Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £20, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following Departments connected with Education for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1943, namely:
|Class IV., Vote 1, Board of Education||10|
|Class X., Vote 5, Ministry of Health (War Services)||10|
§ The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Butler)
The Committee will remember that last year there was no Debate on the Education Estimates. This year I welcome the return to normality in our proceedings, I hope for good, in order that I may tell the Committee how education is standing up to the stresses of war. Perhaps I should not say "standing up", but I should use the terminology of war 1403 and say that we are holding our lines well and that we are making positive and definite advances on certain sectors of the educational front. I have discovered in my term of office that educational reformers are legion. In fact, I have passed from one realm of affairs at the Foreign Office, to another in education, in which I have had the benefit of many people who have told me how to run the show. One fact which I welcome is that there is a consensus of opinion that the Board should be a major Department of State. The education service is, perhaps, less in the public eye in war-time than in peacetime. But I think we should all agree that we should not treat this nation-building Department badly and that in war-time we should not treat it as badly as we have treated the Service Departments in peace-time. If such an attitude were permitted, we should prejudice our national development. Education is a main arm with which to win the next peace. Let us therefore furbish it during the war.
To have succeeded, as we have done, in retaining the normalcy of the lives of nearly 5,000,000 children during the course of the war, a war very often over our own soil, means that we have, at one and the same time, husbanded our greatest national asset, maintained the national morale—and I think the morale of the parents has been exceptionally important in this time—and we have assisted the war effort. The Committee will observe, when I give some account of my stewardship during this year, that we owe a great deal to the initiative and devotion of local education authorities, to teachers and to directors and secretaries of education, to whom I should now like to pay a tribute for what they have done. Education, as the Committee will remember, is run, not as one might suppose, by the central direction of the Board, but by co-operation among a large number of local authorities and teachers working with the Board and its inspectors throughout the country.
Before I come to the flesh-and-blood story of education in wartime, let me dispose of one or two figures. The Committee should first observe that there has been a rise in the Board's expenditure from £41,832,562 in 1933 to £57,763,118 this year. There has been a substantial and increasing rise. The total for this 1404 year represents some 13½ per cent. of the total sum for Civil Estimates, excluding the Vote of Credit. It is interesting for us to note that, while the protagonists of the new Order are busy restricting and reducing the provision for the education and care of their children, we have not put education on rations here, but are, in fact, voting additional sums for valuable purposes. The increases this year are attributable to one or two important matters. The actual increase this year is £2,847,479, due in part to the war bonuses for teachers, and to increased provision for meals and milk, of which I shall be telling the Committee. The sum set aside for the Youth Service has risen from £136,000 to £250,000. I am confident that this matter enlists the sympathy and interest of all Members of the Committee.
Similarly, there has been an increase in the provision for the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts from £50,000 to £100,000 in this year's Estimates. Hitherto, this Council has been assisted by the Pilgrim Trust, but their subsidy has now ended, and that accounts for the increase in the Exchequer Grant. Here I should like to express the Government's thanks to Lord Macmillan, who was the Chairman, and to Dr. Tom Jones, for their sympathy and interest, and for the manner in which they have enabled the Council's work to develop during the last two years. I naturally looked around for the best possible Chairman for this Council, and I was very glad to receive the acceptance of Mr. Maynard Keynes, whose honour we all noted in the recent List and upon which we congratulate him; I cannot think of any man who could better assume the mantle of a State Maecenas, or who could better carry forward the work of this Council in spreading abroad an interest in art by circulating art exhibitions, in music, whether by concerts in halls and factories, or in stimulating interest in the drama.
My hon. Friend who will be speaking at the end of the Debate will deal with any further details which may arise over the actual Estimates and no doubt will supplement any remarks that I may make. I shall now attempt to give as short an account as I can of the general situation, remembering that in these days it is well for Ministers not to take up all the time. If we look at the general situation, we find that the day-to-day service 1405 of education has been substantially maintained. It would be idle of me to pretend there has been no loss of efficiency, or that at various times and in various places things do not go wrong. They do. But if I am to give an unprejudiced view, I would like to quote to the Committee the view of an American observer who returned to his own country just recently. He said this:It would not have been surprising if this enormous initial dislocation the was referring to evacuation) had thoroughly uprooted and defeated the purposes of British education in the very beginning of the war. It is a miracle that in spite of these difficulties the schools have been able to carry on. The educational facilities at the level below the University are now carrying on with something like 93 per cent. efficiency, measured in terms of attendance, examination results, and the other normal standards of evaluation.That is the view of an independent observer, and I think I can bear out its truth by giving the Committee some facts. As this is a Supply day, it is natural that I must adhere to problems falling within the field of administration, and that I cannot give any general description of our designs for the future structure of the whole system. I think, however, that I can mention certain administrative inquiries that have been set on foot, and from my remarks it will no doubt be possible for hon. Members, with their usual perception, to deduce our general design, which is to smooth out the unevenness of British education but to retain its tradition, its diversity and its life.
I mentioned unevenness. I have had the opportunity of going around the country, in fact to almost every part, and where I have not yet been able to go I hope to go in the coming months. It is like passing from one world to another to move from the ideal building of a modern senior school, such as many hon. Members must have visited in their own districts, with its advanced instruction in woodwork and metalwork, its rooms for domestic science, its gymnasium and library, with all the senior children gathered together, to the gloomy atmosphere of some old, unreorganised, all-age school, where harassed teachers can hear each other chiding and exhorting their little flocks of children of all ages in old-fashioned classrooms. There is a similar contrast with the juniors. I am only giving the Committee the impressions which I have formed, but one can contrast the old voluntary school, with its 1406 individual, atmosphere—of which the managers are understandably proud—clustering against some ancient ecclesiastical pile, whose architecture it fancies but does not reproduce, and the more up-to-date provision of some of our modern junior or infant schools, very often with their small kitchen for midday dinners, about which I shall be saying more shortly. These contrasts undoubtedly exist, and I think that hon. Members will deduce from certain statements that I have made what our ultimate hopes and desires are. While we await the opportunity for great changes, we must not neglect the everyday chances of improving our day-to-day administration, which is my task in war-time.
I told the Committee that I would give some figures to bear out the general tribute, made by an independent observer, which I quoted earlier. Let us look at full-time schooling. That has increased from 96.5 per cent. in March of last year to 99 per cent. in March this year, a very substantial improvement.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
Does that figure relate to the number of children on the registers, or the number of children of school age in the country? That is a most important point. I know lots of children who are not at school.
§ Mr. Butler
I am coming to that point in a moment. There has been a reduction in those receiving part-time instruction to some 44,506 for the whole country, which, taking the approximate figure of 4,750,000 children, is not a large percentage. The proportion of those receiving no instruction at all is only 0.22 per cent. Attendance is not quite so satisfactory, for out of every 100 children on the registers of elementary schools, 84 were actually in attendance, compared with the pre-war figure of 89. I do not claim that those figures are entirely satisfactory, but I do claim that in the last year of administration they have shown a considerable improvement. The Committee must consider them against the background of the dislocation and the migration of children which has been going on. The inspectors are particularly watching this question of attendance, and here I would like to pay a tribute to the inspectors, who are the eyes and ears and also the handymen of the Board all over the country.
1407 Perhaps the most important improvement during last year has been the drive made by local education authorities, the Board and the inspectors to increase the provision for meals and milk. Over 700,000 children now take midday meals at school. Last year 1,733 proposals providing for 240,000 children were approved, and from January to May of this year an increased number covering some quarter of a million children have been sanctioned. I see no reason why the target already mentioned, of 1,000,000 meals a day for children, should not be reached by the end of the summer. The outstanding example of success comes from Anglesey. I think, as we are discussing education Estimates to-day, we ought to have some kind of form order among members and as, in this matter, Anglesey comes out on top, I am sorry that the hon. Lady who represents that constituency is not in her place. I can pay her the compliment of saying that the county of Anglesey has already provided canteens for over 60 per cent. of its schools and the authority expects to have them everywhere in its area by the end of this term. The Director of Education, whose views I quote because they exactly represent what we at the Board feel, calls attention to the almost incredible effect of the provision of school meals on the health of the children as reflected in their physical well-being, their zest for life and their alertness. I can bear that out from our experience all over the country, wherever this system of school meals has been started. I trust that this remarkable lead will be followed, not only in Wales but also in England. I must say that some authorities have shown great drive and that others are attempting to follow up what is one of the great advances of this year. I should like to express my gratitude to my Noble Friend the Minister of Food for his co-operation, with his depots and equipment, in making this drive more easy.
I have consulted my medical advisers before making the statement, that I believe that the health of the children—largely thanks to these proposals and to the fact that 3,250,000 children odd are now getting milk at school—has positively improved, and that in war-time. We shall watch the further drive for meals and milk. I am glad to announce that it has been decided to extend to all schools the 1408 benefit of the milk-in-schools scheme, now confined to grant-aided schools. The result will be that all school children will be able to obtain milk for drinking at the price of ½d. per one-third of a pint. Schools will be notified as soon as possible how and when they should apply. If I had time, I could go into details about the school medical and dental services, but I would sum up our experience this year by saying that the volume of treatment given to school children during 1941 was almost as great as that given in 1940 and the years immediately preceding the war. That is not to say that everything is all right. The loss of doctors as a result of the calling-up has been very severe but we are doing our best to meet the situation.
I wish now to tell the Committee something about the contribution which is being made by the schools to the war effort. The schools have certain very remarkable achievements to their credit. One of the most remarkable is the amount which they have managed to save as the result of children bringing in small sums of money. The total amount of savings up to last March was £23,500,000. Besides that rather remarkable achievement, which has been acknowledged, there are many other ways in which the children are learning in wartime practical lessons in citizenship—such matters as the collection of salvage and paper, in gardens, and in a host of other ways. We have also stimulated the formation of new nursery classes and play centres to look after the children of women engaged in war work, and I have established a new department in Kingsway to look after this work. I am determined also to see that the educational value of the war-time nurseries shall find full scope.
Perhaps a more direct contribution to the war effort is the steady flow of qualified recruits for the Services—doctors, dentists, engineers, naval architects, biologists and agricultural chemists who come from our secondary schools. I am able to tell the Committee that our standard has been maintained in the higher forms of these schools. Our technical colleges, which exist all over the country, have been given over very largely to the training of expert personnel for the Services, and I should like to thank the authorities and the principals of those colleges and their staffs, for the 1409 day-to-day service—and day and night service very often—which they give to men and women who are training for the Forces.
The school children have also shown their mettle under fire. From localities which have been raided, I have received reports of how the children have faced bombing with courage overnight, and their examinations with equal equanimity next morning. One report from a city which was recently bombed showed the figures of the attendances at the secondary school on the morning after the raid to be only three per cent. below the normal. Incidentally, I learned from that report that four girls had undertaken the whole running of a rest centre for four days. These were girls of 15 and under. They washed clothing, looked after cooking, cheered homeless men and women, and some of the elder women, whose tribute we have received, spoke of the girls' resource and ability saying, "They showed us our limitations. We mothers and grandmothers have learned a great deal from them." That sort of independent tribute gives some indication of the character and quality of our younger generation in war-time.
I believe that education has learned from the war besides contributing to the war effort. The great migrations of children which took place were experiments unprecedented in our social history, and they have not yet ceased. The Committee can imagine what effect they had—the uncertainty about numbers, the changes in the relationships of parents and the effect on the administration of the local authorities. I would like to thank the authorities, and the hosts of the children, and the teachers who are proving that hospitality remains one of our national graces.
I notice occasional references to the administrative difficulties resulting from these changes, but those difficulties, in my opinion are, on the whole, wildly exaggerated. I think that in most cities to which children have returned and in most reception areas to which children have gone, the lag between the arrival of the children and their establishment in some school is made up very quickly. But probably we have learned most from evacuation in regard to the curriculum itself—what is actually taught in schools, Sometimes I think that in our education 1410 Debates we spend too much time on administration and too little upon what is actually taught in the schools. Our teaching during the dislocation some time ago, was inclined to fall back on the classical three R's and in fact was pretty dull. Now we have instituted a series of courses which teachers are attending, and as a result of which it will be possible to introduce a good deal more colour and interest into the curriculum. I have been keen throughout to encourage a practical bent wherever possible. Short courses, for instance, in rural subjects, are being held. I may, in passing, point out what a good effect evacuation has had in making town and country understand one another better. I heard a story of some children who when they were first sent into the country thought that the windmills were for the purpose of keeping the cows cool. Those children are now learning something about rural life. In addition to rural subjects, there are courses covering the work and activities of junior schools, physical training, musical and dramatic work—which I think we must try to introduce more and more into the curriculum of the schools—handicrafts and domestic science.
There is another very important question which I know interests hon. Members, and that is the question of religious instruction in the schools. I feel that the Committee would wish the teachers who give the religious instruction to be as well equipped as possible in the subject. It is a very difficult question to talk about, because I know many feel that religious instruction depends very largely indeed on the person who gives it. Therefore from the point of view of one who has responsibility in this matter I issued circular 1566 with the object of encouraging local education authorities and others to conduct courses in religious instruction for teachers and others. I must say that the result has far exceeded all the bounds of what I had hoped. For one of the Board's three courses there were 300 applications for 120 vacancies. The teachers themselves—I noticed it in Somerset when I went there—have followed up the courses with their own. That, I think, is extremely refreshing, and I hope that from this sort of beginning we shall be able to build on the already existing syllabus of teaching which is given in the schools.
1411 Courses have also been organised on the United States and the Soviet Union. I expect that they may have come to the attention of hon. Members in their districts. These courses have been organised in close co-operation with the United States and Soviet Ambassadors, and I am determined that this work of the Board in international education shall continue and prosper. All these courses have been extraordinarily successful, and the results are beginning to be seen in the schools themselves which I have visited. By these, and also by keeping in close touch with the Ministers of the United Nations now in London, we can illustrate the part that education can play in the task of international as well as national reconstruction. We have also had some courses initiated in the Welsh language. I regard as obscurantist the attitude of the Commission of Inquiry exactly 100 years ago which went to Wales and took the view that to keep alive a knowledge of this beautiful tongue was tantamount to crippling Welsh intitiative and penalising Welsh endeavour. I wish now, 100 years later, to make amends for that attitude. I therefore invite local education authorities in Wales to co-operate, and I invite teachers in Wales to co-operate, in the three courses which we are establishing in districts thought likely to be the most suitable. I think that these examples in courses and what I have said about the curriculum will show that we are backing up the teachers in toning up the content of what is taught.
This leads me to a short discussion of some of the difficulties of the teachers at the present time. There has been a severe drain on the teaching profession. I must confess to the Committee that a perpetual problem that I have with the authorities is the staffing of the schools. The drain on the teaching profession has been made good by calling upon married teachers, who have come back and are saving the position at the present time. These were originally the reserve of the teaching profession, and they have now been thrown into the line. Even so, some areas are seriously short, and we have set up a small body which, working with the authorities and others concerned, has worked out a scheme to arrange for allocating young teachers coming out of the training colleges and university departments this summer to those local education 1412 authorities where their services are most needed. I hope that that administrative effort will do something to meet the difficulties of the teachers at the present time.
This investigation of the difficulties of teachers leads me to mention one of the first of the new steps I have decided to take. I have learned many lessons in going round the country and I have been encouraged to go to the source and to the inspiration of all educational endeavour—to visit and study the work of the training colleges for teachers. I confess that I am not satisfied that we recruit teachers from a wide enough field, or that the teachers themselves get sufficient opportunity for fitting themselves for their noble career. In my opinion the old days of academic attainment being the sole test for the teaching profession are gone. Education is more than a mere acquisition of knowledge, and it is my belief that after the war we could find young men and women with a wide experience of life, not necessarily academically inclined, who, if suitably trained, would welcome this form of service to the community and would add variety and richness to the teaching personnel. I have thought this question so important that I have set up a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. McNair, Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool University, to investigate it, together with the question of the supply of teachers and the supply of youth leaders. I think that this initiative will bear very good fruit.
