HL Deb 16 June 1873 vol 216 cc987-9

said, while he did not wish to embarrass the Government on the subject of education, it was highly inconvenient to the public that any doubt or ambiguity should exist as to the intentions of the Government with regard to a question of such great importance. He thought it might be assumed that the subject of compulsory education would not be further proceeded with by Her Majesty's Government, but still there remained the question of school boards. Now it was quite clear that there might be compulsory education without school boards and school boards without compulsory education. No doubt much good had in many in- stances resulted from the establishment of school boards, but it must be remembered that school boards had imposed upon the ratepayers very heavy additional burdens—and in some cases still increasing burdens. It should also be remembered that school boards possessed the very great power of compelling parents to send their children to school Under those circumstances, he thought it was not unnatural that some anxiety should exist as to the future intentions of Her Majesty's Government with regard to making school boards generally compulsory. It was not, therefore, without some surprise that he read a statement reported to have been made not long ago by a noble Earl opposite who not unfrequently represented Her Majesty's Government in that House. The noble Earl was reported to have remarked at a public meeting on educational matters, held in the West of England, that it would be a great advantage to have the system of school boards universal and compulsory, as in Scotland. Further, the noble Earl was said to have stated for the guidance of the meeting, that he had reason to believe that before long steps would be taken for the establishment of a school board in every parish or district in England. In conclusion, he begged to ask, If it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to take any further steps relative to the establishment of school boards, and especially with reference to making them compulsory? No doubt, the noble Earl had been misrepresented, and the answer to the Question now put to the Government would possibly give an explanation.


said, he wished to furnish the desired explanation. The report alluded to caused him as much astonishment and consternation as it had produced in the mind of the noble Lord opposite. The words he used were most inaccurately reported; and besides, he merely expressed his individual opinion at a school meeting in his own parish in the West of England. He said there might eventually be a general system of school boards throughout the country; but he never thought his words would have found their way into the London newspapers, and still less did he think they would be considered as spoken by the authority of the Government. He had not the slight- est knowledge of the intentions of the Government, and, if he had known them, he trusted their Lordships were satisfied that he would not have been so injudicious as to state them on that occasion. He only expressed an individual opinion as to what might be the ultimate result of the school board system.


hoped his answer would be equally as satisfactory as the explanation just offered. Whatever doubt there might have been as to the intention of the Government a week ago, there could hardly be any misapprehension now, after the statement recently made in the other House by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Education Department. The right hon. Gentleman paid a tribute to the great voluntary exertions which had been made in all parts of the country to establish elementary schools, and stated that he anticipated the continuance of these voluntary exertions. Under those circumstances, the Government did not think it desirable to make the establishment of school boards compulsory where they were not necessary.