§ 30. Sir W. DAVISON
asked the President of the Board of Education whether his attention has been called to a memorandum issued by the Incorporated Association of Headmasters of Secondary Schools, calling the attention of Members of Parliament to the urgent necessity on grounds of economy of an immediaate restriction of the costly bureaucratic system, local and central, which is extending its hold over the whole educational system of the country, and further pointing out that officers, both central and local, not content with discharging their proper function of supervising financial expenditure, are also endeavouring to control in detail the internal organisation of the educational institutions which they were intended to assist, whereby the individuality of schools is being destroyed, the powers of governing bodies crippled, local interest alienated, and the enthusiasm of teachers deadened; and whether he intends to take legislative action in the matter?
I have received the manifesto in question, which appears to be more remarkable for vigour of denunciation than for constructive suggestion. It is indisputable that the receipt of public money involves a measure of public control. How far that control should go is a fair matter for discussion, but I cannot say that for its proper exercise a knowledge of what may be called the internal administration of a school is unnecessary. It is impossible to define a reasonable degree of control by Statute, and I am not prepared to undertake legislation to reverse a principle that has found expression in every relevant Act of Parliament. I can, however, assure my hon. Friend that, consistently with this principle, I recognise that it is the duty of my Department and of local education authorities to have all possible regard to the individuality of schools, 3128 and the great value of the voluntary service given to them.
§ 43. Mr. BARKER
asked the President f the Board of Education if he is aware of the strong feeling existing against the action of the Board in forcing authorities to charge fees in secondary schools, this being absolutely opposed to the spirit and the letter of Section 14 (4) of the Education Act, 1921; and will he withdraw this educational barrier?
I cannot admit that the charging of fees in secondary schools is contrary either to the letter or the spirit of Section 14 (4) of the Education Act, 1921; and I would remind the hon. Gentleman that, in spite of the difficult financial circumstances through which the country is passing, the number of free places in grant-aided secondary schools to-day is about double the number in 1914.
§ Mr. BARKER
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the very poorest ratepayers have to pay rates and taxes for these secondary schools? Why should they be debarred through monetary causes?
I am well aware of that fact. I am also aware of the fact that the poorest ratepayer has the right to send his children to the considerable percentage of free places in these schools.