§ Mr. Butler
I beg to move, in page 101, line 32, at the end, to insert:
The effect of this Amendment is to repeal Proviso 1 of Section 72 of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Act, 1919. This proviso enables the Ministry, on the application of the county council, and after consultation with the Board, to direct that any particular matter relating to agricultural education should be referred to the agricultural committee, instead of to the education committee. This proviso is no longer necessary. It has been decided, between my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and myself, that in future local education committees shall be the local administrators of agricultural education—a matter which appears to have given universal satisfaction, and one in which I take particular interest.
9 & 10 Geo. 5, C. 91. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Act, 1919. Proviso (i) to sub-section (2) of section seven.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Ede
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
It is my privilege, and I esteem it a very high honour, to move this Motion. My right hon. Friend and I have almost reached the end, so far as this House is concerned, of the pilgrimage on which we jointly started nearly three years ago, when he came to the Board of Education. We have been part of a band of pilgrims who have been pursuing this journey. We have had with us our spiritual advisers, we have had with us the 2139 administrators, we have had members of local education authorities, we have had representatives of the teachers; in fact, we have had nearly everybody but the children themselves, and perhaps the journey has been rather too long for them to have followed it with any ease. There were times, when we were over some of the precipices, when I thought some of our spiritual advisers, in turning over their service books, had reached the burial service; but I gathered, when I looked over their shoulders, that they were hoping for our conversion, and were studying the "Form of Baptism for such as are of Riper Years." I hope that the Bill will have as happy a future in its administration as we have had happiness in our association with those who have been our companions on this journey and who will be our partners in the future administration of the Measure.
The keynote of this Bill is unity, not uniformity. We desire that the education service of this country shall be a unity, and we recognise that, in this great free and tolerant country, there will have to be a wide diversity if unity is to be possible. The great Amendments to Education Acts have always been moved by people who have four syllables to their names. There was the great right hon. Mr. Cowper-Temple, who left his mark on education by his Amendment to the Act of 1870. In 1902, there was Colonel Kenyon-Slaney. I looked round the House to find who would be the person to move the Amendment that would always be associated with this Measure. I am bound to say that I overlooked my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir), who has the essential qualification. At an early stage in our proceedings she gave me cause for great jealousy. She said, in the Debate on the White Paper:I congratulate the President of the Board of Education on having made a serious attempt to reach agreement on a problem which has been the subject of controversy since the time of the Lollards 500 years ago."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1943; col. 1922, Vol. 391.]I confess that I had made arrangements to say the very same thing in my speech replying to that Debate, but, to parody an American quotation:Thrice armed is he who hath his reference just,But six times she who slips it over fast.2140 While that is not what my hon. Friend will be remembered for on this Bill, it shows that she realised the essential triumph of my right hon. Friend. Who could ever have thought, remembering the past, that we should have a day to spare on the discussions on an Education Bill? Our fathers—Have in these parts from morn till even fought,And sheathed their swords "—not for lack of argument, but from the operation of the Eleven o'clock rule, or from the most remorseless application of the Guillotine. It is the mark and sign of the triumph of my right hon. Friend that we should have had these Debates, conducted in an atmosphere not charged at all with the animosities of the past, and should have found ourselves with time to spare at the end of our discussions. This unity and reconciliation which we are attempting is one of the great historic events in the history of education in this country. There have been in the past, and there still are, two very diverse schools of thought with regard to education, which in the past have fought over Education Bills for their mutual exclusion. Mr. Forster wrote to Charles Kingsley during the Debates on the Act of 1870:I wish parsons, Church and other, would all remember as much as you that children are growing into savages while they are trying to prevent one another from helping them.There has on this occasion been no spirit of that kind. While principles have been fought over vehemently, and with full presentation of the case, there has been recognition that the interests of the child and the nation must prevail over any sectional interests. The two principles that we have striven to unite in this Bill are best illustrated, curiously enough, by what happened across the Atlantic, where these two forces were kept separate. Massachussets, in 1647, laid down, in the terrific language of the Puritans, that:The universal education of youth is essential to the well-being of the State; the obligation to furnish this education rests primarily on the parents; the State has the right to enforce this obligation; the State may fix a standard which shall determine the kind of education and the minimum amount; a general tax may be levied, although school attendance is not general, to be used in providing such education as the State requires; education higher than the rudiments may be supplied by the State, and opportunity must 2141 be provided at the public expense for youths who wish to be fitted for the university.It was not until 1852 that they carried that out; and we, for the first time, are enshrining the principles in this Bill. I do not see my Noble Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) here, but Virginia, which had, not the Puritan, but the Cavalier, tradition, had a different view on education.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
I must remind the House that this is the Third Reading, and that there are very strict Rules that we should keep to what is in the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is what I thought the hon. Gentleman wanted, but I venture to remind the House that on the Third Reading, if we have a wide series of illustrations, we shall have a very wide Debate.
§ Mr. Ede
I promise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, not to alarm you further. The London Commissioners of the Plantations wrote to Berkeley, the Governor of Virginia, in 1671, asking the course he was takingin instructing the people within your Government in the Christian religion.His reply was:The same course that is taken in England out of towns, every man according to his ability instructing his children. I thank God that there are no free schools, and I hope that we shall not have them these too years, for learning has brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the world.In the past few months, in remote parts of the country, I have heard rumblings of those views still. We endeavour, in this Bill, to unite the authoritarian and libertarian views of education. We endeavour to secure that for every child there shall be education according to the wishes of the parents, so far as religion is concerned, and we impose on the parent, for the first time, the duty of seeing that the child is educated according to his age, ability and aptitudes. We have destroyed the old conception of elementary education being sufficient for nine-tenths of the population of this country, and we have said, what I regard as 2142 an even more unifying principle, that it is the duty of the local education authority to attend to the individual needs of the pupil, and to see that these God-given aptitudes, which, after all, are the most priceless wealth the nation possesses, shall be developed in such a way that, no matter what the aptitude may be, the child, in developing it, shall not feel inferior to any child of equal ability which is developing another aptitude.
This great industrial nation cannot afford any longer to regard the education of the clerkly classes as representing the highest ideal in education. I hope we shall avoid the second and equally great danger of saying that the education of the manual worker is more important than the education of the clerk. The appropriate education of both, as far as possible and for as long as possible in a common school, will, I hope, be the endeavour we shall make in our efforts to implement this Measure. We hope, and we have taken legislative steps to secure, that the benefits of education shall be as readily available to the child in the village as to the child in the city. In the past, too often, the rural child has suffered from neglect in this matter. In fact, the Scott Report—if I may mention it, now that the Minister without Portfolio has come in—alludes to the fear of mothers that their children suffer educational deprivation because they reside in a village as one of the causes that have led independent working people to leave the villages and seek employment in the towns.
We desire that the environment of the rural child, as well as the environment of the town child, shall be the concern of our education authorities. What is more, we hope that the lessons of evacuation will be learned and that it will be realised that there are many children who go from town environment who will find their lives' best fulfilment in the crafts and callings that are carried on in the villages. We are educating children, after all, not for localities. We use the great machinery of local government in this country to administer this, and our other educational Measures, but we desire that the people of this country shall realise that their children are being educated so that they shall be fitted to fill their appropriate place in our society, no matter where the accident of birth may have started them on their life's career. I hope 2143 there will be some children who will go from the country to the towns, and that there will be others who will go from the towns to the country, if that is the course for which nature designed them.
We have laid down in the commencement of this Bill, for the first time, that there is to be a national policy in education. No longer, we hope, shall we be under the reproach that in some parts of this country it is eight or ten times easier to get through to the highest forms of appropriate education than it is in others. The child, no matter where he is born, is equally an asset to the State, and this Bill lays it down that he is to be considered in relation to national policy, and that efforts are to be made to ensure that he gets that education which his particular aptitude makes desirable, and that he is to be carried through by the education service as far as possible. We hope, also, that we may be able, in this Measure, to retain the young person in the educational field up to 18 years of age. Surely, the greatest disaster of the last 25 years of education was the failure of the country to implement the continuation classes of Mr. Fisher's Bill. We have taken steps to revise these proposals. We believe we have brought them more into line with the needs of the moment, and we hope that, with the active co-operation of industry, we shall be able to bring them to fruition, even in areas where there was very strong opposition when the attempt was made under Mr. Fisher's Act.
