Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £62,952,140 be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sums necessary to defray the charges for the following Departments connected with Education which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, namely:
|Civil Estimates, 1945|
|Class IV., Vote 1, Ministry of Education||55,507,780|
|Class IV., Vote 13, Public Education, Scotland||7,444,360|
§ 2.25 p.m.
§ The Minister of Education (Mr. Richard Law)
Hon. Members opposite have given me very little time in which to take stock of the new and very important command to which I have recently been appointed. I have had very little time to make the acquaintance of my crew, to explore the engine room, or to do any of those things which one would naturally wish to do on boarding a new craft. Indeed, I am conscious that I have not been able to make the best use of the time that I have had. Owing to the regrettable absence of the Foreign Secretary—and I am sure the Committee will be glad to know that he is getting along very well indeed—I have had to direct a good deal of my energies and attention to many urgent and important matters which have very little to do with the strict sphere of education, if we are to interpret the word literally. Perhaps I ought to say now that I may, at a later stage this afternoon, have to absent myself for a short time for a meeting of the Cabinet. I am sure the Committee will realise that that implies on my part neither disrespect to the Committee nor lack of interest in this very important subject that we are discussing this afternoon.
I would not like the Committee to misunderstand me when I say that hon. Members opposite have given me very little time. I do not resent that in any way. It is quite clear that education is one of the most important subjects which we can bring before the attention of Parliament and the people and, for my part, I hope to learn a great deal from the Debate this afternoon. However, I think that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and I are entitled to 1300 claim in full measure that consideration which the House of Commons is always willing to give to those who are embarking upon new and, for them, uncharted seas.
I am very conscious as I stand here that my hon. Friend and I have succeeded to a great inheritance. We have been given the opportunity of carrying on the work which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service has so nobly begun. It is our job now to clothe with flesh and blood, and nerve and sinew, the great Act of Parliament which he piloted through the House of Commons. I realise that the passage of this great Measure through the House was due not only to the skill and the patience of my right hon. Friend; it was also due to the fact that he was assisted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)—a day or two ago, I was also entitled to describe him as my right hon. Friend, and, in my weaker moments, I am still all too apt to think of him as my right hon. Friend. The fact remains, however, that the success which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service was able to achieve in this great Measure, which will always be associated with his name, was due to the fact that in very large degree he had the willing and enthusiastic co-operation of all parties in the House.
The situation is, perhaps, a little different to-day. The late Government has come to an end, and perhaps it would be optimistic to suppose that we could look forward to the same degree of cooperation in the future. Nevertheless, I trust that my hon. Friend and I will have the utmost good will and support from all parties inside the House and from those who are interested in education outside the House, in the discharge of this very important and difficult task to which we have succeeded. It is one thing—and a very good thing and a very difficult thing—to pass a great Act of Parliament through this House, but it is another thing and a very difficult thing, and, I hope, a very good thing to make that Act of Parliament effective in action. In education, we have now left the field of Acts of Parliament and what we need now is action, determined, resolute and patient, on the part of human beings, not only in this House but thousands of them outside.
1301 I will, if I may, give the Committee my own view, for what it is worth, of what is involved in the implementation of this great Measure, which has so recently been before us. First, I think I ought to draw the attention of the Committee to the background against which we have to work to put this great Act of Parliament into real effect. It is a background of war and the aftermath of war. There are great shortages of manpower and woman-power, and of materials. There has been an enormous dislocation of our life in this country and a good deal of destruction and, above all, there are these shortages. There are, as the Committee know, very many claimants, all of them of a serious character, for these goods and services which are in short supply. There are, for example, the claims of the war, which is by no means over yet. There are the urgent claims of housing, there are the claims of our export trade, upon the extension of which everything we are discussing to-day and a lot of other things, not only education, but housing and all the high hopes we have, do ultimately depend. Therefore, we have to consider these educational problems in the wider context of the national life as a whole. I would not like the Committee to think that I was pessimistic about the prospect for education and for the great scheme of reforms which is enshrined in the Education Act, 1944 I do not feel in the least bit pessimistic; there is a splendid prospect ahead of us, but I think it is necessary for us to take a sober and realistic view of the immediate possibilities. We have undertaken in this house, through the Education Act, a tremendous task and it is not going to be at all easy in present circumstances, to perform it. It is only if our understanding is clear, and if our will is resolute, that we are going to be able to realise the spendid prospect which has been opened to us by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service.
Now, I must confess that I am by no means master of the intricacies of the Education Act. If the Committee supposed that I were I should feel extremely flattered, and also extremely uneasy. In fact I am not, and I hope the Committee will not think too hardly of me for that. I look at this great Statute as a man might look at a massive mountain 1302 range early on a summer morning. The prospect is grand, the air is clear and exhilarating; the young sun has just appeared above the horizon and has not yet realised the full force of his mid-day beam. The valleys and streams, the lower slopes of the hills and the little communities clustered around them are still covered by the mists of early morning. But one can see, high above the clouds, three or four great peaks clearly outlined against the blue of the summer sky. It is with those peaks that I intend, if the Committee will allow me, to deal principally this afternoon. I intend, in other words, to confine myself to those great matters which seem to me to be most urgent and most immediate. The Education Act, 1944, is now legally in operation, except in three respects. First, the school-leaving age has not yet been raised, secondly, the county colleges have not yet been established—they are, under the Act, to be established on an appointed day which shall not be later than three years after the raising of the school-leaving age; and, thirdly, Part III of the Act, which deals with independent schools, cannot come into operation until we have accumulated a sufficient number of inspectors to make that part of the Act effective. But, as I say, except in those three respects, the Act is now legally in operation, and I use the word, "legally," advisedly.
Let me turn, first, to that great problem which, from my recollection of the passage of the Bill through this House, perhaps principally interested right hon. and hon. Members. I refer to the problem of the raising of the school-leaving age. I would remind the Committee what the legal position is, what immediate difficulties we are faced with and what steps we are taking, or contemplating, to deal with those difficulties. First, there is the existing legal position. I have no doubt that the Committee is aware of what that is: It is that under the Act the school-leaving age had to be raised to 15 on 1st April this year, unless the Minister, from the point of view of shortages of buildings and teachers, made an order under Section 108 postponing the raising of the school-leaving age. My predecessor was compelled, owing to the existence of those shortages, to make such an order, and he did so, I think, last August. The present position is that the school-leaving age will be raised to 15 on 1st April, 1947, 1303 unless, in the meantime, another order is made advancing the date.
The Committee may well ask what my intentions are in this respect. Is it my intention to let the order run until that date which now seems to be so far ahead, or is there any real prospect of anticipating that date? I cannot, in honesty, at the present time, give any answer to that question. The position is so very uncertain, that I shall be better able to consider this whole question when I have had replies to Circular 48 which was issued by my Department to local education authorities a week or two ago. The Committee are probably aware that Circular 48 outlined the urgent building needs which would be required, not to implement the whole Act, but to implement the immediate steps that have to be taken, and asked for replies from the local authorities outlining what their building programmes would be to meet these urgent needs. Until I have seen those replies, any forecast I could offer now would be no better than a speculation, and a speculation of the purest and most frivolous character. All that I can say is that I am determined to push on with this reform to the fullest extent in my power. It is not that the raising of the school-leaving age is the only important reform which is contemplated by the Bill, but I think it is fair to say that it has become the symbol, as it were, of the seriousness of our intention in the field of educational reform. I can assure the Committee that my Department and I will do everything we can to push ahead with it. The only limiting factor is facts, some of the facts of a harsh and disagreeable character, and nearly all of them, as I think the Committee will realise, outside the control of my Department.
Let us look at the facts. The first fact is that the raising of the school-leaving age, it is estimated, means an addition of 390,000 to the school population. That figure, when it is set against the total school population, may not seem to be very formidable, but when we convert 390,000 school children into terms of teachers and of buildings, we see that it is, after all, a pretty formidable figure. An additional 390,000 school children means 13,000 additional trained teachers, and I am quite sure the Committee will understand that we cannot conjure 13,000 trained teachers out of the impalpable 1304 air. But that is not the whole problem. It is not even the greater part of the problem. It is, in fact, the smallest part of the problem.
Leaving aside altogether the whole question of the raising of the school-leaving age, can we say that the numerical position of the teaching profession is in any way satisfactory? Unfortunately, we can only say that it is not satisfactory. During the war great gaps have been made in the teaching profession by the call-up to His Majesty Forces. At the same time the intake into the schools has been nothing like the normal. In the past few years, to fill these gaps, we have had to rely upon married women returning to the teaching profession and upon teachers who had already retired or who were on the point of retiring. It is a fact to-day that about a quarter of the whole teaching profession has been drawn from those two sources: married women who have come back, or retired or retiring teachers. It is also a fact that whereas before the war the percentage of men in the teaching profession was about 30 per cent., the percentage of men to-day has dropped to about 20 per cent. These married women and retired teachers have performed in these years a most valuable service to the State, and I hope very much that they will feel able to continue that service for as long as they possibly can, and if necessary only on a part time basis. But it is quite clear that we cannot rely upon their services indefinitely. We have got to find somebody to take their places, and the estimate we have made of our needs in that respect is another 25,000 teachers. That is over and above any who may be returning to us from the Forces.
There is another great demand for teachers which arises from the necessity to reduce the size of classes. I dare say the Committee are aware of what the immediate pre-war position was in that respect, but it may be worth while to remind the Committee, because it was pretty bad. Of 145,000 classes in what were then called the public elementary schools, 98,000 had more than 30 children in them, and 44,000 had more than 40 children in them. If we are to reach even our first target, which is that no class of seniors should have more than 30 and no class of juniors more than 40, we have got to find somewhere 20,000 additional teachers.
1305 All in all, it is a pretty big bill that we are putting in. For the raising of the school-leaving age, 13,000 teachers, plus 25,000 to make up for wastage during the war, plus 20,000 for reducing the size of classes; that is an over-all total of about 60,000;and even that takes no account of nursery schools, county colleges or the expansion of further education in general. Altogether, we can say that we shall require an additional intake of round about 70,000 spread over the next few years, and this intake is additional to the normal annual output of teachers which is needed to make good the normal annual wastage. If the Committee consider those figures, they will agree with me that the problem with which we are faced in regard to teachers is a. pretty formidable one.
What are we doing to meet this very formidable problem? The first question I ask myself, and possibly the same question has occurred to other hon. Members, is whether the teaching profession is sufficiently attractive to induce the right kind and the right number of recruits to come into it. I think that to-day on balance the profession is sufficiently attractive. I do not suppose that salary is the first consideration which moves a man or woman when he or she goes into the teaching profession. I suppose that teaching is a vocation rather than a career, and I suppose that most people go into it because they feel that there is a worthwhile job to be done there. For my part, I have no patience at all with the shallow view which one sometimes hears that teachers must have an easy life because the school holidays are so long. I think that teaching makes great demands upon people. Any calling that requires above all sympathy and patience does make the most exacting demands, and I have no doubt that the teaching profession is an extremely exacting profession, but I think we have to do everything we can to make it in a material sense as attractive as possible. The life of the teacher is never going to be a luxurious one, but we must do what we can to improve the material conditions, and I believe the new Burnham scales are a very great improvement upon the old and offer a reasonable prospect to anyone who is considering embarking upon the adventure—for that is what it is—of school-teaching.
There is another question in my mind and also, no doubt, in the minds of many 1306 Members. What are we doing to induce members of the Armed Forces, men and women, to take up this profession. I think it is important from two points of view that they should take up the vocation of teaching. First, they have been serving their country for some years past, and I feel fairly sure that many of them will desire an opportunity to continue that service. Secondly, just as we, in our whole scheme of educational reform, are trying to bring into education the maximum of diversity, so I think it important that we should try, as far as we can, to diversify the elements which go to make up the teaching profession and, so far as I know, that would be the view of the profession itself. What have we done in this field, and what are we contemplating? Up to now, obviously, it has not been possible to do very much to attract teachers from the Forces, and we have had to confine our lures to those who have been invalided out of the Forces, and certain other special categories in the national war effort. I believe we have had about 9,000 potential recruits from these limited categories, and I should think that, of these, we should be able to procure as teachers between 2,500 and 3,000.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
Do I understand that the 9,000 are people who have been invalided out and are at home?
§ Mr. Law
That is my understanding—people who have been invalided out, and certain other special categories of people engaged in the national war effort. What are we doing now about getting people from the Armed Forces? I do not feel that any system of high-pressure salesmanship is called for, or is desirable. It may be too much to suppose that to every member of the teaching profession teaching is a genuine vocation, but I think we might expect that it should be, as far as possible, a genuine inclination. Therefore it is not our purpose to try, in a commercial sense to "sell" teaching to members of the Armed Forces. But we have prepared a leaflet which sets out the facts of the teacher's life; the proofs have come to hand and it is a sufficiently attractive leaflet. We are also preparing a film to be shown to members of the Forces. There is no need for any member of the Forces to feel that he is going to be too late to apply for training as a 1307 school teacher, and the emergency training scheme will continue for just as long as there are releases from the Forces. Here, perhaps, I should say a word about the present arrangements about releases. Substantial numbers of teachers are included in Class B for early release. That will make no difference to the net deficit of teachers. But it will be of considerable assistance to us.
Recruits are beginning to come already, and I have no doubt that, as time passes, they will be coming in in even greater numbers. What about the training of these recruits? It is no use just having people with an inclination to teach. They must have some training as well. The present position is that three emergency colleges have already been started, and others will be started as soon as we can secure the buildings for them. In addition, it is our intention to increase the output of the permanent training colleges. It is easier to expand a permanent institution than to create a new one. But the intake into these training colleges will mainly be direct from the schools. It is clear that, in general, for the moment we must be limited in our choice of school teachers among young men, and therefore we are taking steps to increase the intake of young women, starting right from those who are leaving school this summer. In addition we are urging local education authorities to start on a purely temporary basis, and I hope only for a term of two, special classes, school practices and so on, without even waiting for the temporary buildings, which I hope they will soon be able to provide. It is too early yet to say what the full response to this appeal will be, but so far the reception has been extremely encouraging, and I am sure we can look forward to the fullest co-operation from the local education authorities.
