Amendment proposed: In page 5, line 18, at the end, to insert:
(b) to the expediency of securing that, so far as is compatible with the need for providing efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable expense to the authority, provision is made for enabling pupils to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents."—[Mr. Butler.]
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
I do not want to detain the Committee for more than a moment, to say that the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend will be appreciated by tens of thousands of parents. I hope however he will give some indication to them of how they can exercise the rights which the Amendment purports to confer upon them, and what will be the machinery by which they can exercise their influence on the teaching that is to be accorded to their children.
Mr. Moelwyn Huģhes (Carmarthen)
I want to ask the Minister how far this Amendment really carries us. I can understand its purpose, from the point of view of the interests represented by the hon. Members whose proposed Amendment has been substantially accepted by the right hon. Gentleman, but I want to put another aspect of the case. I am concerned with the wishes of parents particularly in the single-school areas. Under the framework of the Bill, denominational churches in such areas will have the right, if they can find half the capital cost, of becoming aided schools. Speaking for my own part of the country, I know that in many single-school areas where there are Anglican schools and the population is not predominantly but overwhelmingly Nonconformist, it will be the wish of parents that the new school shall be a controlled 198 school. Does this Amendment mean that the wishes of the parents will be taken into account, notwithstanding the specific provisions in a later part of the Bill, in deciding whether, in a single-school area, that school will be a controlled school or a denominational school?
§ Captain Cobb (Preston)
Does it mean that in the event of a dispute between a parent and the local authority as to the type of secondary education a child should receive, the parent's point of view will prevail and not that of the local authority? Some of us are rather afraid that the abolition of fees in secondary schools will mean that the local education authority will determine whether a child shall go to a modern, technical or grammar school and that the parent's wishes will receive little consideration. I would like an assurance from the Minister that the parent's wishes will be taken into account and not those of the local authority.
§ The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Butler)
It is very satisfactory to feel that this Amendment appeals so much to the Committee. I can give the general assurance which has been asked for, provided that the Committee will not press me to assure them that everything will be absolutely right as a result of this Amendment. The Amendment amounts to this: It imposes a general duty upon the authorities which will pervade the whole Bill. That is why it is in Clause 8. To that extent, it is an improvement, from the point of view of parental influence, on the Clause which was included in the 1921 Bill. To that extent it is an advance. It is, of course, applicable just as much to the children of one denomination as to those of another, and if certain denominations think their children will get a better chance of being educated according to the wishes of their parents, that must equally apply to a block of children of another denomination. The object is to assist parents to obtain the kind of education they want for their children. Therefore, to some extent, the point will be very much assisted by the insertion of this Amendment, though one cannot give an absolute assurance about particular cases which may operate in particular areas.
The other point, as to whether parents who desire a particular type of secondary 199 education could influence the authority, is covered on the same footing as the point about children of different denominations. It may be that a child is suitable, or not suitable, for a particular form of secondary education, there may be a bloc of parents who desire a form of technical education, or it may be that there are parents who desire boarding education. All these demands will be very easily met by the insertion of this general duty and, provided the Committee will not force me into the position of saying that every particular case will be settled by the general duty, I can give the assurance desired and I hope the Amendment will be accepted.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Leach (Bradford, Central)
I beg to move, in page 5, line 20, to leave out "five" and to insert "seven".
§ Mr. Butler
On a point of Order. Would it be for the convenience of the Committee if we take this Amendment together with the next two in a general discussion—in line 21, to leave out from "or", to "nursery" in line 23, and in line 24, at the end, to insert:with authority to extend this provision beyond the age of five where conditions are suitable"—reserving the right to put the Amendments individually? We have had one general discussion on this aspect of the Bill; now we may well have another and it would be convenient to take them altogether.
§ Mr. Leach
I quite agree. My Amendment has one single, narrow, but very important purpose, to preserve the right of local education authorities, now exercising it, to retain their nursery school children up to the age of seven. We do not want to impose the age of seven on anyone. We want the freedom of local education authorities who prefer the age of five still to be maintained. According to my reading of Clauses 8 and 9, the age of five would be the limit recognised by the Bill at which children could be retained in nursery schools. That is the difficulty in which I find myself. I am convinced that, before many years are over, the Minister will discover that these 200 Clauses relating to nursery schools will be the brightest jewel in his crown. The nursery school lays down the foundation of an invaluable training in social life, and for youngsters of a tender age, that is of supreme importance We want to make sure that that kind of instruction shall not be suspended at the age of seven.
Anyone visiting a nursery school is bound to come to the conclusion that he has seen the happiest school children the nation possesses. The School Nursery Association is anxious to secure this Amendment. The late Margaret MacMillan, the greatest educationist this country ever produced, strongly favoured nursery school education up to the age of seven. She went so far as to say that, in the main, the development of children leaving the nursery school at seven was, in very many respects, three years higher than those who had not that advantage. If the age of seven becomes the universal age for nursery schools it may well be that infant schools will ultimately disappear for ever. I should not regard that myself as a national disaster, but it is not my purpose in the Amendment to interfere with the present rights of infant schools or their plans in any way. I hope soon to see nursery schools—I come from a city which has probably the highest proportion of nursery schools in the country—made into a basis upon which the whole educational front is based. In that respect my Amendment would be of help.
§ Mr. Burden (Sheffield, Park)
I support the Amendment. It would be ungenerous not to acknowledge that the proposal in the Bill is a step forward. I take it that nursery schools will cease to be a special service and will form an essential part of our educational system, but the Clause, as it now stands, limits the provision of nursery schools for children up to the age of five. Under the Fisher Act, local authorities were empowered to make arrangements forsupplying or assisting the supply of nursery schools for children over two and under five years of age or such later age as may be approved by the Board of Education.I take it that under the Clause as it now stands it would not be possible to approve nursery schools for children at a later age than five. Surely, as the Parliamentary 201 Secretary has himself argued, we need flexibility in our educational system. We need the opportunity for experiment. I think it must be admitted, too, that, broadly speaking, almost every advance in educational technique has come from gifted amateurs outside the teaching profession. For that reason I would urge the acceptance of this Amendment. With due respect I submit that there is no educational reason for the limitation to five years, and that the only reason that can be advanced is the administrative one that compulsory attendance at school starts at five years.
Another point in support of the Amendment is that since 1838, when local government as we know it to-day began to take shape, local authorities have been allowed considerable latitude in the administration of national measures in the light of local circumstances. While it is true that many local authorities might have exercised their powers with greater efficiency, there does not appear to be any reason why we should frustrate and stultify, as this Clause does, the opportunities which local authorities now have for the provision of nursery schools for children up to seven years of age. I agree that the existing provision of nursery schools is far too meagre. Notwithstanding the eloquent sermon which Sir George Newman used to preach to us every year when he was the Chief Medical Officer of the Board, I understand that in 1939 there were only. 58 local authorities' nursery schools in England and Wales, providing for some 6,200 children. Apart from those nursery classes in infants' schools, the great majority of the under fives came, and to-day come, under no educational influence, and, as we know to our shame, thousands of infants are still taught in old, barrack-like buildings with no modern equipment, and classes of 50 and over are not uncommon. I urge that the conditions in a good nursery school are the best suited for children up to seven years of age.
In 1939, when the war broke out, the Board of Education had under consideration a very long list of proposals from local authorities for the provision of nursery schools. Up to then I think the attitude of the Board to the demands of local authorities far the provision of nursery schools might be summed up in the words of Clough: 202Thou shalt not kill; but need'st not strive, Officiously to keep alive.I hope we shall make a fresh start. From 1921 to 1931 economy held up practically all educational advance. From 1931 to 1939 the weakness—
§ Mr. Burden
I only wish to make the point that from now on I hope we are to have a clean, fresh start, and that local authorities will be empowered, as they would be under this Amendment, to make wide provision for nursery schools for children up to the age of seven, in order that our children may have the opportunity which, up to now, has been denied to them.
§ Miss Lloyd George (Anglesey)
I am sure that a great many of use are very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his suggestion that the three Amendments should be taken together, to make it possible for us to have a slightly wider Debate on a question which, to many people, is disquieting. Under the Bill it now becomes the duty of a local authority to provide nursery schools for children up to five years of age. I think that is admirable and is welcomed by all, but what is to be the next step after that? Here there seems to be a discrepancy between the policy of the White Paper and of the Bill. The White Paper says that the first stage in the process of compulsory schooling is the infant stage, which lasts from five to seven. That is the old system, as it prevails to-day. When we come to the Bill we find the first stage is, in fact, from five to 11. There is no mention of the word "infant" in the Bill. "Junior pupil" is the term that applies to all children from two to 11 plus. There is a whole world of difference between the policy of the White Paper and the Bill. It seems to me, though I may be wrong, that there is a whole world of difference between the conception as it exists to-day and the conception in the Bill.