I think, here again, we are discerning the working of a spirit of unity which has not always been present in the past. Certainly, as far as the great essential trades of the country are concerned, we have had the most hopeful conversations with those responsible on both the employers' and the employed sides for the inauguration of a system of further education, and we very sincerely hope that that spirit will continue after the Bill has been brought into operation
We have endeavoured also in this Bill to bring thoroughly up to date the social services associated with the schools Here, again, it has been discovered during the last four or five years that the school inside an area is very often the most unifying cause at work. Newspaper correspondents were surprised to discover the way in which, inside these great amorphous cities which have grown up during 2144 the last 100 years, there was a locality which looked to the school as its centre, and, when, the school was selected for use as a rest centre or for some similar service, it was recognised as being the appropriate place in which the district could find its temporary home In the East End of London, and in the great cities of the Midlands, which suffered heavily from the devastation of bombing, that was proved time and time again We believe that, with the improvement in the medical services, the great expansion that has already taken place in the school meals service, the school, as a unifying social factor, will continue to increase in influence
We hope, above all, that, under this Measure, there will be for every child a feeling that, from the time he enters the school, he is a part of the community, that, in the school, he is for the first time entering into the corporate life of the nation, of which he will ultimately become an active citizen We believe that, with the provisions that we are making for the reduction in the size of classes, for the widening of the curriculum and for the opportunities for every child to participate in games and other social activities of the school, we shall be able indeed to make the school what Sanderson, of Oundle, said it ought to be—A microcosm of the world we would like to have.Few of us can be satisfied with the world we have, which is, very largely, a reproduction of the schools we used to have, with very large regimented classes and the feeling that a very large number of children were being educated, not because it was a duty, but because it was a sort of protection for the body politic. We believe that, if we can make the school a corporate whole, we shall be doing a very great deal towards preparing, in the life of this country, for the fuller democracy which we hope will emerge in the years to come.
For the first time, in this Measure, we are making it statutory that religious instruction shall be given inside the schools. We are making it statutory that the day shall open with an act of corporate worship. We are preserving the historic rights of conscience, which enable parents who dissent, either from the form of religion in general or from its particular denominational or undenominational tinge, to withdraw their children, but we 2145 have made wider and better provision for enabling children to receive instruction according to the faith of their parents than we have made in any previous Act of Parliament. That, in itself, in the atmosphere in which the Bill has been conducted is, I hope, an indication that we are beginning to realise that, in these things of the spirit, we shall do a great deal better by trying to accommodate one another than by trying to prevent each other from doing what we do not like the other fellow to do. We are applying, even in spiritual life, the doctrine of "live and let live," and we have endeavoured to arrange that this Measure shall enable each denomination, if it desires to do so, to live in the schools, and, where the denomination desires, as some of the great historic denominations do, that their faith shall be taught in the Sunday school of the Church and that the school shall confine itself to less controversial matters than some of the more intricate and difficult dogmas of the faith, that other people shall be allowed to have their way, within reason in the State service.
If we can keep that spirit alive, I believe the accommodation which has now been reached is the beginning of an understanding which, in the years to come, may make the removal of some of the final barriers to complete religious unity acceptable to the House and to the country, but I believe that, if anybody, either on the one side or the other, attempts to wreck what we have done in this Bill, he is not likely to find any great measure of support in this country. I believe that the Minister's efforts to understand everybody else's point of view, and to give, as far as possible, a spirit of co-operation to this Bill, has been welcomed by the country, which desires to see how this greater measure of liberty can, in fact, be worked in this country.
I hope I may be allowed one personal word in conclusion. I have been associated in the preparation of this Bill with a very great man indeed. None of us knows what the future holds, but no man in the past, in this difficult and controversial matter, has ever striven so whole-heartedly and sincerely to understand the point of view of people to whom, temperamentally, he was most opposed, and this great Measure will remain as a monument to the work that he has done. There is just one final measure 2146 of unification with which I want to deal. My right hon. Friend represents one tradition of the educational life of our country—the tradition that passes from the public schools into the university—although I understand from private conversations with him that he is, at least, unique in this, since he chose his public school against the traditional wishes of his family and managed to impose his will on them. That only shows that he started on this job very early in life. I come from the other tradition—from the elementary school, through the secondary school to the university.
Under the provisions of this Bill, these two systems, if the matter is approached with goodwill from both sides, have a better chance of intertwining and understanding one another than they have ever had in the past, and, when this Measure comes to be worked out, I am quite certain that there will be many boys who will pass from one system to the other without any real strain or feeling of strangeness, who would not have found it possible to enjoy that under any previous legislation that we have had.
I believe, therefore, that this Measure is one that ought to proceed from a Government which represents national unity. It will give us a generation of young people who will step forward into the future to face the appalling tasks that our generation is going to leave to them,With flame of freedom in their soulsAnd light of knowledge in their eyes.
§ Mrs. Cazalet keir (Islington, East)
I would like to congratulate the President of the Board of Education and Minister-designate very warmly indeed upon this great Bill, with all its profound social implications. I feel very proud to think that, without any collusion at all, I should happen to have thought of the same historical reference in my speech on the White Paper as the Parliamentary Secretary. I agree with what he said, that this Bill is an honest attempt to hasten the levelling up of the whole of our education and to give the best to the most. This is the first of the post-war reconstruction Measures, and we all know that, to be successful, social reforms must be advanced together as far as possible. It is very little use children attending a school that looks like a palace by day and then having to return to a house that looks like a hovel at night. Housing, 2147 health and education must march forward together.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will remain in his present office long enough to see the main provisions of this Bill implemented. It will require all his great powers of persuasion, for which he is rightly famed, to secure the necessary priorities for both teachers and buildings. The success of this Bill really depends, first, upon the teachers, their quantity and quality, and next, upon buildings. I wonder whether the President of the Board, when he comes to reply, could tell us a little more about his short-term emergency scheme for recruiting teachers. I was not quite certain, in the reply that he gave me the other day, what steps are being taken to encourage men and women in the Services to-day actually to enrol for the teaching profession. Until there are some actual figures as to the way that recruits are forthcoming, it will be impossible to implement the new Bill at the rate suggested and hoped.
I, like other hon. Members, was very glad indeed that the McNair Committee managed to get their Report published just before the Third Reading of this Bill. I think, as a whole, it suggests the only possible things that are likely to attract from 50,000 to 100,000 young men and women of the right type and character to enter the teaching profession, and I was very glad to hear the President say in his speech on Tuesday, that the Board hoped to accept most of those recommendations. One of the best recommendations is that there should be one grade of teacher, the qualified teacher, and one basic scale of pay, which, naturally, I hope will be the same for both men and women.
There are two other matters to which I would like to draw the attention of the House. On the Committee stage I moved, unsuccessfully, an Amendment to get an appointed day inserted for raising the age to 16. I only wish that on that occasion I had thought of the argument that is put forward in Paragraph 73 of the McNair Report. As hon. Members know, the recruiting ground at present for the teachers is only the State-aided secondary schools where children stay till at least 16. I think that it is correct to say that only 10 per cent. of the child population attend these school. The other nine-tenths leave school at present at 14, and under this 2148 Bill we are only assured that they will remain until 15 in possibly three years' time. It is obvious that the 14 and 15 year-olds are too young to be recruited for the teaching profession, and if the age could be raised to 16 the recruitment possibilities would be increased accordingly. I would like to read one paragraph from the McNair Report on this question. They say:It is true that raising the age to 16 will require still more teachers. We agree, however, with those who say that the problem may prove to be not so much one of finding the teachers to raise the age as of raising the age to find the teachers. The provision of full-time education up to 16 years of age will greatly stimulate recruitment to the profession, both qualitatively and quantitatively.I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree that this is an extra and an unanswerable reason for raising the age to 16 at the earliest possible moment, and I hope it may snake him reconsider his decision and perhaps get an Amendment inserted in another place. The other matter to which I would like to refer is the size of classes. We had a very long Debate on this matter during the Committee stage—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member is drawing attention to a Debate in Committee and it is not in Order on the Third Reading to make suggestions of provisions she would like to have seen inserted in an earlier part of the Bill.
