§ Considered in Committee.—[Progress, 30th May,]
§ [Sir D. MACLEAN in the Chair.]
§ CLAUSE 10.—(Compulsory Attendance at Continuation Schools.)
§ (1) Subject as hereinafter provided, all young persons shall attend such continuation schools at such times, on such days, as the local education authority of the area in which they reside may require, for three hundred and twenty hours in each year, or, in the case of a period of less than a year, for such number of hours as the local education authority, having regard to all the circumstances, consider reasonable:
§ Provided that at any time after the expiration of five years from the appointed day the Board of Education may, after such inquiry as they think fit, and after consulting the local education authority, by Order increase in respect of any area or part of an area or any young persons or classes of young persons the number of hours of attendance at continuation schools required under this Act, and this Section shall, as respects the area to which, or the young persons to whom, the Order applies, have effect as if the number of hours specified in the Order were substituted for three hundred and twenty; but no such Order shall be made until a draft thereof has lain for no less than thirty days on the Table of each House of Parliament.
§ (2) Any young person—
- (i) who is above the age of fourteen years on the appointed day, or
- (ii) who is above the age of sixteen years, and either—
- (a) has passed the matriculation examination of a university of the United Kingdom or an examination recognised by the Board of Education for the purposes of this Section as equivalent thereto;
- (b) is shown to the satisfaction of the local education authority to have been up to the age of sixteen under full-time instruction in a school recognised by the Board of Education as efficient or under suitable and efficient full-time instruction in some other manner,
- shall be exempt from the obligation to attend continuation schools under this Act unless he has informed the authority in writing of his desire to attend such schools and the authority have prescribed what school he shall attend.
§ (3) The obligation to attend continuation schools under this Act shall not apply to any young person—
- (i) who is shown to the satisfaction of the local education authority to be under full-time instruction in a school recognised by the Board of Education as efficient or to be under suitable and efficient full-time instruction in some other manner, or
- (ii) who is shown to the satisfaction of the local education authority to be under suitable and efficient part-time instruction in some other manner for a number of hours in the year (being hours during which if not exempted he might be required to attend continuation schools) equal to the number of hours during which a young person is required under this Act to attend a continuation school.
§ (4) If a young person, who is or has been in any school or educational institution, or the parent of any such young person, represents to the Board that the young person is entitled to exemption under the provisions of this Section, or that the obligation imposed by this Section does not apply to him, by reason that he is or has been under suitable and efficient instruction, but that the local education authority have unreasonably refused to accept the instruction as satisfactory, the Board of Education shall consider the representation, and, if satisfied that the representation is well founded, shall make an Order declaring that the young person is exempt from the obligation to attend a continuation school under this Act for such period and subject to such conditions as may be named in the Order:
§ Provided that the Board of Education may refuse to consider any such representation unless the local education authority or the Board of Education are enabled to inspect the school or educational institution in which the instruction is or has been given.
§ (5) The local education authority may require in the case of any young person who is under an obligation to attend a continuation school that his employment shall be suspended on any day when his attendance is required, not only luring the period for which he is required to attend the school, but also for such other specified part of the day, not exceeding two hours, as the authority consider necessary in order to secure that he may be in a fit mental 1627 and bodily condition to receive full benefit from attendance at the school: Provided that, if any question arises between the local education authority and the employer of a young person whether a requirement made under this Sub-section is reasonable for the purposes aforesaid, that question shall be determined by the Board of Education, and if the Board of Education determine that the requirement is unreasonable they may substitute such other requirement as they think reasonable.
§ (6) The local education authority shall not require any young person to attend a continuation school on a Sunday, or on any day or part of a day exclusively set apart for religious observance by the religious body to which he belongs, or during any holiday or half-holiday to which by any enactment regulating his employment or by agreement he is entitled, nor so far as practicable during any holiday or half-holiday which in his employment he is accustomed to enjoy, nor between the hours of seven in the evening and eight in the morning: Provided that the local education authority may, with the approval of the Board, vary those hours in the case of young persons employed at night or otherwise employed at abnormal times.
§ Amendment moved (30th May), in Subsection (1), after the word "require," to insert the word "either."—[Sir Henry Hibbert.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'either' be there inserted."
§ Sir HENRY HIBBERT
As there are consequential Amendments standing in my name on the Paper, I conclude the discussion on all of them can be taken now. I wish to make it perfectly clear to the members of this Committee that I have no desire whatever to wreck this Bill. I make this statement because the newspapers have been full of criticisms of the action I have taken in bringing this Amendment forward. I further wish to point out that if my Amendment is carried those who believe in the Clause as it stands, who believe in education in day continuation schools for eight hours per week for forty weeks per annum and for a period of four years, can still have that provision in their authority. In other words, this is a question for local option. You can either have the principle as laid down in Clause 10 of the Bill or you can have my Amendment, which provides for a complete system of half-time education from fourteen to sixteen. If the Clause is amended as I suggest, it will read as follows:Subject as hereinafter provided all young persons shall attend such continuation schools at such times on such days as the local education authority of the area in which they reside may require, either for 320 hours in each year, until attaining the age of eighteen years, or for not less than 600 hours in each year until attain- 1628 ing the age of sixteen years, or, in the case of a period of less than one year for such number of hours as the local education authority, having regard to all the circumstances, consider reasonable.That being the case, I can hardly understand why the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education is opposing this Amendment, because, of course, we are all aware that the conditions in different parts of England and Wales vary very considerably, and what may work well and with advantage in one part of those two countries may work very badly in another. My particular objection to Clause 10 as it stands is that, in my opinion, it will upset every trade in those two countries; secondly, that it will lower, and is bound to lower, the wages of the people, and, in addition to that—and perhaps of as great, or even greater, importance—that the education given in the eight hours per week for forty weeks in the year is a mere snapshot at education. Whereas, as provided in the Amendment which I am moving, although you do not get five days' complete education, or thirty hours per week, you get fifteen instead of the eight, and I contend as one who has taken very considerable interest in education, that, with a more concentrated effort, you are bound to get more educational benefit from fifteen hours a week than you will from eight.
This Amendment has been, called the Lancashire Amendment. I do not at all object to it, though I should contend that to a very large extent it applies to a very great many counties besides Lancashire, notably our twin.sister county, Yorkshire, for whom, of course, I have no mandate to speak. Seeing, however, that this has been called the Lancashire Amendment, I think I ought to say a few words on the financial and economic position that Lancashire occupies. In the first place, we are the greatest industrial centre, certainly in the United Kingdom, and probably in the world. We make most things, but our principal industries are cotton, coal, machinery, paper, glass, and we must not leave out agriculture, for we are a large agricultural county. As evidencing the importance we attach to agricultural education, we have spent more money on it during the last twenty-five years than any other county in England or Wales. I wondered for many years—I wondered when the Bill of 1902 was before this House — why it was not possible to give some species of local autonomy to Lancashire. You have 1629 a population there of 4,750,000. You have a population larger than the whole of Scotland, the whole of Wales, the whole of Ireland, and the geographical county of Lancashire itself has nearly a quarter of a million more than the administrative area of London. Yet, in spite of that, and although the conditions in Lancashire are as dissimilar as they possibly can be from those obtaining in Cornwall, we have to toe the line in a general Education Bill and to make the best use of it we possibly can. We have tried to do that, and I think hon. Members knowing, many of them, the education history of the county I represent will admit that we are no laggard county. I submit that the real interests of the State — and this is in reference to the speech the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Education made on the Second Reading of the Bill — are, in the first place, to ensure the prosperity of the people, and, in the second place, to make them useful members of society. But whilst I support the Bill, with the exception of Clause 10, because I think it will bring greater happiness and comfort to the people, I should like to point out that before the principles of this Bill were conceived we were the greatest commercial nation in the world, that we turned out the best workmen in the world, and further than that, and of infinitely greater importance, we were one of the most honourable nations of the world. The right hon. Gentleman said there was nothing sacrosanct in industry. I say there is nothing sacrosanct in education, per se. We live by industry, and if you place fetters round industry you must, so long as you depend upon your export trade to bring further golden blood in your industrial veins, so synchronise education with commerce that you may develop the former without handicapping the latter. That is all I ask.
Since the Bill was first before the House a great deal has been said as to the support which the industrial classes in this country were giving to this Bill We have had frequent quotations from the Workers' Educational Association, which I know well. I have been on its London Committee for years until a few months ago, and my county committee were one of the first committes to make a grant to all the classes which the Workers' Educational Association established in Lancashire. So that I am undoubtedly a friend of the Workers' Educational Association, which is composed of all that is best among the working classes of this country. To say 1630 that the Workers' Educational Association represents the masses of workers of this country is inaccurate. To say again that working-class leaders on this question represent the mass of the people is also inaccurate. I can tell you, Sir Donald, that, as chairman of a large education authority, it is the most heart-breaking task I have ever had to perform, believing, as I do, in the education of the people, and doing everything I possibly can to help it forward, and I think those in a similar position to that I have occupied for many years will quite agree with me. If my statement is inaccurate, "why is it necessary to have compulsory attendance in your elementary day schools? To go a step further, why is it necessary to have school attendance officers to enforce this attendance? Why is it necessary in this very Clause we have before us to make compulsory the attendance of our children in continuation schools? There are two reasons. Undoubtedly the aristocracy of labour—and as I once before in this House pointed out, there is a great aristocracy of labour not only in my country but throughout the United Kingdom—are in favour of education, and are prepared to make great sacrifices in order that their children shall have a fair chance of mounting successfully the ladder of life. But it is not so with the mass of the people. Even with regard to them, however, we cannot lose sight of the fact that working men with. large families and great responsibilities cannot in a very large number of cases face the added financial responsibility consequent upon the sending of their children to school for any extended period.
