§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I desire, on behalf of my colleagues on this side of the House, to raise the question of the provision for education in this country. Some four years ago the country was encouraged by the passing of a measure called the Education Act, 1918. That Act passed with the general approval of the country at large, and it had eventually, in unusual measure, the support of this House. The Education Act, 1918, as I have been interested to observe, has been used by speakers on behalf of the party opposite at the various by-elections as an example of their effort at reconstruction in the country. After having secured votes at various by-elections by virtue of this Act of Parliament, we now find that Education Act lying absolutely derelict upon the Statute Book. The position is even worse than that, for not only is the Education Act, 1918, not being put into operation, but, as a matter of fact, various Orders are going out from the Board of Education which seem to tend to prevent various administrative bodies up and down the country acting in accordance with the statutory obligations of that Act of Parliament.
May I raise this point: It is to me, anyhow, as one who has belonged to that honourable profession, the teaching profession, a source of no small amount of bitterness to observe that this kind of operation is proceeding in the country, and under the ægis of the Board of Education, presided over by one who—perhaps he will forgive me for calling him so—is a colleague in the teaching profession. He is regarded, and rightly regarded, as a distinguished leader in the education world, and I am bound to say that I observe with very great misgiving the fact that he is giving way so frequently to those who are out for what 1170 they call economy. I had the advantage the other day of participating in a public debate of a political character outside these walls, and in the course of public discussion after the debate a professor of a Welsh university who, I admit, is not particularly friendly to the Government, ventured to make this observation: that the Government had got the country into a fearful financial morass, and having got it there, he said, they turned to their masters and said: "Good masters, what shall we do to save?" I imagine the Scriptural answer to that would be something like this: "Spend all thou hast, and take from the poor!" Anyhow, I am unable to arrive at any different reading of the Geddes Report, All the Members of the House will be familiar with the terms of that Report. It divides the various national services into two main divisions. One has reference to the fighting services, and the other to what they call, quite rightly, the social services. I observed with some interest that when last week the House was discussing national expenditure upon the fighting services various Members, interested professionally in the upkeep of those services, under the leadership of a very distinguished general, put up a very stiff fight for expenditure upon them. We look this afternoon to receive from the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Education some little encouragement in making a fight for the social services, the services that stand for reconstruction, the services that, after all, are going to make possible that new world of which his distinguished leader has so frequently spoken in the country.
I have made, I hope, a very honest effort to understand the basic idea of the Geddes Report, and I am forced to the conclusion that in some unaccountable way the gentlemen who constituted the Geddes Committee expect education to become some sort of avenue whereby we can make profits. They seem to speak of education as though it can be made to pay financially. You cannot bring the ethics and the practices of the counting-house into the elementary schools or into the secondary schools either. We hear that there is a religion of the five per cents. I do not know whether there is or there is not, but there certainly can be no education of the five per cents. 1171 Hon. Gentlemen opposed to education frequently sneer that it is becoming ineffective and futile. I have in my hand an interesting return which enables me to prove that even looked at from the point of view of £ s. d., expenditure upon education does produce a real substantial return. The curve of crime in this country illustrates the very remarkable fact that since the Education Act of 1872 was passed, and since the main body of working-class children have been allowed to enter the portals of the temple of education, the number of convictions for crime of various kinds has declined very remarkably. May I give some of the figures? In 1870 the number of committals to various reformatory and industrial schools was something like 2,924. After having gone up a good deal, they came down in 1010 to 5,536, and in 1920 to 3,196. In 1870 there were committed to prison 8,619 boys and 1,379 girls, making a total of 10,000 boys and girls. In 1910 only 48 boys and three girls were committed to prison, and in 1919, out of a very much larger population, let the House remember, only 25 boys and no girls were committed to prison. That is fairly eloquent proof that elementary education has had a very substantial result in raising the tone and moral of the country generally. It has made better citizens, and, through making better citizens, has produced a return to the State that cannot be computed in mere terms of pounds, shillings and pence.
We who sit on this side of the House hold it as an inalienable right that every child born in the State should be guaranteed an absolutely full and free education to the utmost ability of the State to give it, and to that end we make two points: First, an efficient system of education must provide efficient and well-trained teachers. We believe that you cannot secure an efficient system of education unless the teachers whom you employ are not only properly educated, but are also well trained and well paid. The suggestion made in the Gcddes Report in regard to compelling teachers to submit to a five per cent. reduction of their salaries for the provision of a pension fund is, in our judgment, an indirect method of getting behind the Burnham Committee's Report. It is rather mean tactics. It is playing the 1172 game rather low to carry through indirectly a reduction in the teachers' salaries after the Government itself has set up a Standing Committee representative of all sides interested to discuss the matter.
I now turn to the Geddes Report itself, and I should like to draw from it some curious comparisons illustrating the point of view of the gentlemen on the Committee, as to whom I have no unkind words to say. I daresay that they are highly efficient people in business, but to my mind they are thoroughly incompetent to discuss the question of education at all. They draw attention to the forecast of expenditure for next year upon elementary education, and they point out that, taking the average attendance, the expenditure per child amounts to £12 7s. 6d., which, be it observed, covers salaries of teachers, loan charges, schools for defective children, medical inspection and treatment, provision of meals, administration and other expenditure. The expenditure upon secondary education, covering like services, amounts to £18 14s. per head. This, the Geddes Report declares, is one of the means whereby saving can be effected. I absolutely challenge such a statement. The point of view of the Geddes Committee is that this cost is excessive.
May I compare the expenditure upon the education of working-class children in the elementary schools with the expenditure upon the education of children of the very well-to-do at Dartmouth. Everyone knows that cadets are drawn from the well-to-do and wealthy classes. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If hon. Members will take the trouble to read the Report itself, page 24, they will observe that there are very few students in the college being maintained out of other than their own private resources. The cost amounts to £462 per cadet, exclusive, be it observed, of expenditure upon the College building, whereas school buildings are included in the £12 7s. 6d. per child in the elementary schools. Let me give another example. There were at Dartmouth 445 students, and they had a staff of 529. They take some looking after there. Out of a staff of 529, 41 were teachers; 41 into 445 gives us an average of between 10 and 11 per teacher. The Geddes Committee go into our elementary schools and triumphantly 1173 declare that there are only 32 pupils per teacher, and, presumably because these children belong to working-class homes, the average per teacher must be raised to 50. Speaking with some little knowledge of the teacher myself, and as one who has had children with him in the class room, I say that this is an absolutely impossible proposition. You cannot educate children like that. You merely talk to them; you do not educate them. If that is going to be the basis of our future education, then it is going to be of a very disastrous kind indeed. May I make a further comparison? When it comes to training reserves in the Army, we have no such compunction about cost. Under the present system, boys in the Reserve receive three years' training, serve seven years with the colours, and then two years in the Reserves. The cost of training each of these boys for a period of three years is £741. The cost of training the young teacher for a university college to take charge of young minds in elementary schools only amounts to £79, and here are boys being trained to blow out other people's brains and the cost per year is £200 each. I think the time has come when we should challenge this philosophy entirely.
May I take another point? I have just touched lightly on the proposal for introducing a system of larger classes into the schools. I am speaking now as one who has had the most acute sympathy with the children who are far removed from the schools in the more populated area and who live far away on the countryside. The proposal of the Geddes Report with regard to closing schools with an attendance of under 100 is a monstrous proposition. I am a member of the Glamorgan Education Committee, and I know that in my area there are villages quite four miles from the nearest school. How can you expect children under seven years of age to walk mile after mile, or to walk four miles to school and four miles back, and often sit in their wet clothes all day. I protest against such a monstrous proposal.
May I make one last point? The Geddes Report makes the suggestion that the time has come when the parents of children who belong to affluent homes should pay for the cost of the education of their children on account of their affluence. Personally, I believe in a democratic system of education, and I 1174 think the whole of our scholarships should be made as free as possible to the sons of the rich as well as to the sons of the poor. I hate any differentiation in regard to an educational system, and I think the Minister of Education will agree with me on that point. I want to point out that if we are to accept so invidious a method of distinguishing between one child and another, has the time not arrived when those who get education for the higher posts in the Army and Navy should not make a far more substantial contribution than the modest sum they are now paying?
The scholarship system has been the only method whereby the sons of poor parents might have a chance of secondary and higher education. If I may be allowed a personal reference, it is that probably I myself would have gone into a coal pit and remained there had it not been for the fact that I was fortunate enough to secure a scholarship of this kind. These scholarships are hopelessly inadequate in number, and I can recall boys who were endowed with brilliant intellects, who were far more capable as to their ability than I, who have been condemned by reason of their poverty to go into the various mines in the neighbourhood, not because they were unable to make the best of education if they had been given the opportunity, but because their poverty condemned them to go there. I want to draw attention to the Report presented by the Commission which inquired into the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which was published last Thursday or Friday. I would like the House to note the very remarkable tribute that is paid to the kind of work done in the various day schools of the country. On page 132 of that Report I read:The number of poor men in residence at both Universities increased materially during the last half of the nineteenth Century. This increase has been very rapid in recent years owing to the improvement of local schools, with the assistance of grants from local education authorities, and to the consequent success of boys from those schools in competing for open scholarships at the Universities.If the Geddes Report be acted upon, this paragraph will cease to be true in the coming year. The Report continues:We have received returns with regard to the extent to which boys from the less expensive schools passed to the two Univer- 1175 sities in the two years before the War. These returns show that out of a total number of 892 scholarships and exhibitions awarded at Oxford and Cambridge in those two years together to boys from schools in the United Kingdom no fewer than 425, or nearly 50 per cent., were won by boys from the cheaper boarding schools (with fees not exceeding £80 a year), or from day schools with fees exceeding £10 a year but providing education, nevertheless, at a very moderate cost, while 157, or not far short of 20 per cent., were won by boys from the cheapest day schools with either no fees at all or fees not exceeding £10 a year.Here we have the most eloquent tribute I have read for years to the capacity of people who belong to the lower middle class and the working class to produce among them children of talent who, given the opportunity, will hold their own with the children of the wealthy. Our demand, therefore, is that these facilities shall not be reduced, but that they shall be increased, so that in the great competition for social service those who belong to the lower gradations of society shall have the same chance to compete as those who belong to the more favourably disposed and endowed. The fight of to-morrow as between the nations is going to depend not so much upon our guns and our battlements or upon our battleships, but it is going to depend upon the efficiency of the young in the classroom and in the laboratory. Therefore it is of the utmost importance that in our educational system at this initial stage after the Great War has passed, in the new rivalry of nations, our children shall not be handicapped as compared with the children of other countries, although that is the case at this particular moment.
