§ (1) The powers of local education authorities for the purposes of Part III. of the Education 1476 Act, 1902, shall include power to make such arrangements as are appropriate to the industrial and housing conditions of the area and may be approved by the Board of Education for—
- (a) supplying or aiding the supply of nursery schools for children over two and under live years of age (or such later age as may be approved by the Board of Education) whose attendance at such a school is necessary or desirable for their healthy physical and mental development; and
- (b) attending to the health, nourishment and physical welfare of children attending nursery schools.
§ (2) Notwithstanding the previsions of any Act of Parliament the Board of Education may out of moneys provided by Parliament pay Grants in aid of nursery schools, provided that such Grants shall not be paid in respect of any such school unless it is open to inspection by the local education authority and unless that authority are enabled to appoint representatives on the body of managers to the extent of at least one-third of the total number of managers, and before recognising any nursery school the Board shall consult the local education authority.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the word "such."
To save the time of the Committee, as I have two other Amendments on the Paper which are consequential, I will deal now with the question of principle which is involved. The Amendment which I am proposing, taken in conjunction with the complementary Amendments, would cause the first part of Clause 19 to read:The powers of local education authorities for the purposes of Part III. of the Education Act, 1902, shall include power to make arrangements,as set forth. The words I am moving to omit are words which will seriously limit the powers of the local education authority in supplying and aiding nursery schools. The Bill as drafted provides that they can make such arrangements as are appropriate to the industrial and housing conditions of the area as may be approved by the Board of Education. Therefore if no alteration in the Bill takes place, it means that the local education authority will not be able to move in the matter of the provision of nursery schools except in districts where the industrial and housing conditions are very bad indeed. You may have an experimental and progressive educational authority which desires to institute or aid these nursery schools, but unless they can show that the industrial and housing conditions are of a most serious character they may be, and probably will be, prevented under the terms of this Act from instituting or 1477 aiding these nursery schools. I think the Committee will have every desire that these nursery schools should be instituted. This is a point of fundamental importance, and it would be taking a very narrow view indeed if we say these schools are only to be founded in districts which are extremely unhealthy and at the lowest point of the social scale, viewed from the standpoint of physical conditions. Nursery schools are good not only for poor districts but for the ordinary typical districts of the country, and it would be really fatal to the development of these nursery schools to prevent the local education authority having power to establish them in any ordinary typical district. I hope my right hon. Friend will see that this is an Amendment which can only improve his Bill, and which at its highest value would merely give the local education authority power to make these experiments with nursery schools unfettered by having first to consider whether the industrial and social conditions are so bad as to be a justification for the establishment of the school. A moment or two ago I saw present here the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich (Mr. Crooks) and I noticed also another hon. Member (Colonel Thorn), both of whom I am sure will realise the fundamental importance of my Amendment to the districts they represent. It is quite possible, if the Bill is not altered as I suggest, there will be no opportunity in these districts for the local education authorities to institute these nursery schools, and it may be in fact that in the future the local authority would take a very narrow view in the matter. It is that which I wish to avoid.
I shall be very glad to accept the Amendment. The words which the hon. Gentleman is now proposing and the omissions which he will hereafter move were originally inserted in the Clause with a view to giving the local education authority some indication of the areas in which it might be most desirable for them to establish these schools. There was no idea of limiting their action in the matter, and as obviously there is a good deal of substance in what the hon. Member has said as to possible interpretation of these words, I agree to their omission.
§ Mr. KING
I must congratulate the President of the Board of Education, and also the hon. Member who moved the Amendment—the latter especially because he is a Scottish Member. There has been a good deal of iguorant and stupid prejudice in some quarters of the House, even on the Treasury Bench, against Scottish Members taking part in this discussion. Those Gentlemen are educationists, and I think they have done very good service in the part they have taken in these Debates.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Lewis)
I am not aware of anyone on the Treasury Bench who has expressed any such view.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: Leave out the words "as are appropriate to the industrial and housing conditions of the area and may be approved by the Board of Education."—[Mr. Whitehouse.]
§ The CHAIRMAN
The next Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for Glasgow University, is a hypothetical Amendment.
§ Sir W. CHEYNE
I hope this decision does not preclude my speaking on the Motion, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Sir A. SPICER
I beg to move, in Subsection (1, a), to leave out the words "or aiding the supply of."