Mention of youth leaders leads me to mention another initiative which has been taken—that is, new plans to deal with the youth of the country. For the past two and a half years the Youth Service has prospered. It was started by Lord De La Warr and was continued by my predecessor Lord Soulbury, whom, I am glad to say, I have now appointed chairman of the Burnham Committees in succession to Lord Onslow, to whose long work I should like to pay a public tribute. The Youth Service has made satisfactory, and even remarkable, progress with the encouragement and support of local education authorities and the co-operation of the voluntary organisations who make up the Service, and the teachers. Every authority for higher education, I am glad to say, has now got a youth committee; the only remaining laggards have come along. A number of local organisers have also been appointed. I am very sensible 1413 of the assistance which I and my predecessors have received from the National Youth Committee, started under my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) and carried on by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary as Chairman.
The planting work is now largely finished, and we now look for further growth and expansion in the garden of youth. To help me in this new phase, I have decided that closer contact is needed with those actually working in the field of youth. I have therefore decided to set up a Youth Advisory Council. This will constitute the first attempt to include in one body the many types working in the field of youth, whether administrators, members of youth committees, or younger people, engaged in the voluntary organisations and in the pre-Service organisations. On this Council, the names of which I shall circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT, are representatives of the Churches, those concerned with the employment of young people, those who are aware of the point of view of the employees, a representative of the juvenile courts with a knowledge of problems of delinquency, and assessors from the other Government Departments concerned, so that for once we may have a broad general picture of this vital problem. Members will be appointed in the first place for one year. The Board will meanwhile retain contact with the Conference of Voluntary Organisations, the education authorities and the teachers' organisations through their ordinary channels, which are well known. I have been glad to obtain the services of an independent chairman for this Council. Mr. Wolfenden, the headmaster of Uppingham, has accepted my invitation to take the chair. He has shown, by his work for the A.T.C., a remarkable grasp of the possibilities of organising training for boys of a first-class educational character. I wish him and those ladies and gentlemen whose names are announced in this list, good fortune in taking on this task of assisting me and the Government with advice.
§ Following is the list:
§ Mr. J. F. Wolfenden (Chairman)—Headmaster of Uppingham.
§ Persons directly concerned in the Youth Service.
§ Miss Patience Bland—Chairman, East Suffolk County Youth Committee.1414
§ Miss K. Stewart—Leader of the Archers' Club, Southampton.
§ Miss D. M. M. Edwards-Rees—Youth Service Organiser (West Riding L. E. A.).
§ Mrs. Walter Elliot—Chairman of the N.A.G.C.
§ Mr. R. F. Thurman—Field Commissioner, Boy Scouts.
§ Dr. D. J. Lysaght—Principal, Flora Gardens Evening Institute, Hammersmith.
§ Mr. T. W. Walker—Joe Walton Boys' Club, Middlesbrough.
§ Mr. L. G. Selway—Schoolmaster, Fonthill Road School, Bristol.
§ The Churches.
§ Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. A. Lytton-Milbanke—National Catholic Youth Association.
§ The Rev. H. G. G. Herklots—Commission of the Churches.
§ The Services.
§ Cadet/Lieut.-Colonel J. A. Rhys—Army Cadets.
§ Mr. S. J. Noel-Brown-A.T.C.
§ Lieut. C. W. Hoggard—Islington S.C.C. Unit.
§ Mrs. Wenger—G.T.C.
§ Persons concerned with the employment of young people.
§ Mr. E. S. Byng—Standard Telephones & Cables, Ltd.
§ Miss Dorothy Elliott—National Union of General & Municipal Workers.
§ Juvenile Courts.
§ Mr. John A. F. Watson—South-East London Juvenile Court.
§ Education Administration.
§ Mr. T. A. Warren—Director of Education, Wolverhampton.
§ Mr. Henry Morris—Cambridgeshire Education Committee.
§ Sir Robert Wood—Board of Education.
§ Mr. S. W. Harris—Home Office.
§ Mr. W. Taylor—Ministry of Labour and National Service.
§ Mr. H. E. Melvin—Board of Education.
§ At this stage, I must bring the Committee hard up against the fact that the great mass of our children end their education suddenly at the age of 14. We vote these millions in our Estimates, and then we cease to exercise continued care and supervision over our adolescents. I do not believe that this gap can be met simply by raising the school-leaving age to 15, or even to 16, but I think we should take the former step whenever we get the chance. The fact that there is a new registration scheme for youths between 16 and 18 has meant that it is now recognised that, up to at least 18, young people should be regarded as still falling within the purview of the education authorities and the Board of Education. Indeed 1415 that scheme is a new province in the service of education. I trust that this new Advisory Council will be an advance along the road to a more integrated national service for youth. But if we are to do what is right by the health and welfare of our young people, some continued supervision is necessary; and we must also secure recognition of the fact that, in the first years of their employment, young people should be treated as learners, and not simply as earners.
§ In the interests of youth, as well as out of consideration for our future industrial and commercial welfare—and I go so far as to say of our strategical welfare, as a great country—the whole system of our commercial and industrial training must be reviewed. I am glad to tell the Committee that the first step has been taken. Yesterday, the first meeting took place of representatives of industry—both employers and employed—and of the Ministry of Labour, the Board of Education, and the Scottish Office. All these interests have been brought together, by agreement, to consider the vital question of vocational training in relation to employment. I trust that, by putting the same drive into this development as has been put into some others which I have mentioned, we shall build that bridge between education and industry which the country has so long needed.
§ These departures—the training of teachers, the new Advisory Council, and the new attack on skilled training and vocational education—are by no means the only ventures of which I can inform the Committee. In the secondary sphere an expert investigation is being made into the question of examinations and the curriculum of secondary schools. I look forward to a report from that investigation, which should be an important contribution to our stocks during this formative period of educational reform. Hitherto, the secondary education of the State has been almost entirely provided by day schools. It has been felt for some time that children should have more variety of choice. In fact, it would be well if children could have an opportunity of going either to a senior modern school, a technical school, or a grammar school, according to their capabilities, after leaving the junior stage. But it may be that there should be another choice, a boarding school education.1416
§ From my investigations, it appears that many pupils, or their parents, who may speak for them, do not desire a boarding education, but there is a growing feeling that there is some advantage in the corporate life of this type of schooling, which should be made more widely available. This is a large and comprehensive question. Different views are held and expressed on the subject. I have recently had a request from the Governing Bodies Association of the public schools, and from the Headmasters' Conference that a body should be set up to work out a plan under which the facilities of a boarding-school education might be extended to those who desire to profit by them, irrespective of their means. The Government have decided to set up such a body. It was thought desirable to secure the most impartial, experienced, and independent chairman possible, and, if possible, one who was not wedded by previous association to any type of schooling in England. I have therefore looked to Scotland. I am glad to inform the Committee that Lord Fleming, a Scottish Lord of Session, has accepted my invitation to take the chair at this inquiry. He will be well-known to some members of the Committee, since he sat in this House for some time.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
I am not quite clear what the inquiry really is about. Is it to report upon the facilities that the public schools will provide for students from, say, elementary schools to get into them?
§ Mr. Butler
Yes, I think the hon. Member has summed up the position beautifully. I shall be issuing the exact terms of reference and the names of the Committee, as I was going to say, a little later; but I shall be interested to hear any points of view which may be expressed in this Debate.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Scotland is greatly flattered at the right hon. Gentleman's choice; but will he give us some hint as to the qualifications of Lord Fleming for this appointment?
§ Mr. Butler
His qualification is that he is one of the most capable of the Lords of Session, and a man who, by his record, has shown that he has that independent bearing and ability which would enable him to command confidence at an inquiry 1417 of this kind. I hope to add to this Committee representatives of different scholastic and educational interests and representatives of different points of view. I shall keep the House informed as I make progress on this subject.
Thus, I think we can say that, in reviewing the various advances planned or the progress made on the many sectors of education, the trend is ever forward and upward. It seems to me that British education goes winding on, like some track up the mountain side of our civilisation, ever ascending and ever providing the traveller with broader views and widening prospects. But, alas, like many mountain paths, it ceases abruptly when the children reach the age of 14, just when the views are becoming most interesting. This is not the moment to discuss the unevenness which I have described, and I am barred by the rules of Order from giving any further description of how we shall deal with this abrupt stop. But I can draw the attention of the Committee to the many suggestions I have made in my speech to-day, and encourage all concerned to make a contribution at this vital time to the pioneer work of social reform. I have purposely paid as much attention as possible, with the aid of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, this year to the needs of youth, for the path of education must be extended further, the road made up, and the summit reached. I know I can confidently count on the co-operation of hon. Members to assist me in this work of path-finding to the new world and to the new opportunities which are opening out for us.
§ Mr. Ammon (Camberwell, North)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just given us a very interesting survey earned the reputation, when he was at the Foreign Office, of a stone-waller against whom the late John Scotton would have been a reckless slogger. From his excellent survey one gathers that he has not quite lost all those qualities of stone-walling, although now and again one was a little hopeful that he was going to hit out pretty vigorously. A good many committees are to be appointed, and a good many things have been hinted at, and on some of these we would like something a little more definite, but it is only fair to say that to a certain extent the right hon. Gentleman was restricted by the fact that we cannot discuss matters that require legislation. It would not be an exaggeration 1418 to say that never was the subject of education more important than it is to-day. I join heartily, as I am sure the Committee will, with the Minister's expressed hope that his Department will be considered and looked upon as one of the major Departments of the State. Not only will it have much to do later on in holding down the peace, but it will be the chief cornerstone in the rebuilding of society after the war. His reference to evacuation and what has flowed from it, including the disadvantages, causes some of us even now to regret that at the commencement, when it could have been done, evacuation was not made compulsory. It would have saved us a tremendous lot of perplexity and worry, and a good deal of loss of education. On the other hand, it has to be admitted that it has not all been lost. Education consists in learning how to live with one another, and the contact of town children with children in the country, and the education that they have assimilated there, may be of great advantage to the State later on.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the increase in the Estimates for education. That is the very best possible investment into which the nation can put its money, but the question is. Are we getting full value for that money? One feels that we are not, because, as the right hon. Gentleman has already intimated, a good deal of it is lost when the school life terminates at the age of 14 and children are drawn into the vortex of industrialism with the subjects that are so necessary for after life only half assimilated. He made a passing reference to religious instruction, which I think is a very essential part of education. For education to be only mechanistic and materialistic would land us into very much the same position and bring about the things against which we are fighting. A spiritual and moral foundation is necessary. I want to utter a warning, now that the right hon. Gentleman and his Department are in discussion with many of the leaders of religious thought and organisations in this country, that no assent will be given to anything that will lead to denominational and sectarian strife and to making the children's bodies and souls the instrument over which wrangling may take place. I trust that the teaching of religious instruction 1419 will be an optional subject in the training colleges and that specialists will be appointed in that connection.
Flowing from that, comes the question of provision for the provided schools. If these schools are to claim, and to draw from, public money and seek grants of assistance, we have the right to insist that they shall provide proper and adequate buildings. I hope that the Board will take a very strong line with regard to some of the wretched buildings that are now in existence. Very inadequate accommodation, insanitary in many cases, must make it impossible for teachers to impart instruction properly. I have been into a school in the South of England where the classes were simply divided by a curtain drawn across the room, and teachers were shouting against each other on either side of the curtain in order to impart instruction to the children. That sort of thing ought to go. If the denominations are not prepared to play their part in providing adequate buildings after taking public money, it is time that such schools should be terminated and the whole brought under the aegis of the State.
The right hon. Gentleman also made reference to extra subjects, such as the teaching of international subjects, music and dramatic work and that sort of thing, and in that connection I would remind him that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie), a few days, ago, asked a Question about the third-year course for school teachers, and from the Answer we gathered that it seemed rather to have been suspended. I know that the opinion is held very strongly by the teaching profession itself, and I also hold it, that the third-year course should be reinstituted in order that the necessary qualifications for teaching these extra subjects may be obtained. I shall have something more to say about the schools and the provisions for youth, and I hope that before long, perhaps before this Debate ends, we may even hear the names of the other members of the Committee, in order that we may be able to estimate their respective qualities. I welcome the appointment as Chairman of the Headmaster of Uppingham, who is a young man with broad ideas, and I am sure that he will do good service. I am a little estranged, however, with regard to the 1420 appointment of Lord Fleming, because I remember him in this House, when I rather looked upon him as one of the greatest reactionaries we ever had here. Upon matters of education his attitude may be different.
§ Mr. Ammon
I will leave that matter to my hon.' Friend. The problem of education is accentuated both by the war and by a number of other things which we cannot afford to ignore. The tremendous change which has come in home life and the decline of religious education—almost the breakdown of home life—have thrown more and more responsibility upon the teaching profession for the training and care of the children. Another point that cannot be ignored, as far as adolescents are concerned, is the abnormally high wages which many of them are now receiving. This is raising tremendous problems, and it will present a greater problem a little later on. Anyone who has had contact with the institutions that are open for youth will know the tremendous problems and difficulties created by this fact, and will realise the difficulty in handling those who attend these institutions. I have taken particular interest in that side of the question, and I have been in touch with and have visited a good many of them, and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, something more than academic attainments are required for running these particular institutions. Qualities of leadership and the ability to obtain the confidence of these difficult young persons are most essential.
I want to deal with one or two further points, and I know that many hon. Members who want to speak will deal with other aspects of education. I want to touch upon the vexed question of the public schools. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, a committee is to be set up. It should be made clear that these schools should be brought into our national system of education. If it is to be done by instituting some form of scholarship for the best boys from our secondary schools, that will not solve the problem at all. In fact, it will have some very evil effects. It will result in our best boys being "creamed" from our State schools; they will be lured by the bribe of pleasant surroundings and by whatever 1421 remains of the prestige of our public schools. The latter will acquire new prestige from these boys coming from our State-aided schools on which the less clever boys, who have got into public schools owing to the length of their parents' purse, will be carried. We shall still have two different kinds of education in the State, and I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman when he appoints his Committee will put this question to them.
Such a solution ignores the fact that one of the losses which the nation incurs under the present arrangements is that local schools are debarred from the advantages which would accrue to them if local wealthy people sent their boys to the same schools as the local poorer people—the squire with the tradesman and so forth. Not only would social advantage be derived from this healthy mixture of classes, but if the moneyed classes in the country used the same schools as the unmoneyed classes, the former would take a more active interest in the development of the State and rate-aided system of education. Public schools, in so far as they are boarding schools, should be made to serve the locality or the county in which they are situated. It has been brought to my notice that in some areas children are debarred from secondary education because there are no schools easily accessible to them, and some kind of boarding school is, therefore, necessary.
As I have said, the first claim on a public school is that it should serve the area in which it is situated and should provide boarding accommodation for those children who would not otherwise be able to get secondary education. For instance, I know that some years ago, in certain parts of Shropshire, it was impossible to award scholarships because there were no secondary schools accessible. Why should not the children concerned have gone to Shrewsbury as they would have done under a proper system of education? That privilege was denied to them. With regard to Dauntsey's School, in Wiltshire, which is aided by the Board and, I think, by the local education authority, a certain number of places have been awarded, it is true, but they do not cover more than tuition. Because of the long distances to travel, and unless parents are able to pay for board, the scholarships are valueless. I hope this point also will be borne in mind. It has been brought to 1422 my attention that this is happening in large parts of Devonshire and Northumberland.
I would like now to raise a point which I have raised before in this House and which I have raised with the London County Council, who have met it in a half-hearted manner. Under our multilateral system we designate certain schools as secondary schools, and others as Trade Schools, and this sets up a snobbish division and gives a false sense of values. In fact, we have maintained this utterly false sense of false values throughout our educational system, which is largely individualistic. Suppose there are two lads in a family, one who is keen on the academic side of education and the other who has a bent for the mechanical side, say, as an engineer. What happens? The boy who wins a scholarship on the academic side goes to a secondary school, and the other lad, who wins a trade scholarship, goes to a trade school. At once the lad who has gone to a secondary school feels that he is a superior person to his brother. He is nothing of the sort. I cannot see why we should stick to this terminology. We should insist on there being secondary schools which stand on an equal basis. Has the President given his mind to the possibility of having fewer schools and larger schools under one roof catering for the children who now go to three different types of schools? If he has not, will he do so? I wonder if he is frightened by the bogy of the large schools. If so, why? Has he given any consideration to the position of such schools in Canada and the United States? I am informed that Eton and Manchester Grammar School each have 1,100 boys, that St. Paul's has 800 and that Dulwich—of which I happen to be a governor—also has 800.
