Catholic Herald Reporter
THE Minister of Education, Sir Edward
Boyle, was this week studying a petition signed by 20,000 electors of Barking. The petition, which was handed to the Minister on Tuesday by Mr. Tom Driberg, M.P. for Barking, was organized by the Parents' Association of St. Joseph's Catholic Primary School in William Road. The school is 150 years old, and still in use, although it was condemned 20 years ago.
The parents want another school, bombed during the war, rebuilt.
The petition was presented to Mr. Driberg at the House of Commons on Tuesday by a deputation representing the Parents' Association. The deputation consisted of Fr. Louis Heston, Parish Priest of Barking, Councillor Mrs. Catherine Godfrey, one of the two Catholic members of Barking Corporation, Mr. James Smith, Headmaster of St. Joseph's, and two parishioners, Mr. John Dennehy and Mrs. Barbara Schmitz.
The 20,000 signatures which they have acquired are double their original target. " Nearly all the Borough Councillors have signed," said Mrs. Godfrey.
The Parents' Association staged their own protest this week, when all but eleven of the children were kept away from school on Monday, the first day after the Easter holidays.
Mr. Driberr, said on Tuesday, at the House of Commons, that the Catholics of Barking had been " very shabbily treated." He had already put down a question for the Minister to answer in the House on Thursday. "If the Minister agrees." said Mr. Driberg, "I shall arrange for a deputation to see him. But even if he refuses, it will still be possible for me to approach him. Mr. Robert Mellish, M.P., who is leading a deputation to discuss Catholic schools in South London early in May, has kindly invited me to accompany him.'
St. Joseph's School has no assembly hall, no dining hall, no gymnasium and no modern lavatories. Its only form of heating is coal fires in each classroom. During this year's hitter January weather, children sitting their 11plus examination did so in a temperature only eight degrees above freezing point.
Since there is no assembly hall, the children can only have communal prayers on fine days, when they stand in the yard. Physical training also is restricted to days when the weather will permit the use of the yard. School dinners are eaten in a Quaker meeting house, a quarter of a mile away, which has to be rented for the purpose by the school managers. The school lacks any storage facilities.
St. Joseph's was built as a village school in 1857. Since then, the population of Barking has risen 10 times, and the Catholic population has increased 30 times.
In 1927, a new Junior School, on another site, was constructed, and the old school was used as a secondary school, while plans for a new secondary school were prepared. During the war, however. the Junior School was bombed, and its pupils had to return to the old village school. They are still there. Fr. Heston said this weekthat he believes it is the only case remaining of a bombed school not yet being replaced.
Fr. Heston told me that he fully supported the parents' decision to keep their children away from the school. "It is a very moderate protest," he said. "They have tried every other possible way. Continued on Page 10, Col 5-6