HC Deb 09 December 1926 vol 200 cc2268-9

asked the President of the Board of Education how many local education authorities have made complete provision for the number of physically defective children under their jurisdiction: how many have made partial provision; and how many have not yet made any provision?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Lord Eustace Percy)

The question whether complete provision exists in any particular area for dealing with physically defective children is a matter of opinion, as it depends upon the thoroughness of ascertainment and on the nature of the standards adopted. In 263 areas provision is made for the education of substantial numbers of physically defective children at special schools, and in about 140 areas provision is made for the treatment of cripple children by way of orthopædic or similar schemes. In about 40 areas no provision has so far been made.


Does the noble Lord intend to put any pressure on local authorities who are as yet failing to carry out their duties in view of the recent Mental Deficiency Bill?


The Mental Deficiency Bill has nothing whatever to do with the question on the Paper, which refers to physically defective children. As regards the other part of the question, I shall certainly press local authorities to carry out their duties where they are not doing so.


also asked the President of the Board of Education if he will give the present estimated number of physically defective children who might benefit by admission to special schools; how many of these children are at present in special schools; how many in public elementary schools; how many in other institutions; and how many are not attending any School?


The total number of children ascertained by local education authorities in 1925, the latest year for which complete returns are available, as physically defective within the meaning of Section 55 of the Education Act, 1921 (including those suffering from some form of tuberculosis, those classed as cripples, and those classed as "delicate"), was 142,889. Of these, 25,769 attended special schools during that year, 94,332 were at public elementary schools, and 3,857 were in other institutions, while 18,931 were not attending any School. As regards the children attending public elementary schools, it should be remembered that most of the delicate children require only a relatively short period at an open-air School, and the majority of the cripples can be so far benefited by orthopædic treatment as to render them capable of profiting from the instruction in ordinary elementary schools.


Does not the Noble Lord think these figures sufficiently alarming to approach local authorities with a view to some better provision being made for these children?


I think if the hon. Member examines the figures closely he will see they are not really alarming. What we need is a very much better development of ascertainment and orthopædic treatment, but it would be a very large assumption, and quite out of harmony with present medical opinion, and the tendency of medical opinion, to suppose that all these children who are ascertained as physically defective ought to be taken to special schools.


Does it not strike the Noble Lord as alarming that there are such large numbers of defective children, and if he would make inquiry he would find that it is largely owing to bad housing conditions and starvation?


That question concerns another Minister.