HC Deb 18 March 1875 vol 223 cc28-30

asked the Vice President of the Council, Whether he will reconsider the terms of Clause 115 in the New Code, so as to secure that scholars shall pass in the three subjects in the standard prescribed under the various Acts for regulating the education of children employed in labour; and, whether he will more clearly define the words "prescribed by the Act," so as to include all regulations, whether Parliamentary or Departmental, relating thereto?


Sir, in answer to the Question of my hon. Friend, I beg to say that the provision of the New Code, by which certificates under the various Acts for regulating the education of children employed in labour would be granted to children who passed in two out of the three subject, of the standard prescribed by or under those Acts, was inserted solely for administrative reasons connected with the examination of these scholars. As the House is aware, if a child fails to pass in only one of the three subjects he will have to be presented next time in a higher standard, and hence considerable difficulty arose as to meeting the case of children who failed to pass in one of the subjects in the Standard, on the passing which they could no longer by law be kept in school, and who still, on being re-examined, would have to be presented under a higher Standard than the various Acts prescribed. I have never, however, been satisfied with our solution of the difficulty in this year's Code, as I think it was the intention of Parliament that when a child was compelled by law to pass a certain Standard he should have acquired that knowledge of all the three subjects—reading, writing, and arithmetic—which the standard prescribed, whether 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th, implies. We have again given the subject careful consideration, and I am happy to say that at we see our way to getting over the difficulty by means of the various arrangements for examination which we have made in the New Code to meet the requirements of the Labour Acts. We shall, therefore, alter the wording of Clause 115, so as to secure that children must pass in the three subjects of the prescribed Standards before receiving a certificate under these Acts. I may mention, however, that we had a precedent for our former arrangement in the provisions of the Scotch Education Act of 1872, passed by the late Government, and which I suppose would be considered by them as the crowning work of the most advanced educationists, whereby a child is only required to read and write to enable him to claim exemption from compulsory attendance at school upon going to work. As to my hon. Friend's second Question, I will take care that such verbal amendment is introduced as to make it quite clear that the Standards alluded to are all those in any way prescribed under the various Acts; and I hope shortly to lay upon the Table these alterations of the Code, together with a few others which will be chiefly based on the valuable suggestions thrown out in the debate upon the Code by Gentlemen of knowledge in these matters on both sides of the House, and which, I have reason to believe, will be generally acceptable to the country.