It is necessary, as a primary condition of any extension of training facilities, that there should be an over-all revision of the system of grants for the training of teachers, and that revision is being undertaken now. There are two reasons why we want to revise the system. First, we wish to ensure that no young man or woman will be debarred from having training as a teacher purely through lack of means. The second thing that we want to ensure is that the cost of training 1308 teachers will be better distributed than it has been before as between one local authority and another.
I have indicated that the supply of teachers is not the only problem that faces us. There is another, which is also extremely serious—the supply of buildings. In thinking of building programmes in relation to schools, we do not even start from scratch in the race. Quite apart from any question of raising the school-leaving age, or of reducing the size of classes, or reorganisation in general, there is at this moment a very great deficiency in school buildings. I do not know how many school places have been lost through enemy action, but I would guess that the figure is somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000. In addition, the urgent needs of the Armed Forces, of the Civil Defence force, of the evacuation schemes, and so on, has meant during the war that there has been the most wholesale requisitioning of school and college premises. We have to get these premises back, and I am glad to be able to tell the Committee that we are making real progress in getting them back. The Government have given the release of school buildings generally the same priority as small dwelling-houses, and, in instances of real importance and where no other solution can be found, permission may be given for new buildings to accommodate the services that are at present accommodated in school buildings. Target dates have been fixed for the return of almost all the training colleges. I think I am right in saying that, in general, the return of the latest should be by 1st September. We expect also to recover all premises in areas where the evacuation arrangements no longer apply. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, who is far and away the biggest cuckoo in my nest, is doing everything he can to help us by getting out of our nest. He has undertaken a full survey of all the accommodation used by the War Department, with a view to release at the earliest possible moment, and I believe that he will make a statement on it very shortly; it may be to-morrow. We are in touch with all the other Departments concerned, and I can assure the Committee that our combined efforts will shortly reduce this problem to a small size. We are determined to press on with the de-requisitioning of school buildings until the problem has disappeared altogether.
1309 Perhaps I ought to say a word about bomb damage, and the general expansion of our educational building programme. The Committee will realise that it would hardly have been possible to find a worse moment for expanding school buildings in any sphere. There are great shortages of labour and material; there are the urgent demands of housing; and we have to recognise plainly that the building situation must be, for the time being, the condition of our educational advance. Nevertheless, the late Government did give school buildings such a measure of priority as could reasonably be hoped for in the straitened conditions of the time. We can only do our best and see that we make the fullest possible use of that priority, but I must warn the Committee that we cannot look forward, at the present time, to very much being done in permanent building, in the educational field. We will have to rely, for the time being, upon temporary buildings which can be erected very quickly with the minimum of skilled labour. I think there is nothing very depressing about that. After all, our first objective is to get ahead as quickly as we can and by any means at our disposal with the restoration of our whole educational fabric, and with the raising of the school-leaving age to 15. These are the first and important things to which we have to turn our hands and attention. I ought perhaps to explain that what I have been saying about temporary building is altogether outside the main scheme of reorganisation, and of the building which will be required to make the organisation effective. It is a purely temporary expedient. We have already issued to local authorities the Building Regulations to which they must conform in their permanent building schemes.
I have been dealing for some time with the material limitations upon our activities. I would like to mention in passing, lest the Committee think that material considerations are occupying the whole of our attention—unfortunately, they do loom very large, and, of necessity, have to occupy a great deal of our attention—that the Ministry have recently issued a pamphlet, which I think is a very good pamphlet, on the objectives of our educational system. The pamphlet is the first of a series which is to be issued and is now available. It is called "The Nation's Schools: Their Plan and Purpose."
1310 For most of my speech I have been wrapped up in a material envelope. I have been confined by the strict limitations which are placed upon our actions by material considerations, but for the moment I have escaped from that envelope of crude matter, and I intend, if I can, to make good my escape and to direct the attention of the Committee to another field. That is the important field of secondary education. I think that perhaps the most important thing about the Education Act of 1944 was its new approach to the subject of secondary education. Until the passage of that Act, what we had been thinking about too much in relation to education for the people as a whole, was literacy as against illiteracy. The general line of thought has been that, for the great mass of the people, literacy was the best that you could do, and that secondary education was a pasture that was strictly reserved for the favoured few to browse in. All that kind of thinking has been swept away by the Education Act, and we are now thinking of education, not as literacy for the masses and secondary education for a favoured few, but of education in general for the many, and secondary education in particular as being one part of a stage in a continuing process in which everybody will be able to participate according to his abilities and aptitude.
At the beginning of my speech I said that the Education Act of 1944 was now legally in operation, and I rather stressed those words. I stressed them for the reason that there is a gap, and we have to recognise it, between legality and reality. There is a gap between Act and fact. For example, as a result of the Education Act a great many children will receive their education at modern schools. There is therefore an urgent need, which has not yet been met, for the completion of reorganisation and for the improvement of staffing standards and of buildings.
There is a gulf between what the Act lays down, and the existing position. All I can say now, is that we are determined that that gulf shall be bridged. Of all the media of secondary education, I suppose the grammar school is the best known in this country and most familiar to the minds of our people. For that reason there is great competition to enter these schools. The Committee is aware that in the Education Act two governing 1311 principles for secondary education were laid down. The first principle was that secondary education should be suitable, and suitably varied for the needs of pupils in every area; the second principle was that secondary education should be fully accessible to all qualified pupils, irrespective of the income of their parents. So far as maintained schools are concerned, those two governing principles have been, I think, fully met. Under Section II of the Act local education authorities are bound to submit development plans making adequate provision for secondary education in their areas, and under Section 61 maintained schools are forbidden to charge fees; so that so far as maintained schools are concerned, there is no difficulty at all.
Now we come to direct grant schools. Even here I think there is very little real difficulty. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service gave an undertaking, I think on the Second Reading of the Bill, that direct grant schools should make a suitable contribution to local provision and that they should continue to be accessible. Part IV of the Primary and Secondary School Regulations, I think, fulfils completely the undertaking which was given by my right hon. Friend. Part IV of these Regulations says, first, that a direct grant school must give 25 per cent. of its annual intake, without fees, to qualified pupils from grant-aided primary schools. The second thing is that if the local education authority desires further places, the governors of the schools must put at their disposal another 25 per cent. of the annual intake, which I think are called reserved places. In addition to that, if both parties are agreeable, the governors can make available further reserved places to the local education authority. That leaves a percentage, which will vary between 50 per cent. and something less, of places for fee-paying pupils.
Even here the test of merit is still maintained because it is laid down in the Regulations that any parent of one of the fee-paying pupils can apply for a total or partial remission of fees in accordance with an approved scale of income. So I do not think there is any difficulty so far as direct grant schools as such are concerned. But there is some difficulty about schools which, until now, have 1312 been on the direct grant list and are now seeking their independence, because they regard the limitations which I have just described as being irksome and onerous. These schools, I think, are few in number, and most of them are governed by schemes under the Charitable Trusts Acts.
Mr. Cave (Aberavon)
Does the right hon. Gentleman know how many have actually claimed independence up to now?
§ Mr. Law
No, I cannot answer that. The only cases which have actually come to my notice are between half-a-dozen and a dozen. As I say, I think these schools will be found to be few in number, and most of them come under schemes under the Charitable Trusts Acts. As the Committee knows, the Minister of Education has some responsibility for these schools under the Charitable Trusts Acts, and therefore the Committee would probably like to know my own attitude towards this problem. I can understand the attitude of the governors of these schools which are now seeking their independence. They have hitherto enjoyed a wide measure of discretion in the admission of pupils, and I recognise that, generally, they have exercised this discretion wisely, as is shown by the high reputation which the schools enjoy. They fear now that the need for regulating admissions in the manner which I have described, may alter the whole character of their schools. But while I can understand this point of view, I am bound in the exercise of my functions in relation to educational charities, to pay due regard to the interests of the beneficiaries under the trusts. As a matter of policy I must see to it that nothing is done which is inimical to the best interests of the education of the boys and girls of this country. Where, therefore, charitable trusts are involved, any increase of fees such as would be occasioned by relinquishment of a grant from my Ministry will require my approval, and I can assure the Committee that before approving any considerable increase of fees I shall take steps to secure that the interests of poor scholars and those with special residential qualifications are adequately safeguarded.
Perhaps I ought to say a word about the Fleming Committee's Report.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, will he deal with the position which will 1313 arise with regard to those parents who can afford to pay the existing fee, but who will be debarred from the school if it becomes independent and the fee is raised? Does he include those among the poor scholars? For instance, I know of a school which proposes to increase its fee from £30 to £51. Some people might not call a scholar whose parents can afford to pay £30 a "poor scholar," but the parents may be too poor to pay £51, and the child in consequence may be debarred.
§ Mr. Law
The right hon. Gentleman will understand that I have not yet had a full opportunity to consider in all their details the cases of the schools which we have been discussing. I have given an assurance that I shall scrutinize any proposals that are made to me by these schools, and that is all I can say now, and all the right hon. Gentleman can reasonably expect me to say now.
§ Mr. Cove
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but this is an extremely important point. If an independent school is to be subject to scrutiny, so far as fees are concerned, are we to take it definitely that in the easy of such a school as my right hon. Friend has just mentioned, the Minister can turn down a fee of £51 a year? Can we have that point made clear?
§ Mr. Law
I do not think there will be much chance of the hon. Member getting anything very definite, so long as I am not allowed to finish a sentence. If the hon. Member will allow me, I will try again to make the position clear. I have not, myself, had an opportunity of examining these proposals in detail. I have already given the Committee an assurance that I will scrutinise the proposals very carefully, especially with a view to securing the interest of the poorer 1314 scholars. The point which the hon. Member has raised and which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, clearly has a bearing upon what I have already said, and I will tell the right hon. Gentleman now that I will certainly bear the point very closely in mind when I come to look at this scheme.
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
Is it not correct to say that the Minister is speaking simply of independent schools under a charitable scheme, and that in those cases the Government have authority in the matter?
§ Mr. Law
Yes, I have been speaking all the time about schools which are governed under charitable trusts and that is the only reason, so far as I know, why I would have any influence or authority over such schools.
I should say a word about the Fleming Committee, and their recommendation that there should be a closer relationship between the public boarding-schools and the general system of national education. The Fleming Committee was unanimous in the view that State bursaries should be made available to qualified children from the grant-aided schools. The governing bodies of the public schools, and the headmasters and headmistresses, met my predecessor some time ago, and assured him that they would be very glad to discuss further the details of the Fleming proposals under this head. Since then, officers of my Department and the negotiating committee from the public schools have been discussing this problem together. I have great hopes of receiving from this joint body of the Ministry of Education and the negotiating committee from the public schools an agreed report at the end of the month.
I am afraid that I have already detained the Committee, by speaking at some length, but I should say one word about further education, which is a most important part of our educational reform. I cannot take much time over this, but I would like to draw the attention of the 1315 Committee to three points which seem to be of especial urgency. The first is that we must make facilities for the technical training of ex-Servicemen and women. Also, the great experiment of A.B.C.A. in the Army, and similar facilities in the other Services during the war have proved their worth; we must do what we can to continue education along those lines. The second point is the importance of training for the building industry. The third point is the whole question of part-time day releases, as they are called. I can assure the Committee that I am fully aware of the importance of those three points in particular, and that my Department are fully alive to the importance of further education generally.
At the beginning of my speech I said I would confine myself to three or four of what seemed to me the most urgent problems with which we are faced. The fact that I have done so and dealt with three or four big points does not mean that either my Department or I lack interest in the great number of other points, in which I have no doubt Members of the Committee are deeply interested. It is only that time is limited. The points with which I have been dealing have all been fairly complicated and I am afraid that I have taken excessive time in making them clear, but I assure the Committee that if I do not deal with the other points, it is not because I lack interest in them. The Committee may feel that I have stressed the difficulties with which we shall be faced in present circumstances in making effective the Education Act. I have certainly devoted a great deal of my time to an explanation of those difficulties but I have done so for one reason only, that I believe it is only if we understand those difficulties fully that we shall have any chance of mastering them—and we are determined to master them.
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
Would the Minister say just one word about a point which is causing some mystification amongst teachers, in relation to release from the Armed Forces? We were told repeatedly by the Minister of Labour that there would be no general priority for teachers, and either the Minister of Labour or the right hon. Gentleman himself said a little while ago that teachers would not be released from 1316 the Forces en bloc, but that there would be an examination of individual cases by the appropriate authorities. Does that mean that schools who want to have a particular man back can apply for him? What is the procedure?
§ Mr. Law
My hon. Friend asks me what I mean by "substantial." I really cannot give him any definite figure, but I am satisfied that "substantial" does mean what it says, and that there will be a sufficient number of teachers released in the reasonably near future to give us a good deal of help; but, as I have already said, they will not be a net addition to our teaching force. As I was saying a few minutes ago, I stressed the need of understanding our difficulties and overcoming them. There is no short cut to making the Education Act, 1944, an effective reality; the only way is by determination and will on the part of individuals who are interested, whether in the Ministry of Education, in the House of Commons, among the local education authorities, or in the wide world of education outside. I can assure the Committee that the Ministry are doing and will do for the next few years everything they can to make this great Act of Parliament into an equally impressive fact of our national life.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Creech Jones (Shipley)
I am sure the Committee will wish my right hon. Friend well in his position as caretaker of the Ministry of Education in this House, but on this side of the Committee we rather hope that his sojourn there will not be very long. He himself was somewhat apologetic about the very short period in which he had had to acquaint himself with some of the problems of the Ministry, and I feel somewhat diffident in addressing the Committee in the presence of the ex-Parliamentary Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), because of his very considerable contribution to the making of the last Act and also his wide knowledge and experience in the field of education. But we on this side of the Committee felt that 1317 in the last week of this Parliament, it was desirable to direct the attention of Parliament and the nation to this service which is so vitally important in the working of a democracy. After all, the Education Act was, I suppose, the largest reconstruction Measure for the post-war world which the present Parliament enacted. The success of that Act will depend very largely on the initial steps which are taken to set it along the road and the manner in which it is to be implemented. I confess that I was not too much impressed by the pronouncement of the Prime Minister in the Press yesterday in regard to the policy of the Minister's party in the field of education. He said:Our object"—that is, the object of this new creation, the National Party—I suppose it refers to the Conservative Party—is to provide education which will not produce a standardised or utility child useful only as a cog in a nationalised and bureaucratic machine, but will enable the child to develop his or her responsible place first in the world of school and then as a citizen.That, of course, is just the political claptrap of the Prime Minister, because there is no party which conceives of any world in the terms described by the Prime Minister. The statement goes on:Many parents will be able to choose the school they like and to play their part with the educational authorities in the physical and spiritual well-being of their children.That sentence reveals a policy calculated to give a twist to the operation of the Education Act which will lead to discrimination between parents who can afford to buy education for their children and those who cannot.
