§ Order read, for resuming Proceedings on going in to Committee.
§ *(4.57.) MR. SPEAKER
I ought to state to the House that there are six Instructions on the Paper on the Order for Committee on the Elementary Education Bill. Of these the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth are not in order. Nos. 1, 2, and 3 are without the scope of the Bill and cannot be brought within its scope by an Instruction. The second Instruction especially confers powers on a body which is concerned not with elementary but with secondary education, and is in itself a temporary body appointed for a very limited term of years. Nos. 5 and G are quite beyond the Resolution which the House came to in the preliminary Committee, and upon which the leave for the introduction of the Bill was given; and No. 6 has the additional defect of being a mandatory Instruction. No. 4, there fore, is the only one left, and that, I think, will be in order, inasmuch as I understand it to mean that in consideration of the fee grants being given it is right to require the parents to keep their children at school for a longer period than they now do. That is quite in order.
§ *(4.58.) MR. SUMMERS (Huddersfield)
I rise to move that it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to raise the standards for partial and total exemption in schools receiving the fee grants. In doing so it will not be necessary for me to detain the House for more than a very few moments. The House will recollect that it has been by a slow and gradual process that we have arrived at the present stage of our educational progress and advance. Compulsion was first partially introduced in 1870, was widely extended in 1876, and was fully and universally established in 1880. Section 74 of the Act of 1870 empowered School Boards to make bye-laws requiring the parents of children of such age, not less than five years nor more than 13 years, as 1871 might be fixed by the bye-laws, to cause such children (unless there was some reasonable excuse) to attend school. The Act of 1870, then, established the possibility, but not the necessity, of compulsion within the School Board area. The Act of 1876 went still further. It established what is called permissive compulsion outside the School Board area. Section 21 of that Act provided that School Attendance Committees should have like powers with School Boards of enforcing by byelaws the attendance of children at school. If the district outside the jurisdiction of a School Board was a borough, the School Attendance Committee might, if they thought fit, and if it was a parish the School Attendance Committee for the Union comprising such parish, on the requisition of the parish, but not otherwise, were bound to make bye-laws respecting the attendance of children at school, under Section 74 of the Elementary Education Act, 1870. Last of all came the Act of 1880, which for the first time made compulsion the law of the land. Section 2 of that Act is in these terms:—It shall be the duty of the Local Authority (within the meaning of the Elementary Education Act, 1876) of every school district in which bye-laws respecting the attendance of children at school, under Section 74 of the Elementary Education Act, 1870, are not at the passing of this Act in force, forthwith to make bye-laws under that section for such district.If, after December 31st, 1880, no such bye-laws were in force, the Education Department might declare the Local Authority in default, or might itself proceed to make bye-laws respecting the children in attendance in such district. Acting under these provisions of the Elementary Education Acts, the Local Authorities have made bye-laws for the attendance of children at school, and have fixed the standards for partial and total exemption from the obligation to attend school in their respective districts. These standards for partial and total exemption vary enormously in different parts of the country, and what I have to complain of is not that the standards were unsuitable at the time when they were originally fixed, when compulsory education was a new principle and the Education Acts had only just come into operation, but that many of them are unsuited to the circumstances of to-day, 1872 when the duty of parents to see that their children are educated is universally recognised, and the great Education Act of 1870 is on the point of attaining its majority. Some of the standards fixed by the Local Authorities are ludicrous in their absurdity, and ought no longer to be tolerated. On May 28th last, the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council informed me that there are 29 parishes whore compulsion prevails only between 5 and 10 years of age There are likewise five parishes where Standard III. is the standard for total exemption, and no standard for partial exemption exists. There are, moreover, two parishes where Standards III. and II. prevail for total and partial exemption respectively, nine parishes where no standard for partial exemption prevails, and 25 parishes which have Standard I. for partial exemption. These, said the right hon. Gentleman, are remains of old bye-laws adopted before 1880. The Department, he continued, has no power to compel their revision, although every effort is made to induce the School Authorities to raise the standards as occasion offers. The right hon. Gentleman has now an opportunity of taking power to revise these ludicrously low standards, and I trust that he will not be slow to avail himself of it. But this is not all. I have as yet only touched the fringe of the question to which my Instruction relates. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council has been good enough to grant me a Return of the number of School Boards and School Attendance Committees in which the standards for partial exemption are Standards II., III., and IV. respectively, and in which the standards for total exemption are respectively IV., V., and VI. This Return discloses some very striking and important facts. It shows that there are in England and Wales 160 School Boards and 89 School Attendance Committees in which the standard for half - time exemption is Standard II., and 936 School Boards and 481 School Attendance Committees in which the standard for full-time exemption is Standard IV. Now, these low standards for partial and full-time exemption are contrary to the law and practice of Scotland, and this is only another illustration of the well-known fact that in matters of education 1873 Scotland is always ahead of this country. By the Scotch Act of 1883 (Section 6) it is provided that the minimum standard for half-time shall be the third, and the minimum standard for full-time the fifth. The borough which I have the honour to represent has made great sacrifices on behalf of popular education, and I am glad to say that it has a high standard for partial and total exemption. Its standard for partial exemption is the fourth, and its standard for total exemption the sixth. I do not ask the House to raise the standards throughout the country to the level at which they stand at Huddersfield, but I do claim that the time has arrived when with the greatest possible case and the greatest possible advantage we might raise the standards at least to the minimum at which they now stand by law in Scotland, and have stood for the last seven or eight years. I assume that the Vice President and the Government will accept my Instruction, and I think that I am justified in making this assumption. In this matter, at all events, the Education Department is on my side. The great defect in our present educational system is by universal acknowledgment the early age at which our children leave our public elementary schools. Lord Cranbrook and Sir William Hart Dyke, the President and Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education, make use of the following language in their last Educational Report:—We are sorry to find on examining the school returns that the education of so many children of 10 years of age and upwards is discontinued, as soon as by passing the prescribed standard they are freed from the obligation to attend school, and become entitled to go to work. Out of 481,106 children presented in Standard IV. in 1888, as many as 167,742 disappeared from the examination lists of our schools in 1889, while the 309,388 scholars in Standard V. of 1888 fell in the year to 138,864, and the 127,863 scholars in Standard VI. to 38,363.What does this mean? It means that out of nearly 5,000,000 children on the registers, only a miserable 138,864 reached the sixth standard, and only a paltry 38,363 went beyond that standard. When we remember that the Education Department themselves inform us that, as a general rule, a child of 10 should be able to pass the Fourth Standard, and that it ought to be advanced 1874 a standard every year, no one can pretend that the state of things disclosed in the figures I have quoted is in any degree satisfactory or ought any longer to be endured. We are now about to make an additional grant of some £2,000,000 to our public elementary schools, and in doing so we are bound to make provision for their increased effieiency. I know of no way in which this can be better or more wisely done than by raising the standard for half-time and full-time exemption. What should be the particular machinery for securing the object we all have in view I leave it to the Government to determine. For my part I should be perfectly willing to leave the matter in the hands of the Education Department, simply giving them power by a Minute to fix, as in Scotland, a minimum standard for partial and total exemption. All that I am anxious about is that the standard of education in this country should be raised, and I am comparatively indifferent as to the precise character of the machinery that may be devised for the purpose. In my main contention I am supported by the Royal Commission on Education, and by every member of that Commission. That Commission issued two Reports—a majority Report and a minority Report. Both the majority and the minority advocated the raising of the standards. The majority of the Commissioners report as follows:—From every quarter we have been told that a very great majority of children now leave school as soon as they are legally exempted from attendance, and that the education of the majority of scholars is thus prematurely closed.In parishes where there is much demand for children's labour, and where the standard of exemption is as low as the fourth, several witnesses assured us that few children remain at school after 10 years of age.Nor is this an exceptional case. The statistics published by the Royal Commission show that the percentage of scholars above 10 in 1886 was only 33.74. The Commissioners continue—The consequences of premature removal from school, on passing the standard prescribed as a condition of labour, are even more serious where the demand for juvenile labour is slack. An interval then occurs between the completion of school life and the entry on employment, which, in the case of boys especially, is most injurious to character, and leads to the loss of what little intellectual acquirements they 1875 had gained at school. At Stoke-upon-Trent, for instance, Sir Lovelace Stamer points out that, while a total exemption from school can under the bye-laws be easily readied at 11, under the Factory Acts full-time work is not attainable till the age of 13, and we gather from his evidence that the interval between 11 and 13 is too often wasted in idleness, with the worst effects on those who are condemned to it.We have heard much evidence tending to show that the Fifth Standard might be made the universal minimum standard of exemption, as is the case in Scotland, without inflicting any serious injury on parents or employers.The Commissioners then go on to make the following very important recommendation—We are of opinion," they say, "that the minimum age for half-timers exemption from school attendance should be 11, and the minimum age of full-time exemption 13.This Report was signed by Sir Richard Cross (the present Lord Cross), (Chairman), Cardinal Manning, Duke of Norfolk, Earl of Harrowby, Earl Beauchamp, the Bishop of London, Lord Norton, Sir Francis Sandford, Canon Smith, Dr. Rigg, Canon Gregory, T. D. C. Morse, C. H. Alderson, John G. Talbot, and S. G. Rathbone. The minority report in precisely the same sense. They say—As to compulsion, we cordially concur in the recommendation that the minimum age for half-time exemption from school attendance should be 11, and for full-time exemption 13, and that half-time should only be conceded to those who are beneficially and necessarily employed at work.The Minority Report is signed by E. Lyulph Stanley, John Lubbock, B. Samuelson, R. W. Dale, Sydney Buxton, Thomas Edmund Heller, Henry Richard, and George Shipton. Another argument in favour of my Instruction will be found in the proceedings of the House and the speeches of the Home Secretary on the Factories and Workshops Bill. The Home Secretary argued that the factory districts should not be placed in an exceptional and invidious position as regards educational requirements. When speaking against the proposal of the hon. Member for Poplar to raise the age of factory half-timers from 10 to 11, he said neither he nor his colleagues would raise any objection to a general proposal dealing with half-timers throughout the country. I call upon him to redeem his pledge. In the United Kingdom there are as many as 180,000 half-timers. Of these, 1876 100,000 are half-timers under the Factory Acts; the remaining 80,000 are what are called educational half-timers, or half-timers, under the Education Acts. In the Factories and Workshops Bill, which is now being discussed in another place, we have raised the age of half-time exemption from 10 to 11 years. Having raised the age of factory half-timers, I say we ought to go farther. We ought to raise the age of the educational half-timers as well, and so put both classes on a footing of equality. For all these reasons I trust the Government will accept my Amendment, and by so doing make their Assisted Education Bill the means of improving the character and increasing the efficiency of our Public Elementary Schools.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to raise the standards for partial and total exemption in schools receiving the fee grants."—(Mr. Summers.)
