§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I beg to ask the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education whether he has obtained further information as to the alleged violation of the Conscience Clause at the National School at Ringstead, Northamptonshire; whether it is true that the children of Nonconformists, who had been withdrawn from the religious instruction, were systematically put at the bottom of the class of each day, whatever position in the class they had reached the day before, although the registers were closed after these children were in their places, and these children were entered as in attendance; whether such a practice constitutes a 694 violation of the Conscience Clause; and whether the Education Department have take steps to inform the managers that such treatment of children withdrawn under the Conscience Clause is illegal, and, if persisted in, will cause the grant to the School to be withheld?
§ THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Sir W. HART DYKE,) Kent, Dartford
It appears to have been the practice of the great bulk of the Nonconformist children to attend religious instruction subject to the omission of certain parts at the request of the parents, and I have reason to believe that their feelings in this regard were scrupulously repected, but some few children who claimed to be withdrawn altogether from religious instruction were, in common with others who came late, placed at the bottom of the class. In this respect the managers, no doubt, committed an infraction of the Conscience Clause, and have been informed of the consequences if such practice should be persisted in: it has at the same time been pointed out that, with a view to enforce punctuality, they are at liberty to close the registers before religious instruction, but, in that case, they must provide secular instruction for those who claim exemption under the Conscience Clause.
§ MR. CHANNING
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered one part of my question as to the closing of the registers. My information from those on the spot is that the register was closed after the children of Nonconformists were in their places, they being entered as in attendance.
§ SIR W. HART DYKE
Yes, I believe there were some cases, and condemnation of the practice has gone forth.