The Parliamentary Secretary said yesterday that it does not really matter whether "infant" is in the Bill or not, that it was not in previous Acts and so why have it in this one? I never thought to hear anyone so progressively-minded as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary giving that as a good and valid reason why the word should not be in the 203 Bill. After all, the reason why we welcome this Bill is that it is an advance, and that there are many things in it which have not been in previous Acts. Many of us would like to have the whole position of infants, that is, children from five to seven, made absolutely clear. The Parliamentary Secretary also said that those who were anxious to raise the age to seven and not leave it at five wanted to put the whole system into a straightjacket. That is precisely what the Government want to do, only they want to make the age five. They want to put the system into a strait-jacket in the wrong place.
Whether five is the right age to have this break in the life of a child is a very important question. The Parliamentary Secretary said there is no consensus of opinion as to whether seven is the right age. There certainly is no opinion that I have heard of that five is the right age. All who have made extensive and prolonged study of this matter have declared emphatically that seven is a more appropriate age than five for children to enter on what is, after all, a new life. They will be going away from the nursery atmosphere to the atmosphere of the school curriculum. I know perfectly well that there are immense difficulties which limit almost every Clause of the Bill, difficulties of teachers, of staff, of buildings, and so on, but in this matter I would ask whether it is not possible to extend and to adapt existing infant schools and to adapt and extend war-time nurseries, a great many of which need to be more suitable for accommodating children up to the age of seven. After all, in this Bill we are laying down the line along which our education system is to proceed, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman that when he is doing that he will not establish the break in the school life of children at five years of age.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
I should like to support the general argument put by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George). I happen to be in touch with teachers up and down the country, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that one of the great fears about this Bill is that it will crush out the infant school. Whether that fear is justified or not, it certainly exists. There is a general fear, which has been conveyed to me from many quarters, that these State infant 204 schools are going to be crushed. I should like to say in passing that I entirely disagree with the observation of the hon. Member for the Park Division (Mr. Burden) that every advance in the education field has been made by gifted amateurs. I absolutely and completely disagree with that, and I cannot understand a Socialist making that remark, because anyone who knows anything of our education system will know that if there has been any advance, if there have been experiments carried out, if there have been sacrifices made by teachers, it has been in connection with infant schools. I should like to put it on record that I know of many instances in which headmistresses in infant schools have spent their own money in providing the materials necessary to carry on the work in the schools. Further, and this is my main point, it would be a real tragedy in our education system if we conveyed to those teachers that they were going to be snuffed out or smothered by the provisions of the Bill. I agree with the hon. Lady that we should like to see the children kept outside a rigid curriculum and that experiments in the educational process should have scope.
I am not rigidly bound to any particular limit, but I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that the emphasis in the Bill is against the provision of nursery classes and my Amendment is designed to get over that. That provision in the Bill is one of the things which have caused the suspicion which exists. The opinion has been conveyed to me not by any official organisation but by a mass of correspondence from individual teachers, and I feel keenly that unless the right hon. Gentleman convinces us that he is going to meet us Parliament ought to register an opinion on the matter, because it is an exceptionally important point in the education sphere. Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman this. There has certainly emanated from his Department—I do not want to go further—through various officials, the view that the Department implies that the day of the infant school has gone. Right up and down the country I find that idea exists. Both the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary know of the splendid work which has been done in towns like Nottingham. As I have said, I do not want compulsion for the small children, but I do want to maintain the 205 interest of our education system in nurturing and developing these young children, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to meet us on the issues we have raised.
§ Mr. Hugh Lawson (Skipton)
I hope this discussion will not get down to the old argument as to whether five or seven is the right age to stop attendance at nursery schools. That is a matter on which there is bound to be an honest difference of opinion, because the thing which must determine whether a child should leave at the age of five or seven is its mental development. You cannot lay down hard and fast rules. The Minister should not tie himself to a particular age—the age of five—because that would be an unfortunate thing. We have very good experiments going on in nursery schools with children up to the age of seven, so I hope the Minister will accept some wording of the Bill which will make it possible for some children, at any rate, to remain in nursery schools until they reach the age of seven. That does not mean that we should force all children to attend nursery schools until that age, but the matter should be made as elastic as possible, and I hope, therefore, that the President will accept some wording along the lines of this Amendment.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I wish to say very shortly that I hope the President will agree to accept some words such as those suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) making it possible to extend this provision beyond the age of five, and I rise not only to give my general support, but I think I am justified in saying that there is a considerable body of opinion among school medical officers that the age should be raised beyond five and probably to seven. Education should consist chiefly of play activities and physical education, and not in cramming up to the age of about seven. Of course, we cannot be rigid about the exact dates. One cannot say that on a certain day the development of a child ceases, nor can the Minister say that the development of a child as an infant ceases at the age of five. The probability is that in most children the physical mental brain development goes on for about seven years, and the logical thing would be to take the age of seven. There is a considerable body of expert 206 medical opinion which thinks that the age should be raised above five to somewhere near seven, and if some words can be accepted to make it possible for the local education authorities to do that where it is administratively feasible, I think the Bill would be strengthened and not in any way hurt.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I rise really to save time because one or two of us have got Amendments to a succeeding Clause which will be knocked out if this is accepted. The Minister has already said that "elasticity if necessary shall go further after the compulsory school age is reached." It is also in the White Paper that infant and junior schools should be separate where possible. We want the drafting to live up to the speeches and the White Paper. I think that is all that is being asked, and I rise really to support what the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) said. It is true that in the 1921 Act the infant school is not mentioned, but we think that after 23 years of experience the experiment justifies the inclusion of the word "infant" in the 1944 Act. We also think that the war experience has proved to the country what Margaret MacMillan proved to the few.
§ Mr. Butler
I may, perhaps, help the Committee to have a proper idea of the Government's policy if I intervene at this stage. There appears to be already general agreement in the Committee that it is important to have elasticity and so to frame the Statute that it is not impossible for children to stay in the nursery school atmosphere beyond the age of five and possibly up to the age of seven. That has been the intention of the Government as expressed in the White Paper and it is, in fact, in the Bill. But the Bill is a legal document and legal documents need a little interpretation, and some of us are not even lawyers. I would like to explain to the Committee that the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) need have no fear that the Bill would preclude the possibility of continuing nursery schools for children up to the age of seven. When I have proved that, I would like to say a word about the Amendment in general and, then, if I may, to keep till the end a little Amendment which I propose to make myself.
Looking at the Bill as it is drawn, there is no need for hon. Members who have 207 taken part in the Debate to be apprehensive, because if they will turn to Clause 9 (4) they will see that primary schools, which are used mainly for the purpose of providing education for children who have attained the age of two years but have not attained the age of five years, shall be known as nursery schools. I am advised that the word "mainly" has been inserted so that there may be experiments provided for children to stay beyond the age of five. I might have offered a prize to anybody to pick out that needle. That is the method by which the draftsmen have saved the position.
I would like to say a word about the Amendments on the paper. I must acknowledge the fact that the City of Bradford, which the hon. Member who moved this Amendment represents, has made some notable experiments in this particular direction. I should like also to acknowledge the experience which the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Park Division (Mr. Burden) brings into our discussions on this matter. The Government are faced by the following position in trying to arrange the Clauses of the Bill to meet all sides. It is necessary in this to be even more Solomonic than _in considering other matters. There are widely different schools of thought. There is the school of thought represented by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), which takes the view that it is important to preserve infant schools in our educational system. He also shows particular interest in nursery schools.
I would say at once that the Government are so far removed from being opposed to the continuation of infant schools that they subscribe to all the sentiments he has expressed in support of these ventures and to the work and sacrifice of those running these infant schools. At the same time we are not at all opposed to the philosophy of the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey, and we think that in some instances it should be possible for children to remain in nursery schools after they reach the age of five, but, as has been so rightly said by the hon. Gentleman who also intervened, some children develop at one age and others at another. Therefore, to lay down in a statute of all places that there shall be a sharp dividing line in the life of a child would really be madness and I do 208 not advise the Committee to adopt so rigid a plan as that. No father or mother would agree to that.
Before I come to suggest how I think we might all be satisfied, I must just say that it is the general view of the Board that about the age of five a change of environment and of teaching is desirable. That is our general view and I have, in this connection, studied the immortal work of Margaret MacMillan and realised the truth of what she said about the value of carrying on the nursery atmosphere for some children to the age of seven. But that does not detract from our general view that attendance at nursery schools within reasonable reach of the home should go on from two to five and that after that a new stage is necessary. I am supported in this by the views of a very eminent psychologist, Dr. Gesell, who said that the five-year-oldhas a better understanding of this world and his own identity in it. He is stable and well adjusted in his emotional life, as he is in his intellectual outlook.That leads the Government to feel that normally there is a reason for adjustment at that age and the Government have taken a great interest in this matter because of the sympathy which has been shown in the Committee to this part of our educational development. We feel then that it will be necessary to keep elasticity in the general system, and we feel that to lay down a rigid rule would be impossible.