As regards planning for post-war education, I know I must not touch upon anything which requires legislation, but at the same time the right hon. Gentleman intimated that he was setting up various committees, and it would be as well to indicate to him what we have in mind. I hope he will not countenance a mere patching-up of our educational system. If he does, it will ruin our post-war position. I hope that before the war ends he will bring to the House proposals for the post-war period so that we can have an opportunity of discussing them and mak- 1423 ing plans ready for when the opportunity arrives. We never know how long the war will hold or when it will collapse, and we do not want to be caught out on one foot, as it were, so far as this matter is concerned. All the experience gained in the service of youth, and particularly in the registration and interviewing, goes to show that the most urgent necessity is to keep young people under educational influences after they have left the elementary schools and during their first years in industry. I suggest that one of the first things we should consider in that connection is the establishment of day continuation schools at least from 15 to 18. That ought to be undertaken as almost the first thing after the war. We shall have, I am afraid, a generation of school children who will go into the world after the war having had very little education owing to all the dislocation that has taken place, and we ought to do all we can to overtake that lapse. If the establishment of day continuation schools is undertaken as a first step after the war it will help considerably to clear the ground in order to give some attention to the elementary school children who will be coming on.
Another point I want to raise is the unification of our system of education. There is a Ministry for education, but there are a good many other Ministries which have a hand in it. It will be conceded that the Navy, Army and Air Force must necessarily look after the technical training of those who are in their schools, but they are not the only schools. The Ministry of Agriculture deals with agricultural education, which would be better dealt with by the technical branch of the Board of Education. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the backwardness in our provision of technical education in the rural areas is largely due to the fact that the main industry is agriculture and the Board of Education is debarred from undertaking agricultural education. The Home Office is responsible for a number of approved schools, an uneconomical arrangement, since it involves special educational staff in the Home Office which duplicate the staff of the Board, and its doctrines and regulations may even conflict with those of the Board. The Ministry of Health is responsible for a number of boarding schools for children under the 1424 Poor Law. Is there any reason why these schools—surely public schools in the real sense of the term—should not come under the Board and their residential facilities be used not merely for the children who are unfortunate in respect of money, but also for those who need residential facilities for other reasons?
I do not think I shall be treading on the toes of our mining friends when I point out that the Ministry of Mines conducts examinations for colliery managers—an engineering profession—although the Board of Education is the one which runs national certificates with the co-operation of the institutes for mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, naval architects, and so on. I understand that a large number of those who present themselves for the colliery manager's certificate have relied upon correspondence courses and many of them fail. Surely in a profession such as that of coalmining the criterion ought not to be merely the ability to pass an examination which may be precariously achieved by correspondence courses. It ought to be linked up with attendance at approved courses in properly equipped institutions such as now exist in most parts of the mining areas. I suggest, therefore, that the Minister should consult with his colleagues in the Government, and that all educational matters should come under his own Department, which would then have undivided authority in the sphere of education. I put forward these suggestions, which I hope are practical suggestions, and trust that they will be considered in the light of the discussions that are taking place, and that the Minister will see that the scheme of post-war education is drawn up and brought to this House as soon as possible in order that it may be properly examined and discussed, so that it can be launched without delay when the opportunity presents itself.
I should like to express my appreciation of the growth in the expenditure on the provision of meals for children. Whatever might have been the grounds of objection of some people m days gone by, I think that in this hour of our nation's necessity everybody must have been convinced of the value of this provision. Anybody who has had the duty and privilege of seeing the children since this larger provision of meals and of noticing the tremendous improvement in their physical health and mental brightness, will realise 1425 that we are getting a good return from our money, pressed down and running over. We ought to be getting a bigger return than we are getting educationally for the money already invested. We realise the many difficulties that beset the path, but we trust that the days of simply going on with the old time methods without seeking to reform and reorganise the whole system of education have passed. We must give attention to an education which will make a good citizen and not merely turn a child into a cog that will fit effectively into the industrial machine. It must be an education that will send out into the world well-equipped, efficient, and what I would call human souls with a spiritual outlook on life. If it is not that, there will be nothing that divides us from those very things against which we are fighting. Looking at Germany and Russia, we can quite conceive that it will be possible to get an order of society organised on such lines that while all the material needs can be supplied real freedom and real development will not be there and the system will merely make effective machines. Education, if it means anything, means that it will turn out boys and girls to be men and women capable of living with each other and capable of living with the rest of the world. It means the development of mind and body so that people can express their own individualities while at the same time co-operating with the rest of the community in order to build up a society so that terrible tragedies such as that through which we are now passing will be impossible in the days to come.
§ Mrs. Tate (Frome)
I cannot say how heartily I concur with the views expressed by the hon. Member for North Camber-well (Mr. Ammon) as to the real purpose of education. When I listened to the Minister's interesting speech I could not help feeling that there was rather too much emphasis on the desirability of an increase in expenditure on education. I want to see education extended, but I cannot concur in the view that efficiency is necessarily indicated because the expenditure is greater. I wish that I could think so. Although we must congratulate this country and the Board of Education on the fact that education has been carried on often under most difficult conditions during the war, I believe that we could have laid far greater foundation for post-war education than we have done. I am afraid that the statistics which the 1426 Minister gave with regard to attendance at schools showed a more satisfactory picture than is, in fact, the case. The Minister may say that so many children have attended school, or a certain percentage of children were absent from school, but that does not give a true picture. Since the beginning of the war enormous numbers of children have had their education so broken up and interrupted and changed to such an extent that it has been practically useless. The Minister gave us no picture of this often unnecessary movement in his speech.
I very heartily welcome the increase in school feeding and the extension of the milk-in-schools scheme that will be of real value. To turn to the Youth Advisory Council it will not have the opportunity it should have if it is to deal only with children from 14 to 18. Any youth advisory council which starts advising about children only when they reach the age of 14 will be largely ineffective, because the character and problems of youth as also the problems of juvenile delinquency need attention at a far earlier age if we are to give them the attention they deserve. The Minister knows how much I deplore and have for long deplored the fact that so many children between two and five years of age have been handed over by the Board of Education to the Ministry of Health, who have proved themselves extraordinarily incapable of dealing with them. If expenditure of money were a guarantee of efficiency, how remarkable would have been the record of the Ministry of Health. They have certainly spent the money, but efficiency has far from followed that expenditure. A Committee was set up the other day to deal with maternity and child welfare. It is an enormous Committee which is overloaded with medical representation, and, as far as I can make out, it is not responsible in any way for reporting to the Board of Education. I should like to have a definite reply from the Minister as to whether that Committee is obliged to advise and report to the Board of Education, or whether, having been set up by the Ministry of Health, it is obliged to report and advise only to the Ministry of Health. In my opinion the Committee will be greatly hampered if it has to deal only with the Ministry of Health, in advising on child welfare. Judging by their near past record, they should not be allowed to touch a single 1427 child over the age of two. The taxpayers would be absolutely horrified if a careful analysis was made and given of increase in expenditure where, in war-time nurseries, children from ages up to two are mixed with children from two to five years old. Certainly everyone who is interested in child welfare is horrified with the inefficiency of these nurseries, as compared with those which take children from two to five years of age only and put them in charge of properly qualified nursery school teachers instead of under a trained nurse or matron who are not the persons best qualified to deal with the education of children.
Maternity and child welfare cannot be dealt with purely from the physical point of view. The sooner we realise that the physical and mental welfare of children are indissoluble the sooner we shall understand that their management is largely an educational matter and put children of two and over entirely under the Board of Education. It is no good the Minister laughing, because he knows very well what a terrible mistake his Department made when, in their folly, they handed over these children to the Ministry of Health. An enormous opportunity has been presented during this war, because children have been entering nurseries at an earlier age and in larger numbers than in peace-time because their parents have joined up or are working in factories. We could have built a really ideal structure of nursery schools for post-war years, but, owing to the fact that the matter has come under the Ministry of Health, that wonderful opportunity has been largely thrown away and enormous sums of public money with it. I know that I am surrounded by potential speakers, and I do not want to detain the Committee very long, but I wish that the Minister had paid greater tribute to the teachers who have had to meet almost insuperable difficulties during the war. I note he said that we were still short of teachers.
§ Mr. Butler
I think it would be a great pity if the impression were given that I am not grateful. On many occasions I have expressed my gratitude, and on several occasions during my speech I purposely paid a tribute to the teachers. I am obliged to my hon. Friend for giving me this opportunity to stress it again, be- 1428 cause I think it is important that teachers should be aware of my gratitude.
§ Mrs. Tate
I apologise. I certainly put my point badly. I was thinking of married women teachers. The Minister explained that we were calling on reserves of teachers and were asking married women to return to the teaching profession. May I say that I consider that no woman who is married should be forced to leave the teaching profession? I do not consider that when a woman marries she becomes less experienced. I think it is very regrettable that so large a proportion of women were forced to give up their profession on marriage, and I trust, in view of the service they are rendering during the war, women may be dealt with more reasonably and justly in the postwar years. I sincerely hope that the Youth Advisory Council will have a closer link with the Maternity and Child Welfare Committee. I cannot sufficiently emphasise the importance of that. Youth does not begin at 14, and child welfare does not stop at infancy. Child welfare and youth development are and should be linked together. I repeat that we should not have so great a preponderance of medical advice on the Maternity and Child Welfare Committee, and that it should not be set up to advise only the Ministry of Health, but should report also to the Board of Education.
§ Mr. Richards (Wrexham)
The Committee has listened with very great interest to what the President said in the first review of education during the war years. I think we can congratulate both ourselves and the Board upon the fact that the educational system, working under considerable difficulties, is still really doing a splendid job of work. I did not feel, however, that the President was taking the serious view of the future of education that we are entitled to expect from him. I think the country is particularly anxious at present to know something of what is in the mind of the Board of Education and the House generally with regard to the future development of education. It has been said by some speakers—and I am sure we all agree—that the development of education is the most fundamental of all the reforms that we are looking forward to as the result of the war. The community that we shall have after the war must be largely formed by the kind of education that we evolve. 1429 We have only to look to other countries to see that this is so. Education, if it means anything at all, is education for life in the community. It seems to me that there are conflicting ideals as to what this life may mean.
We have the point very clearly put, for example, in the case of the system that has been adopted in Germany. A very striking book has been written recently by an American professor dealing with this system, in which he outlines something of the Nazi idea. Dr. Siemer entitles his book, curiously, "Education for Death." He gives detailed examples of the way in which Germany has trained its youth to regard its own life, and very largely its own ideals, as matters of no consequence at all provided they have an opportunity of giving their life for the State. This is the kind of thing that we are meeting on the Continent at present, a system which has controlled the youth from babyhood upwards to the need that the demand of the State is absolutely paramount. There is, as he said, in the career of that youth a ceremony of dedication to the State. It takes place at about 14 or 15, when the boy is introduced in the presence of a particular kind of ceremony and swears that he will do everything for and by the State. Germany is not the only country where you have that belief. You have it in the case of the Soviet youth. One would like to feel that we really are going to establish a system of education such as will give every boy and girl such a belief in the institutions of his country that he will not only be willing to die but—a much more difficult thing—to live for this country too. We are looking forward to something of that kind, and the instrument that we have for forging that future system of education is very largely the Board of Education.
I do not think we can say that the present system is at all satisfactory. Take, for example, the very simple case of the gross inequalities of the system as it is working at present. Take the case of children going into secondary schools. The inequalities are really very great. We give opportunities to children to go to secondary schools, but compare different counties. Compare a rich with a poor county. There is no equality of opportunity as long as you have those great differences in what are called special places. One county will be very generous, 1430 and another will be much less generous. Why should children in the second county be treated differently from children in the first? It all comes back to the question of rateable value. Why should that determine the opportunity that the children are to have? It stands to reason that the burden that would be imposed upon Merthyr Tydfil by giving a number of special places in its secondary school would be much more considerable than in a rich town like Bournemouth. I was glad to find that the President was very much impressed by what has been done in Anglesey in the matter of the feeding of school children. Does he realise that Anglesey is one of the poorest counties, from the point of view of rateable value, in the whole Kingdom? That makes the effort that Anglesey has made in this respect, as well as in others, a very noteworthy one indeed.
It seems to me that there is only one thing that the Board can do in this matter, and that is to get rid of the idea of special places altogether. Everyone bemoans the fact that children are leaving school just when they are beginning to learn. Why not give them all an opportunity of going to a multi-lateral school where they will be taught all kinds of subjects? It is in that kind of atmosphere, where every boy is given an opportunity of being taught all kinds of subjects, that we discover the natural inclination of the child. One will be academic; let him go to a university. Another will be technical in his tendencies; let him have the best technical education the country can give him. I think it would do both kinds of children, brought up together in that kind of atmosphere, a deal of good. The one would respect the talent that one child has in his hands, just as the other respects the talents that the other has in his mind. We need them all for the community, and we are beginning to realise that one of the most important persons at present in the community is the engineer. We should be in a very sorry plight indeed were it not for the dexterity with which the engineers are fighting the battle for us in the factories.
I am sorry to say that this distinction as between rich and poor extends also to the university colleges and to the training colleges. I heard the other day of the case of a little girl who could not have a university education because her parents were poor and she would have had to go 1431 to another town, whereas children living in the neighbourhood of that town could avail themselves of university education. The whole thing wants regularising. If children are fit to go to the universities, the State ought to see that they get an opportunity of going there.
We have heard something about the public schools, and that is a subject which is causing considerable concern in the country at the present time. I am not here to decry, because it would be ridiculous to do so, the services that have been performed by our public schools, but if they are in considerable financial straits at the present time, if they come to the State to assist them in their difficulties, we feel that they ought to be brought into the general system of the educational life of this country. One feels sometimes that the public school is the only school from which the public is quite definitely excluded and we want to put an end to that position. Public schools have great traditions and great experience, and we want to place those traditions and that experience at the service of the community generally, so that every child who can profit by that kind of education will have an opportunity of doing so. It has been said that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton. I do not know whether by analogy, we ought to say that the battle of Singapore was lost on the playing-fields of Harrow. At any rate mistakes have been made by the public schools, just as by other public institutions, and I hope that the Committee which the President of the Board of Education has set up will not be a halfhearted committee and that a determined effort will be made to make the public schools even more efficient than they are now—and some of them are very efficient—and certainly more prepared to serve not a particular section of the community but the whole of it.
There is another aspect of the matter to which I should like to refer. We have just been celebrating the centenary of one of the greatest headmasters of a public school which this country has ever known, and it is rather interesting, when looking back over the century, to think that what Arnold did at Rugby and what Jowett did to a certain extent at Balliol was to train people for the administration of the Ser- 1432 vices, particularly abroad. For that kind of work emphasis was laid not particularly upon intellectual qualities, upon the training of the brain, but upon other social qualities. I think too much stress has been placed upon good form, upon certain qualities which we value very much but which ought now to be combined with definitely intellectual training. Although our Dependencies and our Colonies owe a great deal to this type of administrator, it is becoming increasingly clear that we need another type of administrator to-day. We shall want the scientifically-trained mind if we are to get the best from whatever Dependencies will remain to us at the end of the war. Our weakness in scientific training has been an outstanding blot upon our educational system. I was interested to find that in the report published by the Board of Education, I think in 1927, it was pointed out that during the last war science came into its own, for a time at any rate, but that it was quite possible that we should slip back again in that respect, and that they were endeavouring to do something towards making permanent the contribution of science to the life of the community.
Science, we all believe, will play a much more important part in the future even than it has done in the past. Progress, particularly on the technical side, during these three years of war has been enormous. Science will control the future. We have seen how Russia has equipped herself, in the scientific sense, in the short time she has enjoyed the kind of government she has at the present time. Science is going to control the future of nations. That nation will be on top which is best scientifically equipped. From that point of view alone our children should be scientifically-minded in future to a degree which it was not possible for earlier generations to attain. As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary knows, there is a tremendous value, almost a unique value, in scientific training. It is not for me to decry the value of training in the classics or any of those other subjects to which we have been so long wedded, but I am certain that the training which science gives is invaluable even if we regard it merely as a kind of training.