§ (5.25.) MR. A. H. DYKE ACLAND (York, W.R., Rotherham)
I do not know the answer the Government intend to give to my hon. Friend, but under your ruling, Mr. Speaker, in regard to the last Instruction proposed, it appears that this will be the last opportunity we shall have of asking whether there shall be any truly educational character in this Bill. If the Government reject this proposal they will not only be obstructing the efforts which are being made to improve education generally in the rural districts, but they will also be obstructing the efforts of those who are interested in improving and organising the system of cheap intermediate education for the picked children of our elementary schools. This is a point upon which some of the best supporters of Her Majesty's Government are anxious that they should accept this Amendment. Prebendary Row, whose name was quoted yesterday, speaking of this Bill, is reported to have said that if in respect of school attendance they had demanded one more year at school and required each child to make 350 attendances between the ages of 5 and 11 before going to work, we might have looked to a better attendance as the complement of free education, and he added, "My fear is that free education will result in attendance being less regular than at present." Prebendary 1877 Row does not stand alone in this opinion. There are many educational authorities who are far from feeling assured that this Bill as it stands is likely to improve the attendance at the schools. The National Society, representing nearly all the Church of England voluntary schools in the country, had passed the following resolution:—That Standards III. and V. should be adopted universally as the minimum standards respectively for partial and total exemption from school attendance.You cannot read a single Report issued on the part of the Government without seeing that the Inspectors in every part of the Kingdom are begging the Educational Authorities to raise the standard of school attendance. When we look at what is going on in Scotland and other countries where the educational standard is so much higher than our own, it is a melancholy thing that we should have to say that of the School Board schools there are still 1,680 which make the Third Standard the half-time standard, and still 1,417 that make the Fourth Standard the full standard. If we really mean anything in educational reform, then advantage should be taken of this opportunity, the greatest opportunity ever offered for making parents accept some advance in this matter. Not for another generation shall we have such an opportunity. We are giving £2,000,000 into the hands of parents, and here is an easy, lit, and proper occasion to say to them: We must have a quid pro quo; when we give you this enormous sum we ask you in your own interest, and still more for the future of your children, to keep your children a little longer at school, as is done in almost all the foreign civilised countries in the world. No, the Government do not do this, they do not regard this as an Education Bill at all. This opportunity once gone, I do not know that we can ever recover it, but this I know, that children are leaving school at 10 and 11 years of age by the hundreds of thousands, and we have not a system of national education adequate to the enormous sums we expend, and this I know, that unless we organise a system of intermediate education available for the picked children of the poorer classes, unless we encourage parents to keep their children longer at elementary 1878 schools, a largo part of the money expended on intermediate education will be wasted also. We are striving in Wales to set up 70 or 80 cheap intermediate schools, which we wish to fill with the picked children of the working classes, small tradesmen, and farmers, and if we could only say to parents you must keep your children longer at school, we should then have the means of finding out, before the children are taken from school, whether children are fit to be educated stage by stage, and become useful in their generation to this great country. I know that if this proposition is not carried we shall have no education discussion left, it will be a question of struggling for money between the two educational organisations of the country, and I think it will be a lamentable thing if this great occasion for which we have been waiting so long should be lost, and we should stultify ourselves in this way. Are we to be told there is no time? Whose fault is it that time is short? Whose fault is it that one of the greatest Education Bills of the century has been introduced at a time which in an ordinary Session would be equal to the middle of July, to be crowded through by the middle of August? Is that our fault? Are we not justified, even though it be late, to introduce some educational provisions within the four corners of this Bill? I put it to the Vice President, whose friendly attitude we all admit, whose frank request to us not to pursue mining operations into the past was received with sympathy the other day, here is an opportunity by which he may earn a far larger amount of sympathy. Let him turn to the First Lord of the Treasury and to the Cabinet, and say: "I do not represent a Department whose duty it is to catch votes at the next General Election; I do not represent a Department whose primary duty it is to relieve; the poverty of parents whose poverty needs relief; my Department is the Education Department, and I refuse to be made a party to a Bill which offers the greatest opportunity of the century, unless, as representing the Department, I may put something into it which shall at least raise the level of education in the country." I do not know whether this Bill is going to succeed or not, but, if this proposal is refused, it will not be an Educational Bill, it will be 1879 a General Election Bill. It may succeed or not as an election move, but I am quite sure that, in refusing this, the Government are throwing away one of the greatest educational opportunities over offered.
§ (5.37.) MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
I regret that no hon. Member from the other side has risen to support the Motion, but I hope before the Debate closes we shall hear the opinions of hon. Members behind the Government. I am sure that many of them interested in education view this, as we do, as an educational, not as a financial, question. I will not go over the ground trodden by my hon. Friends, but it should be clearly understood that what my hon. Friend desires is to fix a limit below which the Local Authorities shall not fall, while leaving them full discretion to raise the standards as they think fit. At the present moment the whole system of standard exemption is simply chaotic, the standard for exemption in one district being the third, in another the sixth, and half-time exemptions varying in a similar manner. I am glad to think that in this matter of fixing the standards of exemption our Local Authorities are making considerable advances, but it should be borne in mind, and the Vice President, I am sure, will see the force of the observation, that from the Returns of the Education Department it will be found that nearly half the number of existing School Boards have not been brought into existence by their own will, or the will of the districts, but have been forced upon the districts by the Department in consequence of the deficiency of school accommodation. Such Boards are bound to be anti-educational, and to fix a low standard of exemption. The evidence before the Royal Commission shows very clearly that in a very large number of cases the standards for full time and half-time exemption are fixed very low, with the one object of driving the children out of school at a very early age in order that they may be employed by farmers and others of the district. This fact appears in the Reports of the Inspectors. No doubt one remedy for this state of things is that we should, and I hope we may in future, enlarge the area of School Boards, giving them 1880 greater responsibility and attracting a better class of members to rural Boards. It is high time for the Government to set a good example, and fix the standards as high as they possibly can. As I read the Instruction, if it is carried the Committee will be entitled to deal not only with the question of raising the standards, but also with that of raising the age. We ought in Committee to follow the example set with regard to factories the other day, and raise the age. The gist of the argument of the Home Secretary in opposing the raising of the age was that we must not handicap our factories, because the right hon. Gentleman said the children at full time were able to leave school at an early age, and that they contracted bad habits before going into the workshop. Therefore, this is a sort of complement to the Motion passed the other day, and I hope it will be supported, not only by Members on this side, but by educationists on the other side of the House. It has been well said by my hon. Friend that this is a quid pro quo we are asking from parents, and then it ought to be remembered that we are asking a sacrifice only from a limited number of parents, because in the large towns the standards of full time and half time are fixed as high as probably they ought to be under any circumstances. As in several districts the existing standard is low, the Instruction asks that that inequality shall be swept away. It is a question of justice as affecting parents themselves. It is not just that one parent should be obliged to send his children to school until they have passed the Sixth Standard, and that another should be able to take them away when they have passed the Third Standard. Mr. Sewell, Her Majesty's Inspector for the Nottingham district, mentions several local incongruities of this character prevailing in towns and villages within very limited areas, and as they practically affect people living under the same conditions, to whom the differences are unintelligible, they ought to be removed by the raising of the standard of exemption.
§ *(5.47.) THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Sir W. HART DYKE,) Kent, Dartford
May I ask the attention of the House to a very few words while I endeavour to explain why it is 1881 that Her Majesty's Government are unable to accept the Instruction. It has been supported in fair and moderate speeches, and the hon. Member who moved the Instruction has stated with truth that in many districts the standard is fixed at IV. It has been rightly stated that there are instances of anomalous variation in the standards of exemption; and Her Majesty's Government do not desire to defend their existence at this time. They exist under what has been the law of the land for many years, and I believe that the demands which are now put forward will soon be realised by an almost automatic process, even if nothing is done to enforce them by Parliament. It is said, "Yon are now advancing a large extra sum for purposes connected with education; now is the precise time when this forward movement should be made." I will give reasons why, in my opinion, this is not the precise juncture for the change. It is true this measure gives a considerable increase of grants to schools which are of a weak order, but I venture to urge that in the Code there is a good instrument in the hands of the Department to insure increased educational efficiency. The changes which have lately been made in the Code, and the very change made by this Bill, will at all events seriously affect the near future of the compulsory system itself. Any hon. Member who has made a minute study of the question must have come to the conclusion that when the parent has been relieved from the payment of the fee to which he has hitherto been liable, we ought not to be content with the extent to which compulsion has been carried up to the present; we ought to have a better system, which will insure a far larger attendance. We have abolished the system of payment by individual results. In that we have made a very considerable change, and most hon. Members and educationists outside must have come to the conclusion that we are tending from day today more towards a system where by the age of attendance will be considered as regards the school life rather than the hard and fast line of a standard. There is no doubt that by this policy of ours, which has abolished individual passes, and according to which grants are adjudged more on the general merits of a school, we are tending rather rapidly 1882 towards a system whereby the age up to which attendance is carried will be considered rather than standard attained. Although it is true the Bill makes a vast change which will increase the demand on the taxpayer, yet I think it would be wise to take a little breathing time in order to see the results of the change before we adopt the policy of this Instruction. As this is a serious question, affecting not only exemption, but also compulsion in the near future, I urge that it would be better to have a year or two's experience of this Act before we make the proposed change in the Instruction. Speaking as an exponent of the Bill, I would say that in my judgment it is of importance that the change it makes should be effected with as little friction and complication as possible. I have no means of judging how an Instruction like this might be received in a district where Standard IV. is the standard of exemption. But, speaking plainly, I hold that, not only this scheme, but also certain changes which may have been made in the Code, are leading, and must lead rapidly, up to the consummation that hon. Members desire. This is my strong impression derived from all the information I have received, from the experience of the Department, and from daily communication with teachers and managers. To come to the Instruction itself, according to the wording of it, it would land us in great difficulty. It may be that it is of necessity restricted in character, so as to bring it within the scope of the Bill and make it in order; but the restriction would lead to the gravest difficulties in practical operation. It would not raise the standard of exemption throughout the country generally, but only as regards schools which receive the fee grant. Take a district in which there are a number of schools, voluntary schools and Board schools; the Board schools and some of the voluntary schools would accept the grant. Under this Instruction, with whatever Amendments may be made in it, for the Amendments must be equally restricted, what will happen in such a district to a school which refuses fee grants, as any school will be entitled to do, subject to the conditions laid down? The tendency would be for those schools which refused the fee grant to draw away from other schools 1883 which accepted it some of their best children, subject to the extra years' attendance which Standard V. involves. In many cases some of the best schools in the districts will be weakened by the loss of those scholars. The Instruction, if carried in its present form and afterwards given effect to in Committee, would to a very small extent carry out the hon. Member's objects, and would in certain districts be mischievous in its operation. It will be hard, indeed, on hon. Members who are ready to make some sacrifice for Her Majesty's Government, to enable them to pass the Bill this Session, if they are compelled to undertake, besides the labours of Committee, a discussion of the vast and complicated question of child labour in its relation to elementary education.
§ (6.2.) MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
I must say I have heard the speech of my right hon. Friend with some regret, and the reasons with which he supported it with some surprise. He says if there were two standards provided and the fourth did not receive the fee grant, the parents would withdraw their children and send them to another school. On the contrary, if the parents took away the children from the school, they would send them to work, and the advantage would be on the side of the school which did not receive the fee grant. The right hon. Gentleman objects to subjecting this Bill to what he calls the huge difficulties connected with elementary education. I venture to say that there is no difficulty at all; and if the right hon. Gentleman had accepted this Instruction, every Member on both sides would have been grateful to him. There is not a school manager in the country who would not have thanked the right hon. Gentleman, because this has been found to be a crying evil by every manager, whether of a Board school or a denominational, from one end of the country to another. I believe there is not an Inspector who has not complained of it, or a manager who has not advocated a change. An alteration might have been made now without any cost, difficulty, or friction. What is the state of facts? Scotland for 18 years has had a Third and a Fifth Standard for half-time and full-time exemption. Within the last 10 years you have had 1884 two Royal Commissions on Education, and both of them have made the identical recommendations adopted in this Instruction. The Technical Education Commission of 1883, the Chairman of which sits behind me, recommended that throughout England and Wales the standard of partial and total exemption should be raised to what it is in Scotland. It is monstrous to say there is any difficulty in raising the standard. When the right hon. Gentleman talks about better educational teaching under the Act, does he suppose that is going to remedy the mischief? It will only intensify it. The right hon. Gentleman has taken the exactly opposite view to that taken by a predecessor of his when the Home Secretary raised the factory ago. In 1876, when Lord Cross's Act, raising the ago from 9 to 10 years, came in to operation, Lord Sandon correspondingly raised the standard. The new Factories Bill has practically passed in another place, and under that measure the age of 11 is to be the lowest for both factories and workshops. Can you say that the Third Standard is too high for 11 years of ago? Has not the tendency been every year to get the children out of school earlier and earlier? We are making our educational system the most wasteful system in the world. We spend vast sums of money in bringing children up to low standards, and then we pass them out of school at such an age that really before you can get them in to a night school they have forgotten more than half they learnt. When I was at the Council Office I received a deputation with reference to the factories and workshops in Derbyshire. The members of the deputation pointed out that there were four or five standards in different neighbourhoods, and actually, while on one side of a street children could go to work directly they had passed Standard IV, on the other side they must first pass Standard V. They stated, further, that parents had been known to cross the street in order to be able to send their children sooner to school. It is time we put an end to this state of things, and we might have done so to-night. I assure the Government that no one on the Opposition Benches desires to protract this Debate. Personally, I would like to see the Bill pass through the House this 1885 week. Bat here an opportunity of making this a real educational measure presents itself. The Government are conferring an enormous boon upon the parents of the country by relieving them from the payment of school fees. Why not say to the parents at the same time, "We ask you to make this slight sacrifice in return, and thus improve the standard of education?" The First Lord of the Treasury takes broad views of questions. He has been a member of a School Board and a school manager. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to rise in his place and admit that the request now made is reasonable. The adoption of the Instruction will improve the character of the Bill; it will make the Bill more popular even amongst those clergymen who are now objecting to it, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to bring us more into line, and remove some grounds for the assertion that our educational system is most wasteful.