The Minister has introduced Estimates which reveal a very considerable activity on the part of the Ministry since the passing of the Act, and I, on behalf of the Labour Party, desire to express our appreciation of the manner in which the two Ministers concerned before the break-up of the previous Government and the Ministry itself have applied themselves to the implementing of the new Act. The pace at which circulars have been issued from the Ministry indicates their very serious intent in regard to laying a firm foundation for the Act which they are beginning to work. Those circulars, concerned with the re-organisation of the education 1318 authorities, the building regulations, the supplementing of free secondary education and the re-organisation of the local schools all indicate a determination on the part of those at the Ministry to give effect to the Act.
Of course, we were considerably disappointed that the Minister, in the light of all the circumstances, was obliged to postpone the raising of the school-leaving age. The nation accepted his verdict as inevitable, but the nation and those interested in educational advancement are not inclined to wait too long. I wish to saw a word in regard to the building programme.
It is true that the local education authorities have been asked to produce their schemes and are busily engaged on that work, and also that the Ministry, by its most recent circular, has given them an indication of the mind of the Government that there must be a speeding-up in the building arrangements in order to prepare for raising the school-leaving age at an early date. I confess however that in reading the Circular, it struck me as being a little doleful. It tended, perhaps, to accept the difficulties of the situation in rather too complacent a way, and what I wish to know is whether the Minister has staked the claim of education for the labour and building materials which will be required for the extension and readaptation of buildings, and whether, from his short experience, he can say if education authorities themselves are yet seized of the vital importance of improvisation or the use of prefabricated buildings in this interim period before permanent buildings can house the children in the manner the Ministry have laid down in their earlier circular. One hopes that the greatest drive will be shown by the Ministry and local authorities and that a definite claim will be staked out for building materials and labour because of their consciousness that this is a priority as urgent, or almost as urgent, as housing itself.
In regard to the raising of the school-leaving age and the supply of teachers, I am not very clear what progress has so far been achieved in regard to securing men and women from the Forces or elsewhere who are prepared to undergo emergency training. How many students have been accepted and how many have already begun their courses? Or is it that 1319 the scheme is still in its infancy and that these details cannot yet be ascertained? What progress has been made, apart from the three emergency colleges brought into operation, in getting other colleges set up and properly staffed and working? The Minister said he hoped that those training colleges which had been requisitioned by the Services would be de-requisitioned by 1st September. I hope he will insist that they are de-requisitioned in time for proper opening at the beginning of the autumn term and that the Services will not be able to retain them any longer. One point to which the Minister did not refer was the steps which the Ministry are taking to encourage the training colleges and the university departments to arrange for an increased outflow of students in readiness for the secondary school expansion and the raising of the age on the senior side. I should like to have that information, because these two basic matters of building and the supply of teachers will determine at what date the raising of the school-leaving age shall operate, and it would be unfortunate if the country were disappointed later and told, at the expiration of another year from the earlier date, that the school-leaving age still could not be raised.
Then the Minister referred to the private schools, and said the Section of the Act concerned with them cannot come into operation until more inspectors can be found. I hope there will not be serious delay in tackling this problem. The report of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields goes back now quite a long time. The Government have been inactive, and it is about time that the urgency of this matter was recognised and the Ministry decided that it can brook no further delay.
I would also refer to the brief comment of the Minister upon further education. I am greatly interested in adult education, and I appreciate that the Minister has felt that it was not quite wise at this stage to press the local education authorities for their schemes, but during the war there have been many interesting experiments in adult education. New agencies have been created, a considerable amount of new work has been done among men and women who previously had not made use of this facility, and it would be a thousand pities if that work could not be carried forward from the war years into 1320 peace. Therefore, I hope that at an early date the Minister will prepare his plans for new opportunities in the field of adult education. I hope, too, that in these regulations and arrangements the position of those voluntary bodies which have done such a lot of pioneer work will be properly recognised.
I desire also to welcome the activities of the Ministry during the past few months in quite a number of fields which are just as vital in the education of a child as actual teaching in the school room. I am glad to see that some energy has been shown in expanding the school meals and milk service. The Ministry have directed the attention of the authorities to proper dental treatment, to the improvement of medical facilities and arrangements for inspection. New provision has been made for the maladjusted child, for those suffering from speech defects, for blind and epileptic children, and regard has been paid to the grouping of such children, in respect not only of their age but of their aptitude and ability. I welcome, too, the directions which have gone out in regard to nursery schools, and the regular inspection of foster homes in which many unfortunate children are obliged to live; also the maintenance grants which have now become payable to those promising young people who may now go, with some public support, to technical and art colleges, and with more support, to the universities.
I would next refer to the pamphlet recently published by the Ministry and mentioned by the Minister. I do not want to criticise it—"The Times Educational Supplement" made a most exacting criticism of it and passed some very strong strictures. It was important that public attention should be directed to what this pamphlet had to say. It struck a note which betrays some danger in regard to securing a proper balance in our secondary school system. In paragraph 47, the pamphlet tended to acquiesce in the reduction of accommodation in secondary schools of the grammar-school type. One appreciates the importance of building up the modern and the technical schools, and getting a proper balance between those three types of secondary work, but in view of the recent policy of certain highly selective grammar schools, to try to pass out of the local education arrangements, to become independent or possibly direct-grant schools, and in view 1321 of the excellent financial provision which is now being made for that type of school of different status, it is important that we should preserve, and even develop, the amount of accommodation available in the secondary course of the grammar-school type. Otherwise we shall find that our professional classes will come mainly from the grammar-school type, and these schools recruited from a particular stratum of society. This would be a tendency that is not wholesome, certainly not healthy, for our public life generally.
The Minister made reference to the problem of the direct grant school. I wish to ask several questions in regard to these schools. They receive a capitation grant for all pupils between the ages of 10 and 19 years. They are, therefore, able to recruit their pupils at least a year earlier than is the case with the maintained schools, and they get a capitation grant in respect of children below the normal age of admission to the maintained secondary school. The Act defines secondary education in Section 8 as full time education for senior pupils, and senior pupils are defined in Section 114 as pupils between the ages of 12 and 19. I would like it to be made clear why the Ministry pays the grant to pupils of primary school age, while in respect to the direct grant schools, this lower age is accepted in regard to the capitation grant. Further, not only is this the practice now, but the amount of the capitation grant for those schools has been substantially increased, and I believe is greater than in the case of the ordinary secondary school. Deliberate encouragement also seems to be given to the direct grant schools, in respect of the payment of better salaries, certainly to the maintenance of standards which the Board regard as "adequate and reasonable," and this puts them in a position preferable to that of the ordinary secondary schools. The net effect of these arrangements is to encourage some of the maintained schools to alter their status, and if possible to become independent schools, or alternatively, for schools which do not enjoy this status, but which belong to some old foundation, to apply for the status of direct grant schools. The situation is further obscured because it is not—
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
Is it not the case that if the direct grant school 1322 becomes an independent school, it does not get a grant at all?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I take it the Minister has to approve the fees to be charged if it is a charitable foundation.
§ Sir Richard Wells (Bedford)
If a direct grant school became independent, it would be subject to a tapering grant for three years. The grant in the first year would be £12 instead of £16, which is the full amount; the second year, £8, and the third year £4. After that there would be no grant at all.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
It was suggested by the Fleming Committee that, when consideration was given to an application for transfer to a direct grant basis, the Board should have regard to the financial position of the school, and non-local and other special characteristics of the school, the value and extent of the contribution which the school could make to the national, provision for secondary education, including the education of pupils from grant aided primary schools, and finally, to the observations of the local education authority. What criteria are the Ministry going to apply in regard to the schools which wish to assume direct grant status? Will the recommendation of the Fleming Committee operate in such cases, and will due regard be given to the needs of the locality, and to whether proper local arrangements already exist, before such status is conceded? The question arises in a city like Birmingham, where, I gather, seven schools of a single foundation hitherto maintained by the local education authority have now applied for direct grant status. What will be the position of the schools, which have hitherto made considerable provision in the normal 1323 way for secondary school education amongst the ordinary boys and girls of Birmingham? Will this affect the admission of ordinary children from the primary schools to these schools in the future? Of course, the local education authority will see considerable financial advantage in removing part of the financial burden from themselves on to the governors, but it seems that it will impose a limitation on the number of ordinary boys who can go into these schools if these seven schools are given direct grant status.
Again, what is the policy of the Ministry in regard to the application to the Harpur Trust in Bedford in regard to their secondary schools in Bedfordshire? There, the Grammar School and the Girls' High School wish to have independent status, and the two other secondary schools wish to have the status of direct grant schools. But in any case, the fees in all the four schools are to be raised, and it would be interesting to know what, in such circumstances, the Ministry are going to do about it. If these four schools are to be taken away from the normal status and two of them are transferred to independent status, and two to direct grant status, what provision is likely to be made in Bedford for ordinary secondary schools for the children whose parents are not able to buy places?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
According to my information, when the application was made, two of them wished to pass to independent school status, and I gather that two of them are ordinary maintained secondary schools, with a charitable foundation which now desire to become direct grant schools.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I am obliged for that information, but the point remains about the application for a change of status to independent status made by two of the schools. My desire is that the Minister should take a fairly strong line against increasing the number of direct grant schools. Indeed, I think that they should be greatly diminished.
1324 Another point I want to put is, What standards are to operate in regard to the admission of the boys from the ordinary schools to the governors' places in the direct-grant schools? The Minister, in reply to a question the other day, said that regard would be had to the school records of the boys, the possibility of how long they could stay and enjoy secondary education—which would depend on the contracts which the parents were prepared to enter into—and also the educational qualifications of the boys. To judge from recent statements of some headmasters, it would appear that there is a very real dislike of the dilution of certain types of secondary schools by boys from the ordinary school system. They would, I think, tend to apply very curious tests for the admission of such boys into their schools. I press the point that the placing of such boys should depend entirely on the capacity of the boys to profit from the education offered, and that the capacity of the parents to pay fees should not be a consideration. If such a tendency in education is encouraged, we shall, instead of getting that common social equality in education which is indispensable for a healthy society, continue discrimination between the privileged few, whose parents are able to buy education, and those whose parents have not the means. I conclude by welcoming the very active work of the Ministry in the past months; I hope that the tendency which I have indicated will not be pursued, but that the hopes raised by the Education Act of last year will be fulfilled.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Sir Malcolm Robertson (Mitcham)
Ineed not say that in the presence of experts, I speak with the greatest diffidence. I think the main difficulties confronting us in the next year or two will be the shortage of buildings and the shortage of teachers. I propose to address myself to the shortage of teachers only and to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, and to the Members of this Committee, who know far more about the question of recruitment than I possibly could. If the prospect were held out to the young men and women of this country, and notably to the members of our Forces, not only of serving as teachers under local authorities—good though those local authorities may be, and I am not criticising them—for the rest of their teaching lives, but 1325 of being given a chance to serve throughout the world, I believe there would be no difficulty about recruitment. I admit that we in this country shall need every teacher that we can recruit. But suppose that we put the figure of teachers required at about 70,000;I suggest that, if we threw the world open to them, we could recruit fully 100,000. I know a little of what I am talking about. We are a very modest people; I do not think that even yet we realise how the world is clamouring for a greater knowledge of us and of our character.
I am speaking as chairman of the British Council. We require British teachers the world over and we cannot get enough. I suggest that if, instead of these young men and women looking forward to a life of teaching under their own local authorities, they were given a chance of serving abroad, anywhere in the Empire or in foreign countries, we should be able to attract a class of recruits, possibly such as we have never had yet. We all know young men and women eager to get on, eager to get experience. Here in this great profession, which to my mind is one of the noblest of professions, is their chance. I do not want them to spend the rest of their lives in China or Paraguay or Spain, or anywhere else. I would like them to go for three or four years to a given country, or perhaps for two years in one country and then two years in another country, and then to come home and refresh themselves at the fountainhead. The benefit to our young people would be incalculable.
