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Elementary Schools

Volume 52: debated on Thursday 24 April 1913

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60.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether, as indicated in recent speeches of Cabinet Ministers, it is the Government policy to bring to an end the system of half-time scholars in elementary schools; and, if so, whether those education authority districts in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire, which will be most affected, will be warned in sufficient time for them to provide the additional school places which will be required?

I am afraid I must ask the hon. Member once more to wait for the introduction of the Bill, but I can assure him that ample notice will be given to the local education authorities of any changes which are proposed.

61.

asked whether, in order to provide nursery schools for the 300,000 children under five at present in school, and also the 275,000 children who have been excluded from infant schools in recent years, additional school accommodation will be required; if so, how many places will have to be provided when a beginning will be made to carry out this policy; and what is the estimated cost of providing the requisite accommodation?

Further accommodation would undoubtedly be required if local education authorities adopted the policy of providing nursery schools for all children under five years of age. It would be premature for me to attempt an answer to the second and third parts of the question.

Can local authorities compel children under five years of age to go to school whether they like it or not?

62.

asked whether, having regard to the urgency of organising better infant instruction, he will propose new Articles in the Code laying down fresh conditions under five?

I am not proposing to make any alteration this year in the Code in regard to the instruction of children under five.

63.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he has considered the increased amount of floor space in schools for children under five organised as nurseries; and whether he will state the number of superficial feet per child which such schools will require?

I am not at present prepared to specify the space per child which may be required in schools organised as nursery schools.

64.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether the reforms in infant instruction recommended by the special reports of His Majesty's inspectors in 1905, and by the consultative committee in 1908, will be entered on shortly; whether he is aware that each year of delay, during which fewer infant places are available in schools, adds to the difficulty and increases the expense of these reforms; and whether, in order to expedite this policy, special Grants will be made to selected local authorities conditional on their promise to carry out a scheme of approved infant instruction?

The whole matter is engaging my attention, but I am not at present prepared to reconsider the position adopted by the Board in regard to the provision by local education authorities of school accommodation for children under five.

65.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he is aware that the latest published figures show that in Bootle over 37 per cent. of the scholars are in overcrowded schools; that the average attendance exceeds the accommodation in thirteen departments of the Bootle schools, and that, especially in Christ Church, St. John's Church of England, and St. James's Roman Catholic schools, there is serious overcrowding; whether he will say how long overcrowding has existed in Bootle schools; and whether any date can be given when it is to be remedied?

For the school year ended 31st January, 1913, the average attendance exceeded the accommodation in three departments only in the area of the authority, and the excess amounted to ten units, five units, and five units, respectively. As a result of communication between the Board and the authority a new Council school providing for 1,020 children was opened in 1910, and another Council school providing a further 1,000 places has been erected and will be opened in August.

Will the right hon. Gentleman reply to the questions how long overcrowding has existed, and when will it be remedied? No attempt has been made to answer those questions.

Attention has been drawn from time to time to any excesses that have existed, and remedies have been effected by the local education authority. In all respects the accommodation will meet the requirements.

Does not this state of things really reflect largely on the people of Bootle, and does it not explain a great deal?

66.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he is aware that the elementary school accommodation in the Strand Parliamentary Division formerly consisted of six Church of England schools, two Roman Catholic schools, and two small Council schools; whether the Board of Education are now allowing the London County Council to close Charing Cross Road Council school, thereby compelling children from the Council school to attend the denominational schools; whether the school closed is a modern building with playground; whether the adjoining Church of England school of St. Anne's, Soho, is an antiquated building, without a playground, and with certain of its class rooms already crowded, as shown by the last published figures; and whether he will give his reasons for closing modern Council schools in order to drive children into inadequate Church schools?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The premises of the Charing Cross Road Council school were defective and unsuitable. They had been adapted for use as a school by the London School Board in 1890. There was no playground. In December of last year the number of scholars on the registers was only 40. The St. Anne's school has no playground, but there is a space of some 200 square yards in the churchyard available for physical exercises. During the school year 1910–11 there were vacant places in every department of this school, and there is accommodation in Council schools on the eastern and western sides of the Charing Cross Road Council school for the children displaced by its closure.

Does the right hon. Gentleman know that one of the schools which he allows to continue there was not built as a school at all, but as a West-end dancing saloon? Will he look into that matter?

67.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether the latest published figures show that in Dover over 37 per cent. of the elementary school children are in overcrowded schools; that the average attendance exceeds the accommodation in twelve departments, especially in Buckland Church of England, Charlton Church of England, Christ Church Church of England, St. Bartholomew's Church of England, St. James's Church of England, and St. Mary's Church of England schools; whether he has drawn the attention of the local education authority to the fact of this overcrowding, in spite of all children under five having been excluded, and the average of attendance being almost the lowest in England; whether correspondence has been passing on these subjects; and at what date the overcrowding may be expected to be remedied?

For the school year ended 31st October, 1912, the average attendance exceeded the accommodation in four departments only in the area of the authority referred to. In one of them the excess amounted to one unit only. A new girls' department, providing 138 new places, has been opened at the Barton Road Council school, which has already relieved the overcrowding at that school, and is expected to relieve the overcrowding in the two remaining departments. There was no overcrowding in either the Buckland, Christ Church, St. James's, or St. Mary's Church of England schools.

68.

asked whether the principal of each college sets the examination papers in the acting teachers' examination; whether this is conducive to the examination being equally easy or difficult for all those who sit for the examination; and how long this system has been in practice?

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative, and the questions in the second and third parts do not arise. I may say also that papers for the Board's final examination for students in training colleges are never set by the principals of the colleges, but some students are allowed to substitute for part or the whole of the Board's examination, examinations conducted by universities.

69.

asked the President of the Board of Education whether teachers who propose going in for their certificate examination are allowed time off duty for special study; whether this privilege is and has been granted to all who apply for it; and, if not, whether he will consider the advisability of making this concession a general privilege?

The teachers are not in the service of the Board of Education, and I am, therefore, unable to give the information for which the hon. Member asks.

70.

asked whether the training college teachers' examination is a qualifying one, while the acting teachers' examination is competitive; and whether any complaints have arisen in consequence?

Both the examinations referred to are qualifying. The last question, therefore, does not arise. I am not aware that any complaints have been made because the examination is a qualifying examination and not competitive.