At the same time, on examining the Bill in detail we have come to the conclusion that there is no method of ascertaining, either on behalf of the Government or on behalf of the House, what in fact the development of English education in this matter is going to be. We have, in fact, discovered as the result of Amendments put on the Order Paper that there is no method of reassuring hon. Members who are anxious about either the continuation of the infant school or elasticity in the nursery school. On examining Clause 10, in which authorities are asked to submit their development plans, we find that in (2, a) so far from there being a delineation of the different types of primary education there is not a provision for a review to be given of the different stages of primary education. There is, therefore, a gap in the Bill, and what we propose is to require the authorities, when submitting their development plans, to 209 include not only the types of secondary education, but also the types of primary education which we are also keeping elastic. In order to do that it will be necessary to amend the Bill in Clause 10. For that purpose I have an Amendment put down on the Order Paper—Clause 10, page 7, line 14, leave out from "such" to end of line 15—which would require the authorities in their development plans to delineate the nature of the provision of nursery schools, infant schools and of junior pupil education generally and thus enable us to follow the development of English education in these spheres. If I do that I hope hon. Members will realise that the Government has to decide between opposing points of view and the natural way is to have a report or a development plan so that we can see how things are developing.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I would like to say one word in approval of the very wise and understanding speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but I do want it to be made clear, and he has made it clear, to those women who have given their lives to small children in infant school work, that their work is not threatened, and that there is every hope that the policy will be to encourage their work to continue and that the life of the infant school is not finished.
§ Mr. Leach
I am prepared to withdraw my Amendment if the answer to one simple question which I propose to put to the Minister satisfies me, and I think it will. Notwithstanding the fact that throughout these Clauses the only age mentioned is that of five—which seems to me quite limiting—does the Minister assure me that local authorities will have perfect freedom to continue their nursery school tuition up to the age of seven?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.210
The next Amendment to be called is that in the name of the hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit)—in page 5, line 31, leave out "expediency of" and insert "need for." It may be for the convenience of the Committee to have a general Debate on boarding schools and boarders. That will cover this Amendment and the five succeeding Amendments: that in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) in page 5, line 32, after "in," insert "existing."; that in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), in page 5, line 33, leave out from "otherwise," to end of paragraph; that in the name of the President of the Board, in page 5, line 33, leave out from "pupils," to end of paragraph, and insert:for whom education as boarders is considered by their parents and by the authority to be desirable.";that in the name of the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) in page 5, line 33, leave out from "pupils," to send of paragraph, and insert "for whom such provision is educationally desirable."; and that in the name of the hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras, in page 5, line 36, after "remoteness," insert "overcrowded condition or unhealthy surroundings."
§ Mr. Barnes (East Ham, South)
Do the Amendments cover that in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Rom-ford (Mr. Parker)—in page 5, line 37, at end, insert:and (e) to the need for securing that provision is made for pupils in approved schools and remand homes now under the control of the Home Office.
§ Sir Alfred Beit (St. Pancras, South-East)
I beg to move, in page 5, line 31, to leave out "expediency of," and to insert "need for."
I am delighted, Major Milner, that you have decided to allow a general Debate, because I was rather afraid that my Amendment would be looked upon as being restrictive. Since I put it down the President has himself put down a far preferable Amendment covering very much the same ground. I would draw 211 the attention of the Committee to the curious state of affairs that whereas it is the duty of the local education authorities to establish the various forms of education which are enumerated in Clause 8, Sub-section (2), they have, when it comes to boarding schools, only to consider the expediency of establishing such schools. I took the trouble to look up in Murray's Dictionary the actual meaning of "expediency," and found that it is defined as "a contrivance or device for obtaining an end." That is very different from the need for doing something. It became clear to me that the education authorities, in considering the advisability of establishing boarding schools, were given only the power to establish them, whereas with all other forms of education a duty was imposed upon them. I do not think that is good enough. I am anxious to know whether it will be acceptable to my right hon. Friend that the same duty which is imposed on them in other respects shall be imposed upon them in this respect.
The other point I wanted to make, although it will be over-ridden by the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment, is that when the Bill was drafted, not only was the establishment of board schools limited to expediency and to a power of the education authority, but the reasons why they should establish them were limited to parents being desirous of this form of education or to the need for providing it for children who live far away from ordinary schools. I am glad that that basis has been much broadened by the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment. When the private education system is attacked it is generally attacked on the basis that it is only available to those who are prepared or able to pay for it. In the so-called public schools there are only 10,000 places, so that whatever steps were taken it would not be possible to make them available to a very greatly increased number of children. The only way, therefore, in which this system can be made more extensive is to build new schools of this type and make them available for a vast number of children who have never benefited from the boarding school system. I was glad to see that in the Second Reading Debate my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. I. Thomas) made this remark: 212It is rather curious that the boarding school principle should have been supported in the past mainly by the wealthy and opposed by the poor, because boarding schools have far more to give to the poor than they have to the children of the rich."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th January, 1944; col. 306, Vol. 396.]The prejudice against the boarding school system largely arises from the fact that only a limited proportion of the population have been able to benefit by it, or even to try it, If we strengthen the hands of the education authorities in the way that this Amendment aims to do and impose on them the duty of establishing boarding schools, not only in remote areas, but throughout the country, the success of this type of education will soon prove itself and thus get over the prejudice which exists against it. It is essential that the scope of these schools should be much widened over what was originally in the minds of the Department when they drafted the Bill, because we certainly do not want only unhealthy or unwanted children to go to these schools. We are hopeful that the system will prove such a success that there will be a great demand for them throughout the country.
The boarding school is not only good for the character of the child, but it is as a rule very popular with the child. It is a real advantage to a neglected child and, best of all, it is of the greatest benefit to a spoilt child. I dare say that some Members have read an interesting book by a body of social workers called "Our Towns," which was produced shortly after the great evacuation. It is in the form of a survey taken in different parts of the country of the children who had been moved from their normal homes. There were many sad examples in the book of the effect on the child's character of being either neglected or, even worse, spoilt. The moral that can be drawn from it is that, though every deference must be paid to the wishes of the parents, they do not automatically know what is best for their children. There are a great many children in all classes of the community who would benefit enormously by an absence for a period during the year from their parental surroundings. I do not propose that boarding schools should be extended entirely for the benefits that they give to the child. They are of the greatest benefit to teachers also. I read the other day that at a meeting of the Incorporated 213 Association of Head Masters, the master of Dulwich College said:Our boarding schools are better off than the day schools in the quality of their masters, not because they were more efficient teachers but because in the great boarding schools there was so much larger a percentage of masters who were ready to devote their entire lives to the good of the school.In the Debate yesterday many hon. Members indulged in personal reminiscences, and if I may be allowed to enter my name for this autobiographical race, I would say that my own recollections are very vivid of those teachers with whom I came in contact during my school days who were really wrapt up, not only in the ordinary work, but in the welfare of the boys. The best loved teachers were those who really took an interest in the lives of the boys outside school hours. It is not by any means a question of pay, because it is common knowledge that the scales for teachers at boarding schools are not very different from other scales. I believe that there are many elementary and secondary school teachers who would like to have the opportunity of teaching at boarding schools and of taking a greater interest in the lives of the scholars than they are able to do under the present system, where circumstances make it impossible for them to carry on that interest outside school hours except under conditions of the greatest difficulty.
One of the reasons why the system would be of material benefit is that there are some teachers who are not particularly interested in any other than their immediate school work. I have in my experience during the war come across one or two schools which have been evacuated from cities to the country where the teachers frankly have not taken the opportunity that this move afforded to them of really entering into questions of welfare as they did previously. We know that teachers are of varying calibre, and it is clear that they will not do the same thing when the circumstances to which they were formally accustomed have been changed. It is clear that, given the opportunity to do more than the mere school work, the great majority would take a greater interest in the pupils. That would lead to better esprit de corps in the school than is normally the case. The outlook of parents, and of teachers as well, towards this question needs to be changed, 214 and the quickest and most encouraging way of doing it would be to establish a system of successful State boarding schools, because there is no doubt that they would be rapidly followed by others.
§ Mr. Martin (Southwark, Central)
I would like to congratulate the President on having put down an Amendment to this Clause, because it very much meets the present issue. This is not a matter on which one ought to express dogmatic opinions, but, broadly speaking, I must confess that, after a considerable period of association with day schools and having been myself at a boarding school, I think that, other things being equal, if the home and the school are both good the day school has the advantage. None the less, there is a case for establishing greater opportunities for children to go to boarding schools.
