HC Deb 04 April 1878 vol 239 cc530-1

asked the Vice President of the Council, Whether the Education Department can arrange that religious instruction may be given in the class room of a public elementary school to separate classes or divisions of the school, either at the beginning or end of the meeting, even though the other classes of the school may be then receiving secular instruction?


Sir, serious complaints have been made to us that the religious instruction of the schools has greatly suffered from the rule that the children of all ages should receive such teaching at the same time, and it has been felt a grievance that managers and others interested in the welfare of the children should be unable to give such teaching on any day when the school is open to any separate class of the school, at any of the various periods permitted by the Act of Parliament, without obliging the whole school to be under similar religious instruction. We have given our best consideration to the matter, and we hope to be able to arrange that, provided that at each meeting of the school secular instruction is continuously given for the prescribed number of hours, by or under the immediate superintendence of the head teacher, and that there is a class-room separate from the main school-room, the hours of secular instruction need not be the same for the whole school, and that religious instruction may be given in the class-room to separate classes or divisions of the school, either at the beginning or the end of the meeting, according to the provisions of the Act. If we did not make some such arrangement as this, I believe that we should be going against the wish of Parliament that, while all the provisions of the Conscience Clause should be maintained in the strictest manner, no impediment should be raised by the regulations of the Education Department to the religious teaching of the children of the country, the paramount importance of which has been acknowledged by all parties in the State.