HC Deb 05 March 1908 vol 185 cc859-61

To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland if he is aware that the Commissioners of National Education, on the 27th August, 1899, removed the manager and church committee from the control of the Westbourne national schools at Belfast for forcing the teachers to make illegal payments; can he say on what grounds the same manager was afterwards promoted to be patron and the most prominent member of the dismissed committee to be manager of these schools; what steps, if any, were then taken to protect the teachers from illegal exactions; if he can state on what grounds the patron recently dismissed the manager; why the board sanctioned his dismissal; and what are the qualifications of the present manager: not possessed by the former one.

(Answered by Mr. Birrell.) The Commissioners of National Education inform: me that it appeared from an official inquiry in 1899 that certain of the teachers of Westbourne national schools held their appointments on the condition of paying a yearly contribution towards the expenses of the school, that the committee of the Westbourne Church had been acting as a school committee and usurping the functions of the manager, and had irregularly interfered in the matter of the appointment and dismissal of teachers, and that the manager, the Reverend Mr. Witherow, had failed to maintain his position and. exercise his functions as manager as defined by the Commissioners' rules. The Commissioners, by an Order of the Board dated 29th August, 1899, withdrew recognition from the committee and from the manager and, as a temporary arrangement, empowered their district inspector to act as manager. This arrangement continued till October, 1900, when the Hoard considered that the time had come when the school could, without danger of revival of the irregularities, be again placed under local control. Accordingly, by an Order dated the 23rd October, 1900, the Reverend Mr. Witherow was recognised; as patron. The patron of a national school has the right of acting as local manager himself or of nominating a suitable local, manager. The Reverend Mr. Witherow nominated A. P. B. Moore, Esq., M.D., as local manager, and the Commissioners accepted this nomination and recognised Dr. Moore in that capacity. The Commissioners have no evidence that Dr. Moore was the most prominent member of the dismissed committee, as stated in: the Question. In September, 1899, the Commissioners issued a circular to all school managers warning them that to require teachers, as a condition of their appointment, to contribute to the expenses of the school was entirely contrary to the spirit of their rules, and that under no circumstances could the Board sanction the levying of money from teachers as a condition of appointment or of continuance of appointment, and the Commissioners added that they would consider whether they should not withdraw grants from schools in which such practices were-permitted. On 23rd January, 1908, the patron nominated Mr. Charles Westbourne Henderson as manager, Dr. Moore having ceased to be connected with Westbourne Church. The patron stated he appointed Mr. Henderson as manager at the suggestion of Dr. Moore, and the appointment was recognised by the Commissioners in accordance with Rule 40 (b) of their code. The Commissioners cannot compare the qualifications of the former and present manager. The present manager is qualified for the position.