Three conditions should govern that state of affairs. It should be clear that the parents and authorities equally believe that the boarding school is a desirable form of education. The hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir. A. Beit) said he thought that the parent was not always the best guide. Let us agree that that is the case, but is the authority always the best judge? Is the teacher always the best judge? Can we say that any one person is always the best judge, of the welfare of any particular child? Of course we cannot. The parent must always be taken first into account, and, other things being equal, must always be given the decisive voice. The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right to amend the Clause in the sense of putting the greatest emphasis upon the parent's authority in this matter so that nothing that goes out from this House should be thought to diminish the authority or responsibility of the parent in the ordinary way of life in this country.
The second thing that is of importance is that if you are to have boarding schools they should be good boarding schools, and the amenities, teaching and conditions of the schools should be at least equal to the ordinary good boarding school which the paying parent selects for his child. That standard at least must be maintained and preserved for children if we are to send them to boarding schools. The third question which arises is financial. So far as these schools are desirable for the children of the country, no question of finance should 215 stand in the way, but, none the less, one does not want to rush impulsively into this kind of thing without considering that aspect of the matter. There are local authorities who have the boarding school complex and might be anxious to take advantage of this Clause and set up boarding schools where they were not urgently required, and so spend money which might be put to better use. One of the arguments which has been put forward for making boarding schools more desirable is the distance of the pupil from the nearest school, but the areas in which pupils are a long way from their day schools are precisely those which, in most cases, could least afford to pay for great extravagance in education. That point raises once again the vexed question of local and national expenditure, which I think should be taken into account in this matter.
Again, we might, possibly, have a Board of Education which wanted to make rather expensive experiments of this nature, and it would be most deplorable if the standard of education and of amenity in the day school were to suffer because an authority, or the Board, wanted to spend an excessive portion of the amount available for education upon the board school system. With those reservations I should be very glad indeed to support the Government's proposal and I hope that the Amendment will be adopted by the Committee.
§ Mr. K. Lindsay
I rise to support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) and to try to get a reply from the Minister on a rather larger point which is contained in the Amendment, and also in what, I think, is the second Amendment in the name of the same hon. Member. It is very difficult to discuss this matter without having the Fleming Report on the subject, but I think there is sufficient evidence to enable one to come to a conclusion on the point. I have put down many questions in the last two years about this matter, and naturally I welcome this new power. It is well known that unless children were delinquent or were a long way from home, you could not send them to a boarding school, unless, again, you were pretty rich. There is scope at the moment for a good many experiments attached to secondary 216 schools. There are in this country many boarding houses attached to day schools to accommodate perhaps 50 boys. There is a case in Sussex, which I came across recently, where boys have to stay on later in the evening, because the main problem of the day school at the moment is that there is insufficient accommodation to do any homework. The position is becoming very difficult for secondary school children. Therefore, provision is being made by hostel and otherwise. I know a school in Lewes where this is wanted. Parents and authorities are satisfied with the experiment. They will not be able to go on in the winter without boarding accommodation attached to schools and I hope that the Minister will encourage this kind of thing. There is the same development at Leighton Park.
Then there are the camp schools. I spent this week-end in one of them, where there is a secondary school, and the experience has been that the children's health is better, their homework has improved under supervision, their social behaviour has improved and their sense of responsibility is encouraged. The country life and environment have given them a new sense of well-being. The school report states that before the evacuation, the number of children below Grade IV was 42.6 per cent. Eighteen months after evacuation it was 24.6. Those are the most reliable figures I have been able to get in the country. For those above this grade, the figures are, before evacuation only 32 per cent. and 18 months afterwards, 49 per cent.
It seems to me that we ought to cash in on this war experience and I hope that my right hon. Friend will have control of these schools, which are now incidentally still under the Ministry of Health. Hon. Members may say that I was partly responsible for putting them there in the days of the evacuation, but those days are over. The headmaster of Westminster school in a report upon the same aspect of the matter said:We return home with lessons not to be forgotten from the years of exile—the moral value of simpler standards—the educational value of self-help, the social value of contacts with your next door neighbour whoever he happens to be.They had to have simpler standards and simpler clothes, they haveimprovised less formal athletics, at the same time academic standards have been improved.217 If this is so, I think there is a good case, although I do not rest my case on the great public schools at all. We are in an adventurous and experimental age, and I want to see our local education authorities breaking new ground.
But the main reason why I have risen is because I am not quite sure whether the Amendment by the President covers another group of children. I wonder whether it is generally known that there are somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 children in this country who are homeless, or orphans, or who have been picked up on the streets and, who have been committed to a fit person, which is sometimes the local education authority, and that there are four different Ministries, Pensions, Health, Home Office and the Board of Education, inspecting or not inspecting these children. I want to know from my right hon. Friend whether these children can be brought within the scope of the Bill. I have taken the trouble to look up the original paragraphs to Part I of the Bill, which say:institutions devoted to that purpose,which means education. Therefore, I ask whether the public assistance schools will no longer come under the public assistance committees of the local authorities but under each local education committee itself. The same applies to children in workhouses and remand homes and approved schools. There are 12,000 children who are destitute or impecunious. This covers some of the points raised in the hon. Member's second Amendment. There are 21,000 children who are impecunious in charitable homes and schools, only a proportion of whom are inspected by the Home Office. The rest are inspected by the Ministry of Health. There are 10,000 children in approved schools. Hon. Members may ask why I raise this question. The answer is that it has been proved that 75 per cent. of the children in approved schools were originally children belonging to the above categories. In fact, there are probably, especially in view of the increase in the number of illegitimate children in this country, something like 100,000 children who are in homes, institutes, hospitals and various types of school and institution.
It is high time that these children were brought under a central Ministry, which should be the Ministry of Education, and 218 that the main responsibility for their welfare should fall upon the local education committees. Some committees already look after this matter. I believe that Manchester does. Others do not. Many authorities are extremely worried about the great mass of destitute children. These are not children who are necessarily special children and they do not come under the Clause in the Bill which deals with mental and physical disability. Same of them are perfectly wonderful children. These children are a great asset to the country. I could tell stories about what has happened to these children which would not reflect well on the country in spite of the devoted work of many charitable homes, on the provision made for the happiness of this great mass of children. I want the children to come within this Clause.
§ Mr. Barnes
On a point of Order. May I clear up a point which I submitted to your predecessor, in the Chair, Mr. Williams, on whether the issues raised by my hon. Friend should be discussed? I understood that it was not in Order to do so I am very anxious that they should be discussed, and if the matter is in Order I should like to make a contribution.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
Is the hon. Gentleman referring to the Amendment in page 5, line 37?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I understand that that has been ruled out of Order. I noticed that the hon. Gentleman was speaking on the subject of the Amendment which had been ruled out of Order, and I was wondering whether he ought to carry on; but since the matter has been raised, I must warn him that he should not go any further into the subject of special schools.
§ Mr. Barnes
What I wish to ask is whether the Board of Education could really assume responsibility for them within the terms of this Measure.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Subject to further advice, I would go so far as to say that they are outside the scope of the Bill.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)
The Chairman of the Committee, when he ruled the Amendment out of Order, said that the reason was that it was outside the scope of the Bill.
That Ruling would apply equally to the remarks which the hon. Member was making. Perhaps, therefore, he will not pursue the subject any further.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I will not pursue this one moment further, because there are many other hon. Members who wish to speak. I wish to raise this point. I will just display an elaborate and coloured map which will show hon. Members the chaotic arrangements of these four Ministries, Health, Pensions, Home Office and Education.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That is exactly what the hon. Member must not display. It is going much too far when we have pictorial as well as verbal illustrations.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I support very strongly the general sense of this Clause. I am not sure whether the President's Amendment should not be amended to "parents or authorities," because in some of the cases either the parents do not exist or, as my hon. Friend said, there are cases where the children have literally have to be taken away for the good of the children. Therefore, with that possible Amendment which I would suggest to the President I have the greatest pleasure in supporting this Clause. I hope that there will be a wide variety of experiments undertaken by local education authorities and by other people with the valuable idea of boarding.
§ Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)
Is the Amendment which stands in my name included in those you wish to have discussed in this general discussion, Mr. Williams?
§ Sir J. Lamb
In that case I should like to associate myself whole-heartedly with the remarks of other hon. Members on this Sub-section (d) of the Clause. I have for long been an advocate of the principle of the wishes enunciated in this Sub-section and of power being given to local authorities to have these boarding schools. I do not propose to follow the example of some 220 hon. Members and make a Second Reading speech on this question. There was a great deal I would have liked to have said on Second Reading, but, unfortunately, I was not able to do so as I was not called. I am strongly in favour of the principle of boarding schools being provided by the local authority. If I may enter into the discussion which has just taken place in regard to this certain class of school—not those you have ruled out of Order, Mr. Williams—I believe the other schools would come under the purview of the local authority and could be taken over by them as approved schools. With regard to the children who have no parents, I think the education authority is now practically in the position of parents of the children for educational purposes. I hope that the answer later on will be that these schools will be included.