The following is a comparative table showing the percentage of attendance at technical schools in the leading countries: Denmark, 23.8 per cent.; Japan, 11.6: Holland, 11.4; United States of America, 8.6. In this list England holds the seventh place, which is not a very honourable position, and does not reflect very much credit upon us. It shows for us a menace that perhaps very few outside these walls have yet realised. I make the claim boldly that the Minister of Education should set his face against any attempt to whittle down the provision for education in this country. We are not only not content with making a retrogressive movement, but we make a bold demand for a progressive movement. We are 1176 living in new times, and in the words of Lowell:New occasions teach new duties;Time makes ancient good uncouth;They must ever up and onwardWho would keep abreast of Truth.The only way in which this country can keep abreast of the newer truths and general wealth of knowledge is by enabling our boys and girls in the day schools, the secondary schools and the universities to be allowed to enter into the portals of knowledge without any artificial barriers being placed in their way.
I observed with some interest the other day that my distinguished fellow-countrymen who presides over the destinies of this House ventured to take his place in the Sabbath school, and the lesson before him was the action of the unjust workmen towards the heir to the vineyard. The children of all nations are the heirs to a great heritage; which no one has a right to deprive them of. They are the heirs to the literature of all the ages, heirs to the scientific thought of all the ages, heirs to the artistic accomplishments of all the ages. We declare that the Prime Minister's friends on the opposite side of the House have no right to deprive these heirs of their inalienable heritage. We demand that working class children, middle class children, in fact all children should be provided with facilities to educate themselves, so that they may give a more efficient service to the community of to-morrow. We are prepared to co-operate with the Minister of Education in any steps he may take to make our national system of education more efficient in that direction.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HURST
The hon. Member who has just spoken is quite mistaken if he thinks that interest in education is confined to one class and to one party in this House. The solicitude of some hon. Members for education since the publication of the Geddes Report is very remarkable, and now it seems to be much more deep-seated than anyone could have anticipated. As a matter of fact, the middle classes are accustomed to make much greater sacrifices and to stint themselves more in order to give their children a good education than the parents of the children of the working classes, who receive education at the cost of the general community. I think everyone appreciates the value of education. 1177 What they appear to doubt is whether the money spent upon education turns out the beet results, and whether we are really getting full value for the money which is being spent. Opinion in regard to the cost of education has been very strong since the publication of the Geddes Report, and we cannot exclude the idea of cutting down expenditure upon education. You meet employer after employer who will tell you that the ordinary boy or girl cannot write so well as would-be clerks could a generation ago. Certainly reading, writing and arithmetic do not stand so high as they used to do. I think the reason for this is that the curriculum in the schools is overcrowded in many instances.
Another reason why many people are sceptical as to the expenditure is because the great bulk of the community, in spite of the better system of education, show less interest in public and foreign affairs than was the case in Victorian days, when nothing or, at any rate, very little was spent upon education by the State. If a man looks back upon the spacious times of Queen Victoria, particularly in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, before the days of free education, he will find there was intense interest displayed by working people in education, for those were the days when mechanics' institutes and free libraries grew up in all our great towns, and when provincial Universities were established. The interest of the working classes in those times in foreign affairs was most intense. For instance, they followed closely the war between North and South in the United States of America, and they displayed great sympathy for men like Kossuth and Garibaldi, whereas to-day most of the leading men abroad are unknown to them, and possibly at the present minute the only foreigner who enjoys any celebrity is Georges Carpentier. The real master minds overseas to-day are not recognised by the great bulk of the population. That is due, I think, to two main causes-first, the enormous popularity of amusements and, secondly, the action of a Press which does not cater for the popular intellect at all, but which simply appeals to its readers by means of light articles on amusements, and does not lead them to take a deeper interest in the more serious politics of the day. The point I am making is not that education is a bad thing, but simply that at the present 1178 time there is this scepticism with regard to the use of education. The duty of Parliament and the Minister of Educational am not suggesting less money should be spent—is to follow a policy with regard to education which outweighs this very great handicap existing at the present time to the cause of education in England. We must have the most perfect system of education possible, first, because we are a democracy, and secondly, because, as a democracy, upon our shoulders lie the obligations of Empires. It is perfectly true that at the present time Labour is not fit to govern.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HURST
What we have to do is to so perfect our system of education as to make Labour less unfit to govern. That being so, I think both the House and the country will welcome the concessions which the Government have made to the cause of education in not adopting all the recommendations of the Geddes Report. The great body of public opinion in England is with the Government in their decision to continue the education of children under six, but that is not literally a policy of education at all. A child under six cannot be educated. The advantage of allowing such children to go to school is that it keeps them off the streets and out of the kitchen. It is a social need and not an educational need at all. Then so far as the teachers' pay is concerned, I think the country will welcome the decision of the Government not to abate that pay—[An HON. MEMBER: "They are doing so!"]—because the work the teachers are doing is of enormous value, as anyone who is well acquainted with life in our great towns must realise, for they and they alone in many industrial areas uphold the torch of civilisation amid the most difficult and hostile surroundings. Another point in favour of keeping up the teachers' pay is that unless you give the teachers good pay to-day you will not attract good boys and good girls into the profession. I was very much struck by an observation made to me by a head teacher in Lancashire some years ago in one of our cotton textile towns. He said it was extraordinary that the brightest boys and girls in the schools at Oldham, Rochdale and similar places would far rather go into the mill than into the teaching profession. It is a serious thing that the great practice of teaching should be in the 1179 hands of boys and girls in these districts who are less well intellectually endowed.
That brings me to a suggestion I have to make to the Minister. It would be well if something could be done to induce more young men and women from the Universities to go in for teaching in the elementary, schools. A very large number of girls at the Universities will, in the present state of trade, find many careers which were open to them during the War now closed to them. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able not only by holding out financial inducements, but by holding out the inducement of public spirit to entice a larger number of girls from the Universities to take up teaching in the elementary schools. Something could be done to make the training of teachers more attractive and more useful for them in the work they will have to undertake. Might not something be done to enable them to travel and see something of life in parts of the country other than where they were born? I think it would be an enormous advantage to them, I was told a few days ago by some of the head teachers in Manchester that there are actually girls going into the training colleges to train as elementary school teachers who have never seen the sea. If that is the case in a city like Manchester in the year 1922, it is hopeless to imagine that any boy or girl can teach well in a school who, during his or her growing life, has hardly been in a railway train and has never even seen the sea. Very much might be done to improve the training of elementary teachers by enabling them to travel a little bit more and by giving them a taste for those advantages which are normally associated with University education.
I do not think we ought to endorse too passionately the plea of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken against cutting down expenditure. I am sure we have listened to him with all respect, but of course we know that at the present time it is far better to have the country half educated and solvent than to have it well educated and bankrupt. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well I think that is a truism. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must ask hon. Members to be more patient. I should have thought that one of the first requisites for education was a capacity to listen.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HURST
I have discussed with the representatives of practically every Teachers' Union and Association in Lancashire the question where it is possible to make economies in our educational system without cutting down its efficiency. Of course, the House will realise that in these days it is vital to have economy, and the real task which the Minister of Education has before him—and I do not envy him the task, for I quite realise how extraordinarily difficult it is—is to distinguish that which is essential from that which is not essential, to discover what are the frills and embroideries of education about which we hear so much on the platform, but which it is so difficult to discover in practice. One frill no doubt is providing luxuries like dancing classes for boys and girls out of the rates. If there are any frills of that sort they can, of course, be cut down. But the difficulty is to distinguish what is a luxury from what is a necessity. At first sight it might be suggested that art-teaching is a luxury and not a necessity. I myself at one time was rather impressed by that argument, but when one looks into the type of education carried on in our art schools, and realises the enormous industrial value of those schools, that argument does not bear examination. A few weeks ago I went through the Municipal Art School in Manchester and I was amazed at the economic value of the art teaching given there. During the last few years, owing to our art education, we have been able to capture from the French the leadership in the art of designing for calico-printing—and now we do not go to France for our best designs. We are able to get them in England. It is the same with respect to pottery and in regard to advertisements by posters. These schools of art have performed a function which can by no means be termed a luxury, seeing they have proved to be so essential to the economic prosperity of our country.
