asked the President of the Board of Education whether his attention had been called to the action of the managers of the Whitchurch Church of England school, near Bristol, who had ordered that the school premises should be closed between morning and afternoon school hours; whether he was aware that this would prevent the children from a distance, who had been previously allowed to eat their dinners and rest in the school, having any resort but the public highroads during the interval; whether the Board of Education has power to intervene in 1401 this and similar cases; and, if not, whether he would, by administrative order or otherwise, maintain the rights of parents and children in this matter?
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Runciman)
I have made inquiries about this matter, and have received a Report from His Majesty's inspector. The facts appear to be as stated. I am informed that the usual number of children staying in the school for dinner was eight, that the managers have taken no steps to provide any other place in which the children may have dinner, and that, as a result apparently of their action three of the children affected have now left the school, while the rest sometimes go home, a distance of about two miles, to dinner, and sometimes eat their dinner outside the school. The inspector was informed by the vicar that the resolution of the managers was passed owing to an inquiry having been made by the local education authority as to what supervision was exercised over children staying at school during the dinner-hour, and that the managers acted as they did in order to avoid responsibility for children during the dinner-hour. The managers appear to have made no effort to ascertain whether it was possible to make arrangements for any of the teachers to superintend the children who stayed for dinner. As a matter of fact, it appears that one of the assistant teachers stays for dinner at the school every day, and would have undertaken the supervision if she had been asked to do so. The managers do not appear to have taken the trouble to make the simple inquiry which would have informed them of this fact. I think that the action of the managers reveals an extraordinary lack of common sense, and I would gladly intervene if I had the power to do so. Since, however, the action of the managers relates to a period outside the school hours it does not appear that the Board have any power to intervene in the matter.
Will the right hon. Gentleman inform those persons who have appointed these managers of the result of his report, so that, if possible, some who have more common sense may be appointed?
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Has not the education authority got representatives on the Board of Managers? Have their representatives made any protest against this action?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
The information that I have applies to the managers as a whole; I have given full information to the House.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Would the right hon. Gentleman suggest to the education authorities that they should appoint representatives who will look more carefully after their duties?