§ *(6.12.) SIR B. SAMUELSON (Oxfordshire, Banbury)
I rise to support the appeal which my right hon. Friend the Member for the Brightside Division has made to the First Lord of the Treasury. I believe the Vice President of the Council is as anxious as any man in this House that the education of children in elementary schools should be as efficient as possible. If I want proof of that I should find it in the weakness of the two arguments he has advanced in opposition to the Instruction under discussion. In the first place, he does not wish us to overload the Bill, but to wait and see what the effect of the Bill is before proceeding with the measures suggested. In the second place, he says that parents could evade the higher standards by sending their children to a fee-paying school, as if he did not see that the parents who will make the sacrifice of paying fees are just the ones who would wish their children to remain at school. He tells us that under the Code he can do this and that; but he omitted to tell us, what he knows very well, that he cannot do under the Code what we want him to do, namely, to put a check upon those school authorities who allow children to leave school too early. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say he would like to come to Parliament with a now Education Bill two years hence? Have the Govern- 1886 ment so little to do, and is it so easy to pass a Bill through the House, that he wants to come before the House with another Bill in two years' time? Surely in the interest of the Department it must be his desire that whatever it is necessary to do, in order to make our elementary education fairly efficient, should be done at once, and not postponed for two or three years. I took an active part on the Technical Education Commission, and I was also a member of the Education Commission. I signed the Minority Report, and did my best to diminish the antagonism between the Minority and Majority Reports. If the minority alone had urged it I would not have insisted to-day, but the majority were equally strong upon this matter. They said that we are throwing away enormous sums on elementary education, that we bring the children up to a certain inefficient standard, and then allow them to walk away and forget all they have learnt. You are now going to give more money out of the taxes, and I say it is your duty to see that an addition is not made to the money which has been wasted. As you are about to relieve parents from the cost of the education of their children, except to the extent of the small pittance they pay through the taxes, you can reasonably say to them, "You must keep your children at school for a longer period; children shall not go to work as half-timers until they have passed the Third Standard and as full-timers until they have passed the Fifth Standard." I earnestly join in the appeal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield to the First Lord of the Treasury. I beg him to release my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council from the trammels now imposed upon him, which I believe no man feels more acutely than he does himself.
§ *(6.20.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
I will respond at once to the appeal which has been made to me. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mundella) and the hon. Baronet (Sir B. Samuelson) ask the House to override the discretion and the full and complete responsibility of elected representative bodies—the School Boards—which control and deal 1887 with a population of 16,500,000 in England. The School Boards have the actual authority and the full power to raise the standards if they think fit, and they will have the cordial support of the Education Department in doing so. The School Boards and the School Attendance Committees are the authorities by whom this Bill must be enforced, and the Government are asked to say, "We cannot trust you to act according to your sense of responsibility, and we require you to proceed further than you are at present disposed to go." I believe it is wiser to allow this Bill to be in operation for a year, and we should then see fully what the results are before we proceed to the extreme measure of saying to these representative authorities, "You must do a great deal more than you have hitherto thought it right to do; you must carry out the proposals which have been embodied in an Act of Parliament." If the necessity arises, we shall be fully justified in calling upon them to do so, but we ought to wait and see what the operation of the measure is. One of the advantages which the Government hope will result from this measure is a diminution in the number of excuses for irregular attendance. I believe that the School Boards and the School Attendance Committees will rise to a sense of their responsibilities and their duty, and I think it is far better in the interests of education to obtain their sympathy, their goodwill, and their hearty co-operation, than to call upon them to give effect to a law in which they may not personally agree. I am strongly in sympathy with the object which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has in view. It is most desirable that the standard should be raised by common agreement, and I fool that our best method of improving the education of the people is to carry the Local Authorities with us, and not to act independently of them.
§ *(6.25.) MR. MATHER (Lancashire, S.E., Gorton)
I appeal to the First Lord of the Treasury to accept the Instruction on the ground that the raising of the age is consistent with all the legislation which the Government have proposed during the last two or three years. In the New Code provision is made for manual instruction, universal teaching of drawing, and all classes of 1888 elementary science; but if some provision is not made by Act of Parliament to enable School Boards and other Educational Authorities throughout the country to keep all children at school beyond the age of 10 years, this admirable legislation will be stultified. It is not necessary that the Government should neglect the Instruction simply on the ground that the form of it is not right, and does not accord with some provisions of the Bill. The spirit of the Instruction is well understood; it is that we desire to give the children of the country a better opportunity than they have hitherto enjoyed of availing themselves of the excellent educational facilities provided. If the Government will only say they are prepared to embody in the Bill the provision that in future the Schools Boards, under the new educational arrangements, shall raise the age of half-time exemption from 10 to 11, and full-time exemption from 13 to 14, we on this side will be quite satisfied. I do not think the Vice President of the Council would of his own motion oppose this Amendment, for I am persuaded he knows the country requires some provision such as that now suggested. I earnestly hope, notwithstanding what the First Lord of the Treasury has just said, that further consideration will be given to this matter.
§ *(6.30.) MR. TALBOT (Oxford University)
The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mather) has raised the question of age, but the raising of the standard is the question raised by this Instruction. This is a matter of very considerable extent, and if these demands are insisted upon, it will be impossible for this Bill to be passed in the present Session, and I would appeal to hon. Members to show a little more practical wisdom in this matter. I take it we are all agreed that, so far as we can, we ought to raise the standard of partial exemption. But may I point out that the power of raising the standards of partial or total exemption now rests in the hands of the Education Authorities elected by the people in School Boards and Committees of School Attendance. It seems, therefore, that, ardent as is the love of hon. Members for local representation and local control, when it comes to be a question of trusting the Local Authorities there is a disposition to throw 1889 them over; and this, too, notwithstanding the fact that they are the people who ought to know the needs of the localities. Hon. Members are, in fact, taking away the power already possessed by Local Authorities, and evincing a determination to declare by Act of Parliament that those Local Bodies shall no longer have any option in the matter.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
I stated that the object we had in view was to fix a minimum standard, leaving the Local Authority, however, full power to raise it as high as it likes.
§ *MR. TALBOT
But you will not trust popular local representative bodies to fix the minimum standard. Where is the confidence hon. Members profess to have in local self-government? I should like to read one sentence in the Report of the Education Commission. It is to be found on page 109, and is as follows:—While we do not desire to see either the standard or range of elementary education unduly restricted, we must bear in mind that, in the case of children preparing for many employments, including agriculture, a prolonged school life is incompatible with the practical instruction of the field or workshop, which must necessarily commence at an early age.Now, in the teeth of all that, we are told that we are bound to compel the authorities to raise the age for the standard of exemption, and though, so far as a child is intended for agricultural or commercial pursuits is concerned, the standard may be already sufficiently high, we are to intervene, although we have not that local knowledge which is essential in dealing with these
§ *MR. TALBOT
I know what the hon. Gentleman refers to, but surely if hon. Gentlemen believe such a change as this would be beneficial, it should be made by people who know the needs of particular localities, and who are better acquainted with those needs than those who live in them. If, as I believe they are, hon. Members are anxious to pass this Bill during the present Session, I cannot conceive conduct more insane than to ask the House to agree to this Instruction. The result of the House accepting it will be to lead to one Amendment after another being 1890 proposed dealing with various standards of exemption, and in this way a great deal of valuable time will be wasted. This, let it be remembered, is a Bill for giving free education, and the House has decided to accept it; but if it is to pass this Session, it would be very unwise, on this the last day of June to attempt to introduce into it provisions which are not germane to it.
§ *(6.40.) SIR L. PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
I think the hon. Member who last spoke does not appreciate the contention of hon. Members on this side of the House. If the Government had agreed to this Instruction, a power would have been conferred similar to that in the Scotch Education Act of 1883. In the Education Act of 1890, the Scotch Education Department has the power to raise the standard on its own authority. The First Lord of the Treasury asks how we can place this order to raise the age on elected authorities. The Government have already done this in the case of Scotland, and the scheme has worked with the greatest simplicity. The age of employment has been raised from 10 to 11 in spite of opposition, and I contend that, having raised the age, we ought also to raise the standard. Under the present system, if the child, before he reaches 11 years of age, manages to pass the Sixth Standard, you prevent his being employed, and enforce upon him a year's idleness. Surely it is perfectly absurd, if you raise the age, not to raise the standard.
§ (6.43.) MR. J. A. BRIGHT (Birmingham, Central)
I would ask the Government even at the eleventh hour to re-consider their position, and to agree to the Instruction, which, after all, is only the corollary of the decision of the House on the proposals of the hon. Member for Poplar as to the employment of children in factories. School Boards will be grateful to the House of Commons if it adopts this proposal, and takes the matter out of the hands of elective bodies. I was a member of a School Board, which was strongly of opinion that the age should be raised; but in consequence of popular clamour we wore, I am sorry to say, frightened out of our decision, and had to yield. Undoubtedly the present system of electing School Boards makes those bodies peculiarly amenable to pressure from outside, for 1891 by means of the cumulative vote dissatisfied ratepayers may work havoc among members who have supported unpopular proposal. Now, I am largely interested in the cotton trade, and, at the same time, do not represent a cotton spinning constituency in this House. My experience of the cotton trade induced me to vote for raising the ago of half-timers; and as I look on this proposal as only the corollary of the decision come to on that matter, I urge upon the Government that it would be very unwise on their part to reject this Instruction.
§ (6.45.) MR. T. ELLIS (Merionethshire)
I should like to refer to the argument advanced by the First Lord of the Treasury and by the hon. Member for the Oxford University. It seems to me strange that they should base their arguments upon their trust in Local Authorities.
§ MR. T. ELLIS
The hon. Gentleman founded his argument upon the fact that if this Instruction were carried it would override the opinion of Local Authorities. We on this side are quite willing to trust Local Authorities, but we hold that there are certain educational matters which can best be administered by a central department. Take, for instance, the question of accommodation, the Department insist on a certain amount of accommodation being provided for each child, and that there shall be a certain number of teachers for a given number of children. No doubt many school managers would be exceedingly glad if those provisions were relaxed, but experience has shown that the system has worked most satisfactorily. When the President of the Local Government Board brought in his Notification of Infectious Diseases Bill, he said he was willing at first to give each Local Authority the option of enforcing or refusing to enforce its provisions, but he intimated that if any number of the authorities proved indifferent, or refused to enforce them, he would be willing to bring in a compulsory Act. Well, in the matter now before the House, we are simply asking hon. Members to take a step which will place backward Educational Authorities on the same level as the best authorities; and we are asking that the limit in Wales 1892 shall be the same as now prevails in Scotland. It has been observed that any defects in this measure may easily be remedied by subsequent legislation; but it is useless to hope that we shall have another Education Bill brought in within the next five years, and hon. Members should, therefore, seize this golden opportunity that they now have of making this measure a satisfactory one. I venture to appeal to Her Majesty's Government not to press this matter to a Division, but to accept the Instruction, for by so doing they will immensely improve our system of elementary education, and increase the facilities for promoting secondary education.
§ (6.50.) The House divided:—Ayes 133; Noes 186.—(Div. List, No. 311.)
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1.
§ (7.6.) SIR R. TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
I have a Notice on the Paper to move to leave out "shall," in order to insert "may." I placed the Amendment on the Paper in order to raise the question as to whether the operation of this clause should be permissive or compulsory. I am advised, however, that, as the section stands, it is not compulsory, and I also gathered that from what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council this afternoon. I understand that it will not be compulsory on any schools to accept this grant, and if that is so I need not move my Amendment.
§ (7.8.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
If it is not compulsory what will be the consequence? No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council stated the other day that if the voluntary school in a rural district refused the 10s. grant, then, as a matter of course, a School Board would be set up in that parish. That is a most important point, and I think we ought to have the statement more generally made. We should know what is to be the consequence of a voluntary school in a rural district refusing the 10s. grant.
§ *SIR W. HART DYKE
I could better answer the right hon. Gentleman on Sub-section 3 of Clause 3, but if the right hon. Gentleman wants a statement 1893 from me now, I can only reiterate what I said the other day as to what would happen in the event of a school refusing the fee grant. In the event of a school being independent of the fee grant altogether, and of maintaining its independence, no doubt Sub-section 3 of Clause 3 would operate.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Supposing it was thought lit or desirable to set up a School Board, would there be any power—I take it there would not—to require the voluntary schools to admit free scholars? I assume, of course, that the fee was beyond 10s. Supposing you adopt the alternative of saying—"You shall admit free scholars, but shall not put the parish to the expense of having free schools."
§ SIR W. HART DYKE
I cannot imagine a case where it would be necessary to put this pressure on a school.