I hope the Minister will be able to say something as to the possibility of reviving the competitive Exhibition in Art which used to be held at small expense at the Victoria and Albert Museum before the War, and I trust he will tell us whether it is his intention or not to reappoint the Chief Inspector of Art in this country, with a view to co-ordinating art teaching particularly in industrial designs and in 1181 the interest of art progress in this country. I think also it would be a very great advantage to the schools interested if the Minister can say what is going to be done with the Secondary Schools. Many High Schools are anxious with regard to the continuation of the Government grant. I understand that for five years the grant is to be continued to schools of the type of the Manchester High School for Girls, whose welfare depends so largely on what they get from the Government, and whose services in our great cities are so extraordinary valuable. If the Minister of Education can give us information on this point it will be exceedingly welcome. Let me say something about the educational ladder. My hon. Friend who spoke last laid very great emphasis on the importance of giving free scholarships enabling a very much larger proportion of the children of the working classes to percolate through the Secondary Schools to the Universities. The existence of an educational ladder is, of course, essential to a well-governed democracy, and I myself, who have benefited by the existence of this ladder to a very large extent, would be the last person to deny its use. At the same time one could carry that process too far, and if 25 per cent. of the free places in the Secondary Schools are given to scholars from Elementary Schools, it seems a very liberal allowance. My own experience is different from that of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last. My belief and experience is that any boy or any girl, at the present time, with a high standard of intelligence can make his or her way by scholarships from the Elementary School to the Secondary School, and from the Secondary School to the University. I can say that in the Grammar School of my native town there was not a boy of any reasonable ability who could not obtain a scholarship or exhibition at Oxford or Cambridge, or at some of the new Universities.
There is no great advantage in turning a large number of boys and girls who are not particularly brilliant into occupations which are already overcrowded, and taking them away from callings where the need for men and women of capacity is very great indeed. You are depriving the workshops of brains, and transferring those brains into other channels, where the demand is very limited and the supply very great. I 1182 hope that one aim of the Board of Education will be to give the greatest elasticity to the different districts of the country to develop their own ideas of education. There are some agricultural districts where, no doubt, vocational training will appeal greatly to the mass of the people. Each district has its own needs. It is a mistake to stereotype one system of education and to make it applicable to all sorts and conditions of men and to all types of population, whether they are industrial or professional or agricultural. There is one common factor which ought to exist in education which does not exist at the present time, that is what is sometimes called civics, that is to say, the teaching of how we are governed. There is a glowing account of how civics are taught in Switzerland in Lord Bryce's book on "Democracy." We should have more civics taught in England, and it is possible to teach it in a non-partisan fashion. Every boy should know how the country is governed, what Parliament is, and how much we owe to the fighting services, who have made our Empire what it is. If we had civics taught, we would never have boys growing up with ideas such as characterised the conscientious objectors during the late War.
It was curious to hear the hon. Gentleman who last spoke, and who distinguished himself as a conscientious objector, asking for a better system of education than we have now. I agree we ought to have a far better system than we have now, because, if we had, there would be no conscientious objectors at all. If those boys and girls were brought up to realise what democracy means and how it rests upon Parliament, they would be content to have it resting upon Parliament and would not seek to attempt unconstitutional methods, such as direct action. I hope the Ministry of Education will encourage voluntary associations like Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, for they are real elements of hope in our educational system at the present time. I hope we can look forward to the time when every boy will become a Boy Scout and when he will as naturally pass into the Territorial Army when he grows up. Then we should have every man ready to be a soldier should the need arise. I am afraid I have detained the House at some length, and these are rather disjointed observations, but this is a sub- 1183 ject which appeals to me as to all classes and parties at the present time. We are very fortunate in having as Minister of Education one who has shown himself a great scholar and a writer of delightful books. I hope he will continue to make a stand for what is the true cause of education in our country, and thereby place the future well-being and contentment of our population on firmer and more sound foundations than they rest upon at the present time.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
There is one point on which I am agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, that is in failing to discover any logical sequence between the various propositions he has enunciated. I do not know, after listening most carefully to his speech, whether he thinks that the whole of our educational development during the last 50 years has been a backward and unfruitful one. He says that the working classes have lost interest in foreign policy. I have been a great deal longer in public life than he has, and I have never known a time in which the interest of the great bulk of our people in international relationships, looked at in their widest sense, has been more acute, more vivid and more universal. His idea apparently is to establish a system of education—if you could call it education—in which everyone would be fit—that is the aim and object he has in view—to wield a musket and take some part in military operations. I can only gather that from what he has said, and as an accompaniment and concommitant to that, he thinks the Labour party would be sufficiently educated to be entrusted with the government of the country. In what way the one proposition is to be harmonised with the other he has left the House completely in the dark. I do not know if it is necessary to pursue further the hon. Gentleman's devious and somewhat inconsistent theories on an occasion like this.
My object in rising is to impress if I can—but I do not think it needs to be impressed on my right hon. Friend the Minister for Education—the extreme and, indeed, criminal inexpediency at this time of cutting down education. I agree with almost everything that was said in the admirable speech, if he will allow me to 1184 say so, of the hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate, and I think I may be allowed to reinforce his general proposition by some special arguments which have been deeply impressed upon me in the course of the last two and a half years, while I have had the honour of presiding over the Commission which has just reported on the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. That Report, which has not had time yet to percolate into the minds of the people at large, is not only, on the whole, a substantial vindication of those two ancient Universities and the manner in which during the last generation, at any rate, they have discharged their trust, but it is—and this is much more important—a tribute based upon evidence and not upon speculation, after the most careful and meticulous inquiry, to the enormous advances which have been made as a result of the educational reforms which Parliament has sanctioned The hon. and learned Member who has just sat down spoke rather slightingly, I think, of the educational ladder.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I quite accept what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. The educational ladder has been slowly built up in the last 50 years, but it is still at many stages blocked, obstructed, and inoperative. I myself could never have obtained even a foothold in public life or even in professional life had it not been for the pious foresight of benefactors, and I believe that that is the case with a very large number of other people. I was lucky enough to find a school in which progress upwards to the University was rendered possible. But take the case of a boy even now in our elementary schools. The system of scholarships and the facilities offered for the promotion of boys with brains and faculties have been enormously increased at the public expense. Everybody who is familiar with the facts—and they have been brought home to me by listening to the evidence given before this Commission—knows that there is at certain stages a blockage, and the stage at which—I make this suggestion to my right hon. Friend—and the stage where the blockade is most serious and where it prevents boys of brains and potential 1185 faculties for progress from getting on to the ladder, is between the primary and the secondary schools. I am sure everyone with practical experience of education will agree with this. Where a boy gets a secondary school education, he has a good chance, with the scholarships and the facilities offered him by benefactors, of being able to push forward. There is a very good chance of his getting a University education. But there is a serious gap between our primary schools and that which ought to be the next stage on the road—the Secondary School and the University. It is, of course, not easy, and it certainly cannot be done without money, to provide a sufficient number of gangways and bridges to enable that blockage to be overcome, but I am sure if I were asked to say what is at this moment the most serious defect in our educational system I would say it is at that stage.
Let me enlarge a little upon the more general aspect of our educational system. I am speaking now from the knowledge and experience I have gained through presiding over this prolonged inquiry. As I have said, I think the ancient Universities have come out of the ordeal very well indeed. Most of the great reforms which have been made during the last 50 years by those Universities have been spontaneous. They have been initiated by them, and have not been forced upon them by Parliament or from outside, and on the whole they can render a very good account of their stewardship of the great national resources with which they are entrusted. That is true, but by far the most gratifying thing which was revealed in the inquiry we held is the fact—I think the figures were mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend who has just sat down—that the scholarships at the University, which used to be almost the preserves of the great Public School, have now, in a proportion of very nearly 50 per cent., been won by boys who have served their educational apprenticeships in the primary and secondary schools. The notion that Oxford and Cambridge are the preserves of the rich, and that their advantages are confined in any substantial degree to any privileged class, is a complete misapprehension. At this moment there is a very large minority of students at those Universities who could 1186 not have gone there without assistance in the form of scholarships or otherwise. I am sure in my own old college, which has had more than its fair share of the honours of the University, it has been to a very large extent because it has followed the excellent example of its wise administrators, now nearly a hundred years ago, of throwing open scholarships to everyone, and we have acted entirely on the principle of detur digniori. Other colleges have followed suit, and the University in that respect is on a level footing. There has never been a better vindication of the principle of free, open, unjobbed and unfavoured competition than has been accorded by the two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge during the last. 50 years.
I say to my hon. Friend who spoke so well at the beginning of the Debate that there is no obstacle whatsoever to a boy of brains, of faculty, of capacity of promise rising to the position of scholar, fellow, teacher, of the ancient universities, except—and it is a very-serious exception—the difficulty of passing: from the Elementary to the Secondary Schools. Beyond that the course is absolutely clear, and we all know the magnificent output of intellectual work,, both in the domain of teaching and also in the domain of research, that some of the most distinguished, indeed a very large proportion of the most distinguished, both of our teachers and of our men of research have contributed to the University, climbing to it through the Secondary School.
Was there ever a moment in history when it would be a more fatal and more suicidal step to cut down facilities which, though not meagre, are certainly not by any means ample enough for this great national purpose—a purpose that does not benefit any particular class more than another—of securing for the best intellectual life of the nation, the boys and girls who are most fitted to profit by it, and not only to profit by it themselves, but to exploit and develop it for the good of the community at large? I can assure the House that I do not believe at this moment, in the conditions in which wo live—conditions which have been modified, in some respects transformed, by the experience of the War— 1187 there is any greater need for this country, not only for the purpose of holding its own position in the markets of the world, but in the international councils of Europe and the fullest and freest development of its own national life—I do not defend administrative waste in any sense—but looking at the thing as a whole, there is no greater national or international need than for this country wisely, far-sightedly and not in any sense waste-fully, to devote more and more of our resources in giving these boys and girls, with whom lies the promise of the future, every possible facility for increasing their intellectual wealth and thereby adding to the store of the wealth of the community.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Fisher)
I am sure the House has listened with great pleasure to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in which argument has been reinforced by the fruitful variety of experience which he has gathered as Chairman of the Commission which has recently been investigating the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. I should like to take this opportunity of tendering to him my most sincere thanks for his kindness in undertaking the task of conducting so difficult and onerous an investigation and for the character and quality of the Report which has been issued. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded in eloquent, but not, I think, unjustified, terms to the great work which has been and is being achieved by the two ancient Universities. It is no surprise to me, though it has been a great satisfaction, to find that the Commission, after its careful investigation, has discovered so little to reprehend in the organisation and work of these two ancient institutions. In fact, it has given them a clean bill of health. The principal defects, so far as I can gather from a perusal of the Report, which the Commissioners have discovered in Oxford and Cambridge are poverty and overwork. I am glad to be able to announce that, in consequence of the character of the Report, the Government has lost no time in putting the two Universities upon the Treasury list for grants, and that the £30,000 which during the last two years has been granted to them as an exceptional and non-recurring grant may now be regarded as a recurrent 1188 grant which will be made year by year. I am well aware that the grant of £30,000 does not satisfy the full aspirations of the Committee. They are asking for a grant of £110,000 to each University. I am, of course, not in a position to make any pronouncement in respect of those proposals. They will have to be carefully examined by the University Grants Committee. It is only after they have reported their view that any action can be taken.
