HC Deb 01 July 1918 vol 107 cc1489-93

Where a local education authority for the purposes of Part III. of the Education Act, 1902, are satisfied in the case of any children that, owing to the remoteness of their homes or the conditions under which the children are living, or other exceptional circumstances affecting the children, those children are not in a position to receive the full benefit of education by means of the ordinary provision made for the purpose by the authority, the authority may, with the approval of the Board of Education, make such arrangements, either of a permanent or temporary character, and including the provision of board and lodging, as they think best suited for the purpose of enabling those children to receive the benefit of efficient elementary education, and may for that purpose enter into such agreement with the parent of any such child as they think proper.


I beg to move, after the word "living," to insert the words "or the poverty of their parents, or the fact that they have lost one or both parents, or have been deserted."

This Clause is dealing with exceptional circumstances which would permit of special arrangements being made for the education of children, including the provision of board and lodging. "Exceptional circumstances affecting the children" is rather a vague term, and I think we ought to give some indication as to what is in our minds. I have put three definite matters in my Amendment. The first is the poverty of parents, the second is the fact that children may have lost one or both parents, and the third is the fact that children may have been deserted, and I think these are special circumstances which would warrant the making of these arrangements. I hope the President will accept my Amendment, which does not in any way narrow the scope of the Bill.


I am advised that the Amendment is already covered by the Clause as it stands, and I submit to the hon. Member that the insertion of his words would have, in effect, a limiting operation rather than the effect which he desires it to have. For this and other reasons I am unable to accept it.


May I hope, then, that special rules will be issued by the Board of Education giving an indication to local authorities as to the exceptional circumstances mentioned in the Bill?


The local education authorities will have, no doubt, directions.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, after the word "lodging," to insert the words "or the establishment of hostels."

The Clause does away with a great difficulty that the local authorities have had. We have had to do these things by a subterfuge, such as giving travelling allowances to enable us to assist children who, owing to remoteness from their homes, were not able to take advantage of the educational facilities provided. I am quite prepared to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the words "of a permanent character" include this, but as the Clause rather went out of its way to include the provision of board and lodging, which I took to be of a temporary character, I suggest that you might accept my words as being of a permanent character. This would be especially useful in a district like the one from which I come, where we have a number of children coming from the hills, the children of shepherds. We have often to bring them down and educate them, and how we have done it has been by giving them a travelling allowance. We have found great difficulty sometimes in finding suitable lodgings for them, not only suitable so far as the homes of the people were concerned, but in finding somebody to whose care we could safely commit the children, and we have often desired to have such a power as is suggested in the Amendment. It may be in the Bill already, but the mere fact that you name it as a possibility removes it beyond all question of doubt. The words, I am sure, would be welcomed by such a local education authority as the one which I have in mind.


I would remind the Committee that the Clause as it stands does not exclude the provision of hostels for a number of children by the local education authority, but I think it is rather undesirable to specify the character of the arrangements to be made under this Clause. It is perfectly true, as the hon. Member with his experience of Northumberland said, that there may be regions in which it is desirable to provide hostels. On the other hand, in general, children would be much better off in a private family than in a place of an institutional character, and I feel that if we specify hostels we do to some extent invite the local education authorities to provide institutions rather than to make arrangements for the boarding-out of children in private families, which is, I think, on the whole and in general, the most desirable type of arrangement to make. It is for these reasons that I feel unable to accept the Amendment.


I think the word "hostel," being a board and lodging establishment, would come under the general words of the Clause, but the reason why I rise is to say that I do not quite agree with the President of the Board of Education when he considers that boarding a child in a private family is on principle better than having it in a hostel, or in a house similar to one of the boarding-houses in our great public schools. I was rather astonished to hear that he should think boarding children in private families, where there would be no provision for organised games or anything of that kind and where the children would probably not be looked after better than the children of such people usually are, that that is superior to affording children the discipline, the care, and supervision that would be given them in a hostel. I want to protest that I think the weak point of popular education in this country is the fact that there is no provision, either in the earlier Acts or in this Bill, for that which we all say is the finest form of education—i.e., the training of character, which is obtained in the great public schools by the boarding-house system, and the organised games, and the complete supervision, day and night, that the children of the classes with banking accounts have the advantage of. I cannot consider that this is an ideal system of education at all, when the principle of the training of character is left out of sight, and it was with surprise that I heard the President say that he considers taking children from their own parents' homes, and boarding them out in other parents' homes of a similar class, to be superior to putting them into boarding-houses which might be managed on the lines of the great public schools.

Amendment negatived.

Colonel Sir M. SYKES

I beg to move, at the end, to add the words, Provided always that when a child is boarded out in pursuance of this Section the local education authority shall, if possible, and if the parent so requests, arrange for the boarding-out being with a person belonging to the religious persuasion of the child's parents.


I shall be very glad to accept that.


I think this ought to be explained somewhat, so that we might clearly understand what it means. A child has not a parent generally, but two parents, and what does the expression "the parent" mean? You might have differences of opinion between the parents, in the case, say, where one is a Churchman and the other a Methodist, and yet together they have one child. This is not a very practical suggestion.


May I ask how far the President proposes to go to-night?

It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and leave having been given to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10, further proceeding was postponed, without Question put.