From Our Educational Correspondent At the annual general meeting of the Association of Education Committees and during the debate in the House of Commons on June 14, on the Board of Education estimates for the current year, three points, holding especial interest for the Catholic body, were discussed: Raising of the School-leaving Age, Reorganisation, and Black Listed Schools.
For a number of years. the Board of Education has not only advocated but promised to assist in the raising of the schoolleaving age, and especially since the publication of the Hadow Report on the Education of the Adolescent of which one of the chief recommendations was the raising of the age of compulsory school attendance from 14 to 15 years.
As a result of a campaign on the part of those interested in this matter. Parliamept, in 1931, arrived at the conclusion that this was a desirable and progressive step. Yet it was not to be, because it was only realised during the course of debate, that no matter how desirable the measure was. it could not be put into operation until there was sufficient accommodation in the schools for the children during the 14-15 year.
An examination of the position revealed two facts: the dearth in many non-pro-videel schools of the requisite school places and the lack of means on the part of denominational bodies to remedy the deficiency. A further hindrance was the number of " black-listed " schools—buildings whose structure fell far short of the standard now required for carrying out the modern conception and purpose of.education. The Education Act, 1936. was passed in order that assistance should be given towards the cost of bringing black-listed schools up-to-date, at the same time to reorganise the schools along Hadow
and provide the additional accommodation necessary for raising the school-leaving age. Unfortunately the passing of the Act is
not a magic wand, the waving of which would transform all school buildings in the manner desired. In the Act itself local authorities find difficulty, because children who find beneficial employment are exempt from the legal obligation to attend school.
What is the position of Catholic schools? Nearly every Catholic school is full to capacity, the few exceptions being found in the centre of large towns. from which the population has been moved to new housing areas. There is need therefore to extend the school premises. As the extensions are primarily for the children over 14 years of age, financial assistance from the local authorities may be forthcoming.
Local authorities are not likely to enter into agreements simply because accommodation is required, unless the school is of " reorganised type," i.e., a senior school. They are more likely to suggest a plan of reorganisation which will include accommodation for the giving of practical or advanced instruction for senior children.
Will this be the limit of expenditure? It seems not. Local authorities are likely to suggest that when existing buildings are used far junior school purposes they be modelled to conform with the regulations and recommendations concerning elementary school buildings recently issued by the Board of Education.
When local authorities voice the difficulty of providing accommodation for an indeterminate number of children owing to the granting of exemption certificates; and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education frankly admits that the decrease in black-listed schools has been " as large as one would like " and that re-organisation has not been completed as it should, readers will readily recognise the magnitude of the task of the Hierarchy when faced with these problems.