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Schools (Children's Dispersal)

Volume 360: debated on Thursday 9 May 1940

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asked the President of the Board of Education whether he has sanctioned school children being dispersed in the event of an air raid while they are at school, and has he approved the use by education committees of Anderson shelters near the schools, erected to accommodate persons resident in the house, to provide shelter for children, instead of the required shelter being provided for the children at the school?

The Board's policy has been that, in cases where air-raid shelters for school children are necessary, they should be provided, wherever possible in or near the school premises for all the children attending the school. Local education authorities were, however, informed in the Board's Administrative Memorandum 212, of which I am sending the hon. Member a copy, that it would be open to them, in consultation with the Regional Commissioner and subject to certain safeguards set out in the Memorandum, to make arrangements for the dispersal to household shelters of those children for whom it was not possible to provide shelter at the school owing to restricted school site or similar reasons.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is a criminal suggestion that children should be dispersed in the event of an air raid, and will he ask the Board to reconsider their decision in order that panic may be avoided and adequate shelter provided for all children?

I am aware that there are difficulties in certain places. I am in touch with the authority at Stoke. My inspector has already seen the regional commissioners and is seeing the local education authority this week.

I have not only one locality in mind. This applies to other industrial centres. In view of the seriousness of this, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Board to reconsider their policy?

I could not accept the suggestion that throughout the country dispersal would be as dangerous as the hon. Member suggests, but I will look into the case of any specific locality.