I agree that one of the most remarkable features in the development of higher academic life in this country has been the improvement in the educational ladder. It is true there are still blocks. In my view there are two places where these blocks have not been removed. In the first place, there is the obstruction which occurs at the end of the elementary school period. It is true that a very large number of boys and girls who are qualified to profit by secondary education, at any rate up to the age of 16, are prevented from so profiting by the scantiness of the secondary school provision in the country. Only last year, in Manchester, I was informed that no fewer than three thousand boys and girls had passed the intellectual test which was regarded as a sufficient indication of their capacity to profit by secondary school education, whose parents were perfectly willing to keep them at a secondary school until the age of sixteen, but for whom places could not be found. A few weeks ago I was talking to the principal of a day continuation school in London, who told me she considered that 42 per cent. of the pupils under her care would be fitted to profit by a full secondary school education. There is, therefore, no doubt whatever that we could very easily double the free places in our secondary schools which are allotted to boys and girls from elementary schools without in any way lowering the quality of secondary school education, and there is nothing I more deeply regret in the present financial stringency than the necessity it imposes on the Board of Education to arrest for the moment the development of secondary schools. But while we are considering this topic, do not let us be unduly despondent. The number of boys and girls in our grant-aided secondary schools has nearly doubled in the last few years, and something between 67 and 70 per cent. of the pupils in these secondary schools 1189 have come up from the elementary schools. There has, therefore, been a very considerable broadening of the avenue from the elementary school into the secondary, although it is by no means yet sufficiently broad to meet the needs of the country as a whole.
But there is a second point in the educational ladder where I think there is still much improvement to be hoped for, and that is during the later stages of elementary school life, between the ages of 16 and 18. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend took any evidence on that point, but certainly it is my impression that one of the weakest spots in our whole educational system lies just in that region—in the region of the later secondary school education—and it has been one of my principal objects since I came to the Board to strengthen and encourage the work in the upper portion of our secondary schools, and in that way to enable a freer and broader passage to be made between the secondary schools and the universities. I venture to think that the establishment of grants for advanced courses in the grant-aided secondary schools has had a very considerable and very beneficial influence in that direction.
As I listened to the eloquent speech of the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones), I could not help feeling that it was directed to the wrong address. If the late Member for Cambridge (Sir E. Geddes) had been standing at this Box instead of the Minister of Education, I could imagine he would have been withered by the corrosive eloquence of the hon. Gentleman. May I observe to the hon. Gentleman that an attack upon the educational recommendations of the Geddes Committee is not an attack upon the Government, because the Government have not accepted the recommendations of the Committee; at least, they have accepted only a very small portion of those recommendations. The hon. Member for Caerphilly commented, not at very great length, but with some severity, upon the proposal to ask teachers to make a contribution towards superannuation. I very much regret that, owing to the financial situation of the country, it is, in my opinion, desirable to take that step; regret, not because I think it is inequitable, but because I am very anxious that the teaching profession should lose any sense of grievance. For a long time past 1190 they have been underpaid and undervalued, and I consider, and I have always considered, not only that it was the height of political imprudence and a great mark of lack of statecraft to underpay the teachers of the country, but that the most obvious way of improving the national system of education was to improve the remuneration and the status of the teachers, and to attract the best ability possible into the service of the schools. Consequently, I am very reluctant to acquiesce in any step which may spread a sense of injustice among the teachers.
But let us look at the facts. In 1917 the average income of a pensionable elementary teacher was £109. In 1924, with the increments which will accrue under the Burnham arrangement, the average income will be £275. There has been no analogous increase, so far as I know, in any other part of the public service. If you take the lower grades of the permanent Civil Service, the average increase has been far less—99 per cent. as against something like 152 per cent., and the salary conditions since the Superannuation Bill was introduced in 1918 have changed very greatly to the advantage of the teacher. This great improvement in the salary conditions of the teachers, falsifying as it does, to a very large extent, the estimates on the basis of which the House voted the Superannuation Bill of 1918, does justify the Government in considering a revision of the Teachers' Superannuation Act. It is very disagreeable for anybody with a small income to be called upon to make a contribution amounting to 5 per cent. of that income, when the contribution is not expected. I think we should all very much dislike it. But let us remember that the teachers, lecturers, and professors in those universities which are fortunate enough to have a pension system—Oxford and Cambridge are not so fortunate—normally make a 5 per cent. contribution to that pension scheme; let us remember that the masters in those public schools which are fortunate enough to have a pension system make a contribution of 5 per cent. to their pensions, and I think we shall realise that teachers are not being singled out from other members of their own profession. If you take a very wide view of the situation they are, if anything, being singled out to their own advantage 1191 as against other members of the public service.
We are bound to view the educational position in the light of the immediate economic necessities of the country, and I venture to ask the friends of education on the opposite benches, and the friends of the teachers, to use their influence to get teachers to regard this proposal, not, indeed, with enthusiasm—that I cannot expect—but, at any rate, with acquiescence.
§ Mr. FISHER
No, nothing has come into effect; it is only a proposal. The House will have a full opportunity of discussing it when the proposal comes forward. I merely mention it because the hon. Member for Caerphilly raised the question in his speech. Let me con-elude by emphasising the point brought out by the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith)—the importance of maintaining our public system of education intact. We have had to forgo, indeed, owing to financial difficulties, many of the developments which were provided for under the Education Act, 1918, but it is not true, as was said by the hon. Member for Caerphilly, that the Act lies derelict on the Statute Book. There are 54 Sections in the Act, three of which only have not been put into execution. I admit that these three Sections are most important, but a great deal of progress has been accomplished under the Act. For instance, there has been much expansion in medical treatment. You have only to look at a map of the London clinics in the year 1921, and compare it with a map of London clinics in 1918, to see the great progress which has been achieved. For the first time this great Metropolis has made full and ample provision for treating all the minor ailments of children in the London area, and that, I consider, is a very considerable achievement.
But we must not let the system of education down. Although we profess to be a stupid race, we are, in fact, a very gifted race, a very versatile race, and, 1192 although we do not generally believe it, a very artistic and musical race. Every year great gifts are squandered in this country for lack of due educational facilities. We have experienced in the course of our history one great national misfortune. We grew rich too rapidly at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century; we became industrialised too rapidly; we are perhaps over industrialised now; and we have to fight against the conditions created by the huge and hideous cities of toil which have grown up among us, and the schools and the churches are our great agencies for the maintenance of civilisation against the forces of barbarism and of ignorance with which we are continually fighting.
I am confident that the people of this country will claim to have a good system of education and that they will be content with nothing less, but I am all in favour of carrying out such administrative economies as may be compatible with a good system of education. I think there is a very considerable field for economy in education without any material sacrifice of educational interests; but if you want economies to be carried out effectually they must be carried out deliberately. You cannot carry out a great scheme of economies in such an important field of social service if you are tempted to carry it out at one blow. You have to count your steps as you go, and I feel we cannot be too careful, and local education authorities cannot be too careful, as to the steps they take to reduce national expenditure. When those steps are taken, let them be taken with deliberation, and with circumspection, and only after the field has been carefully surveyed. It is true that we have made very rapid progress in the last few years, and, consequently, it is no doubt true that in certain quarters there has been expenditure which perhaps can hardly be justified; but I am convinced that if we take a broad view of the educational system of the country, from the elementary schools to the universities, and if we make due allowance, as we are bound to, for necessary imperfections in a teaching staff which has too long been paid at a very low rate, we shall have no need to be dissatisfied. It is quite true that the initial expenditure on education—and 70 per cent. of that expenditure is accounted for by salaries—does not bring in, and cannot be expected to bring in, an immediate 1193 and palpable result. If you are going to satisfy yourselves upon the vital problem as to whether the policy of larger expenditure on education is likely to be successful or not, I think you must look principally to two places in the educational system. You must look, in the first place, to the quality of the recruits who are coming into the training colleges, and, in the second place, to the quality of the work which is being turned out by the universities.
If you look to the training colleges, you will find that the improvement in the prospects as regards remuneration of teachers is attracting into the teaching profession men and women of higher intellectual qualifications, and that, in itself, is a justification for the improved rates. If you look to the universities, you will find that they are making contributions to learning and to science exceeding in quality and amount the tribute which the universities have paid to the sum of European science and learning in previous times. There is a remarkable passage in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge relating to the services rendered by the two great Universities during the War. These services were not confined to services in the field. In every branch of every science connected with war, the laboratories of the universities contributed an invaluable quota. When we are considering whether it is wise or unwise to maintain our educational system at its present level of cost and efficiency, let me say that to my knowledge there are researches proceeding in the laboratories of this country which, if they realise the hopes of the scientific men engaged upon them, will pay the country over and over again for the cost of its educational system. I am, of course, freely told in the Press that I am an enthusiast whose words cannot be trusted in this matter. I am not ashamed of my enthusiasm for education. I believe that education is the greatest and surest investment that we can make. I think we should be acting very foolishly if we surrendered our faith in the schools and colleges of the country. Never has there been greater zeal, greater devotion, greater capacity in the teaching profession. If you want to realise something of the work which is done in our elementary schools, let me ask you to read the publications of such an elementary schoolmaster 1194 as Mr. Lamborn or Mr. Sampson. They will show that elementary schoolmasters are capable of writing brilliant, books on educational subjects and inspiring real enthusiasm in their pupils.