The British Council have recently had the most interesting experience in the North of England. We ran holiday courses for young people between 15 and 18. They come there voluntarily. These young people would find on Monday morning, say, a Norwegian to tell them about Norway. He would talk for three-quarters of an hour, and then show films. On Monday afternoon there would be, perhaps, a Yugoslav; on Tuesday morning a Chinese, and so on. These voluntary courses were attended by hundreds of boys and girls. The questions asked were most interesting and inspiring. They wanted to know all about those foreign countries. Surely if in our own schools we had a body of teachers who could tell the young folk, from their actual experience, what the Chinese look like and how they live, those 1326 young folk would take a much greater interest. Let us have teachers who can tell them of the geography of other countries and the story and the personalities of other peoples. I have nothing more to say, except to make a strong appeal on this question of enabling our teachers to go abroad without forfeiting their pension rights or their status. That, I believe, is the way to recruit young men and women of good standing, who would be not only a credit to their profession, but of great and abiding use to their country, and, indeed, to the peace of the world.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Seaborne Davies (Caernarvon Boroughs)
I am very happy to address the Committee for the first time on the subject of education. There are two main reasons for that. First, education was a subject which was of very great interest to my illustrious predecessor in the representation of Caernarvon Boroughs. He had many achievements of which he could be proud, but I well remember how on many occasions he used to refer with great pleasure to his association with the late Sir H. A. L. Fisher, and the breath of fresh air which entered into our educational system through the efforts of that great man. There was a janitor in the college to which I first went, who used to delight the students very much by saying that the trouble with education was that it was not left to people like himself, who had been in it all his life. I can say that, apart from these war years, I have been in it all my life, and I am glad to think that my first intervention—and I hope not my last—in the Debates of this Assembly is on the subject of education. I am told that a maiden speech must be brief and modest; and perhaps the Committee will be glad, at a quarter past four, to have a brief speech.
I want to press the Minister to tell us more about the relation of the education programme to the general programme of building in this country. It is a question which is exercising the minds of authorities everywhere. The right hon. Gentleman will know that if the statutory regulations which his Department have laid down are to be observed, something like 70 to 80 per cent. of the schools in this country must be modernised. It is obvious, from what we heard last Thursday, that there is to be a ques- 1327 tion of priority as between housing and education, but we hope that the claims of education will not be forgotten in the general clamour for housing. There is a duty upon the Ministry of Education in this matter, because the conservatism of the Board, as it then was before the war, is partly responsible for the bad state of things at present.
I can illustrate that from my own county of Caernarvon. We wanted to build a school at Portmadoc which would accommodate 350 children. We were looking forward—not too far forward—but, owing to the conservatism then ruling, we had to build a school for 170. It has never been occupied, because the military went in, and now, before it can be used at all for its real purpose, there will have to be a large measure of reconstruction or addition to it. We are pressing for a more definite statement about the priority which is to be given to school buildings in the general building programme of the country.
I might, while we are on the relation of housing to education, mention another matter. We are extremely worried about the building trade. We had a Debate last Thursday about recruitment for that trade. In North Wales, we could now have 700 boys entering the building industry, but, owing to the lack of facilities for technical education, there is no means whereby they can come up to the reasonable standard prescribed by the trade unions for apprenticeship. We do press that plans for technical education in the rural and less populated areas should be pressed forward as quickly as possible.
To-morrow, we are to have a Debate on health, and I want to say one word on that subject in relation to education, from my own personal experience. For many years, I have had the privilege of supervising a large number of students in this country outside the lecture-room, and I have been very fully aware of the dangers to their health involved in the present position in the universities. Particular attention should be paid to this matter in our great Imperial centre, the University of London. There is that scheme of living in Bloomsbury boarding-houses on a "bed and breakfast" arrangement. We all know what young students are, and that, very often, they run to "fish and chips and fruit salad", 1328 the money being spent on other attractions. I have had several cases of young students falling into tuberculosis and other diseases because of lack of adequate equipment and facilities in London. I hope the Minister of Education will encourage all our universities, the provincial universities as well as London University, to provide, as quickly as possible, an adequate system of hostels for their students. Those are general remarks on the relation of education to housing and health.
On the Estimates themselves, there are several points which I would like to raise had I the time. There is one about the education of the Ministry of Education itself to which I must refer. I present to the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Petty Officer Herbert), the item in the Estimates for one half-time librarian to the Ministry of Education. Only he could do full justice to that. It is on a par with some other provisions for libraries which I have seen in Whitehall and which are disgraceful. I hope that that item in the Education Estimates does not suggest that the Ministry itself is not keeping fully up with every development, in other parts of the world, on the subject with which it concerns itself.
There are one or two general points which I would like to press upon the Minister. We want all the great reforms which are anticipated under the Act, but I want to stress the desire in many parts of the country to reach the standard which we had reached in 1939. Hon. Members for London can speak for themselves, but there are many schools where the standards now prevailing are not really up to the standards that we had before the war. In its Memorandum in 1943, the Ministry said that "providing teachers in sufficient numbers and of adequate quality, was the master-key which would open the whole building." I think I am expressing the view of many hon. Members when I say that we are very concerned whether that key to the building is being furnished and furnished quickly enough. Reference has already been made to administrative Memorandum No. 64. The hon. Lady who represents the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) pressed the Minister to tell us what, in fact, is meant by this latest statement about release of teachers from the Forces. I have the Memorandum here and I am quite certain 1329 that schoolmasters and local education authorities will ask to have explained in concrete terms exactly what it means. They are now planning their staffing for the next session, and it is rather important that education authorities and headmasters should know what is meant by this new scheme for the release of teachers from the Forces. I hope the Minister can say something more definite on that subject.
Another matter on which I think there is great concern in many parts of the country is not merely the release of teachers in sufficient numbers, but the provision of teachers of adequate quality. We all welcome—and, I particularly do so, who started my own teaching life in the University of London on a very inadequate salary—the increases in teachers' salaries and particularly the recognition of the services of those serving in primary schools. But it will be a very bad thing for the schools and for the teaching profession, if this welcomed development is going to mean a debasement in the quality of the profession. I was up in North Wales this week-end consulting with extremely experienced persons in this matter, and they say that the effect is already apparent. Young men and women who have already made application for entrance to the universities are withdrawing their applications, and are saying, "We are not going to the university; we are going to a training scheme for two years, and we can then get practically the same emoluments as we would get after four years in the university." I could furnish definite figures of that effect being already in operation. That, in turn, is going to affect the higher work of the grammar schools. If children are to leave after the senior school certificate, and not take the higher certificate, then that again will have its effect on the secondary schools. I hope and trust that tins progress in the recognition of the work of all parts of the teaching profession, will not result in a debasement of the quality of the profession as a whole, and that we shall still be able to have a high percentage of the teachers in our schools who are university graduates.
There is only one more point I want to make. It is that there is considerable fear in many parts of the country on financial grounds about the working of this Act. Indeed, in the Principality, it is 1330 very difficult to foresee how this Act is going to work anywhere except in Glamorganshire. The North Wales counties come out of this matter extremely badly. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, when he explained his scheme for helping the poor authorities, in this House on 20th February, ended up by saying:I cannot illustrate clearly to this House the exact effect on each county, each constituency, each town, of this formula."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1945; Vol. 408, c. 707.]The right hon. Gentleman was a wise man, because, had he done so, I suspect that he would have left the House a wiser but sadder man. The counties of Caernarvon, Merioneth, and Denbigh are suffering badly under the formula. It is not a fair formula. It is one based on the product of a penny rate and the road mileage figure. I will not burden the Committee with detailed figures, but the position is that those counties will be steadily penalised for their progressive policies in the past. The high percentage of their children in the secondary schools, as compared with the percentage in primary schools, is now working to their disadvantage, and I press the Minister to promise these authorities that he will consider very carefully the inequitable operation of the rate formula which has been adopted for helping the poor authorities.
Those are all the remarks which I think it is wise for a man making his maiden speech to offer this afternoon. If I might refer again to my illustrious predecessor, I remember being with him on the day when a distinguished Continental politician died—a. man who played a great part in the last war—and I took advantage of the opportunity to draw on the right hon. Gentleman's reminiscences. He was comparing two eminent Continental politicians, the one who had died on that day and another colleague of his, and he said: "A was a marvellous man; he had strong steps like an ostrich, but B had wings." We want a generation in this country which will be strong and will have strong steps for progress like the ostrich; but we do not want them to be ostriches, we want them to have wings. We all wish the Minister and his Department every success in working this great scheme of progress, but we ask him, at the same time, to be very careful to see 1331 that this scheme will not result in the deeper entrenchment of privilege, as there is a danger, in some respects, that it will do, but to see to it that the whole of our population goes forward, to a better Britain.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
It is my privilege and pleasure to congratulate my hon. Friend on his maiden speech. I think that it is very appropriate that an hon. Member from South Wales should be able to congratulate an hon. Member from North Wales. The hon. Gentleman has, indeed, followed a very distinguished predecessor, and I am quite sure that, in this Committee, so far as progressive policies are concerned in relation to home affairs—health, housing and education—we can look forward to his support for every progressive Measure brought into this House. He has shown that he has a great deal of knowledge about the subject upon which he has spoken, and it gives me much pleasure to congratulate him on this occasion.
Now, I turn to the Minister. He began by apologising to the Committee because he had been in his office for only a short time. I am bound to be frank and to say that, though the right hon. Gentleman has been in office only a very short time, he delivered a very long speech, but a speech in which I feel—and I believe some of my hon. Friends around me will agree—there was not any real enthusiasm or dynamic urge for the cause of education. I was trying to think of a phrase which I had heard or read long ago, and which my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) recalled to me. My hon. Friend gave the right pronunciation; I hope I shall be able to pronounce it correctly. It was uttered by Mr. Asquith, and it was "inspissated gloom." That describes the speech which the right hon. Gentleman made this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman may not agree, but it was so. He cast a gloom over this Committee this afternoon.
§ Mr. Cove
I will reply to the right hon. Gentleman. He saw the mountains in the clear air, but there were a lot of mists and fogs and bogs in the speech he made to us. He said, "Let us view the splendid prospect before us." Yes, but let us also take a sober view. There was no idealism, no drive, no imagination, but a mere acceptance of all the difficulties that lie before us. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman, in his gloomy speech this afternoon, barren of any ideals and with no faith in the common child, has given us the real Tory approach to the implementing of the Butler Act. The right hon. Gentleman may laugh, but I am going to tell him something in a minute. It needed a Coalition Government to get this Act on to the Statute Book. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) has had great praise for getting the Bill on to the Statute Book, but he could not have got it there, unless he had been supported by the whole of this House; with all his adept Parliamentary qualities and capabilities he could not have got it without a Coalition Government. He got the Bill on to the Statute Book as an Act because, behind him, he had the help and support of all parties in this House. But now that the Act is there, what do we find? From the Ministry of Education comes the first document which shows the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. I take it that he is responsible for it. It is Pamphlet No. 1 "The Nation's Schools; Their Plan and Purpose."
§ Mr. Cove
I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman is so merry; his 1333 gloom is being dissipated. Here we have the reality and I warn the Committee, and anybody who may be interested in education, that it is more important now to take notice of what comes from the Ministry of Education than it was before the Act was passed. One of the defects of the Act was that it stored up immensely more power in the Ministry of Education than existed before. In many respects the Minister of Education has become a dictator. Therefore, while in the past we took a great deal of local action and took notice of local opinion, now, since the Act is on the Statute Book, we must take much more interest in what comes from the Minister of Education. The right hon. Gentleman may say, "Here is an idealist"—an "extremist," if you like. But wait a minute. Was there ever a greater condemnation of the meaning and purpose imparted to the field of education by the Ministry of Education than is contained in "The Times Educational Supplement"? I will go into this document a little more fully. The Committee will have to pardon me. I very rarely read long extracts and I usually speak without any notes at all, but I must read this, because it is the most damning condemnation of the attitude of a Department to a service which it is supposed to serve that I have ever read. It says:During the debates on the Education Bill Mr. Butler proclaimed his intention that the centre should 'lead boldly, not follow timidly.' The first 'Educational Pamphlet' "—That is the pamphlet here giving the policy of the Board—to be issued by his Ministry hardly lives up to the promise of those brave words. It is dull, unprogressive, and amateur. In its introduction it speaks of the changes to be made in education as constituting a challenge; in its conclusion of the courage and imagination, the energy and judgment that will be required to shape them and carry them into effect. But in the pages between no attempt is made to meet the challenge. They do not contain a single new idea, nor any gleam of courage or creative imagination. Least of all is there any hint of the urgency, importance, or extreme complexity of the task ahead. All they offer is a cautious recapitulation of the more conventional ideas current about educational reform. What is sound has been said many times before; what is unproved remains unqueried. Hoary assumptions are accepted as axioms, administrative convenience allowed to masquerade as educational principle, and generalisations unfounded on either experience or research as golden rules. The argument abounds in contra- 1334 dictions interlarded with historical inaccuracies, while to complete one's depression the pamphlet is written in inferior Civil Service English as clumsy in style as it is condescending in tone, and presented in a lay-out as stodgy as it is stereotyped.That is "The Times Educational Supplement."
§ Mr. Cove
I agree. This is "The Times Educational Supplement's" judgment on the pamphlet. This pamphlet shows clearly that the Ministry of Education wants reaction. I thought I was helping to put on the Statute Book—and we did help—an Act which would give an extended secondary education, commonly called a grammar school education. I thought that I was helping to provide greater educational equality of opportunity for the common child of this country. What do I find? In this pamphlet the Minister of Education says, clearly and definitely, that now, at this moment, we are providing too many places for secondary education throughout this country. We are now providing 15 per cent. of the school population with secondary education. On page 13—here is the policy of the Ministry—I read:For reasons which will appear in what follows, there are good grounds for thinking that, taking the country as a whole, there is no case for increasing the present intake to secondary courses of the grammar school type. Indeed, it is reasonable to suggest that it might with advantage to many children be somewhat reduced.That is the great Butler Act.
§ Mr. Law
I do not think that the hon. Member should really get away with that. I do not share the views expressed about it. I do not share the views of "The Times Educational Supplement" about it. That is beside the point. But in discussing the pamphlet, it is no use the hon. Member shaking his finger at me. His right hon. Friend sitting opposite had far more to do with this pamphlet than I had.
§ Mr. Cove
How many times am I to be interrupted? I am glad that I have dissipated the gloom and stirred the air. It is clear that no Member, not even my right hon. Friend, dare say, having regard to the Labour Party's policy, that 15 per cent. of the child school population is too high a percentage for the secondary school. We have always as a party stood for free secondary education for all. I want to say to my educational friends throughout the country that if they want the Butler Act implemented, it is no good relying on the right hon. Gentleman whose name has been given to it.
