HC Deb 19 February 1884 vol 284 cc1330-2

asked the Vice President of the Council for Education, Whether his attention has been called to the following statement by Dr. Crichton Browne, late Superintendent of the West Riding Lunatic Asylum, at Wakefield, and now Local Chancellor's Visitor in Lunacy, contained in a letter which appeared in The Bradford Observer of Tuesday February 5th— It seems to me high time for a declaration of rights on behalf of helpless children, and on behalf of future generations also, whom, if we are not careful, we shall load with a burden more grievous than the National Debt; a burden of degeneration and disease. I trust that some one of my medical brethren will bring this subject to the front, and obtain from the meeting an emphatic condemnation of home work' in the case of children under twelve years of age. I have encountered many lamentable instances of derangement of health, disease of the brain, and even death resulting from enforced evening-study in the case of young children, with the nervous excitement and loss of sleep which it so of ten induces, and I am fully persuaded that, even when it does no perceptible injury to health, it is inimical to true progress. It implies a maximum of labour with a minimum of result. To pursue young children with lessons into their home life, and those hours when they should be roaming fancy free, is to embitter their existence, and that of their parents, and to endanger their symmetry of growth. It is indisputable that evening work by artificial light is peculiarly detrimental to vision and conducive to that short-sightedness which is increasing amongst us so rapidly, and that it tends much more than day work to cause deformity of the spine; and, whether the Education Department will cause an inquiry to be made into the condition of things therein referred to?


Yes, Sir; I have seen the letter in question, and I have also had the advantage of seeing Dr. Crichton Browne on the subject. He informed me that what he had in his mind when he wrote it was the heavy home-lessons and the consequent late-working hours of children attending middle-class and high schools. There is no doubt that the work imposed upon teachers and children in some of these schools is greatly in excess of anything attempted in public elementary schools; but the Education Department has no control over them, and it may surely be left with parents of the wealthier classes to take care that their children are not over-taxed. I have invited Dr. Crichton Browne to visit some of the public elementary schools of London, in company with one of Her Majesty's Inspectors, and to favour me with his opinion of their work from a sanitary point of view. I am glad to say he has agreed to do so. I am instituting the most careful and searching inquiries into these allegations of "over-pressure," and when they are completed the substance of them shall be laid before Parliament.


asked, Whether it is true that Her Majesty's School Inspector for South wark has reported that fourteen certificated female teachers in his district have broken down from over-work under the New Code; that two have died; and that the health of the others seems to be in a precarious condition?


The Report referred to by the hon. Member has been forwarded to the London School Board for their remarks thereupon. I am informed that a strict investigation is being made, and I will take care that the result is communicated to the House.