§ Mrs. Cazalet Keir
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he could perhaps give an answer in his reply to this question? I understood that the Parliamentary Secretary said in a previous speech that the size of classes would be dealt with under regulations by the Board. In the draft building regulations which the President will send out to local authorities, before they send in their development plans under the Bill, will he lay down an actual figure for the size of classes, and will such a figure be the same for both primary and secondary schools? There is one final word I would like to say about building. We all welcome the White Paper which has just been published, but I hope, in addition, the President will be able to get promises from the Minister of Labour and also from the Minister of Aircraft Production in order to have a first priority on the war hostels at the end of hostilities. They will certainly be ready-made emergency training 2149 centres for teachers and very good boarding schools with which to start in certain areas, and useful for a great many other educational activities as well. I feel very deeply that many men and women who are rendering distinguished service to-day, in this country and abroad in positions of danger and responsibility, have lacked educational opportunities to which they were entitled, and I also believe that, it we have failed as a nation in our duty to them, this Bill can and will ensure that we do not fail their children.
§ Mr. Tinker (Leigh)
I join with the hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) in giving a welcome to the Third Reading of this Bill after all the controversy we have had with regard to it. The point that impressed itself upon me was that the Parliamentary Secretary said that the idea behind the Bill was to give every child in the land equal opportunities. That means that educationally the child in the working class home will have the same opportunity as the child in the rich man's home. Every child with ability will have equal opportunity and up to the present no one can say that has been the case. Ability has not had an opportunity; it has been a question of wealth, of taking up certain children and giving them greater opportunities than have been given to others. This Bill will smooth that out, and if there is ability in the working class home there will be an opportunity of getting it brought out. If that is what the Bill means, then everybody will welcome it. Every child born into the world is an asset to the State.
Another point in my hon. Friend's speech which I specially appreciated was that with regard to the size of classes. He made a statement that, as time went on, there would be a reduction in the size of classes. I understand that that will be difficult for a time, but the intention behind the Bill is to do something on those lines. I had the experience in my very early days of being one of a class of 30 or 40 children whom it was almost impossible for the teacher to control, and, naturally, children take advantage. I had no desire to go to school. I wanted a free and open life, and the irksomeness of school life made it even worse. If I could have got interested in subjects and could have received the particular attention of the teacher, I would probably 2150 have had a greater liking for school than I had. There are other things which I remember and which I hope will gradually be removed. I remember on very hot summer days longing for a drink of water, and there was no chance of getting anything. It was a question of drudging through several hours, hoping for the time when I would be finished and could get away. Education has proceeded with the object of removing all these things and giving a desire to go to school. That is what is meant by this Bill, as I see it.
The next point I want to touch upon is the question of working for an accommodation. The Parliamentary Secretary said there was a feeling in the House and in the country for an accommodation to meet all the various views. When we started upon this Measure, I wondered how the House was going to take it, and whether the conflict of religious opinions would prevail. I could foresee that before the long and acrimonious Debate was finished strong feelings would be displayed, with the possibility of a Division. Thanks to the President, however, much was smoothed over, and I think there is a common feeling among us that he has made a genuine attempt to meet the views of all classes and to get a Bill that would work. Unless the feeling prevails that a genuine attempt has been made to meet the views of all the people concerned, bitterness is left behind and the Measure is not worked as it ought to be worked.
In this case, an attempt has been made, and the views of most have been met. I would like to put one or two points to the President. He will remember, I think, quite vividly that when we were dealing with Clause 95 on 4th April there was a very tense moment in the Committee. I think we had had the longest discussion on any Amendment in the whole Bill. The discussion lasted some three hours, and the Committee was wondering whether the issue would come to a Division, and whether there would be any vote of confidence or not. The matter did not go as far as that, and I think that was largely due to what the President said in his reply. I will quote one or two points from his reply, because it is important to remind him and the House of what he said. He said:And I think I can say that the position of those who speak with authority for the Roman Catholic communities is somewhat as fol- 2151 lows. They stand and have consistently stood, for the principle that all expenses of Roman Catholic Schools, no less than of county schools, should fall on public funds.That is a true statement of the Roman Catholic position. That is how we feel about this matter. He then went on to say:That still remains their claim, and I feel sure that they would be entirely behind hon. Members in the Amendment they have on the Order Paper, but I am informed that the measure of assistance to Roman Catholic schools for which the Bill provides, including the new Clause, would go a considerable way to meeting many of their representations. Thus we have every reason to hope that, if the Government have their way and the Amendment is not carried, the Bill has a chance of operating in a better atmosphere than would have been possible before."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th April, 1944; col. 1917, Vol. 398.]On those words, and on the assurance of the Minister of Education, my friends and I decided, in that very tense moment in the Committee, not to press the matter to a Division. I had confidence in the President—who is now to be a Minister—that he would carry out his promise that the loans which would be given to the Catholic schools or to the denominational schools would be such that the burden would not be too heavy. I tried to get him, at that moment, to agree to a ceiling. I knew his difficulty. The ceiling I had in mind was that the cost should not exceed 35 per cent. over the 1939 basis. He could not give that assurance direct, but he implied that, so far as he was able, it would be kept within that figure.
That takes us to this. Where the cost would have been, apart from the loan benefit, £590,000 a year, under the loans agreement, with a ceiling of 35 per cent., it will now be about £430,000 a year. We have accepted that in the right spirit in the hope that whoever sits on the Government Bench—it may not be my right hon. Friend, it may be another—the representations made by us on that day will be carried out. Many of us have had to "go through it" since for withdrawing the Amendment. It is not an easy matter to be in charge of an Amendment and have it left to you and a few others to say whether the matter shall go to a Division or not. It would be more spectacular to take it to a Division, but the more sensible person asks himself the question, "Shall I improve the position by doing that, or can I trust the Presi- 2152 dent to carry out his pledge"? On that occasion I had every confidence in the President.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
Is the hon. Member suggesting to the House that if he had taken his Amendment to a Division it would have been carried?
§ Mr. Tinker
I am not saying that, but it would have caused a lot of heart-burning and there would have been an awkward situation. I do not want it to be thought for one moment that we wanted to put anybody in a difficulty. We accepted the President's word that our suggestion would, as far as possible, be carried out. On the Third Reading we want an assurance from the President that he will, as far as he can, re-emphasise what he said about that particular Clause. It would give reassurance to the Roman Catholic population if that were done.
In regard to the Amendment which was carried the other day, in which it was decided that certain members of the community who were bombed out should have a new school built to accommodate them—300 children, 150 of whom were bombed out or displaced children—it was said that the Board of Education or the Government would, out of public funds, meet a certain amount of the cost. Although we have not time to discuss it to-day, I am putting the following to the Minister as a suggestion. Supposing there were 200 places to be filled by these children and a school had got to be built for 300, will he give consideration to the point that the other 100 places ought to come in with the 200? To my mind it would be a reasonable suggestion to make, and I hope he will consider it from that aspect. If he would do that I think he would carry us even still further with him in his endeavours for the successful operation of the Bill. I believe this Bill will be of great benefit to the country and I think much credit is due to the President and to his able colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary, for producing it. They have handled every phase of the situation with tolerance and good will, and have been able to carry the House with them. I think that when the time comes to review it in the future this Bill will rank as one of the greatest Measures ever placed on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
I would like to add my thanks to those of 2153 other hon. Members who have congratulated the Minister-designate and the Parliamentary Secretary on approaching the winning post. I only want to raise one point, with regard to Clause 101, which deals with the Regulations under the Bill and provides for their annulment by a negative Resolution. I would like to congratulate the Minister-designate on having gone further than his predecessors in providing a satisfactory check and control over such legislative powers. I myself had hoped, in respect of those powers, that the checks might have been greater, and I hope I shall not be out of Order in saying that there was an Amendment on the Order Paper in regard to that. But in view of the statement made to-day by the Deputy Prime Minister, indicating that some proposition was being put forward to deal with the whole of that matter, it became unnecessary to raise that point in any detail. I hope, however, that the Minister-designate, in replying to this Debate, will be able to say that, whatever proposals are put forward in the course of the Debate by the Government, they will apply retrospectively and apply to the exercise of the legislative powers conferred upon him by the various Clauses of this Bill. In final conclusion, may I also say how much I know this Bill will be welcomed throughout the country and regarded as a real foundation stone for that progress which we all want to see.
