HC Deb 12 June 1891 vol 354 cc287-9

I beg to ask the Lord Advocate if he will inquire whether it is the case, as stated by the School Board of Archattan and Muckairn, that there are only four children of Episcopalian parents belonging to the district attending the episcopal school, exclusive of the teacher's children; is he aware that the School Board have intimated to the Scotch Education Department that, unless the episcopal school is withdrawn from the list of State-aided schools, they will again resign, and leave the management of the educational affairs to the Scotch Education Department; whether, under "The Education (Scotland) Act, 1872," no school established after the passing of that Act can be placed on the Annual Grant List unless the Department shall, after due inquiry, be satisfied that no sufficient provision exists for the children for whom the school is in- tended, regard being had to the religious belief of the parents, or that it is otherwise specially required in the locality where it is situated; whether the Board school has been at any time overcrowded or been insufficient to accommodate the combined average attendance at the Board school and the episcopal school; whether the Board school is conducted under the conscience clause as regards religious teaching; whether there is any such distinction in the religious beliefs of Episcopalians and Church of Scotland Presbyterians as to justify the necessity for separate schools; and under which alternative of the Act was the episcopal school in question placed on the Annual Grant List?


I understand that the number of children of Episcopalian parents attending the school has decreased since the date when it was placed on the Annual Grant List, and the School Board have been informed that the Department must be guided by the experience of an adequate period in regard to the retention of that school on the list. But it must be noted that if the attendance continues to be so small as is asserted, the effect of the school upon the public school is thereby minimised. I am aware that the School Board have intimated their intention of again resigning should the action of the Department under the Education Acts not be in accordance with their views. But they are mistaken in supposing that the management of the educational affairs in the district will thereby pass to the Scotch Education Department; and they have been informed that should the public schools of the district cease to be represented by the School Board as managers, it will be necessary to suspend the grants to these schools. I do not understand that the public school has been overcrowded, but the number of children on the registers of both schools, as returned by the Board in 1889, was in excess of the accommodation at that school. I have no reason to think that the public school is not conducted under a conscience clause, as required by the Education Acts. In placing the school upon the list, the Department had regard to both alternatives of the section of the Act quoted by the hon. Member, and while a sufficiently wide line of demarcation would appear to exist between the tenets of Episcopalians and Presbyterians, I fear that an exhaustive definition of the differences would extend beyond the limits of a Parliamentary answer.