Children (Agricultural Work).

Oral Answers to Questions — Education. – in the House of Commons on 23rd June 1942.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Harvey Mr Thomas Harvey , Combined English Universities

asked the President of the Board of Education whether his attention has been called to the need for safeguards to secure that there should be adequate provision for medical examination of schoolchildren exempted from attendance in order to engage in agricultural work, in any case where there is danger of overstrain on account of the child's physical condition; and whether he has been in communication with the local education authorities on this subject?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Yes, Sir. The Defence Regulation requires that if the local authority by notice in writing served on the parent or guardian of any child so requires, the child shall not be employed in agricultural work, or, as the case may be, in agricultural work of any nature, unless he is certified by a registered medical practitioner to be physically fit to be so employed, and it shall be the duty of a child's parent or guardian to take all reasonable steps to see that he is not employed in contravention of this paragraph. In the instructions issued by my Department to local education authorities the following is included: If the authority, on information received from the School Medical Officer, teachers or otherwise, have reason to doubt whether a child is physically fit to undertake the work, exemption must not be granted unless a satisfactory medical certificate, which should wherever possible be given by the School Medical Officer, is received.

Viscountess Astor:

Is it possible to give these children one hour's rest in the middle of the day? It will make a great difference to their health.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Where a child is employed for the whole day there is a requirement that a sufficient period of rest shall be allowed, and there is a general desire that the children shall not be employed for more than half a day unless it is absolutely necessary.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Is my hon. Friend aware that if these children aged 14 years and upwards go to work in a factory they are all medically examined? Why this difference?

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

There are not sufficient doctors available to examine all the children on the spot without such delay as would frustrate the object of obtaining the help of children on the land.