HC Deb 11 August 1881 vol 264 cc1536-7

asked the Vice President of the Council, Whether the Education Department have refused to lower the Standard prescribed by the bye-laws for the parish of High worth, in the Swindon Union, for total exemption from school attendance, so as to bring the same in uniformity with the Standards sanctioned by the Department for ten other Parish and School Boards in the same Union, notwithstanding the strong and urgent representations made by the Magistrates, Ratepayers, and School Attendance Committee to the effect that the Fifth Standard pressed severely on the agricultural classes, and was, practically, cruel and unjust if enforced; and, if this be so, how he reconciles the facts with the statement he made on July 8th that the Department were doing all they could to secure uniform Standards?


It is quite true that the Department has repeatedly re- fused to lower the Standard of total exemption from the fifth to the fourth in the parish of Highworth. That parish, in the year 1878, voluntarily passed bye-laws with Standard 3 for partial and Standard 5 for total exemption. These bye-laws were settled, after full discussion, at a meeting of the ratepayers of the parish; and this Resolution was supported, even after remonstrance, by three-fourths of the rate able value of the parish. But I regret to say that the School Attendance Committee and the magistrates have persistently refused to enforce them. Between January, 1879, and May, 1880, 200 cases of irregularity were reported; but proceedings against parents were only taken in five cases. Again and again the Department pointed out to the local authorities that they were neglecting their duty, and even threatened to declare them in default; and, in consequence of their persistent neglect, the local committee in High-worth resigned office in December, 1879. Highworth is a town of 3,000 inhabitants, and, according to the vicar of the parish and the managers of the schools, there is no reason why the Fifth Standard should not be maintained; and this view is confirmed by Her Majesty's Inspector, who has specially inquired into the subject. In this case the Department is supporting the parishioners of Highworth against a reactionary local authority and reluctant magistracy. In Swindon the Standards are 5 and 4.