I do not propose to move or press my Amendment, because I want briefly to support the Minister's Amendment which I think includes the object which I had in mind in my Amendment. I should like to thank him for the Amendment, which includes the considered opinion of the authority in addition to that of the parent. Naturally, I would not do anything to diminish the responsibility or rights of parents with regard to the education to be given to their children, but in practice we find that all parents, like other individuals, are not always right, and there are occasions when the teachers or the local authority, with very close associations with the children, have opinions and have come to a conclusion which should be given full consideration. The Minister in his Amendment is giving what I was trying to do in mine, the provision that the authority should have some power of representation in this case. I want to thank him for that, and when the time comes I shall not ask to move my Amendment.
§ Viscountess Davidson (Hemel Hempstead)
I should like to support the Amendment. Two of the camp evacuation schools have been in my constituency and I have had a great opportunity of seeing them develop and seeing the enormous improvement in the children there. To start with, in one camp there were children who came from 180 different schools. Out of them has been created a public school with a public school spirit. I would not have believed it had I not 221 seen it and the wonderful atmosphere which has grown up in that camp in a comparatively short time. I realise that the success depends very much on the headmaster and teachers. It is perhaps asking even greater devotion from school teachers who are hardly ever off duty if they are working in boarding schools but I believe that the results have been so remarkable that that has been sufficient reward in itself.
I very much welcome this Clause of the Bill, because I think it may be the beginning of something very important for the future. I am not, however, happy at the use of the word "expediency." It is the wrong word, it is permissive. The word should be "need" or "necessity." If it is permissive local authorities may turn away on the grounds of expense, or it may be found that London or Birmingham can afford it whereas Wiltshire, Cornwall, Cumberland or some of the other poorer counties cannot. There may be influential people on local authorities who are against boarding schools and who might obstruct. Having had this opportunity of seeing what may be done in a very short period of time I want to see this system extended as much as possible in the future. We shall have available camps which are now being used for war purposes, which will be admirable places for boarding schools of this type. Having seen the improvement in the boys in these camps in my constituency in three or four years I want to see that public school spirit brought into a great many more schools and the advantages of boarding schools given to many thousands of other children throughout the country.
§ Mr. Ede
The sentiments that have been expressed in the course of the Debate I think truly reflect public opinion outside. There has been a very considerable change of view on the part of parents whose children have hitherto regarded the elementary and secondary schools as their normal places of education with regard to this matter during the past five or six years This has been very striking, as was shown in a referendum taken by the Federation of Women's Institutes into this very problem. They asked by an overwhelming majority, I think something like 160 to one, that provision should be made, where is was required, for children to receive education under residential con- 222 ditions. I had the advantage of attending a Women's Institute in a village on an occasion when this matter was under discussion. The curious thing was that this was not advocated by the mothers who were there on any egalitarian principle, but purely from a consideration of the educational advantages and disadvantages that their children, who were attending secondary schools, experienced under present circumstances.
This was a village not very far from a substantial county town where there were two secondary schools, one for boys and one for girls. These village mothers took the view that their children lost a substantial part of their education because they were unable to participate in the out-of-school activities which made so much a part of secondary school life for the more fortunate children who lived in the town. They desired that their children should participate in all the school societies that were open to those who were not dependent on a very infrequent bus service, and an even worse train service, for getting to and from school. This is a very considerable alteration in the outlook of that type of parent. Working class memories are notoriously long, and the history of residential education in this country for the working classes has not been a happy one down to the very recent past. The defective, the mentally and physically defective, have been catered for in residential institutions, the morally defective have been catered for in residential institutions.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am afraid I shall have to interrupt the hon. Member to remind him that we are dealing with this Clause.
§ Mr. Ede
The reversal of public opinion has, I think, sufficiently progressed now to warrant us making provision in this Bill for dealing with the problem of residential schools, and my right hon. Friend has placed on the Order Paper an Amendment which I gather meets the views of those who have put down most of the Amendments that have appeared on the Paper on this subject. I hope that the Committee will agree to accept the words he has put down. We recognise that in this matter there must be consultation between the parent and the local education authority. It does not 223 follow that every child whose parents think him or her suitable for a residential education is of necessity suitable, and there may be some cases where the local education authority may desire to bring to the notice of the parents the desirability of the child securing education under residential conditions.
With regard to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for South-East St. Pancras (Sir A. Beit) my right hon. Friend feels that it is desirable to stick to the words that have been placed in the Bill. The Clause has already been amended once by the former Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend with regard to the wishes of the parents to deal with the subject which was under discussion when the Committee resumed to-day. This also is a matter in which the wishes of the parents are concerned and it would appear desirable in this case to follow the same form of words as were used in the other case where so wide a discretion is left. With regard to why the phrase the "need for" has not been used in this Clause, and those matters which are within the old established statutory system of the country, the explanation is that we desire that there shall be a very wide range of experiments in this matter. We welcome all that has been said on that subject, but we hope the Committee will agree to leave the word "expediency" in the place where it has been placed in the Bill in dealing with this subject.
§ Mr. Cove
I rise to support the request of the Parliamentary Secretary that we should leave in the word "expediency" and not substitute the words "need for." The truth is that this Amendment raises a very vital issue in our educational methods and system. The Debate has indicated, I think, that Members realise it, for throughout the whole Debate there has been, so far as I have gathered, an emphasis on the benefits derived from boarding schools or camps and so on. Quite frankly I do not share the general view that has been expressed. Therefore, because my admiration is not so positive for boarding schools as that which seems to have been expressed by hon. Members hitherto in the Debate, I support the retention of the words, "the expediency of." One of the proudest things in our educational history is not at all related to the boarding schools.
224 One of the proudest things in our educational history is related to the day municipal secondary schools. They have made a remarkable contribution to the educational development of this country. I do not subscribe to the theory that it is a good thing in general for children to be taken away from their own localities and their own homes. The educational process proceeds not only inside the school, but inside the home, and in the locality. I believe that the nearer the schools are to the problems of the localities in which they are placed and the nearer the children are to the problems even of the home, the more fully they will realise the difficulties they will have to face as they grow into manhood. The boarding school makes the real life that they have to live somewhat remote. I am very glad that the Government have stood firm, and I hope they will continue to do so, on this word "expediency." I am all in favour of experiment, but I am not in favour of taking away large numbers of children from the problems of their home life. I think we ought to put in a word for the remarkable contribution that the municipal schools have rendered to Britain in the last 50 or 60 years.
§ Sir Georģe Schuster (Walsall)
I am very grateful to the Minister for the Amendment which he has put down and which is to be moved later. It seems to me to meet all the needs of the case. Although I entirely differ from the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) as to the value of boarding schools, I agree with him in preferring the word "expediency" to the word "need." If we leave expediency, I think we open a wider door than if we ask the authorities merely to consider the need. Many things may be expedient which could not be proved to be necessary. But the point I chiefly wanted to make concerns finance. We must all recognise that, when we come to extending boarding school education, we get right up against the financial difficulty. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) said that it is very difficult to discuss this matter when we have not the Fleming Report before us. I hope that we shall have another opportunity of discussing the question of boarding schools in all its aspects when we have that Report. We are discussing whether the local authorities should consider the expediency of providing board- 225 ing-school facilities. There was among local authorities some fear of the financial liability under which they might be put if parents had the right to say "I want my boy to go to a boarding school," when they could not afford the fees. Now there must be agreement between the local authority and the parent, as a result of the Government's Amendment. As one who supports very strongly the extension of boarding-school facilities, I wonder whether we are wise if we contemplate leaving the financial burden for the sort of thing that we want to see in this country on the shoulders of the local authorities. One of the values of boarding-school education, as I see it, is that children from all over the country can meet; the schools are not confined to the children of one locality. That being so, the schools should not be the financial obligation of particular local authorities. I want to see an education authority taking the most intimate share in the running of any boarding-school in its area; but if we are to take boarding-school education seriously, we have to face the fact that the financial burden cannot be carried by the local authorities. I hope that at some stage my right hon. Friend will tell us something about that point.
§ Sir A. Beit
On the question of "expedient," I was not altogether convinced by the last two speeches or by that of the Parliamentary Secretary. I thought that the parallel which he drew with the Amendment was not altogether valid. But I am perfectly willing, having regard to the satisfactory answer he gave to the Debate, to withdraw my Amendment, especially in view of the fact that I have another Amendment down on Clause 10, regarding the plans of the local authorities, which I hope he will accept.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Could my hon. Friend give us some satisfaction on the point made by the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster)? It is very important, in the case of schools which are at present camp schools, that, although they are financed not by the local authority but from the centre—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I was wondering how far the hon. Member was going to get out of Order before I stopped him.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
I beg to move, in page 5, line 37, at the end, to insert:and (e) to the need for providing accommodation for the preparation and serving of school meals for all pupils.I move this Amendment in order that this Clause, which governs schools as a whole, shall contain this statement about the provision of accommodation for school meals, and that such meals shall be regarded as just as fundamental a part of education as the provision of playing fields or of instruction, or any other part of school life. During the war there has been a very great expansion in the feeding of school children. The number fed in December, 1941, was 8.9 per cent. of the whole, and in October, 1943, it had risen to 26.5 per cent. of the total number of children. Some people may say that it has risen despite the difficulties of the war situation, but the war situation has made people realise the necessity of children being fed and therefore stimulated the provision of school meals, so that it has actually increased. The difficulties are the provision of equipment and premises, and the Board of Education have issued various circulars laying emphasis on this aspect of the matter.