I need not advertise the peculiar merit of our secondary schools in this country. It is, of course, as I freely admit, a somewhat expensive system, but why is it expensive? It is expensive, very largely, because our notions of secondary education in this country are largely dominated by the traditions of the great and famous public schools. We are not content in this country with a mere barrack of class-rooms. We want our boys to play cricket and football, and we want our girls to have opportunities for athletic exercise as well. If you develop the social and athletic side of secondary school life, you have, of course, to arrange for playgrounds, and that means a certain amount of expense, but I venture to think that the money so expended is not wasted, and I do not think it is to be regretted. I notice that the Geddes Committee laid, and I think properly laid, great stress upon the proposition that boys and girls should not be pressed on into our secondary schools unless they were really qualified to profit by the education. I entirely subscribe to that doctrine. But when we are considering whether we are making too large a provision for secondary schools in this country, let me remind the House of a figure. In this country at the present moment, in spite of the very great development of the last four years, we have about 10 children per 1,000 of the population enjoying the benefits of a secondary school education in the grant-aided secondary schools. In America and in Prussia the proportion is 15. If you consider, not the proportion of children in the secondary schools, but the proportion of boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 18, the figures are, for America 15, and for England and Wales four. I do not, therefore, think that on that showing we can claim to have made an extravagant provision for the education of boys and girls after the elementary school stage.
§ Mr. FISHER
Yes. Now I come to the last point which was raised, namely, whether we are getting full value for our 1195 education. The hon. Member who raised this point cited, as so many speakers do, the opinion which is often expressed that the education now given is not what it was in the "good old spacious days of Queen Victoria." There has never been a generation in the history of this country which has not believed that it was degenerate. Two years before Wolfe won his immortal victory on the heights of Abraham, and Clive won for us the Indian Empire, a Cambridge don published a heavy treatise pointing out that Englishmen were degenerate, that they had lost all the fine qualities of their ancestors, and that the nation was rapidly going downhill. I am always being told that the education given in our schools and universities is not what it was—that British boys have ceased to learn to spell. When did they know how to spell? They have never known how to spell, and they never will know—and it is not so very important either. I attach, if I may be allowed to say so, the lowest possible value to the virtues of orthography. I consider that what is necessary is that a boy should know how to read and to write fluently, be able to calculate, and should have a living, vivid interest in books and in the things that are worth having. I believe that, if you examine the criticisms which are passed upon the products of our elementary schools, you will find that in reality they resolve themselves into a criticism of what is admittedly the great defect in the educational system of this, and, indeed, of almost all countries. I allude to the fact that the provision for post-elementary education is entirely insufficient. What is our system? We spend millions on elementary schools, and our elementary schools are often very good, though they vary very greatly in quality. I remember that a Chief Inspector of the Board of Education, the lamented Mr. Dale—who knew, perhaps, more about the elementary schools of this country than anyone else—when, on first going to the Board of Education, I asked him his opinion about the elementary schools, said, "There is as great a difference between one elementary school and another as there is between an elementary school and Eton," and that is perfectly true. Our elementary schools do vary in quality, but all my evidence goes to show that there has 1196 been not only a marked improvement in the education given in our elementary schools during the last 30 years, and particularly during the last 10 years, but that there is no sphere of social work in which the improvement is equally clear and definite. Some years ago Mr. Pease, now Lord Gainford, when at the Board of Education, conducted an inquiry in the County of Lancaster as to the alleged deficiencies of elementary school pupils in the three R's. The result of that inquiry was to show that, so far from there being any evidence of deficiency, there was evidence, on the contrary, of considerable progress.
I revert to my point, which is that the criticism of the educational product of our elementary schools is generally not a criticism of the elementary school itself, but a criticism of the absence of teaching after the elementary school is passed. Boys and girls go out into what is euphemistically called the university of life at the age of 12 or 13 or 14. They go into this or that industry, and they lose very rapidly, unless they are brought under some kind of influence, a great deal of the knowledge which they have acquired in earlier life. That is the case for the day continuation school. I regret that it is impossible at present to proceed, as I had hoped, with the scheme of adolescent education. Until the country is in a position to do something in an inexpensive way, to continue some kind of educational control over boys and girls after they have left the elementary schools, much of the money and work devoted to children at the elementary stage will necessarily be squandered. That is all I have to say. The criticisms which I had expected have not, I am glad to say, developed, and I have only to conclude by stating that I am rejoiced to find that in this House, as, indeed, in the country at large, there is a clear recognition of the national importance of a good system of education.
§ Mr. WALSH
The three speeches to which we have just listened are worthy of the House in its very best days. I have listened with extreme pleasure to the statement of the Minister of Education. I understood him to say that the suggested cut of 5 per cent. embodied in the Report of the Geddes Committee has not yet taken place. That is very good to hear. Is it a matter that can be dealt with by the Department?
§ Mr. WALSH
I will not labour the point, for at this moment we have nothing on which to censure the Minister. There is no doubt that the trail of the Geddes Report is over the proceedings of the House this afternoon. We are told that there must be very large reductions in the cost of the administration of education, and that many millions must be saved. We have been told that the nation is in the very crisis of its fate unless we save those millions. It would be impossible for the most convinced supporter of education to have heard a more finely conceived speech than the one just delivered by the Minister of Education. His utterances throughout were those of the most fervent apostle of education. I can hardly conceive how he can reconcile any serious reduction of the Education Vote with the statements he has just made. In the £200,000,000 of the Vote on Account which the House is asked to pass this afternoon, there will probably be many millions devoted to the Education Department for administration. When we see that this 5 per cent. cut in the salaries of teachers, if not recommended by the right hon. Gentleman, is supported by him, we have a right to ask for his further consideration of the matter, not merely on the ground of the relatively poor financial position that the teacher has so long occupied, but because of the serious question whether such a cut would not be a breach of the contract entered into between the nation and the teachers. I believe it would be a breach of faith.
It is almost impossible to follow in any consecutive order the proceedings in respect of education. There were various committees at work during three or four years. The Burnham Committees were set up in 1920 and worked right on into 1921, and then made a definite series of proposals which were adopted by the Education Department and sanctioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, I assume, they received the full assent of this House. If that be the case, any change in the conditions, any reduction of salaries, would seem to constitute a breach of faith. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman, in saying that at present it is only a proposal, disarms opposition to himself, but I suggest that it has no right even to be a proposal. If there is 1198 one thing above all others about which this House ought to be most careful it is that, in its relations with the people in its service, it should faithfully and punctiliously carry out its contracts. So far as I can see, a cut of 5 per cent. in the pay of the teachers would involve a direct breach of faith on the part of this House in relation to a contract entered into with the teachers. I would like to read to the House the terms agreed upon:At a joint meeting of the three Burnham Committees dealing with salaries for elementary schools, secondary schools, and technical schools, held on Thursday, 26th January, the following Resolution was passed unanimously and was submitted to the Prime Minister, the President of the Board of Education, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Austen Chamberlain, the Leader of the House.I will read only the concluding paragraph. It is as follows:They urge upon the Cabinet the imperative necessity of retaining the standard scales of salaries for teachers unaltered, being strongly of opinion that any alteration involving reductions of teachers' salaries will produce grave discontent in all grades of the teaching profession, will impede the work of the local educational authorities, and will tend to dry up the supply of intending teachers at a time when the needs of the country require a substantial increase of entrants into the ranks of the teaching profession.That was one of the three Resolutions, agreed to by the Minister of Education, by the Leader of the House, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by the Prime Minister. I take it that that is the basis of the contract into which the teachers of the country have entered with the nation. I submit that the House has no right during the period covered by the terms of this Agreement, nor, indeed, has the Department the right, to make a deduction of 5 per cent. from the teachers' salaries. The fundamental point is the point of the breach of faith. Only about a month ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking in general terms upon what would be the effect of the Government's proposals, stated that a breach of faith would take place and would involve serious consequences if reduction were made in the teachers' salaries. The right hon. Gentleman was followed a few days later by the Minister of Education, in respect of whose statement there seems to be a serious misapprehension in the country.
1199 6.0 P.M.
