HC Deb 18 June 1912 vol 39 cc1500-1

I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to provide for Physical Training in elementary, secondary, and continuation schools."

I think that there will be general sympathy in all parts of the House with the object of this Bill, which is to do something to arrest the deterioration of our people which was disclosed in the Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Physical Deterioration, and to do something to promote the physical standard of the people of the country. The Empire depends on the health and strength of the men and women who compose it. Health and strength generally give good humour. A man with muscles and healthy characteristics is more likely to get through the ups and downs of life than a man who is not healthy. The object of the Bill is to produce physical training for the youth of both sexes up to the age of sixteen. The Bill provides for two hours to be given compulsorily every week in the schools that I have mentioned. Those who support the Bill are satisfied that these two hours will enable the elementary education authorities to increase the time as time goes on. In the Bill it is provided that teachers in that subject must obtain certificates of efficiency before being qualified to conduct the physical training and should understand the principles underlying physical exercise. For instance, they should know the outlines of the muscles and what the functions of the muscles are. It is essential that pupils should take an interest in the work, and they will not do so unless the instructors can tell them all about the exercises and what their object is. Hon. Members know very well that there is no use in throwing the arms and legs about unless there is some object in it. There is provision that the local education authority shall appoint a special committee to see that the physical training is carried out efficiently and compulsorily in each school. The medical inspecting officer is to arrange with the committee for a yearly examination in each of the schools, and records are to be kept of the measurements of the children each year, and the condition of their heart, lungs, and other vital organs while they are at school. There is a Clause in the Bill that children are not to be taught the use of weapons. It is a matter of opinion whether that is useful or not, but a large number of people think that this training might mean teaching the use of weapons, and we have put down a Clause on that point to show everybody that the real object of the Bill is to get better health for our young people and to make them better men and women as they grow old. With regard to expenditure, the local education authority is to lay before the Board of Education each year an account of the expenditure incurred under the Act, and the Board of Education is to lay before Parliament each year a statement of the expenditure by them and by the local authorities as well in carrying out this Act. I hope that I have said enough to induce the House to give this Bill the First Reading.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Lord Charles Beresford, Sir Reginald Pole-Carew, Mr. Munro-Ferguson, Mr. Hamar Greenwood, Sir Philip Magnus, Mr. George Roberts, and Dr. Chapple. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Tuesday next, and to be printed.