HC Deb 20 July 1908 vol 192 cc1493-4
MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Education whether his attention has been called to the action of the Willesden Education Committee in ordering William Barnard of that place to be summoned every fortnight before the local magistrates until he consents to inflict what he holds to be a grave injury upon his son by forcing him to renew his attendance at a certain school for mentally-deficient children in that district; whether he is aware that doctors have constantly stated in evidence before the Bench that fresh air and manual labour are better for this boy than the compulsory companionship of weak-minded children; that the boy has recently been attending an ordinary school in Essex with good results; that since his return to Willesden, his father, who earns 25s. a week and has five other children, has already been fined over £4 since last May; whether education committees are under any, and, if so, what, direct statutory obligation to undertake fortnightly prosecutions in such cases; and, if not, whether he will take steps to ensure that the system shall now cease in this particular case.


I have no information as to the case other than that contained in the hon. Member's Question. Under Section 4 of the Elementary Education Act, 1876, it is the duty of a parent to cause his child to receive efficient elementary instruction, and under Section 4 (1) of the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act, 1899, that duty extends to children who are defective within the meaning of the Act if a certified special class or school is within reach. The local education authority are required by Section 23 of the Elementary Education Act, 1876, to enforce the bye laws as to school attendance. I do not understand from the Question whether the parent objects to his child receiving education at all or only to his being instructed in a school for defective children. In the latter case I may point out that under Section 2 (5) of the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act, 1899, it is open to him to claim that his child should be medically examined in order to ascertain whether he has attained such a mental and physical condition as to be fit to attend an ordinary public elementary school, provided that this claim shall not be made within less than six months after the child has been previously examined.


In view of the fact that this man is being slowly ruined by the action of the Education Committee, which I understand is not obligatory action, will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiry into the matter?


Yes, Sir; if the hon. Gentleman wishes.