My object is to secure that these nursery schools shall be provided and maintained by the public authority, as if these words are left in they would enable the authorities to make grants for starting schools. There is, I believe, a necessity for these schools, but they should be public elementary schools, with all the privileges and rights that that term includes. We have for fifty years been trying to obtain a national system of education, and this Bill marks a very great advance in that direction. It does seem to me that public education should be in-the hands of public authorities and not of private individuals, and again the provision of these private nursery schools would undoubtedly tend to increase the number of denominational schools. It is quite true that there cannot be much denominational 1479 education in such schools, but the whole administration of the nursery schools in private hands would be calculated to lead in that direction. I think there would be a tendency towards denominationalism We all know what the denominational difficulties in the past have been and the undesirable controversies which have arisen. We Free Churchmen who are still suffering under what we think are grievances in the Act of 1902 did hope that in any new Education Bills these matters might be righted and solved once for all. We are very anxious that this Bill should pass, and therefore we are willing to leave in abeyance these difficulties; but if nothing is done in this Bill to get rid of difficulties that exist at the present time, surely we ought not to do anything that runs the risk of increasing these difficulties in days to come.
§ Mr. LEWIS
In this connection the Board contemplates the establishment of two types of nursery schools—namely, those that are provided by the local education authorities, and those provided by voluntary institutions. They are intended to be informal and unofficial in character, without any of the rigid traditions attaching to elementary schools. The Board of Education consider that very great advantage will result from their establishment by persons who have a special and personal interest in them, and if a good nursery school is established by a private individual there is no intrinsic reason why the local education authority should not assist it. The matter is entirely and absolutely at the option of the local education authority, and if they wish to assist a school of that kind it does not appear to be clear why they should be prevented from doing so. In this respect their position would be very similar to that which obtains under several Education Acts. Under the Provision of Meals Act, 1906, the local education authority may assist voluntary organisations for the provision of meals, and, under Section 13 of the Administrative Provisions Act, 1907, local authorities may assist voluntary agencies which provide playing centres, vacation schools, vacation classes, recreation grounds, etc. That power has been extended for the purpose of providing physical training, etc. In the department of higher education the local education authority have the widest powers of assisting or not assisting voluntary places of higher education as they think fit. The 1480 result of the acceptance of this Amendment would be that if a nursery school was established in a town under private auspices, and the local education authority saw that it was doing good work and deserved encouragement, the only thing they could do would be to establish a competing nursery school themselves, because they could not assist in any way the continuance of such an organisation.
My right hon. Friend (Sir A. Spicer) referred in this connection, and I was surprised to hear him, to the denominational controversy. He referred to the grievances which still exist. I am not here to bolster up in any way the denominational position, but I would ask any member of this Committee how can denominationalism in any real sense of the word enter into these schools, where little things from two to live years of age are brought? For heaven's sake do not let us bring our denominational controversies into this, I might almost call it, sacred sphere. How can any possible harm be done to children between two and five by the fact that they meet in a nursery school under denominational auspices? I think they have every reason to be thankful that religious feelings, emotions, and aspirations inspire good people to undertake voluntary work of the kind. It seems to me that the religious stimulus is one that keeps the work together. In a place of this kind, belonging to a particular church, constant relays of workers would be provided, and I think we shall do wisely to harness all the denominational feeling which arises out of religious feeling to the work of carrying on these nursery schools. Notwithstanding what my right hon. Friend has said, I am thankful that denominationalism does not enter into this question in any shape or form. I am thankful to believe that in the stress and strain of war denominational feeling and all those fierce passions that used to surge in this House upon this question are subsiding; but, even if they were in existence at the present time, I think we could safely say that we shall be absolutely secure in making this provision, knowing that there will be no denominational result to those who are brought into these schools.