I want it to be made plain in the Bill that it is part of the duty of the local authority to provide premises and equipment. The necessity would not arise if all local authorities were very ready to provide school meals for their children, but even at this moment there are 12 local authorities, out of the 315 in the country, who provide for no children at all, and there is no local authority in the country which provides for over 65 per cent. of the children. Only seven local authorities provide for over 50 per cent. of the children. In the larger number of cases, the percentage of children provided for is very much smaller than that. That means that a very considerable proportion of children are not provided for.
One of the chief difficulties is that of equipment and premises. That is one 227 reason for my putting down this Amendment. But there is a further reason. Some local authorities still consider that only if children are necessitous have they a claim to be fed. I want that idea swept out of existence. All children going to school ought to have one substantial meal every day, in all circumstances. The question of how you are going to arrange for payment, whether by individuals or otherwise, should not arise. It is important to make the provision of premises a vital and fundamental part of the Bill. I hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister replies, he will be able to give satisfaction on this point. I do not want to quote a large number of statistics, but I have here a valuable paper by Mr. F. Le Gros Clark, which I recommend all Members to study. This is a very valuable document, and it is not easily obtainable. We ought to turn our attention more and more to the provision of school meals. If we are going to make that a reality, it means providing the premises where the children can be fed and the equipment which will enable the meals to be cooked.
§ Mr. Cove
I heartily support this Amendment, not only from the point of view which the hon. Member has mentioned, that is, the general principle of the feeding of children and the necessity that children should have meals provided whether they are necessitous or not, but also because of the concrete nature of the Amendment. The hon. Member wants provision made foraccommodation for the preparation and serving of school meals for all pupils.I want that direction given because in hundreds of schools in this country there is no preparation and there is no accommodation. It seems to me essential that the physical conditions should be there in order to have proper school feeding. In many schools the children are fed in the ordinary classrooms, and they have to go back to the classrooms after the meal. That is not right. There should be separate accommodation—if you like, school restaurants. In addition to that proper physical accommodation, there should be at all schools the means for cooking and serving the meals. The cooking and serving—I am now thinking more particularly of the serving—should not, as now in many cases, rest on the 228 shoulders of the teachers. The teachers are appointed to teach, and I say that it is a very bad thing that extraneous duties, such as taking care of school meals, should be put upon those who have to do the teaching service in the schools to the extent to which it has been done in the past. There ought to be, not only proper accommodation, but a staff to supervise the cooking of the meals and the feeding of the pupils. School feeding has now gone on for a considerable time, and, indeed, is accepted in the educational world generally as necessary. It is accepted by the public as necessary, but again—and I know what I am talking about and I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me—there is at the moment, throughout the administrative education service and throughout the teaching profession itself, a great deal of irritation, almost amounting to annoyance, and a feeling of frustration, at people being directed from their proper job where school meals are concerned.
I hope this Committee, through the Minister, will give a direction to local education authorities so that we shall not get meals anyhow, higgledy-piggledy, in classrooms here and there, but that proper accommodation will be provided, and a staff, apart from the teaching staff, appointed to provide and supervise these meals. The eating of a common meal by the children is a great co-operative experience. It is a training in good manners, and a coming together, as it were, in a great co-operative act—almost an act of worship, if you like to put it that way. That ought to take place under conditions which will help the children to receive the greatest benefits. I gladly support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ede
This Amendment is limited to accommodation, and, therefore, I hardly feel called upon to reply to the latter part of the speech of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove). His point will arise on a later Clause of the Bill, when I hope he will not have exhausted his right to speak on it. This is a request that proper accommodation shall be provided for the preparation and service of the meals. We are determined, as I think our action during the past two years has shown, to have a very substantial extension of the schools meals service, and in spite of what the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden 229 Guest) said, we do regard it as a considerable achievement that we should have increased the number of meals to the number we have reached during the war. Of course, at the moment, the Government are bearing 100 per cent. of the cost of buildings and equipment.
§ Mr. Ede
May I say that, in the regulations that we propose to make, under Clause 9, Sub-section (7), where it is stated:The Minister shall make regulations requiring local education authorities to secure that the school premises of every school maintained by them conform to such standards as may be prescribed,we intend to insert a regulation making provision for adequate premises for the preparation and serving of the meals. That would appear to be the appropriate place to deal with it in this Bill. I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that these regulations will be so framed, and I hope he will feel that this will meet the point he has legitimately raised.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Before the Amendment is withdrawn, I would like to say that every Member of the Committee will appreciate what the Parliamentary Secretary says on the feeding of our children. But it is a responsibility of this House, and I draw attention to the fact that I have an Amendment down dealing with the question of staff.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
I beg to move, in page 5, line 39, at the end, to add:and provided that the number of pupils accommodated in any one school shall not exceed five hundred.As a Scottish Member, moving a further Amendment to this Bill, I should perhaps explain that we have watched with interest and great sympathy the points—
§ Sir T. Moore
I quite agree, Mr. Williams, and I was merely expressing my temerity in putting forward—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
There is really no reason why the hon. and gallant Gentleman should explain the reason for his temerity on every occasion.
§ Sir T. Moore
I will accept it then that my temerity has been accepted. In proposing this Amendment may I say that I imagine it will probably meet with the same response as that given yesterday on the question of smaller classes. We have not with us at the moment the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) who would, no doubt, encourage us to realism, or my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey), who would encourage us to idealism, while possibly the reforming spirit opposite would deny us the right to either. I feel that, in regard to classes, there must be some definite limit, otherwise we may as well drop this Bill altogether and with it the ideas of creating and forming the better world which we are told to expect after the war. The purpose of my Amendment is first, to secure a smaller school, and, therefore, more schools, and I hope a better England. My reasons are largely connected with the quality of the teachers we want. I admit that this might seem a rather round-about way of approaching the justification for my 500 pupils per school, but I think, Mr. Williams, you will find that it is necessary for me to develop my argument in this way. I think it is the general desire that the status of teachers should be enhanced, not only in their own eyes, but in the eyes of the community as a whole. If, therefore, we are to induce a higher type and the best qualified type of teachers to enter this great profession, which, after all, should be our object, then I think we must provide them with better opportunities for promotion and more adequate remuneration.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Really, that cannot be discussed here. We have been into the question of classes and this is a very narrow Amendment indeed—merely the question of a 500 limit to a school—and it is not fair on the Committee stage of the Bill on small points to bring in such questions as would defeat the object of the Committee stage.
§ Sir T. Moore
If you listen to my next sentence, Mr. Williams, I think you will appreciate why I have developed my argument in that way. We must have smaller schools, and therefore more schools, because, unless we have more schools and smaller schools, we cannot have opportunities for promotion and better emoluments. I leave that point 231 now, but there is one further point which I think you will feel is within the limit of the issue raised. So far as my experience goes, both as a child and still further as a man, I do not think that any school bigger than 500 can maintain the personal contact between teacher and pupils necessary to develop mind and character. Again, I think that, according to the experience of many people more qualified than myself, it has been found impossible to develop the individuality of the pupil and also to foster the spirit of communal life if you have a larger number over which the headmaster must preside. I realise that there are a number of obstacles to the suggestions I have made. I know that the question of bricks and mortar will be advanced as an argument, and a very proper one, and that the shortage of teachers will be another. But I go back to the original motif, that unless we try to aim at some definite standard, we may well fall dawn and achieve no standard at all.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
This Clause, as it is framed, fails to carry out the purpose of the Bill as set out in Clause 1, and places a burden upon the local authorities which they will not be able to carry out. I want to make it quite clear, at the outset, that I think that this Clause, allowed in this form, will mean that—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Member, but I have made it perfectly plain that we cannot go into the question of the burdens on local authorities. It may possibly be done on Clause 93, but we cannot deal with it here.
§ Mr. Davies
Surely, Mr. Williams, I am entitled to deal with this Clause as it stands, as on the Third Reading of the 232 Bill. What is contained in the Clause is this—that it proposes to place a duty on local authorities to provide schools. I am therefore saying that they cannot do this—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
If the hon. and learned Member says they are incapable of performing a duty or a matter of that sort, that is another matter, but he cannot discuss the financial side or the question of whether they can perform this duty financially.