There will also be, I am certain, a great demand for cultural education in future. After the present weary period people will turn for comfort and for inspiration to 1433 the classics in the wider sense of the term. I was rather disappointed that the President of the Board of Education did not say anything about the splendid work which is being done by the tutorial classes and by the Workers' Educational Association. It holds the future in its hands, it seems to me, and as long as we can get adult people who have been through the war or working in the factories to feel that there is something more which can only be given them by a course of education, this country can be proud of itself and pretty certain of its future. Like some of my hon. Friends here, I have had the privilege of conducting evening classes for workers. We have all been struck by the fact that they have found in them something that they had missed. I am sure there will be a greatly increased demand along these lines in future. The people of Wales in particular are looking forward—and I was glad to hear the President of the Board of Education refer to it—to opportunities for renewed study of their culture and their literature. We are, I assume, fighting for the small nations of the world. Wales is a small nation judged by numbers. It has one of the most interesting and varied, as well as the richest, literatures in the world. It is a miracle how that literature and that language have persisted. We are looking forward to an opportunity for extended study, in the sense of giving all our people an opportunity of enriching their lives at the fount of this culture, which is native to them, while not despising the culture of other nations which are greater from some points of view. It is a unique opportunity for the Board of Education. If we have further discussions on education, I suggest that some of these fundamental problems which worry us should be discussed and debated, and some kind of a conclusion come to before the end of the war, in order, as has already been said, that we may move on at once to perfecting our system of education, as far as is humanly possible.
§ Captain Cobb (Preston)
I congratulate the President of the Board of Education upon the first speech which he has made in this House since his appointment. I am sure he will understand what I mean when I say that probably most of us were far more interested in what he is going to do in education than in what he is actually doing. We all realise fully that, in the 1434 reconstruction of the post-war world, education and educational reform will be of first-class importance. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will not allow himself to be deterred in his activities by the knowledge that any step forward ever taken in educational reform has invariably been well ahead of public opinion. It is false to imagine that progress in education comes from public demand. Almost invariably the people who are most affected, that is, the parents, are opposed to reforms involving their keeping children at school longer, and that sort of thing. After the reforms have become established, it will be only a very small minority who will wish to return to the status quo ante.
In one respect, the President of the Board of Education might use his good offices with the officers of the Board. I feel that the Board are over-obsessed with the importance of stressing the individual. Children should be taught, above everything, that the individual is of little importance and that what counts is what the individual is able to give. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards), who made a most interesting speech, referred to education abroad which stresses the importance of the children rendering service to the State and to the State alone. I agree that the example which he gave showed the undesirable effects of the kind of education which is practised in totalitarian countries, but, in a country like this or in any other really democratic country whose institutions are worth preserving, it is of immense importance that the individual should not consider himself but should realise that he is performing his best function by giving to the community rather than in taking from it.
I was very glad to hear what the President had to say about the school-leaving age. Generally speaking, we are becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that we have failed in the past to live up to our responsibilities to the young. We have allowed them to leave school and become almost entirely divorced from any kind of educational influence at a time when they are still very young children, far too young to be thrown on the world and left to their own devices. The House of Commons has approved the Education Act, which raises the school-leaving age to 15. That is a very desirable advance as a first step which will, I understand and hope, be put into operation as soon as the war 1435 is over; but if the President of the Board of Education is proposing to bring forward plans in due course for post-war education, I hope that he will divide his programme into two parts, long-term and short-term. There are certain reforms which could be put into operation almost immediately, but there are others equally necessary and desirable which should be agreed as essential. If it were left to me to make post-war plans for education, I should ask—demand—that the school-leaving age be raised within a specified time to 16; that from 16 to 18 there should be compulsory part-time education, and that from 18, to round off our educational system, there should be at least a year of compulsory national service. It seems to me that one could then feel that we had really given every child in the country an opportunity of becoming a first-class and useful citizen.
One reform to which no reference was made by my right hon. Friend, is urgently necessary. It is essential that, as soon as it can be effected, there should be a very material reduction in the size of classes. In many schools, teachers are faced with the almost impossible task of having to teach classes of 35 or 40 children. That may be all right in a secondary school where a great number of the children are specialising and working on their own, but to try and teach a class of 40 very small children means that the teacher is presented with a task which it is impossible to perform.
The registration of youth which is now taking place has shown clearly to the Board of Education and to the authorities concerned how few are the opportunities provided for children between the ages of 16 and 18. In some areas it is difficult to find suitable activities which are worth while for these young people. One very great difficulty is to find suitable leaders. So many active and suitable men have been called up to service in the Armed Forces that I suggest that the President of the Board might get into touch with the Service Department with a view to getting a supply of suitable, youngish men who have been invalided out of the Services or have been retired from the Services on the ground of age. After all, you are an old man in the Services at 45, but you are perfectly suitable for many years after that to be a very effective leader of youth.
1436 There is another subject which the President of the Board touched upon in his speech, the selection and training of teachers, and I was very glad to hear him tell the Committee that he has appointed a committee which is to inquire into the whole question and make recommendations. In view of the immense importance of the teaching profession, those proposing to enter it should be given the best possible preparation for their most important career. I should lay it down as being almost 100 per cent. necessary that they should have the advantage of education in a boarding school, and that they should proceed thereafter to a university. I hope that the teaching profession will not take it amiss if I venture to express the opinion that the present system of training teachers can hardly avoid making them into a narrow-minded community. It seems to me a most unhappy state of affairs that at the age of 18 or 19 these teachers should be herded into monastic institutions like training colleges, where every student is about to adopt exactly the same profession. It would be infinitely better in every way if intending teachers went to a university, where they would rub shoulders with all kinds and conditions of men who are entering every kind of profession, because this mixing with other people is bound to give them a broader outlook, which will be of enormous advantage to them in their profession.
My right hon. Friend also said a word about religious education, and I was very glad to hear him tell the Committee that arrangements are being made to teach teachers to teach religion. That may be a rather complicated sentence, but I think that under the existing system, or what has been the system until now, it has been perfectly ludicrous to allow teachers who do not profess to believe in Christianity to have the duty of teaching the Christian religion to children in their charge. I am not decrying the value of the work that has been done by teachers in the schools, because I think that everyone realises that the religious syllabus is a matter of comparatively small importance; what does matter is the zeal, the ability and the profound belief of the teacher who is giving the instruction. There is no doubt that in spite of many handicaps very fine results have been achieved in the past. A committee was appointed in the days when Lord Halifax was President 1437 of the Board which recommended that in training colleges there should be a diploma for teachers who wished to specialise in religious instruction. I do not know whether anything was ever done about that recommendation, but I feel that religious instruction should be accepted generally as being equally as important as mathematics, history, literature or anything else. It is essential that this immensely important subject should be taught by people who are really qualified to teach it and who really believe in the subject which they are teaching.
In conclusion, I should like to express the opinion that the Board of Education has been hardly treated by Prime Ministers during the last 20 years. We have had 11 or 12 different Presidents of the Board during that time. I think that Lord Eustace Percy was the only one who held office for more than four years, and I suggest that for the position of President of the Board of Education to be one which lasts for such an extremely short time makes it quite impossible to have any consistent policy. What has happened is that a man has arrived at the Board of Education and has just begun to learn something about his job when he is either removed to another place or is translated to some other office. The same may apply to other Ministries as well, but I express the opinion that it is more unfortunate in the case of education than it is in the case of a great many other offices. I hope that the present President will not allow himself, if he can possibly help it, to be translated elsewhere until he has had an opportunity of presenting to the House the work on which he is engaged, the preparation of a plan for the future reconstruction of education.
§ Mr. R. Morgan (Stourbridge)
I am sorry that I have to follow my hon. and gallant Friend, because there is so much in what he has said that I should have liked to say myself. That will, however, have the advantage of making my speech short. I am very glad to see that the Education Estimates are in the hands of my right hon. Friend the President and also of the Parliamentary Secretary, an intellectual whom we have borrowed from the other side of the House. I and some of my hon. Friends have often said in Debates on the Estimates that we always believed education to be a thing which has no place in party politics, and 1438 I hope that we shall follow that lead now and for ever. In the field of education there should be no room for political opportunism. I say this because there has been a spate of books on education, and almost every weekly has attempted to tell us recently what should be the future of education. As we have been treated to so many glimpses of what is likely to happen in the future, I cannot but refer to a statement I saw in a weekly called the "New Statesman." It contained what I might call a left-handed compliment to the party to which I belong. The writer started his argument by saying:It is fantastic but true that the Conservative party is more active in the educational field than the Labour party.I am not sure whether that was intended as a left-handed compliment to our party or a tribute to our record in the past, or whether it was a spur to the Labour party to join more heartily in the cause of education. Be that as it may, I am very glad to see that the Estimates to-day are in the charge of the tandem pair who are seeing a very responsible job through. I take it that they are both agreed on this scheme of which we have had glimpses. Apart from these articles in the Press, we have also had many resolutions and many conferences in the past month, particularly the Whitsuntide conferences, by which we are led to believe, if we may sum up some of the resolutions which were passed—and I am not going to disagree with them—that all is not too well with our educational system. I think that the general burden of the complaint is that our educational development is too slowly moving and that in peacetime it is handicapped and hampered by some of those social evils which ought long to have been eradicated, such as poverty and unemployment.
In war-time, I hope that the President or the Parliamentary Secretary, whoever is to reply, will not mind my saying that although education is an important service, it is not quite regarded as an essential service in the war period. I do not think one can quarrel with that. What I was going to say is that from the resolutions I have seen it is evident that a large body of opinion in this country feels that education now deserves a new drive, in deeper and wider and more fruitful channels. I want particularly to join with my hon. Friend who preceded me in 1439 saying that if we are to have a long-term policy, these kaleidoscopic changes of the Board must cease. We ought at least to see that we have a President and a Parliamentary Secretary who will give us in the near future a five-year plan, and we ought to be able to hold them to it, and check them as they go along and see how they get along. It has been deplorable in the past to see the different changes in the Board. We have seen a noble Earl, well fitted to occupy the chair at the Ministry of Agriculture, put into the Board of Education presidential chair; we have seen an equally well qualified man from the educational point of view put into the chair of agriculture. So one could go on. I hope some method can be found of stabilising, at least for a time, the office of the President of the Board of Education.
After all is said and done, educational policy cannot be dissociated from other fields of national activity, such as national service and defence, the relation of the State to industry, unemployment, local government and social services. All these things act and react on one another. Therefore it is essential that we should have a President of the Board and a Parliamentary Secretary in charge who are able to get into close touch with these different Departments. If I were to be asked what I considered to be the greatest need of the Board of Education's work to-day, I should say that it would be that they should see that the whole of the education services are integrated into one national system under one national control, right from the nursery school to postgraduate and university stage and adult education. In that I am only following what another Member said previously. What we really want is to treat education as an indivisible whole. Then we should not have these questions cropping up as to how we should deal with public schools and private schools, and approved schools. What we want to-day is to get away from the multiplicity of types of schools. Simplification would help us to get unification, with one great division, primary and secondary, as has been suggested, and then a university course for those best able to take advantage of it. I very much like the slogan which the President of the Board gave at an Easter conference at which I was present, when he said he was going to have a fresh slogan, that rather than "Equal oppo- 1440 rtunities for all" he would say, "Each according to his ability." I thought that an excellent slogan.
There are some things which hamper educational progress and have always done so. I do not know whether the President of the Board knew it, but when he touched on the question of the religious factor he dealt with it rather gingerly-very wisely, if I may say so—but I would warn him that it is a factor that has to be faced. I think I am right in saying that the majority of the people of this country desire that education shall be founded on a religious basis. That is easier said than carried out. It would be distressing if we had the experience of the past repeated—if we had to witness again an Education Act wrecked on the rocks of religious prejudice. I have come to the conclusion that although this has to be faced, we must face it boldly and, in a way, simply. We cannot possibly base any educational system on a sectarian system that would satisfy all sects, but I think we could concentrate, or the Board could concentrate, on a system which would suit the majority of people, that is, they could concentrate on the central Christian doctrine. You may ask me, What is the central Christian doctrine? I confess it is a very difficult thing to answer, but if I were to be pressed, I would say it is one which is based on the Ten Commandments and the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. Few people would object to that; at least, I do not think so. At all events I think that the definition we might keep in our minds is the one which Professor Jacks gave us the other day, when he said,Let us base our educational system on an agreed system of factual religious instruction.His actual words were, if I remember rightly:Education is a way of life based on a faith which gives meaning to our way of life and sanctification to our teaching.I think that is rather what the President of the Board was hinting at to-day.
I think it was the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) who stressed a point which must be evident to the minds of most of us, that is, that the State must concern itself with religion. Otherwise you get these awful parallels from the state of France, what is happening in Germany, and what has been happening in Russia. In France, after the victory of anti-clericalism that took place, we found that there was no substitute for religion 1441 there at all; therefore there was no ideology, and man must have an ideology. In Germany they sought after a substitute; they set up a sort of ersatz religion. We all know the terrible results of this. Those are the kind of things we want to avoid, and we can only avoid them in the way I have suggested.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
I would remind the hon. Member that in his opening remarks he promised to be short, and I do not think he will be able to go through all the educational systems of the world.
§ Mr. Morgan
I bow to your ruling, Mr. Williams. My point is that the war has shown us the need for spiritual national unity. I think that an agreed and approved syllabus is the best and only practical way you can possibly adopt. I wanted to make reference to the men in the Forces. I can do that best by quoting a letter which I have received:It seems to me that the experiment in providing facilities in the Forces for many of us is important, not only for the period of the war but also for the preparation of big post-war developments.I know much is being done; but is it possible for the Board of Education to give any account of what is going on in order to make up the leeway for those young men in the Forces who have been deprived of the opportunity of going into the different educational fields, as they intended to do; and are the Board of Education able to follow up and receive reports on what is happening in those directions? I should like to conclude by congratulating the President of the Board of Education on giving us this opportunity to examine the educational position in spite of so many calls in other directions.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
I should like to join those other Members who have expressed their pleasure that the President of the Board of Education is in his office and the hope that no sudden turn of the ministerial kaleidoscope will remove him from work in which he is taking such deep interest, and for which he is so well qualified. We have been encouraged by what he has said about the progress being made 1442 in schools, even under war conditions, and in spite of the special stress of war-time finance. There is universal satisfaction at the development of school feeding. The right hon. Gentleman stressed not only the immense value physically of the inauguration of regular school meals, but the educational value. School life is really inadequate unless it is something much more than the life of the classroom. It needs the life of the playing fields and social life within the schools. The school meal adds a social sacrament to the life of the school if it is conducted in the right way and enjoyed in the right spirit. From this point of view, as well as that of the physical advantage to the children, we must rejoice at the progress which has been made in this respect, even in these difficult days. Then there is the remarkable development in the opening up of the service of youth and the registration of children between 14 and 16—for they are still children, although they are wage-earners. This has opened the eyes, at any rate, of many who are working in and for local education authorities to the existence of wrong conditions of which they were unaware. From the point of view of educating our education authorities and administrators, we must welcome the introduction of this change. We shall get to know the facts about life as it affects these young wage-earners, many of whom are working long hours, working very hard, and sometimes in wrong conditions. As a result, we may look forward to greater reforms.
But this would never have been necessary if successive Governments and successive Parliaments had not allowed the provisions of Mr. Fisher's great Act to become a dead letter; and if the education authorities had acted as they might have done under the provisions that Parliament had given them, we need have had no ignorance about the conditions of our young people. They would not then have been neglected, but would have been going on with their education. Why is it that during these 20 years only one education authority has had the courage to go on with the provisions of the Fisher Act, and to provide education for all its children of between 14 and 16? Let us turn our eyes to Rugby, and think of the wonderful example that that education authority has set, with every boy and girl leaving school going on with one day a week at continuation school up to the 1443 age of 16, with the result that almost all the boys and a very large proportion of the girls voluntarily go on with continuation schooling after that. That might have happened all over the country if education authorities had really cared about education as they ought to do.
