HC Deb 26 April 1911 vol 24 cc1801-2

asked the President of the Board of Education whether his attention had been directed to the quotation by a speaker at the conference of the National Union of Teachers, on Tuesday, 18th April, of a verse from a volume of songs approved by the Board of Education; and whether the Board of Education have sanctioned a volume of songs containing the words quoted as suitable to be sung by children in public elementary schools?


I have seen a newspaper report from which it appears that one of the speakers at the Conference quoted, as approved by the Board of Education, what I understand to be a version of the well-known Welsh song, "All through the night." The song known by that title is included in the list of titles of songs approved for older children in the Board's Suggestions for the Consideration of Teachers, issued in 1905, under the regime of the hon. Baronet opposite. The Board have never approved any song book for the use of children in Public Elementary, or other schools. In view of the statement to which the question refers, I had the curiosity to attempt to trace the version which had been quoted, and I succeeded in finding it in a small volume of so-called "approved songs," published by Messrs. J. Curwen and Sons, with a note that the songs in their book are all named in the Suggestions issued by the Board of Education. I do not know from what source the publishers obtained their version, but in fairness to the hon. Baronet I think I ought to say that I am satisfied that this version is not to be traced to his inspiration. The list of titles of songs approved by the Board of Education in their Suggestions is prefaced by a note of warning to the effect that some of the National Airs had originally words unsuited to school use but that in the case of all the songs referred to in the list editions were in existence with all the objectionable features removed. It is notorious that in the case of most Folk Songs numerous alternative versions of the words are to be found, and it was no doubt on that account that in the Suggestions for Teachers of 1905, it was considered desirable to issue the warning which has apparently escaped the notice of the teacher referred to in the question who might have been familiar with the Suggestions. The Board are compelled to rely in a matter of this kind on the good taste of those responsible for the school, and I may add, to some extent upon the good taste of the publishers of school books. We cannot take responsibility for every song book that is published.


Is it not an important matter that these words should be removed from elementary schools?


We cannot exercise jurisdiction over all the song books published in the country.


Will you publish the words without which the very long answer would be unintelligible?