What I really want to impress upon the Committee is this, because so much has been said about the rapacity of the employer that one would almost imagine that employers employed a sort of industrial press-gang to induce people to send their children to work. As a matter of fact, such is not the case. It is exactly the same in the secondary schools. We have an agreement with the parents of the children of my authority that if they enter the secondary school before twelve they sign an agreement that their children shall stay at that school for four years. If they enter after twelve they sign an agreement that their children shall remain in the school for three years. There was not a month in my life before the War commenced that I had not to sign 1631 exemptions, some of them of a most flimsy character, because they wanted to send children who had been educated in our schools into employment which they thought would be exceedingly remunerative. That, I think, is the difference between the Scots and the English. Scotsmen very early realised that there was a potential financial advantage in education. Englishmen have not yet realised that, and until they do, and until the fathers and mothers in this country take more interest in the education of their children, so long shall we remain a, comparatively speaking, uneducated nation. Another thing The Lancashire manufacturer does not depend upon the cheap labour of children, for the mills are not run by cheap labour. The period of half-time is short and, practically, not productive, and it is followed by payment for work done. Half-timers in the weaving trade are not paid by the employer, they are paid by the weaver; the master's duty in these half-time days being to see that the children went to school for the remaining portion of the day. You would encounter, I am afraid, particularly if this Clause is passed, very great difficulties with regard to the payment for labour displaced. The right hon. Gentleman has done a very great deal in trying to elicit public opinion, particularly on this Clause, and he has gone the length and breadth of the land in order to get a full reflex of that opinion, and he got it at a meeting which was held in London some few weeks ago, when he met the representatives of the masters and of the operatives, and they told him they would oppose the Bill unless the State or the employer compensated them for loss of wages. I have to thank him on behalf of the County Councils' Association for the alterations he made in the Bill to meet our wishes in regard to the administrative Clauses, but on this particular Clause he has been adamant. On the Second Reading of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman asked me to reply to two questions. He said:I will only say this with respect to the counter proposal of the hon. Member for Chorley; it does seem to me, speaking off-hand, to be exposed to two criticisms. In the first place I take it that half-time from fourteen to sixteen would mean half wages from fourteen to sixteen, and I should like to ask the hon. Member for Chorley how far working people in Lancashire would agree to accept such a proposal as that.If it is quite true that half-time from fourteen to sixteen would mean half wages 1632 unless the State or the employer paid the difference, and I am afraid it would be accepted very badly, but the President was told at the Lancashire meeting what was the opinion of the representatives of the workers on that matter.
Now I come to another point. The President said:I think the application of the continuation proposals to the cotton industry, although it does not involve so great a displacement of labour or so large an immediate reduction in earnings as the abolition of half-time, does present peculiar difficulties. I realise that in asking employers in the cotton industry to submit to these proposals, I am in fact asking them to submit to considerable inconveniences, although I believe they would find it easier than they expect to meet these inconveniences, and to provide a substitute for the labour which will be temporarily displaced. I am, of course, prepared to give the most careful consideration to all the arguments and considerations they can produce.The right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary said:I do not believe English industrial life is so poor or so unprosperous that it cannot be maintained if the labours of children under eighteen are diminished by a little more than one-seventh of their present normal working hours.I did not say, and I never have said, that Clause 10 would ruin the cotton trade. It will not, but it will undoubtedly handicap the cotton trade, and I want to point out what that means. In the first place, 25 per cent. of the entire exports of the United Kingdom are cotton piece goods and yarn. The exports from the whole of the geographical county of Lancashire are probably one-third. Lancashire cotton piece goods and yarn absorb one-fourth of the entire export of the United Kingdom. A very large proportion of these piece goods and yarn go to Eastern parts. In the year before the War there was an enormous increase in the competition with Japan, China, and India for the trade in the Far East, and you can imagine what that competition means when you know that wages are almost at a peppercorn and the hours of labour are long. The result of Clause 10 will be to increase the cost of production, and my fear is that although you are not going to ruin the cotton trade you are certainly going to handicap it in its competition with China, Japan, and India.
I regret, and we all regret, that there has been no indication whatever in the speech of either right hon. Gentlemen as to the manner in which they were going to divide the eight hours per week, because, of course, a very great deal depends upon that division, and I urge this plea, that it 1633 would only have been fair, it would only have been an indication to the House, if they had told us what was their idea as to the division of these eight hours. On the Second Reading I pointed out that the division might have been made by giving the whole of the eight hours in one day, by giving it in two days, or by giving it in four; yet neither right hon. Gentlemen replied to that, so that the Committee has nothing before it at the moment which will enable it to form an accurate estimate as to how this division is to be given. I will give another, and this I think has been submitted to every Member of the House by post this morning from a good friend of my own in Lancashire, in which he proposes, in order to support Clause 10, to work his young persons in groups of four, a most ingenious plan, and this is how he would work it: Number the young persons, 1, 2, 3, and 4. On Monday, Nos. 1, 2, and 3 work, and 4 goes to school. On Tuesday, 1, 2, and 4 work, and 3 goes to school. On Wednesday, 1, 3, and 4 work, and 2 goes to school, and on Thursday, 2, 3, and 4 work, and I goes to school. That is repeated on the Friday, the result being, of course, that there is a loss of labour of 25 per cent. In other words, out of every four boys employed in this particular shift, one is at school. That raises a very serious question. I have listened with very great interest to the Debate which took place prior to the introduction of this Amendment, and I am extremely surprised that any hon. Member has come to the conclusion that there would be such an over plus of labour after the War that it is necessary to spend money in emigration. I do not believe it. I think, on the contrary, there will be such a shortage of labour after the War that you will hardly know where to turn to get it, and the carrying out of this most ingenious plan for working shifts of four hands depends entirely upon getting the extra hands. What, then, will be the position on the appointed day? You will have to find the extra hands under this scheme for forty weeks in a year for every four young persons employed in the cotton trade, if you are to get the same output as four days, in every trade in the United Kingdom, and this extra hand will somehow or other have to find work elsewhere or play during the remainder of the year when the secondary school holidays are on—that is, nine or ten weeks. Therefore, both from an industrial and from an 1634 educational point of view, I contend that my Amendment is better than Clause 10, but, seeing that it is optional, I can hardly understand why the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to accept it. Again Sub-section (5) of the Clause says:His employment shall be suspended on any day when his attendance is required, not only during the period for which he is required to attend the school, but also for such other specified parts of the day, not exceeding two hours, as the authority consider necessary in order to secure that he may be in a fit mental and bodily condition to receive full benefit from attendance at the school.I quite agree with that, but how will it work? For all the permutations of these eight hours which you can possibly conceive, this Clause practically means half-time, because additional hours are to bi taken from labour before the young person attends school. The President said:There is a second difficulty with respect to the hon. Member's proposal. Under it, half the labour employed between fourteen and sixteen in the mills will be turned adrift at sixteen, and a consequence of the proposal will be the creation of a new blind-alley employment. I have thought it my duty to make these observations in order that a reply may be forthcoming.Why should there be a blind alley employment from fourteen to sixteen which will not exist from fourteen to eighteen, or to go a step further, than would have existed under half-time? The fact of the matter is that by marriage, by death, and particularly by expansion, for the cotton trade has expanded enormously during the last twenty-five years, room has always been found for an increased number of operatives in the cotton trade, particularly the weaving.
I want to deal now with the reasons given by both right hon. Gentlemen for extending this age to eighteen. I want to deal with it principally from the financial point of view. The President said:I need not say that on purely educational grounds I should have preferred a larger amount of instruction, even if that amount had been confined to the age between fourteen and sixteen, but after careful consideration I came to the conclusion that the practical obstacles in the way were too great; that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for us to provide in a reasonable length of time the requisite supply of teachers of ability; that the scheme, if it is to be made desirable to the working people, would have to be supplemented by a very large expenditure in maintenance allowances and buildings, and that it would involve a great disturbance of the juvenile labour market.1635 The Parliamentary Secretary followed in similar words. He said thatthe number of teachers required for the continuation schools would be very large. We shall require probably about 32,000 teachers, and these men must be superior type. In the case of boys under the fourteen to eighteen plan we Can see our way to provide the teachers, because when the appointed day has been fixed, and when the necessary preparations have been made, we propose to take the children from the elementary schools in four successive crops. First of all, we take the children of one year as they arrive at the age of fourteen, and then we shall have three successive crops afterwards. That would give us a considerable amount of time to provide the necessary teachers. If the proposals of the hon. Member were adopted we should have to provide the whole number of teachers within two years instead of the provision being spread over a period of four years.That is quite true, except that no local educational authority that I know of considers that it is possible. In fact, I am sure it is absolutely impossible to find the number of teachers you want under this Clause during the next ten years. I have been to some considerable trouble to work out the number of teachers which would be required under Clause 10 in my own area, if my Amendment were accepted, from the evidence supplied by my own authority of the administrative county of Lancashire. This will show what an important bearing this has on the whole question. Under my Amendment 30,000 children will attend from fourteen to fifteen, and another 30,000 from fifteen to sixteen, immediately on the appointed day. The second year that 30,000 will have swollen to 60,000, but it will go no further Under the Bill as it stands you will have the same 30,000 children in the first year, 60,000 in the second year, 90,000 in the third year, and 120,000 in the fourth year, and you will have to provide accommodation for those 120,000 children in the administrative area of the county of Lancashire. What about the teachers? Allowing thirty children to each teacher, and also allowing £200 per annum as the cost of that teacher—although I do not think you will get a teacher suitable to give extended education to young persons in secondary schools at £200 a year—there will be 333 teachers under the Bill at £200 each, which will cost my authority £66,600. That is in addition to the extra £60,000 which it is necessary to spend owing to the abolition of half-time, which will mean that something like 13,000 more children will be in our elementary schools than there are 1636 to-day. If you allow forty children to each teacher there—it is quite sufficient—you want a little over 300 teachers, and the cost works out at something like £60,000 a year.
§ Sir H. HIBBERT
I am speaking of the Clause, which has already been passed, abolishing half-time, which means that children who are going half-time will be going whole-time. In addition, you have to provide the school accommodation. What the schools will cost I do not know. Before the War our schools in Lancashire cost 17s. per head of the school population per annum. What the cost will be after the War I do not know, but it will probably be double.