§ Mr. KING
I am rather surprised at the speech to which we have just listened. It seems to me to be either not very candid, or ingenious or else to be ignorant of the facts. We are approaching this question 1481 —can a local authority aid the supply of nursery schools? The local authority ought either to supply and pay for the schools themselves, or, if there is a voluntary body going to do it, they ought to do it. Supposing I come forward and say that I have got a piece of ground, and if you will give me the money to put up a nursery school upon it, I will let you have the ground, and for two years you can use the place for a nursery school. I should go to the local education authority and get the whole building put up for a nursery school and make what conditions I liked. That is the possibility of giving great facilities and opportunities to denominational, political and all sorts of societies and institutions, by saying that they are doing it in the interest of nursery schools. You ought either to supply the biddings yourselves or you ought to say to the institution, "You supply the buildings and we will give you a Grant under proper rules. We will give you a Grant not for supply, which means buildings and equipment, but we will give you a Grant for maintenance." Maintenance and the provision of buildings are two totally different things. They are kept clearly apart in the affairs and accounts of the Board of Education, and the people at the Board of Education know that much better than I do. When you are talking about aiding supply, you are mixing two things altogether. You do not say whether you mean provision or maintenance. You are in a fog yourself and you do not tell us.
The Amendment puts the point very clearly. It makes it quite clear that we want the local authorities to do everything they can to support the maintenance of schools, but to supply them with buildings, that is a totally different thing. "We have had four returns from nursery schools last year. I believe I am the only Member to look up this point. If you look through the list of these institutions, of which there was a large increase last-year, you will find that a very large number are sectarian institutions. Why should people who want to look after the care of children establish nursery schools in, say, a place like Stepney, and why should they be institutions with high Catholic names? I commend them for it, but this very fact points to the conclusion that there is danger here in establishing a new kind of denominational, sectarian institution. By refusing to see the point of this Amendment, and by failing to see the 1482 difference between provision and maintenance, you are giving colour to the suggestion of my right hon. Friend. I do not want to raise this miserable, pettifogging, sectarian question, but you are doing it yourselves by your muddle-headed way of bringing this proposal forward. It is not our fault that it has been raised, but yours. If I have spoken strongly, it is because I see clearly and understand the matter. I do think that some consideration more than the treatment it has received should be given to the Amendment.
§ Sir J. YOXALL
I can assure the hon. Member that local education authorities are not very ready to extend rate aid to institutions of this kind. They prefer, in most cases to provide nursery schools themselves, and if any local education authority does propose to subsidise an institution of this kind which is directly and distinctly denominational and exists for the sake of proselytising, I feel quite sure that the local opinion and the clash of opinion in that locality—because there are men there who feel just as strongly as my hon. Friend—will prevent that kind of thing taking place. There need be no fear in regard to subsidising such institutions as the Passmore Edwards Institute, the Edith Rendel Nursery School, the Margaret MacMillan School, and other institutions of the kind in various parts of the country, instituted by philanthropic men and women in a wider human sense and not in a denominational sense, and similar institutions instituted by holy women for the benefit of children. Institutions of that kind will not be, and I do not think they can be, denominationalised and sectarianised in the way that is feared. I can assure my hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment that I am with them in opposing any attempt to sectarianise schools of this kind, but I do not fear that the attempt will be successful. I believe that local education authorities are already planning how they shall themselves provide their own nursery schools, and I do not think there is much to be feared in regard to such institutions. This work cannot be carried on without the active interest and assistance of the teachers, and the teachers of the country are determined that the work shall not be denominationalised, and shall not be under the control of any church whatever, and that they will do their duty to the State.
§ Mr. KING
The Committee does not understand the question with which we are dealing. I have before me the return given only a few months ago in response to the demand by the hon. and learned Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland). The people who are now getting the nursery school Grants include the Royal Free Hospital, the St. Pancras Dispensary, the Charing Cross Hospital, the Westminster Health Society, the General Lying-in Hospital—
§ Mr. KING
What are called here in the Bill nursery schools, which comprehend almost every imaginable thing from the teaching of the prospective mother, who has never yet had a child, and all the processes of birth and bringing up from the earliest days of the children. The Board of Education are giving Grants in this connection. Last year they gave £10,500.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. LEWIS
This Amendment and one which follows are not necessary, because there is nothing to prevent nursery classes at present being carried on in connection with any public elementary schools. If the hon. Gentleman is thinking of classes attached to elementary schools and not in public elementary schools, there will be no difficulty in getting a Grant for the nursery part of the organisation.