§ Mr. Cove
Because he belongs to the Tory Party. Because no longer is it a Coalition Government. It has now resolved itself, and I say quite definitely to my friends in the educational world that though the Butler Act has given us the opportunity for an advance in education, if that advance is to be realised, then it is quite clear that a party has to be in control that has not the philosophy, the outlook, of the Party opposite.
§ Mr. Cove
The Noble Lady may say "No," but let me refer to this pamphlet again. It divides the children of the nation roughly into three classes. I am not very learned, but I believe we are still back where Plato was when he divided the youth of the nation into the men of pure reason who were to be the 1336 philosophers and statesmen, the men of courage, who were to be the soldiers and the adventurers of the State, and the men of appetites. You are going to fit in your educational system according to that stratification. That is in this pamphlet. Here are the few in the public schools, in the direct grant aided schools, who are to have a grammar school education; here are the next lot who are to have a technical education, maybe a little expanded. What does it say about the vast masses? Here is the section, I have marked it very carefully:It has to be remembered that in these schools"—that is, the senior schools—will be a considerable number of children whose future employment will not demand any measure of technical skill or knowledge.'Therefore give them the education that the future before them will demand.
I do not want to detain the Committee any longer, but I say quite definitely that the issues between the two parties are clearly joined on this. There is a vast difference in approach. We believe on this side in the common child.
§ Mr. Cove
In class. We, on this side, believe in the uniquenessof each individual child, in drawing out the individual capacities of each child to make its contribution to the State, independent of the class into which it was born. This pamphlet still maintains class privileges in the educational world. This pamphlet, I say quite definitely, is educationally profoundly reactionary. There is no unity of a nation under this pamphlet.
§ Viscountess Astor
Well, the hon. Member ought to be. He is in a class by himself and ought to have a special honour. Is it right to talk that way with Mr. Ede sitting there—[Hon. Members: "Order."]
§ Mr. Cove
Finally, this is a class approach which we shall see if we get a Tory Government in this country. If that class approach is not to rule in this country then it is quite clear and definite that we have to get the progressive forces—the Labour Party—in power on that side of the House. It is true, as I have said before, that the National Government put that Bill on to the Statute Book and made it an Act. It is equally true—I say it with every confidence and conviction—that the real implementation of that Act—that is, giving it substance and reality, making it a progressive instrument, an instrument of social equality—will depend on Labour coming into power on the Government Front Bench.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I must say that I deplore the speech to which the Committee have just listened. I think that anybody who tries to throw the implementing of the great Education Act, recently passed by Parliament, into the arena of party politics is doing a great disservice to the country and to the future of education. Let us start on the common ground which was won during the recent passing of that Act. It was passed with the support and approval of Members from all quarters of the House, and it is not true to say that one party is more anxious than another to see it implemented. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend, who until recently was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, will remind his hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon(Mr. Cove) that the pamphlet to which attention was drawn was not produced by this Government, but by the Coalition Government, in which he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, and I hope 1338 that he will accept full responsibility for the pamphlet, and himself will provide a really effective answer to the speech which has just been made.
I do not share the view expressed by the hon. Member for Aberavon on the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education. The right hon. Gentleman began by asking for the sympathy of the Committee, because after having been only a short time at the Ministry, and part of that time having had to be devoted to the Foreign Office, he has been called upon to deal with education in this Debate, and I think every Member of the Committee came down today prepared to give him that sympathy. May I say, after hearing his speech, that I do not think he requires sympathy, for he has shown that he has made remarkably good use of the very short time that he has spent at the Ministry, and he was able to put before the Committee a clear picture of the existing situation. For my part, I would much rather have the attitude adopted by my right hon. Friend, facing the facts of the situation, than that of somebody who comes along and suggests that an Act of Parliament of this nature can be implemented simply by talk of idealism.
What we want to know is, what is practically possible to implement the Act? The hon. Member for Aberavon, though he criticised my right hon. Friend's presentation of the case to-day, did not himself give us one practical suggestion as to what the Ministry should do now to implement the Act, as compared with what had been brought forward by my right hon. Friend. It is a fact to anybody who knows education from the inside—and I deplore the speech of the hon. Gentleman the more because he knows a great deal about education—that unless you have the teachers and the buildings you cannot implement the Act. If you were to try now to raise the school-leaving age with the existing buildings and the existing number of teachers, you would not be advancing education in this country; you would be putting it back, for the simple reason that the classes, which already are too large, would have to be larger still, and the buildings, which are already inadequate, would be still more inadequate because of the large increase in the number of children who would be staying on at school.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend said, and I think no Member of the Committee would disagree with him, but I do not think that is quite relevant to what the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) said, that the pamphlet called "The Nation's Schools: Their Plan and Purpose" does not deal with the immediate administrative difficulties but sets out the general purposes.
§ Mr. Lipson
The only particular point taken up by the hon. Member for Aberavon out of that pamphlet was the suggestion that in the view of the Ministry of Education to have 15 per cent. of children going to the secondary schools was already too large. Everybody knows that it is provided in the Act, and it is the purpose of the Ministry and the intention of all parties, to see that not 15 per cent. of the children shall receive secondary education but 100 per cent. When the hon. Gentleman talked about secondary education just now, he was not talking about secondary education in its entirety, but only about grammar school education. It may be, it will be under the Act, that the provision of secondary education may take the form of grammar school education, it may take the form of technical school education, it may take the form of modern school education—all between them will cover the 100 per cent. In the past, secondary education has been limited purely to the grammar school type. It is provided under the Act that the decision as to what type of secondary education a child shall have in future shall be determined partly by the wishes of the parents and partly by the capacity of the child. It is quite wrong to suggest that there was anything in that pamphlet which proposed that only. 15 per cent. of the children are to receive a secondary education.
§ Mr. Cove
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but really it is humbug to say that you are giving secondary educaton to the masses of the children by merely changing the name. All that has been envisaged in this pamphlet is that you merely change the name, you do not change either the quantity or the quality of the education given to the vast mass of our children, but you call it secondary education. I say that is misleading, that is humbug—as a matter of fact, that is hypocrisy.
§ Mr. Lipson
The answer to the hon. Member is that at the present, owing to the shortage of teachers and buildings, it is not possible to implement the Act as it ought to be implemented. All that has been made possible so far is that all schools where the children are 11 plus and upwards are now to be called secondary schools. That brings me to a suggestion I want to make to my right hon. Friend. There are things we can do within the limitations which I have just mentioned. We recognise, at present, that the Act cannot be fully implemented, but there are two things we could do. In addition to teachers and buildings there is something else of value in education, and that is an adequate supply of school books and equipment and I mean books of an attractive type. During the war, inevitably, there has been a definite shortage of school books, and I ask my right hon. Friend to use all his influence now to see that that no longer obtains, and that in the new school year which will be opened in September there will be available an adequate supply of school books. I would also like him to see that these books are made as attractive as possible in their general layout, because they can, to some extent, help to make up for the deficiency of teachers. This is a matter which, I think, is of great importance, and which can be carried out even under present limitations. I would also like my right hon. Friend to give his attention to the content of education, to what is to be taught in the schools. This is also a vitally important matter, in which I think there is a great field for much useful work.
§ Mr. Cove
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the pamphlet which was issued deals with the content of education? May I read him this?Having regard to the fact that already the existing schools provide grammar school education for a considerable number of pupils who clearly cannot derive full benefit from it, it is reasonable to suggest that at present, taking the country as a whole, there is no occasion to extend this type of secondary education.That deals with the whole meaning and purpose of the school and says, in effect, that before you can deal with the content of education you have, first, to settle the social purposes of the schools.
§ Mr. Lipson
I do not go so far as the hon. Gentleman, but I do say that the 1341 curriculum of grammar schools is not something which is fixed. It ought to be modified and adapted in the light of a changing world, and I believe that guidance might be given by the Ministry and a great deal of work done, by local education authorities. I now want to draw my right hon. Friend's attention to a matter which I have raised before by way of Questions, namely, Regulation 23, which was issued by the Ministry under the Statutory Rules and Orders procedure. Many Members of the House, and many people outside, were shocked when they found that ministers of religion and clerks in holy orders were debarred from teaching in elementary schools. Under the Regulation this was to apply not only to those schools where it had hitherto obtained but also to secondary schools. Since then the Regulation has been revised, and it will now be possible for ministers of religion, who were already in teaching posts at schools, to continue to teach in them. But even under the revised Regulation there is not complete freedom for religious belief among those who are teaching. In those schools—I imagine they will be primary—where ministers have not been allowed to teach, and where it is desired that a minister should be appointed to the staff, it will be necessary first to get the consent of the Minister.
There are practical difficulties about that. In the first place, I think it is a slur on a minister of religion to suggest that there should be any limitation of his right to teach in a school. There is nothing in any Regulation whatsoever to prevent an atheist from teaching, and if you are prepared to admit an atheist I do not see why you should exclude a minister of religion. Of course, nobody is suggesting that a minister of religion who already has a living should, at the same time, teach in a school, but there are many men who have taken holy orders who feel that they have a calling to teach in schools, and these men ought to be allowed to do so. If it is a good thing that men of this kind should teach in public schools and secondary schools, then it is desirable that they should also be able to teach in primary schools. It is said that all a governing body has to do is to get the consent of the Minister of Education, but it is not as simple as all that. There may be two applicants for the post, and the appointing body might 1342 prefer to appoint a minister of religion. They first have to get confirmation from the Minister for that, but in the meantime they run the risk of losing the second applicant, and in these days when there is a great shortage of teachers, few education committees or managers of schools are prepared to take that risk.
I, therefore, ask my right hon. Friend to have another look at this matter, because I do not believe that public opinion in this country is any longer prepared to allow a slur or reflection of this kind on the right of a man in holy orders to teach in a primary school to continue. It is a relic of the past, and I think we would be acting in the spirit of the Act as a whole if this restriction were removed. I cannot understand why, in these enlightened days, it should be necessary to continue a provision of that kind. If my right hon. Friend decided to withdraw the Regulation entirely, I believe his action would be welcomed by the people of the country as a further step towards that complete religious tolerance which is one of the important matters which we can teach in our schools.
May I say, in conclusion, that I welcome the speech which my right hon. Friend made? I think he has shown, in the short time he has been at the Ministry, a very great acquaintance with the problems of his Department. In saying that I think I ought also to say how much we regret the departure from the Ministry of Education of my right hon. Friend's predecessor, and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who was his Parliamentary Secretary. They made a remarkable combination; in fact, I cannot think of a better example of loyalty in working together since the days of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza—
§ Mr. Lipson
My two right hon. Friends at all events did not use their energies to tilt at windmills. They produced a Measure of educational reform which, I believe, has great possibilities, and will make a very great contribution to the happiness and well-being of our people and of the children in particular.
§ Viscountess Astor
I want to ask my hon. Friend a question. If the minister of religion is still working as a minister might there not be created a feeling in 1343 the schools of intolerance and, further, would it not—
§ Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)
On a point of Order. Cannot the Noble Lady wait until she is called?
§ Viscountess Astor
I have great respect for the point of view of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson), and I wanted to ask him what he felt about this matter. We must be careful to see that there is no religious intolerance, and to make sure that—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
The Noble Lady ought to confine herself to her question.
§ Mr. Lipson
May I say, in reply to my Noble Friend, for whom I have a great regard and affection, that I think the answer to the point she made would come better from the Minister, as having greater value than if it came from me.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
In listening to what has been going on here to-day I have found myself in a difficulty. I understood that the present Minister of Labour who, until recently was Minister of Education, was a keen educationist. Now the attitude adopted by some Members is that the only thing that kept him safe was the presence of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). Well, that is not quite good enough. I have my own views on the respective enthusiasms of the different parties for education, and I am not sure, looking back over the last 25 years, that any party has such a wonderful record. We had two "axes"—the Geddes axe and the May Report. The Geddes axe was referred to by the hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Seaborne Davies). We all hope that the Act which has just been passed will be of great benefit to our children in the future. [An Hon. Member: "Hear, hear."] It is all very well saying, "Hear, hear," but I give 95 per cent. for good administration, and 5 per cent. for the actual Act. Unless we are going to have, from day to day, an enlightened administration, this Act can never make any sense at all, and I will give some examples before I sit down.
I welcome the Minister's speech, because it was a speech of sober fact. I have mentioned from time to time, and I 1344 will repeat it now, that we have been living in the clouds—in a sort of haze—ever since the Education Act went through this House. Before I left the Board of Education, in 1940, we were about to raise the school-leaving age to 15. We were not ready, but we were 70 per cent. ready. Since then 30,000 potential teachers have not gone to college. There are 25,000 teachers in the Services, and from 150,000 to 200,000 school places have been blitzed. That is the moment which has been chosen to bring in the greatest Education Act ever known. That is something which must hit any realist between the eyes. I am sorry that the Minister of Labour, in a speech the other day, talked about mud-slinging, because I think that was very inadvisable. I believe he has done a big job, but I think it was quite wrong to talk too much about "National." Who is National? I am not talking party politics because I, at any rate, am completely independent, but when I know that a large number of people sitting on the opposite benches have had a large amount of money spent on their education—much above the average annual wage of the ordinary manual worker—I am of the opinion that we ought to get a better conception of what is meant by the word "National."
Two questions have been raised—teachers and buildings. I do not think the question of teachers has been faced with the necessary urgency. What is the position? There are wanted urgently 70,000 teachers. Apparently there are 7,000 soldiers, men who have been invalided out of the Forces, who have signified their desire to teach, and 2,500 of them have been accepted, but only 350 of them are in colleges. What sort of emergency is this? At the present moment 1,000 girls have been refused admittance to the normal training colleges. The girls are leaving school and desire to become teachers, but they cannot get into the profession because there is no room for them in the normal training colleges. That figure has been given to me by people who have expert knowledge. At a school which I visited recently, the information was given to me by the headmistress that there were three girls present at the prize-giving, very promising girls, who could not get into the normal training colleges. What is the measure of this urgency? Is there any particular reason why we should not have emergency training colleges 1345 now? This matter is not being faced in the way that we faced the problem of training schools for the Services. It is not being faced in the way that the Army faced its problems. They took over training colleges throughout the country. Why have not the Ministry of Education gone further with the emergency training? The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) talked about the pamphlet "The Nation's Schools," and I would like to put a question about it to the right hon. Member for South Shields. How much of the pamphlet, which I have read carefully, had he seen before he left office?