§ Sir H. HIBBERT
I have left out the county boroughs; I have only dealt with the administrative area of the county of Lancashire. In the second year of the scheme under the Bill 666 teachers will be required for the administrative area of the county of Lancashire, costing £133,200. In the third year we shall require 1,000 teachers at a cost of £200,000 per annum. In the fourth year we shall require 1,332 teachers at a cost of £266,400. That is a, very low estimate, because you cannot always get the exact number of scholars in your school, and you do not want to teach more than thirty per teacher. My Amendment would help to solve the difficulty. In the first year we shall require, teaching exactly the same number of scholars, but only having, as it were, two shifts, 625 teachers, which will cost the county area £125,000. The next year we shall want 1,250 teachers, which will cost the county area £250,000; so that the only real difference between us is this, that whereas my teachers in the first year will be exactly the same as the number of teachers in the second year of the right hon. Gentleman's Clause, the number of teachers in the fourth year of the right hon. Gentleman's Clause will be 1,332 as against 1,250 under my Amendment. My contention is that you will not be able to get one or the other.
My reason for proposing this Amendment is because I think it is better, both educationally and also commercially, for the young people of this country. The cost is simply enormous. Even allowing, 1637 as promised under this Bill, that the Board of Education pay 50 per cent. of the cost of education, this Bill will make, without the provision of the schools at all, a difference of 5d. in the £ on the rates of my county, which has a very high rate-able value. There is a further point. The right hon. Gentleman said,I agree that the amount of education given in the first two years, would under the hon. Member's plan, be greater, but the education would stop short at a very critical period. If we continue compulsory education up to the age of eighteen, we reach a point where the young persons in most cases can carry on the education for themselves, because they have begun to realise the importance of it. If we stopped at sixteen that would not hold good, because at that age they would not realise for themselves the enormous importance of education, besides which we should give up at the earlier age of sixteen the physical, social and moral control and disinterested supervision which otherwise would be brought to bear on the young persons at the most critical period of their adolescence.If that be correct, why does the right hon. Gentleman give complete exemption from attendance at school up to the age of sixteen? I contend, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman's case breaks down and that he ought to accept my Amendment. I should like to point out that it is by the unbroken prosperity of our national industry that the financial burden of this War will ultimately be borne. This scheme cannot come into operation for many years, and if it had not been so this is a very inopportune time to have introduced this Bill. Seeing that the Bill cannot in any circumstances come into operation for years, in consequence of the absolute impossibility of obtaining teachers either to work the right hon. Gentleman's plan or mine, and also the difficulty of obtaining buildings sufficient to accommodate them, I regret exceedingly that this Clause has been proposed.
In conclusion, I would like to say this: I made the point on the Second Reading of the Bill that both as an educationist and as a commercial man I recommend the selection of the fittest. I do not mean the selection of the fittest as it has been carried out up to now. I outlined a plan, and that was to examine the boys at twelve, which is the proper age to enter a secondary school, to examine them at sixteen and pick out your best, and examine them again at eighteen, and on the result of that examination sends them either to a university or to a technical college. I would give liberal maintenance allowances, and I think you would by that 1638 process more considerably help the future prosperity both of the people and the trade of this country than you will by this Bill. Realising that children develop sometimes at a later stage than others, I would further examine at the age of fourteen the children in the elementary day schools who have been unsuccessful at twelve, give them a further examination at sixteen and pick out the best, and again at eighteen, and on the result send them to a university or a secondary school. I feel perfectly confident that that is the only true foundation upon which a scheme of education can be built up.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Fisher)
Everyone who knows the North of England is aware of the distinguished work which the hon. Member for Chorley (Sir H. Hibbert) has done in connection with the cause of popular education in Lancashire, and it is impossible that he should be associated with any proposal conceived in a spirit inimical to the interests of education.
I think, therefore, that the friends of education in this House and in the country will realise with satisfaction that the Amendment proposed is not conceived in any spirit of hostility to the Bill nor is it repugnant to the governing principles of the Clause which we are now discussing. The hon. Member for Chorley, who is I gather supported by all Lancashire Members in this House, is prepared to accept —I will not analyse his feelings further— a system of continuous schooling for young persons from the age of fourteen. He is prepared to see those classes given by day, and he is prepared to see them made compulsory. The hon. Member, however, proposes that the Bill should permit of an option, and that it should be possible for the young persons either to be educated to 600 hours in the year between the ages of fourteen and sixteen or to be educated under the scheme of the Bill, and the hon. Member maintains that in offering this proposal to the Committee he is offering in fact what is a very fair educational equipment. He is disposed to think that his own offer is better from the educational point of view than the proposals contained in the Bill.
If I were to consult my own convenience, I should accept the Amendment of the hon. Member. If I were to do this, I should be giving the hon. Member and 1639 his Lancashire friends what they have asked for, and I should be securing their support to the Bill—and I do not undervalue the importance of that support. I should also be obtaining, on paper at least, some value in exchange for my consent, since no educationist would deny that a half-time system between the ages of fourteen and sixteen does offer some advantages over the scheme proposed in the Bill. I quite admit that. I am unable, however, to advise the Committee to accept this Amendment, and this for reasons which I believe every member of the Committee will recognise to be valid as soon as they are stated. If it were possible to make the hon. Member's suggestion for half-time education from fourteen to sixteen mandatory over the whole country, there would be a great deal to be said for the acceptance of the proposal. Indeed, as the hon. Member has reminded the Committee, in the early stages of my consideration of this Bill I did go carefully into the possibilities of a half-time education between fourteen and sixteen. It was a course which was pressed upon me from many quarters. It was urged upon me by the Workers' Educational Association, it received a very large amount of backing from the trade unionists of this country, and I was bound to examine it carefully and sympathetically. I cannot see how a half-time system could be generally established between these ages without occasioning an amount of industrial disturbance and dislocation in the labour market, and also a loss of industrial wages, which it would be unfair to ask the country to pay. If half-time were suddenly and generally introduced, I fear still, in spite of what the hon. Member has said, it would almost certainly involve the halving of wages in very many cases, and although the wage level would probably ultimately redress itself, the process would take time and the interval would be painful.
Then, again, from the administrative point of view, the establishment of the half-time system at the very beginning of the new experiment, in the first two years, would almost double the demand for teachers and almost double the demand for school accommodation, and the strain—and I think that my hon. Friend, with all his great administrative experience would be the first to admit it— would be especially felt in those halftime 1640 regions of his own county which have a considerable amount of educational leeway to make up. But these are not the only considerations which, in my view, militate against the adoption of his plan. If the adoption of a half-time system is, for the reasons which I have given, impracticable over the whole country, its application to individuals—and I gather that the option proposed in the Amendment is the individual option—or its application to areas—I am not quite certain which the hon. Member would prefer.
§ Mr. FISHER
I think that in that case he would have to change his method. But the application to areas would be encompassed by difficulties even more formidable. When you are enforcing an educational law it is necessary to impose and define your liability, but the existence of a concurrent system would really be a matter of almost hopeless complexity. I may give one or two instances. If a young person living in a country village under a local education authority which has adopted the plan of the Bill, of 320 hours a year, goes at the age of sixteen to a neighbouring area to work in a colliery, and finds himself under an authority which has adopted the scheme of the hon. Member for Chorley of 600 hours, what is to be his position? Clearly that young person is liable to part education between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, but such part education is not attainable in the area to which he has transferred. That is one difficulty. I will take another. What is to happen to a young person who is employed in the 600 hours' area, but goes to live in an area where the 600 hours' system is not recognised? Or, again, take a third case. You have a cotton mill recruiting its labour from a number of different areas in the neighbourhood. Some of these areas would have the 600 hours' system and other areas would have the 300 hours' system. It is clear that the owners of the mill would have a great interest in recruiting their labour from those areas which practise the system which was more convenient to the mill owner, and the result would be to penalise those operatives who come from places which practise the other system. I could multiply these administrative difficulties.
§ Sir H. HIBBERT
May I interrupt to say that I do not think that there is a 1641 single education area in Lancashire which would adopt the Clause if they had a chance of having the other proposal.
§ Mr. FISHER
That might facilitate matters as regards Lancashire, but it would not meet the difficulties if the option was to. be extended, as it would have to be extended, beyond the frontiers of that illustrious county. But, apart from these administrative difficulties, there are social and economic difficulties. The hon. Member has already indicated the difficulty that under his plan you would require a very much larger number of juveniles between the ages of fourteen and sixteen than you could employ at a later age. Already the cotton industry has a reputation of providing more blind alley employment than is altogether desirable from the social point of view.
§ Mr. FISHER
Mr. McDonnell, I believe, is associated with the cotton trade. He states that of 1,000 persons who enter the cotton spinning trade between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, only 430 remain at the age of thirty, and only 290 remain at the age of fifty.
§ Mr. FISHER
That accounts for some of them. But in any case it is certain that there is a great deal of leakage.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
If the right hon. Gentleman refers to the Departmental Committee's report dealing with this matter he will find that the statement which he is making is substantially correct.
§ Mr. FISHER
May I put it to the hon. Member that half-time means, in the textile trade increasing the number of juveniles to whom the trade is a blind alley, by 50 per cent., and I do maintain that that does involve social consequences.
§ Mr. FISHER
I gather that the hon. Member for Chorley proposes that there should be half-time between fourteen and sixteen. Surely that means that between fourteen and sixteen you employ twice the number of juveniles that otherwise you would employ.
§ Mr. FISHER
That is quite true, but it would obviously involve the discharge of a greater number of juveniles at the age of sixteen. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] It is a matter for argument. It is maintained by the Member for Chorley (Sir H. Hibbert) that the scheme of the Bill practically does amount to half-time. It is assumed that no young person will go into the mill before breakfast on any day on which he is required to work at school. It is assumed, again, that every young person will take the maximum of two hours permitted in the Bill for going and coming. It is assumed that the system will be worked by double shift. I would submit, however, that none of these conditions are really essential, and it is quite possible to work the system in such a way as to reduce the loss of industrial time to a figure very nearly approximating to the number of hours prescribed for education in the Bill. The hon. Member for Chorley complained that we do not lay down the precise number of hours in regard to the textile trades. We do not lay down any hard and fast line either for the cotton industry or any other industry, because the hours must be adjusted to the varying conditions of various trades and industries. What would suit one part of the country might not suit another and we desire that the matter should be locally arranged, for it would be unwise to enforce a single system on a great and complex industry.
