HC Deb 20 August 1889 vol 339 cc1742-3
MR. HALLEY STEWART (Lincolnshire, Spalding)

I beg to ask the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education if he is aware that on Monday, 29th July, some 34 children of the National School, Colsterworth, Lincolnshire, were absent from afternoon school to attend a picnic of the Band of Hope Total Abstinence Society, under Nonconformist management; that the Rector of Colsterworth, the Rev. J. Mirehouse, a Trustee and Manager of the School, the following week ordered several of the school children to act as his amanuenses, and to write letters to the parents of the absentees, which he personally addressed and signed, the following being a copy of one of such letters:— To Mrs. Wilson,—Your child, Kate Wilson, was absent from school on the afternoon of Monday, July 29. J. Wilson was told by the schoolmaster, as well as by me, that a half-holiday could not be granted. Instead of paying 2d. a week, as heretofore, you must pay from this day 3d. a week. JOHN MIREHOUSE. Whether the master has refused to take the usual school fee from these children, the majority of them being kept at home in consequence; whether the Rector is entitled to raise the children's fees for the reason assigned; and if so, whether the Education Department has sanctioned his doing so; and whether the Vice President will urge the Rector to show some consideration for the wishes of Nonconformist parents whose children are obliged to attend the National School, especially as their absence is enforced when the school is closed on the occasion of the Church Sunday School festivals, and when closed earlier before and opened later after the Primrose League meetings that are held there?


I am informed that the Rector offered to hold the afternoon meeting of the school an hour earlier than usual in order to set the children free to attend the picnic in question, and only declined to give a half-holiday because the children were backward in their work, and the school had been recently closed for a week and would shortly break up for the summer holiday. The Rector states that the letters dictated to the children were intended to test their handwriting, but I cannot defend his action in this respect; and he has been told that the children must be received back at the ordinary fee, or the grant will be endangered.

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