§ Mr. KING
I do not think they are. They clearly point out an alternative. The Hoard of Education say that it can be 1484 adopted. If so, why not put it in the Bill. I have got a particular reason for desiring it, because in my opinion there are at the present time, in some of the highest and best elementary schools, nursery classes where you see, if you go in, much more of the mattress lying on the floor with the children on it than rows of children poring over desks and books, where there are opportunities for playing and kindergarten work for much more than the three hours, and in my view the solution of the nursery school question in the crowded districts is not to get new societies coming in and new schools supplied, but to get actual working classes in the schools which are already there. In that case you get the elder scholars bringing their younger brothers and sisters to nursery classes in the same building instead of having to take them to a building in an adjoining street or some distance away.
I have no quarrel in point of substance with the hon. Member, but I think that it would be very confusing if, in a Clause which is intended to confer a new power upon local education authorities, we were to confer a power which already exists and which is exercised freely.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir C. HENRY
I beg to move, in Subsection (1, a), to leave out the word "two" and to insert instead thereof the word "three."
The hon. Member for North Somerset has not distinguished between the crèche, or day nursery, and the nursery school. As I understand the object of the right hon. Gentleman is to further as far as possible nursery schools as distinct from creches. If that is the object, I appeal to him to have the age at which children enter nursery schools three instead of two. Up to the age of three children are far better eared for and have far greater advantages in crèches than in nursery schools. As my right hon. Friend is aware, the extension of these crèches or day nurseries is proceeding very satisfactorily. They are to a great extent supported by voluntary contributions, aided by Grants of the Board of Education, and I hope that the work of these crèches or day nurseries will be advanced and not restricted, which would be the case if the little ones when they arrive at the age of two years have to be transferred from the crèches to the nursery schools. I do not think there is any advantage in the 1485 nursery schools going below the age of three. In these crèches they get proper food. They are taken there in the morning when the mothers go to work, and in some instances they are left there from Monday morning until Saturday evening. I am certain that if you leave the nursery schools age at two you will, to a considerable extent, hamper these day nurseries and restrict their use.
This is a matter of experience. I do not know what experience the right hon. Gentleman has in this matter, but as the father of eight children and the grandfather of some others, I must say that two is too young an age at which to send the child to what is called a nursery school as distinguished from a crèche. Those who know what are the powers of these young children will realise that two years is an age at which a child may be injured by going to a nursery school. A crèche is the proper place for a child of that age.
I agree entirely with the view of my hon. Friend that in general it is desirable that children should not go to a nursery school until the age of three. But this Clause was settled after a considerable amount of discussion between the Board of Education on the one hand and the Local Government Board, which deals with crèches, on the other. It was felt that in general it would be desirable that there should be some overlapping between the two authorities and the two types of organisation, and for this reason: While no doubt it is in general desirable that children should not attend the nursery school until they reach the age of three, it may happen very often that the older children of a family attending the nursery school have some young brother or sister under the age of three, and just approaching the age of three, and it may be very desirable that that younger member of the family should go with the older brothers and sisters to the nursery school.
§ Sir W. CHEYNE
The whole of this question is one of extraordinary difficulty. No doubt you must have crèches and day nurseries and night nurseries, and the question is whether you can call to their assistance the system of nursery schools which you are proposing. I see by the Bill that paragraph (b) provides for "attending to the health, nourishment, and physical welfare of children attending nursery schools." There is nothing about education in that, and my opinion is 1486 that up to the age of four or five years the less there is of education the better. Up to three years of age the children are already provided for in crechès and day and night nurseries, and though none of these institutions take the place of a careful mother, yet there are mothers who are not able to attend to their children and are obliged to leave them in the care of crechès or day nurseries; and, in view of these children having to be left at those institutions, if a little education were really necessary to be given, perhaps the education authorities could send a teacher to give such instruction as might be wanted. I think that the authorities could in that way come to the assistance of these institutions, while, later on, the local education authority would be in a position to ask the assistance of the Ministry of Health to carry out medical treatment. I think it is desirable that the authority looking after the welfare of the child should have the assistance of the education authority in the way of teaching by the kindergarten system or in some other way until the child is six years of age and able to go to the elementary school. The matter, as it stands, is not at all clear, and I shall be glad if the President of the Board of Education would look at it from the point of view I suggest, so that the local education authority and the authorities of the crechès and day nurseries could help one another as opportunity and time rendered necessary.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1, a), to leave out the words "whose attendance at such a school is necessary or desirable for their healthy, physical and mental development."
