HC Deb 27 May 1875 vol 224 cc921-3

asked the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education, Whether it is true that the Education Department has received an appli- cation from the Town Council of Winchester for an order to elect a School Board, and that this application has been refused; and, if so, if he will state the reasons which induced the Department to take that course?


Sir, the case of Winchester is a peculiar one, and I am glad of the opportunity of stating how the matter stands. Before doing so, I would remind the House that, under the Act, the establishment of a school board can only be ordered by the Department, without the consent of the locality, when after due notice sufficient school accommodation has not been, or is not in course of being, supplied; but that if a resolution for a school board is carried by a majority of ratepayers where there is no municipality, or where there is a municipality by a majority of the town council, the Department "may," as the Act expresses it, "if they think fit," order a school board, even if there is no deficiency of school accommodation; the school board, however, in this case, having no power whatever over existing schools, and being unable to receive any aid from the State towards the establishment or maintenance of additional schools, but being able to pass bye-laws for the compulsory attendance of children at school; and, in any case, the board, when once established, becomes, under the Act, indissoluble. It will, I think, appear clear from this statement that when a locality has done its duty as to the supply of schools, Parliament only intended a school board to be erected when the majority of the people of a place desired one; and, whenever a majority of the ratepayers have legally voted in favour of having a school board, we have always granted one, and similarly in the case of a majority of a town council; but hitherto in no case since the passing of the Act, as far as I can ascertain, has a protest against the decision of a town council been sent to the Privy Council; and here comes out the peculiarity and novelty of the Winchester case. The town council of the City of Winchester, which is amply supplied with schools, voted for a school board for the first time in February of this year, carry-it by 15 votes against 5. After this a public meeting was held at the Guild-hall, which was largely attended, and a resolution—addressed to the town council—against a school board was passed unanimously, and we were informed from various quarters that there was a very-general feeling in the city against a hoard. The town council met to reconsider the matter, but adhered to their resolution; 14, however, instead of 15, voting for a board, and 9, instead of 5, against it. A Petition was then forwarded to the Department, both very numerously and influentially signed, requesting us—I quote their words—not to order at present a school board, but to get fresh powers from Parliament for the appointment of an absentee officer, without calling into operation the whole expensive machinery of a school board, in cases where the school supply is sufficient. No counter meetings were held, and no communications were made to us from Winchester in support of the Corporation, which by a majority, relatively considerably diminished, adhered to its former resolution. We were, therefore, of opinion that this was exactly a case which was contemplated by Parliament when it imposed the responsibility upon the Department of deciding whether the request of a town council for a school board should be granted or not, when the supply of schools is sufficient: and most anxious though we are to secure the regular attendance of children at school, we did not think we should be right in straining the Act and going against its spirit for any purpose, however good. After, therefore, waiting some time to see if the town took action in support of the Corporation, and judging from all that had passed that the Corporation did not in this matter represent the wishes of the community, we felt bound to reply that we did not consider that we should be justified at present in ordering the election of a school board, and to that opinion, with our present information, we adhere.


asked whether the noble Lord would have any objection to lay on the Table the Correspondence on the subject?


said, he would answer that Question to-morrow.