§ MR. PENROSE FITZGERALD (Cambridge)
I beg to move in Clause 1, page 1, line 5, after "paid" to insert "quarterly." I cannot imagine that Her Majesty's Government will do otherwise than accept the words I propose here as an alternative after what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council in his opening speech. It is of the very greatest importance to our schools both in town and country that ready money should be at hand for the payment of schoolmasters and schoolmistresses. These persons are now paid quarterly, principally with the assistance of the school-pence which is a ready-money fund coming in day by day. The consequence of a deficit at present is that yon have an overdraft at the local bank, or there is some wealthy citizen who is ready to put his hand in his pocket and advance the money necessary to pay the quarterly salaries before the money comes in. This is a hardship to the willing subscriber, but you will intensify it if you do not accept this Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 5, after "paid" to insert "quarterly."—(Mr. Penrose FitzGerald.)
§ Question proposed "That the word 'quarterly' be there inserted."1894
§ *(7.14.) SIR W. HART DYKE
There is a difficulty connected with this Amendment which I will do my best to explain. In the first place it should be understood that in all cases a quarter cannot elapse without a payment being made to a school. I wish that to be distinctly understood. It is guaranteed that that shall be done. Hon. Members desire that the guarantee shall take the form of specific words in the Bill, but it would be difficult to do it for this reason. It is absolutely necessary on the close of the school year to close the accounts, and hon. Members are aware that the close of the school year varies in different schools, and it is that variety as to the closing of the school year which makes the difficulty. What we propose is this: the Bill is to come into operation on the 1st of September, and we propose that after one month we shall commence to make these payments, continuing them thereafter quarterly. Supposing the Bill becomes law before the close of the Session, in some schools payments will have to be made as early as the 30th September, and such a payment will necessarily be a payment for one month. Then I go another month forward. There are some schools where the payments will be made on the 31st October, and in such a case there will be two months paid, with quarterly payments from that date. Then, to go another month forward, in the case of schools where the payments are made on the 30th November, there would take place a three months' payment of a general character. I must carry the Committee on to the 31st December. There, again, it may be possible under our proposal that there may be a payment of one month, but in that case the payments thereafter would be made every quarter. As the Act comes so soon into operation, what we wish to avoid is any possible hardship as to the grant coming in at the end of the school year. The whole matter has been carefully considered by the Department, and we believe we shall be able to meet the demands of the schools with justice.
§ *(7.16.) MR. AINSLIE (Lancashire, N., Lonsdale)
The point raised in this Amendment is one I had intended to raise myself by a similar 1895 proposal. The only regret I have to express is that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President has not thought fit to put down some Amendment on the Paper, so that school managers and those interested might see what he intends to do, and not be left to gather it from his statement in Committee.
§ *SIR W. HART DYKE
It would save time if I said that there must be some regulation framed in regard to this matter. It is my duty now to say how the Department intend to work the scheme. These regulations, of course, will be made public in the usual way, and will be laid on the Table of the House. Intricate as they are, I think it would be a great pity to put them in the Bill.
§ MR. PENROSE FITZGERALD
As the right hon. Gentleman has given us a sufficient guarantee that provision for quarterly payments will be made in the regulations, I will not press the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
I think that while the Bill under which this free education grant is to be made is in Committee we should embody in the measure—which in itself is rigid, and would require another Act at any time to repeal it or amend any portion of it—the provision adopted in the Scotch Free Education Act. What was done in the case of that Act? The measure which gave the grant simply stated that the Education Department should, from time to time, lay the conditions on which that grant was made on the Table of the House. Well, why have we in the present instance departed from the wholesome system laid down in the Scotch case? Let me point out how inconvenient it will be, if, having passed an Act of Parliament in which you make conditions on which the grant shall be given, you find after a short experience that you wish to make some changes in it. Suppose, for instance, you adopt the age limit, either the 5 or the 14 years, or whatever it may be, and you wish to change it, you can only do it by a repealing Act. If the Scotch Act had been framed like this Bill, by this time 1896 we should have had two or three amending Acts. It is very likely that some of the provisions of this Bill will be found unworkable as it is a tentative and entirely new measure, and one which it may be found difficult to work. Supposing it should be found to militate against education, and it should be considered desirable to change a provision, what can you do? You will constantly have Members coming down to the House desiring that the measure shall be altered, amended, or repealed. Let the right hon. Gentleman take power to put all his conditions in a Code which shall be laid on the Table from year to year. Let me point out what a saving of time there will be in the future if the question can be dealt with in the Code from time to time instead of in Bills which have to pass both Houses of Parliament. I appeal to the Government in the interests of education and of public business to adopt the simple method employed in Scotland.
In page 1, line 7, to leave out the words "as may be determined by regulations of the Education Department," and insert the words "and in accordance with such conditions as may from time to time be set forth in minutes of the Education Department to he laid before Parliament."—(Mr. Mundella.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ *(7.22.) MR. W. H. SMITH
The right hon. Gentleman asks the House to agree to an Amendment which would give the Education Department the power of legislating, subject only to the condition that the legislation shall lie on the Table of the House of Commons for one month, so that the conditions under which free education is granted under this Bill may be extended by the Education Department.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
Well, there is one objection to the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman will see at once is a very forcible one. I hope the present Session of Parliament will terminate within 30 days of the time when this Bill goes to the other House. But under this Amendment the 1897 Bill would not come into operation until a Minute of the Education Department had lain for 30 days on the Table of Parliament, so that the effect would be that free education would not come into operation until March next, after Parliament re-assembled, instead of on September 1 of the present year. We intend to lay the regulations of the Education Department on the Table as soon as they are framed, but it is quite a different matter to lay on the Table a Minute which would delay the operation of the Act until it bad lain on the Table for 30 days. Besides, I object very strongly to legislation by Minute, and I think I must ask the right hon. Gentleman not to press his Amendment.
§ (7.25.) MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
I think there is some force in the objection of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the time at which the Act is to come into force, but if the Amendment were accepted we could very easily introduce an Amendment with the object of obviating that difficulty. But I think the right hon. Gentleman did not see the full force of the objection of my right hon. Friend. Great difficulty has been experienced in Scotland in carrying out the rules and regulations in regard to free education, and there have been constant alterations on behalf of the Scotch Education Department. I want to know why we in England are to be placed in a worse position than that of Scotland in this matter. The Scotch Education Department has the power of practically carrying fresh legislation in the form of new regulations, and all we ask is that the English Education Department shall be placed in the same position as the Scotch Department. It seems to me that the real reason why the Government are not prepared to accept this Amendment is that they desire, if any alteration is to be made, that it should pass through both Houses. I am sure my right hon. Friend does not desire to give a larger discretion to the Department than it ought to have, or than is possessed by the Scotch Department; but he desires to avoid the waste of time that would be involved in having next Session to pass another Act, and, perhaps, in the following Session another, in order to settle these small matters.
§ (7.30.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 118; Noes 54.—(Div. List, No. 312.)
§ *(7.40.) MR. AINSLIE
I now rise for the purpose of moving the Amendment which stands on the Paper in my name, namely, to leave out from the word "the," in line 9, to the word "five," in line 11, inclusive, and insert "threepence for each week's attendance of every child over three."
I think it right to say a word upon the question of order which has occupied my serious attention. A well-known Standing Order, revised and strengthened on the 20th of March, 1860, prescribes that the House will proceed upon no Motion for a charge upon the Public Revenue unless recommended by the Crown. This has been consistently held, to prevent any private Member from moving an increase of a grant in Committee of Supply. The Committee of Supply being set up, and the Estimates referred to it, no private Member can propose to modify a proposed Vote except by way of reduction. The question is whether the Standing Order extends to prevent a private Member from proposing an increase of grant which is contained in the clause of a Bill where the increase does not go outside the limits of the original Resolution upon the authority of which the Bill is founded, and to which the recommendation of the Crown has been signified. If reference could be made to the Debates upon the Standing Order, as revised in 1886, it would probably be concluded that the House certainly intended to prevent the exercise of such power by a private Member. A ruling, apparently carefully considered, was, however, delivered from the Chair in the year 1881 in Committee on the Irish Land Bill, when it was laid down that any Member could propose any extension of the money provisions of a Bill so long as they did not go beyond the previous authorisation of the preliminary Committee on which the Bill was founded. This declaration seems to have excited attention, and my predecessor was asked by the then Leader of the House to explain the reason of this distinction, and his reply was that in Supply the sums submitted are fixed sums, which may not be the case in 1899 Committee on a Bill. I am bound to say that I think this difference is an accidental circumstance, wide of the principle of the Standing Order which should govern our practice; and it must be observed that though the sums proposed in Supply are definite, they are not fixed in the sum that they cannot be withdrawn and replaced by others at the discretion of the Crown. It seems to me that the principle of the Standing Order would require private Members to be under the same limitation in Committees on Bills as in Committee of Supply; but past practice would not justify the Chair in imposing any such disability in Committee on Bills unless supported by all sections of that Committee. I cannot, therefore, rule the Amendment of the hon. Member to be out of order.
§ *MR. AINSLIE
I understand from the ruling we have just heard from the Chair that under the restrictions suggested my Amendment is entitled to the consideration of the Committee, but I must say that I find a difficulty in separating one part of the Amendment from the other. I will, however, endeavour to deal to the best of my ability with the case of these little children. Therefore, I venture to ask the Committee to leave out the words from the word "the" to the word "five" in line 11 of the first clause. I desire to point out that unless we do get a much larger grant than is proposed in this Bill, it is hardly possible that the work of primary education can go on in many of the schools. I may refer the Committee to a case which is known to me in which the average attendances run from 32 down to 23 for the whole school, but where the amount of money paid as fees amounts to more than £1 per head. Consequently, it would be impossible for the amount proposed to be given under the grant to satisfy what is required in this particular instance. I cannot conceive that it is the intention of the Committee to insist on a return to the old state of things, where, in many of these schools, the minister was also the schoolmaster. And I ask Her Majesty's Government to consider whether in the out-of-the-way places in which instances such as I have referred to occur, they are not able so to 1900 increase the grant as to provide the kind of education which is so much valued in this class of schools. There are some cases where the fees are always fixed at 1s. per family, no matter what the number of the family. But I will better serve my object by not going into details, which I will leave to the Vice President.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 10, to leave out the words "ten shillings a year," and insert the words "three pence for each week's attendance."—(Mr. Ainslie.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'ten shillings' stand part of the Clause."
§ (7.55.) CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
The grant of 10s. will scarcely meet what I consider to be the legitimate demands of voluntary schools in the country, much less in the towns. The case has been most ably stated in the well known letter of the Bishop of Wakefield. Whatever else is done, it seems to me that it would be most unfair and unjust, unless some arrangements are made by which the voluntary schools in towns receive greater consideration than is proposed. The average of fees paid in voluntary schools is now 11s. 1½d., and in Board schools 8s. 4d. If you give the voluntary schools a 10s. grant they will undoubtedly be placed in a position of extreme difficulty in relation to Board schools—where there are voluntary and Board schools in the same district. You may argue that where there is only one school in the parish we shall not be hit in that way, still, generally speaking it is unfair that where the average of fees has been 11s. 1½d. a grant only of 10s. should be paid. As I understand, the grant is based upon the average of the school attendance for about 40 weeks at 3d. per week. But it is very well known that the real year is 44 or 45 weeks, and not 40, and the managers of voluntary schools ask that the grant should be based upon the calculation of 45 weeks at 3d. per week—which would make 11s. 3d. If the right hon. Gentleman will not do that, let him take, not the average, but the total of attendance. I do trust that the right hon. Gentleman will remove that stain from the Bill 1901 which is caused by the year of 40 weeks; it is not the real year, and I cannot see why my right hon. Friend should prefer fiction. If the Bill is carried as it stands, the voluntary schools sooner or later will have to shut their doors. It is useless to ask people to raise their subscriptions when they already pay the heavier part of the taxes. I do urge my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench to give most anxious consideration to this Amendment, and to note carefully how great an injustice is being done to voluntary schools, especially in the large towns.
