HC Deb 30 July 1935 vol 304 cc2473-5

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he has considered the correspondence between the Board and the rector of St. Paul's, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, wherein the rector and other managers of the St. Paul's Girls' School complain of the behaviour of an inspector of schools for reproving, in the presence of the staff and the children, a little girl for having stated in an essay that England is the finest country in the world, and reproving, in the hearing of the children, a teacher in the school for having, as he alleged, taught the little girl in question old-fashioned imperialism; whether he is aware that the Board has not denied these facts but has refused redress; and whether he will now take disciplinary action in this matter?


The Board would consider as highly improper any attempt by one of their inspectors to discourage among school children love of and pride in their own country. I have made inquiries in this case, and am satisfied that there has been some misunderstanding. The words used by the inspector were in the nature of a casual comment to the teacher, and were not intended as a reproof either to the teacher or the child. While I deprecate casual remarks which may give rise to misunderstandings of this nature, I suggest that in all the circumstances it would be unwise to attach too great importance to the present incident; and I do not propose to take any further action in the matter.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that what he calls a casual comment was felt by everyone who heard it to be a rebuke? What is the objection to informing the inspector that he was definitely wrong in publicly finding fault with a girl's simple expression of love of country in what was in fact a Jubilee essay on "My Native Land"?


I do not see how it is possible to point out more definitely, either to this inspector or to anybody else in the service of the Board, the line that the Board will take on any attempt to discourage love of their own country in the children.


Is it intended to take no action in this case?


I have already explained that the inspector in question has made it quite clear that his remark was not intended—although, as I have said, I deprecate his making any such remark—as a reproof to the children, and I am satisfied that there is no likelihood of any recurrence of incidents of this kind. I deprecate, therefore, the continuance against an individual who, I think, acted without any ill intention—[Interruption.]


Is it intended that the same excuse should be accepted on another occasion?


Why harbour such an official?


In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that, at the conclusion of Questions, I shall ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House.