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?
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.
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.
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.