Early in our existence as a United Board, one of the economists made a little speech in which he propounded the theory that “our first duty is to the ratepayers”; but I could not help suggesting that, as a legally appointed body, we were bound to obey the law beyond all other considerations, and corrected his dictum, with all respect, by substituting that “our first duty is to the children.” I must do him the justice to say that he accepted my suggestion in a complimentary manner.
It soon became evident that it is not always desirable to belong to a parish grouped with others under a United District School Board. Aldington possessed the largest rateable value with the lowest population, which was about equal to Wickhamford with the lowest rateable value; and Badsey, with by far the largest population, came between Aldington and Wickhamford as to rateable value—the obvious result being that Aldington was called upon to pay an excessive and unfair share of the cost of educating Badsey’s children. We did not, however, want a school in our quiet village; it is something to get rid of children when inclined to be noisy, so we did not grumble at a little extra expense.
We carried on the school at first in the old building, but very soon the Department began to press for a larger and better-equipped establishment. Many of their requirements we considered unnecessary in a country village, and put off the evil day as long as possible, with such phrases as, “The matter is under consideration,” or, “Will shortly be brought to the notice of the Board.” Like “retribution,” however, the Education Department, “though leaden-footed, comes iron-handed,” and when all other methods failed they always put forward as a final inducement to comply with their demands the threat of withholding the Government grant; so that, in spite of the shoemaker’s encomium, that “Our chairman has plenty of com_bat_iveness,” we had eventually to give way.