§ Mr. Ede
The whole of it. I saw it in draft, I suggested certain corrections, and some of them were accepted. My right hon. Friend who is now Minister of Labour suggested certain corrections. We discussed the document together. I saw every document of that kind. I was not like some Parliamentary Secretaries—
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, but I am sorry he has taken what I said in the wrong spirit. I asked him the question because, if he had seen the whole document, obviously it is a Coalition document. It is quite unnecessary to get roused about it.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I thought it inevitable, as the right hon. Gentleman was in office when the pamphlet was issued, that it was a document issued jointly by the two right hon. Gentlemen. That being so, the situation seems to me to be even more serious. To some extent I agree with the hon. Member for Aberavon, although I do not go quite as far as "The Times Educational Supplement," in which there was a very bitter attack on a document which is, at any rate, a serious attempt to meet the problem.
What is meant precisely by secondary education? For some years to come 40 per cent. of the children will still go to unreorganised schools. For some time to come there will still be 40, 50 or 55 children in a class. Parents now say to me, "I thought this Act meant free secondary education, but my boy is going to leave school at 14 years of age; I shall save up as much as I can and send him 1346 to a private school." Is there any knowledge at the Ministry of Education as to whether or not there is an increase in the number of private schools at the present time, and whether it is a fact that part of the Act cannot be implemented because the absence of inspectors prevents schools from starting? I have on this point the sympathy of the right hon. Gentleman the former Parliamentary Secretary, because it was by his Report that the revelations about private schools were very largely made known to the country. If these schools can be started at the moment without full inspection, I prophesy—it is happening already—that there will be a large number of new schools started, because the maintained schools, the grammar schools, have been graded down on four different points.
I know this is an unpopular thing to say, but it appears to me to be completely true. I have had more letters from secondary school headmasters and assistant masters since the Debate on the Burnham scales than I have received on any other single issue during the eleven years I have been a Member of the House. These letters are not of the sort that simply say, "Your are right" or "You are wrong." They are letters that have brought home to me the injustices that are being done. I beg hon. Members, particularly the right hon. Member for South Shields, to believe that I do not take a narrow view of secondary education. I think it is wrong to make a sharper distinction between the maintained schools and the direct grant schools and independent schools which seems to create a bigger gap than there has ever been in the past. The direct grant schools and independent schools are not affected by the Burnham scale or by the arrangements for the pooling of teachers. Do hon. Members realise that teachers now go into a pool? For reasons which I well understand, teachers have to be apportioned throughout the country. The old idea that a headmaster chooses his own staff has very largely passed away for the time being, together with all those other precious things which attached to the old grammar schools. The hon. Member for Caernarvon Boroughs made an excellent maiden speech. What a treat it was to hear a man coming to the House and speaking with such authority and knowledge.
1347 I think the Committee ought to face the question of what we mean by secondary education. For many years the policy of the Labour Party has been, "Secondary education for all." But what do we mean by that? There has been some consternation because the pamphlet says that 15 per cent.—it may be 10 per cent. or 25 per cent.; it is a small point—shall have a grammar school education. It is a question whether education shall be largely of the literary type. There is nothing necessarily superior about a literary type of education. The right hon. Member for South Shields made some very interesting remarks during his tenure of office on the black-coated occupations. These questions go deeply into the whole structure of society and they cannot be altered by obiter dicta about the secondary school curriculum. I suggest that the shortage of supply means that there will be the most severe competition among the children. Last year we all rejoiced that the examination at II years of age was to be abolished; but it has not been abolished, and the competition will be fiercer than ever. The difficulty of getting into a grammar school is much greater now than it was two years ago.
Ought we not to stop humbugging ourselves and face the real issue? It is this. For many years to come we shall have to make a selection of the children who are best fitted to go on to higher education. We shall have to do this if we are to have the trained personnel for medicine, dentistry, teaching and 40 or 50 other professions. All I am concerned with is that those children who are best fitted shall have the opportunity, and that there shall be no other grounds. At the present time there is such a real social cleavage in education in this country that I feel it would be a great tragedy if the effect of this great Measure, passed last year, were to be the making of an even wider gulf between private independent schools, direct grant schools, and the rest. Do not tell me that the grammar school was a class school. It was no such thing. It was the best educational reflection of the ordinary people of the country. Through such schools I have seen children from the poorest homes raised to the blue ribbon of scholarship of Oxford and Cambridge. It was the most characteristic English school there 1348 has ever been. To degrade the grammar school is to make it more difficult for ordiary children to get a full education in that school and very likely to direct the higher ranges of scholarship into the direct grant and independent schools. That part of the Act does not touch them. It is a most dangerous thing.
As a constructive suggestion, I ask the Minister of Education not to worry too much about the pamphlet. Much of what it contains has been said before. What is to be the policy for the next four or five years? We are concerned with five years of reconstruction. I would like to see the priorities clearly stated. There is a priority about the school-leaving age. That is all right; but what is to be done with the 80 per cent. of schools which have warehouses, shops, wharves, and so on, all around them? How are these schools to be converted into secondary schools? It cannot be done. The only thing to do is to take the children out to the rings of the cities. Gymnasia cannot be added when the schools are bounded by buildings. Swimming baths cannot be added; there is no room for them, and in the present state of legislation about the use of land, we could not afford them. These are things which no Minister can overcome unless the facts are faced. The children will still go to the same schools; there will still be 40 or 60 children in a class next year.
I want to see a much greater sense of urgency brought into this matter. There ought to be at least 20 training colleges either in operation or about to come into operation. I believe I have the sympathy of the Parliamentary Secretary on this, because only a few months ago she was urging the same point. What arrangements are being made by the Ministry for the training of teachers? I have never thought that the Ministry of Education was itself very good at executive work. That is not its job; its job is in relation to local authorities and so on. At present the training of teachers is too highly centralised. Where are the bottlenecks? Why is it that there are not the proper people trained to train others? Faced with a problem of that sort, the Army set up a place at Preston and got the job going. The Royal Air Force have done the thing in the Middle East, and elsewhere. Why not do it for ordinary teachers? There are 350 students in the 1349 emergency colleges, 2,500 are waiting to enter, and 1,000 girls cannot be taken. There is something wrong. Perhaps people do not care about these things.
I say with all the seriousness I can command that, if the country does not care about education, it is going to have an even more difficult decade in reconstruction. The shortage of trained personnel is critical—technicians, doctors, dentists, architects, the people who will implement the town-planning legislation when it comes. If we do not take more trouble about this, if there is not a greater sense of urgency, whatever Government comes in, I am fearful. That is one of the reasons why I sit on this bench at this moment.
I should like to ask a further question. We started five years ago a new project—C.E.M.A. For the first time the State interested itself in making it possible for children who have grown up in the schools to hear and see the arts outside. The Treasury are spending £100,000. For that money orchestras, repertory companies and exhibitions of pictures are being semi-subsidised. What is the future of this organisation going to be? There is a very interesting development going on, partly at San Francisco and partly here, of building for the first time an International Education Office. I think that it can make a contribution to world peace and that in the Economic and Social Council it should play an important part. Can the hon. Lady tell me whether the draft constitution is now being approved by the United States, whether Congress has recently said they will spend money on this project and whether there is going to be a Conference in London shortly to give it a final blessing and make it part of the San Francisco organisation? Finally could the hon. Lady tell me why it is that emergency nurseries are being closed? Is not the line of country now, growing prints, and not blue prints. Many good things have come out of the war. For Heaven's sake nourish them and get on with them. It is enlightened administration that is needed. We shall test any Government solely by its day to day administration. Let us not even wait for county colleges. For once you have industry with you. I say, Let us get on with it.
Finally, we have for the first time, owing to the war, millions of people 1350 brought into contact with what is loosely called adult education. I know that it is superficial in some cases, but it is something. I have friends back from the Middle East where, they say, the men are studying political and economic questions in a quite different atmosphere. There is a sort of feeling that they are left behind in the battle. It has given an intensity to their studies and an attitude which is something that we do not understand. Are these men coming back to find just a few W.E.A. classes or is there to be a new set-up which brings large numbers of other people into the field of adult education? I should like to see the Ministry taking an active part. What I want to see in the central administration is not just an advisory committee but a department which will help to supply all the things that are required by a strong adult education movement. The Ministry have issued a pamphlet on community centres. So far so good, but I think there is something missing in the central machinery in regard to adult education. Would the hon. Lady answer some of these questions? I do not think you can take education out of politics—it is the very life blood of politics—but I hope that, even if there are going to be battles, as there will be, on this subject we shall remember that it is in the long run by the month to month administration that any Government will be tested.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
A good many things that I wished to say have already been said by my friend the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay). I now want to address myself to one point in particular, namely, the administration by the Ministry of Education of the secondary schools. Since what I am going to say must of necessity be somewhat critical of the activities of the Department, I take this opportunity of assuring the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary that I do not intend to saddle any of the responsibility for what has already been done upon their shoulders. But I also take the same opportunity of asking them, since they are new and therefore not altogether, perhaps, committed to what has already been done, to see that a great deal of the wrong that has come down to them from their immediate past shall be put right. I hope they are not wedded to that idea of 1351 continuity of policy which has been such a mill stone round the neck of progress in our national offices.
The Ministry and its supporters claim that at last, under the Act of 1944, we have secondary education for all. This cry of "secondary education for all" was never more than a slogan, and a slogan is something which has not a very definite meaning but is meant to raise the temperature of aspiration rather than induce reflection on realities. That is exactly what this particular slogan did. We got very enthusiastic about it and we thought that by saying "secondary education for all" in the end we should get the substance of it. Now the Minister claims that they have given secondary education for all, but they have done that in the easiest and most disingenuous way possible, namely, by giving a new and degraded meaning to the word "secondary."
Secondary education had a definite meaning in the educational tradition of this country. It meant something which was not different in degree from primary or technical education or from apprenticeship or commercial education. The people who wanted secondary education for their children meant participation in the amenities and privileges of national culture; they meant that which had hitherto enabled the sons of the rich to take their place in the most honourable and lucrative positions in the British community—in the Civil Service, the universities, the professions, the higher branches of commerce, the Church, the law, and so on. They meant something which the public schools, in spite of all their faults, could give and were giving in a very ample degree—a chance for a person who passed through them to participate in the rich and refreshing fruit of reward for service to the community.
The people who wanted secondary education for all believed that this could also be in the gift of their own schools, the ordinary schools of the people fully maintained by the rates. It looked at one time as if the ordinary schools of the people were going to get it; it looked as if the chasm between the maintained schools and the public schools was going to disappear. I never felt so hopeful of the future of popular education as when I understood that 49 per cent. of the 1352 fellowships in Oxford and Cambridge were held by men who had passed through the maintained secondary schools. I thought that was a most hopeful sign, but I prophesy that with the present policy the Minister of Education will be able and willing to destroy that very promising growth. Year after year adolescent education was becoming more unified in achievement. The elementary school children who passed to the secondary schools were getting more and more positions in the professions, the Civil Service and the universities, and, in spite of the enormous advantage which the privileged public schools have, the common schools were at last beginning to be able to compete with them, and that all through the range of secondary schools from maintained schools up to direct grant schools. There was emerging something really solid, an achievement that the British tradition with its gradualness might very well be proud of.
What has the Ministry done in face of this and what has it done by this policy and by its incredible intransigence in dealing with the Burnham negotiations? Has it given secondary education to all? Is it going to give secondary education to all? Is it going to foster this most promising growth, this equality of the common school with the public school? The answer is "NO," in large capitals. It has done all those things which even a malevolent enemy of our common schools could not have devised better. It has persuaded people that at last we have secondary education for all, but at the same time it has degraded and denaturalised the secondary schools of the common people, and that by a series of the most subtle attacks.
What are those attacks? What are the blows that it has aimed at our secondary schools? First, the secondary school owes its character, in the full sense of "secondary," to the fact that it has its own governing body, people who are intensely interested in its welfare and can contribute something individual to the development of the school. The secondary schools are going to lose those governors. They are going to be massed together in one great huddle, and the secondary school of the future will be like a parish child who is maintained by a mixed community with no parents or even foster parents of its own to look after it.
1353 Secondly, the comparative scale of salaries has been immensely lowered. By "comparative" I mean the scale of salaries as compared with that of the primary school or with what will be, I understand, the scale of payment in the universities. In future, many headmasterships will have actually less money attached to the post than in the past. The disadvantages of secondary schools in gathering together their staffs in direct competition with public and direct-grant schools are vastly increased. Thirdly, the Ministry of Education have seen to or, to put it at its lowest, has been willing to see to the curtailment of the holidays of the secondary school, so that in many areas they will be the same as the holidays of the primary school, in spite of the fact that the secondary child's school time is taken up every evening with school work, that the secondary school teacher has to correct exercises, and that the teacher, if he is to keep up his standard of teaching, must devote a large part of his holidays to research. I have had experience of both the secondary and university sides, and I would like to make it clear that there are men in the free maintained secondary schools who would adorn any university. These men have attained to that degree of scholarship because they have been able to give a large part of their vacations to research. Let us take one example, which must be obvious to everyone. How can you possibly be a modern language master or mistress and teach French in a secondary school unless every year you go to France? The same applies to any other teacher of modern languages. It is impossible for you to do so under present regulations.
