§ COLONEL HARRISON-BROADLEY (Yorkshire, E.R., Howdenshire)
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Education whether, with a view towards checking the migration from the land of its able-bodied population, he will consider the advisability of granting powers to the county education authority to liberate from school attendance, at the age of twelve, all boys who, with their parents' consent, wish to follow the pursuit of agriculture or horticulture as a means of livelihood, whereby they would gain on the land greater facilities for acquiring a more practical knowledge of their work than they could otherwise do by attending school where the instruction given can only be of a theoretical nature.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD or EDUCATION (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N.
The local education authorities in rural districts already possess, and the great majority of them already use, very considerable powers of the kind desired by the hon. Member. I am informed that in about two-thirds of the rural areas of England and Wales children can leave school at twelve years of age on passing a standard well within the competence of the average child of that age. There are also special provisions, such as that which is known as the Robson By-law, which can be adopted with the same objects in rural areas. Moreover, the Board of Education are giving special attention to the improvement of practical instruction in rural schools, and to the improvement of special courses for teachers in rural elementary schools enabling them to give instruction specially suited to rural conditions. I do not think, therefore, that, until there has been time to gauge the effects of these recent developments, the Board or Parliament would be well advised to interfere further, in the direction suggested, with the work of our schools in rural areas.