Attitude Explained and Defended
The Education Act, 1921, prescribes a formal procedure to be observed by those who wish to provide a new public elementary school.
In the first place, the promoters, whether a local Education Authority or a denominational body, who propose to provide such a school must give public notice of their proposal, and managers of existing schools, the local Education Authority, and ratepayers may appeal to the Board of Education against it on the ground that the proposed school is not required or that a school provided by tEe Local Education Authority or not so provided as the case may be, is better suited to meet the wants of the district concerned than the school proposed; and the Board of Education have to decide whether the proposed school should be allowed or not.
In determining whether a proposed new school should be allowed, the Board of Education are required by statute to have regard to three considerations: (i) The interest of secular instruction; (ii) the wishes of parents- as to the education of their children; and (iii) the economy of the rates.
In regard 'to the interest of secular instruction, the Board cannot overlook -the fact that a school which is proposed to meet the wishes of a particular section of the community may be so small as to be subject to serious educational disadvantages or tof be very costly to maintain. For instance, if a body of persons proposes to provide a new school for eighty children of all ages from five to fourteen, a school of such a size would be normally staffed by three teachers, and this would mean that the eighty children would be divided into three groups, each of which would have to include children of an age range spreading over three years. Even so, the classes would be small, and consequently the school would be proportionately expensive.
If, in addition to these disadvantages, the proposal to provide such a school had to meet the further objection that all the eighty children concerned could be accommodated in existing schools, where they could be better classified according to their ages and attainments, without involving any additional expenditure by the Local Education Authority upon the maintenance of those existing schools, it will be seen that the case against allowing such a school is very strong.
A further consideration which must be borne in mind is that the educational policy of all political parties in the matter of elementary education is to implement the recommendations of the Hadow Report. Amongst those recommendations the cardinal point is that from the age of eleven upwards the children, after the completion of their primary education in junior schools, should be moved to senior schools where they should be given post-primary education under conditions which will put an end to the marking-time of the old all-age schools.
These new senior schools, in order to be effective, require special provision for practical and craft work, and also have to be staffed more liberally than junior schools. Moreover, in order that these schools may realize their aim fully, the children attending them must be classified according to their different attainment and abilities much more discriminatingly than in the all-age schools.
Consequently, the new senior schools should be schools of a substantial size. Indeed, the best size for such schools is from 360 to 480 children. As compared with what is possible in a large senior school of 480 children, a school or division for 120 senior children is under obvious and very great disadvantages.
Parish Organisation Blamed.
It will be seen, therefore, that proposals for new schools have to face very serious educational objections, unless the numbers of children are substantial. Where the numbers are small and can be accommodated in schools where they can be combined with a considerable number of other children of the same age, it is clear that they could be classified with much ereater discrimination if so combined than is possible if they are placed in a separate institution by themselves; and, moreover, the cost of the better educational arrangements is in the great majority of cases small in comparison with that of the maintenance of provision for them in a separate school.
The Board are fully aware of the handicap under which the Roman Catholic communities are placed owing to the sparseness of their distribution, but by adherence to their parish organisation the Roman Catholics themselves increase this handicap. Not infrequently, where with co-operation between two or more neighbouring Roman Catholic parishes it would be possible by the concentration of all the children in one school, to provide a school of a larger size, the Roman Catholics, owing to their parish organisation, make no such proposal, but ask for separate small schools, one foreach parish. It is difficult to admit the necessity of increasing the number of small and relatively inefficient and expensive schools on such a basis.
No Right To A School
The Board have been accused of depriving Roman Catholics of their 'right'to new schools. Neither the Roman Catholics nor any other body have a legal right to a school. Particular cases in which the Board have been obliged to give decisions adverse to the Roman Catholics secure a considerable amount of publicity.
Little, if any, notice is taken of the very much larger number of cases in which the Board's decision has been either completely favourable to the Roman Catholics or has at any rate given them part of that which they wished.
In the list of new Roman Catholic schools allowed in recent years, it is true that there are a large number of junior schools. It is necessary to point out that in all but a very few cases the limitation of these schools to juniors was .not imposed by the Board of Education but by the Roman Catholics themselves, who did not wish, or found themselves unable to provide, anything but junior schools.
The number of cases in which, on grounds of educational efficiency and finance, the Board have felt obliged to limit a Roman Catholic proposal for a new all-age school to a school for junior children is small. In all such cases provision for the older Roman Catholic children in reorganised schools has been available, and the withdrawal of the older Roman Catholic children from those schools would not only have enabled any reduction to be made in the cost of the maintenance of those schools, but would also have imposed on the Local Education Authorities a disproportionate additional burden in the provision for them in the new Roman Catholic school, where the children, moreover, would not have been able to receive secular instruction of the same degree of efficiency.
The Goldthoree Case.
One recent case- which has been receiving a good deal of notice is that at Bolton-upon-Dearne, Goldthorpe, in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
This district during the last ten years developed rapidly, and during that time the L.E.A. provided a number of temporary buildings to provide for the rapidly increasing number of schoolchildren. About two years ago, when it became clear that the development of the district had reached its peak, the L.E.A. gave public notice of their intention to replace the very large amount of temporary accommodation which was then in use by new permanent buildings providing some 1,800 places and completing the school provision for all the children of the district. No objections were made against the L.E.A/s proposals, by the Roman Catholics or anybody else, and after careful examination the Board came to the conclusion that the provision of this new permanent accommodation was necessary.
Plans for the new schools in question were approved, and the L.E.A. entered into contracts for the building and the erection of the buildmgs was commenced.
Then the Roman Catholics gave notice of their intention to provide a new school for four hundred Roman Catholic children. The L.E.A. appealed against this proposal. "Had the Roman Catholics made their proposal before the L.E.A. were committed to the provision of the 1,800 new places referred to above, it would have been possible for the Board to entertain the Roman Catholic proposal, but in the actual circumstances, when the L.E.A. were already committed to the very considerable expense of providing for the children in their new schools, the Board did not consider that they could properly do so.
Recent Decisions Pro And Con.
But it must not be inferred from this case that where there is accommodation in existing schools for Roman Catholic children the Roman Catholics cannot hope to have a school of their own.
In the case of the proposed Roman Catholic school for 450 children at Copenhagen Street, Islington, the Board have given a favourable decision, although all those 450 children are in fact amply provided for in existing schools. " Since April, 1932, the Board of Education have had to give decisions upon 103 proposals of Roman Catholics for the provision of new schools, either by the enlargement of existing schools or the erection of entirely new schools. Of these 103 proposals. 50 were for the enlargement of existing schools and all but one of these have been allowed. The remaining 53 were for the provision of entirely new schools, and of these 36 were allowed as asked by the promoters—13 all-age schools, B junior schools and 5 senior schools. In another 5 cases of proposals for all-age schools. 4 were allowed for juniors only and one for seniors only. In 12 other cases—8 all-age schools and 4 junior schools—the proposals were disallowed altogether on grounds of educational efficiency and finance."
- Malaya Catholic Leader, February 16th, 1935 (1935.pdf pp68)