§ Mr. Speaker
By general agreement, it has been decided that we should suspend the Sitting of the House now, and I think I had better indicate the Member whom I intend to call when we resume—the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd).
§ Sitting suspended.
§ On resuming—
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
I cannot help thinking that the feelings of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary must be like the jubilation of the farmer at harvest home, and as a good neighbour I wish for a short time to join in their junketings. They have brought home a very abundant harvest after a long stretch of sunshine, unbroken by storms except on one occasion, when even Jupiter himself came down with all his thunderbolts. Now comes the most 2154 important season of all, when the husbandry must be garnered and the sheaves will have to be threshed and milled to provide food for the nation. To drop the metaphor, I wish to remind the House that this Bill, with its great profusion of new provisions, is only the raw material of education and that the finished product can only be made available for our sons and daughters by the colossal tasks of the Ministry in making appropriate Regulations and by the wisdom, good will and honesty of the local education authorities in carrying them out, especially in the matters of staffing and size of classes. I cannot help quoting from a letter I had from an Army education officer who was trying to teach 200 British soldiers to read and w rite. They put their inability to read and write down to the fact that they had sat on the back benches of primary schools in classes of 50 and 60 and had been promoted to higher classes on the score of age and nothing else.
I shall content myself with naming only one part of the Bill, that is, the new provisions for educating that residue of the school population which will, in many cases, fail to qualify for what has hitherto been most coveted by the common people, namely, the grammar school type of education. Those boys and girls will be the main problem in the future as they have been in the past. I am aware of many excellent senior schools which have been successful in the past, because those in charge of them had deliberately turned their backs on the old conceptions and dead methods and had courageously experimented with new ideas. I do not imagine that this Bill will bring about much change in the quality of primary education, because my experience in primary schools, certainly in the rural areas, is that the teaching has been, on the whole, excellent, in spite of poor buildings and poor equipment. Generally speaking, children over 11 who have failed to enter a secondary school—using the term in the old sense and not in the sense given to the phrase in this Bill—have been woefully neglected. The whole technique of teaching after the age of 11 in the upper classes had to conform to the limitations of teachers whose background and knowledge were insufficient to deal with adolescents and often with adolescents who were regarded as unteachable—in fact, with pupils who were looked upon as 2155 "duds," because the particular quality of their minds and sometimes of their environment unfitted them for the conventionally accepted type of education. I hope that one of the results of the Bill will be that no normal child in future will be regarded as a dud by the teacher or by anyone else; and also that no child in the country will be subjected to dud teaching—because there are duds among teachers as well as among pupils.
If, then, the new system envisaged in the Bill of a secondary education for all children, irrespective of the particular bent and configuration of their minds, is to be realised, it will require an infinite amount of work by the Ministry and its officials, in guiding the curricula of training colleges and in advising teachers, and an infinite amount of care by the local authorities in the selection and the appointment of teachers. That is only one aspect of the Bill, but perhaps it is the most important. If all concerned with education will be willing to forgo selfish and sectional advantages in carrying out the provisions of the Bill, and if we in this House, by our control over expenditure, will not be niggardly in our encouragement, I see something much greater in the future for the common people of Britain than anything that they have even dared to hope for in the past.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I desire to offer my tribute to the Minister for bringing forward and carrying through, in such a careful and delicate manner, this Bill, with the many difficult problems which it involved. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the Bill was a monument to the work of the President of the Board of Education—I mean the Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is still the President."] Well, the President of the Board of Education. The Bill provides an opportunity which has never been provided before for all the children of the country to become well-educated, valuable citizens of the country, and I say that the citizens of to-morrow will pay high tribute to the work which the President of the Board of Education has carried through to-day. But not only the children will pay that tribute. I want to draw attention to the service the Minister has given not only to the children but to the teachers of this country. There is nothing that is more desirable, or does 2156 greater credit to any man or woman, than the ability to give service, particularly service in such a good cause as education. During the discussion of the Bill, attention was directed to the fact that our education had developed along lines of utilitarianism, and that this was the first time that we had got away from it, and were treating education as part of the makeup of every citizen.
What does that mean for the teacher? One of the greatest services the Minister has done is to translate the teachers from being manufacturers of spare parts for our industrial machine into very valuable public servants who have the onerous task of training, guiding and developing the citizens of this country. That is a very important change and, as a result of the work that the Minister has put into the Bill, he has a standing in the country that should enable him to go very much further even than he has gone. He should cap the edifice. He should go another stage. The Minister has carried through difficult negotiations in connection with the denominational schools, religious instruction and the rest of it with very great care; I suggest that he should take into account the discussion that took place on the Clauses affecting this question and should decide—he is strong enough to do so with the support he has in this House and the country, and in the various institutions—to take over the 4,000 single-area schools, so that the State and the local authorities can assume full financial responsibility for all education in all schools.
While we were discussing the Clauses dealing with the difficult problem of religion, many different sects put in their word here and there. To-day I have received a communication from another sect who want to protest against certain features of the Bill. It is the Gospel Standard Strict and Particular Baptists. I have no prejudices in these matters, and I think this one should be put on the records with the others. In my opinion, the Minister has carried through a remarkable job. Every stage of the conduct of the negotiations or of the discussion of the Bill has brought new credit to the Minister, and I am certain that the citizens of the future and the teaching profession will pay him tribute for the work that he has put in on this Measure.
§ Major Nield (Chester)
At the outset of his speech, in moving the Third Read- 2157 ing of the Bill, the Parliamentary Secretary informed the House that it was three years ago that he and the President set out upon their pilgrimage. I congratulate the pilgrims upon their progress and say that they have indeed achieved a great result. Those who have listened to the speeches made on the Bill, in this House and outside, must have been struck by the fact that the basic principles contained in this Measure have attracted almost universal approval. Although there have been controversies, particularly upon two subjects which I shall mention in a moment, even the protagonists in those controversies have been in full agreement that a great contribution to a national system of education has been made by this Measure. I feel that the ancient city which I have the honour to represent and its surroundings would wish to join, as I join, in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Minister-designate, the Parliamentary Secretary and those who have assisted them, upon a signal service to social progress.
I wish to touch upon five specific points arising in this Bill. They vary very much in importance and in substance but I hope they wil be thought to be worthy of some attention. I propose to deal with them in the order in which they appear in the Bill itself. The first arises under Clause 14. On that Clause I would make a point which is, I confess, a somewhat academic legal point, in relation to the legal liability of the managers and governors of what used to be called non-provided schools. During the Committee stage I put forward a proposal that these managers should be required to insure against third party risks, so that in the event of some injury to persons coming upon or near their school premises they should be in a position to meet any judgment for damages. The Parliamentary Secretary appeared to receive that suggestion favourably, but, since then, he has been good enough to see me, and I think difficulties have been placed in the way of incorporating such a Clause in the Bill. I still hope there may be a recommendation from the Board of Education, as it is now, or the Ministry, as it will be, to the effect that these managers should be required to insure.
I can make this point less academic by telling the House the reason why I offer the suggestion. In 1934 a school 2158 function wag held in a non-provided school in the city of Liverpool, and during an entertainment, the floor of the room, in which a great number of pupils, teachers and their parents and friends were gathered, collapsed, with the result that all were precipitated below. One at least was killed and many were seriously injured. It was an accident which, in the ordinary course, would have resulted in the payment of many thousands of pounds in damages. The plaintiffs in all action were in a difficulty, by reason of the existing state of the law on the question of where the responsibility lay. They sued the headmaster, the managers, the local education authority and the trustees under the trust deed. The litigation went on for six years, and eventually it was held that the managers alone were responsible. They were insured up to a sum of £500. The result was, of course, that no plaintiff recovered that to which he was entitled, or a fraction of it. Having myself been involved in the litigation, I felt it right to try to guard in the future against so disastrous a state of affairs. I still hope that my right hon. Friend will consider my suggestion that some direction as to compulsory insurance should be considered.
