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Northern Whig Article about opening ceremony for the school (1933)



Belfast Alderman's Views at New School Opening

Alderman Dr. J. D. Williamson J.P., chairman of the Public Health Committee, gave his views on present day education when opening the new Elmgrove Public Elementary School, Beersbridge Road, Belfast, yesterday.
Elmgrove is the twelth school which the Belfast Education Committee have built to supersede the many old and unsuitable buildings in which education was formerly carried on in the city.
The opening ceremony was preceded by the unfurling of the school flag by Miss Williamson, Aldrman Dr. Williamson's daughter.
The Lord Mayor (Councillor Sir Crawford McCullagh) presided.
Alderman Dr. Williamson sketched the history of education under the Irish National Board of Education, remarking on the fact that education was then non-sectarian, and he went on to mention the agitation which led to the sectarianism of to-day. He was sorry to think that so much sectarianism existed, and he was also afraid that at no time would we see non-sectarianism as it had been hoped for. He spoke of the rapid development of the city of Belfast industrially, with which, unfortunately, he said, the school buildings and equipment had not kept pace, and it was not until the Northern Government came into office that any serious attempt had been made to cope with these dilapidated, unhealthy and insanitary conditions of the majority of the schools. It was very gratifying that one of the first acts of the new Government had been to set up the Lynn Commission, whose recommendations had led to the Education Act of 1923.
"Unfortunately for the success of the Act primary education had become more or less denominationalised. Vested and other rights had to be dealt with, and everything undertaken as far as possible to get non-denominational education brought into existence, but there was so much controversy from interested parties, who had become very exacting, that in order if possible to satisfy everyone the original Act of 1923 was amended. Even that has been unable to please the discontents, so that at the moment we have education in our midst divided to such an extent that I fear the ultimate result will be deoninational, and will persist either apparent or real."
Dr. Williamson also regretted that there were still very many schools that had not from one cause or another been transferred to the Belfast Education Committee, but he was not without hope that in th near future satisfactory arrangements would be made to satisfy any difficulties perceptible.


A Scheme Praised

Dr. Williamson praised the scheme of medical inspection of school children, which, he said, was having beneficent results, of the provision of free meals for those children who required them, as a hungry or ill-clothed child, he stated, could not take advantage of the tuition it was given.
The education of the child, he went on, had considerably changed in his time, and he was at a loss to know whether for the better or otherwise. "It would appear to me that the school programme has become too comprehensive and a great variety of subjects taken up, that, in my opinion, make confusion in a developing brain. Essentials should be adhered to that would mould the mind in such a manner as to render their education suited to their environments.
"The three R's are to be commended, and not departed from until mastered; geogrpahy and history, with the literature of our country, should be acquired; after which other subjects undertaken to fit or prepare the child to earn its own livelihood, no matter in what station of life, as the child getting older will show an inclination one way or another for business, professional, mechanical, or any other pursuits in which they can earn their own living.
"As to school hours, it appears to me there is a great divergence of opinion. A great deal depends on the home, and I would just say, as I was taught in my youth, 'Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.' There is also a difference of opinion as to home lessons. It may be in some cases advantageous to have no home lessons; to others it would, in my opinion, be detrimental, as it might tend to lessen the interest of the parent, allowing parental responsibility more or less to cease. I my early days it was 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,' and it seems to me the reverse is much followed at the present day."

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