My fourth point was with regard to Regulation 23, which has, I understand, now been withdrawn, but when a pistol is pointed at me and it is withdrawn and the shot is not fired, I still have my suspicions of the pistol-owner's intention. What is the result of all I have been saying? The public school and the direct grant school still have their governors, and the free secondary school has not. The public and direct grant schools have a reasonable scale of salaries, but the secondary school has not. The public and direct grant schools have adequate holidays, but the secondary schools have not. What further is in store for these Cinderellas of education I do not know. 1354 I shudder to think what is going to happen to our system of secondary education if the present trend in the administration is to be what it has been during the last few months. The fruits of this policy are yet to be seen. In a year or two I think that the whole country will realise that the Education Act of 1944, far from giving the advantages of which its promoters spoke, has, by its method of administration, taken away even those few advantages which secondary schools of the common people of the country already had.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
I do not share the extreme gloom of my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd), although I realise the gravity and importance of a number of the points he has put before the Committee. The Minister at the outset of his speech gave us an illuminating metaphor. It did not produce on my mind quite the effect it would appear to have done upon my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), but as the Minister pictured the landscape I could not help recalling the lines of Lewis Carroll in "The Hunting of the Snark":But at first sight the crewWere not pleased with the view,Which consisted of chasms and crags.At any rate, it is necessary that the Minister should recognise the immense difficulties of the task in front of him. They are difficulties we all have to recognise, but we look to him to make it clear that he is determined, however difficult the ascent of this mountain, that he will go on and will not turn back; and, if he can show in the acts of his Ministry that sense of determination, he will stimulate the local education authorities everywhere not to be baffled by the immense difficulties of finance and the shortage of staff and of buildings to which he alluded. Each one of them provides enough subject matter for a day's Debate, and we ought to have far more opportunities of discussing these problems.
I want to deal with one point that the Minister only alluded to and which was only briefly mentioned by one or two previous speakers. I hope that he or the Parliamentary Secretary, in replying, will be able to develop far more fully what are the intentions of the Government in 1355 regard to implementing the great Butler Education Act in respect of further education, particularly adult education. That is something for which the need is most urgent and for which the demand is pressing. It does not call at the first stage for the same expenditure upon buildings and it is needed if we are to get our whole education system what we want it to be. There is a great deal of idle room waiting to be used in every university. There are admirable class rooms and lecture rooms that were built for adult education not used in the evenings, while in the neighbourhood of every university centre there are students working during the day in ordinary industry who would be glad to have an opportunity of studying in fellowship with others and with the inspiration of the surroundings they would get if they were able to share in the amenities of the university buildings. I want to see steps taken in the near future to encourage the universities to throw open these opportunities to the disinherited.
Why have we such small sums in these Estimates for the further education which is not carried out by local education authorities? On pages 12 and 13 of the Estimates we see that the total, for further education, of grants for educational service and research provided by persons other than local education authorities, is for this year £174,320—an advance of less than £20,000 upon last year. That is not enough. We ought to have far more spent on this. It is possible to do it. We have people who are willing to help if they can only have the money. Already great work is being done by the Workers' Educational Association. They do not ask for grants from the Government for their administration, but they would welcome the help that could be given in the growth of tutorial classes everywhere. Why cannot the Government take a certain number of country houses and afford facilities to voluntary bodies like the Workers' Educational Association and other associations, and even the local authorities if they have not been forthcoming, for short courses, week-end schools, and for holiday courses. The Government can do it with comparatively small expense, expense that is quite beyond the means of voluntary bodies. It will enable suitable voluntary bodies of all kinds engaged in education to increase the work that they are already doing.
1356 Surely too we ought to have much more done in the training of those who dedicate themselves to adult education. There are in the Forces a large number of men and women who may not be gifted for teaching young children, but who are gifted for adult education work. In the Army discussion groups and classes they meet together and discuss economic and political problems and other questions, and they have awakened to a keen interest in education. They are interested in just this kind of adult education work. The Government ought to be now at work, in conjunction with the Service Departments, giving opportunities for these men and women to get the training they will need if they dedicate their lives to this great service.?
§ Professor Gruffydd
May I inform my hon. Friend that one university at least, my own, has already got a sub-department of the department of education dealing only with adult education?
§ Mr. Harvey
I am delighted to know that, and I know that there are other universities which are looking forward to taking an increasing share in this great task. We do not, however, see adequate provision for it in these Estimates. We have had no allusion, beyond a word or two from the Minister, to the importance of this subject. I am sure that he is not indifferent to it, but I would beg of him to give a lead to local education authorities. It has been disappointing that so far so little has been done by the local authorities to help in this way. They could do much more, largely in co-operation with the voluntary bodies, not only the Workers' Educational Association, but also such a body as the Educational Settlement Association, which has settlements in a number of different centres. There, I believe, the Government can give a lead which will be of immense value.
In dealing with this form of education we are on different ground from the territory with which most of the speakers who preceded me have been concerned. We are dealing with people who want to learn, who are not compelled to go to school. They are coming at sacrifice to themselves in their spare time after a day's hard work because they are keen. Surely they deserve to be helped, and we ought to be willing to spend the money of the nation generously to help those who are willing to make sacrifices in order that 1357 they should learn. We want it to be in the best surroundings. Let us give them reasonable conditions which will allow them to enjoy something of the beauty of life in the midst of their work and to enjoy it in the atmosphere of fellowship. In dealing with adult education one has not the problem which so constantly worries even a good teacher, when the class does not wish to learn and is not interested in the subject, and he has to coax and persuade them to go on with their work These students are there because they care, because they want to learn and because they are willing to make the sacrifice. It ought to be our task to help them. I beg the Minister to make it clear that the money of the nation will not be grudged for this cause. There is no branch of the great work of education which deserves more support than this neglected branch of adult education.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I find, myself in a somewhat peculiar position this evening because, when a few weeks ago I heard that it was probable that my right hon. and hon. Friends would ask for the Education Estimates to be considered during the present Session, I had rather cast myself for the role of replying to the discussion. I have, as it were, attended the inquest on myself and I am now allowed to give some evidence before the jury return their verdict.
I had five years and 13 days at the Board and the Ministry of Education. I had the great privilege of serving under two very distinguished and keen educationists who, if they had not occasionally interlarded their conversations with political remarks, would have been very pleasant companions. I am sure they allowed me as much freedom of initiative and welcomed my co-operation in the efforts of the Ministry as has ever been allowed to a Parliamentary Secretary, and I cannot do other than say that, bearing in mind that they had twice as many political supporters in the House as I had, when we reached a decision it was one for which both of us were prepared to take responsibility, and for what happened at the Ministry of Education between 15th May, 1940, and 28th May, 1945, I accept full responsibility. It is now a matter of history, and history will not worry about what my late colleagues and I say in our own defence. I am 1358 sure that when the records are made open to be examined by people who have no personal interest in the matter at all, my right hon. Friends and I can await their verdict, wherever we are—and it is certain we shall not be in company—with complete confidence. I believe that the Education Act of 1944, which originated with the Green Book that was issued at the request of the present Lord Soulbury, will show that in all our deliberations we were guided by patriotic and educational motives alone, and I am certain that as this great Measure steadily comes into operation its scope and design will be increasingly recognised as being so comprehensive that, while here and there amendments may have to be made, it will stand the test of time as well as the Acts of either Mr. Forster or Mr. Balfour.
The fundamental reform that we made was to say that in future it shall be the duty of the parent of every child to cause him to receive efficient full-time instruction suitable to his age, ability and aptitude, and in future each child is to be the individual concern of the local authority, the teacher, the parent and such other people as may be associated with his education. Therefore, once that duty is made possible of fulfilment, I am not very much concerned as to the exact proportion that may be provided in separate schools, because I do not believe the separate schools will long survive.
My own administrative experience confirms me in that view. We have had in Surrey this year a number of pupils who reached the appropriate standard for admission to a grammar school, using the expression "grammar school" to include the old municipal secondary school of the grammar school type, and in order to meet the demand we have had to establish in some of our modern schools grammar school courses. I am certain that in some of our grammar schools we ought to have technical courses because it is wrong to put all the great creative brain power of this country into the academic course generally associated with the grammar schools, and I believe that the future lies with the school for which I wish we could find a better name—for it is astonishing how one can kill a good thing by giving it a bad name—what we call the multilateral school. I once heard a distinguished educationist trounce the multilateral school good and hard, and as I 1359 came out of the meeting a young lady of my acquaintance said to me, "Is it not astonishing that all these people dislike multilateral, but they love polytechnic?" I could only reply, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) has anticipated, "Well, after all, Greek is the gentleman's language."
When we come to the pamphlet I advise people to note that we were particularly careful to say—and I say "we" advisedly—in some of the paragraphs that were mentioned, "the present intake to secondary courses of the grammar school type." We did not say "the present intake to secondary schools." I do not regard the grammar school as the only type of secondary school. "Secondary" is not a status; it is a period in the three stages of primary, secondary and further education. Every child between the ages of ii and 16, or such higher age as the parent likes to keep the child at school, is in the secondary stage in a secondary school in which his education is to be suitable to his age, ability and aptitude. It is true that at the moment a large number of these schools are not up to the standard that the best have attained, and it is the duty of whoever may be at the Ministry of Education to see that with all convenient speed those things that settle the esteem in which a school is held shall be made equal for whatever type of school we have within that secondary range.
It is unfortunate that we had to pass the Act at a time when we were faced with heavy deficiencies in man-power and material, but I was convinced during the passage of the Act through Parliament that no party Government could have passed a comprehensive Education Act. I fought shoulder to shoulder with my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Labour. I fought one evening with him back to back when we suffered our most severe casualty at the hands of the hon. Lady who is now Parliamentary Secretary and who, with a number of her Friends who now ornament the Front Government Bench, took part in a manoeuvre which certainly set back the particular cause they had at heart but which has at last landed them in positions that they will not occupy for very long.
There are a few points on which I would like to have some information. In 1360 the light of what I previously said on what happened up to 28th May, I am at least as responsible as anyone else, because, as I am sure hon. Members will recognise, there are times in Office when a man has to say, "I cannot get my way, but is this a big enough thing on which to go?" And if he does not go he must accept the responsibility for staying.
In the first place I would like to know how we are getting on with the schemes of divisional administration under Part III of the First Schedule. The number that had been approved when I left office was one. I do not know by how many per cent. that has been increased since. Speaking as a county councillor, I regret very much the attitude which has, generally, been adopted by county councils towards the new administration scheme. The present Minister of Labour and I devoted a very great deal of care to the framing of opportunities for councils of counties to direct the general policy, and to leave the detailed administration to the divisional executives and excepted districts. It is very regrettable to find the way in which some county councils have been niggardly in giving, or being willing to give, any real power to the divisional executives, just as it is regrettable that some excepted districts have gone through the Act, and in every place where "local education authority" is written have said, "Put the council of the excepted districts."
I was hoping, on a subject on which Members of this House, especially those who had represented the old Part III authorities, had agreed, that this would be an opportunity to get, inside the large and populous counties, the kind of administration which I have always believed is sound. That is for the county to levy a general rate so that the whole community beats a fair share of the maintenance of the public service, and to lay down a general policy with which all the county district executives or divisional executives must comply, and then to leave them reasonable freedom of action so that they can make this great human service really racy of the soil in which it is planted. I hope, as a result of the negotiations which were going on, and which I fear in many cases are still continuing, we may reach some satisfactory arrangement along those lines.
1361 I would also like to know whether the Minister can give us any indication of the extent to which local education authorities are getting on with the preparation of their development plans, for upon the development plan rests the possibility of our being able to carry through the reforms of the Act in making education available for our children according to their age, ability and aptitude. The Committee of the Whole House which considered the Bill was very loth to give the local education authority as long as 12 months to perform the task, but I was always quite certain that 12 months would be required. Two of those months have gone by, and we are well into the third. Time hurries on, and I have no doubt that others than hon. Members will soon be partaking of a little excitement, which will interfere with administration. Then will come the holidays with all their distraction. Therefore, it is essential that this task should receive the prompt attention of the local education authorities. I hope that we may be given some information on the way in which their efforts are proceeding.
I should like to know how far the schemes for medical inspection and treatment are being implemented. The Act threw new liabilities on local education authorities in that respect, and I am sure that every hon. Member recognises that, if we are to give a child a sound education we must make sure that it is a healthy child. Therefore, I hope that we may have some reassurances as to the way this work is proceeding, in spite of the difficulties that undoubtedly confront all civilian authorities, owing to the shortage of doctors. Unkind people have suggested to me that there are two great reasons for the sound health of the nation at the present time. One is the school meals service, and the second is the absence of doctors in the Forces. Far be it from me to suggest which of the two has been more effective. We need an opportunity of implementing the new responsibilities of local education authorities for the medical treatment of children.
There is only one other topic with which I want to deal at any length, and that is the position of the direct-grant school. One of the Debates which took place during the Committee stage of the Bill was on the question of freeing all education towards which public funds were paid. The present Minister of 1362 Labour, in meeting an argument which was advanced by hon. Members from this side of the Committee, enunciated the doctrine of accessibility, which he later somewhat humorously attributed to Archbishop Cranmer, who borrowed it, I believe, from the Jesuits, so that it is of quite respectable ancestry, no matter what one's religious views may be. No child was to be debarred from attending a school towards which public money was voted, whether from rates or taxes, because of the inability of his parents to pay the fees, if he were suitable for admission.
No doubt my right hon. Friend made the very greatest possible efforts to put that doctrine into practice in the direct-grant school regulations. The Minister has clearly stated what those regulations are. The first 25 per cent. of the places in a direct-grant school are to be free and confined to pupils who have been previously educated for at least two years in a primary grant-aided school. The next 25 per cent. are to be available for the local education authority, if they require them. They are to pay for them. They may admit, in that 25 per cent., pupils whether from grant-aided primary schools or from other schools. The remaining 50 per cent. are to be filled in order of merit, upon an agreed examination list. If a parent cannot afford to pay the fee or part of the fee, that fee is to be paid not by the local education authority but by an Exchequer grant. That will avoid discrepancies that now occur, as between one local education authority area and another, between the various income scales.
