§ MR. LEHMANN (Leicestershire, Market Harborough)
To ask the President of the Board of Education what 1146 restrictions, if any, with regard to the religious denomination of pupils or teachers and public control over the management at present exist in the secondary schools recognised as eligible for grants by the Board; whether a local authority is allowed in the allocation of its grants of aid to distinguish between such schools on the ground of religion; and whether the Government contemplates, by legislation or otherwise, to secure that after a certain date grants shall be given only to schools in which there is no denominational disqualification of teachers or pupils, and which are subject to popular control.
(Answered by Mr. Birrell.) So far as concerns the Board's regulations for the Parliamentary grants in respect of secondary schools (i.) no school is eligible unless it admits day scholars freely upon a full conscience clause, and (ii.) no restrictions of any kind are laid down in regard to the teaching staff except that of educational efficiency; while (iii.) each school must have a governing body constituted in a manner approved by the Board upon which in the majority of cases there is some representation of the local authority, though this is not yet laid down as an invariable condition in the regulations, (iv.) With the exception above named the current regulations of the Board, being drawn in conformity with the principles of existing legislation, do not restrict the Exchequer grants to such secondary schools as have no denominational or undenominational restrictions upon pupils or staff; and schools of very varying types in this respect, some with and some without the characteristics referred to, are at present on the list of State-aided secondary schools. As regards grants in aid of secondary schools from the rates or the local taxation fund, a local authority is precluded by Section 4 (1) of the Act of 1902 from requiring "that any particular form of religious instruction or worship, or any religious catechism or formulary which is distinctive of any particular denomination shall or shall not be taught, used, or practised in any school, college, or hostel aided but not provided by the council." I am not aware of any other religious distinctions which a local authority is statutorily precluded from making. The suggested policy referred to in the third paragraph of the Question, 1147 which raises problems of grave importance and would have far-reaching effects, has been receiving the serious attention of His Majesty's Government. In this connection it must be noted that local authorities have as yet themselves provided secondary schools to a very limited extent, and in many cases show great reluctance to incur rate expenditure in this direction, and the large number of efficient secondary schools which would be affected by the proposal are in nearly all cases greatly needed at present for the supply of secondary education in their respective districts. I am, therefore, not yet prepared to state that they could, without either imposing a burden on the ratepayers which they are apparently unwilling to accept or without inflicting too serious a loss to our existing educational provision be henceforth deprived of those public moneys upon which depends in almost all cases their efficiency, and in many their very existence. And this is the case, whether it be a question merely of the cessation of the Parliamentary grants, which is a matter of departmental regulation, or further of the prohibition of all local grants in aid which would of course require legislation. I may add that the number of secondary schools which, taking last year's figures, are subject to full popular control and presumably have no denominational disqualification for teachers or pupils, is, I believe, not more than eighty schools out of the total of some 500 State-aided secondary schools, as far as England (apart from Wales) is concerned, and, so long as this is the case, any Minister responsible for the secondary education of this country must deliberate very seriously before adopting the policy to which, but for these difficulties, he might unhesitatingly adhere.