§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
asked the Vice President of the Committee of Council, Whether, in view of the statements contained in a Report made at his request by Dr. Crichton Browne, F.R.S. one of the Lord Chancellor's Visitors in Lunacy, and printed by order of this House, and of the published opinions of Sir William Jenner, President of the Royal College of Physicians, that the report, if acted upon, "will save much suffering and some lives," he will take steps to procure the appointment of a Commission of medical men unconnected officially with the Education Department, to inquire whether the present method of applying the Elementary Education Acts injuriously affects the health of the children and teachers? He would add to what stood on the Paper in his name the following Question—namely, Whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware that the Metropolitan Association of School Board Teachers, representing more than 2,000 masters of board schools, had passed a Resolution supporting the contention of Dr. Crichton Browne?
§ MR. MUNDELLA
I may say that I have also received many representations 1107 from Metropolitan teachers to the contrary effect. I have reason to believe that the London School Board will to-day order an inquiry into the allegations in Dr. Crichton Browne's Report, and into the whole question of the alleged over-pressure of London board schools. If an efficient inquiry is instituted, and if, as I hope, it is assisted by impartial and thoroughly qualified medical experts, it would seem to be undesirable and unnecessary to conduct a second inquiry at the same time, and for the same objects. But, as I have already stated to the House, the most careful precautions have been taken in the Code of this year to guard against the evils complained of. The power of classifying children, either as infants or children, subject to individual examination, the provisions for the withdrawal and exemption of dull and delicate children are now universally applied, and there is a general sense of responsibility on the part of school boards, school managers, and Her Majesty's Inspectors as to the discharge of their duties in these respects. In addition to this, and, perhaps, more important than anything I have stated, the public discussion of this question is leading to the establishment of voluntary associations for supplying assistance, in the shape of cheap and, in some instances, gratuitous food and clothing, to starving and neglected children. In London a Committee of representative Managers are actively engaged in investigating the requirements of the various districts of the Metropolis, and by their aid 13 centres are in course of establishment for supplying dinners for poor children. I have been able myself, through the munificent generosity of some Members of this House, to offer considerable pecuniary help to this Committee, and I anticipate the most useful results from these efforts. Meantime, I can assure the House that I am watching carefully the general administration of the Code and Education Acts, and the effects of the recent relaxations of its provisions. I have also inquired into every alleged case of over-pressure that has been brought to my notice, and I shall shortly lay the result of these inquiries before the House.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
I should like to ask, whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that is own administration 1108 and that of the London School Board are different matters? The London School Board has only authority to inquire into the proceedings of school boards, and not those of the voluntary schools. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to maintain that any inquiry by the London School Board would relieve him from responsibility?
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he could only refer to the Report of Dr. Crichton Browne itself, in which he stated that if the provisions of the Code were only carefully carried out it would be all that was required. He had also the testimony of medical men, school boards, and others, to the effect that where the Code was properly applied, no over-pressure would arise from it. He had also received an admirable letter from Mr. Birley, of Manchester, who had had great experience on the subject, and who stated distinctly that the Code, if properly administered, would not produce over-pressure.