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Elementary Education Act, 1870—Clause 6—Questions

Volume 229: debated on Thursday 25 May 1876

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asked the Vice President of the Council, Whether, under Clause 6 of the Elementary Education Act, giving compulsory powers to Boards of Guardians, it is intended, in parishes having no school but Church of England schools, to give the Boards of Guardians power to compel the attendance of the children of Non-Conformists and Roman Catholics at such Church of England schools?

also asked Whether, under the seventy-fourth section of the Elementary Education Act of 1870, giving compulsory powers to School Boards it is in the power of such School Boards where no denominational school exists, to compel the attendance of children of the Church of England, the Church of Rome, or of children professing the Jewish religion at such Board Schools, where the teaching of the Catechism or other religious formulary of such children is prohibited?

In answer to the Question of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford), I will at once say that it is intended, as I should have thought was obvious from Clause 6 of the Elementary Education Act, that Boards of Guardians, if they pass bye-laws on the requisition of the ratepayers of a parish, should have identically the same powers as school boards now possess of compelling the attendance of children at public elementary schools, whether denominational or not; and it is just as carefully provided in the Bill of this Session, as in the Act of 1870, that no compulsion should be used unless there is within reach of the child a public elementary school—that is to say, an efficient school, with the ample Conscience Clause of the Education Act, 1870. It is also true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham (Mr. Isaac) mentions in his Question, that it is in the power of school boards, where they have any bye-laws for compulsion and where no denominational schools exist, to compel the attendance of children of the Church of England, the Church of Rome, and of children professing the Jewish religion, at board schools where the teaching of the Catechism and other religious formularies of such children is prohibited. I must remind the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maldon that the only alternative modes of treatment of this question are to leave the neglected children alone, untaught and untrained in all the numerous places where there are only denominational public elementary schools, or to destroy all such denominational schools, after having spent some £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 of money upon them from voluntary sources, and throw them upon the rates. I leave the hon. Gentleman to judge whether such proposals are likely to rally the country to the somewhat strange coalition of parties at which his proposal points.

I rise to Order. I have no objection to the noble Lord making any statement he likes in answer to the Question; but I do not think he ought to be allowed to enter into an argument.

I certainly agree with the hon. Member for Maldon that the noble Lord is rather travelling into an argument than answering a Question.