HC Deb 16 July 1918 vol 108 cc948-50

(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of Section six of the Education Act, 1902, or, in the case of London, Sub-section (1) of Section two of the Education (London) Act, 1903, as to the appointment of managers, any public elementary school which in the opinion of the Board is organised for the sole purpose of giving advanced instruction to older children may be managed in such manner as may be approved by the local education authority, and, in the case of a school not provided by that authority, also by the managers of the school.


I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (1).

This is a very difficult provision to understand. We come here to the provisions relating to central schools and classes. I believe that a number of people do not know what central schools are. It is very important that those persons who want to understand this Bill and the objects of the President of the Board of Education should understand that central schools are an essential part of his plan. We are, therefore, no doubt going to have a great development of the central schools. That is entirely to the good, and everybody who is interested in educational progress wants it. This Sub-section provides that when you have a public elementary school which, in the opinion of the Board, is organised for the sole purpose of being a central school giving higher or advanced instruction, then the Board may step in and do away with the old managers. The local education authority will appoint a brand new set of managers. There are some of our higher elementary schools where there is a concentrated population which take an advanced or superior position, and which value greatly their traditions and their managers and their individuality. Those schools naturally are afraid. This Clause is up against the difficulty between provided and non-provided schools. You have, say, an area where there are five or six schools for a small concentrated population, and you want to make one a central superior school. If all the schools were either voluntary of one special domination, or were council schools, it would not be very difficult to adjust the differences and the claims between them, but when you have some of the schools voluntary and some provided or council schools, you are going to have jealousy and suspicion between the two. If you take a voluntary school and make it a superior school for advanced instruction, you are going to have the parents of the children in the other schools up in revolt, or suspicious or jealous. If, on the other hand, you take a council school and make it the superior school, you are going to have the voluntary school people suspicious, jealous, or disappointed. This is a real administrative difficulty, and it is a case in which it is quite obvious that the dual system is hampering and making it more difficult for us to have educational advance. I have only just received a telegram from a well-known educationist—I will not mention his name, because some Members might consider it more authoritative than others, but at any rate he is a very great educationist—asking me by all means to get some statement from the President of the Board of Education how he is going to work this Sub-section. You are taking power to abolish the managers, and the school is to be managed in such manner as may be approved by the local education authority. I take it that means that there will still be some managers, and that the school cannot be managed, say, by the education committee itself.

Mr. FISHER indicated assent.


At any rate, it is in my legal opinion that managers are essential in the case of all voluntary schools. Supposing you have a provided school that is the central school, are you going to say that voluntary children are to attend there, and are you going to take away its undenominational character to suit the denominational children? On the other hand, if you make a voluntary school the central school, how are you going to manage? Are you going to leave the managers, if they do not consent, as they have the power not to consent, to their own modification or alteration, or how are you going to meet the difficulties as regards the managers? I think that I have stated the real difficulties which arise, and I hope that I shall get an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman as to his intentions.


I beg to second the Amendment.


I trust that the hon. Member will not persist in his Amendment. The Board felt that if central schools were to be adequately encouraged, it was necessary to give the local education authority a perfectly free hand in arranging for the management of those schools. After all, as my hon. Friend has said, it is a matter of some difficulty to arrange the managing body for a central school that draws its pupils from eleven or twelve different elementary schools. It is not a problem which you can expect the Board of Education to solve in every instance, and we felt that it would be the wiser course to leave this power to the local education authority, and to ask the local education authority to use its discretion. We have every confidence that discretion will be wisely exercised.

Amendment negatived.