§ (1) The duties of a local education authority shall include a duty to make arrangements, subject to the approval of the Board of Education:—
- (a) for ascertaining what children within their area are defective children within the meaning of this Act;
- (b) for ascertaining which of such children are incapable by reason of mental defect of receiving benefit or further benefit from instruction in special schools or classes;
- (c) for notifying to the local authority under this Act, the names and addresses of defective children with respect to whom it is the duty of the local education authority to give notice under the provisions hereinbefore contained.
§ In case of doubt as to whether a child is or is not capable of receiving such benefit as aforesaid, or whether the retention of a child in a special school or class would be detrimental to the interests of the other 470 children, the matter shall be determined by the Board of Education.
§ (2) The provisions of Section 1 of the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act, 1899, shall apply with the necessary modifications for the purposes of this Section.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I beg to move to leave out the words "The duties of a local education authority shall include a duty to," and to insert instead thereof the words "A local education authority may."
The object of this change is to make the Act optional on the local education authorities so far as these particular duties are concerned. These are not duties which would appeal to many of these local education authorities. First of all, they have to ascertain what children are defective within the meaning of this Act, and they have then to do the work of sifting out from the special schools those children who are no longer capable of receiving benefit from such schools. Many of our county councils have no special schools or classes at all and have 471 no machinery to carry out the duties thrown upon them in this Clause. It is better to make the Clause optional so that the big county councils, such as London, Leeds, and Bradford which have special schools and classes, will be able to carry out the provisions of the Act. How is the Staffordshire County Council, for instance, to ascertain what children within their area are defective? They have not got the machinery to find that out at all.
You are putting an absolutely impossible burden upon the backs of county councils when you ask them to do a thing like this. If they have special schools and classes it will be an easy thing for them to do because they have simply to send in a list of the children who are in their special schools and classes. If they have not got special schools and classes, they will have to go round making inquiries from house to house in order to ascertain what children of school age should be added to the list. I do ask the House, before they throw upon the county councils any more work, first of all to ask themselves whether the county councils are able to do the work. I imagine that this Clause when being drafted was made compulsory upon all county councils in the belief that the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Bill would pass into law, but the chances of that Bill passing are becoming very nebulous indeed. In that Bill it is made compulsory upon all county councils to provide special schools and classes. I am informed that a compromise has been come to between the Board of Education and the County Councils Association, by which county councils are exempted from the necessity of finding these compulsory special schools and classes, and of providing the machinery which is necessary if they are going to carry out their duties under Section 30. The burden that the Bill casts upon county councils is an impossible one, and I hope we may have it made an optional instead of a compulsory duty for county councils.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
The hon. Member has made himself quite clear. If this Amendment were carried it would practically wreck the Bill. I do not say that it is the intention of the hon. Member. The Amendment would give to local education authorities the option as to whether they would do the work or not. 472 It was moved in the Committee and was negatived after some discussion. It was because the provision of special schools under the Act of 1899 was optional that a great deal of the difficulty has arisen with regard to them. The optional principle has failed in that case, for, as we know, in three-quarters of the country there are no special schools at all, and now the hon. Member wants to apply the same principle of failure to this Bill.
§ Mr. GOLDSMITH rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the further consideration of the Bill, as amended, be now adjourned"; but Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER, being of opinion that the Motion was an abuse of the rules of the House, declined to propose the Question thereupon to the House.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I beg to move that paragraph (a) be omitted.
This paragraph provides that a local education authority shall make arrangements for ascertaining what children within their area are defective children within the meaning of the Act. I have already said that county councils have no machinery for doing this work. I now go to the other side and say that it is not only impossible for county councils to do the work, it is extremely undesirable for them to do it unless they have special schools or classes. Unless there is a special school or class, how is a county council to proceed? They have to decide what children within their area are defective children, and they have no special schools. The only way open to them, therefore, is to send the school attendance officer round to every family and find out the name and defectiveness of the children of every family. Could there be anything more abominable than that the school attendance officer should go into the house of the ordinary working man and inquire as to whether his children are defective and in what way they are defective? I hear a Labour Member telling me to "dry up," but what the hon. Member ought to know is that there are a considerable number of working men who do not like inspectors prying into their family affairs and seeing if their children are normal or defective. Working men are resentful already about the amount of inspection which goes on continually. You 473 will have them prying into your family affairs, and as a result you will have a good deal more restiveness than there is even at the present time. I therefore beg to move.
§ Amendment not seconded.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I beg to move in paragraph (a), after the word "area" ["for ascertaining what children within their area"], to insert the words "and attending their schools."
The local education authority, under this Clause have to make arrangements for ascertaining what children within their area are defective, and I have moved my Amendment because it seems to me that the inquiry would more easily be carried out if it were made in respect of children who were actually attending the schools. If my proposal is agreed to, the inspectors would not have to find out whether children who are less than seven years of age are defective, and would not have to go round to the class who do not send their children to these schools to find out whether any of their children are defective. If I can find a seconder I shall vote against a general roving inquiry being made, and in favour of confining the inquiry to the children already in the schools.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
I shall not take up the time of the House by replying at any length to this Amendment. The proposal of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme is really absolutely impossible, because it is the very children who do not attend school who may be most defective, and whom it is specially desired to reach.
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I beg to move to leave out paragraph (c).
This paragraph states that the local education authority shall notify to the local authority the names and addresses of defective children "with respect to whom it is the duty of the local education authority to give notice under the provisions hereinbefore contained." I think that as the House has already approved of paragraphs (a) and (b) it would be hardly possible for me to persuade them not to supply the list of defectives to the local authority. I would point out, however, that if the local authority is to take the list of 474 defective children from the local education authority, there will have been no question whatever of any sort of medical examination beforehand by any doctor. In some cases, you may have the doctor of the local education authority making an inquiry but I venture to say that in the vast majority of cases simply the teachers word will be taken, and the child will be notified to the authority under the Bill on that purely information. Of course that does not mean that the child has to go to a certified institution, but it does mean that the child's name is entered on the list, and that a petition may be presented against it. It is undesirable that an opportunity should be afforded of putting the child's name on such a list without any medical examination whatever, and without an opportunity being afforded to the parent to bring any complaint against the authority which thus puts the name of his child on the black list.
§ Amendment not seconded.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I beg to move in paragraph (c) after the word "notifying" ["for notifying to the local authority"] to insert the words" to the parent or guardian and,"
I think it is most desirable that when the name of any child is entered on the list notification of the fact should be made not only to the local authority, but also to the parent or guardian of the child. It is not fair that a child's name should appear on the list without the parents being told of it. I had hoped that a simple Amendment like this would have been accepted by the Home Secretary, but as there does not seem to be any disposition on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to meet me on the point, I will not put the House to the trouble of dividing.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.