asked the President of the Board of Education whether he has now secured further information regarding the circumstances and legality of a Sussex education committee assembling certain scholars during school-time in a church to be addressed by local ministers or clergy; and whether any other education committee has adopted a similar practice?
Yes, Sir: I am informed that the children of the Mountfield Road Council School, Lewes, attend a religious service in church on one morning per week, but no decision to introduce a similar practice at the other council school in the town has yet been taken. The service is undenominational in character and has been arranged in co-operation with the Church of England and the Free Church bodies of the area. Parents were circularised beforehand by the local education authority and their consent invited; the parents of only two children have dissented and their children attend at school instead of the church. The services are conducted by the clergyman and minister and the attendance of teachers is voluntary. Registers are marked at the school at 9.45 a.m. I am advised that there is nothing in the Education Acts to preclude undenominational religious' instruction or observance for council school children being conducted elsewhere than on the school premises. As regards the last part of the Question, I am not aware that any other local education authority has adopted this arrangement.
Whilst thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that this matter involves a question of national and general educational importance going beyond the local area, and has he taken steps to consult with any prominent national educational bodies on the principle involved? Further, is he aware that I have raised this matter particularly from that standpoint and not because of any local interest in the town?
I am sure the hon. Member would be animated by the motives he has mentioned in raising the matter. I am watching it, because it is an exceptional practice, and I shall continue to do so.