§ Captain Cobb
Is the hon. Member not aware that that voluntary part-time education scheme broke down because of the opposition of the parents?
§ Mr. Harvey
I do not think it was merely the opposition of the parents. I know that there was opposition, but it could have been overcome if the leaders in the municipalities and in the Government had been enough in earnest. There was opposition, no doubt, at first in Rugby, but it was overcome. The good will of the manufacturers and of the leaders of the trade unions was obtained, and it has been maintained. No one questions the value of that work. We must see that there is a development of it in years to come. The hon. and gallant Member opposite wants, I know, to see not only the raising of the age to 15 immediately after the close of hostilities, and at a very early date to 16, but a fuller education provided for all our children. If that is done, we shall then be a family. Until we do it we are a family divided, and unworthy of the name. The President of the Board of Education used an interesting phrase, which I hope I am not unfair in saying was a characteristic under-statement. He spoke of his desire to "smooth out the unevenness" of English education. He wants to see an increase of variety. I agree. But "smoothing out the unevenness" is a miserably inadequate description, considering the terrible inequalities that still exist.
Let us try to think of the child in a poor family who has obtained a free place in a secondary school, and who is either unable to go to that school at all or is withdrawn at the earliest possible moment, not because of unfitness, not because he does not wish to go on, but because of the pressure of poverty in the home. That injustice has to be removed, not merely for the sake of that child and of that home, but for the sake of the whole family of the nation, to which we all belong. The President of the Board of Education spoke of his plan for improving 1444 and widening the training of teachers. He hopes to bring into this greatest of professions men and women with a wider and different background of experience, along with those so devotedly working in it to-day. I hope that he will go further, and ensure that the entrants into this profession get a training which is worthy of their noble calling, in the truest sense. It is not satisfactory that we should have these segregated training colleges utterly apart from the life of the universities.
We ought to bring in our future teachers to share the life of the universities along with fellow students of their own age. They would be wider in their outlook for that and would bring their own contribution to the life of the universities. Some of these colleges are already close to existing universities and could easily be linked up. It might be necessary to transfer others from their present sites, but we need to have it made clear that the object of our system should be to give the very best training possible to the teachers of the future. We ought not to grudge the expenditure that is needed, if we realise the importance of the work to which the teachers are dedicated.
There is one point of which the President did not speak at all in his hints about future development and the plans he is already making for it. I hope that during this Debate we may hear from the Parliamentary Secretary some word upon the matter. I refer to the plans he is now making for the further development of adult education. The Board of Education has been the Cinderella of Ministries, and I am inclined to think that adult education has been the Cinderella of all the Departments with which the Board itself deals. I hope that we shall see the present system of scholarships provided to the universities widened very much in their scope. At the moment the Board provides scholarships to universities for young students who intend to teach, and they have to make a declaration promising that they will teach for a certain number of years. I hope that we shall have a far wider system in substitution for that.
We have to remember that it is not only those who go to the universities who need adult education. We want to see a far greater extension of the splendid work of the tutorial classes to which the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) 1445 alluded. Already in the Army there is a great piece of adult educational work going on. That too has revealed the need. I read the other day a letter from an officer deeply interested in this subject and he said that he was struck by the amazing interest of the men, and also by their amazing ignorance. The need is very great and the appetite is there; cannot the Board make fuller use of the work that is now going on in the Army? The teachers who are already working there and the opportunities that are opening out are providing a foundation for wider adult educational work in the future.
I was very pleased when the President spoke of the child in industry in the way that he did—that we should think of him as a learner rather than as a wage-earner. We ought to think in the same way of all our fellow citizens, not think of them just as wage-earners, but as being capable of going on learning as citizens right up to the end of life, and help and encourage every effort being made for adult education for all sections of the community; not to have everything run from Whitehall but sympathetically reviewed from Whitehall and generously aided where aid is required. I believe that the President of the Board of Education has an outlook upon life which will make him sympathetic to work and reform of this kind, and I earnestly hope that he may remain in his great office long enough to see the plans which he seeks to develop carried to fruition.
§ Mr. Summers (Northampton)
I should like at the outset of my remarks to add my sense of satisfaction to what has already been expressed at the remarks to which we listened from the President of the Board of Education. Not only did he show a very laudable desire to get the benefit of the best of tradition but also a realistic and progressive spirit in moving with the times. One effect of the war and the constant repetition of the question, "What is it for which we are fighting?" has resulted in a kind of national introspection, and, as with the individual so with the nation, that process may very easily develop into something thoroughly unhealthy, despite the excellent motives to which it gives rise. Moreover, it is a process which, once started, is very difficult to stop and may very easily destroy a proper sense of proportion. I believe that that is the cause of some of us tending to criticise aspects of our social 1446 system, not because they are inherently bad but because they conflict with the soothing and, in my view, dangerous principle of equality.
That brings me to a word of surprise that the President of the Board of Education should have found a growing recognition of the value of the boarding school as such. In my experience the criticism of what we know as the public school system is tending to grow rather than the reverse. It is high time that this country realised that in the last 100 years we have accomplished a very great deal and that we have now very much of which we may justly be proud. It is only fair that the appropriate part which the public schools as such have played in that achievement and in that pride should be given proper recognition. There are cases where views become thoroughly distorted and extreme. I heard it contended the other day that the full importance and value of our public schools were only appreciated by our enemies, and, in justification for that view, it was suggested that the real reason for the invasion of Abyssinia was because Mussolini was so imbued with the importance of the public school system that he must needs acquire a North West frontier in which the public school spirit might have free play to the national advantage. That is a view which is so extreme that one may dismiss it, but there is no denying the fact that the majority of the posts of importance and influence in this country at the present time, whether it be a good thing or whether it be bad, are, in fact, occupied in the majority by people who have been to the public school. That has undoubtedly given rise to a measure of jealousy. In addition to that, there has been abundant evidence that a public school education is by no means an infallible guide to wisdom, for there have been numerous and grievous blunders created by those who have had the benefit of that system. But that need not divert the criticism from the proper channels.
It seems that one point upon which attention can rightly be directed is not that there exists a system whereby individuals—and only a limited number—may prolong their education up to the age of 18, but that the financial means of acquiring that additional education are practically the sole passport to it. It is of paramount importance that facilities and 1447 means should be found whereby those in a position to benefit from that type of education—and I underline those who may be expected to benefit—should have it made easier for them to derive benefit and acquire that advantage. But in doing so I hope too much weight will not be attached to examinations in selecting the people to benefit, as has been the case in the past, but that greater weight will be attached to nominations. For that reason I welcome the information given to us by my right hon. Friend that there is to be an inquiry into the nature and effect of the system of examinations as we know them to-day. There are, after all, very many who, although able to pass the necessary scholastic tests, for lack of personality, drive or some other reason are not able in after life to make the best use of the knowledge they have acquired. By the same token there are those who, although not so scholastically inclined, could, with proper training and development, make much of their after life. As opportunities are extended, as I trust they will be, there is scope for dealing with the selection of those who will find a place in those institutions.
I would like to say a few words about the public school system as such. There are, I believe, two main defects, which are by no means as bad as they were at one time, to which attention can be directed. In the first place, too great an insistence is placed upon athletic prowess, and, secondly, there is too great a desire for uniformity. I have no doubt that both these characteristics are the result of a desire to pay particular attention to the development of character as such, and to those who have followed the controversy in "The Times" I would add that I see no reason why the desire to obtain character in our educational system need necessarily conflict with the desire to develop intellect. The desire to build up character is, I suggest, given a slightly false emphasis in regard to uniformity and athletics. The mere playing of games is not the only way in which courage, teamwork and initiative can be developed, and it seems to me that as catering for individual talents and aptitudes is dealt with there are opportunities for creating that enterprise and resource which are such essential features of our educational system. I hope the development of individual talent rather than a positive 1448 search for uniformity will guide the minds of those who govern our educational institutions.
May I refer, to the experiment with which some Members may be familiar, and which I believe could with advantage be more widely known? I refer to the County Badge Movement. This scheme, which has the very wise backing and support of the Master of Balliol, does not pretend to be an educational system in itself. It is by no means complete, nor does it pretend to be complete, but it is there to be grafted on to existing movements and adapted to local circumstances. The four achievements, for which particular standards have been laid down, are physical achievement, the expedition achievement, the project achievement and the service achievement. In the physical achievement where there are three grades—junior, intermediate and senior—with appropriate standards for attainment in the different tests and subjects dealt with, there are swimming, life-saving, running, throwing, stamina and matters of that kind. As regards the expedition achievement, that includes riding, climbing and items of that kind, while the project achievement is related more to an individual hobby, such as music or constructional ideas of a particular kind. The service achievement is such local service to the community as can be found practicable. There is no desire for absolute uniformity in the attainment or even in the tests of such a movement. It is desirable that it should have a strong local flavour. It can also be applied not only to public and secondary schools but also to many who have left school. Here is a great opportunity to create self-discipline as opposed to mass discipline, and I hope that educational authorities, as well as my right hon. Friend, who are in a position to give help and support, will not hesitate to do so and to give encouragement to the energetic pioneers of the movement.
In conclusion, I hope that in speaking of those features of our educational training which should be stressed particular attention will be paid to self-reliance and willingness to accept responsibility. If we look around at the modern age, we cannot deny that there has grown up what has come to be termed escapism. People seem incapable of deriving strength and help for themselves; they must continually be distracted, taken out of themselves. There must be hundreds of thousands of 1449 pounds spent annually by people who are incapable of providing mental stimulation or relaxation for themselves. They must needs go out and buy it. That, I feel, is a reflection on the educational system of this country as it has been known in the past, and as a counter to that and as a means of developing self-reliance in life in general, self-engendered, I hope that full advantage will be taken of those who have been evacuated from the towns to the countryside and who may for the first time have had a chance of seeing and learning something of the simplicity and beauty of the countryside and all that goes with it. Great chances are available, and all who are in a position to encourage that type of approach to their sojourn in the country will do well to make note of it.
We heard to-day of the question of religious instruction in schools. I believe that the country is ripe for a religious and spiritual revival, and I believe that by progressive approach to the problems of education the ground may be prepared for that revival to take root. In our present President of the Board of Education we have one to whom we can look with confidence to build up a system which will provide opportunities not only for wider education for the greater number, but for that religious and spiritual interest in life which should be taken in future by education.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I will try in the few remarks I shall make to confine myself to the speech which the President has made, because it is clear that it is impossible to cope with this vast problem in a few moments. I know it is not very popular to say so, but I cannot help feeling that a two days' Debate on what everybody keeps saying in the Press is the most vital question of the day would not have been entirely out of place. I am not sure, however, whether they really mean that. It is becoming a trite thing to say. If they do mean it and do not ask for the Debate, I think it is because they believe that schools and the educational structure are not really the major forces in forming the character of the country. There is a curious disbelief in this country in the efficacy of schools as such. There is on the other hand a strong feeling throughout the country, such as I have never known in the last 20 years, in favour of changes in the educational system, and it would be interesting to analyse why 1450 that feeling exists. I think that my right hon. Friend will understand me when I say that I hope his speech was a masterpiece of under-statement. I hope that it betrayed, as I believe it did, a tremendous consciousness of the task with which he is faced and a spirit of inquiry first, because it is clear that there are very few decisions which he has yet been able to take.
We have not had a Debate on education for two years. It was my difficult job and privilege to introduce the previous Estimates for three or four years, and I do not want to go back over that field except to say that the unevenness to which my right hon. Friend referred and the inequality between the various authorities were then just as evident. It was to attempt to meet that situation that we were spending £2,000,000 a week in capital expenditure on the building of senior schools. As he said, as you go round the country you may see in some areas brand, new schools and in many other areas very bad ones. There are, in fact, 10,500 church schools; more indeed than there are council schools. A large number of them are for junior children, but we cannot deal with this problem, as I am sure my right hon. Friend appreciates, without tackling the dual system. We came up against a blank wall, as he is doing and is bound to do. He cannot proceed with reorganisation unless he tackles the dual system, and I should like to know what progress has been made in the solution of that problem, to which I know he has addressed himself in relation both to church and local education authorities.
My right hon. Friend told us what we had learned from the war and what the schools were doing to help the war. It was my privilege to share in starting in this country a few years ago three major experiments—Camp Schools, the Youth Service and the body known as C.E.M.A. The expenditure on camp service has increased from £136,000 to £250,000, and the £50,000 allotted to C.E.M.A. has been increased to £100,000. I was under the impression that it came under the Treasury, and I am glad to know that it comes under the Board of Education. The President in an earlier speech in the country used a phrase which I wish he would repeat and act up to in the coming years. He said that the Board of Education had sacrificed itself too much for other Departments. Take 1451 any great question like camp schools, nursery schools and agricultural education, what has happened? Camp schools, which is the greatest experiment, that has been made, with an element in it of boarding provided by the central department, apart from any money which comes from the parents, is still under a department which is not primarily interested in education, the Ministry of Health. I wish hon. Members would not think that I have any narrow departmental feeling, but during the war we have created a Ministry of War Transport because the common element is transport. It covers canals, ships, ports and roads. The common element in the Ministry of Fuel and Power is coal. I cannot see why, when the common element for education is the growing child, the various schools that are required whether agricultural or technical, should not be intimately related to a Central Ministry. When Mr. Runciman left the Board of Education and went to the Ministry of Agriculture he took agricultural education with him, and it has been there ever since. When my right hon. Friend's predecessor allowed a committee to be set up on the relation between education and agriculture it was left to the Ministry of Agriculture to act with only an assessor from the Board of Education. The consequence is that the whole educational system between 14 and 18 in the country is not to be considered in relation to the senior school or in relation to the agricultural institute, which stands midway between the schools and the agricultural college, but is to be considered primarily from an agricultural outlook. I consider that to be wrong.
If we take nursery schools, I was sorry that my right hon. Friend did not see fit to make reference to this foundation of the whole educational system. He said he had set up a child division at the Board, but what has he done in fact? He has brought back one of our oldest and most distinguished civil servants who had retired to take charge and has referred to this division a whole number of matters. Many of these questions are in fact being dealt with by a vast committee of the Ministry of Health consisting of 32 people which was announced by the Minister of Health last week, and which is concerned with children under five. Margaret and Rachael Macmillan, 20 years ago established the nursery school 1452 which has proved itself by experience, and it is high time the Board realised that the difference between a nursery school with the educational provision and a nursery centre with sick nurses is "a genuine difference" this is going back on a fundamental principle of education. I do not want to flog that question to-day because it has been debated before. The fact is that no proper provision has been made under the auspices of the Board of Education for the teachers in these schools. There are, in fact, a number of vacancies in the training colleges, but there are also very large numbers of people—and registration has proved this—who want to go in for this particular work. One county, Hertfordshire, has take the initiative, but the point is that this matter should be the major concern of the Board of Education and should be transferred to them.
Let me take the case of the Minister of Labour. The system of apprenticeship has very largely broken down, and the technical training of young people between 14 and 18 is profoundly important. This is a major educational commitment, and it is for that reason I rejoice that my right hon. Friend has seen fit to start some inquiries in that direction. I congratulate him wholeheartedly on it, and I hope it will go a long way. It is just as important as the Youth Advisory Council he announced to-day.
May I say this about the problem of youth between 14 and 18 years of age? I came to the conclusion many years ago that this is the determining point in education. Everything leads up to it, and everything leads on from it. There was a very great purpose in regard to the schools to which Arnold gave his name. They had a real purpose in their day, but it is not easy to see what is the purpose of our present educational system. It is not easy to discover what we are trying to do in these schools, and the reason is because they are unrelated to the modern world. By turning out children at 14, we are destroying nine years of work. There is no medical and dental attention after 14: this matter ought to come under the supervision of the local education authorities. Health cannot be separated from education in this way. No one receives any benefit from health insurance until the age of 1453 17. The consequence is that there is not only a decay in teeth, but a general deterioration which goes on in these vital years.