I am told that the scheme is not practicable. My answer to that is that many of the textile firms in Lancashire are prepared to work it. Some very important firms are prepared to work under this scheme. One large firm, Messrs. Tootal and Broadhurst, of Bolton, are preparing to open a school this month for the training of young persons to become good citizens. The subjects of instruction for boys are literature, English, industrial history, geography, mathematics, science, and physical training. For girls the subjects are cookery, housekeeping, and physical exercises. The arrangement of hours 1643 provides for every student spending one morning and one afternoon each week in the school, with the result that the number of working hours lost will be about ten each week, or about 400 hours a year, while the amount of instruction would be 322 hours a year.
§ Mr. FISHER
At the present moment it is a private venture school. All I want is to meet the argument that has been used that this is an impracticable scheme. My answer is that the scheme is already being carried out. I have another case, Mr. J. W. Baron, of the firm of Morgan and Baron, of Darwen, in Lancashire, is prepared to work under the plan of the Bill. The firm runs 3,000 looms and employs 1,300 people, and Mr. Baron states that the scheme is for five days at school and six and a half days at the mill, and that the machinery would be fully attended to during the whole period. He states that the firm puts the interests of the young people first, and that the convenience of the organisation of the mill comes second. He adds that there need be no hesitation in adopting the scheme of the Bill. The ultimate effect upon the health of the young people, and the improvement in their intelligence and efficiency of the workers, would amply compensate for any change in the working conditions. Briefly comparing the effect of the hon. Member's Amendment upon family earnings with the scheme of the Bill, the general comparison is in favour of the Bill.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the town of Great Darwen, where this firm's works are situated, gave by far the largest majority against these proposals?
§ Mr. FISHER
I think that is quite irrelevant, but I will not labour the point. I have answered the hon. Member's case on the Amendment. I come to the real substance of the case for the Amendment. It is in reality, if you look at it closely, that this is a dislocation of the Lancashire industry—of the loss caused to wages by withdrawal of juvenile labour from the mills between sixteen and eighteen. It is in the application of this part of the scheme of the Bill that hon. Members 1644 apprehend the most difficulty. The labour of young people between fourteen and sixteen is no doubt important to the mills, but, after all, their earnings are comparatively slight. The hon. Member for Chorley has told us that for young children between sixteen and eighteen and upwards, the average wages are a fair criterion of their increased utility to the mills. But while I am unable, for the reasons I have stated, to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Chorley, I am prepared to admit a certain modification in the scheme of this Clause which will, I believe, be more to the advantage of the industrial interests I which the hon. Member represents that' the Amendment which he himself proposes. This is not part of a bargain, and before I announce this concession let me explain to the Committee that I am not thinking of Lancashire alone. When I came to the conclusion that a concession should be made I had in view not only the representations urged upon me by the textile industry, but representations from other quarters— from my hon. Friend the Member for Wilton, on behalf of agriculture, and from my hon. Friend the Member for the Everton Division of Liverpool in regard to coal. In the first place, I am prepared to accept the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Devizes to leave out the proviso contained in the second paragraph of the Clause. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the effect of it?"]It is a proviso which enables the Board of Education, after consulting with the local education authorities, to increase the number of hours of attendance at continuation schools required under this Act. I discovered at meetings in Lancashire that proviso caused a considerable amount of anxiety, and, in view of the fact that the proviso is very unlikely to be carried into general effect for a considerable period of time, I think, on the whole, it is desirable to omit it.
In the second place, I am prepared to make a concession with respect to time. If hon. Members will refer to Clause 45 of the Bill they will see that it is provided that this Actshall come into operation on the appointed day, and the appointed day shall be such day as the Board of Education may appoint, and different days may be appointed for different purposes and for different provisions of this Act for different areas, or parts of areas, and for different persons or classes of persons.1645 In other words, a considerable amount of discussion and latitude will be necessary in determining the appointed day for different parts of this educational scheme, and I am prepared to move an Amendment to Clause 10 to the effect that the obligation to attend continuation schools should not within a period of seven years from the appointed day on which the provisions of this Section come into force apply to young persons between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, nor after such period to any young person who has attained the age of sixteen before the expiration of that period.
§ Sir H. HIBBERT
That means, does it not, that my Clause so far as education from fourteen to sixteen is concerned is adopted?
§ Mr. FISHER
No; I will explain what it means. The more the hon. Members for Lancashire study this proposal the more will they find it to be better than their own. They are principally concerned with the effect upon the textile industry of the proposed educational claims on the time of young persons between sixteen and eighteen. I give them a guarantee that for seven years after the appointed day no such claims shall be made. Meanwhile the educational obligation resting upon young persons between fourteen and sixteen will be limited to 320 hours in place of the 600 hours of the Amendment.
§ Mr. FISHER
Yes. Now I admit to my educational friends that this is a very considerable concession indeed—[HON. MEMBERS: "It ruins the Bill!" "It is more than was asked for!"]—and I fear it will cause no little disappointment in many quarters of this House and elsewhere; but so long as I can obtain from Parliament the expressed affirmation of the principle that the system of continuation education classes, with all their unquestioned moral, intellectual, and physical benefits, is to be sooner or later extended over the whole country right through the period of adolescence, then I think that no great harm will result from this concession, but, on the contrary, that the interval of five years between the completion of the first stage and its further extension will have the advantage of 1646 enabling more careful preparation to be given, both in respect of the provision of buildings and in respect of the provision of trained teachers required for the scheme. After all, we want to give good education. We do not want to give a shoddy article, and there is something to be said for exploring thoroughly all the new problems which will come up in connection with continuation education between the ages of fourteen and sixteen before we take the further step of sixteen and eighteen. In any case, it had been our desire to administer the Act with the greatest possible consideration for local difficulties and local varieties, and Clause 45 is expressly drafted to that end, but I do realise that when you are dealing with industrial interests there is something to be said for an expressed guarantee of time, and I believe that in giving that guarantee I shall be meeting fairly and squarely the apprehensions which have been felt, not only by the representatives of industry in many parts of this country, but also by many educational authorities and many friends of education who are somewhat apprehensive that if we force the pace too much we shall not be able to supply a really valuable article when the time comes.
I am going to shock and alienate, I am afraid, a great deal of support by offering yet another concession. I am extremely desirous of maintaining the general framework of the Clause, because I believe that when that framework is filled in, as it will undoubtedly be filled in, by degrees it will give to the people of this country the best system of education in the world. But in the initial stages of its working I do foresee that it may be difficult in all cases to meet the full requirements of the Clause, and, therefore, I am proposing to move that during the initial period of seven years if the local education authorities so resolve the number of hours for which a young person may be required to attend continuation schools in any year shall be 280 instead of 320. That is a latitude to the local education authorities between the figure of 320 in the Bill and the minimum figure of 280. I do not propose to go further in the matter of concessions. I hope it will be felt that I have met, and more than met my critics. When my hon. Friend opposite said that I was giving more than was asked for, I beg to differ. I am not giving more than I was asked for. The danger that I see in the acceptance of the hon. Member's Amend- 1647 ment is this: I see a positive danger that if the Amendment is accepted it will be regarded in Lancashire as a final settlement of the question; it will be regarded in Lancashire that under no circumstances and at no time will the system of continued education up to the age of eighteen—a system to which I attach so much value on moral and physical grounds even more than on intellectual grounds—that in no circumstances will that system be applied to Lancashire if we adopt the compromise suggested by my hon. Friend.
I do wish this House to affirm definitely, and once for all, that it regards no system of continued education in this country to be adequate or satisfactory to our needs which fails to provide for the ultimate completion of a scheme of adolescent training right through the period of adolescence. We are living in very stern times, and stern times bring stern lessons, and the lesson which has been borne in upon me by the experience of this War is that unless we take very earnest steps to improve our educational system we shall find ourselves left behind in the race. I am not fond of quoting alien examples, but, after all, we must recognise that our present enemies, whatever may be their defects, are at any rate a very efficient nation. Now, is it reasonable to suppose that a country which educates the great mass of the population up to the age of fourteen has an advantage in competition with a country, with an Empire, which has adopted on a great part of its surface a scheme of continued education up to the age of eighteen? I say that the chances are in favour of the completer system of education. I will not put it higher than that, and I hope the Committee will support me in the stand which I have taken on the Clause.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
There were when my right hon. Friend rose two alternative plans for the consideration of the Committee, but now, after listening to his speech, we find that there is a third. I will deal with the third in a moment, but I wish very distinctly to say for myself— and I fancy I express the opinion of a great many others in all quarters of the House, and certainly without any dictinction of party, when I say emphatically that as between the plan proposed in the Clause as submitted by the Government and the alternative suggested from Lanca- 1648 shire by my hon. Friend behind me, I am altogether in favour of the Government plan. I recognise to the full—and it was stated with the utmost cogency, and also with great temperance and moderation by my right hon. Friend— the difficulties, both educational and industrial, which must attend the adoption of such a large—I might almost call it a revolutionary—step in advance as the compulsory continuation school up to the age of eighteen. My right hon. Friend has very frankly said, in the interests of the working of the Bill and the carrying out of that plan, that every allowance which is compatible with maintaining the principle should be made for special local conditions. But do not let us conceal from ourselves what would be the effect of the adoption of the Amendment of my hon. Friend. It would amount to a statutory declaration that Parliament does not require compulsory continuance of education beyond the age of sixteen, whereas in the Bill as it stands, and as it will stand if the Amendment just now shadowed forth by my right hon. Friend be accepted, you will have a statutory declaration that it is to be eventually— not at once—the law of this country that young persons shall continue to be educated until they reach the age of eighteen.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
That is the issue raised really by my hon. Friend's Amendment. It is quite true he gives a very substantially larger number of hours during the two years up to sixteen than the Bill gives during those two years, but where any educational authority—I do not know whether that is intended by the Amendment—exercises that option, to that extent there will be no obligation after the age of sixteen to continue at school. As I say, between those two extremes my own opinion is decidedly and emphatically in favour of the Government. What my right hon. Friend said in the impressive words he used at the conclusion of his speech must, for some years past, have been present to the minds of all who are really interested in the higher welfare of our future population. Considerations which were important and momentous before the War have become, through the experience derived from the War, not only momentous but vital, and I do not think I am using language of exaggeration at 1649 all when I say I do not think there is anything the legislature could do at this moment, in what we call the process of reconstruction, in its largest and widest sense that must follow this terrible experience through which we are passing, that could be of more permanent value, and have more fruitful results than the continuation of the education of our young. So much for the choice as between the plan proposed by the Bill and the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
I come now to the interesting suggestions which have been made by the President of the Board of Education. I confess, subject to considerations to which I will refer in a moment, that I should listen with reluctance—and considerable reluctance—to any departure from the plan laid down by the Bill, and that not only from an educational, but from a national point of view. I do not think what is proposed to be enacted here is one whit too much. I am not sure, indeed, it is as far as we ought in reason to go. But the question, as it presents itself to us now, is entirely a question of practical administrative possibilities—nothing else. What I understand the proposal to amount to is this—I say nothing about the optional reduction in the number of hours from 320 to 280. I hope that may not be found necessary to pass, but, if it is to be in the Bill, I hope very few education authorities will ever take advantage of it. and then only under special local circumstances. But the main suggestion made by my right hon. Friend is this: To keep your statutory declaration that eighteen is the age up to which these young persons are required to attend a continuation school, but for the next seven years, as regards those between sixteen and eighteen, that obligation shall not be enforced. And why? It is impracticable. I understand that you cannot get the teachers, and that you cannot get the schools. If you could, I am sure my right hon. Friend would be the first to press on his original proposal. But he tells us—he knows—that he is satisfied, on investigation—and my right hon. Friend behind me is entirely of the same opinion; it was to a large extent the foundation of his argument that you cannot get the number of new teachers required. There is an enormous shortage Already in elementary schools. I am told it is something like 20,000. Is that the figure?
