HC Deb 20 March 1876 vol 228 cc267-8

asked the Vice President of the Council, If his attention has been directed to a police report in "The Times" of the 16th March, as follows:— Wands worth. In a case of assault, a little girl, nine years of age, was examined as a witness. Mr. Bridge inquired if she was acquainted with the nature of an oath; the father said she was well educated. Mr. Bridge then questioned the girl, who said she did not understand the nature of an oath. She went to school. She never heard of the Bible, nor said prayers. Mr. Bridge declined to have her sworn, and said she appeared to be receiving a 'Godless education' in the school. and, whether he can inform the House if the school referred to is one of those receiving Government aid or sanction?


I have referred to the report in The Times of the painful case at the Wands worth police-court to which the Question alludes, where a girl of nine years of age, said to go to school and to be well-educated, had never heard of the Bible. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin does not tell me the name of the school where she was educated, nor do I find any name in the police report, so that I am unable to say whether it is receiving Government support. By asking me this Question, and thereby implying that some responsibility attaches to the Education Department in this matter, the hon. Gentleman appears to be unaware of the changes made in the relations of the State to the schools of England by the English Education Act of 1870. It is now a condition of the Government grant that it should not be made in respect of any instruction in religious subjects. The former provisions for securing some religious teaching in State-aided schools, as well as the examination of the children in religious subjects by Her Majesty's Inspectors, are given up under that Act, and the duty of the Education Department is now confined to securing that the requisite amount of efficient secular instruction is provided in all elementary schools. I cannot think, therefore, that any responsibility whatever can be held to rest with the Education Department respecting such a case as this to which the hon. Gentleman has called my attention.