I have received many letters, as probably have most hon. Members, from members of the teaching profession, declaiming most strongly against the 5 per cent. reduction for the provision of pensions. They are under the impression that the Department is proceeding to make that cut. I am glad to hear that a Bill will be necessary and that the matter remains in some doubt. But because of the £200,000,000 involved in this Bill and because the money will provide for the policy of the future, we are entitled to say now what we consider to be the right or wrong policy in education. I am sure that we cannot inflict any greater injustice upon the nation itself and can do nothing more harmful for the present and the future than to carry out the proposals embodied in the Geddes Report. Even now many local authorities are dismissing their teachers and many authorities are increasing the size of the classes. As a consequence there is being placed upon a section of society that for half a century has included the most miserably underpaid workers in the general community, a greater burden and much heavier duties, and the cause of education is bound to suffer. At present the average throughout the elementary schools of the country is 32.4 pupils per class. The suggestion is that that should be increased to an average of 50 per class, or an increase of more than 50 per cent. I ask hon. Members who know anything about elementary education to consider how it is possible for any young man or woman to conduct with any degree of efficiency classes which upon their present average numbers are to be increased by 50 per cent. Every person who has even an outside knowledge of teaching conditions is agreed upon one thing, that the numbers in the classes, especially in the big cities and towns, are already beyond the effective control of any one teacher, yet in order to increase the average, these numbers—already beyond effective management by one teacher—will have to be increased. Under such conditions it is' certain that education in the future would come within the definition applied to it by many people now, namely, that it is inefficient and does not produce useful citizens, but sends out pupils who do not properly know even the three It's and many other things which they ought 1200 to know. I agree myself with the right hon. Gentleman that there has been, in no branch of the life of the nation, progress so marked as the educational progress of the last 20 or 30 years. I noticed only a few days ago, a statement attributed to the Registrar-General, regarding the efficiency with which the census papers were filled up. He stated, and I was not at all surprised, that those papers were best filled up by the people in large industrial areas—in the large cities and towns. I cannot tax my memory so far as to give the exact quotation, but I think he said the papers were better filled up in those districts than were the papers which came from the middle classes—from the suburbs—and from upper class society. I believe a comparison was made by him on those lines and that the comparison was by no means to the detriment of the children of the working classes. I rather flatter myself I can fill up some of these tantalising and puzzling forms with relative ease, but when that big census form came to me, I confess to a good deal of fluttering of the heart. That the children of the elementary schools should have filled them up with marked efficiency is in itself a real testimony to the great educational progress made during the last 20 or 30 years.
Nor must we forget the manner in which the, young people of the great industrial areas rallied to the forces, how their potentialities developed, the manner in which they became useful members of the Army and Navy, and how they tackled and succeeded in overcoming problems with which the world had hitherto been unacquainted. All that proves what an immense reserve we have in the brains of our young people. This is of all times the least propitious time to make such reductions as are suggested in the Geddes Report. What can follow from the increase of classes already too large except the dismissal of many teachers? Indeed, that is suggested as being the reason for the proposal. It is suggested that by increasing the numbers in the classes and by the elimination of children under six, you would have about 600,000 children out of the schools who are at present going into the schools, and you would save the salaries of from 9,000 to 10,000 teachers. I can imagine no saving which would prove such an utterly false 1201 economy. Think of the conditions of the teachers themselves. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the training colleges. Nobody knows better than he that the training colleges are not, and have not been for the last five or six years, providing anything like the number which the teaching profession requires. The reports of the Board of Education since 1915 have gone to prove that the requirements of the schools call for far larger numbers entering the teaching profession, than the training colleges are turning out. The House might be interested to know that the Board of Education Report for 1916–17 states:In our Report last year we called attention to the serious deficiency in the supply of teachers with which the country is now faced. We concluded our review of the situation last year by stating that it was our opinion that the continuance of the present shortage of supply would not only preclude such improvements as an increase in the length of school life or a reduction in the size of the classes, but would gravely imperil the maintenance of the level of efficiency in elementary education which was reached before the War.The Report for 1917–18 contains the following:We have found it necessary for some years past to call attention to the serious deficiency in the supply of teachers for elementary schools. The improvements for which the Act provides can not be carried out unless a large number of additional teachers is obtained, and yet the position with which the country is faced is that there has been for some years past a decrease in the number of the candidates entering on the first stage of preparation for the teaching profession.The same thing obtained in the years 1918–19 and 1919–20. In the very last year's Report the Board state:We have found it necessary for several years past to call attention to the serious position disclosed by these figures. The existing arrangements for this purpose will require revision, in view both of the present demand for teachers and the rise in the cost of living, and we hope this matter may receive the closest attention from all authorities when their schemes under the Act of 1918 are being put forth. If a sufficient number of boys and girls are to be enabled to complete the period of training, liberal assistance on the part of the local authorities will be needed.A circular, dated 22nd August, 1919, is to the same effect. It states:The future to which the Education Act of 1918 looked forward is in grave peril. The Board appeal to all local education authorities to contribute to the utmost of 1202 their power to the solution of the problem of the recruitment of teachers, which is for the moment the most urgent and vital of all.For many years past the training colleges have not been turning out the numbers required to meet the real needs of the elementary schools—not by thousands. Now it is proposed that we should embark on a policy which could only have the effect of still further increasing a deficiency already causing grave peril to the whole educational system set up by the Act of 1918—of which the right hon. Gentleman himself was the honoured author and custodian. In these circumstances we ask him to take into account the feeling of the majority in this House, and of the great preponderance of public opinion outside, on this matter. Let it be remembered that the young people who are now going into the training colleges to undergo their two years' training, have already gone through long years of arduous and careful preparation. I always regarded the teaching profession as the Cinderella of the professions. I know, from my own experience, how diligently and assiduously teachers must prepare themselves, and the great mental and physical strain involved in taking up this onerous profession. It calls for long years of hard struggle, and really serious mental and physical vigilance, and when the candidates have so prepared themselves, they have to go to training colleges, from which, in most cases, they come away with the necessary qualifications. It is a long process, necessitating self-sacrifice on the part both of the future teacher and the parent of the future teacher. I am as sure as I am of my own existence that the nation has never quite realised the nature and character of the training through which the teacher has to pass before arriving at a position to qualify themselves.
At this very moment there are thousands of young people arranging to enter the training colleges. They have to make their preparations many months in advance, and it is at this time, when they are looking ahead and have a right to look ahead with hopefulness to entering upon a career honourable to themselves and valuable to the community, that they are practically told there is no career for them. This is the time when the local education authorities are to be called on to reduce their expenses, when the size 1203 of the classes is to be increased, when we are to be told, in the terms of this Report, that if the nation is to live the classes must be increased in size by more than 50 per cent., children under six must be eliminated, and that we must cut away some 10,000 teachers. What, then, is to be the future of these young people who have over a long term of years been qualifying for the profession? Their future is hopeless. If this line is to be pursued, the repeated appeals made by the Board of Education, and indeed by the right hon. Gentleman himself to the local authorities, that they should in a greater degree enable young people to enter into the profession, become absolutely void. We appeal to him to take into the Cabinet redoubled zeal and enthusiasm. We know he has the interest of education at heart. Without any words of flattery, we know there is no man who feels the responsibility of a great position more keenly that the right hon. Gentleman, and we ask him to take into the Cabinet the point of view of this House and of the country, namely, that by turning children under six into the streets you are not going to build up anything except a C3 population. It is said that that is not education. It is education. The more comprehensive, the broader, you make your scheme of education the nobler will our citizens become, and you cannot begin the process too early. The child mind, impressionable and ductile, should receive good impressions from the very earliest age, and if we really intend to make honourable, useful and noble citizens, we cannot start the process at too early a stage.
§ Mr. WALSH
I thank the right hon. Gentleman very much. The only reason I am impressing these points upon him is because we know how assiduous and powerful have been the influences brought to bear in favour of so-called economies which, in many cases, will only amount to the most wretched form of expenditure. We are urging this because we feel that there can be no more tragic or fatal step than to act on the lines suggested in the Geddes Report in respect to children under six years of age. I quite admit that I was not aware that 1204 the Government had reached that decision, and it is a very great pleasure to me, and it must be to most of the Members of this House, that that decision should have been arrived at. The right hon. Gentleman used one very strong term when he spoke of our huge and hideous cities. They are hideous and huge, and I am glad to learn that a saving is not to be effected in the direction to which I have alluded. In a few short weeks from now it may very well be that this 5 per cent. cut will come up for revision. I will not repeat what I have said as to a breach of faith, but everybody knows that, not only on this matter, but on very many other matters in this House, where I have thought that the Government or this House were breaking an honourable engagement which they had contracted, I have spoken out, although I might have been at the time dead against the trend of opinion in the House. I said so many years ago in respect of the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. People have a right to look forward, not merely to the letter of an engagement, but to its spirit, and I am sure the engagement entered into by this nation with the teachers will not permit, in honour, of anything taking place of the kind suggested in the Geddes Report.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the appointment of a Select Committee to go into the whole matter? It might very well be that the House itself could be placed in possession of information of a clearer character than at present exists. I admit that the Burnham Committee sat a long time, and I quite admit that its conclusions are very interesting, and that it did extremely good work, but, in order that the Members of this House should have the fullest information, I think it is very desirable that a Select Committee should go into the matter to find out exactly how the thing stands. It is suggested that by 1924 the teachers, on the average, will be in receipt of a figure of about £261, and that their grants since 1918 will have been something amounting to 120 per cent., and if that were the whole case there would be a very strong case for the consideration of Parliament, but the right hon. Gentleman knows that the teachers did not come into the receipt of any additional wage or bonus for a long time after the War began, that they were faced with a con- 1205 stantly increasing cost of living under conditions where, they were simply in receipt of the salary which they possessed at the outbreak of the War, and I am sure I carry the House with me when I say that no more useful citizens could be found at that time than those who were engaged in the teaching profession, and that they took on themselves the performance of a large number of additional duties, without which the country's operations could not have been so successful. I do not say that the War would not have been won, but I do say that they proved themselves to be the most useful class of citizens that a community could possess, and that they took upon themselves a very large number of duties which were nowhere within the terms of their contract, and under those circumstances they received no advance upon their salaries. It was years before they received any advance, and therefore, in the consideration of the amount of the advance they will receive when the Burnham recommendations come into full operation, we must surely, in equity, pay attention to the very long period within which they received no increase or bonus whatsoever.
For myself, I thank the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf, I am sure, of our party, for the extremely fine spirit he has evinced on this occasion. It has been a real pleasure to listen to three speeches this afternoon—the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), whose close contact with the teaching profession fits him to deal with this subject, the speech of the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), who is in no less degree qualified to speak on education, and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education, who has shown a sympathy with and a full understanding of this subject, of which this House may well be proud. I hope these recommendations will be given much more discussion in the Cabinet itself before they are allowed to take effect.