§ *(8.1.) MR. G. W. BALFOUR (Leeds, Central)
Two very different points have been raised in the Debate on this Amendment; first, the substitution of a weekly for an annual fee as the standard of the proposed fee grant; and, secondly, the question of average attendance as against total attendance. I do not think it will conduce to clearness to discuss both these questions together: it would be better, in the first instance, to limit the Debate to the question of substituting a weekly fee of 3d. for the annual fee of 10s. To such a change I attach considerable importance. The great difficulty my right hon. Friend had to contend with was the inequality of fees in different localities; and possibly he had no alternative but to strike an average fee. But there are various ways in which an average fee may be struck. I have a twofold objection to the proposal of the Government. It would be reasonable, considering that the time during which different schools are open varies from 40 weeks and 47 weeks in the year to take that difference into account. But this is not all. I maintain also that 10s. is not the average fee. I am afraid this contention will necessitate my going into figures, but the importance of the subject affords sufficient apology for my doing so. I have here a Return of the Education Department in 1891, containing a summary of the statistics with regard to schools in receipt of the annual grant. Table 4, on page 16, gives the percentage of scholars paying certain fees per week. The scholars are divided into nine classes, according to the amount of fee, and the percentages and payments are as follows:— 1902
Taking the arithmetical mean in those cases where the amount of fee is returned as being between a lower and a higher figure, and working out the data supplied by the table, we get an average weekly fee of about 3d. per child. But then it is necessary to take in to consideration that about 5 per cent. of the children have their fees remitted by the managers of the schools, and this raises the figure from 3d. to 3⅙d. Probably a slight error enters into both of these figures; because where you have a class of children which pays, for instance, 3d. and less than 4d., the probability is that the sum paid more nearly approaches 3d. than 4d. Set off this probable error against the additional one sixth of a penny, and we get 3d. as the true average weekly fee throughout all schools when allowance is made for the fees remitted.
Percentage of Scholars. Fees. 4.8 Nothing. .05 Less than 1d. 15.64 1d. and less than 2d. 37.03 2d. and less than 3d. 25.82 3d. and less than 4d. 12.91 4d. and less than 6d. 2.92 6d. and less than 9d. .78 9d. .05 Over 9d.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
Does that include the fees in both voluntary and Board schools?
§ *MR. G. W. BALFOUR
Yes; I draw no distinction between the two. It is the average fee throughout the country in all elementary schools. But now let me approach the question from another point of view. Three pence a week for 44 weeks gives an annual fee of 11s. instead of 10s. It can be shown in another way that 11s. is nearer the true average than 10s. Take the average attendance in day schools on the annual grant list. The attendance is 3,732,327, and the total fees paid £1,940,546. This gives an average fee of 10s. 4¾d. But, again, this calculation makes no allowance whatever for children whose fees are remitted. These children constitute 5 per cent. or about 180,000, and to make allowance for them would raise 1903 the average from 10s. 4¾d. to about 10s. 11d. Once more we see that a 10s. grant is inadequate, and the same may be shown in yet a third way. On an average attendance of 3,732,327 the grant would amount to £1,866,163 10s. The school managers at present receive in fees £1,940,540, and, therefore, by accepting the 10s. grant in lieu of fees they would lose £74,382 10s. A grant of 11s. on an average attendance of 3,732,327 would be equal to £2,052,775, or £112,229 in excess of the amount at present received in fees. But, taking into consideration the 180,000 scholars whose fees are at present remitted, and allowing for each of them the average fee of 11s., that would practically balance the excess. The proposed 10s. grant is, therefore, less than the true average, and something approaching 10s. 6d. is the true average fee, if no allowance be made for the fees which are omitted, or about 11s., if that allowance is made, as in justice it should be. I should like to know on what principle the Government have arrived at the fee of 10s., and whether the Vice President of the Council will not be prepared to make some concession in this respect. I should be very glad if my right hon. Friend could see his way to basing the payment on the weekly fee of 3d., which certainly represents the average more correctly than the figure he has taken.
§ *(8.14.) MR. POWELL (Wigan)
I do not wish to follow my hon. Friend in the careful calculations which he has laid before the House, but I desire, on behalf of Lancashire, to express the considerable anxiety which is felt on this subject of the 10s. grant. All indications that have reached me show that there will be a most disastrous loss in the receipts should the Bill of the Government pass in its present form. It may be said that the difference can be made up by means of raising the fees. There may be cases where, by a natural process of selection, different classes of children are separated, but in Wigan and Bradford those who attend these schools are very much of the same social level. In some schools which I have visited I have been struck by the difference in social condition of the children sitting on the same form. I have asked whether any difficulties have arisen from that cause, either between the children or on questions of disci- 1904 pline, and I have been told that there is no feeling of that kind. I believe that the same principle will operate in our largo towns, such as Bradford, Leeds, and Manchester. There may be some cases where we shall have high-feed schools, or schools partly feed and partly free; but I doubt whether that will be a permanent condition of things.
§ *(8.18.) SIR W. HART DYKE
I certainly cannot complain of the points having been brought forward which have been urged, or the tone in which they have been urged. I will not disguise from the Committee that the great difficulty by which the Government have been met ab initio arises from the huge discrepancy which exists in school fees. Reference has been made to the case of a small country school, but I think that it ought to be pointed out with regard to these small country schools that a large addition has been made to their resources by the Code of 1890. The Government have added to the special grant of £10 an extra £10, making an original grant of £20; and have also raised the number of population to 500 with regard to these schools. Therefore, I think that, as regards country schools, hon. Members have been somewhat too prodigal of criticism. I would point out that the Government have increased the resources of these schools, not only during 1890–91, but also in the measure now before the House by which they really hand over the balance to these schools beyond the fees now charged. It is obvious that a great disparity of fees in a large number of schools in the North of England can be pointed out, and that complaints would be made in certain quarters in which it is considered that this fee grant which the Government propose to give is inadequate with regard to the demands of these schools. I would like to point out that the Government have never contended that this fee grant of theirs represents a threepenny fee; it only approximately does so. Questions have been raised as to the average attendance of children at schools; there are a vast number of schools where the fees are paid at the beginning of the week, and where a scholar may be absent from illness or some other cause, and that may mean that there is a loss on the calculation of the average attendance. These 1905 objections go to the very root of the proposals before the Committee. I may be told that it is all very well to say that a school may charge fees and yet receive a grant, but that there will be Board schools which are free and will attract all the children. I maintain that that idea is opposed to the habits of our people. The better class of artisans and small shopkeepers, and the class of small farmers in the rural districts, who, to a large extent, make use of our elementary schools, will send their children to schools where fees are paid for the sake of the slight exclusiveness. Another matter which has been quite lost sight of is the grading which goes on everywhere in our schools. Beyond that, the communications which I have received from the North of England lead me to believe that it the scheme of the Government passes through the shoals and quicksands which it has to encounter in Committee the cases will be very rare where any injury would be dune to these schools. I do not think that I need detain the Committee any longer upon that matter. The hon. Member for Leeds has gone into careful calculations with regard to the 10s. grant. For my own part, I am not quite sure whether on the spur of the moment I am willing to enter into competition with the hon. Member, but as far as the calculations of the Department go we believe that the 10s. grant represents very nearly a threepenny fee on the average attendance throughout the country. I do not know whether I should be in order at the present time, but I think it only fair to say that the Government propose to accept an Amendment which appears frequently on the Paper, altering the compulsory limitation with regard to five years. In view of the large relaxation of the Bill which I have just announced, I hope hon. Gentlemen will not press this Amendment. The discrepancy in some schools in the South of England between the existing grant and that proposed by the Bill is very large; in some cases the existing grant is only 8s. 6d. I hope and believe that that fact will induce the managers to be content with the grant which the Government propose to give them. (8.32.)
§ (9.5.) COLONEL BRIDGEMAN (Bolton)
I wish to thank my right hon. 1906 Friend for having accepted the first part of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for North Lancashire. The second part, however, is most important—the substitution of 3d. for each week's attendance for the 10s. grant. My right hon. Friend passed very lightly over some very important remarks from my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Bethell) as to the difficulty arising where Board schools and voluntary schools stand side by side. If there are only Board schools or voluntary schools in the district, the difficulty is not so great, for in that case we should perhaps be prepared to accept the view of the Vice President that fees could be charged in the voluntary schools. But the difficulty arises where Board schools stand side by side with voluntary schools. In all probability the School Board elections in November next will turn mainly upon the question of "fee" schools or "free" schools. My right hon. Friend mentioned the case of a clergyman with a school where the fees varied from 9d. down to nothing; but whether that is a case in point or not depends upon whether there were any Board schools to compete with. The whole thing rests upon what my right hon. Friend calls the huge discrepancy of fees paid in voluntary schools. In the great towns of the North of England the fee is as much as 13s., 14s., and even 15s., although it is also true that there are agricultural districts in the South of England—Somersetshire particularly—where the foe is as low as 7s. or 6s. It is no compensation to the managers of the high fee school to tell them that 10s. is the average. When they are losing 4s. per scholar, it does not console them to be told that there are schools which are gaining by the arrangement. I hope my right hon. Friend understands the great importance we attach to this matter. Our fear in Lancashire is that the voluntary schools are going to be forced out of existence. I hope it is a mistaken idea, for the House has always upheld the system of voluntary schools, and it would be keenly felt by us if a blow to that system should be dealt by a Conservative Government.
§ *(9.9.) MR. W. H. CROSS (Liverpool, West Derby)
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to accept the 1907 proposal. It has the support, I may mention, of the Liverpool School Board. This Board has expressed a strong-opinion in favour of the proposition now before the Committee, and they point out that the effect of raising the amount of the grant from 10s. a year to 3d. per week on attendances would be, in a school of 100 children, a difference of £5 12s. 6d. a year for these 100 children; under the annual grant it would be £45, and under the 3d. grant £50 12s. 6d. Of course, in larger schools containing several hundred children the balance will be very considerable, and might make all the difference to managers, whether they could make the school free or not. This view has also been expressed by the Liverpool Public Elementary Schools Conference; and quite in harmony with this opinion, and expressing the same thing in another form is the Memorial from the National Union of Teachers, who propose that the amount in the Bill should be raised from 10s. to 11s. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to accept the proposal, which I am sure all Lancashire Members interested in education in the North of England support.
§ (9.11.) VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)
I think that Members on this side of the House are indebted to the Government for the change indicated by my right hon. Friend a few minutes ago. At the same time, I think my right hon. Friend's speech revealed that he had not a conception of the feeling aroused in the North of England by many of the proposals in the Bill. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bolton (Colonel Bridgeman) said it is no answer to the managers of great schools in the North of England to tell them that agricultural districts will be much better off under the Bill; indeed, it will only make them feel their position the harder. There is no doubt whatever that these northern schools will suffer considerable loss; how great it is difficult to toll. It is right the Committee should know the opinion held in northern towns on this subject. I sincerely hope my constituents are wrong in their anticipations, but I have no doubt that as the Bill stands, without amendment, it will have a very serious effect upon these schools. If the first two clauses stood by themselves the 1908 position of the Government would be logical enough, for they say in these clauses, "We give a certain grant in lieu of fees," and they might fairly and properly have said, after the passing of the Bill no new fees shall be imposed; but the effect of the 3rd clause, taken in connection with the clause we are now discussing, is not merely that schools receive a grant in lieu of fees; but they may be absolutely forbidden under the 3rd clause from charging any fees in the future. This makes the question a very serious one. The result may be that these schools will be bound down, so far as their fee income is concerned, to 10s. a year, and nothing more. It appears to me there is only the choice between withdrawing the 3rd clause and enlarging the amount of the grant. Everybody knows, as a matter of fact, that the fee charged in the North is more than 10s.; therefore, if the schools are declared free on consideration of this grant the schools will suffer a large loss of income, and the only remedy is to withdraw Clause 3 or increase the grant. I do not see why these schools should not be allowed to charge a fee, and I sincerely hope that when this scheme is carried out there will still be fee-paying schools; that parents who desire to pay fees may do so, sufficient free places being provided to meet the wants of the district. But I doubt very much, after what has been said in favour of free education, and after the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in introducing his Budget, that it will be possible to charge fees, because there is a feeling abroad that from the passing of the Bill no fees will be charged. I agree with my right hon. Friend in the hope that this will not be the case, for it seems to me an absurdity that those parents who wish to pay should not be allowed to do so. But we must contemplate the possibility of there being no fee-paying schools, and in that case I wish the Government to see the extraordinary position in which schools in the North of England will be placed. In my own constituency of Darwen one school will find its income reduced to the extent of £65 a year, another to the extent of £33, another of £148, and another to the extent of £100 a year. A school in Blackburn will have its income reduced to the extent of £130. Therefore, unless 1909 some way is found out of the difficulty, it will be quite impossible to keep these schools going. I know hon. Members opposite will say, "There are rich towns in the North of England; why should they not contribute?" I say at once that there is no charge can be sustained against the North of England towns that they have not subscribed to these schools, because up to this time the parents of the district have been quite willing to pay high fees, and the schools have done very well without subscriptions. No doubt when the demand comes subscribers will come forward, but it must be remembered that this enormous financial change is to take place within the year—from September 1st, 1891—and no time is afforded to meet the new financial position, and the relentless character of the Bill is such that there is good reason to fear that those schools which stand on the border line of solvency and bankruptcy will go under in the struggle. My argument is that it is necessary to enlarge the 10s. limit, because it may be impossible for those schools to charge any fees, partly on account of the public feeling which has been aroused, and partly because of Clause 3. If the schools find it impossible to charge fees, the annual loss to the whole diocese of Manchester will nearly approach £36,000 a year. That is an enormous figure. Now, on what principle does my right hon. Friend fix on the 10s. limit? To judge from his speech to-night no one can find any principle. I shrewdly suspect that the surplus of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was taken and the limit was fixed according to the fees the gross amount would cover.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
Well, if the Government were reckless then as to what the amount would be, I hope they will be a little more reckless now. I do not see how my right hon. Friend can prove that 10s. is the average fee. It would appear that the average fee in England is 11s., not 10s. I do not ask for this change merely on the ground that it would give an extra grant to the voluntary schools, but upon a far better principle. At present the annual grant is a most rough-and-ready standard. I quite admit the extraordinary difficulty 1910 of finding a method upon which the fee grant should be varied according to the particular needs of the particular school. But in respect of the number of weeks these schools are open, there is a very obvious distinction. Some schools are open 41 or 42 weeks, others 47. The schools of Darwen belong to this higher class; they are open for 46 and 47 weeks, and might well receive an increased grant. The schools ought to have a weekly instead of an annual grant. I find that 44 weeks is the average number that schools are open, and 3d. a week for 44 weeks would be 11s. a year. Therefore, 11s. turns out to be the average fee, and the proposal I am making is that schools open for the average number of weeks should receive the average fee, and that schools open longer and doing better work should have a larger grant. That would be the case if the weekly system were adopted instead of the annual. It is no use for my right hon. Friend in that attractive way of his which lures the House out of its better judgment to say that he is convinced from letters he has received that there will be no strain upon the schools in the North of England. I quite realise that my right hon. Friend will say that this is proposing a large addition to the expenditure. Well, I have another scheme, which, under the Rules of the House, I cannot bring forward. But I have found from the calculations I have made that this would be only giving the average fee to the average school, and I do not see that this Amendment should be rejected. In Scotland the annual grant in lieu of fees amouuts to 12s. Therefore, Scotland is ahead of this country, even if the Amendment were accepted. The Government are living absolutely in a fool's paradise if they think that the feeling in the country on this subject will calm down. The feeling will become stronger and stronger as the effect of this Bill is fully realised. I earnestly hope Her Majesty's Government will accept this Amendment, which is fair in itself, and which will do a great deal to save these very important schools which have done such good work in the cause of education, and which I and many of my Friends who sit around me have been sent here to defend.