§ Mr. Davies
Surely, I am entitled to discuss their incapacity and show that this Clause will therefore fail in achieving the purpose which was the intention of the Committee?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I must be quite clear about this. We can discuss their incapacity, so long as it has nothing to do with finance. We cannot deal with their incapacity owing to financial conditions.
§ Mr. Davies
I must bow to your Ruling, Mr. Williams, but, if a duty is placed upon them which they are incapable of performing, one surely is entitled to discuss how far they are incapable of performing it and what is the nature of their incapacity; whether they could do what the Committee suggests they should do, and wherein they will fail in doing that, so that the whole purpose of the Bill is destroyed? All that is before the Committee at the present moment is up to Clause 8 and I cannot look beyond that. I do not know what may follow.
§ Mr. Davies
I know, and I shall confine myself to Clause 8. So far the Committee have passed the Clauses up to and including Clause 7 and we are now discussing whether we should also pass Clause 8 and then proceed with the further Clauses of the Bill. It would be out of Order to discuss what comes subsequently to Clause 8. I do not know whether the Clauses will come before the Committee in their present form or whether any Amendments will be allowed. I look at the form of the Clauses that the Committee has already passed. Clause 1 sets out the policy we are discussing.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
We must not go back on the other Clauses. If one hon. Member was allowed to do it, every hon. Member might wish to do so, and it would not be right.
§ Mr. Davies
I agree. I did not mean that you should bear with me, Mr. Williams, for two minutes while I was out of Order. But I want you to realise the point to which I was referring, and that is, that in the part of the Bill that we have already passed, the whole object is to establish a national policy. When we come to Clause 8 and see how it is being carried out in the Clause, I say that object is not being fulfilled. As it stands, it is the duty of every local education authority to secure that there shall be sufficient schools available for their area. Then comes the definition of what that means:The schools available for an area shall not be deemed to be sufficient unless they are sufficient in number, character, and equipment to afford for all pupils opportunities for education offering such variety of instruction and training as may be desirable.What is the good of presuming to legislate in that way, when we have local authorities incapable of performing the duty of providing the number, or the character, or the equipment of schools to afford for all their pupils opportunities for education? If this Clause is passed we shall be continuing the bad system which exists at the moment. We have not a national system; we have never had a national system. We have a partly national and partly parochial, or partly national and partly local authority system. We have a national curriculum and examinations but the buildings, the equipment and all that is concerned have to be provided by the local authority. Whether they are provided or not, depends upon the local authority and its capacity so to do. One has heard so often that the objections to a system of education, which enables one set of children to have a system of education better than that for other children, depend upon the wealth, or the lack of wealth, of the parents. Be that as it may, what are we doing in this Clause? We are instituting two systems whereby a wealthy authority can provide something for their pupils which will be denied to the pupils of a poorer authority.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am sorry to have to interrupt again, but there we 234 are going beyond the Clause, and again the hon. and learned Member is comparing two authorities on the question of finance.
§ Mr. Davies
I am only pointing out that there is an incapacity in one authority to provide the education that another authority is able to provide, and that is a double system and is not fair.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I would not mind the hon. and learned Gentleman saying that, if he had not said that one was poorer than the other. The point really is that here we cannot discuss the question of finance at all.
§ Mr. Davies
They are poorer in finance, but they must be poorer in the material and the officers they can employ and in the extent of their outlook and in everything else. This is vital. It goes to the root of the problem. I am pointing out that, if we leave this Clause as it stands, the Bill will be nothing but an urban Bill, paying no attention whatever to a great part of the country outside—the rural areas which are incapable of doing what the urban areas are doing. Children in rural areas have suffered for generations. If we pass the Clause as it stands, we shall be continuing that inequality. The urban children will be benefited under the new system and buildings will be erected by local authorities for their use. They will have new buildings, new playgrounds, better kitchens and dining rooms, a staff to look after them, because they can afford it, but what are we to do with regard to the other local authorities? The Minister may give directions and control under Clause r, but if the local authority breaks down the whole system will break down. Surely, I am entitled to reinforce my argument by giving illustrations of the position. Take my own county, which will now be directed—
§ Mr. Butler
This is placing the Government in rather an embarrassing position. On your Ruling, Mr. Williams, I would not be entitled to give a full answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman on the financial issues involved in helping such a county as that which the hon. and learned Member represents. Therefore, it is really impossible for the Government to have to listen to this argument and not be able to reply to it.
§ Mr. Arthur Jenkins (Pontypool)
In dealing with the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) a few moments ago, Mr. Williams, you indicated that the grant system might be discussed on Amendments put down on Clause 93. If we could be given an assurance that the whole subject of grants and their distribution could be fully discussed and decided by the Committee on Clause 93, I think that that would meet the situation. One ought not to regard Clause 8 as being the whole of this Bill. It is part of the Bill; it is associated with other Clauses, and we have to look at the Bill as a whole, and not at one particular Clause.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
In reply to the Minister, I do not think that my position is a very easy one, but on the whole the question of finance of local authorities should come in on Clause 93. That is why it is wrong to have a discussion here on finance, because it would simply tend to cut out discussions and Amendments on Clause 93. That is why it would be better if we could avoid finance entirely here, so as to leave it over for discussion on Clause 93.
§ Mr. Jenkins
There is only one further assurance for which I would ask and that is that, that being so vital a part of the Bill, we ought to have an undertaking from the Chair and the Minister that there will be no such thing as a Guillotine applied to prevent a discussion on that subject. It looks as though the discussions on the Bill are going to be very prolonged, but it is vital there should be an adequate amount of time given for discussion on the finances of the Bill.
§ Mr. Davies
May I put my point of of Order first? I gave way to the hon. Member. I thought that he was raising some point of Order. I do not know how this intervention on my statement to the Committee arises. I was putting my point and I was asking for an assurance from you, Mr. Williams, on a Clause which we may never reach. I do not understand what this means.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Perhaps I may be allowed to try to get through this point 236 of Order. Obviously, I, as Deputy-Chairman of the Committee, cannot give an assurance on the question of the Guillotine or anything of that sort. No Chairman could, but, on the other hand, when you have a difficulty such as this, and it is obvious that financial matters should be discussed on Clause 93, and it is said by the Minister and ruled by whoever is in the Chair at the time, that the right time is on Clause 93—then whatever conditions of Closure or Timetable were laid down, it would be only right for the authorities to remember that this very vital discussion had been postponed until that time. That is the most I can say. Obviously, I cannot bind the Committee, but I think that that would probably be the opinion of the Committee.
§ Mr. Davies
I am very much obliged, Mr. Williams. I realise that you cannot possibly give any undertaking from the Chair at the moment and that the Minister cannot, in any way, do more than say what is in his mind. I realise that this may be put right on Clause 93, but suppose it is not. The position as it stands at the moment is that the present amount of grant, taking it through and through, made by the Treasury to local authorities is 50 per cent. As far as we know, that may be continued. Clause 93 certainly gives power to the Minister to make allowance in that respect. It says:The Minister shall by regulations make provision:For the payment by him to local education authorities of annual grants in respect of the expenditure incurred by such authorities."In respect of" is a very general term. It may be 1 per cent., 50 per cent. or even 100 per cent. That will be the moment, without a doubt, when it will be right for the Committee to discuss what the percentage should be, whether it should be 100 per cent. or less. But, in the meantime, we have to face up to the fact that the burden will have been put by this Clause upon local authorities of providing schools and all their equipment, leaving it until we get to Clause 93 to decide how much they will get out of the Treasury. We have only one guidance, and that is either in the White Paper or in the preface in the Financial Memorandum, where we are given the global figure. My recollection of it is that at the end of seven years the total amount of expenditure per annum will be—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I really must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman, in fairness to other Members of the Committee, not to keep on with this matter of finance. He himself admitted that it comes up on Clause 93, and therefore to bring out here the global figures of finance, and all these other points, is not in keeping with this Clause.
§ Mr. C. Davies
With all respect, Mr. Williams, I was only pointing out to you my difficulty without discussing finance at all. I am saying that the local authorities who will be concerned with all these matters will have had this burden put upon them under this Clause without knowing what the future may be. Surely this is the moment when I may discuss whether the local authority is the proper body to carry that burden?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
No, that is exactly what we cannot discuss here. It comes under another Clause, and if we are going to discuss Clauses separately it cannot possibly be right for any hon. Member to say that because these burdens will be imposed at some period he must lay down the different details. The whole of the financial detail comes up under Clause 93.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
Further to that point of Order, do I understand your ruling, Mr. Williams, to be that under this Clause no burden will be laid on the local education authority?
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
Is it not a fact that the whole of the Bill will come into operation at the same time, so that the financial arrangements will apply at the same moment as the burdens become operative?