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Large additional requirements, apart from this, are being placed upon the education authorities in the matter of teaching, and, in addition to that, you will have to provide for these continuation schools. You have not got a reservoir from which you can draw which would be adequate, or even available, for that purpose, and, therefore, you are not really weakening or watering down the Bill, as I understand from his argument, by simply recognising that actual administrative fact, that for some years to come you cannot hope to provide, as regards children between sixteen and eighteen, the necessary continuation instruction. If that be so, I, or one, am prepared to accept, although I regret the change, and, as far as my opinion is of any value, to recommend the Committee to accept, the concession which my right hon. Friend has made. The main fact to which I attach vital importance is that you should have here placed upon record, and with the authority of Parliament—whatever temporary provision may be made in consequence of the dearth of teachers or of schools—you have here a statutory declaration by Parliament that, from this time forth, it is to be part of the law of this country that the compulsory education of young persons is to continue not only to sixteen, but to eighteen years of age. That is the real point, I think, the Committee has to decide, and, I hope, in no uncertain voice it will give its opinion in favour of the Bill.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I think the Committee, in view of the statement made by the Minister of Education, has reached a stage when it is prepared to move to report Progress. The concession that has been made is not merely a small concession. It strikes at the very root of the Bill so far as continuation schools are concerned. I am bound to confess that, even before the speech of my right hon. Friend, I had some doubts as to whether the Bill as it stood or the Amendment was the better proposal to make. I am not at all impressed by these Parliamentary declarations that the late Prime Minister has been laying so much emphasis upon. We have had Parliamentary declarations about education for generations, and I am impatient to get education and not another Parliamentary declaration. What we had to consider before the two proposals were before us was this: The Bill as it stands makes com- 1651 pulsory continuation school education of 320 hours per annum. Now, I think, the point that is being lost sight of is, that in order to educate a child you have to give a certain amount of time. The difficulty I have had in considering the value of the Bill as it stands is this: Does this scheme, which my right hon. Friend originally proposed, provide a sufficient amount of education to be of educational value? And I had almost come to the conclusion that it did not. Anyone who works it out, and assumes that a local educational authority can say that 320 hours are to be taken altogether, and that then the child may go to employment for the rest of the year, must sec at once that it is absolutely useless to carry out any such proposal as that.
The intention of the hon. Gentleman's Amendment is that, whilst the children are being educated, he does provide a sufficient amount of time for education that will be substantial. The effect of the Bill as it stands is that it continues education until the age of eighteen. The objection to the Amendment is that it stops education at sixteen. That is the dilemma in which an educationist is put. I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I say I am not interested in Lancashire. I am interested in the country and in the education of the country. Lancashire must solve its problem, but the educational dilemma is this: Whether the scheme up to eighteen gives a sufficient amount of educational time, and whether the Amendment up to sixteen is not losing so much by lopping off completely the ages from sixteen to eighteen that it ought not to be accepted. And I am bound to confess I came to this House to-day with an absolutely open mind upon the subject. Then I was going to vote for sixteen and take my chance of extending the age to eighteen. But now I am in a greater dilemma, because the concession that has been given really destroys the whole scheme. The great value of the Bill as it stands is that you start experimenting with 320 hours a year, and if enlightened education authorities find that that is insufficient, or find that the experiment in operation is so promising that they would like to increase it, they have power to increase it. That is the Bill as it stands. That is gone. That is the first concession. Therefore this 320 hours' scheme as an experiment becomes fixed as a maximum for, at any rate, seven years.
§ Mr. FISHER
Only as compulsory. Of course, it would be quite possible for local education authorities to make provision for further voluntary continuation education.
§ 7.0 P. M
§ Mr. MACDONALD
Yes; they can do that, but I do not think there is very much, substance in that. I am thinking of the educational value and efficiency of this new system of the compulsory continuation schools. It is quite true you can do it voluntarily, but my argument was directed to the compulsory character of the Clause. Now that is gone. Therefore my favour for the Clause as it stands is correspondingly weakened. There is the next point. We are not even going to get. half-time education between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, which Lancashire is willing to give us from its industrial point of view. Lancashire says that it is possible from the point of view of the community, of the education committee, and from the point of view of finance, and are prepared to give-it. As my hon. Friend behind me said, we are so keen about education and of the sacrifices entailed in the extension of the age of half-time up to sixteen, that we are not prepared to give that! Surely this Committee ought to accept that offer, because in any event seven years must elapse before we are able to do anything at all! If the people of this country during the next seven years do not show more interest in education than at present—if this compromise is to be accepted —then they deserve to be beaten in all those energies and all those causes to which education contributes so much. If, after we have half-time education between the ages of fourteen and sixteen—if, I say. we have the experiment of that for seven years, and then at the end of seven years we are not going to have a new Bill which carries education very much further than. it will be carried by this compromise— unless it also is changed by Resolution—if we cannot get a better Bill after seven years, this poor country is in a parlous condition, and this education will be a farce and a sham, as it has been up till now.
Therefore the alternative we have to consider is, Shall we accept this so-called Lancashire Amendment, at the same time regretting profoundly what we are going to lose, and being determined that we shall use it as an experiment, and within the next seven years produce a new Bill which will deal with young persons from 1653 sixteen to eighteen? Are we to do that, or accept this Amendment, which definitely says you cannot go as far as half-time between fourteen and sixteen, except voluntarily? You cannot go beyond that. You may even reduce your educational annual hours from 320 to 280, and then, at the end of the seven years, you are going to be put in a position which is not so good as you are in this Bill as drafted! There are certain educationists in this House who at this time want to accept this Lancashire Amendment, and trust to a more enlightened public opinion showing itself and making itself more effective within the next seven years. To talk to us about the competition that this country after the War is going to meet from well-disciplined and well-educated Germany, and then confuse that with the statement that for seven years we are going to commit ourselves ! It is all very well to get your record in this House that the young person between sixteen and eighteen years of age is ultimately going to be touched, but whilst you are writing that in the House of Commons you are also writing that he is not to be touched in the seven years. To make that statement is really, to put it mildly, not at all an educational pronouncement. I say Germany would not look at it. She would not for two minutes have such a scheme for preparing, disciplining, and improving the brains of her children in the tremendous intellectual struggle that Europe is going to enter upon the moment the War is over. Germany would never for a moment have accepted this compromise as one calculated to enable her to face the problems she will meet as soon as she settles down to the ordinary peaceful life. Therefore, at the present time, that is why I think the best thing for this Committee to do is to report Progress, so that we may consider the extraordinary situation in which we have been put. I should like some light let into my mind at the present time. My mind is still open. These thoughts came to me as I listened to the right hon. Gentleman making his speech. I am bound to say that unless I see some reason to change my opinion I would infinitely prefer the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chorley to the compromise which has been foreshadowed from the Education Minister.
§ Mr. FISHER
The hon. Member for Leicester has suggested that we should report Progress. I earnestly hope that the 1654 Committee will not take that step, partly because, as I have pointed out, we are preserving the whole framework and substance of the Clause, and the Amendment to which the hon. Member takes exception, the Amendment which delays the coming into operation of the particular part, a segment, he calls it, can equally well be proposed on Clause 45. The hon. Member has failed to see, I think, that what is before the Committee is substantially the old Clause, and that hon. Members are invited to accept the old Clause subject to modification of detail and time. I submit that that is an operation which does not raise any new question of principle. As the late Prime Minister has pointed out, there are abundant administrative reasons for the adoption of that course. When the hop. Gentleman speaks of the example of Germany I would ask him to remember that, even with this extension of time, we are proposing to carry out a greater change in a shorter time. It. seems to me, therefore, that that argument falls to the ground.