§ (9.32.) MR. H. H. FOWLER
There is one remark of the noble Lord in which I heartily concur—that in which he expressed his thanks to the Government for having given way in reference to the limit of age. He said it had given great gratification to hon. Members on that side of the House, and I hope he did not mean to exclude hon. Members on this side of the House in that statement. I also agree with the noble Lord in what he has said as to the delightfully courteous manner of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, who has given us during these Debates so much evidence of his desire to advance the cause of education. The noble Lord based his case on the ground that the Bill will bear very hardly on the voluntary schools in the North of England, and he also complained of the basis of calculation on which the 10s. fee grant has been fixed. As to the first part of his case, namely, the strain on the schools in the North of England, the noble Lord begs the question at once, because he assumes that the provisions in the Bill which allow an extra fee to be charged where the school fee is over and above 10s. will be nugatory. I do not think he is entitled to take for granted that in Manchester, Liverpool, and other towns in the North, where the fees in the voluntary schools ranges from 13s. to over 15s. and the Board school fees are somewhere about 14s., no further calls will be made on subscribers.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
No; they will have to find free places, or see that provision is made for free places in the district. I am not going to defend the position of the Vice President of the Council; but what I say to the noble Lord, when he says that there will be a heavy strain on the voluntary schools of the North of England, is this: if the subscribers to these schools act in 1892 as they did in 1876, and give at the same rate, the difficulty will be overcome. They contributed at the rate of 4s. 3d. per head, and that amount, over and above the 10s. fee grant, will meet all the requirements of the Northern schools.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
Not so. You were paying rates in 1876. No doubt the Bill will hit some of the schools of the North very hardly; but the generosity of the people of Lancashire and Yorkshire and of other large towns in the North is such in the cause of education that I have no doubt whatever that where it is necessary that increased subscriptions should be given in order to keep up schools, the devoted advocates of denominational schools will make up the deficiency and maintain them in a state of efficiency. But there is a more important question than this—as to the basis on which the Vice President of the Council has calculated the fees. I have been very much amused to hear the doctrine of averages. Averages are pleasant things when they give an advantage, but when they give the reverse it is said that to adopt the law of averages is to treat the schools hardly. I can understand the attitude of the noble Lord the Member for Darwen, who pleads for the schools in the North of England, and who thinks that the average will impose a heavy strain on those schools; but I cannot understand the position of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who pleads for the rural schools. As the Bishop of Wakefield pointed out, in the North of England the average is about 14s., while in the South it is only 6s. If some plan could be arranged by which the 10s. grant would be allocated to such schools according to their average fees, I should have no objection, the case of Wesleyan schools, whose average fees were 16s., being also considered; but I desire to point out that the Church of England schools will not be the greatest sufferers. The average fees in the Church of England schools is 10s. 7½d.; in the Wesleyan schools, 16s. 1d.; in the Roman Catholic, 9s. 5d.; and in the British schools, 13s. 2d. Therefore, it is impossible for any one to contend with success that the Church "of England schools will lose. The hon. Member for Leeds adopted that argument.
§ *MR. G. W. BALFOUR
My argument had nothing whatever to do with the difference between the Board schools and the denominational schools, as I 1913 expressly stated in answer to an interruption from the right hon. Gentleman himself. What I said was that the Government professed to strike an average as between all schools throughout the country, but that they had not calculated the average correctly.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
The average the Government have arrived at has been made up by including the 16s. 6d. fee of the Wesleyan schools. That goes to make up for the low average of other schools. I am astonished that such a mathematician as the Member for Leeds does not recognise that the figures he gave the other day are not sound. The Government have taken an average of all schools throughout the country.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has worked the figures out as an average for the purposes of his estimate. If you recede from the principle adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer you will be unable to give the schools of the South of England a penny more than 6s., and, so far as this side of the House is concerned, if you can devise a scheme whereby the schools of the South of England shall receive 6s., and those of the North 14s., I shall have no word of opposition to raise. But that, hon. Members know, is impracticable. The Bill proceeds on the principle of fixing one definite amount for all schools alike, and though the figure fixed on will be very hard on the Wesleyan schools, I shall support the Government in opposing any increase of the grant. If the grant were increased to 10s. 6d., as is suggested, this would mean an extra £200,000 a year. If the Government were to accept such a suggestion, I and my friends would have to consider it very carefully; but if the Government, as I believe, are resolved to stand by the present proposal of 10s., I shall certainly support them.
§ (9.45.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I must say the noble Lord the Member for Darwen has quite converted me, having proved that a fee grant of 10s. is not enough for the schools of the North of England. I hope the noble Lord will recollect all he has said when the House comes to deal with the case of Ireland, and the Chief Secretary proposes that the grant shall be 7s. I trust the 1914 noble Lord will then rise in his place and say all he has uttered to-day over again. I was struck also by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, and I hope he will make the same speech over again when we come to deal with the case of Ireland. He has held that you cannot have one rule for the North of England and another for the South, and I hope that when we come to deal with the 7s. fee for Ireland the right hon. Gentleman will raise his voice in favour of the principle he has laid down. Ireland will owe a debt of gratitude both to the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman, if in the case of Ireland they act on the principle which is guiding them to-night.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council always makes an agreeable speech. He has done so to-night, and has almost succeeded in inducing me to vote for him instead of against him in the event of a Division. I think, however, that we are entitled from the Government to a more complete vindication of their policy with regard to these voluntary schools in towns. Such a vindication is looked for and expected. We have a right to it, seeing that the proposal of the Bill will be, as the noble Lord the Member for Darwen has pointed out, an immense strain on the financial condition of the schools.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I would appeal to my hon. Friends not to divide on this proposal. The Government have given the most careful consideration to this question, and in adopting the fee grant of 10s. they have come to the conclusion that they are taking a figure which will, on the whole, enable every school to carry on its operations, with the assistance of the other provisions of the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken has referred to the condition of the voluntary schools in towns. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton has referred to the condition of the Wesleyan schools, which are also chiefly in large towns. The Government have never contemplated for a single moment that the grant would free every kind of fee school. They distinctly contemplated that the conditions which are to be found in the large towns would admit of the 1915 continued existence of fee-charging schools. We hope and believe, and we are confident, that will be the result. We know already that there are managers of schools in which high fees are charged who say they are not prepared to accept the grant, because they are confident they can stand against the competition of perfectly free schools, and that the parents in many instances prefer fee-paying schools to schools which are entirely free. We have made a largo addition to the proposals first put forward by us in including children between throe and five in the 10s. grant, and this will lead to a considerable increase in the resources of the schools of which hon. Gentlemen speak. I trust gentlemen opposite will feel I am not using any language which is intended to be in the slightest degree miniatory, when I say it is impossible for us to go beyond the 10s. grant.
§ (9.53.) MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is anything in this Bill which will prevent the managers of schools reducing their school terms to 40 weeks, if at the end of the year they find themselves out of pocket?
§ *MR. AINSLIE
I think after the appeal that has been made by the First Lord it would be somewhat unbecoming on my part to press this Amendment, and I therefore ask leave to withdraw it.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
Mr. Courtney, if this Amendment be withdrawn, shall I be precluded from moving mine?
§ Permission to withdraw the Amendment refused.
§ (9.55.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 145; Noes 30.—(Dir. List, No. 313.)
§ Another Amendment made.
§ (10.13.) MR. MUNDELLA
I beg to more, in page 1, line 11, to leave out the words "and under fourteen." Under the pressure which was put on me while in office to adopt an age limit I made inquiries with regard to the matter, and I found that there were practically 1916 three classes of these children. The first was that of children who had distinguished themselves by their application and acquirements, and whose parents were proud of them and were anxious that they should remain and qualify themselves to be pupil teachers or clerks, so that they might reach a better position than that which their parents enjoyed. The testimony of all connected with elementary schools goes to show that the presence of this class of children gives a good tone to a school, and they set an example to the mass of the children by their acquirements and good behaviour. The second class is that of children who are afflicted, many of them from early childhood, by spinal disease, or some other ailment, which has confined thorn to the house for years, and who have to remain longer than other children at school. The third class is that of blind, deaf, and dumb children. In all our large towns the School Boards are forming classes for these children, and excellent work has been done in connection with their education both in London and other School Board schools, in which they are taught to make themselves useful members of society capable of earning their own living. It is necessary for these children to remain at school till the age of 16 at least. The whole amount of the grant necessary for the purpose at which this Amendment aims will not be large, and the opinion of everyone with whom I have consulted on the subject is in favour of the proposal. I trust there will be no difference of opinion among the Committee on this question, and that, considering the importance of the matter and the small amount of expenditure involved, the Government will not exclude children of over 14 years of age.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, lines 10 and 11, to leave out "of the number of children over five and under fourteen years of age."—(Mr. Mundella.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ *(10.20.) SIR W. HART DYKE
It will certainly be admitted on all sides that the Government have already made a very considerable concession with regard to the extra number of young children to be admitted under the operation of the 1917 Bill. It is impossible to make any further demand on the Exchequer. It may be true, as the right hon. Gentleman has just said, that the Amendment will not involve any very large additional expenditure, but there is, after all, a limit to everything. As far as the financial operations of this scheme are concerned, it would be very unfair to further press the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman opposite mentioned three classes of children who would benefit by this proposal. But as to the blind, deaf, and dumb children it is hardly fair to press their case as an argument in favour of the Amendment. A Royal Commission sat for some time, and passed an excellent Report with regard to the difficulty of dealing with those unhappy children; and not only last Session, but this Session also, a Bill has been introduced in the other House dealing exceptionally with them.
§ *SIR W. HART DYKE
I do not think that is a valid objection; at any rate, it is one that might easily be met. As to the bright and quick children, it might be assumed that at the age of 14 they had passed the standards, and while it was true that they could remain at school, yet after the age of 14 their attendance is not counted by the Department in the school attendance, and they are therefore shut out from the scope of the present proposals. As to the children who are neither quick nor bright, I urge that, in the circumstances, it would not be fair to press the Government to include them, and I cannot see what special good, educational or otherwise, would result from the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. Moreover, by its application we should tend to encroach upon the domain of secondary education, which is altogether above and beyond the system of elementary education that the Bill deals with. Therefore I trust the Amendment will be rejected.
