HC Deb 24 March 1884 vol 286 cc598-600

asked the Vice President of the Council, Whether it is true that the Poor Law Medical Officer for Derby has reported to the guardians that he had lately had seven cases of illness of children through over-pressure in elementary schools, and still had three cases upon the books for medical relief; among the symptoms were night terrors; and, whether the Report is corroborated by facts?


Sir, the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Roe) sent me a report of the remarks of the medical officer to the Derby Board of Guardians, which has been transmitted to the Rev. Mr. Blandford, Her Majesty's Senior Inspector, with a request that he would investigate and report upon the matter. Mr. Legge, the medical officer, states that "seven" was a misprint for "several," and he furnished the names of four children for whom he had prescribed, and whose illness, in his opinion, had in a great measure been caused by overwork in their respective schools. The first was a boy, Thomas Walker, a scholar of St. Alkmond's National School, aged 11 years, in Standard II., the standard for a child of eight years. On the 22nd of February the master, observing that the boy looked poorly, allowed him to sit by the class-room fire. On the 23rd (Saturday) the master saw the boy in the streets, walking between two boards advertising a race, and expressed his surprise at seeing him thus employed after he had complained of illness the previous day. The boy said he had been sent out to earn money. The Inspector was also told by two other boys in the school, that Walker was sometimes employed at night selling evening papers. The boy came to school on Monday, the 25th, and on the 26th the medical officer gave a certificate that he was unfit to attend school. Mr. Blandford saw this lad in his own house; he seemed weakly and badly nourished, and suffering from cough and cold. His mother thought he had consumption—the complaint of which his father died. The second case was that of Sarah Ann Hayes, aged 12 years, in Standard III., the standard for children of nine. She was admitted to the board schools in January, 1883, and left in November, and is now attending a private school. An application was made while at the board school, by the person with whom she resides, that she might absent herself, as on the day before she had got in a ton of coal and could not straighten herself. The girl came in the afternoon, and the schoolmistress stated that she could not hold herself upright. Her Majesty's Inspector asks—"Might not the pressure from the getting in of the coal have done her more harm than her school work?" Third. Sam Slater, a boy between 13 and 14 years of age, in Standard II., the standard for children of eight. Left school to go into Lincolnshire, harvesting with his father, on the 20th of July last, and remained there till the 10th of December. Ills illness came on about the 24th of February. The Inspector called at the boy's home; but found that he had gone to a vilage in the neighbourhood for change of air. His sister said that "his face had broken out." Fourth. Redmond Handley, in St. Ann's National School, a bright, intelligent youth, in Standard IV. No complaint made to the master that he was overworked. He stated to Mr. Blandford that he suffered from pain in the side, and a tightness across the forehead. The Inspector adds— I have complained more than once of the premises in which this school is held. The room is far too small, and the ventilation is bad. "When I went into it yesterday (March 14) the room was almost unbearable from the number of the children and the closeness of the atmosphere. The Inspector concludes— I have to make the following observations upon the facts recorded. I do not, of course, call in question the statement of the medical officer as to the mere fact of the illness of these four children. But from the inquiries I have made I think it highly inprobable that their illness was owing, either in whole or in part, to the work they had to do in school or to the home lessons afterwards. In that opinion I think the House will fully agree.


asked, whether the House was to understand that, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, questions affecting the preservation of human life were beneath the notice of Her Majesty's Government.


The right hon. Gentleman ought to know that I cannot answer questions of opinion, but only questions of fact. If the cause of illness of every child on the roll of the elementary schools had to be investigated by the Inspectors, those gentlemen would have very little opportunity of discharging their ordinary duties.