On 31st December, 1930, the latest date for which figures are available, the number of children, in England and Wales, ascertained by school medical officers to be deaf was returned as 3,621 of whom 1,915 were boys and 1,706 were girls. On the same date there were returned as partially deaf 1,882, of whom 973 were boys and 909 were girls. The period of compulsory education for deaf children is from the age of seven to that of 16. Special schools for the totally deaf provide accommodation for 4,386 children, and in addition there are 222 places in schools certified for the partially deaf. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the Board's List 42, which shows where the schools are situated. It is estimated that the average cost of the education of deaf children is approxi- mately £39 per child per annum in the day schools, and £72 in residential schools.
If these children have to remain for two years longer than ordinary elementary school boys or girls, is there any organisation to provide available opportunities for them when they are ready for work?
Would the right hon. Gentleman consider having compulsory education for deaf children a little earlier? It is found in Plymouth that, if you can get these children at school a little earlier, it is far more advantageous.
With regard to the question put to me by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. Williams), that matter is one which is engaging the attention of the Board, and the organisation of the Board takes a special interest in this matter. I assured my hon. Friend the other day that very careful and indeed special attention is being paid to this subject. With regard to the question put by the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), that would require additional legislation, and it is a very open question whether the parents of those unfortunate children would be willing to send their children to school at an earlier age. At the moment I am not prepared to give any other answer to that question.
I do not think it amounts to that, but there is an organisation which co-ordinates voluntary efforts in connection with the deaf, and I can assure my hon. Friend that this particular question is far from being lost sight of.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider looking thoroughly into the question of getting these deaf children earlier to school rather than later 1 In that way, I think we might save a great deal of money, and it would be in the interests of the children.