§ (10.25.) MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
There can be no doubt that the concession made by the Government with regard to the infants will be generally recognised and appreciated, but on the same grounds that we have admitted children between three and five years 1918 of age, we ought to pay the fees for children over 14. I agree with the axiom laid down by the Vice President of the Council that there must be a limit to everything, but hon. Members on this side of the House can accept no limit in regard to the Bill short of this: that every child in attendance at an elementary school shall be able to attend that school free of the payment of fees. Why do not the Government make a complete work of this free school question while they are about it? Why do they stand out against this paltry increase of £15,000 or £20,000 a year for the 40,000 children above 14, when they are about to dispose of such an immense sum of the ratepayers' money? Let them not "spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar," but free elementary education from top to bottom. It maybe fair and reasonable to put aside the case of the deaf, dumb, and blind children, and also that of the quick and bright children who will have passed the 6th or 7th standards at 14 years of ago; but I think a strong case can be made out in favour of the children who are backward, perhaps through lack of opportunities. It is important that the parents shall be induced to keep such children at school as long as possible, and I fear that the Government, by the course they have adopted, will encourage a very vicious system on the part of many managers, especially in voluntary schools—that of charging higher fees in the higher standards. If supporters of the Government repudiate the resolution of the National Society in favour of paying-fee grants for older children as well as infants, it shows me clearly that they vote for the freeing of those young children, not from an educational point of view, but from a denominational and Church point of view, and because they are afraid the children will go to the Board Schools. They urge the freeing of these infants because they are afraid they will be sent' to free Board schools, instead of getting their education in the voluntary schools. I earnestly appeal to the Government with regard to this matter. They are giving the enormous boon of free education; left them make the gift complete; let the schools be free from top and bottom; let them be free to the older as well as to the younger children.
§ (10.31.) MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I am, as the House knows, not in favour of free education, but if we are to have it, it seems to me it would be most unfortunate to limit it to scholars under 14. I should prefer to see the limit of 15 retained, and that of 11 removed. You are by this Bill teaching the people of this country that they are entitled to have their children educated free of cost, and yet you are also placing difficulties in the way of a child going to school when he is 14 years of age. At that age it is a great tax on the resources of a family to keep a boy at school, and parents ought to be encouraged to make that sacrifice. If education is to be of any value to the country the number of scholars over 14 must continue to increase. As we have to swallow this unpleasant pill, let us put on it as much sugar as we can.
§ *(10.34.) MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
I appeal to the Vice President, and would appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he were present, to make a concession which I believe would yield a larger return to the country, perhaps, than any other part of this scheme. No doubt the number of children over 14 at school is not very large, but I have received a letter from a gentleman who for 18 years has been chairman of a School Board in a largo town, and is at the same time interested in voluntary schools, who urges that this limitation is the greatest blot upon the Bill, because it will force out of school the very boys who give a tone to it. He goes on to say that the recent strikes for shorter hours and higher wages have shown that the working classes are beginning to appreciate the benefits to be secured by united action; that they value their political rights. It is, therefore, more than ever important that they should have intelligent leaders. I do urge the right hon. Gentleman not to spoil his Bill by refusing this concession, for the outlay it will involve will be a cheap insurance premium for the greater safety of the country. This is not a question affecting School Boards only, for the majority of these older scholars are in the voluntary schools. The practical effect of the limitation will be to prohibit parents from keeping these elder scholars at school at their own expense. 1920 I do not think the Government can have considered the effect of passing the Bill as it stands. I hope that in the interests of education he will take this wretched little blot out of his Bill.
§ *(10.40.) MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
I hope the Government will not give way. This Amendment is being advocated on different grounds. First, we are told it is put forward in the interests of clever children, and then Ave are informed it is necessary it should be carried in the interest of the dull and backward boys. With regard to clever children, it is no doubt most desirable that every encouragement should be given them to proceed to a higher education; and in connection with the London School Board a good example has been set in that direction by founding scholarships for such children; and they, in my opinion, ought to pass into secondary schools instead of staying in the elementary schools. As to dullards, in public schools the boys who do the most mischief and give a bad tone are those who are backward, and who have been outstripped in their studies by the younger boys. It is found that when they remain in a class of younger lads these big boys do a good deal of harm, and therefore they are got rid of as quickly as possible. I hold that if a boy is a dullard and cannot get into a sufficiently high standard, the sooner he is sent out to earn his living the better both for himself and for the school.
§ (10.43.) MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
I do not agree that this is a question of clever boys; it is time we thought of average boys, and of those who are merely backward and slow in learning. Now they can be kept at school beyond 14 by the payment of a fee; but if the Bill passes as it stands managers will not have them, because they will not be able to charge more than 3d., and there will be no other schools to send them to. The slow progresser very often is difficult to teach, but very retentive, and the last year may be the year that gives him what is necessary to make all that had gone before of permanent value. If this concession means any large sum, I do not think, looking to the liberality of the Government and the excellent way in which they have met the demand for lowering the age, that the House ought 1921 to press them. But, in view of the comparatively small sum involved, I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to take pride in making the Bill without a flaw as a Free Education Bill.
§ *(10.48.) SIR W. HART DYKE
There appears to be a misapprehension as to the precise position of these children. I thought I had drawn a clear distinction between the clever child, who, though he remains in school after 14, cannot be counted on in average attendance, and his slower brother, who, though he has arrived at the age of 14, but has not passed the Seventh Standard, will be counted as in average attendance, and for him the ordinary grant will be paid.
§ *SIR W. HART DYKE
Yes; I would suggest that, as the concessions the Government have made would destroy the first half of Section 4, the remaining half should be allowed to disappear.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
I think it a monstrous thing that for the clever boy there is to be neither the fee grant nor the education grant at 14, but that for the dull boy there is to be the education grant up to 16 or 17, and no fee grant whatever. For the Government the thing is not worth fighting, and I hope they will make the concession. In fact, no one but the hon. Member for Stockport appears to object to their doing so.
§ *(10.52.) SIR J. COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow)
I should like to say, in the first place, that I believe the great concession of the Government in reducing the age from five to three will be hailed with satisfaction throughout the country. But with regard to the Amendment now before us, there is one point which has not been touched upon. I am enabled to state, on the authority of an excellent head master of a Wesleyan school in the East of London, that a boy who has not qualified under the present elementary education system at 14 years is better out at work than continuing in school, and that the change now proposed would probably involve an increase of the teaching stall, or prejudicially affect the brighter boys in the school. I do not think, in the interests of the taxpayer and of preliminary education, 1922 that this Amendment should pass.
§ (10.56.) MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
I have listened with amazement to the speech we have just heard. For a number of years past I have taken interest in educational work, and I have recently visited a number of Board Schools. I could take the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken to a school in London where they already separate the dull boys and actually put a special teacher over them, and this has been done at the request of one of the best Board schoolmasters in the borough of Finsbury. I do not look aghast at the prospect of an increase of the teaching staff, and I do not agree with the hon. Member for Stockport that dull boys should be sent out to work as soon as possible. Our object should be to give children the largest amount of education we can. We frequently talk of children continuing their education after they go to work by attending the technical schools. If we wish technical education to advance, we must give all the facilities possible for those children to remain at school, in order to get the largest amount of education at the preliminary schools. I know of many cases in which parents are making great sacrifices in order to keep their children at school, for they know that a good education will be of immense value to them in after life. The case of the Government was given up by the Vice President of the Council in the second speech he delivered on this Amendment. He showed us how small was the difference between the hon. Gentleman who are supporting this Amendment and himself, and if his argument showed us anything at all it showed us the necessity of removing the limit of age. I trust the Government will reconsider their decision.
§ *(11.2.) SIR J. PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
I desire to add another to the many earnest appeals made to the Government to give way upon this point. As one of money the matter is hardly worth speaking about, for only some £20,000 is involved. If there is one greater blot upon our educational system than another it is the age at which children leave school. If parents are ready to keep their children at school after 14 years of age they 1923 ought, in my opinion, to be encouraged to do so. There are about 41,000 or 42,000 above 14 years of age, and it seems to me you are going to spoil a good and great work by refusing this Amendment. There is no principle involved, because you have agreed to the three years' amendment. I think the Government would do well to give way to the very strong feeling that has been expressed by some hon. Gentlemen around me who have spent their lives in educational work.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
Perhaps I may be permitted to make a practical suggestion. One thing is perfectly clear, and that is, that the question of compulsion and free education going hand in hand is now at an end. The Government have acceded to the request of a number of Members by extending the age from five to three It is now proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division that the operation of the Bill beyond 14 years of age shall be almost limitless. I am not prepared to support such a proposition. I do not think that the taxpayers of this country are prepared to pay the fees of children of any age, but I would suggest that it might be possible to extend the limit by one or two years. Personally, I should be perfectly content if the limit were fixed at 15 years, and I think the Government might fairly consent to the fixing of such a limit. I believe there are many Members on this side of the House who would be willing to accept that limit as a compromise. Its adoption would not entail much expense, while an extra year at school would be of the greatest advantage to many a child.
§ (11.7.) MR. DE LISLE
I should like to add my appeal to the Government to make the desired concession. The Bill came into the House as an Assisted Education Bill; it will evidently go out as a Free Education Bill. It appears to me that as the sum involved will only amount to £20,000 a year, while 40,000 children may be benefited, it would be better for the Government to make the concession, and let the Bill go forth as a Free Education Bill.
§ MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)
I have been so anxious to see the Bill pass that I have not hitherto sought 1924 to trespass on the attention of the House upon the Bill. I should like to remind the House that it is only a week ago that some of us were lamenting the fact that parents are desirous of taking their children from school at too early an age. There now appears to be a fear on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite that parents will desire to keep their children at school until too great an age. There need be no fear of the kind. It is a fact that there is too great an anxiety on the part of parents to take their children from school as soon as they become of value as wage earners. Everything that can be done to lesson that tendency ought to be done. I hope earnestly that the Government will make a concession, and raise the ago from 14 to 16, or at least to 15. Many hon. Members on the opposite side of the House who are engaged in the skilled industries of the country know full well the advantage of a good education to the artisans of the country. The better artisans are educated as boys, the greater will be the profits and prosperity of our skilled trades.
§ MR. A. DYKE ACLAND
I only want to allude to one remark made by the Vice President of the Council. The right hon. Gentleman has said that these children under 14 years of age ought, under certain circumstances, to become fit subjects for secondary education. The right hon. Gentleman, I hold, has no right to say that. He might say it when the State has provided a system of cheap secondary education for the children to take advantage of, but until then they will not deserve the implied taunts of the right hon. Gentleman. The only present alternative to the establishment of a system of free secondary schools, such as exists in Switzerland, is a system under which masters will be encouraged, as in Scotland, to retain their best scholars at school and to give them a quasi- secondary education. I hope the Government will make the concession asked for, and not whittle away the boon which the Bill is supposed to confer upon the children of the poor.
§ (11.14.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)
I was astonished to hoar the hon. Member for Stockport and others say that children of 14 years of age are better at work than at school. How would those hon. Mem- 1925 bers like anyone to say that of their children? In my native town in Lancashire there is a saying, "Try a barrow full of it thysel.' "I invite hon. Gentlemen to try a barrow full of it themselves. Hon. Members say," Oh, the circumstances are different; we have plenty of money to send our children to school." Just so; the circumstances are different, but the object of the Bill is to level up the circumstances as much as possible. To stop short at the age of 14 years is, to my mind, as amazing as it is unjust and unfair. It is said these children may go to school if they pay fees. Just fancy half a dozen children over the age of 14 going to a school where there are in all 200 or 300 children. Up to 14 they have not paid fees, but directly they turn 14 they are required to bring fees in their pockets. By the rest of the children they will be regarded as strangers, as foreigners, as interlopers. Every other child in the school will feel that the half-dozen have no right there. Besides, I do not see how the system is to be worked in detail. At the present time the collection of fees is a very serious business. To keep fee books for half a dozen or a dozen children will be a very cumbrous matter indeed, and not worth the trouble. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division said, very truly, that there are 25 or 30 children over the age of 14 in the Leicester Board schools. Is it likely that the Leicester School Board will attempt to charge fees? I understand the Bill really admits such children free: if so, the Board will certainly not charge fees: they would not go to the trouble of collecting fees from 25 or 30 children. I imagine a good many voluntary schools will act in the same way. Reference has been made to Switzerland and Germany. I wonder how it is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are so anxious to keep their own country so far below the educational level of other countries. Do they think that skill and knowledge is of less importance to England and Wales than it is to Switzerland and Germany? They know well enough that it is only because of the immense care that has been given to education, and of the immense sums that have been spent both upon elementary, secondary, 1926 and technical education in Switzerland and Germany that many of the manufacturers in those countries are running us hard at the present day. This is a shabby, peddling way of dealing with the highest interests of our nation. I have this much appreciation of the character of the Government that I am sure they are ashamed of the business they have to do to-night, and I yet hope they will see their way to combine, as a famous predecessor of theirs did on a previous occasion, peace with honour.