§ Captain Sir C. BATHURST
I never found myself in a greater quandary than I do after listening to what has been said this afternoon. In fact, for my part, I rather wish we could adjourn consideration of this matter. So as to digest what is really an entirely different proposal to that contained in the Bill. Many of us have, in conjunction with our colleagues on local education committees, very carefully discussed the proposals in this Bill, and have drawn our own conclusions as to the effect likely to be produced in our respective areas. In my judgment these new proposals are entirely distinct and entirely recast from the original scheme as presented to the House in the Bill. As. regards the observations of the hon. Member for Leicester I am bound to say I cannot follow his line of reasoning. He urges the House to take this earliest opportunity of insisting upon the education of the children of this country being carried to a certain age, compulsorily, and in face of public opinion. I feel a very great difficulty in following that line of argument. We have often been reminded, not infrequently by my hon. Friend and colleague the Member for Devizes, that this House has ceased to be representative of the country at large, and that we are in error in proceeding at all with a Bill of this magnitude and of so revolutionary a character. If I understood the hon. Member for Leicester aright, he suggests that 1655 it is our business to force upon a reluctant country which is not zealous for education, and which deprecates any further progress along the lines of this Bill as adumbrated—that we should disregard public opinion altogether in this matter, and while we have the opportunity, in a decaying Parliament, take this Bill as originally provided, make the compulsion as great as possible, and the extension of the age as much as possible. I am inclined to think if do that we are up against the very basis and essence of the representative system in this country.
I, for my part, find myself in a very great difficulty. Although I do not hesitate to say—and I do not think anybody can contradict me—I am an enthusiastic educationist, and should like to see part-time education carried, at any rate, up to the age of eighteen, I am bound to have to confess that the community which I do my best in,a small measure to represent in this House is not of the same, shall I say, progressive views as regards education to which I myself endeavour to give expression. Every week that has passed since this Bill was introduced there has been a growing and a hardening of opinion on the part of the agricultural classes against the forcing of this portion of the Bill to the extreme which the Bill in its original form suggests. I have to confess that, because in speaking of educational matters as affecting the agricultural industry I cannot profess—I am sorry to say it—that I efficiently represent the opinion—right or wrong—of either the majority of employers or employed as regards continuation education. I may say in this respect the attitude of the Central Associated Chamber of Agriculture, after having very carefully considered this question of continuation schools during the last eight years, has been entirely reversed, entirely altered in the last few weeks. I have here—I will not bore the House by reading it—the report issued by the Education Committee of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, almost unanimously adopted by the chamber at the end of 1916, in favour of carrying compulsorily continuation schools up to the age of eighteen. During the last month, I regret to say, the chamber has unanimously decided to turn down that report, and has expressed the opinion that under existing conditions and prospective circumstances it finds itself unable to agree with these provisions of Clause 10.
1656 Upon what basis are we to judge this alternative proposal? The right hon. Gentleman on both Front Benches have suggested that there is no machinery or equipment available to-day, or likely to be available, to provide what this Clause contemplates. If that is so, let us have it definitely stated, definitely put forward as a reason why these proposals are to be dropped. For my part, I believe it to be absolutely true. It is certainly true so far as we can forecast in the West and South-West of England. We have always in the Gloucester Education Committee wondered how the right hon. Gentleman, when the time came, was by any means going to find either the buildings or the teachers required for these continuation schools. The Amendment which I ventured to put down on the Paper was in order to arrange matters or reduce the hours, perhaps from 320 to 300, so that it would be just possible to economise the teachers and buildings— which, by the way, in rural districts must be central in character, affecting as they do a very large area—should be so concentrated as to enable those classes to be carried on continuously throughout the whole year, taking the various age groups successively one after the other in the same school. I am bound to say that I entered this House this afternoon prepared to oppose the proposed Amendment put forward on behalf of Lancashire. Really I find it very difficult to choose between that alternative and the one now suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. After all, the alternative is this: It is half-time compulsory continuation of education between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, and then no further education at all. What is the alternative? It is not half-time, but quarter-time education from fourteen to sixteen, and although it is writ large in the Bill that after the period of seven years there will be a continuation of that education up to the age of eighteen, there is no immediate prospect of anything of the sort being carried into effect, and nothing to show that another education Bill may be brought in and carried which will cut out altogether the prospect of further education up to eighteen after the lapse of seven years, and leave that quarter-time education only from fourteen to sixteen in place of what the hon. Member for Lancashire suggested, namely; half-time during the same period. I find it difficult to come to a definite view without further consideration. I do say that 1657 so far as the agricultural population is concerned I am quite certain the right hon. Gentleman with the original proposals would not have carried the employers or the parents of the children or the representatives of agricultural interests with him on the various education authorities, and for that reason I hope that some concession will be made in order not to force upon an important section of the community these proposals.
After this War there is going to be an enormous lack of young men in this country available for any kind of industrial work between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, and if you are going to insist upon carrying forward the education of the available young people up to the age of eighteen with a serious scarcity as the result of the War of labour from the age of eighteen up to thirty or thirty-five, you are going to impose a severe burden upon industry, which I am inclined to think industry will severely resent. I ask the right hon. Gentleman and the House, while preserving our enthusiasm for education which is bound in face of the lessons of the War to increase rather than diminish, to endeavour to carry an enlightened public opinion outside this House with us, and not attempt to force upon the country a reform for which in the circumstances we are not ripe, and against which there are prejudices which we cannot successfully overcome.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
The speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down will probably have prepared the President of the Board of Education for the kind of demand which will be put forward by other interests than that which he has endeavoured to represent this afternoon. I gather from the hon. Member for Wilton (Sir C. Bathurst) that he proposes to ask for concessions in the interests of agriculture. It seems there is to be a shortage. of labour, and that young men will not be available before eighteen years of age or after to do the necessary labour on the land. The hon. Member seems to have forgotten what has been accomplished during the period of the War. The output of agricultural produce even in the absence of millions of young men in the Army has been increased, and the hon. Member fails to appreciate what the scientific application of machinery will do for agriculture in the direction of the saving of labour. I am extremely disappointed at the atti- 1658 tude which the President of the Board has taken up towards the Amendment which was moved by the hon. Member for Chorley (Sir H. Hibbert). It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman capitulated far too soon, and there did not seem to me either in the House or the country that volume of opposition to his original proposals which warranted so early a capitulation to the interests which have forced him into the present position.
I ask hon. Members to recall the fact that there will be an interval of seven years, and advantage of it will be taken by those who have made this bargain, and during that period it will be assumed by all those interested in the Amendment which has brought about the concession that there is to be no departure from the Amendment which is to be inserted on behalf of the Government, whether the circumstances would appear in the near future to warrant a return to the original form of the Bill or not. As a matter of fact, there was a considerable amount of evidence produced before a Departmental Committee presided over so admirably by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education recently, and the evidence which came before that Committee seemed to point to the possibility of taking a supply of teachers for continued education drawn from the men at present in the Army who could possibly, with some-amount of normal training, have been made available for continued education. The concession now made will apparently prevent a return to the original form of the Bill, even though it be true during the next seven years that it is possible to get the teachers and the buildings.
There are certain counties who are now of the opinion that this scheme of continued education up to eighteen can be applied in the very near future. The-secretary of the education committee to-the county of Northamptonshire has. declared that they have available buildings which it would not be difficult in their case to utilise as continuation schools for eight hours per week up to the age of eighteen. If there is one part of the Bill which has received a tremendous backing from all kinds of educationists in the country, it is the continuation school system up to eighteen. I have in my hand a volume of evidence which was taken by the Departmental Committee to which I have referred. and one of the witnesses appearing on behalf of the Association of 1659 Local Authorities was the hon. Member for Chorley. Will hon. Members recall the fact that this Departmental Committee was set up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Henderson) while he was President of the Board? That Committee sat during wartime and had to deal with war conditions and war problems. One of the witnesses was the hon. Member for Chorley, and his view then, before, I suppose, he had been subject to the pressure of certain interests in Lancashire, was to this effect:Sir Henry Hibbert quoted a resolution of the Union of Lancashire and Cheshire Institutes in favour of a leaving age of fourteen, followed by part-time day classes for six hours a week up to eighteen, facilities for attendance being given by employers.This evidence was given in support of the very proposal to which the hon. Member for Chorley has now brought forward his Amendment. His evidence goes on to point out that "this resolution did not emanate merely from education committees, but it was the opinion of the representatives of many other interests, including 117,700 evening school students." I want to call the special attention of the Members of this Committe to that portion of the hon. Member's evidence, and I regret that he is not at present in his place. He said:I think with textile industries there would be some difficulty at first in letting young people off, but this would disappear in time.This is part of the evidence adduced on behalf of education committees, directors, and secretaries of education organisations like the Workers' Educational Association, about which I want to say a word or two in reply to the hon. Member's references to it. The hon. Member suggested that the Workers' Educational Association did not truly represent any considerable body of Labour opinion, but in that view he is quite wrong, for, as a matter of fact, that association is a kind of federation of over 2,000 organisations, including 800 trade union branches and 400 co-operative societies, and it is not this particular Bill of which the Workers' Educational Association approve. Of course this association is glad to see the advance towards reform represented in the Bill, but they ask for a great deal more than is incorporated in this measure, and inasmuch as the association speaks for many thousands of trade unions and members of cooperative societies, when the hon. Member endeavours to minimise its representative 1660 character he is quite beside the mark in doing so—in fact, I have never known such a time during my knowledge of educational propaganda when the country was so ripe for a very substantial advance.
One of the things which has appealed most to the many audiences I have addressed previous to the introduction of this Bill was this point of the continuation schools from fourteen to eighteen. I wonder how long in these things we are going to defer to the opinion of Lancashire. I think this has been done far too long. [An HON. MEMBER: "Vested interests! "] We have allowed the call of the employer and the scream of the factory whistle to override real educational interests, and it is a matter to me of regret —aye, and more!—that the Labour party should not be as solid as its conferences have been in the matter of educational progress.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
The majority of them possibly are otherwise engaged. I wish they had more regard to Labour party mandates on education. We have asked in the Trade Union Congress not for a leaving age of fourteen but of sixteen.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
We have put down Amendments on the Paper, but we quite realise that we have the hon. Member opposite to reckon with. Unfortunately we who hold an advanced view know it is a fact that the private view of some of our friends does not always coincide with the view they represent on behalf of a powerful trade union interest. At the same time we have put down Amendments on behalf of the Labour party adopted by the Labour Members, who represent a considerable advance on the Bill as it stands, and I would that we could count upon a united Labour party to back those Amendments at the proper time. I hope that the President of the Board, having made this concession, will not feel called upon to go any further in the direction of conceding facilities, or, shall I say, a number of important things less in the interests of the children and more in the interests of the supposed efficiency of industry. It is not that way efficiency in industry will come. It seems to me that to have quoted in this House the competition of China, Japan, and India as a, 1661 reason for not making educational advance represents a falling from the high plane which should be occupied by men who are chairmen of education committees. I feel very strongly that, I had almost said, we have been let down, but it is not that. I understand to a considerable extent the difficulties of the President, but I do feel somewhat disappointed at his early capitulation when the attack had scarcely developed, and that early capitulation has made me doubtful as to whether he intends to stand firm on the other Clauses of the Bill. I hope indeed that he will, and that he will take seriously to heart the suggestion which comes from the hon. and gallant Member for Wilton, that having made one concession he may expect demands to be made from other quarters of the House endeavouring to wring further concessions from him. Let him stand by the children. Let him understand that the men at the front, as would be seen if they were polled, are for a better England than there has been, and it is through educational advance that we shall get a better England. They look to us, I feel quite sure, notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary, to see that those on whose behalf they are fighting shall enter into a heritage which it was not their joy to possess, and it is through this Bill that we shall do the right thing for the men who are fighting for a free England.