The second point to which I desire to call attention arises under Clause 16 of the Bill. That Clause, it will be remembered, refers to the instrument of articles of government of a school. Representations were made to me during the passage of the Bill that it might be desirable if model articles of government were included as a Schedule to the Bill. If I remember aright, the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay), during our discussions, rather supported that suggestion in order that there might be guidance for the government of schools. All I desire to say is that I think much guidance will be secured from Cmd. 6523 as to the principles of government in maintained secondary schools.
My third point arises under Clause 66 and Part III of the Bill dealing with independent schools. I welcome the fact that the Bill maintains the position of independent schools and the freedom of choice of the parent. As to one type of independent school, I think nothing has so far been said. I refer to the choir schools, and I do so because in my own division there is a cathedral choir school which 2159 serves a most useful purpose and is a most valuable institution. I believe that there are some 20 cathedral choir schools up and down the country and a number of collegiate and parochial choir schools. I am informed that in such schools for voice-training purposes it is necessary for the pupils to arrive not later than the age of seven, and leave not earlier than the age of 14. That means that in the second stage of education the pupils will have to be received at a rather later age than is normal. There is no difficulty in my own Division in this matter, but I hope that the Ministry, as it will be, will encourage the county schools to receive these special pupils at the age of 14.
§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes
Is the hon. and gallant Member in Order on Third Reading, in suggesting matters that he considers should have been introduced in the Bill, but are not?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am afraid I was not listening closely, but it is perfectly true that on Third Reading speeches are confined to what is in the Bill and must not deal with what hon. Members would like to see in the Bill. That is a Second Reading point.
§ Major Nield
I apologise for having transgressed, and I will endeavour to confine myself within the terms you have stated, Mr. Speaker. In my own defence may I say that my remarks were intended to be an illustration regarding the position of independent schools under the Bill.
My fourth point arises under Clause 96 of the Bill. Under that Clause we had to consider the question of financial aid to Church schools. I think the attitude of the Government was quite plain. They recognised the great contribution of the Church schools in the past firstly by retaining them, and secondly by offering them financial assistance. The real dispute was as to the amount of that financial assistance. Personally, I welcome the decision of my right hon. Friend to allow loans at favourable rates, for new schools and building operations and so on, undertaken by the Churches.
My fifth and last point arises under the First Schedule and under Clause 6. Here I wish to say a word for the smaller county borough councils. It was felt that there was some danger of the rights given 2160 to such authorities under Clause 6 being so qualified as to be almost removed by the First Schedule, and that there were considerable objections to the joint boards proposed to be set up under the Bill. The objections were that the larger authority would lose its identity, that the smaller authorities would be swamped, and that the final body, the joint board, would not, as such, be responsible to the electors. I hope that the identity of well-conducted county borough councils or local education authorities will not be lightly removed.
In my view, which is very sincerely expressed, this Bill lays the foundation of a great new edifice of public education in this country. The superstructure cannot be completed by any Act of Parliament; it must depend upon the effort of men and women in the teaching profession. The recommendations of the Committee presided over by Sir Arnold McNair are now available, and I hope that the Ministry will take full note of the recommendation that teachers must be offered proper remuneration and adequate conditions to encourage them to follow a very great calling.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I join in the chorus of congratulation to my right hon. Friend. I hope it is not going to become a habit of mine. I have given more congratulations to my right hon. Friend than to any other Minister who ever sat on that bench. Now that we have come to the concluding stage of the Education Bill, it is right to say that the right hon. Gentleman has done a very good piece of work. I am not saying that it satisfies me: my right hon. Friend would be surprised if I were to suggest that. But, at least, we are now within measurable distance of seeing on the Statute Book the greatest Education Act since the Act of 1902. I think I have already said, either in the Debate oh the White Paper or on the Second Reading, that I regard the Fisher Act of 1918 as being nothing but the most miserable fiasco. I hope that my right hon. Friend's Bill, when it goes on the Statute Book, will not become a fiasco.
We have pressed on every occasion when we could the question of the raising of the school-leaving age. My right hon. Friend has resisted us in a way that suggested that his spirit was good; he was not quite so stonewalling as when he was 2161 Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He has tried to meet us, but it is unfortunate that he has not met us so much as I think the national interest demands with regard to the school-leaving age. I admit, as I did before, that there are problems involved. I do not regard buildings as the major problem: I regard teaching personnel as the major problem. My right hon. Friend has not gone nearly so far as I think he ought to have done. I do not for a moment doubt my right hon. Friend's intentions, but, now that we have the McNair Report before us, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister—as I hope he will be very shortly, and no more President of a non-existent Board of Education—will give his urgent attention to this question of the training of teachers. Whether he can implement certain of the Clauses in the Bill depends on whether he can get adequate teaching personnel, properly trained and remunerated for their responsible work. I would throw out the suggestion that perhaps, before long, we might have a discussion on the McNair Report. We have not impeded the progress of the Bill—never has so great a Bill gone through with such speed—and if my right hon. Friend will bear that in mind, perhaps, when we have had a little more time to consider the McNair Report, he will find a day for us to discuss these problems of the training of teachers, their remuneration, and their status. That would be all to the good.
I and some of my hon. Friends are a little disappointed with the right hon. Gentleman's attitude towards the payment of fees. I admit that he has gone a considerable way, but we are not likely to get another Education Bill for a long time, and it is a great pity that he did not take the boldest possible course. There has been a good deal of feeling displayed in the House about Part III authorities. I have not shared that feeling. I believe that my right hon. Friend has done the right thing, and that, in fact, through the divisional executives, there will be more local autonomy and possibility of initiative, over the whole field of education, than the Part III authorities ever enjoyed. I hope that the Part III authorities—if my words can reach them—will play their part handsomely in the new structure. My right hon. Friend has been very sketchy about the young people's colleges. He has not been too definite about adult education. Adult edu- 2162 cation will go on, but whether the young people's colleges become effective, in a reasonably short space of time, depends on my right hon. Friend. We have now accepted the principle that young people, up to the age of 18 anyhow, ought to be in some kind of educational atmosphere for some time in the week,, and it is important that my right hon. Friend should begin to think out in more detail how he is going to establish these young people's colleges, and how they are going to work.
Most of my hon. Friends accept the dual system as a fact. My right hon. Friend has had to do the same, and I believe that, in the present state of public opinion, whoever occupied his position would have to recognise it as a fact. The view I expressed on Second Reading—which was a considered view, supported by the vast majority of my hon. Friends—was that the proposals of the Government have shown a measure of generosity. Their financial resources have been improved on the Committee stage. For that I am sure my hon. Friends are grateful. The discussions on this aspect of the Bill have been carried out with great moderation. More moderation has been shown than has been meted out to me by members of certain Churches in this country, and by one in particular. I think it is to the credit of this House that my hon. Friends, whose faith I do not share, have accepted in a spirit of compromise the majority views of this House.
One further point to which I would refer concerns the question of grants and finance under the Bill. I will not get out of Order, I hope. I have sat under more than one Speaker and have always done my best to avoid the lash falling upon me. The grants are now established under the Bill. There are new financial obligations imposed upon local education authorities, and this does raise a very great issue, the issue of the relations between national and local finance, which becomes more complicated when one thinks of the White Paper on health which was before the House a few weeks ago. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will consult his colleagues in order that they can discuss the finance of this Bill in relation to the finance of all proposals which may fall heavily upon local authorities.
I will not go into my deplorable lack of education, which I confessed to this House on one occasion—I think on the 2163 White Paper Debate—but I believe in education. I believe it has been the Cinderella of the public services far too long. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has done his best to give it a status and importance, which our system of public education has never hitherto enjoyed. But I will put it to Members of all parties in the House, that, when this war is over, the one real asset that we shall have will be the quality of the growing generation. It is on them, and them alone, not on our natural resources, not on our overseas investments, not on any international trade agreements, that our future depends. Our future depends on what we can make of the spirit of the youth of this generation, and if my right hon. Friend can assist in that work, we shall be very grateful.