In a further Amendment I propose to move to insert, instead of these words, the words,The provision of a sufficient number of such nursery schools shall be the duty of all local education authorities.I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment?
I am afraid I could not accept the hon. Member's Amendment. I think it is absolutely necessary to keep to the proposal of the Clause.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words,(2) Such nursery schools as are aided, maintained, or supplied by any local education 1487 authority, shall be public elementary schools within the meaning of the Education Acts, 1870 to 1918.I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is willing to accept this Amendment?
I am unable to accept the Amendment for the following reasons: There are, I think, two main distinctions which may be drawn between the schools which it is desired to establish and those which are called public elementary schools. In the first place, the local education authority provides the public elementary schools, and parents are compelled to send their children to them, whereas in the case of the crechès or nursery schools the local education authorities are not compelled to provide them, nor are the parents compelled to send their children. In the second place, children attending the nursery schools will be of a very tender age, and I think the Committee will agree that the combination of these two factors render it undesirable to make the elaborate provisions with respect to Conscience Clause, notice and the like, which attach to public elementary schools. These are the two main considerations which militate against the acceptance of the hon. Member's Amendment.
Is there not another objection, and are not the words proposed inconsistent with the words already passed, and would they not, if accepted, be making day nursery schools public elementary schools? I think that is certainly an objection to the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. KING
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word "managers" ["body of managers to the extent"], to insert the words,in such proportion as will, as nearly as may be, correspond to the proportion which the aid given by the Board of Education and by the local education authority bears to the contribution made from all other sources and in any case.This is reviving a very old provision in the Technical Instruction Act of 1889. That Act was passed by a Conservative Government, and, therefore, any Radical views which I have cannot come into this Amendment, the words of which are taken from a Clause of the Act of 1889, which embodied a principle that worked for fourteen years admirably in the then new 1488 type of schools which were started for technical education. The basis was simply this: If the local education authority gave so much money, it got managers in proportion to the amount it gave. If the county council gave so much money, it got managers in proportion to the amount it gave. That principle is quite straightforward, intelligible, and perfectly fair—the principle by which you have control according to the amount of money which you give. I cannot see any other principle so fair or so general in acceptance, or which has been worked so successfully. It was abolished by the Act of 1902, a very unfortunate thing; but we will not go back upon that. This principle worked well without any protest against it, and I think if it had been introduced into legislation at first, say, in 1870, and kept as a permanent principle in our educational legislation, it would have led, I believe, to doing away with sectarian and local controversies and interests, and we should have had better educational progress ever since. I appeal, therefore, to the President of the Board of Education to adopt this definite and practical suggestion as to the control of these schools by managers who will be really representative, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would be returning to a very good principle, which gave a great deal of satisfaction.
I would point out to the hon. Member that as the Clause now stands it would be open to any local education authority to adopt the principle which he recommends with respect to representation, because the local education authorities are given a free hand to make such conditions as they think fit in regard to their grants with respect either to representation or any other matter. But quite apart from that consideration, I think the suggestion of the hon. Member would probably, if not certainly, be found to be embarrassing in practice, because the proportion between the public grant and the private contributions is not a fixed thing; it varies very much from year to year, and the Amendment would involve a constant fluctuation both in the numbers and in the two classes of manager. For these reasons I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."1489
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The Motion for the Adjournment of the House will take place shortly, so I should like to know if the right hon. Gentleman will state what stage he hopes to reach in the Bill tonight, and whether, if the Adjournment Motion is disposed of at an early hour—say, by ten o'clock—he proposes to resume the discussion on the Bill.
If the discussion on the Adjournment Motion is concluded within a reasonable time before eleven, I hope to proceed with the Bill.
§ Mr. KING
I hope, as we have practically passed this Clause without any modification, we shall have some draft rules and suggestions for nursery schools at an early date. This is one of the parts of the Bill which we ought to get into operation as soon as possible, and there are a number of people who would be able to establish nursery schools, say, in houses, not requiring the large equipment and buildings incidental to starting new schools, but they ought to be able to be established very early in institutions and houses, and if we could have some draft rules and suggestions on that subject at an early date it would be most encouraging and helpful. This Clause has not taken quite the form that I like, but the aims and objects of it have my most hearty support and sympathy, and I should like to see them put into operation at the earliest possible moment.