HC Deb 18 June 1912 vol 39 cc1632-3W

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the dismissal of Mr. Edward Webb, schoolmaster of the Birkdale Farm School, Southport; whether he is aware that the superintendent ordered the schoolmaster to undertake duties under another officer which involved the marching of the boys to the football field and drilling them there at a time when the schoolmaster was legitimately off duty; that the schoolmaster suggested that such orders were inadvisable owing to the unsettled state of the boys in the school; and that, as a result, the head schoolmaster was served with a month's pay and ordered to leave the school at a day's notice; whether he will order an inquiry into the circumstances and into the management of the institution; and whether he will arrange that schoolmasters in such schools shall have an appeal to the Home Department before dismissals become effective?


I have made inquiry-regarding this matter. Mr. Webb was head schoolmaster at the Birkdale Farm School, and as such there was clearly a strong obligation on him to support the superintendent (who had recently assumed office) in the general discipline of the school. A fresh drill instructor had been appointed, and as he was unused to the boys it was considered desirable for one of the schoolmasters to be present while the boys were receiving drill. Mr. Webb (whose duties embraced general supervision) had himself suggested that this was desirable, but on the occasion in question he not only objected himself but incited two other schoolmasters to act similarly. On being spoken to about the matter by the superintendent, Mr. Webb assured him that he would give every assistance in future, but the next day he wrote a letter of complaint to the managers. Mr. Webb's conduct had not been satisfactory in certain other respects, and as in this matter he was not amenable to reason, he was invited to resign, and as he declined to resign the managers terminated his engagement. On terminating his engagement, the managers paid him two months' salary and house rent, and his share of the Drawing Grant. On receiving notice Mr. Webb used language before the boys calculated to lead to insubordination, and the following night there was a disturbance at the school. He has since stayed in the neighbourhood of the school and has taken opportunities of meeting the boys and of further trying to disturb the school. Teachers in reformatory schools are the servants of the managers, who have discretion to terminate their engagements; and, as at present advised, I think there is no ground for instituting an appeal to the Home Office in cases of dismissal.