In the discussion of this Bill we have had in the President of the Board and his Parliamentary Secretary an admirable combination of persons of different political faiths but with unity of purpose in the achievement of this great Measure. I hope that, out of this Bill, will come a new appreciation of the value of our own young and growing life. The greatest crime of Hitler is that he prostituted the whole youth of this generation in his country. We shall have an opportunity, when this war is over, when the blood has been shed and the cause of freedom has been won, to train our growing generation in ways which will mean that they can, in future, tread the path of freedom, the path of peace and the path of prosperity.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
In his excellent speech the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) referred to the position of Part III authorities under this Bill. As one who has tried on occasion to put the case of these authorities I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education for the compromise solution of these difficulties which he has found. I think the position of these authorities illustrates the position of a great many interests affected by this Bill. I think that the Bill is now a better Bill than when it was introduced, and this is because the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary have been extremely generous in their efforts to try to meet the difficulties of those who saw in it cer- 2164 tain aspects which caused them very grave concern. For that I am grateful to them, and I think, indeed, the whole House is grateful to them, for their generous conduct during the various stages through which the Bill has passed. It has been a remarkable combination of Minister and Parliamentary Secretary, and I would express the hope that, as we have seen a combination of Members of different parties, producing a Bill of this kind, which is practically an agreed Bill, we may look forward to the time when education will be taken out of party politics. Perhaps, in that way, we may have Ministers of Education, as they will then be called, retaining office longer than has been the experience of the past.
I also hope that the Ministers themselves have been pleased at the reception which the Bill has met with both in the House and in the country. It has aroused much greater interest than the subject of education has ever been able to evoke in the past; I think it is true to say that the country, at this moment, is more education-conscious than it has ever been, and that is a matter for very great satisfaction. It is particularly satisfactory, because this is the first great Measure of reconstruction which the Government have been able to introduce, and, to my mind, the Bill itself goes a long way to justify an all-party Government. It shows that, in a matter of real vital interest to the nation—a matter which has aroused in the past the greatest possible controversy—you can bring down to the House a Bill which, on its Third Reading, receives only the mildest kind of criticism, and no criticism at all of an obstructive kind. There has been no criticism from those who thought that the Bill goes too far; the only criticism has arisen from regret that it does not go further. I am one of those who voted for the abolition of all fees, and in favour of inserting a date for raising the school-leaving age to 16. Though the Minister did not put a date in the Bill, it was not because he is not in favour of operating a school-leaving age of 16, but because he is not yet convinced that it is practical politics to put such a date in the Bill. On that matter, where no principle is involved, there is room for an honest difference of opinion.
This Bill has yet to be implemented. The reference to the Fisher Act reminded us that it is one thing to get a Bill on 2165 the Statute Book, and another to get it implemented in the country, and there are certain snags in this Bill which give some of us concern. One is that the Bill itself is unable to provide practical steps to make effective the greatest single reform required in education—reduction of the size of classes. Another factor which causes me concern is with regard to the great principle of the Bill that there shall be equality of educational opportunity throughout the length and breadth of the land. No child should be hampered by the fact that he is born in one area rather than another. I am not satisfied that the financial proposals envisaged in the Bill will bring that about, but the Minister has declared his faith in the principle. That principle has been endorsed by this House and if the means for endorsing it are not satisfactory I hope we shall see that later on steps are taken to make sure it is carried into effect. We all hope, now that the Bill has reached its Third Reading, with almost complete unanimity and with such great approval, that the high hopes it has aroused both in this House and outside will be realised. We congratulate the Minister on what he has done, but we shall congratulate him still more when we see the Bill fully implemented.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
Every speaker so far in this Debate has joined in a tribute to the President of the Board of Education for his great ability, his consideration and sympathetic understanding of difficulties, the patience with which he has tried to meet every point of view, and the ability, humour and great knowledge of the Parliamentary Secretary. Yet I cannot help feeling that the President of the Board and his colleague must be rather like weary travellers in India who, after a long journey, receive an immense number of garlands, which sometimes are overpowering to the recipients. The garlands of roses that come to them to-day, perhaps, are not wholly without thorns. I remember in 1918, when the Fisher Act was passed, how from every side of the House there were tributes to the great ability of Mr. Fisher and to the magnificence of his achievement, and I hope most earnestly that no fate such as befell Mr. Fisher's noble endeavour, will befall the efforts of the present President of the Board. We can, if we compare those days with the present, take some hope 2166 from the change in public interest. The Bill of 1918 was passed in the midst of a great war. It was passed after frequent Divisions in Committee, and with less appreciation on the part of Members of this House of the objects of the Bill than has been given, on all sides, to the President of the Board on this occasion.
Public opinion in the country at that time had not risen in support of Mr. Fisher's great proposals, in the way in which it has done on this occasion in regard to the present Bill. One reason for this, is the very careful way in which the ground has been prepared by conference and consultation with all interests, the efforts which have been made by the President of the Board and his colleague to arouse public interest among responsible people all over the country, and the very great value of the White Paper. As has been said, the White Paper and the Bill have given us a vision, a plan, legislative machinery, but it will depend upon the work which is done in the coming years and upon the support which public opinion gives to the President of the Board, whether or not this great Bill can achieve the success that we all desire. Unless there is the continuous support of public opinion, there may come another Geddes axe and there will come another Parliament less interested in this cause perhaps than Members are to-day. Every one of us who cares for the success of this Measure must see to it that public opinion keeps on supporting the President of the Board in the great effort which will be needed to carry into effect the proposals that he has made. We have already had it mentioned how, on the vitally important points, power is in his hands; it will rest with him especially to see that these great reforms are carried out. The two most essential ingredients for this are, an adequate supply of qualified teachers, and classes small enough to give the pupils the opportunity of benefiting from the teaching. That depends upon the action taken by the Board of Education, and I hope that the President of the Board will reassure us that he is already taking measures to get in the new supply of teaechers needed, and that he will go on taking measures to secure a reduction in the size of classes.
There is a third question of great importance to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. 2167 Greenwood) made a passing allusion in his speech, and in regard to, which the President and the Board can act immediately under the powers that this Bill gives. That is the question of adult education. The bulk of the provisions in the Bill refer to the future, to the children who are not yet coming into school, and to children who are not yet born. But in the powers that the Bill gives to the President of the Board, and to local education authorities, there is a new opportunity for an expansion of adult education for the whole mass of our fellow citizens. I urge that the need in that respect will be greater than ever when the moment comes to demobilise the Forces. There will be thousands of men and' thousands of women who have acquired new interests during that period of service; many of them, in discussions in the Army or the Air Force, through A.B.C.A. and in other ways, have suddenly awakened to interests that they had not had before, and they will want to go on pursuing those interests. They will need the help of more resources than have been available to them hitherto.
I beg of the President to assure the country that he will do his utmost to help local education authorities in providing new centres for adult education which will assist the work already being done by the Workers' Educational Association and other voluntary organisations, and in providing civic educational centres where members of the Forces and other can enjoy study and discussion together, in a spirit of comradeship and fellowship. There will be an opportunity for the President to get a new set of teachers for these classes, apart from those whom he is recruiting for the schools. A great number of young officers and others in the Services who have taken part in adult education there, will, many of them, be glad to go on with similar work. There are others who have had experience of this kind and who have qualifications for it who will be glad to volunteer, and who would not be equally qualified for teaching children. We have to remember, that, for the adult, there is an element present which is not present in school. Every member of an adult education class comes because he wants to learn. There is no question of discipline involved. There are no unwilling pupils who attend only because they have to be there. Those who attend do so because they want to attend, and that gives an 2168 opportunity to the teacher that is not found elsewhere.
Therefore, I hope that because teachers are urgently needed, as they are, for the extension of our school system and for the young people's colleges, and because the right hon. Gentleman must get as many as possible trained for that, he will not neglect the supply of further help for adult education, or the encouragement of men and women to take up this great service. I hope that when he comes to speak he may be able to give an assurance on this point, and that, if possible, he may also say that he will do his best to bring into being some pioneer centres of adult education—residential colleges like those in Denmark and Sweden and Norway, and possibly others of a different kind. It would be the greatest encouragement, not only to those interested in this work in this country but to many thousands overseas who are looking forward, when they come back at the end of the war, to the opportunity of study and comradeship, and to have opened up for them the great heritage of the culture of the past, and all the opportunities that true education gives. I think all of us are thankful that we have at the Board men like the President and Parliamentary Secretary, whose hearts are in this great cause. We all join in wishing the utmost success to their efforts in implementing this Bill.