Since we started the service of youth two years ago, two important things have happened. Firstly, 500,000 young people have joined pre-Service training units; secondly, registration. It is idle to pretend that they are under the best educational control, and that is why I am very pleased to know that Mr. Wolfenden is to be made Chairman of this Committee. He brought to the A.T.C., not only the thing which is implicit in the R.A.F.—glamour and the uniform—but also a clear-cut goal. The results many hon. Members know only too well. These boys attend classes in the evenings, which they would never have dreamed of attending had they been ordinary evening institute classes, to learn mathematics and navigation, and they do it because there is a purpose behind them. It is true to say—and I had experience of this last night in a club—that unless there is an element of discipline—and that element has been discovered particularly by the A.T.C.—there is something shoddy and second-rate about the whole business. The problem is what is to be the motive to inspire young people between 14 and 18 to go to classes and clubs after the war. The Committee should bear in mind that it does not necessarily follow that 500,000 will be in pre-Service units when this war is over. We shall suddenly have an enormous let down—there is a serious gap now because there are not enough leaders to deal with this problem.
I wonder whether the Committee really understand the significance of this movement. As far as I can see—and this is where the Fisher Act broke down—it will mean 100,000 leaders or teachers but men and women of an entirely different kind. If we do not deal with this problem we may have a system not unlike the Fascist movements on the Continent, because these young people are tuned up now to such an extent that there is literally nothing to which they will not respond. That is why I am so anxious that the Minister of Home Security should encourage Civil Defence cadets. I only touch on this point because it is difficult to say more in the time available.
Reference has been made to day continuation schools for those between the 1454 ages of 16 and 18. I have been re-reading speeches made by Mr. Fisher, and the story of the breakdown of the day continuation schools. It is not true to say that the breakdown was due mainly to parents. It was quite as much due to the employers, who did not like the idea. You cannot have extended education without maintenance during training, which is the problem of the Minister of Labour. He must have maintenance during training for those between 14 and 18 if he is to replace apprenticeships by vocational training. How is he to face the problem? Firstly, there are family allowances. The Committee is coming to see the wisdom of the great book written by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) 20 years ago. I hope that if we do not have a system whereby more money goes into the home, especially where there are more than two children, a system of maintenance grants in schools will be introduced. My right hon. Friend spoke about teachers. We can all repeat what has been said already, that unless we recruit teachers from wider sources we shall not have the quality we want. Would it not be a good thing to have a number of teachers given the chance to enter industry first? A youth between 14 and 18 will follow a craftsman, whereas he will not so easily follow the teacher with ordinary academic qualification.
My right hon. Friend made some remarks about public schools, but, like so many other things in his speech, he did not tell us very much. He is right in obtaining the best possible advice on this question before making up his mind, but we are not very much wiser about the Committee over which Lord Fleming is to preside. Camp schools have proved that the idea of boarding is accepted by parents irrespective of their incomes. The point is made that the boarding element is an essential part of our public schools. I do not agree with some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Summers) on public schools. Nor did I think he was quite up to date in calling most of the schools of the country board schools. It was an approach to the problem with which I was not quite in sympathy.
What is this thing that people keep on talking about which happens at public schools and not at Raynes Park County Secondary School, one of the finest in the 1455 country, and many others? What is it that happens at a boarding school which gives this peculiar quality? Is it not very largely the fact that most of those who go to the well-known boarding schools come from different homes? There is another difference, which is not only the difference between education for the labouring poor—still the education for the great mass of the people—and the education which was associated with the old public schools. There is a temperamental difference. It is the difference between the speech of my hon. Friend opposite and the speech of the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities. It has been repeated in America and in the Dominions. I will sum it up in the description of Governor Berkeley in 1671 in Virginia. He said:I thank God there are no free schools and I hope we shall not have them these hundred years, for learning has brought disobedience and heresy into the world.To which the Puritans replied that a good dogmatic education would pave, the way for a reign of saints. I almost felt it when the hon. Member for the Combined Universities was speaking. In other words, the Puritans really believed that education could liberate people and give them a new sense of citizenship and a new outlook. The difference is still there. There is a large number of people who do not believe that the schools can give this and therefore they do not back up the interest in education, which I think is really stronger in the country to-day than I have ever known it, and perhaps than it has been at any time. I would ask the President to address himself to this question. He has set up a Committee under Dr. Norwood to go into the future of the secondary schools. He set up a Committee under Dr. McNair for the recruiting and training of teachers and youth leaders. He set up an Advisory Council, and I hope they will be more consulted by the Board than the Youth Committee has been, because advisory committees work in two ways. Sometimes it is an excuse for the executive to do very little, and sometimes it means that the executive is really getting to the roots of a problem by drawing from a wide variety of experience. If a committee consists of 20 it does not, normally, meet more than eight times a year. Here is a Committee composed of 18 or 19 people. I hope the 1456 President is going to get the best out of the experience of these younger people and translate it into actual legislation in the very near future and certainly into administrative action.
When the right hon Gentleman has set up all his committees, when he has the result of the Luxmore Committee set up under the Ministry of Agriculture and the Forster Committee, I beg of him to create out of the present Board of Education a new Ministry. The phrase "Ministry of Youth and Childhood" is merely a name. It must in fact cover the whole life of the child from the age of two up to 18. In his opening remarks he seemed to suggest that that was firmly in his mind. If he means business, I think it is going to be one of the major changes since 1902, possibly since 1870. If you look upon it in any other way, what is the good of raising the school age another peg? What is the good of talking about day continuation schools? Everyone knows that it will take at least seven or eight years to get the teachers and the buildings after the war. There are at this moment no Senior schools in this city. I am getting a little tired of books relating to post-war education Senior and junior schools have been amalgamated in London. I appreciate the difficulties. I had a letter from Mr. Henriques of the juvenile court to-day. He said that the main problems that he is faced with in his court are caused by the coming backwards and forwards of children to and from London, the complete breakdown of the home and the deterioration of the children who are coming out of the schools because of their lack of security.
We are faced with a difficulty, but also with an opportunity. My only purpose in speaking is to ask, almost to beseech my right hon. Friend not to pitch the key too low, nor, on the other hand, to raise false hopes, but to realise that in this crisis in the world, if we really mean that the education system is capable of effecting certain changes, it will need a radical approach. My right hon. Friend said the other day that he did not like the phrase "equality of opportunity" as much as "training for talent." Equality of opportunity means one thing only. It means access to an agreed standard of physical provision. If you are born in one county you may have six times the chance of secondary education that you have if you are born in another. That is wrong. The 1457 increase in meals and milk is almost entirely due to the increased grant from the State plus the drive put behind it by the Board of Education. You cannot get away from the fact that unless you spend probably twice as much on education, that is on people under 18 instead of later on, you will never approach to equality of opportunity. If we mean equality of access to an agreed standard of physical provision it means buildings, it means doctors, it means dentists, it means milk, it means the whole physical basis of education; but after that I hope every school will be utterly different from every other.
I hope that there will be no longer any question of a uniform standard but that the schools will be utterly different and each school will be a little experiment on its own. But to do this you must have a Ministry which is not just the old Board of Education created out of bits and pieces of the nineteenth century. It must be a new Ministry created out of four or five present Departments. I believe that that view was expressed by an hon. Friend of mine (Mr. Ammon) for his party, it has been expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) for the Liberal party and it has been expressed by Conservatives, and I should like it to go forth from this House that we here, as a united House, ask the President of the Board of Education to create out of the present Department, for that is what it is, a new Ministry with a new purpose to provide much greater opportunities, phiysical and mental, for the children of the country.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the new President of the Board of Education on his very charming and attractive speech and also upon the modesty of his approach to his very important task. I have seen many Ministers introduce their Estimates. Going back to rather ancient history, to the last war, another Minister, the late Mr. Fisher, then occupied that post. It was the third year of that war. Just as in this war, the Cabinet was occupied with the tremendous task of winning the war, and the Prime Minister of that day had very little time in which to think of education. But Mr. Fisher was a "stone-waller." My right hon. Friend also has a reputation for being a stone-waller. Mr. Fisher was 1458 very persistent in his approach to the Cabinet. He insisted that time should be found for an Education Bill and he was very persistent to that end. He achieved his purpose, and the last year of the war period he was largely occupied in passing through this House the very contentious but very constructive Measure which even to-day, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) has pointed out, is still not entirely translated into practice. Now that we are considering the Estimates I must not speak about legislation, but if my right hon. Friend is not successful in persuading the Prime Minister to find time for legislation at any rate he can do something to complete the work initiated by Mr. Fisher, which is still unfinished.
A lot of nice things have been said about education. I am going to say that education has suffered more than any other social service during the war. Children have been the victims of the circumstances and conditions of war and have lost valuable years of training. I do not wish to apportion blame, but my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock must accept some responsibility for what happened during the first months of the war. Inevitably education suffers during war. There has been an inevitable reaction to the scheme of evacuation, which has not worked out as was expected. Children who went into the country have gained untold benefits through making contact with country life, benefits both to their health and knowledge, but those who remained behind in evacuation areas have suffered immensely. In the first few months of the war there was no provision for education at all. Schools were closed and children were running wild about the streets, and no serious attempt was made to do anything. Such were the difficulties that finally we had a voluntary system—voluntary attendance. It was one of the most comic experiences I have ever come across: children going in and out of school as they pleased, attending sometimes for a day or two if they felt so inclined. There is much credit to those children who did go to school of their own accord. But for many months many children in London had no education at all. Then there came the unfortunate system of double sessions, children going to school for half a day, and teachers having different classes in the afternoon from those in the morning.
1459 Now, in 1942, we have a so-called full session of education, but there is a shortage of school places, a shortage of staff, and the whole machinery built up during the last 30 years is in bits and pieces. Boys and girls are mixed. Yesterday I was in two schools and saw teachers struggling with classes of 40 and 50 made up of boys and girls of ages ranging from 11 to 14. That is actually going on in London within a mile or two of this House, in spite of the vast sums of money which we are voting for education. Where all that money has gone I do not know, but certainly there is some weakness in the machinery, there is some faulty organisation and children are having a makeshift system of education. As for the reorganisation plans inspired by the Hadow Report, providing for junior and senior schools, that has all gone to the wall. Where there used to be three head teachers there is now one. There are boys and girls and infants all under one man head teacher, and boys, girls and infants all under one woman head teacher. To his credit and to her credit they are tacking their difficult problem with courage and tenacity. I cannot pay too great a tribute to teachers in London. I am speaking of London in particular and conditions may be different in the provinces, but I cannot pay too high a tribute to the courage and tenacity with which these teachers, handicapped by shortage of staff, insufficient accommodation and everything else, are tackling their difficult problems.
But we shall never make up to the child the loss during the precious years between 8 and 14. Let us be frank. After the war, when things will be appallingly difficult, we shall have a generation of partly-educated children. Either education—full-time education, with small classes—is a good thing or it is not. If it is a good thing, then these children will suffer in after life as a result of the conditions which have existed during the war. I am purposely not attacking any particular Minister. I think there has been a lack of vision and understanding. Both local authorities and the Government have been too ready to let education take a back seat. One of the difficulties in London and in other towns is that many school buildings have been taken over for other purposes—for the fire service or other Civil Defence activities—and educa- 1460 tion has suffered. Some time ago I asked a question about attendances and the Minister declared that there was only a small number of children who were not attending school. All my information is that there is a great increase in truancy. The trouble is that the education authorities are not in a position to trace those children. Boys and girls are running about the streets who have not been to school for a year or two. Perhaps their fathers and mothers are in the Services; at any rate they are not there to send them to school, and the attendance officer is not able to trace them.
Some of them have moved to other areas and some are away in the country. I am going to make a statement to which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reply. The percentage which he gave is misleading. If he got down to the truth he would find that thousands of children throughout the country have, for one reason or another, made no attendance at school and are growing up practically illiterate and uneducated. At a school to which I went yesterday I found boys of 13, quite normal children, who could not even read. They had been in and out of school and have been evacuated, some half-a-dozen times and others even ten times. Such cases create a very serious problem.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
Is there not only one way to deal with that situation—to make evacuation, or non-evacuation, compulsory? But the right hon. Gentleman does not advocate that.
§ Sir P. Harris
The Board of Education must find a policy to deal with the situation. It is about time they had a policy. Some of these children have been ten times to the country, just according to mood or a change of weather. They go for a fortnight and have their expenses paid, and then come back. No doubt it is very pleasant for the children, but their education is important, especially when we have to vote these immense sums of money.
Another serious aspect of the matter, again a reaction of the war, is the extension of the number of hours during which children are employed in our basic industries. The right hon. Gentleman was hurt when I challenged his new policy about child labour in agriculture. I still think that that policy was reactionary. If it 1461 had not been for the action of some of my friends in another place nothing would have been done to stop the employment of children in the worst industry for this purpose, the pottery trade, which is by no means a healthy occupation. The same applies to the cotton trade. The original idea was that no children were to be employed in industry for longer than 44 hours. A few years ago that was decided by Act of Parliament. Owing to stress of circumstances in the cotton trade the time was extended from 44 hours to 48. Now it has been extended, I understand without protest from the Board of Education, to 53 hours.
What is my right hon. Friend going to do? Is he going to insist that the Board of Education shall consider the interests of the children? The circumstances of the cotton industry lend themselves to child labour, but we are the trustees and protectors of the children and we should see that this kind of development is stopped. Longer hours are far more general than we realise and attendance at evening classes has become impossible. Among the most valuable work done in London during the last 30 years has been the increase in the number of evening classes. It has been most valuable work, not only from an educational but from a social and moral point of view. I am told that now, owing to longer hours and the demand for their labour, little children who leave school at 14 years of age and to whom a promise was given before the war that they should stay at school till 15, are so occupied in the offices, factories and workshops that they are too tired at the end of the day to attend evening classes. That is a short-sighted and wrong policy and we look to our new Minister, who I believe is really keen on his job, to assert himself. Let him tackle that big powerful personality the Minister of Labour, and insist upon a Children's Charter against exploitation through long hours in industry, even though it may be in the immediate interests of the prosecution of the war.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend put such emphasis on technical education. At this moment we are in a very critical phase of the war. It looks as if the technical side will be the deciding factor. Shortly after the last war and before the Nazis came into power I visited a great part of Germany and particularly I went 1462 into their technical schools. They are miles ahead of us in their technical training. During Victorian years we regarded that kind of training as rather inferior to a literary education. I have no particular case for the technical schools as such and there is much to be said for the multiple school with mixed technical and literary classes but this is a matter which cannot wait. My right hon. Friend referred to what is being done to co-operate with industry during the war; in spite of the pressure of war conditions, I believe that energy, man-power and time would be well spent in developing the technical side of education. I do not believe that the war will be over in a few months—I wish I could. We may be faced with war conditions for many months to come. Therefore, do not let us leave our boys and girls at 14 years of age to be driven into the cotton mills or the potteries or on to our farm land to work long hours. Let the right hon. Gentleman use some of his energy in developing technical classes and schools so that whether the war drags on or is over soon, that policy will be a valuable investment. It will help us in our post-war policy. When the men come pouring back from the three Services and the munitions factories it may be extremely difficult for them to find jobs in the peace-time factories. It will be useful for us to have enlightenment on what the Board of Education are doing to train young people who are leaving school by way of technical classes and continuation schools, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to reply on this point.
I was pleased at the enthusiasm shown by my right hon. Friend for continuation schools. The critical age in boys and girls—do not let us forget girls—is from 16 to 18. We are inclined to overlook the education of the young women between 16 and 18 years which is important from the moral as well as from the educational point of view. Mr. Fisher, with that magnificent vision of his, created the idea of continuation schools and put it prominently in his Act of Parliament. I notice on the opposite side my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Preston (Captain Cobb). I would like to have his attention. He refuted the idea that local authorities were in any way responsible for the breakdown in continuation classes. I agree that London was not responsible. The Board of Education of 1463 that day were. They ought to have seen to it that all the areas round London cooperated. It broke down because children in outer areas were leaving school at 14 and taking jobs which were available, against children inside the L.C.C. area who had to attend continuation schools, I suggest to my right hon. Friend that this is a good time to make another experiment in continuation schools, especially in some of the large industrial areas. It is not a good thing for boys and girls to leave school at 14 and spend the whole of their time in a factory or workshop without any conflicting influence.
