1902 Encyclopedia > Education > Education Laws - England

(Part 24)

Education Laws - England

To the foregoing historical statement may be added some account of the different systems of education administered by statute in the United Kingdom :—

England.—Until quite recently there was no public provision for education in England, and even now it is only the elementary education of the people that can be said to be regulated by the law. Parliament has indeed taken cognizance of the institutions founded for the higher education. The universities and the endowed schools have been enabled by various statutes to adapt themselves more completely to the wants of the times; but they still retain their character of local, and one might almost say private, corporations. Their administration is subject to the control of no state authority, and in districts where such institu-tions do not exist there is no public provision for supple-menting the deficiency. Elementary education, until the Act of 1870, was in the same way dependent on voluntary enterprise or casual endowment.

The first approach to a public system of education was by means of grants in aid of private schools, administered by a committee of the Privy Council. This system is not superseded by the Education Act of 1870, but means are taken to ensure the existence in every school district of a "suffficient amount of accommodation in pubiie elementary schools." The school district is the borough or parish, except in the case of London and Oxford. When the amount of school accommodation in a district is insufficient and the deficiency not supplied as required by the Act, a school board shall be formed and shall supply such deficiency. Every elementary school is a public school in the sense of the Act if it is conducted according to the regulations in section 7, which in substance are :—

1. It shall not be required, as a condition of any child beimg admitted into, or continuing in the school, that he shall attend or abstain from attending any Sunday school, or any place of religious worship, or that he shall attend any religious observance or any instruction in religious subjects, in the school or elsewhere, from which observance or instruction he may be withdrawn by his parents, or that he shall, if withdrawn by his parents, attend the school on any day set apart for religious observance by the religious body to which his parent belongs.

2. Time for religious observance or instruction in the school must be at the beginning or end of school meeting, and must be shewn in a time table conspicuously posted in the school.

3. School must be open to inspection, except that the inspector is not to inquire into religious knowledge.

4. School must be conducted in accordance with the conditions required to obtain a parliamentary grant.

When the Education Department are satisfied after inquiry that the supply of public elementary schools as thus defined is in any district insufficient, they may cause a school board to be formed, as they may also. (1) when application is made to them to that effect by the persons who would be the electors if there were a school board (in a borough by council), and (2) when they are satisfied that the managers of an elementary school are unwilling or unable to maintain it, and by its discontinuance the supply for the district will become insufficient. The body of the Act describes the constitution, powers, duties, and revenues of school boards, as in the following brief summary :—

1. Constitution.—The school board is a corporation with perpetual- succession and common seal, and power to hold land without licence in mortmain. It is elected by the burgesses in a borough, and by the ratepayers in a parish, each voter having a number of votes equal to the number of vacancies, having the right to give all or any number of such votes to any one candidate, and to distribute them as he pleases. The number of members varies from 5 to 15 as may be determined. The London school board is elected under special regulations.

2. Powers and Duties.—Every school board, for the purpose of providing sufficient public school accommodation for their district, may provide or improve schoolhouses and supply school apparatus &c., and purchase or take on lease any land or any right over land. Sect. 20 contains regulations under which the compulsory purchase of sites may be made. The schools provided by the board must comply with the following conditions :—(1) They must be public elementary schools, in the sense defined above ; (2) No religious catechism or religious formulary, which is distinctive of ally particular denomination, shall be taught in the schools. The board may delegate their powers (except that of raising money) to managers managers. Any breach of these regulations may subject the board to being declared in default by the Education Department, who will thereupon nominate a new board. The fees of children attending board schools are to be fixed by the board, with the consent of the Department, but the board may remit fees on account of poverty for a renewable period not exceeding six months, and it is expressly declared that "such remission shall not be deemed to be rochial relief" given to the parent. Further, free schools may e established where the Education Department are satisfied that the poverty of the inhabitants is such as to render them necessary. Section 25 enables the board to pay the fees of poor children attend-ing any public elementary school, but "no such payment shall be made or refused on condition of the child attending any public elementary school other than such as may be selected by the Varent (sic), and such payment shall not be deemed to be parochial relief." This clause, which excited a vast amount of opposition in Parliament, was repealed by 39 and 40 Viet. c. 59 (see infra).

3. Revenues.—The expenses of the board axe to be paid from a fund called the school fund, constituted primarily by the fees of the children, moneys provided by Parliament, or raised by loan, ,or received in any other way, and supplemented by the rates, to be levied by the rating authority. In providing buildings, &c., the board may borrow money so as to spread the payment over several years, not exceeding fifty. (See, as to this power, Elementary Education Act 1873, § 10.)

School boards may by a bye-law require the parents of all children between five and thirteen to send them to school, and it is a reason-able excuse (1) that the child is receiving efficient instruction in some other manner, or (2) is prevented by sickness, or (3) that that there is no public elementary school within such distance not exceeding three miles as the bye-laws may prescribe. Breaches of any such bye-law may be recovered in a summary manner, but the penalty shall not exceed five shillings including costs.

Finally, it is provided that in future no parliamentary grant shall be made to any school which does not come within the definition of "public elementary school in the Act." [680-1] Such grant shall not be made in respect of religious instruction, and shall not exceed in any we the income of the school from other sources. No connexion with a religious denomination is necessary, and no preference is to be given to a school on account of its being or not being a board school. Otherwise the minutes of the Committee of Council govern the adminstration of the grant, such minutes to lie one month on the table of both Houses of Parliament before coming into force.

The Elementary Education Act, 1873, amends the Act of 1870 in several particulars not necessary to be specified here.

The Elementary Education Act, 1876, which came into operation on the 1st January 1877, declares that it shall be the duty of the parent of every child (meaning thereby a child between the ages of five and fourteen) to cause such child to receive efficient elementary instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic,—the duty to be enforced by the orders and penalties specified in the Act. The employment of children under the age of ten, or over that age without certificate of proficiency or of previous due attendance at certified efficient school, is prohibited unless the child is attending school in accordance with the Factory Acts, or by bye-law under the Education Acts. Section 10 sub-stitutes for section 25 of the Act of 1872 the following:—

"The parent, not being a pauper, of any child, who is unable by reason of poverty to pay the ordinary fee for such child at a public elementary school, or any part of such fee, may apply to the guardians having jurisdiction in the parish in which he resides; and it shall be the duty of such guardians, if satisfied of such inability to pay the said fee, not exceeding threepence per week, or such part thereof as he is, in the opinion of the guardians, so unable to pay." This payment subjects the parent to no disqualification or disability, and he is entitled to select the school. The following new regulations are made as to the parliamentary grant. A child obtaining before the age of eleven a certificate of proficiency and of due attendance, as in the Act mentioned, may have his school fees for the next three years paid for him by the Education Department—such school fees to be calculated as school-pence. The grant is no longer to be reduced by its excess above the income of the school, unless it exceeds 17s 6d. per child in average attendance, but shall not exceed that amount except by the same sum by which the income of the school, other than the grant, exceeds it. Special grants may be made to places in which the population is small. Other clauses relate to industrial schools, administrative provisions, &c.


680-1 "Elementary school" is defined to be one in which elementary education is the principal part of the education there given, and at which the fees do not exceed ninepence per week.

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