§ Colonel Sir John Shute (Liverpool, Exchange)
I have not intervened in the general Debates on the Bill since I was privileged to speak for a short time on the White Paper, but I have attended the proceedings on the Bill throughout and have also taken part in the negotiations which have been going on for some time concerning it. While I wish to add my testimony to that of previous speakers, to the great courtesy, ability, and kindly manner in which the President and his able lieutenant have carried through the proceedings on this Bill, I regret that I cannot quite agree with the statement that the Bill has gone through without any protests at all. I regret very greatly, on behalf of those for whom I speak—that is the members of the Catholic faith, of whom I am one—that the financial provisions in this Bill are quite unsatisfactory so far as they are concerned.
One had hoped, after the publication of the White Paper, that as a result of the 2169 prolonged negotiations which have been going on to my knowledge now for over a year, the right hon. Gentleman might have seen his way—to use modern phraseology—to "step up" the offer contained in his original recommendations. Throughout these last months I have been led to believe that if we could—I will not say weaken, but reduce what we considered to be our legitimate claims to equal justice, with those of other religious faiths, that we would probably be able to bring the right hon. Gentleman along with us. What has happened? I would say—if I am not mixing metaphors—that the mountain of laborious negotiation has brought forth a mouse. We have been promised a loan at some unspecified rate of interest, and we find ourselves, as a body, committed to the fact that we shall have to find, throughout the coming years, a minimum sum of about £10,000,000, which may be very much increased. That is the only thing we have to report.
§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes
On a point of Order, Sir. Is not the tenor of the hon. and gallant Member's remarks directed to the deficiencies of the Bill and not to its contents?
§ Mr. Speaker
I thought that the hon. and gallant Member was referring to something contained in the Bill.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
Surely my hon. and gallant Friend is entitled to speak on the substance of the Bill. He is doing precisely what one is supposed to do on the Third Reading of a Bill in this House.
§ Sir J. Shute
—and we welcome wholeheartedly, without any reservation of any kind, the splendid vision held out to us by this Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) said on Tuesday that when it came to the problem of putting forward the reduced claims whch we thought would be accepted, we did not force the question to a Division. The circumstances in which that Division was not forced are well known. I was left with two other members of our body to decide what we should do, after we 2170 had heard the speech of my right hon. Friend. We came to the conclusion that, owing to the circumstances which had arisen some 24 hours previously, it was not wise to strain the loyalties of those of our Anglican and Jewish friends in the House who were prepared to support us.
I would ask hon. Members to study the speeches made from all quarters of the House and from representatives of every party. The hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Barr) made an extraordinary speech backing us up, and in a speech of sheer logic the hon. and gallant Member for West Leeds (Major Vyvyan Adams) saw no reason why the claims put forward should not be granted. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) and the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) also supported us, and I would particularly like to draw attention to the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach) and Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson). Although these hon. Members spoke from different angles of the Christian or Jewish faiths, they felt the claim we had put forward was a just one. I see no reason why we should not receive exactly the same support as others of different beliefs receive in the matter of the education of children.
A Front Opposition Bench Member twitted us with the fact that we have to go round collecting money for the building and maintenance of our schools and suggested that it is rather a piece of undue sentimentality. But what we said is absolutely true. Year in and year out appeals are made by our clergy, by means of bazaars and in other ways, to produce the education which is demanded by the State. After that Debate, in which we did not force the House to a Division, for reasons I have stated, one of our daily papers came out with the striking headline, "Catholics Have Given Up The Fight." I say at once that nothing could be further from the truth. I do not like to use the word "fight" in this relationship, but we are asking simply for ordinary justice. We do not require generosity or charity. I am certain that some day, somehow, a solution to this problem will be found, that where there is a sufficient number of children of any particular faith, Christian, Jewish or, perhaps, no faith whatever, the State will have to build and maintain schools and 2171 allow to be put into them teachers of the faith of the majority of children who have to go to them. We ask for nothing for ourselves that we do not desire for any other branch of the Christian religion. I have a sincere and high regard for the President of the Board of Education, but I must say to him that this question of the treatment of denominational schools is not settled by this Bill. It will go on; it will be a running sore and I can only hope that it will be the voice of my right hon. Friend, who has shown such brilliance in his office up to now, which will, some day, give us the justice we have always claimed and to which we are entitled.
§ Mr. Hubert Beaumont (Batley and Morley)
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir J. Shute) in reopening the question of religious education. Rather would I join in the angelic chorus which preceded his speech in offering congratulations both to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. I believe that they have shown considerable tact in their negotiations and have ingratiated themselves with all those with whom they came into contact. They have proved to be the best type of diplomats, and not the type about which a small boy wrote when he said, "Diplomats are gentlemen who keep nations apart." The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have been diplomatic in bringing people together. One of their great achievements lies in the fact that these Debates, spread over many days and weeks, have been conducted without any bitterness or strife on the part of the religious and educational interests concerned. Those interests have voiced their views, they have been heard with consideration and, so far as is possible, they have been met. I hope that this Bill means that we shall have an educational system in the future which will secure that religious strife in our schools will depart, never to return, and that an opportunity will be given to all those who desire their particular faith to be expressed for that faith to be taught to them.
I have one regret. I am one of those who deplore the passing of the Part III authorities. In my constituency there are three such authorities which have done extremely well, and I regret that it has 2172 not been deemed possible to incorporate the machinery of Part III authorities into the Bill. I also feel sufficient tribute has not been paid to the thousands of men and women who have done such excellent work on behalf of the Part III authorities. There have been committees composed of men and women convinced of the need for education and who desired to secure the best education for the children of their districts. This House should express its thanks to all those who, in the past, have done so much good work against hampering restrictions, meanness and pettifogging regulations. I hope the Minister will see that, so far as is humanly possible, all this valuable social effort, and all the people who have been engaged in this education ii work, will be incorporated in the new scheme. The great majority of those who have shown intelligence and keenness in their desire to participate in the educational life of their district should be included in the committees which are to be set up under the new authority.
Further, I hope we shall never divorce education from direct contact with the people; it is most important that parents should be able to have contact with those associated with the management of schools. In that way the smaller Part III authorities have been able effectively to carry out their work, I hope that in whatever arrangements are made those Part III authorities who, by their past record, have shown that they have ability, knowledge and enterprise, will be granted, if possible, the great privilege of being the authority for their district. I know they will come under the county authority with regard to the preparation of a scheme, but I hope the widest powers will be given to them so that they can carry on the excellent work which they are doing at We present.
With regard to the area based on population and numbers of school children I hope as far as possible the Minister will view not the exact requirements in relation to population and the number of scholars but rather as to the past record of the schools, because it does not necessarily follow that because an authority is a large authority it is going to be more efficient than a small one. That has been proved in the past. I represent an authority, Batley, which has the highest standard in the country in the matter of school feeding, 61 per cent. of the children 2173 receiving it. An authority which is so good in a matter of that kind is one which should be chosen to control education. The other two authorities in my constituency, Morley and Ossett, are equally good. In fact there would hardly be need for an Education Bill provided they got more money to carry on the education. I hope that we shall regard the young people's colleges on the same lines as they used to be regarded in Denmark, where they proved to be a most fruitful basis for citizenship. I hope these colleges will be made so attractive, both in the type and the nature of the instruction offered and the quality of the accommodation given, that there will be a far larger number of people desiring to go to them even than can be catered for.