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
The Mover of the Amendment spoke of it as the Lancashire Amendment, and the President of the Board said that all the Lancashire Members supported it. I am a Lancashire Member, and I oppose it. I oppose it because I believe it is an Amendment which will be prejudicial to the cause of education, and I feel that education should take priority over inconveniences in the administration of industry. I feel great sympathy with the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Mr. Goldstone) who has just spoken. I share with him a sense of regret that the President should have seemed to give away so much of the position which I believe he holds in the country with such strength, but for all that I hope that the suggestion that Progress should be reported, in order that further time may be given to consider the matter, will not be pressed. When it is examined I cannot help feeling that the concession that the President has made will be found to be one which is intended to demonstrate the gradual way in which the Clause will 1662 be brought into operation, rather than the abandonment of the principle underlying it.
§ Mr. SCOTT
We all know the difficulties in regard to buildings and teachers, though, as the last speaker pointed out, those difficulties so far as buildings are concerned differ considerably in different parts of the country. I should like to put this definite question to the President of the Board for the information of the Committee: Is he satisfied that it will really take quite as long as seven years to bring in to operation the necessary machinery of teachers and buildings to make it practicable to apply the continuation classes from sixteen to eighteen years of age? If he says he is really satisfied that it is impossible to do it before, then the Committee candies cuss the Clause on the basis of the present proposal being the same as the proposal in the Bill. On the other hand, if he says that it is possible to bring it in before that date, I, for one, very greatly hope that he will see his way to leaving it to the Committee to consider whether it should be seven years or six years or a shorter period of time.
§ Mr. FISHER
There seems to be some misapprehension in the minds of the Committee as to the period of time. The delay is a delay of five years and not of seven years. The obligation will be imposed upon young persons between the ages of fourteen and sixteen five years later than would have been the case under the scheme in the Bill, because it would have taken two years to carry out the scheme for young persons between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. As to whether it would be impossible to introduce the system for the older young persons, if I may use that phrase, at as earlier date, all I can say is that we can do it very much more effectively if we have that five years' longer interval.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for answering my question, and I would venture to ask the Committee to approach the discussion now upon the footing that it is the same problem that we had to face when we began the Debate this afternoon. If it is really the case that for practical purposes continuation classes could not be made effective for young persons between, the ages of sixteen and eighteen till the date mentioned, then there has been no sub- 1663 stantial difference made in the Clause by reason of what the President himself has called a concession. On the other hand, lest those in Lancashire and elsewhere engaged in industry should think that the proposal is one which it is likely to be difficult to deal, and should be unduly disturbed by the prospect of the Bill, it is well that they should know, so far as persons between the ages of sixteen and eighteen in their employ are concerned, that they will have at least the period of time mentioned by the President before they will have to make the necessary adjustments in their businesses in order to face the new conditions. There is an observation which is perhaps almost a truism, namely, that changes of this type are much more difficult to deal with if they are brought in suddenly than if after an interval of time and gradually. Conditions then adjust themselves almost automatically. This is not an Amendment to substitute for the scheme of the Bill a half-time system throughout the country. It is absolutely essential to a proper comprehension of the problem that we have to decide to realise that what is proposed is not a general half-time system, but an option to every Part II. local education authority to apply whichever system it thinks right. On the wording of the Clause I was not at all sure whether the option was to be given to the child or to the authority, but the Mover of the Amendment, in answer to a question by the President, has intimated that he intended this discretion to be given to the authority. Let us assume that it is so. What is the difference between a proposal to substitute 600 hours a week throughout the country for the proposal in the Bill? What is the difference between a proposal to allow each Part II. authority in its discretion to substitute in its area 600 hours per year for the proposal in the Bill?
Is it the proposal that the Part II. Authority should be allowed to apply either one or the other system throughout its area but not both, or is it the proposal to allow the Part II. Authority to run both systems within its area? Obviously, the latter proposal involves much greater complexity of procedure than the former, but even the former involves great complexity in practice. Let us take Lancashire. You have there the county authority as a Part II. Authority and you have, as other Part II. Authorities, the big urban authorities, contiguous one to the 1664 other. You have a cotton mill on the borders of two and possibly three authorities drawing its employés from all three districts. Supposing those two or three local education authorities take different views. I assume, first, that they have got to apply throughout their area either the 600-hour system or the 320-hour system. One authority applies the 600-hour system and the other the 320-hour system. What is the unfortunate employer to do? Is he to draw all his employés from one area and none from the other, in which case those people lose their jobs or is he to have two systems running in his mill with a different system of release for the purposes of the education of some of his employés from that which is in vogue for others. You get hopeless complexity from the point of view of the employer.
Again, take two mills in contiguous local education areas. One mill is in a 600-hour area and the other in a 320-hour area. If it be the fact that the 320-hour area system is a disadvantage the other man has an advantage over his competitor in business. Look at it from the point of view of the young person. Are they to lose their employment in a particular mill because the local education authority over whom they have no control has elected to adopt one system rather than the other?
The practical difficulties which are illustrated in that way as regards one industry show the absolute impossibility of running the two systems together. Then you have to take into account the fact that while one industry may find it more convenient to have the 320-hour system, another industry may find it more convenient to have the 600-hour system. You may have different industries within the same area finding their convenience diametrically opposed one to the other. In those circumstances, we should see log-rolling and wire-pulling by every industry over every local education authority to try to get adopted the system most convenient to itself. It is not practicable or business to attempt to combine the two systems. I therefore lay stress on the fact that the proposal before the Committee is not a simple proposal to substitute half-time education for quarter-time education, but a proposal to allow each education authority a discretion to do what it thinks best. Those business reasons absolutely preclude the possibility of considering this proposal. The Committee has not before it any other proposal. There is no united body of opinion sufficiently strong to have 1665 got an Amendment put on the Paper proposing to adopt the general system of half-time education for two years instead of quarter-time education for four years. That is a fact of the greatest moment. During the past two or three years we have all thought much on the question of which was really the best for the cause of education, either to have half-time education up to sixteen or quarter-time education up to eighteen. For many reasons I should prefer the half-time education up to sixteen, because I believe, as one speaker has already suggested, that in a few years' time the advantage of that would be so apparent that public opinion would insist upon the half-time education continuing up to eighteen. That is one reason why I take that view. On the other hand, the difficulty of introducing half-time education throughout the country straight away on account of the dislocation in industry that would result is a practical objection which, on the whole, makes me prefer quarter-time education.
Again I insist that that question is not before the Committee. We have not to choose between quarter-time and half-time education; we have to say "aye" or "no" will we have one method of education for the whole country which is practicable, and which can be carried out, although there may be difficulties in applying it in certain industries, or will we have the hopeless confusion of a double system running in different areas, perhaps one in one area, another in another area, perhaps both running in a third area, which is proposed in the Amendment. No man can have any serious doubt in his mind on the choice between one system as a whole and the other system as a whole, and no man can consider the combination of the two as practical business. It would be destructive in the interests of the employer and of the employed, and it would ruin the education system. How could local education authorities run the two systems concurrently in the same school? For these practical reasons I submit that this Amendment is entirely misconceived. I should like to add one more sentence to the quotation made by the hon. Member for Sunderland from the evidence given by the hon. Member for Chorley before the Departmental Committee on juvenile education in relation to employment of children after the War, which sat last year. All three witnesses for local authorities spoke with one voice. They 1666 were Mr. Henry Hobhouse, the Chairman of the County Councils Association, Mr. Holland, the Chairman of the Education Committee of Northamptonshire, and the hon. Member for Chorley. They summed up their joint evidence in these terms:The witnesses thought that the time has now been reached when Parliament might pass a measure requiring that in all boroughs and urban districts, after full-time day attendance had ceased, attendance at continuation schools for a specified period equivalent to from six to ten hours per week should be compulsory up to the age of eighteen, the employers being obliged, under penalties, to give the necessary facilities, including a corresponding reduction in the hours of labour.That is a considered opinion, apart from local pressure by local industries operating on the Lancashire Members. I submit that this Committee should give due weight to that considered and independent opinion of three distinguished educationists and should say now that it is not going to be bamboozled out of the simple plan which there is in the Bill into adopting an Amendment which will produce nothing but muddle.
