HC Deb 06 July 1908 vol 191 cc1251-3
MR. H. J. TENNANT (Berwickshire)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Education whether his attention has been called to the failure of certain local education committees to carry out their statutory duties of providing for the medical inspection of school children and to the inadequate salaries which some local education authorities propose to pay for this important duty; whether he proposes to take steps to ascertain the manner in which these duties are about to be performed, and, if so, when these steps will be taken; and whether he proposes to inform the various local education authorities of any measures contemplated to compel them to undertake and carry out the duties which Parliament has cast upon them.


Yes, Sir, my attention has been drawn to certain cases where the local education authority have resolved to take no action under Section 13 of the Act, or have postponed indefinitely the consideration of the question. Steps are being taken, both by correspondence and by local investigation, to ascertain the manner in which arrangements for medical inspection are being initiated, and a clause has been inserted into the Code requiring, as a condition of the payment of the annual grant in respect of any school, that satisfactory provision should be made for the medical inspection of the children attending the school. Failure on the part of the local authority to comply with the requirements of the Act may, therefore, in addition to, and not in substitution of, other statutory remedies, result in the refusal of or deduction from the grant. Special attention has been called to this matter in the prefatory memorandum to the Code, and I think the publicity attaching to the Code will suffice to apprise the authorities of its requirements. The Board have no control over the salaries payable by local authorities to the officers engaged in medical inspection, except in so far as inadequate remuneration may be found to result in the efficiency of inspection; and until the various schemes are in working order and the Board have had opportunities of comparing the methods and efficiency of medical inspection in the various areas, I should not be prepared to say whether any particular salaries can be regarded as insufficient.


Can any steps be taken to secure that schemes are brought up by the local authorities?


Some steps must of necessity wait until the schemes are brought forward, but if it is found that a local authority absolutely refuses to take action in respect of the medical inspection of children we shall make the necessary deduction from their grant.


I beg to ask the President of the Board of Education whether the provision, prescribed in Article 58 (b) of the Code for 1908–9 for the medical inspection of all children admitted to an elementary school on and after 1st August, 1908, and of all children expected to leave school before 31st July, 1909, necessarily includes all or any of the requirements specified in the Board of Education's Circular 576, page 8, Section 11; whether, it is necessary that all the above examinations should be conducted by a qualified medical practitioner; and, if the Answer be in the negative, which of the above examinations may be conducted by: (a) teacher; (b) a qualified nurse; whether the use of the schedule in the Board of Education's Circular No. 582, pp. 4 and 5, is obligatory, and whether it must be filled up in every particular.


As I recentl stated to a deputation, of which the hon. Member formed a part, inquiries as to the methods or machinery of medical inspection should obviously be addressed to the Board in writing and if made will receive prompt attention and, as far as possible, full replies. It is impossible to deal satisfactorily or completely with matters of detail within the limits of an Answer across the floor of the House, and I think I should be exposing both the Board and local authorities to risk of misunderstanding if I attempted to do so. If the hon. Member communicates with the Board on behalf of a local authority, I shall be glad to see that he has a written reply without delay.