§ (11.22.) MR. KENRICK (Birmingham, N.)
I wish to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council, if he cannot accept the Amendment, to at all events accept the compromise suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage). That, to me, would be a reasonable arrangement. It would be easily met from a financial point of view, and its educational effect would be of the highest value. It has been truly urged that the parents of boys of 14 have every inducement to remove them from school, and nothing but their strong sense of the importance of education would induce them to make the sacrifice they do in keeping them at school. It seems to me that any one who cares for education and believes in it, as I am sure the Vice President of the Council does, will be inclined to do everything he can to encourage that feeling in parents. I would appeal to anyone who has boys of his own whether he does not find that after the age of 14 their minds develop in a way that never developed before. The right hon. Gentleman has passed through Parliament a measure of technical education which I believe will prove of great importance to the country; but if the country is to derive the full measure of advantage from that Act it will be necessary to see that the clever children take advantage of it. We know from the public prints that everywhere there is a consensus of opinion that this limit of age is a most dangerous thing, and I appeal to the Government to remove what has, in my opinion, been justly called a blot in their Bill.
§ *(11.26.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
An appeal has been made to my right hon. Friend 1927 to remove what is called a blot on the Bill. I am quite sure my right hon. Friend is as anxious about education as, any other Member of the House, and has given plenty of evidence of that anxiety. I do not wish to speak of myself, but I may say that ever since I entered public life I have given every proof of being anxious for the educational progress of the country. It has been a special subject of interest for me, and everything that would tend to develop the progress of the education of the people of the country generally has always appealed to my sympathies and convictions in every possible way. But I am the representative in a special way of the taxpayers of the country at large. Hon. Members opposite say it would be a shabby thing to refuse this additional money. But they should remember that the Government have met the Committee, to a great extent, by devoting to the cause of education a very large extra sum of money, a sum as to which I do not know at present how it is to be found. We estimated to the full the charges to be put on the finances of this year. We had gone as far as we thought we were justified, and yet to meet hon. Members opposite we have included children between the ages of three and five at a very considerable charge. Now we are asked to go a step further, and I am entitled, in the interest of education itself and in the interest of the general community, to ask how far we ought to go in the direction of the education of one class, namely, the class which takes advantage of primary education? I know there are classes in the country who think we have already gone far enough in taxation for education—people who are not relieved by that taxation, and who see the whole of the relief given by it going to the education of the children of other classes. Bight hon. Gentlemen opposite have added up the millions on millions already given for the education of the working classes. It is now said that, even when the age of 14 has been reached, we are still to give free education at the cost of the State. There are other persons, too, who are interested in the education of their children; there are other small taxpayers, not belonging to the working classes, but to the class just beyond, who would have to pay for the education 1928 of their children from five years upwards, at a very considerable sacrifice to themselves, and are they to be told that after the ago of 14 free education is to be given to the children of the working classes, partially at their expense? These children, thus educated free, will compete with their own children, whom they send to schools at considerable expense——
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
Ah, it is very well to say that, but it is not everybody who wishes to send his children to a Board school. Do hon. Members send their own children to Board schools? Do not hon. Members opposite understand that there is a class a little above, in a pecuniary sense, those who send their children to the primary schools? I wish to put it with all moderation and as a friend to education, but I think hon. Members are rather unfair to the feelings of the lower middle classes in the matter, who wish to have the selection of their children's schools. If the country had adopted the American system of sending all the children to the primary schools, then free education could be carried to any point. But at present the country has not arrived at that system, and the Government have to consider whether it is right to go to an unlimited extent in giving free education to the children of one class at the expense of the general taxpayers of the country. Hon. Members may not agree with me, but it is right that I should put forward these considerations. As responsible for the finances of the country, and as responsible for raising the money by which the additional charge will have to be met, I must warn the House of what they are doing. There is a strong feeling now in favour of free education; we are going forward step by step and finding money for free education, but the time will very soon come when it will be my unfortunate duty to propose the ways and means by which this additional expenditure must be met—this additional charge upon which hon. Members seem to insist. What support will the Government then receive for the additional taxation which may have to be imposed? What will be the attitude of the great portion of the community who have 1929 derived no benefit from the additional taxation, but who find that those children who have been educated at the cost of the State come into competition with their own children? The House has now decided to go to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds beyond the sum originally contemplated by the Government, I see no means of providing that sum except by additional taxation, and I know that the attitude of hon. Members opposite will be very different when that additional taxation comes to be imposed to what it is now, when, in a generous and praiseworthy enthusiasm in the cause of promoting education, they press this proposal on the Government. What would hon. Members say if the sum placed at the disposal of the County Councils for technical education were to be withdrawn to meet the additional expenditure now proposed? I do not know whether that suggestion would commend itself to the general sense of hon. Gentlemen opposite. What new taxation is to be imposed? Is it to be taxation on the classes who will derive the benefit, or is it to fall on the community at large? I venture to warn the House that it is possible to go too far in a special anxiety for the continued education of children attending only one class of schools. If it is right, at the expense of the State, that children should continue their education between the ages of 14 and 16, I ask why that privilege should not be extended to all classes? I do not wish to lay down a hard-and-fast line, but I do think that we are embarking on a dangerous course. It is not dangerous to hon. Members opposite, because they are not responsible for raising the necessary taxation. If we wish to be just to all classes of the community we must feel that the small tradesman who sends his son to schools just above the primary schools is entitled to consideration.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
Yes, but only a small proportion do so, and it is not that class for whom the general argument this evening has been advanced. What I am contending for is a considerable class who are just as anxious about education, who are a struggling class, and who do not send their children to 1930 the primary schools. It is hard to say to them that they must either send their children to the primary schools or else suffer the competition of the children who are educated free and partly at their expense. I will give an instance. There are a large number of people in the Metropolis who send their children to the Middle-class Corporation Schools, where the fees are about £4 a year. These parents scrape and make sacrifices from their scanty earnings, scarcely better than those of the artisan, in order to give their children the somewhat better education given in this middle-class school. They will find that while they are paying somewhat heavily for education of their boys, another class of boys are being educated at the cost of the State——
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS
Does the right hon. Gentleman know what endowments these middle-class schools have?
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
These schools have endowments which have been got together with great difficulty from private persons who wished to provide a good education for a class badly educated before. In this way £50,000 were collected.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS
asked whether it was not a fact that some charities belonging to the parish of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate, and St. Luke's, Middlesex, had not been taken to endow these schools?
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
For 20 or 30 years these schools have been mainly maintained by private effort, but parents have had to pay for the education of their children. I hope hon. Members on this side will not interrupt the interruptions, for I do not wish to neglect any of these questions. I have laboured to secure education for the working classes, but there is another class deserving our consideration. It is rather hard that those who have been obliged to educate their boys and girls, and have done so with difficulty between the ages of 5 and 14, should find they must withdraw their children from school because they cannot afford to keep them there any longer, while those whoso children are educated in primary schools have their children's education paid for by the State until the age of 16. The House must not be carried away by enthusiasm for the education of one particular class, but should look to the interests of the 1931 community as a whole. There is possibly already a feeling on the part of a large proportion of the community that we are concentrating too much of the legislation of the country upon a particular class, and that there is too much of the taxation of the country expended on that particular class. It may be wrong on their part to entertain such a feeling, but I have thought it right that one voice should be raised to put the case of the other classes before the Committee. Hon. Members who intend voting for this Amendment, and have pressed other Amendments on the Government, must recollect that a day of reckoning-will come when the bill will have to be paid, and I trust that when the financial proposals to meet the additional demand come before the House there will be the same alacrity to vote such additional taxation as may be necessary. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members say "Hear, hear" now, but my experience has not been that when new taxation is proposed the Government receive much support from hon. Gentlemen opposite. It appears to me we are embarking upon a very difficult task, which may commend itself to one class of the community, but which will create a great deal of heart-burning among other classes also engaged in the struggle for life, and whose children are not educated in the primary schools.
§ (11.40.) MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I do not wish to stand in the way of a Division if the Committee desire it, but I still hope a Division may be avoided. I am encouraged in that hope by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman has reduced the issue to a very small point indeed, in fact I could not help thinking that the whole of his speech was an argument between dual personalities—the Chancellor of the Exchequer arguing against the individual and defending the Treasury against a new inroad. Undoubtedly the House is prepared for this extra expenditure. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has called upon us to consider whether we can afford this additional expenditure. Here is a Government who in order to secure free education in primary schools originally brought in a Bill contemplating the expenditure of £2,000,000 a year. To-night, in answer to arguments coming from both 1932 sides of the House, from their Friends as well as their political opponents, the Government agreed to add an additional sum of £200,000 a year in order to include children between the ages of three and five. The Government have given up already any attempt at principle in this matter, because the principle the Bill went upon when introduced was that it should follow the compulsory attendance, but when we went below the age of five we gave up that principle, and now when a proposal is made to add to this expenditure a sum of from £10,000 to £20,000 a year to complete the proposition, then the conscience of the Chancellor of the Exchequer finds itself altogether too tender——
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I must demur to the figures of the right hon. Gentleman. This estimate is upon the present attendance, but according to the arguments of hon. Members on both sides, with free education there will be a much larger attendance, and the greater the effect of the Bill, the greater will be the expenditure.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
As regards the figures I must maintain my position, but I am talking of the proportion; the position I am putting before the Committee, is a question of the proportion between the sums already agreed to and that now asked for. The Government have agreed to an expenditure of £2,200,000 a year, and having swallowed that camel, they are now straining at the gnat of £10,000 or £20,000. The right hon. Gentleman says the £20,000 may become a larger sum; so may the £2,000,000 and the £200,000. This is altogether a disproportionate resistance on the part of the Government; and it is my confidence that this is only over-strained conscientiousness on the part of the official Chancellor of the Exchequer that induces this resistance, that causes me to make an appeal to the Government, even at the last moment, not to put us to the trouble of dividing, but to enable us to complete the work we have undertaken. There is an old proverb, vulgar perhaps, but containing a truth, "Don't spoil the ship for a hap'orth o' tar." 1s that not what we are in danger of doing F There is a good deal to be said about the evil of giving a smattering of education to a large part of the population, and in old days that was an argu- 1933 ment against all elementary education. But here is an opportunity of scouring real results, because there can be no doubt whatever that those children who remain longest at school receive a more thoroughly grounded education, and give the best return for the national expenditure. Yet it is precisely these children you are going to handicap. Yon are going to say to their parents, "keep your children at school until 14, and we will pay for their education, but if you make a great sacrifice and keep your children at school a year or two more we shall refuse to continue the grant, and you must pay for the education in those two years." The argument of my right hon. Friend that the recipients of this boon are nearly allied to those who still pay for education is an argument that undoubtedly may be used in objection, but it is also an argument against all free education, and, therefore, against the Bill applying equally to scholars of all ages. The right hon. Gentleman must have convinced himself that the argument has no real foundation, or he never would be supporting a Bill which gives free education between the ages of 5 and 14. This is not a time to argue the point at length, but I do appeal to the Government to accept this proposal. I am sure they will find that every educationist in the country, whether he favours voluntary schools or Board schools, is in favour of a proposition to make education free in elementary schools for children of all ages. On economical ground the proposal may be sustained. It has been urged that it is an advantage to relieve the teachers from the trouble of collecting the school pence, but if they collect it from children of some ages, then they will still be taken up, though not to the same extent as under the existing system. I cannot believe that even my right hon. Friend would regret to be defeated on this point, but I hope the Committee will be saved the trouble of a division.
§ *(11.54.) MR. W. H. SMITH
I am sure my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would greatly regret to sustain a defeat; the right hon. Gentleman will give him credit for the sentiments he has expressed out of a full sense of his position. I believe a suggestion has been made from the other side of the House that the age of 15 should be substituted for 1934 that of 14, and under all the circumstances of the case the Government will be prepared to accept that compromise. I hope that offer will indicate that the Government are ever ready to go as far as they possibly can.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
Although I feel some reluctance, because of the exclusion of the children just over 15, I feel I should not be justified in refusing to accept the offer just made, and I therefore ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment agreed to:—In line 11 to leave out "fourteen" and insert "fifteen."
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.