§ Sir H. HIBBERT
I would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment—[HON. MEMBERS: "No !"]—and in doing so to state to the Committee that Lancashire Members accept the Amendment mentioned by the President of the Board of Education.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The result of the objection to the withdrawal of the Amendment will be that the Amendment will be subsequently dealt with by the Committee.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I do not wish to delay the Committee in reaching a decision, but it would hardly be reasonable; to ask the Committee, after hearing only two or three speeches, to come to a decision, not upon the Amendment now technically under discussion, but upon the much more important change in the Bill announced by the President of the Board of Education. An urgent plea has been put forward by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. R. Macdonald) that the Debate should be adjourned in order that we might consider this change in the Bill. Although I do not suggest any adjournment of the Debate, I beg the Committee to consider the quite vital alteration in the Bill which the President has announced. The Bill as introduced into this House was a compromise. No one believes, on educational grounds, that a scheme of an hour's 1667 attendance daily at a continuation class for young persons between fourteen and eighteen is a satisfactory or final solution of our educational problem. On educational grounds we all realise, whatever political difference exists and whatever difference exists in regard to certain areas, that the proper line of advance is the raising of the school age for full-time attendance to the age of fourteen years. That is the method we follow in regard to our own children. That is the method followed in regard to the children of the wealthy classes. We do not listen to compromises in their case; we see that those children are kept at school until early manhood. The right hon. Gentleman must remember, in announcing any weakening of the Bill, that the Bill itself is a compromise and is only brought forward as a transitional measure until public opinion should be sufficiently unified to enable him substantially to increase the age for full-time attendance. The change in the Bill announced by the President is, therefore, of quite a vital character. It goes very much further than the Amendment. I do not wonder that the Mover of the Amendment at this early stage of the Debate should rise to ask leave to withdraw it and to accept the Government's offer, because the Government have offered him very much more than he demanded in the Amendment. He said in his Amendment that Lancashire was willing to give half-time attendance up to the age of sixteen if, after the age of sixteen, there was no liability to attend school as proposed in the Bill. The President of the Board of Education resists that Amendment, but, after putting up a resistance based on many good arguments, he then announces that, while not accepting that Amendment, he will give something much more sweeping than is even hinted at in the Amendment—that he would sweep away all education between sixteen and eighteen for a period which he mentioned as being roughly seven years.
§ Mr. FISHER
Seven years after the appointed day, but the hon. Member will realise that it will take two years before the fourteen to sixteeners come in; there- 1668 fore there will be a five years' interval between the completion of the first stage and the beginning of the second stage.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation, but I am not under any misapprehension. He will see that there is nothing inconsistent with what he said in what I say. It means that from the appointed day there will be no compulsory continuation classes for young persons between sixteen and eighteen years of age for a period of seven years. That is the first thing he sweeps out of the Bill. What is much more serious is that he weakens greatly the arrangements made for continued education between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. The Bill as drafted gives 320 hours annually. The most valuable proviso in connection with that proposal was that if it was found by experiment that they were able to build up the system and having allowed education authorities in the more advanced areas to show the way, it would then be possible to increase greatly those 320 hours, because the President had taken power in the Clause as drafted to increase that maximum number of 320 hours. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to abolish that power, so that whatever success these continuation classes meet with, however much the more progressive education authorities wish to experiment, and however much they may wish to prove that there is no objection to a much wider scheme, the Board of Education will have no power to allow them to increase that small number of 320 hours per annum. It is a grave weakening of the Bill, because the Bill limits the extent of our education system in this country and without another Act of Parliament it is not possible to make any advance. But the right hon. Gentleman does more than that. He says, "I will reduce the minimum number of hours during which attendance may be required at continuation schools from 320 to 280 hours." Let mo observe, in reply to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. L. Scott), that this weakening of the Bill by the President introduces precisely that dual arrangement which he spent much time in showing was so unworkable. The argument in that speech was that it was an objection to the Amendment we are now discussing that, if it were accepted, it would mean having two schemes in operation in this country—one 1669 scheme of 600 hours' attendance and another scheme of 320 hours' attendance— and that the two schemes were unworkable side by side.
§ Mr. FISHER
There is a considerable difference. Under the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Chorley the further obligation extending over two years of a student's life was dependent upon the initial difference between the hours. It is quite possible to have some slight variation of hours between one area and another over a period of years, provided that no further matter is dependent upon that slight variation.
§ 8.0 P. M
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
It comes to this, that while attacking the institution of two schemes, the President has now made an alteration in the Bill which will, to a less degree I admit, give us substantially two schemes in operation in this country, because some areas—I presume Lancashire will be one—will take the option now offered by the President of reducing the number of attendances to 280 hours per annum, while other areas—I hope they will be the majority—will take the maximum of 320 hours allowed by the Bill.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
Yes; it is. I am not under any misunderstanding. I think my hon. Friend entirely fails to grasp the point of the President's proposal, which is that you can either have 280 hours annually or 320. That sets up the dual system which the President himself has attacked, and which the last speaker spent almost the whole of his speech in resisting. I want to put the concession as I understand it. Under the concession, if that be the right word to use, which the President has adumbrated, 320 hours is the maximum. I think in saying that I am in the recollection of the Committee. It is clear that any local education authority, however progressive, however clearly it shows that it has the requisite teachers and buildings to give an increased number of hours' attendance, those hours cannot be more than 320, and on the other hand they may be reduced to 280. Obviously in that case 280 is the minimum; therefore you have a dual 1670 system, and that system at its best can never be extended without another Act of Parliament beyond the 320 hours per annum. I want to put this to the right hon. Gentleman. I know, and every Member of this Committee knows, his zeal in the cause of education. It is clear the right hon. Gentleman is not expressing his own views or convictions as to what is necessary when he suggests these changes. It must be quite clear to us all there is a great battle being fought behind the scenes, and that this drastic, and as I think very vital change, is being made in the Bill because of the great force of an opposition of which we know nothing at all.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I do not know why the hon. Gentleman should say "No, no," unless, indeed. he is behind the scenes. I regret very much that the opposition with which the President is faced has been of such a serious nature as to lead him to make proposals which greatly weaken the Bill. The whole importance of the Bill is to be found in this Clause 10 and in the proposals for continued education. All the other proposals in the Bill are secondary to the proposals in this Clause. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned our present enemy, and suggested we should be put on a level with him in the matter of education. I would suggest that we should also be put on a level with our friends in other countries, and that our educational system should not fall below that of either our enemies or of our friends, if we are to work out the consolidated progress of mankind. The right hon. Gentleman offers as a substitute for the very wonderful system of continuation classes and secondary schools in the Central Empires that our children between the ages of fourteen and eighteen should be liable to compulsory attendance at school to an extent amounting almost exactly to forty-five minutes daily. The Bill as now altered by the President of the Board of Education means that on the average the compulsory attendance at continuation classes shall be for forty-five minutes daily, and that is the alternative scheme to the system in vogue in the Central Empires. But how does that scheme compare with the educational system of America, which I think is much more important than the Gorman system? This is all that is offered to us in substitution for the system in America, where 1671 every secondary school, every high school, and every grammar school is free, where I think books and apparatus are also free, and where, too, the universities are frequently free. I say that the scheme in the Bill which, expressed crudely and briefly, is simply compulsory attendance for forty-five minutes daily between the ages of fourteen and eighteen—and I say it with great respect for the President of the Board—is wholly inadequate, and I greatly regret that vested interests in this matter have compelled the President to make such drastic changes in the Bill.
§ Sir NORVAL HELME
There is a general consensus of opinion throughout the country that the interests of the nation require a further development of the brain power of our young people. I think that is very well expressed in the first Clause of the Bill, which provides for the progressive development and comprehensive organisation of education for all persons capable of profiting thereby. Speaking as a Lancashire Member, and as a member of the education committee of that county from its formation, I say that we in Lancashire have been sincerely desirous in every way we possibly can to develop the education of the children in that county, and I think we may point to the fact that our annual Budget is more than £1,000,000 per annum, and we vote out of that sum no less than £26,000 yearly for scholarships to encourage children to pass from the elementary to the secondary schools, and from the secondary schools to the universities. Therefore, we, as Lancashire Members, may claim that we approach this important Bill with a real desire to secure the best practicable scheme for adapting it to the needs of the country. It has been recognised in the past by a majority of educational authorities that it is more advantageous to obtain full time instruction for the children up to the age of thirteen years rather than half-time education from twelve to fourteen, and the Amendment which was moved by the hon. Member for Chorley, with the support of the Lancashire Members, was based on the idea that we should do better to concentrate within the two years from fourteen to sixteen the number of hours that the children would be under instruction, rather than to extend it to the age of eighteen.
Our object was not to put a block in the way of a system of compulsory attendance 1672 up to eighteen years of age being adopted in the country. We claim it was an alternative. It might for the time being be possible to adopt either the one or the other. We are sincerely desirous that the limit to eighteen should be maintained ultimately, but it has been our effort in the past to develop, according to the public opinion of the place, to the utmost of our power, and therefore we were desirous that the President should accept our Amendment. However, he has not been able to do so. But the Lancashire Members, as the hon. Member for Chorley has stated, are prepared to advise the withdrawal of this Amendment and to accept the proposal of His Majesty's Government. We feel that there must be a continuity of effort to apply the principles of science to industry, and that we must secure by all means a race of skilled workers who can hold their own in the production of goods that will compete in all the markets of the world. We want to have an educated, prosperous, and contented people, so that we may get the very best service from willing workers out of willing hands. I have great pleasure in supporting the scheme of the Bill, because I believe that the maintenance of the age up to eighteen will be of great advantage to the country. The object of the Lancashire Members was rather to allow that to be imposed at a later stage. Our desire was not to destroy the scheme, but to leave it open, so that we could have the alternative principle applicable. But, under the circumstances, I am glad to be able to say that, as one of the Lancashire Members, I shall have pleasure in supporting the proposals of the President of the Board as now declared.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
There is no doubt that the offer of the President of the Board of Education has come upon all of us as a very great surprise. I do not think anyone was prepared for so large a concession as that which he has made. At the same time, I should be sorry if it were thought that the Bill, even in the form in which it will appear, provided that the Amendment of the President is accepted, will not be a very great advance upon our previous educational system. Even with the present Amendment, compulsory education will be obligatory between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, and, therefore, the scheme is a very great improvement upon the system of education which has prevailed in this country from 1673 time immemorial. It is the first occasion on which continuation education has been made operative. Hon. Members will remember that Bills have been introduced into this House in previous Sessions for setting up obligatory continuation education. These Bills were brought in by private Members. I myself was very reluctant to accept any measure of compulsion for continuation education, and as a matter of fact, none of the Bills succeeded in becoming law. I well remember, however, that on one or two of these occasions I distinctly stated that the question of compulsory continuation education must form part of a Government Bill— which, I hoped, would be introduced at some future time. Let us not be unmindful of the step forward in education which will result from the fact of making attendance at continuation schools obligatory even between the ages of fourteen and sixteen
§ It being a Quarter past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further proceeding was postponed without Question put.