HC Deb 07 June 1875 vol 224 cc1463-4

asked the Vice President of the Council, Whether his attention has been called to a statement in "The Times" of Thursday last, That in the case tried yesterday at the Guildhall it was stated the London School Board when applied to by the police to compel certain boys to go to school refused, stating 'they were too low for Board schools,' and that officers spent their time in looking after children of respectable parents who did send their children to school, and neglected the very class for whom the Act was passed; whether that statement is true, and whether the Government propose to take any steps in the matter; and, whether it is true that the School Board paid salaries amounting to £26,000 a-year to these officers whose duty it is to see that the poorer class of children attend school?


Sir, I must remind my noble Friend that I have no authority whatever to direct or control a School Board in any way in the exercise of the powers conferred on them by Parliament for compelling the attendance of children at school. The case in question, I need hardly say, had attracted my attention, and I have observed with much satisfaction the reply given on Friday since my noble Friend placed his Question on the Paper, by the School Board officers at the Guildhall respecting the assertions attributed to the police, which not unnaturally excited my noble Friend's interest. That reply appeared fully to satisfy the magistrate before whom the charge against the School Board was originally made, and I have since been favoured with a communication from Sir Charles Reed, the Chairman of the Board, informing me of the investigation into the case immediately made by them, which, so far as my present information goes, completely confirms the statements of the School Board officers; at this moment also a letter has been placed in my hands from the City Police Office, stating, by direction of the Commissioner, that— No such application (as stated in the Question) had been made by the police, and that consequently no such answer as that quoted was ever given to them. My noble Friend will excuse me if I say that we have probably more means than many hon. Members of the House of knowing the indefatigable labours of members of the London School Board in considering carefully in their own divisions, case by case, the circumstances and excuses of the parents who refuse to send their children to school, and when I say that we believe that it is mainly owing to their judgment, care, and consideration that hitherto the action of the compulsory bye-laws, which must unfortunately in many cases occasion for the time considerable and grievous hardship, has given rise to so little irritation in a vast and varied population as that of London, the House will well understand that we feel it our duty to support the Board firmly in this course. As to the last part of the Question, I beg to say that I am informed by the School Board that the number of visitors is 201, of superintendents of visitors 10, and that the salaries of all these officers amounts to £19,000 per annum.