private schools, and to treat attendance at an uncertified private adventure school as absence from school and therefore as a punishable offence. The House will at once see from this that the subject is a very serious one, and I am bound to say that many authorities on education matters on school boards and elsewhere consider that premature interference with these schools and additional interference with the choice and school by a parent would largely increase the difficulties of carrying out the bye-laws for compulsory school attendance. Anyhow, before any decision is adopted by Government, either in favour of or against legislative dealing with private adventure schools, we are of opinion that most careful inquiries must be made respecting the matter in all parts of the country, and we are taking and shall take all necessary steps to inform ourselves thoroughly respecting it. But we do not consider that during this Session we shall be in a position to state what course we think it will be desirable to adopt.