HC Deb 15 July 1948 vol 453 cc1371-3
1 Mrs. Florence Paton

asked the Minister of Education (1) if he is aware of the increasing number of private-house schools; whether his regulations make it necessary for any person setting up a school in a private house to notify the local education authority; and to what extent these schools are responsible to the local education authority;

(2) if he is satisfied that children attending private-house schools are receiving the proper physical and mental training; and to what extent he undertakes inspection of these schools to ensure the adequacy of the conduct and conditions of such schools;

(3) whether the register of independent schools which he proposes to keep under Section 70 of the Education Act, 1944, has yet been compiled.

11. Mr. Skeffington

asked the Minister of Education whether he is yet in a position to inspect private schools.

The Minister of Education (Mr. Tomlinson)

Part III of the Education Act, 1944, which provides for the registration of independent schools, is not yet in operation and I cannot say when it will be. I am, however, considering whether, as an interim step, I can introduce some measure of inspection of these schools under my existing powers.

Mrs. Paton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in one small area in my division no fewer than six of these schools are open, holding boo children; and that the Parents' Association are very alarmed at the rapid growth of these schools and feel that something should be done at once to supervise and to inspect the buildings?

Mr. Tomlinson

If I can, under my present powers, implement the suggestion which I have made—I agree about the necessity of it—I will do all I can to speed it up.

Mrs. Leah Manning

Will not my right hon. Friend get into touch with the local authorities and ask their health departments to inspect these private houses in respect to sanitation and the general health of the children, even though it might be some time before the inspection in ordinary subjects can take place?

Mr. Tomlinson

That is not my responsibility, which is to call the attention of the local authorities to the facts. If they consider that children are not receiving adequate education they can prosecute under the Act as it stands.

Mr. Lipson

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that independent schools are made necessary by the fact that there are not enough places in the ordinary schools for the children?

Mr. Tomlinson

I would not accept that. What I would accept is that that position may arise in certain instances. That is one of the reasons why it is impossible at the moment to implement Part III of the Act.

Mr. Morley

Can my right hon. Friend say the reason for the delay in bringing Part III of the Act into operation, seeing that there is no capital expenditure involved?

Mr. Tomlinson

There are two or three reasons, adequate reasons too. One is that it would involve a large increase in the number of inspectors, if this job is to be properly done. The second is that it would be necessary to call into being a tribunal for schools found to be unsatisfactory, where we refused to register. The third reason is that if we close these schools at the moment because they are not satisfactory, there are not materials and labour available to make them adequate to our requirements.

Sir Waldron Smithers

Is not the Minister aware that the more private schools there are, free from his control, the better for the children of this country?

Mrs. Paton

Is it not the case that any person without any qualification whatever and in any kind of building can open a private school? Does not my right hon. Friend think that that ought to be stopped?

Mr. Tomlinson

It is so, but it is also incumbent upon local authorities to proceed under the Act of Parliament if children are not receiving adequate education.