§ Mr. JOHN MURRAY
I welcome particularly the last sentences which have fallen from the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh). It is good to hear from that side of the House that in other parts of the House there are Members who have the interest of education at heart. Some little time ago I read in a newspaper that 1206 Lord Haldane had said that the Labour party was the only party that had the interest of education at heart. There was never anything more silly said about a political party. There has never been anything more barefaced or astonishing than the attempt of the Labour party to corner education as a political plank of their platform, and to corner the teachers as well. I venture to say, apologising as far as it is necessary to the Labour party, that in all parts of the House, and not merely in those parts of the House which are most noisy on the subject, the interests of the teachers are understood and will be safeguarded, and the interests of education as a whole are going to be safeguarded. It is not a very edifying spectacle to see the dead body of the Geddes proposals regarding economy in education trotted out in Labour speech after Labour speech, especially in view of the decisions which the Government has taken against a great many of these measures of economy, and has taken with the whole of the electorate behind it. If I may make a suggestion to the Labour party, it is this, not to take any special credit to themselves for the defence of education, but I may say that if there is any section of the people in the country which deserve special praise, unknown perhaps to themselves, it is the women voters. I believe that no Government which had eventually to go to the country with women having votes would have dared to adopt the Geddes proposals in bulk regarding education.
§ Mr. MURRAY
So much for my apology for speaking, not being a member of the Labour party, upon one of the most important subjects in politics, which they have attempted, as I say, to bag for themselves. I, too, listened with great interest to the course of this Debate. As an old teacher in the University of Oxford, I listened with very great pleasure indeed to the declarations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) in favour of the two ancient universities. On this matter he has knowledge and authority, and I believe that his commendations will be accepted throughout the country, and will lay for good and all some of the noisy prejudices which we have heard 1207 from time to time against the two ancient universities from those who know least about them. Speaking as having been a teacher in Oxford University, and as knowing something about the academic mind, I would say, what will perhaps surprise hon. Members, that one class of the community which requires to be reassured regarding the value of Oxford and Cambridge is the class of teachers in those universities. The academic mind is full of self-criticism, full of criticism of colleagues. It imagines that the nation has its eye upon it, upon the work of the two ancient universities, bitterly and with hostility. Part of the trouble at Oxford in the last 15 years has been that those charged with teaching there have not quite had the courage of their career or their curriculum, and I rejoice for my part, now that the Report of the Commission has been published, and the right hon. Member for Paisley has said what he has said, that the race of dons in the two universities will no longer have an excuse for tormenting and torturing themselves with the idea that they are cumbering the ground.
The right hon. Member for Paisley, I noticed, took credit to his own college of Balliol for many of the reforms and much of the advance in education in the last three generations in Oxford. There is no doubt about it; that is quite true. I will say as much as that for Balliol, although I am not a Balliol man, and there is no doubt that it was in Balliol that dons first attempted to teach and that undergraduates first began to study; but what the right hon. Gentleman did not say, although he is a Scottish Member, was that that revolution and that great leadership had a cause, and that the cause was Scotland. Young men began to come up from Scotland to Balliol—everybody knows that Balliol used to be the Scottish college—with a desire to learn things, and I believe that that incommoded the teachers of Balliol College at first, but that eventually they took to it, and they taught them, and the practice of both learning and teaching extended to all the other colleges of the University, so that now—and we have the Commission's word for it—Oxford, and all the colleges in it, and Cambridge and its colleges are an example to the world in all the technical efficiencies of education, and in what is at 1208 least as important, namely, the moral influence that goes with those technical efficiencies.
I was very much struck by some of the things said by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) regarding the "ladder." He claimed experience as a primary schoolmaster. He also claimed that many of his boys and girls were quite brilliant, but I never knew a primary schoolmaster who did not. I would like to say something to the Labour party and to the hon. Member for Caerphilly from the other side. It has been my fate on many occasions to examine boys from all kinds of schools for scholarships at Oxford. That is the top rung of the ladder. The hon. Member for Caerphilly put forward the view that every boy desiring to get to Oxford or Cambridge is a human creature demanding his inalienable rights. The examiner, who has to decide whether or not to bring a boy with public money to Oxford, feels each time that it is a gamble in human life. Entry to a University opens a great many doors in life; it opens wide vistas of interesting employment. But it is a gamble for the entrant; it closes many doors, and it is the avenue to much disappointment to men who are misfits in the work to which they go. On the other hand, I am all in favour of the ladder, having come up by it myself, and I do not wish it to be thought that I am discouraging the improvement or extension of the ladder. I only wish, as knowing something about it from inside, to moderate the extravagant hopes and expectations regarding education and its possibilities which we are accustomed in this House to hear from the Labour Benches.
I should like to say a few words about continuation schools. It is a very controversial topic. If we were dealing only with Scotland or with France, or with Germany, I should be much more strongly in support of a very wide—indeed, a compulsory—system of continuation schools than I am when I survey the nature of the English race. Perhaps it is given to a Scotsman to see more clearly the difficulties in this matter than is given to some English people, and I would say that the youth of the English race gets rather tired of books and teachers, in spite of the Labour party, about the age of 15. It 1209 does not so happen in Scotland, where they go keenly on with the work of education; but at 15 the English boy thinks he had better go to work; he is tired of teaching. That is not the end of the story. I wish to make an appeal for adult education, instead of adolescent education. In my opinion, the young Englishman gets tired of books and study at 15; but if you can seize him, and use him educationally, between 25 and 30, or 35, you can do a very great deal for him, and a great deal for the nation. I want to suggest that, as money becomes available for the education of people who are no longer children, some of it at least should go to help those in whom, between the ages of 25 and 35, a desire for study and teaching has recrudesced.
One further matter. If I may say so, the strength of the Geddes attack on education has lain not so much in this, that the nation is hard up, as that the nation is disturbed in its mind regarding the quality and value of the elementary education given in the schools. So am I. I do not believe, take it all in all, that the educational value of the primary school to-day is so good as it was three generations ago, for that part of the population which shared then in its benefits. It is open to all of us to diagnose the case, and say what is wrong. At the risk of offending some of the members of the National Union of Teachers. I wish to say that a great contrast exists between the old parish primary education in Scotland and the primary education in the schools to-day, and that, in great part, the contrast is that in the old days in Scotland the children of the parish were taught by a man, and at present women have driven men, not entirely, but almost entirely, out of that profession, and we are suffering in consequence. I should be sorry to put that forward in a purely general way as a mere piece of personal prejudice of the male sex. I would remind the House of a Committee which was appointed in 1916 by the Home Office, and which reported in 1920 to the Board of Education a curious, rather significant, and rather perplexing rise in juvenile crime, 96 per cent. of it by boys, during the War period. In 1915, 1916, and 1917 the Chief Constable of the city a division of which I happen to represent—a city, at least as well behaved, as well conducted, and as little criminal 1210 as any other large city—reported definitely a very large increase in juvenile crime, and put it down to the absence of the fathers from home, and the absence of the male teachers from the schools. This is a curious sidelight upon the value of men in primary education.
Other sidelights can be got, I think, in America, where primary education is probably the worst in the world, where it is wholly the work of women teachers, so much so, that in the Regulations you do not see the pronoun "he" for a teacher, but "she." In Canada the same thing happens. In the Eastern parts of Canada, men teachers are so badly paid that practically none exist. In the Western parts of Canada men teachers are scarce, but they are more numerous than in the Eastern parts of Canada. I think connected with that is the fact that the number of boys committed to reformatories in Eastern Canada is proportionately four times what it is in the West of Canada. I put these figures before the House as a matter which is not susceptible of accurate determination by statistics, but as bearing out my contention that if we seek to obtain full moral influence through education, we must not allow the profession of primary teaching to fall wholly into the hands of women. We must make room for men there, and pay the salaries that will attract the men. There, again, I come back to the Geddes Report. I have seen with great pleasure that the Government do not propose to interfere with the Burnham scale, and that the men who have entered that profession, and the men who may be tempted to enter it in future, may be secure in their expectations.
I should like to make one final appeal. There is a great prejudice at the present moment against expenditure upon education. There is a great prejudice against expenditure on education among many hon. Members of this House, for example, who believe in heavy expenditure for the Army and Navy. I ask the House what it was that the War did for us? I hope I am not uttering a paradox when I say that the War freed us from a very great military danger, and has given us on the military side peace. It might follow reasonably from that, that the nation ought to spend less in preparation for warfare, because of the greater safety 1211 achieved by the War. Look at what the War has done for us among our own people. Is it an exaggeration or paradox to say that the War has unsettled the minds of hundreds of thousands of our population; that it has given the occasion for the spread among them of an alienation and hostility to the main features of our life, of our social structure, of our political constitution; that it has given a stimulus to the teaching of barbarous and disruptive doctrines, and that it has undone, in a measure, all the civilisation?—the ripening and enriching civilisation—of the Victorian age? We have examples in other countries than our own of the evil spirit to which I refer, but it is strong, active and infectious enough here, and I put it to many Members of the Conservative party, who may feel that the Army and Navy ought not to be starved, that our danger now is not military aggression by Germany, but the domestic aggression of uncivilisation, and that the only way by which we can meet that is by putting more spirit, more money, better men and better women into education.