With regard to the teaching difficulty, it has been mentioned already that there are in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force numbers of people who have been engaged in educational training. May it not be possible that at least some of the requirements for teachers can be filled from that source? It is, of course, conceivable that they will themselves have to have some special training in teaching methods. I submit that, for the young people's colleges, those who are doing the teaching in the Forces will be, if anything, more suitable than the average teacher. There have gone into the Forces a number of men and women who desire to enter the teaching profession. In fact some had already embarked on their studies. I trust that the Minister will bring all the pressure he can to bear upon the authorities who will be responsible for demobilisation when the time comes to see to it that those young men and women who have already expressed a desire to enter the teaching profession, and who in many cases have shown their ability in this direction should be among the first to be demobbed. We shall have to wait a very long time before we can get all the teachers required and for the scheme to be fully put into operation. Because of the shortage of teachers, we shall be justified in making those who have already some teaching experience and aptitude available so that the scheme can go on as quickly as possible.
In wishing the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary well in their enterprise and in congratulating them on what they have achieved, may I remind them that 2174 they now have a piece of machinery which we believe can revolutionise education. It is the manner in which the legislation is implemented and the machinery run which will determine the future of education. I wish them well in their work and I feel sure that, if they need any further impetus, they have only to come to the House and it will readily grant them anything they require. The Bill can be a landmark in the history of the country, that in the time of cur greatest danger and trial and stress we can think of the future, and we think first of all in terms of the children, realising that they are the greatest asset of the nation and that the greatest asset a child can have is education.
§ Mr. Jewson (Gt. Yarmouth)
It seems to me that the President and the Parliamentary Secretary are in some danger of incurring the fate said to lie in store for those of whom all men speak well. If they are in any such danger, I can do nothing to remove it, because I want to add my word of congratulation to those that have already been uttered. Looking back and remembering, as I do so vividly, the troubles which unfortunately existed 40 years ago, I am surprised that the Bill has had so smooth a passage. It is true that at one point the ship was in danger, but she was soon refloated, and great credit must be given my right hon. Friend for the fact that amid all the difficulties, he has been able to navigate it with such success. It is due, I think, to two things, his accessibility to Members of all shades of opinion and to his hard work, for he has worked very hard to find a way out of the difficulties that existed. This is a compromise Bill, but I am not finding fault with it on that account. In my view that is just what it should be in a democratic country where different views are held. I listened with considerable surprise to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir J. Shute), who appeared to expect to get everything his own way. Certainly I do not expect that.
There was one thing in the admirable speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to which I am inclined to take a little exception. He indicated that the schools must not be regarded as existing for the protection of the body politic. Those of us who have come in close contact with what is 2175 unbeautitully described as "juvenile delinquency," hold that the body politic needs some protection, and while the hon. Gentleman is quite right in suggesting that that protection is not to be obtained by confining boys and girls within the four walls of a school, we look to find that protection in the improved education which we hope will be the outcome of the Bill. Having been engaged to some extent in education all my life, I know the great value of atmosphere. That is one of the things, I believe, that this Bill will give us in our schools. We, therefore, hope that the boys and girls who have been giving some trouble in the past, will be given teaching in the schools which come into existence under this Bill, which will be constructive instead of destructive as it has often been hitherto. The outcome of the various compromises we have seen arrived at and the Amendments which have been incorporated in the Bill make it a Measure which can be described as typically English and the embodiment of unexampled good will. The Bill goes into circulation, therefore, with every opportunity of making good, and I can only add my small word of hope that it will.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
I understand that to-day has been devoted to giving us an opportunity to express a few kind words of appreciation of the work of the Minister and his assistant. My words will be very few but, I hope, not unkind. I only hope that the Minister and his able Parliamentary Secretary will not become dyspeptic with the excessive eulogies they have imbibed to-day. We all appreciate the work that has been done on the Committee stage, and we recognise that the proposals in the Bill are promising in the extreme. On the other hand, I cannot help feeling that there is a note of tragedy even in the appreciation we express. The Bill is 25 years overdue. It should and could have been ours after the last war. If it had been passed after the last war, and if by now we had had real secondary education for all, possibly this war would never have occurred; and, in any case, the prospects of this country would have been better than they are now. [Laughter.] Some Members scoff at that suggestion, but I would point out that the greatest defect of the Western world is that the democracy is only half-educated. If we had had a fully educated democracy, 2176 fully informed and inspired, it is quite likely—and I put it no higher than that—that in the pre-war years it might have pursued other policies than those that have led us to this war.
That brings me to another point, that while in Germany they had a system of education which was very exacting and comprehensive, the one thing they lacked was a proper purpose for education. In other words, they have taken advantage of the children under their command, not only to equip them with a certain amount of technical information, but to pervert their minds and to leave them to give whatever talents they possess to an entirely false purpose. In all discussions that have taken place in this House about the place of religion in education, and the relationship of sincere religious convictions to our educational structure, it has not always been emphasised, as I think it should have been, that what is wanted in our schools is- a definite ethical purpose, not merely taught pedantically and didactically, but suffusing the very atmosphere in which the children live.
§ Sir P. Hannon
What is the difference, in the atmosphere of the school, between religious purpose and ethical purpose? Where do they collide, and where do they coalesce?
§ Mr. Sorensen
They need not collide, but sometimes they do. When there is over-emphasis on purely doctrinal and theological matters, the ethical factor may disappear. That is why, though I say they should not collide, they have on occasion done so. There have been some expert theologians in Christian history who have been abominable scoundrels.
§ Mr. Sorensen
If a man is truly ethical, he cannot also be a scoundrel. What I am trying to emphasise is that in this House, as in the country, there are various schools of thought in the matter. There are our Catholic, Anglican and Jewish friends. All of them, in one way or another, want to transmit their theological ideas. I do not say that they should not do so; but the great mass of parents are not attached to any particular denomination. I am particularly concerned with those parents. There are some who believe that we should eradicate from the schools, not only any kind of religious 2177 instruction, but any kind of ethical direction. I disagree with that. I believe that merely to leave the child's mind a vacuum is to leave it open to all kinds of rubbish and false ideas, and, therefore, to leave the child bewildered as to what is the right ethical pathway to follow. I plead that we should try to get denominations in this country, the new bodies which are to draw up the agreed syllabus, and all those who are not attached to denominations, to appreciate that it is all very well for us to improve our educational structure and to raise the school leaving age, but that all this will count for nothing if at tie same time we do not suffuse the new educational life with right principles, right ideals and right values.
In pleading for that, I suggest that, unless we do try to suffuse the whole of our educational life with an appreciation of fundamental democratic values, and unless we try to inspire the coming generation with the right means by which evil can be overcome, and the errors of the world can be corrected, we may get a clever but an uninspired generation. Unfortunately, as I say, this Bill is 25 years overdue, and, still more unfortunately, it falls far short of what we desire. Secondary education was being talked about by Professor Tawney and others a quarter of a century ago, and still we have not got it. It may take another ten years before we even get the raising of the school age to 16. Indeed, there are those who are telling us that we must cut our coat according to our cloth and that, although this Bill promises a great deal, we shall have to wait for the post-war days to see whether we can afford what it promises. That being so, it is possible that when the war is ended and we hope to see the implementation of this Bill, we shall see only a few small instalments.
That is all I meant when I said that the Bill is, in some ways, a tragic Bill. It reminds us how slowly great reforms come into operation, and how pitifully slowly we achieve the very things that all decent-minded people say are urgently necessary. I have only to look across the water to America, to appreciate that they have a higher school-leaving age than we have, or to look in the other direction to realise that Russia also has a higher leaving age. I do not blindly worship either of those lands or their scholastic systems. We have only to remember that, and then 2178 turn to our own country, to realise that, in this wealthy land, we are still only talking about raising the school-leaving age to 15. That, in itself, should limit in some measure the congratulations that we pour upon the authors of this Bill.
I will not end on an unfortunate note, but will express my appreciation of the zeal and persistence of the Minister-designate and the Parliamentary Secretary in the last two or three years. They have put in a tremendous amount of good work. Others have, too, for behind the scenes there have been many, who have considered for many months proposals that could be embodied in this valuable piece of legislation. They should all be congratulated, but in congratulating them let us not blind ourselves to the fact that this is, at the very best, merely an instalment after 25 years' delay of what we should have had after the last war. I only hope that the Bill will, nevertheless, help to create an inspired and informed democracy, because without such qualities, democracy will disappear.
That the Debate be now adjourned."— [Captain McEwen.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.