HC Deb 02 April 1917 vol 92 cc959-60W

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he will encourage local education authorities to make arrangements for prolonging school holidays in order that the services of school children and teachers may be available for agriculture at times of special pressure; and, in particular, whether he will consider the relaxation of Article 45 of the Code, which requires every public elementary school or department to meet not less than 400 times in the school year?


I hold a strong view that in general it is contrary to public policy to withdraw children from the elementary schools in order that they may undertake agricultural or industrial work, and that child labour should only be resorted to in grave emergencies and when every other source of supply has been exhausted. I have, however, after consultation with the President of the Board of Agriculture, been convinced that in view of the present emergency I ought to facilitate very elastic arrangements for school holidays in the case of schools or departments which include boys over the age of twelve years. I am, therefore, prepared, in respect of such schools or departments, to give favourable consideration to proposals from local education authorities in rural areas for extended or additional holidays, provided that not less than 320 meetings are held. I hope it may not be necessary in most cases to ask for so low a figure, and I rely on the authorities who adopt this arrangement to restrict as far as possible the number of children individually excused from school attendance. As, however, it is obvious that the services of the younger boys will be of no value for agriculture, I think I ought to stipulate that the authority makes a liberal use of its powers under Section 13 of the Administrative Provisions Act, 1907, to provide vacation schools and classes during the extended holidays; and I think I may rely on those teachers who are not themselves able to help in agriculture to take part in the work of conducting such schools and classes as a form of National Service.