I think the country has taken a wrong turning by divorcing moral teaching and religious teaching from the education of the young in the primary schools to the extent to which that has been done. This is a Christian country. [An HON. MEMBEE: "Question."] Unless in our educational system for the mass of the people we make them feel these moral and religious influences in which we believe, and which are at the bottom of a proper arrangement of the happy life for the population of England, we need not be surprised, and we shall have no one to blame but ourselves, if these young people, when they grow up, show a familiar trend of ill-feeling towards society, towards the fundamental conditions in which they live, and all the follies of a revolutionary spirit which can lead nowhere but to trouble and pain. We cannot be surprised if that be the result. I wish to tack on to this question of expenditure—hearty and handsome expenditure—upon primary education, the other and deeper question of the maintenance in this nation of its traditional morals, its traditional religion and its traditional instinctive sense of the State.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
I wish to say a few words as to how this matter will affect people who are called upon to administer the various Education Acts. With regard to the proposed 5 per cent. deduction from teachers' salaries for superannuation purposes, I agree with my hon. Friend that this is a part of the salary of the teacher, and was as much taken into account by the Burnham Committee, when fixing salaries, as any other part. Therefore to take anything from the teachers' salaries would be a breach of faith with the teachers. May I remind the House that prior to 1914 the teachers of this country were agitating for a vastly better standard than they had hitherto enjoyed? The War came. The teachers were very loyal to the country, much after the fashion of the miner and other workers, and so long as the cost of living did not advance they were prepared to back up their country, and they withdrew their demand for better conditions. I trust that the President of the Board of Education will take that into account when considering the proposals on the financial side with regard to the 5 per cent. of salaries in aid of superannuation. I just want to warn the House that, in my opinion—for the matter has been investigated—any insurance society, under similar conditions, would give the teachers at least £700 down at the age of 65, and then continue a yearly payment of £250 until they were over 90 years of age. So that the amount of 5 per cent. proposed by the Government to meet superannuation is more than necessary.
May I turn to the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Moss Side Division (Lieut.-Colonel Hurst)? He professes to be seeking peace in this country of ours. Such remarks as he made are not likely to help that object. He said the Working classes generally did not love their children quite as well as the middle classes, in the main, and that they would not make any sacrifices for their children—
§ Lieut.-Colonel HURST
I truly never said anything of the sort. I never said anything about loving their children.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will examine the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, I think he will find that he said deliberately that the working classes were not prepared to make the sacrifices which the middle classes made.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HURST
I said they were, in fact, not making the same sacrifices, and not stinting themselves in the same way as large sections of the professional classes.
§ Mr. RICHARDSON
That way of putting it will satisfy me, but let me tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that during the years of the War, when wages were good, the working classes were quite content to do with their earnings, and said that their boys and girls could do what was possible to help to win the War, the one by fighting, and the other by work at home, and they would make the wages of the father spread over. They were good citizens. I think the President of the Board of Education met this argument very well indeed when he said that during the past few years the secondary schools were being overrun and filled to overflowing by candidates, many from the elementary schools. So far as I know, and I think I can speak with knowledge, working people are quite prepared to make the sacrifices that other people are making. They are prepared to do for their children what other classes in this country are prepared to do. Give them the opportunity, and you will see whether or not the working classes are prepared to make sacrifices.
We are not fit to govern—so the hon. and learned Gentleman went on to tell us. Again that old saw. It is absolutely untrue. Apparently it is this that other classes are afraid of the Government that the Labour party is going to give them when they have the power. The screeching and the howling that is going on now up and down the country is evidence of the fact that others are afraid of our Government. They tell us we are going to make mischief; that we are Bolshevists, and all that sort of thing. There is considerable fear expressed in that sort of language. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the zeal of the people of the nineteenth century for education and other things of that sort. Well, some of us lived just over the border of the century, and we remember that the zeal for education on the part of some people then was that children of eight, nine and 10 years of age were allowed to leave school without the opportunity of getting a decent education. [An HON. MEMBER: "I went to work at ten."] I remember the time of the 1214 South African War, 1899–1902, and many of those to whom the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred could not even read the reports of the fighting, and what was transpiring, and were dependent upon the children attending the schools of that day. So much for the zeal for education from 1850 down to 1900. I remember 1870 very well. I remember what the working conditions were throughout the land, and particularly in my own county of Durham. The contrast between even then and now is great! Then the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the children under six years of age. He was never further from the real facts when he made the statement he did. I am one of those who have been administering education in my own county since 1904. I am one of those who have squandered thousands and thousands of the taxpayers' and ratepayers' money. But the President of the Board of Education, I think, knows of children that have gone into the schools at five years of age and left at seven and have been so far equipped that they could a little later take up the work of standard IV in the Junior School. I am glad the President of the Board of Education has turned down the proposal involved in this matter. I am glad the Government are not accepting that recommendation of the, Geddes Committee, but the change of authorities every three years makes it, I am afraid, if the suggestion to make attendance non-compulsory is carried, that there will be no finality as to what is to be done, and education is going to suffer extremely. There must be a stated age, I think, from which every child should attend school, and I trust we are not going to alter it. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the spirit in which the teaching should be given. I agree that the right spirit should prevail, and be inculcated, but after all the teacher cannot live without a fair salary. He must of necessity have the wherewithal to make ends meet.
I was glad the President was agreed that the teachers should be a contented body, and that this was essential so far as education was concerned. I trust we are not going back in any shape or form to the old state of things. I wish to press upon hon. Members that, after all, the teaching profession is the root and basis of all other professions. If you do not 1215 get good teachers, then every other profession, the medical and so on, is going to suffer. Why should the men who are making other people, who are moulding the men and women of the future, and making them fit for the higher services of the country, have to live on less than the people whom they are making? We of the Labour party are being lectured here, there, and everywhere, but a lot of this lecturing shows a certain lack of discrimination. Let me tell certain hon. Members that we were no party to setting up the Geddes Commission. It was none of ours. If hon. Members opposite have made any mistake, then my suggestion to them is to lecture their own party rather than UB. We know what it is not to have had education, and we are determined as men can be that no child of the future shall suffer as some of us have suffered.
Let me now deal with one or two matters arising out of the Geddes Report. We are not defending the 1908 Act. We are defending the 1902 Act. As to the Act of 1918, very little of it has been put into operation, but we say now, in regard to the size of the classes, the age of the children, and several other matters, that they arise under the Act of 1902, so that if any change is made, then we are likely to get back to 1902 rather than 1918. It is a very serious matter to me all this business of education. I earnestly appeal to the Government not to send us back. It has taken all that could be done to accomplish what has been accomplished. The results have been so good—they have been recited to you—as to the diminution of juvenile and other crime in every shape and form—the industrial schools and reformatories being minus inhabitants—and all this has come out of the educational work. You cannot surely try to save money by doing a terrible injustice to the young children of the country. I plead with my hon. Friends, do not attack where there is no offensive to be met.
The children of this country cannot speak for themselves, and it means taking the line of least resistance when you seek to save whatever is possible on expenditure on those who cannot reply for themselves. I admit that expenditure has grown from £34,000,000 to £50,000,000, but largely speaking that is due, at least to the 1216 extent of 70 per cent., as my hon. Friend pointed out, to the increase in teachers' salaries. We must not forget that the population of this country has expanded, and that we have far more to deal with than we had two or three years ago. Every year brings additional students to elementary, secondary, and higher education if we are going to keep the standard up. Behind it all is the prevention of expansion. In our secondary education all educational establishments right throughout the country have been preparing for an expansion. Much has been done, much remains to be done, and if these grants are cut down by anything like what is proposed by the Board—I think it is £3,000,000 in secondary education-—it will do an incalculable amount of harm for many years. I hope that the President of the Board is going to put his back up against the block grants system. That would mean that the most retrograde authorities would have the greatest excuse possible for doing nothing, and I want those who have to see that education is carried out to have some power in this matter. Fifty per cent, of the expenditure of any local authority is being met by the Government, and I hope that system will be continued in the future.
I want to say a word with regard to the training of teachers, which is a very important matter. I know only too well that the Minister of Education realises the great difficulties the authorities have had in the past to get sufficient trained teachers. It is true you can get plenty of teachers who call themselves teachers, but we want a higher standard of teacher inside our elementary school. I believe-that the higher standard of teacher you put in the greater saving are you going to make with regard to secondary education. I am one of the people who think—and I want the Minister to take note of these words—that what can be done by a boy or girl at 11 years of age inside a secondary school can also be done inside an elementary school. By that means we are going to save thousands of pounds for the building of schools for children between the ages of 11 and 14. Of course, it cannot be done with teachers who have to take 30, 40, 50 and 60 pupils. That must be brought down to the numbers in the secondary school. If these teachers with special training are brought into an elementary school you are going very 1217 largely to reduce your expenditure, and, most of all, you are going to get rid of the English boy of 15 who, my hon. Friend said, did not care for books. I say the reason boys do not care for books is that from 11 the bright boy who cannot get further is doing the self-same work for three years. He becomes absolutely surfeited, and when the time comes to leave school he refuses to look at a book. Give that boy a chance of reading that he ought to have, give him a chance to know that he has not acquired everything he can be taught at 14, let him feel that there is something higher to be attained, and I am certain that the British boy will emulate and eclipse every other boy in the world. I want that chance for the boy, and I want the President of the Board of Education to see that there are sufficient teachers. I want good men and women. We have made it possible to say that there is a reasonable salary. It is not good enough to have the worst of what remains from the other professions as a teacher. What we want is the best material in the world, and if we get that things will be vastly better.
In conclusion, I wish to say a few words with regard to what the hon. Member for West Leeds said about the educational ladder. We here are seeking a great, broad highway from the primary schools right through to the universities. We seek no more than other hon. Members on the other side of the House, or than men and women who have had more opportunities. We seek no more than they have; only the opportunity for our children to go forward as well as theirs. We are asking only that brains shall count and not money, and when you have opened that highway I want to make no class distinction, but merely to obtain the best men and women that this country can produce. I want to make an A1 nation; I am anxious to make an A1 nation; I am also anxious to make an A1 people.