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I think your Ruling is technically correct, Mr. Williams, but surely there is something wrong about it. This Clause imposes a duty on the local authority. This Committee has to decide whether what we are asking the local authority to do is possible or not. My difficulty in speaking on these things is that I always fly for my own impressions to a part of the British Isles which is excluded from the Bill, but, if this were a Scottish Measure, I would say it is impossible to 238 impose duties like that on Inverness-shire or on Ross and Cromarty without the Committee having some idea as to how much money is going to be asked from the local authorities. I think you must allow the Committee not to discuss details of finance, but to discuss at least whether reasonable provision is to be made to enable poor and remote local authorities to raise the amounts they will be called upon to provide. I think you are bound to do that.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
No, that is exactly what I am not bound to do, and I must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman now to carry on the discussion on this Clause as it stands.
§ Mr. C. Davies
It places me in a difficulty, because one can only illustrate the points that one desires to make against this Clause by references to present conditions. A duty is being placed on all local authorities, if we pass this Clause, to provide a standard of schools which will be the same throughout the country, and that is the duty which they cannot undertake and which should never have been placed upon them. The right way to have done this would have been to take the burden from the local authorities and place it elsewhere. Surely I am entitled to say that the local authorities, as at present constituted, with their past history, the present condition of their schools, with the amount of inefficiency that has been going on for a great number of years in failing to take care of these schools, are in an impossible position, so that they cannot carry out the duty which this House is trying to impose upon them. In my county there are 104 schools. I have had a report upon them from the County Architect and the Director of Education. Of the 104, 39 are in such a condition, and have been for a number of years, that the only thing to be done is to pull them down as early as possible and destroy them. With regard to another 40, the burden of putting them up to a standard of decency will be a tremendous one. Seventy-nine out of 104 schools will either have to be replaced or amended almost completely. How can a county like that, which has failed to give decent school buildings in the past, undertake this burden of creating new schools of the standard which ought to have been the standard there 239 ages ago, and will be the general standard throughout the country? It is a duty they cannot possibly perform. My county is only one of a great number of others similarly situated. There is the county of Anglesey, where, again, the schools are bad.
§ Mr. Butler
If the situation is so bad in Anglesey, why is it that Anglesey leads the whole of the administration for which I am responsible in the giving of school meals to its pupils?
§ Mr. C. Davies
For the very good reason that now 100 per cent. of the grant is paid by the Government. Prior to that they could not feed the children. I am sorry, Mr. Williams, if I am out of Order.
§ Mr. C. Davies
But this is not the only burden that local authorities have to undertake. This is going to place a burden upon some of them that they cannot possibly carry out. New burdens are being placed all the time, and rightly placed upon local authorities What is to happen with regard to the other burdens which they have to undertake? Which will have priority, this burden or a burden placed by another Act?
Mr. Coleģate (The Wrekin)
Leave it to Clause 93.
§ Mr. C. Davies
Really, this is most vital. I have had an interruption from the Minister to say that I have been half-an-hour on a matter which affects hundreds of thousands of children and it will be years before this matter is put right.
§ Mr. Butler
On a point of Order. My point is that I am ruled out from discussing the grant system—which is the only way I can help my hon. and learned Friend—and am not permitted to give my answer. I have been into the grant system very thoroughly in the last few weeks and I am very interested in the 240 matter myself. I am precluded from answering the hon. and learned Member by the rules of Order, and therefore I maintain it would be better if we proceeded without discussing finance.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am sorry to have to intervene but we are liable, if we carry this discussion far, to get at cross purposes. If we go on with this question of finance burdens it must inevitably create a difficult position on Clause 93 where, I think, the Committee would like a full discussion. For that reason I take the liberty, if the Committee will permit me, to suggest that it would be advisable not to have long speeches on this Clause as it now stands.
§ Mr. C. Davies
Thank you so much, Mr. Williams. I will reserve my remarks until then. I am much obliged for the encouragement I have had on this subject.
§ Mr. Gallacher
This is an exceptionally important Clause, and if we can make sure that all the people responsible are able to carry out the work set forth in this Clause, there is no question that we shall be able to provide education of a very high character for the children of this country. That is the essential thing. I know some hon. Members consider that the general idea of education is not to fit the children for this world but to provide angelic voices for the next one. They themselves, by the way, do not provide a very attractive advertisement for their own thesis. I would also like to mention, in passing, that they are in the fortunate position of not having to produce statistics as to the location of the population in the celestial fields, but the President of the Board of Education and his Department are concerned with statistics, and I am convinced that if this Clause is effectively operated—taking into account the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and the buildings and the various facilities essential for the building up of classes and for the extension of the school system, the playing fields, and other attractions, are provided, in a very short time the President of the Board of Education and the other Departments associated with him will be able to produce statistics of health, of height, of weight, and of educational standards such as this country has never known before. Therefore, I welcome this Clause. I am certain that the Committee—always taking into account what will 241 arise under Clause 93—will be prepared to assist the Minister in anything that can possibly be done in order to ensure that this Clause is carried.
§ Mr. Parker (Romford)
Since this Clause lays down the duties of local education authorities to provide sufficient schools for their areas, why has the opportunity not been taken to co-ordinate all the activities of local education authorities? There are one or two activities that do not come under the Board of Education at present, though many of us feel they should do so, such as the public assistance schools, which are the responsibility of the Minister of Health.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That is what we cannot have here; it is outside the Bill, and has already been ruled out.
§ Mrs. Cazalet Keir (Islington, East)
I do not wish to deal with the Amendment that was moved yesterday, and fully argued, in connection with the reduction of the size of classes, also I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is going to try and meet us when we come to Clause 10. I would like to ask whether he could give us an answer to the point which was made by the Parliamentary Secretary. One of the reasons the Parliamentary Secretary gave for not accepting the Amendment was that the size of classes would be mentioned in the Regulations. What I want to be clear about is this: do those Regulations come under Clause 101, and will they be laid before this House later so that we shall be able to discuss them then? I also want to know whether it will be possible for my right hon. Friend to give us some intimation of what the figures with regard to the size of classes will be in the Regulations.
§ Sir Richard Wells (Bedford)
I want to raise a point on Sub-section (2, a) with regard to the need for securing that primary and secondary education are provided in separate schools. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend whether that will stop those schools which are in receipt of grant or aid from carrying on the dual function of secondary or primary work.
§ Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)
I do not wish to delay the Committee or to put you in any difficulty, Mr. Williams, by following what was said by my hon. 242 and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). I would like to turn to one section of the Bill which is highly praiseworthy, namely, Sub-section (2, c), of this Clause, which makes provision for special treatment for those disabled in mind and body. This should strengthen the hand of the Minister. He already has considerable powers and I hope he will put them into operation, because I am afraid that they are not being applied in the way they should be at the moment. I hope he will give this matter serious consideration. I want especially to point out the advisability of the need for getting mentally deficient children into special schools. When I say "mentally deficient" I do not mean those who are grossly deficient, those whom an unskilled observer would at once say were deficient. At the present time many young children leaving school at 14 have never been tested for mental deficiency. Between 14 and 16 they go from job to job and associate with men and so on, whereas if they had been kept under observation at school they would have been spotted and sent to special schools. Classes are so big now that teachers are unable to recognise these deficient children; they leave school at 14 in the ordinary way and go into industry. I had a report the other day which shows how important it is that this Clause should be applied to its fullest degree. Out of 63 female juvenile delinquents who were examined 22 were found to be mentally deficient. That is about 35 per cent. Their intelligence quotient, as the psychologists say, was only 75 out of 100. Such children require discipline for the whole of their lives. Indeed, it is essential to protect the rest of society from them—
§ Dr. Thomas
I merely wanted to give that example to show how important it is that the Minister should apply the provisions of this Clause to the utmost extent.
§ Mr. Butler
I hope the Committee will now be ready to let us have this Clause. My hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) asked me a question about the Regulations. I am not able to go any further on that matter at the moment, but she was right in stating that these Regulations will be laid 243 before Parliament and that Parliament will have in those Regulations the size of classes which the Board attach to their condition of grant, and they will be able to consider the matter at that time. No doubt in the course of our deliberations I shall be able to expand this a little more. If my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Sir R. Wells) will look at Clause 103 he will see that there is a definition in the proviso saving the position in regard to the preparatory departments in secondary schools, a matter to which we shall be able to give attention a little later. The hon. Member for Southampton (Dr. R. Thomas) is right in thinking that for the first time we are bringing special schools and handicapped children more into the body of the Bill.
As regards the Clause in general, nobody would wish to differ from the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) in thinking that we are imposing fresh and important duties on local authorities. The time will come when the Government can answer some of the points which the hon. and learned Member managed to introduce into our discussion and I would like to reserve my position to do so, without any inhibition, with the utmost frankness and, I hope, with devastating success. Meanwhile, I would beseech him not to adopt such a pessimistic attitude. There is a school in his village which is very remarkable. That, I know, because I have seen it for myself. With regard to the other local authorities of the country, I am convinced that, although they will wish to receive as much grant from public funds as they can get, at the same time they will be able to carry out their duties under this Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.