I remember the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor introducing his scheme for youth. Expressed in fine sounding phrases, it was a magnificent idea, but it was largely a sentimental appeal. It has not achieved very much in spite of the £250,000 provided for it. That is not much for a country like this. In spite of the good intentions and high-sounding phrases, it has achieved very little result. If you want a youth movement you want continuation schools, which will provide centres to get control of the children through the machinery of educational organisation. It is all very well to register them and have the records. It gives employment to a number of clerks and gives us interesting statistics, but if there is to be any justification for this registration, I hope my right hon. Friend will follow it up, not next year but this year, this very winter, by translating it into something more practical. The time factor is critical. We all know that we have had Debates about boys earning high wages. Some hon. Members have refuted such statements, but I submit that it is all right for boys to earn high wages and take them into the home, provided always that there is a social influence from the education authorities, exercised through evening classes and continuation schools, giving them some occupation for their minds, to keep them healthy and out of mischief.
I do not intend to follow my hon. Friend opposite on the question of public schools. I think that the public schools have got quite out of focus in our Debates. They affect only some 70,000 boys and there are only 160 schools altogether, about half of which are receiving grants from local authorities and are conforming 1464 to the regulations applied to secondary schools as a whole. I hope that our attention will not be focused too sharply upon the public schools. It is not that they do not do good work, but some of them are happy hunting grounds for parents who are well off, and their advantages are limited to people who can afford to pay fees of £150 or over. By all means let us spread the advantage of boarding schools so that all those who would benefit by them should have an opportunity to do so. There is machinery created for the purpose in the Act which we passed enabling the purchase of school camps to be undertaken.
I think that what is far more important at the moment is the question of private schools. During the period when our educational system was paralysed and schools were closed, they were springing up in many parts of the London outskirts like mushrooms, giving a very unsatisfactory system of education for a considerable fee. They are not open to inspection, there is no control over them and they can be staffed by any person, however unqualified. The children suffer in consequence. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the time has now come when the Board should tackle this problem of the private schools. It is far more important in my view than that of the boarding-schools or the public schools. Private schools spring up in back streets with high-sounding titles and uncertificated teachers, and give a very poor form of education. We really shall not have democracy in this country until we have a common school to which children of all classes up to the age of 11 will go, where they will sit on the same benches and have the same kind of training. They have it more or less in the Dominions, and the principle has long prevailed in the United States of America, and to a great extent in France. It can be done without passing legislation if the Board, through the local authorities, use the power of insisting that children who now go to these unsatisfactory seminaries I have mentioned must go to the ordinary schools.
In conclusion, I would say that while my hon. Friend who spoke last wanted the Board to grow and the Department to become a Ministry, I, on the contrary, want the Board to remain, but I want it to become a real Board. If I may speak of the matter in Service terms, in the 1465 case of the Army Council we have had discussions on the General Staff and the importance of thinking out the science of war. I submit that the time has now come for the President to think out the science of education. He has been doing it, in a way, by setting up a number of committees and advisory councils, but I suggest that the Board itself should have the machinery within it to think out educational strategy and the science of teaching. There should be a new general staff, and the Board itself, like the Army Council, should actually function and meet. Power should not be vested in one man. Just as, in the Army, the Secretary of State is advised by the Army Council, so the right hon. Gentleman should be advised by a real Board of Education, composed of men and women qualified and able to advise him in a comprehensive way on the whole educational problem, so that when the war is over the advance should be on the right lines and on the basis of a co-ordinated and well thought-out policy.
§ Mr. Hannah (Bilston)
It is no small privilege to be allowed to take part in a Debate in which one is able to agree with the great bulk of what has been said. Nobody will doubt, I think, that our country has great educational traditions. Our oldest public school was already venerable a thousand years ago—St. Peter's at York. In 1603, Scotland annexed England. One of the very first reforms which the Scots made was to have universities represented in this House. And when we see the kind of people they send us we realise the wisdom of the action. Our English system of education has many great traditions. Perhaps the most important that separates it from the systems of other countries is the tremendous emphasis we lay on sport. It was no small honour to Oxford University when a Harvard Rhodes scholar said that what impressed him most there was that while a thousand men were desperately keen to win, everyone of them would prefer to lose rather than to win by any kind of unfairness. But, after all, we are concerned rather with the future than with the past, and I wish very briefly indeed, under four points, to speak about what seem to me the general lines which English education ought to pursue. I have made these points as few as possible because English folk do not 1466 like points. In fact I frequently think the reason why football and cricket are so popular is that neither a football nor a cricket ball has one single point.
The first point is that there should be an exchange of teachers all over the English-speaking world. I lay enormous stress on that. It will help more than anything else to bind us together. And our unity is the chief hope of mankind. Possibly, in a personal way, I may be influenced by the fact that I have had the privilege of teaching on the shores of the Yellow Sea, on the High Veldt of South Africa, by the shores of the Bay of Fundy, and among the woods of Ohio, as well as in this country. I know perfectly well that I have been a rolling stone, and I have gathered no moss. But I have yet to learn exactly what would be the use of the moss if the rolling stone did gather it. I wish to express very strongly the absolute need of binding together the English-speaking world by an interchange of teachers and an interchange of pupils as well. I had the very valuable experience of teaching in a purely classless society in the American Middle West, and I think that institutions like Oberlin College have a great deal to teach this country. The "movies" have for the most part made us familiar with the American language and therefore the exchange presents little difficulty. Supposing there were not considerable linguistic difficulties I would want interchange with a rather wider range of lands. I want to emphasise the great desirability that those who are to teach at Winchester should spend part of their time at Michaelhouse in Natal, and so with all our schools, so that throughout our educational system every school, elementary and other, should have somebody who is familiar at first hand with conditions in lands overseas.
My second point is that I hope we shall make no effort at uniformity of education, but that we shall have equal opportunities for all. Every child has a right to the best that the country can give, and I think that in days gone by, and also at the present time, the Quakers did a great service in establishing a special type of school, emphasising nature study, archæology, and things like that, rather than the classics. England was immensely enriched by their work. It is obviously unsatisfactory that every school should teach the same thing. I have in my 1467 hands a very interesting leaflet issued by the Board of Education in 1908—Circular 599—on the teaching of history in secondary schools. I will not read it for obvious reasons, but it says that in every school there should be special reference to the particular history of the locality. I think it is obvious also that education should be rather different in the country and in the town. Such works as Gilbert White's "Natural History of Selborne" would be a very useful thing for country children to study. People who have to live in villages should learn to appreciate the great opportunities for culture which the country possesses—quite as much as any town.
My third point is a demand that our education should be made as democratic as possible. I wish we could have as soon as practicable free places in the great public schools for elementary school-children, first, because I think it would be tremendously to the benefit of the children; secondly, because I think it is absolutely essential to the future of the public schools themselves. Public schools have done a great deal for our country in days gone by, and now I think nobody can doubt that we do not want them any longer to be merely the preserves of the rich. The general internal atmosphere of a public school is so democratic that, if it were done gradually, I do not believe there would be the slightest difficulty in bringing children from all sorts of homes into them, and making them entirely at home. Those of us who have been to public schools have seen the sons of belted earls fagging—or sweating, as Winchester has it—for the sons of country curates. Once you got those boys into the public schools, they would undoubtedly be received in a liberal and fraternal way.
My fourth point is that I think our education must have vision. Man cannot live by bread alone. Personally, I would ask very earnestly indeed for religious education everywhere, but if that cannot always be managed, then something like the saluting of the flag in American schools, instilling the idea of patriotism, of loyalty to something more than mere utilitarianism, some idealism. This seems to me of the greatest value as part of every school curriculum. There are certain people in this House who seem to think that a good deal is done by talking about 1468 old school ties, and when they accuse men of "strangling their consciences with their old school ties" they think they have annihilated opponents. I hope that some time my own education will be extended so as to enable me to grasp the meaning of that phrase—if it has any meaning. I desire to draw attention not so much to the old school tie as to the old school chapel, the centre of all that is greatest in our public schools. A man whom I would have no hesitation in calling the greatest of all the poets of Bilston, Henry New-bolt, some years ago—during the last war—was musing in his old school chapel at Clifton and there he gave a message that seems to me as valuable as any other for our education at the present time, and not merely for our education but for the whole of our national life:
As a Scot I object to waste. I find I still have one half-minute left of the time I promised not to exceed. I use it to ask for a new type of school, one which shall teach hon. Members of this House to stand up, to speak up, to shut up.
- "This is the chapel: here, my son.
- Your father thought the thoughts of youth
- And heard the words that, one by one,
- The touch of life has turned to' truth.
- Here in a day that is not far
- You, too, may speak with noble ghosts
- Of mankind and the vows of War
- You made before the Lord of Hosts.
- To set the cause above renown.
- To love the game beyond the prize.
- To honour while you strike him down
- The foe that comes with fearless eyes:
- To count the life of battle good.
- And dear the land that gave you birth,
- And dearer yet the brotherhood
- That binds the brave of all the earth."
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
I have spoken in a great number of education Debates during past years, but I have not attended one that, on the one hand, gave such a sense of despondency, and, on the other hand, gave such a feeling of hopefulness as that of to-day. A great deal of hopefulness is to be derived from the attendance of Members to-day. I cannot remember an education Debate in the last 15 years at which so many Members were present for so long. That shows that, underneath, at least, there is great interest in the service of education. The House, in its collective capacity, to-day has shown that it realises that education, and the service of education, are of fundamental importance, both during and after 1469 the war. On the other hand, the Debate has given cause for despondency. I hope the Minister will forgive me if I say that he struck that note. Where in the Minister's speech was there a note of hopefulness? Where in the Minister's speech was there a spur to enthusiasm? Where in the Minister's speech was there a motive of idealism? We have heard from the Minister the most masterly exposition of inactivity that I have ever heard from any Minister. So far as he was expressing the mind of the Government, I should say the Government have no ideas about education. Where in the Minister's speech was there any concrete proposal, for now or for the new world that we are supposed to be building? It is difficult to follow the Minister. I would like to pay him this compliment. It was an extremely clever speech. It might have been due to his experience in the Foreign Office of closing up, but there was no opening out of new fields of vision. He did not even open out enough for me to attack him. Every controversial subject that now agitates the educational world, every controversial subject that is now engaging the minds of people, is hidden behind the masterly facade that the Minister built up to-day. I congratulate him on that masterly performance. But we have come to the point when masterly inactivity is a defeatist policy.
The Parliamentary Secretary is to reply to the Debate. Will he reassure me about two main drifts and drives in the educational world? Can he assure me that there is not a drift and a drive towards militarisation in the educational world? Take the posters that I see around London, inviting young people to join the youth movement for free military training between the ages of 14 and 16. Is military training for boys of 14 educational? What is the attraction? What do I see on the bills round St. Pancras? "You will have battle dress; you will be equipped with the modern weapons of war." What check has the Board of Education on that movement for the militarisation of youth? It is a dreadful prospect. My hon. Friends on these benches want to win the war, but I hope they do not want to do so at the expense of the militarisation of youth. Take another main drift. Again I may be falling foul of some of my hon. Friends here, but I would ask, is the Board of Education dominated by the Bevin complex?
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)
§ Mr. Cove
No; as a matter of fact, Bevan is much more expansive than Bevin. What do I mean by the Bevin complex? Is my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary quite sure that, dominating the policies of the Board of Education at this moment, there is not this over-pressure for what is called practical and technical education to the exclusion of the wider and broader aspects of education? Every regulation of which I know that has come from the Board of Education, with regard to students going into colleges and universities—I have the details here but it would be boring to mention them to the Committee in detail—is completely in favour of what is called the practically and scientifically-minded students. There is a longer period at the university for the practically and technically-minded students than for other students. That is a wrong approach. This country will not suffer after the war for the lack of technically and scientifically trained people. It is more likely to suffer from the lack of what are generally called the executive-minded people. The arts are at a discount. The literary-minded student is at a discount. Although I am not inside at all and can only tell my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary what is conveyed to one outside, I would say that the impact of the Ministry of Labour on the Board of Education is far too strong and powerful. Therefore I ask the Board to assert and to reassert itself against any narrow-minded interpretation of the purpose and function of education and the educational system. I am not such a fool—I am foolish perhaps in many ways—as to' believe that a democratic education system can provide us with a democratic system of society but I am certain that we cannot have a democratic system of society without a democratic system of education. I am looking to the Board to see that that principle is carried into practice.
Let us look at the concrete case of the camp schools. We are told that this is a great educational experiment. Humbug! I have heard it said in this House that children are being taken out to draw maps of the localities, and we are given all sorts of reasons in favour of this as a new experiment. Everything in the educational world that has been carried 1471 out in camp schools has been carried out in ordinary council schools for the last 20 years. I want to press on my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that the camp schools are seething with discontent. There is friction. The camp schools are not being given their proper head, as far as their educational services and activities are concerned. The National Camps Corporation, through someone who was at the Board of Education and who, I understand, has now been seconded into that sphere, impinge far too much upon the educational activities of these schools. Frankly and definitely, if the camp schools are to be a real and a true educational experiment then the dual control that exists has to go.
The control of the camp schools has to pass to the local education authorities, and the sooner the Board make up their mind the better it will be. Of what are they afraid? Are they afraid of the Camp Schools Corporation, or whatever they call themselves, not making a profit? In every sort of trivial way—I could give pages of both trivial and major instances of cases in which the representatives of the National Camps Corporation interfere with the educational endeavours of these schools. If the camp schools are to be an experiment in boarding schools, I say to the President of the Board of Education—and I hope he will listen sincerely to this and carry it out—that that dual control has to cease or else what will happen will be the complete breakdown of the camp schools. We have heard to-day that the boarding school is a school to which working-class children can look forward.
§ Mr. Walkden
I would convert 300 aerodromes into good public schools and vocational training centres and give our lads the same opportunity of enjoying public schools as other privileged families have enjoyed them in the days gone by, make them residential boarding schools. The buildings are there ready to be used. After the war, of course.
§ Mr. Cove
I am very glad to have that answer, because it is the one that I expected. My hon. Friend will pardon me if I say that he really does not understand the significance of the boarding school if he associates the boarding school with the public school. The public school is not there. Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Oundle and all the lot are not there because they are educational institutions; they are there because they are social institutions, because they are the embodiment of class privilege.
§ Mr. Cove
There is nothing, even at Cheltenham, to justify the public school from the educational point of view. I would have the Committee bear in mind that the elementary schools, the municipal secondary schools and the public schools of this country have two functions, one educational, and the other social. They are not only educational institutions but social institutions. I was reading only last night the history of the large public schools, Winchester and the lot of them. What has clearly to be borne in mind is that the public school is not there because it has contributed anything. Suppose it had, suppose the public school was generous in educational practice and theory still, it is not there because of all that.
It does not last because of that. Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Oundle, and Cheltenham to a lesser degree, are all there because they are confines of class privilege. They are social institutions. They give a meaning to the old school tie. It is not for nothing that that phrase has been coined. It means something. The President says he has set up a committee whose intention it is to see how we can infiltrate into these public schools children from elementary schools. You will not change the system by that method. You will never democratise public schools by giving a few scholarships to elementary school children. You will only "aristocratise" them—if I may coin a word. You will only make working-class children into snobs.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
Was not this House at one time confined to Members of only one class, and was it not then, perhaps, exposed to some of the criticisms which, in part, my hon. Friend has applied to the public schools? Afterwards working men came here. Have they not justified their presence here?
§ Mr. Cove
I have justified my existence. The only way to deal with public schools is to abolish them. I do not believe that on the educational side, leaving the social side alone for the moment, there is any case for isolation, even in camp schools. I do not believe there is any case for normal children in boarding schools. Schools ought to be part and parcel of the integral life of their community; they should be there on the spot with children coming in from all the various industries and walks of life. You think you will get something by isolation. What are you getting? You are merely getting boys to follow their leader. We do not want boys to follow their leader. The period of youth ought not to be the period of follow-my-leader. It should be to provide conditions whereby youth can exercise its own initiative. I challenge my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and my hon. Friends on this side of the House. Look up the history of Germany since the last war. All youth movements, all the regimentation that we are now seeking to impose upon our educational system, were there during the Weimar Republic. There were youth movements in churches and various organisations all over Germany. All Hitler had to do was to amalgamate them, to "trustify" them, as it were. I am desperately afraid that that is happening in this country. It is an English form of totalitarianism, an English form of dragooning and militarising. I do not mean militarising in the sense of using a rifle; I mean it in the sense of militarising men. That is happening in the educational world at this moment, and it is forsaking all our history.
There is only one great contribution, and it is a great contribution, that British education has made to world theory and practice in education, and it has been this—the relative individual freedom of the individual school. That has been our great contribution. We are leaving it behind. Frankly, I am sorry to have to make a speech like this. I am sorry to have to hurt my hon. Friends. I want to convey to them two things. One is that I am very critical, suspicious and sceptical of the influences that are borne in on the Board from outside. The other is that they should reassert themselves and get control. They are the Ministry of Education. I am not blaming the present occupants, but where has the Board been 1474 during the whole period of the war? I ask them to reassert themselves now and for the future. I have great sympathy with the Board and the Parliamentary Secretary. They have great problems before them. Here, as the President said, is a system; it is a hotch-potch, there is no equality of opportunity. If you are born in place A you can get a secondary education and much more attention than if you were born in place B. The whole educational system from that point of view wants changing.
One of the problems which has been mentioned to-day is that of religious education in the schools. I understood that the President of the Board was disturbed about it. We cannot discuss legislation to raise the school-leaving age today, but I understand that negotiations are going on about what exists and what is proposed in the schools. I gather that the President has invited the religious denominations to make proposals as to religious teaching and conditions in the schools. I hope that he will get those proposals. I was sanguine about a couple of months ago about the outcome. It may be very indiscreet to say so, but I hope that the Church of England will not give the impression that all the difficulties belong to the Roman Catholic Church. I hope that the spirit which has been expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury is not the spirit which will continue to prevail. I read that there was no doubt that the Church schools were able as a general rule to give a sense of corporate unity to the schools and create a stronger sense of corporate life and bring in the schools an element of special understanding and interest which was far more difficult for schools administered under a public authority. That sort of argument is not likely to make for a feeling of good will; it is likely to arouse opposition. There are other statements which, so far as I can see, will find no basis and no response for an agreement. There is no body of an organised professional or political character of which I know which will stand against a religious basis of teaching in the public schools of this country. Surely to goodness, in the Protestant field they can come to some agreement, because, if not, what is the use of talking about unity? I appeal, therefore, to those outside, to the leaders of the Church of England in particular, to make their contribution in easing the problem. Quite 1475 clearly, the 1902 Act showed that the Churches could not carry the burden of continuing to pay for the educational system, and the 1906 Act pointed the same way. It is quite clear that the Churches have to make their contribution towards any advancement that may be made in the future. I appeal, therefore, to those outside, to the Archbishop of Canterbury and all those concerned, to modify their views so far as they have expressed them, and approach this problem in the spirit of reaching some agreement.
I should like now to turn to the question of children in the industrial field. I have here the condemnation of the Agricultural Union on this. They find no reason why child labour should be employed in agriculture. I cannot go into details.
§ The Chairman
Then he should have realised that he was anticipating something already on the Order Paper.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member said he was not going to deal with matters requiring legislation, and now he is actually advocating a Bill.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
On a point of Order. May it be assumed on the next coal Debate that at least two university Members will catch the eye of the Chairman?
§ Mr. Ede
My right hon. Friend, I think, can feel every satisfaction with the 1476 course that the Debate has taken. We have never claimed that during the war we can conduct education without there being some casualties. Our endeavour has been to reduce to a minimum the number of casualties and, when they have occurred, to do all we can to secure that there shall be as speedy a recovery as possible. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) referred to my right hon. Friend's speech as a masterpiece of under-statement. I think my right hon. Friend did the very best he could to give an accurate picture of conditions at the moment. It would have been quite futile for us to say that everything is as we would like it to be. We do say that we believe the local education authorities and the teachers have been doing the very utmost they can, in very difficult circumstances, to maintain the standard as high as it possibly can be. I would agree even with the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir. P. Harris) in some of his criticisms of London education, because undoubtedly at the moment London is the weakest spot in the educational world. But I believe, if my right hon. Friend's speech was a masterpiece of under-statement, the right hon. Baronet's speech was a masterpiece of over-statement in some of the lurid pictures that he drew. I move about London, and I have visited some of the schools, and, while undoubtedly some of the advantages of formal education have been lost, I am convinced that a good many informal lessons which in normal times would never have been learned have been conveyed to the children, and their afterlives will be all the stronger for some of the initiative which they have had to exercise.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) asked me about the third-year course for some of the training college students. At the moment we are so hard pressed for teachers in the schools that, when a teacher is qualified, we think it is her duty to come into the schools and teach. After the war we may be able to offer some opportunities for these people to carry on with the courses they had embarked upon.
A good deal of time has been spent on the discussion of the public schools, but only my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) suggested that they should be abolished. The Committee which is in process of being appointed will 1477 not be concerned with the abolition of the public schools but with finding how, if at all, it is possible to assimilate them more closely to the State system of education than they have been in the past. One of the things we want to know is whether there are some children for whom the boarding-school type of education is preferable to the day-school type, irrespective of the home into which they have been born. I should not by any means have thought, with the hon. Member for Aberavon, that there is something superior about the type of home that usually sends its child to a boarding school. I certainly came from a home which never dreamed of sending a child to a boarding school, but it was as good a home as could be found anywhere in the country, where the interests of the parents, as in most working-class homes, are bound up with their children and the opportunities that those children will have for intellectual expansion and advancement. It may be that there are some children who are not suited for a boarding-school education, and I believe some of them are in boarding schools to-day. I believe from what I have seen—I will not say from such ex-members of boarding schools as I have seen in the House but some that I have seen outside the House—that many of them are unsuited for the particularly robust kind of life which has to be led in a boarding school and are not possessed of sufficient individuality of character to stand up to the process which prevails in too many of these schools, inflicting uniformity rather than unity on the pupils. Where boys and girls are not capable of standing up to that I think it is doubtful whether they ought to be admitted, and certainly whether they ought to continue in those schools. That is one fundamental problem on which it is high time the country had some advice. There are various other things with which this Committee will be concerned. One is the question of the entrance examination to the schools. Let us be sure of this, that if classics are to remain one of the essential subjects for admission there will be no recruitment from the elementary schools into the public schools.
§ Mr. Ede
I am not sure for what particular thing my hon. Friend is offering his prayer. The whole question of the relationship of the public school system to 1478 the State schools has been overdue for examination for a great many years, and I sincerely hope that the Committee which has been appointed, and which I think will be found to comprise people who will command a very wide measure of confidence throughout the country, will find ample scope for a wide investigation and for a report which must have a profound influence upon the future of education in this country.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us how long this Committee will sit and when their report may be expected? Will it be a question of years or months?
§ Mr. Ede
As they have not yet met —[Interruption.] If we are to deal with the question of the average attendance of Members in the House we may get into all sort of difficulties. My hon. Friend has asked me a question, and all I can say is that at the moment they have not met, but certainly we do not expect that this is an inquiry which is to run on for years.
§ Major Sir Edward Cadogan (Bolton)
Can the hon. Member say how many schools this inquiry will deal with?
§ Mr. Ede
It will deal with all those schools which claim to be public schools. I understand there are about 183. They will be those schools whose headmasters are admitted to the Headmasters' Conference or whose governing bodies have joined the Governing Bodies' Association. After all, the term "public school" is one that is very loosely applied, but I think 1479 that schools affiliated to those bodies practically cover the range of schools we have in mind.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Does my hon. Friend mean that the schools will not include independent schools which are not in the Headmasters' Conference and preparatory schools?
§ Mr. Ede
No. Independent and preparatory schools are not generally included in the term "public school." This is an inquiry into public schools. I think that the definition that I have already given is the one generally accepted throughout the country as denning a public school. For instance, it includes Haverford West Grammar School, where the fees are six guineas a year, and also Eton, where the fees are, I understand, £290 a year.
§ Mr. Ede
Through no fault of my own I have a very limited time at my disposal, and I have a very large subject to cover. I do not wish to spend a great deal of time on matters which I regard as unimportant. My hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell alluded to one of the things that give us very great concern, which is that the educational opportunities of a child in this country at the moment depend too largely upon the accident of the geographical situation of his home. That matter is governed by circumstances other than those purely educational. It is largely a matter of local government areas and local government finance. On Saturday I had the privilege of being with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Clement Davies) in his own county. He pointed out that the county of the county council of which I am a member has a 1d. rate which produces more than the 1d. produces for the whole of the 13 counties and four county boroughs of Wales. In Surrey the 1d. rate produces 9s. 7d. per child in average attendance in the schools, while in Montgomeryshire it produces 2s. 4d. Such anomalies influence far too much the opportunities of the children and frequently prevent quite progressive local education authorities from doing what they would like to do. This is one of the 1480 matters which, when local government structure and finance are being reconsidered, must be reconsidered by the Government. This will do something towards redressing the grievances that parents and children undoubtedly have in many parts of the country at the moment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) alluded to the Committee appointed by the Minister of Health and announced on Thursday last. I would point out to her that the function of this Committee, according to the statement made by the Minister of Health, will be to advise him on any question affecting the welfare of expectant and nursing mothers and of children under five, which may be referred by him to the Committee. May I say quite clearly that we have no share in the first part of those terms of reference? With regard to the membership of the Committee, we were consulted, and we made recommendations with regard to certain people connected with the education service who have been placed on it. We shall hope to profit with the Ministry of Health from any report that is received from this Committee. The hon. Lady can rest assured that we shall take steps to keep ourselves informed of the progress of the work that the Committee are doing.
§ Mr. Ede
The Committee will report to the Minister of Health, but the report will be available for us, and we shall take steps to make ourselves acquainted with it and to act on it. My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards), after dealing with the problem of the inequalities of the financial strength of local education authorities, urged that we should pay more attention to the scientific training of our students. It was rather in conflict with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon when he said that we were doing as the hon. Member for Wrexham has asked us to do. As between the two, we try to keep an even balance and to do the best we can to develop the individual aptitudes of students who become available for training.. There are some people, obviously, for whom a 1481 scientific training is the most suitable. There are others to whom that training makes no appeal and who are quite rightly advised to take other courses, but we are anxious that every advanced student in the country should receive proper opportunities, whether in a university or through the tutorial classes or the Workers' Educational Association, to develop his own individual gifts to the full.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) gave us what he regarded as a short-term policy. It would, of course, be out of Order for me to follow him very far into that, because most of the things he wanted to do would involve legislation, but I see no ground myself for quarrelling with the suggestions that he made. On registration he pointed out the great difficulty that confronts us everywhere, the difficulty in this time of finding suitable leaders for the various youth units that have been formed in different parts of the country. We certainly hope that we shall obtain some of these leaders from men invalided out of the Services, and part of the duty of the Training of Teachers Committee which my right hon. Friend has appointed is also to consider the training of youth leaders and the sources from which they can be most appropriately recruited.
He and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon both ventured on to the very dangerous ground of religious controversy. The position with regard to that is as follows: My right hon. Friend has invited the religious denominations to let him have their views with regard to what the appropriate solution of this difficulty is. We have to bear in mind that a new Archbishop has just been appointed. He has come in at a time when the whole problems of the Church must be very great indeed, but we have already had an opportunity of interviews with him, and I know that he is not unmindful of the important part that an appropriate solution of this difficulty would play in enabling us to make a real advance in education. The fact that he has been for 16 years the President of the Workers' Educational Association is some evidence that he has a genuine desire that there should be a sound and democratic system of education in this country. I hope, therefore, that these negotiations may be allowed to continue in the belief 1482 that we are all seeking a way through a difficulty that has frustrated too many well-intentioned efforts in the past. I am sure that we cannot be unmindful of the fact that the country would regard with very great disfavour any wrecking of real educational hopes for purely denominational or sectarian purposes.
§ Mr. Ede
My right hon. Friend the other day said he believed in diversity. I have got into serious trouble for saying much the same thing in this House, and I hope that that is a sufficient answer to my hon. Friend. We do not imagine that in a country where tolerance is practised, where it has been practised now ever since the glorious revolution of 1688.
§ Mr. Ede
. So do I. The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. R. Morgan) alluded to me as "an intellectual we have borrowed from the other side of the House." May I say that I do not claim to be an intellectual? No one else has ever accused me of being one, and I do not regard myself as having been borrowed. 1483 I do not know who the hon. Member thought had borrowed me. As I understand it, the Labour Party came into this Government on equal terms. So far as I am concerned, I hope to remain one equal weight in the balance. He asked me what we were hoping to do with regard to the men who would be coming out of the Forces. The problems of rehabilitation, and of continuing the education which those young men were receiving when they entered the Forces, or of giving them the education they ought to have had had they not joined the Forces, are under our most serious consideration, and we hope that well before demobilisation becomes a serious factor we shall be able to produce a scheme.
The hon. Member for the Combined Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) made a speech which I am quite sure delighted us all. As usual, he had the very broadest possible conception of education, and I am especially grateful to him, because, as a University member, he stressed the educational value of the school meal. I hope that will be some consolation to the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), who has not been able to take part in the Debate, that one University Member at least has taken a thoroughly practical view of our educational problems to-day. We do regard it as satisfactory that the school meal and the school milk service has been extended, and we know that we are now in a period when that extension will continue for some months ahead, and will be very marked.
My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Summers) devoted the greater part of his time to dealing with the boarding-school problem. I hope he will forgive me if I do not go further on that than I have already done. I found little in his speech with which I should disagree. I think it is unfortunate that in some recent controversies it has been suggested that this is a problem of intellect against character. Personally, I have never believed that a clever rogue is a better citizen than a dull saint, and to suggest that persons of good character must of necessity be of inferior intellect seems to me to do no very great justice to education, to morals or to any other human aspect of this particular problem.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Member certainly is never dull, but I have always classed him among the saints because of his work for the troops and diabetics on the provision of butter. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton said one thing with which I am inclined to express the strongest possible agreement. He said that we should take steps to train our youths in self-reliance and in willingness to accept responsibility. I believe that any education which fails to do that fails in some of its most essential aspects. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock said that my right hon. Friend's speech was a masterpiece of under-statement. My hon. Friend himself indulged in one sentence which was a masterpiece of over-statement, when he said that in his time the Board was spending £2,000,000 a week in erecting senior schools. I am informed that about that time it was not £2,000,000 a week, but £1,000,000 a month.
§ Mr. Ede
I am informed that it was £1,000,000 a month; but in these days the difference between £2,000,000 a week and £1,000,000 a month is not so very serious. He raised some questions with regard to camp schools, which were followed up by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon. I regard the camp schools as very valuable experiments. We have to recognise that they were never designed for occupation 12 months in the year: they were designed for occupation for parties for a few weeks at the most. Therefore, their recreation rooms and the quarters for staff are by no means ideal. There are grave shortcomings there. We shall have to take steps to improve them in that respect, and we are in constant touch with the National Camps Corporation about what my hon. Friend called the dual control.
§ Mr. Ede
We are doing our very best to remove some of the difficulties which have existed. I replied in part to my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green in his absence, earlier. We are trying to think out the strategy of education, with regard both to the present situation and to the immediate post-war situation. I believe that the steps we are taking under my right hon. Friend will be very helpful indeed in the post-war period 1485 in enabling us to get a system of education in which real equality of opportunity will exist—that is to say, a system in which a child shall have an equal chance with every other child possessing the same gifts to realise his own individuality. That will require legislation which I cannot discuss to-day. Also, it will mean that this House will have to give a good deal of time in the not distant future to the problems of education. But, just as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon found grounds for hope in the midst of great despondency in the large attendance of Members to-day, I can assure the Committee that my right hon. Friend and I regard this as a day on which the House has been thoroughly sympathetic to our Department, and from which we hope to get strength for carrying on in the future with the task which has been committed to us.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Major Sir James Edmondson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.