That arrangement completely fulfils, to my mind, the doctrine of accessibility. Let us assume that there are 30 places to be filled in the school, after the two groups of 25 per cent. have been taken. The son of a dustman is No. 30 and the son of a millionaire is No. 31. The son of the dustman will go in first, and the son of the millionaire will be the first outsider. Much as I dislike a means test, in view of the atmosphere in which we were dealing with education, I think that was as reasonable a way of securing accessibility, on grounds of suitability, as it was possible to achieve.
Now we are faced with the fact that certain schools that used to be on the direct-grant list object to this arrange- 1363 ment. I happen to be a governor of one of them. I am appointed as a magistrate. It is about the only school in the country that has magistrates appointed to it, but when I heard what some of my fellow-governors were proposing to do, I thought it would be more appropriate if the people appointed were constables. This trust was established by an Archbishop of Canterbury whose name was Whit gift. He ordained that this school should be for the poor of the parish who were to be taught freely, and that the schoolmaster was to take "children of the better sort of parishioners," and he was allowed to charge them a fee. If he charged them too much, they had the right of appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It seemed almost a 16th century way of stating the direct-grant regulations, but it was remarkable in this, that whereas most charities were apparently designed to establish schools for the children of the poor, here was an Archbishop who had the conception of a school for every class of the community and towards which each paid on the basis of his means. The fee was graded according to the means.
The direct-grant regulations came along. This school used to charge a fee of £24. It was allowed, some 20 years ago, to increase its fee to £30.
§ Mr. Ede
Yes, it is a day school. The £24 a year was increased to £30 a year. The governors proposed to go off the direct-grant list. I am using this as an example. I think it is a reasonable example of the half-a-dozen or dozen to which the Minister alluded this afternoon. I do so because I know the whole details of the facts. It is easy to do an injustice to people if you do not know all the details of the facts. The governors propose to raise the fee from £30 to £51 a year, and they still proposed to bring in, in order to make their accounts balance, £4,600 of the charity money. There are 650 boys in the school, so that will mean the parents who can afford to pay £51 a year, and prove it by paying it, will receive £7 10s. a year out of this ancient charity towards the education of their children. Fortunately—at least I hope it will prove to be—this proposal to increase the fee to £51 has to secure the assent of the Minister, 1364 in his capacity as Charity Commissioner. There are many parents who make the most tremendous sacrifices to raise the fee of £30 a year; if the fee is raised to £51 some will make greater sacrifices, but some will find that that tremendous increase means they have gone beyond the end of their resources, and parents who would have sent their boys to the school at £30 a year will be unable to send them at £51.
I hold Archbishop Whitgift's idea. I want to see poor and rich taught together. I would have thought that in these days, after our experiences during two wars of what the people of this country can do when all classes are mixed together, that would have been a pretty general idea. I wrote a memorandum to my fellow governors in which I set out that point of view, I hope with clarity and modesty. A reply was circulated by one of the governors. I have left it at home. It would be far too inflammable election material for me to produce here. I would not have believed that any troglodytes so deep in the cave remained in the world as were revealed by that document. I believe that it is essential that schools like that should not become the monopoly of a small moneyed class. I believe that to fix the fee at £51 a year would mean that such schools would be confined to that very narrow social class who cannot afford to send their boys to the big residential schools, but who want to keep them, for some extraordinary reason, away from contact with people who live the ordinary clean, healthy, family life of the lower middle and working classes of this country.
I do not believe that any secondary school suffers in the long run from the admission of boys from the grant-aided primary schools. I was one of the earliest of such boys to go to a secondary school with a scholarship. I recollect my mother going to the school one day when she thought it advisable to have an interview with the headmaster about my conduct. While she was waiting outside his room, another lady came in and started to bewail to my mother the way in which the school had been let down by the admission of boys from the elementary school. When my mother explained that she was the parent of one of those terrible fellows the lady just would not believe her. I had hoped we had got beyond that, after 50 years' experience which 1365 established the fact that no secondary schools need be ashamed of the working class children being sent into them. After all education in society, in living in a society, is no small part of a real education, and I hope we are not to see those schools made the preserve of a small moneyed class.
Unless we are very careful the most amazing things will happen if the great public schools come, as they seem likely to do, into this scheme now being discussed between the officers of the Ministry and the Headmasters' Association and the Governing Bodies' Association. They look like undertaking to admit 25 per cent. of their pupils free from the grant-aided primary schools. Would it not be an astonishing thing if a boy born in Croydon was asked in the future, "I suppose you went to Whitgift School," and he replied, "No, my parents could not afford to send me to Whitgift, so I went to Eton." I have elaborated this matter at some length, and I apologise to the Committee, but I believe if what governors of that kind of school are trying to do succeeds we shall have driven a coach and four through our determination, as shown in the House last year, that education is not to be the subject of class association and class discrimination. I urge the hon. Lady to use her influence inside the Ministry to see that those schools are not placed out of the reach of any section of the community, and that they make their full contribution, in accordance with what I believe were the wishes of their founders, to the main stream of national education.
It may very well be that within a few months there will be in power a Government that will enforce the doctrine that all schools which receive public money shall be free. There is no doubt that that is the policy of my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the Committee. We welcomed the proposals of the Minister for the direct grant system, because it was the only way in which we could expect this House of Commons to reach that arrangement by another way round. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) was a member of a deputation of Labour Members who were seriously concerned about this matter. I do not think I am going beyond what he would like me to say in stating that they accepted this direct grant arrangement in the belief that it would be accepted by 1366 those schools which have hitherto been on the direct grant list, which did not wish to become maintained schools under the new Act.
The Education Act, 1944, is, its designers believe, an engine as near perfect as possible for the purpose of providing us with at least a. really national and comprehensive system of education in this country. It requires the power to drive it, and if I may say so I was rather disappointed at the speech of the Minister this afternoon. We know there are difficulties. We on this side of the Committee, believing that we shall soon have to face those difficulties, are just as much aware of them as is the right hon. Gentleman, but we believe that the issues at stake are so great that we should approach the problem in an atmosphere of faith, and that we should, instead of recounting the difficulties, attempt to devise immediate and practical ways of surmounting them.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on holding the position she occupies. As I have previously remarked in the Committee, I was greatly assisted on the Private Schools Committee by the work of her brother. I know the keen interest which she and he and her family have taken in popular education in this country. I want to assure her that while she remains in office, if she will show faith and determination to provide for every child in this country an education suited to its age, ability and aptitude, she will find that we will loyally support her.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mrs. Cazalet Keir)
Since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has just left the Ministry of Education after a long and very successful tenure of office, rive years and 13 days—I hope my tenure will be as long—he is clearly in the best position to know all the answers to the many questions that have been raised in this Debate. He has just stated in a stimulating speech that he takes responsibility, together, of course, with the Minister of Labour, for everything that happened on the education front up to 28th May. Well, I can assure him that nothing has been done since that date which need cause him either alarm or despondency. I feel sure he will be tolerant to the newcomer in his late 1367 office on this occasion. This has undoubtedly been a Debate of experts, and I cannot call myself that at present.
It was indeed cause for great satisfaction and pleasure to my right hon. Friend and myself when we learned that, with only three remaining Supply Days, hon. Members opposite had given education such a high priority. The more active interest the Committee take in education the more certain it is that the Act will be implemented and become a living reality, and that is what we all want. My right hon. Friend and I were specially glad because, although we have only been at the Ministry for a few days and obviously had not yet had time to master all the intricacies and vital questions of that Department, the Debate, coming quickly, has shown us beyond doubt, that the Education Act is not to be allowed any rest or peace. This, I am certain, is the only way to keep it alive, and in good health. So I say sincerely, that as long as we remain at the Ministry, education cannot be raised here too often or too much for our liking.
My right hon. Friend, in his opening speech, dealt fairly fully with the most important problems which confront us it the Ministry, and how we hope and mean to overcome them, so I will, to the best of my ability, deal with some of the other points which have been raised by hon. Members. May I first try to reply to one or two points which my predecessor has asked me? He asked how many schemes of administration had been agreed to since he left the Department. I am glad to be able to tell him there has been an increase of 400 per cent. since 28th May. That means that five schemes have now been approved, so we have not been altogether idle in the last fortnight. I believe it is correct to say that there are no actual development plans in yet. As I understand the Act, the authorities have until 1st April 1946, to send them in, but my right hon. Friend knows that Circular 28 was sent out—when I think he was at the Department—to give guidance to local authorities. He also asked me something about medical treatment. In Circular 29there is no thought of discouraging medical treatment, but my right hon. Friend knows the difficulties—the shortage of doctors and nurses. The circular was intended 1368 to encourage them to discuss new ideas and suggestions. Of course, we want to get on with the medical treatment of our children, and to help all those who are ill and who need special attention.
I do not think I can add—nor do I think it would be wise to try—to what my right hon. Friend has said about accessibility. I realise that my right hon. Friend feels quite keenly on this subject, and I appreciate his point of view. The main point that the Minister made was that, before approving any considerable increase of fees in these direct-grant schools, he would take steps to secure that the interests of the poor scholars and those with special residential qualifications are adequately safeguarded.
§ Mr. Ede
I doubt very much whether it would be said that the person who can afford to pay £30 is the parent of a poor scholar. If the fee is put up to £51—and such an increase is suggested—that person's child might very well be excluded. The word "poor" does not really cover it. I hope that the hon. Lady will remember that my hon. Friends on this side did not divide on fees when the Bill was going through Report stage, because they accepted the Minister's doctrine of accessibility.
§ Mrs. Keir
I fully appreciate the point, and I will pass on what has just been said to my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) covered a very wide ground, and other hon. Members mentioned some of the points that he made; so he will understand if I do not deal with every single one separately. He first criticised the Government's manifesto, published this morning. I do not think I am here today to discuss the merits of election manifestoes.
§ Mrs. Keir
I have not got the Labour one here, but am sure I could find something in it that did not meet my approval. I understand my hon. Friend is worried about building and labour; so are we all. But my right hon. Friend indicated that there is a priority, and we will keep a close watch on that priority. Several hon. Members asked about the emergency training colleges. It is well known that there are at present only three open, containing 350 students. We hope that by the end of the year—I do not think it 1369 would be any good giving an actual date—we shall be able to meet all the needs of the applicants in these emergency colleges. He then asked one or two technical questions about direct-grant schools. It is true that there is no intention of differentiating in regard to age of entry between direct-grant and other schools. I should like to look into the matter if he can give me any cases of differentiation. He also asked what criteria the Minister will apply in considering applications from direct-grant schools. There are three. He will consider applications on the following grounds: any non-local or special characteristics possessed by the school, the financial competence of the governors to maintain the school and carry out any necessary alterations or repairs, and, lastly, the observations of the local education authorities. It is difficult to make all those points crystal clear in a Debate, but if my hon. Friend would like to discuss them with me afterwards, I will add to any points that I have not fully covered. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Sir M. Robertson) made a very interesting suggestion. He was anxious that teachers should have a chance to go abroad. That is something that the Minister and I would like to discuss between ourselves. Probably hon. Members noticed that there is a scheme in contemplation—I saw it quite recently in "The Times"—for the exchange of teachers between this country and America. That is something with which we have the greatest sympathy.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon Boroughs (Mr. Seaborne Davies) made a very excellent maiden speech. I am sorry that he is not here. I cannot pay him a higher compliment than to say that his great predecessor in the representation of Caernarvon Boroughs would have thoroughly approved of that speech. The hon. Member asked about the priority of buildings—which I have dealt with—and then he asked if I could, enlarge on what the Minister has said about the release of teachers under Class B. We cannot give a hard and fast figure of how many teachers we expect will be able to come out under that scheme. I think it is generally known that there are some 20,000 teachers serving in the Forces to-day. We cannot be more precise about the number to be released until more exact figures are given for Class B releases generally for actual periods and this has 1370 to be agreed with the Minister of Labour. The hon. Member also mentioned the universities. We have no evidence that intending teachers are not going to the universities. Our information is that there is great pressure at present on the universities. He also mentioned the financial aspect in relation to the additional grant to be given to poorer authorities, which he did not feel was sufficient. I would only remind him that during the course of the Bill the additional grant for poorer areas was actually doubled. I am sure my right hon. Friend would consider any case where it was thought that unfair treatment was being given.
I now come to that very lively and somewhat electioneering speech by the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove). His first complaint was that my right hon. Friend had said, "Let us be sober." I could have understood him objecting if my right hon. Friend had said, "Let us be—," the opposite. He took strong exception to that little green pamphlet, "The Nation's Schools." I think he agrees that it was a Coalition production. It may be interesting to my hon. Friend, who criticised it so vehemently, to learn that it was the first thing that I found in my room on arrival at 14, Belgrave Square.
§ Mrs. Keir
Opinions vary on this pamphlet. My hon. Friend read a very long extract from "The Times Educational Supplement," and I might just read one short extract from the "Teachers' World." It is headed "The Nation's Schools," and it says:New and amazing vitality is in striking evidence at the Ministry of Education.
§ Mrs. Keir
I am going on with my quotation:This pamphlet should be in the hands and in the mind of every teacher and of all concerned with the administration of education. Packed full with wisdom and suggestion. Here is the ground for a living partnership, which should be eagerly entered upon by all concerned with the—
§ Mrs. Keir
I listened to a very long quotation by the hon. Gentleman: this is a very short one. Now he will have to listen to that part again:Here is the ground for a living partnership, which should be eagerly entered upon by all concerned with the fashioning or with the execution of the work of education.I do not think I need answer many of the other points of the hon. Member. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) has shown what a travesty of paragraph 47 he made, and I will only conclude by saying that one thing is certain—that the sales of the pamphlet will go up after this Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham, in a very interesting speech, asked whether we would take great care that there was a sufficient number of books in the schools. I can certainly say that my right hon. Friend and I will do our utmost to see that the shortage, of which I am only too well aware, is rectified at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mrs. Keir
It is of real importance that we should get the books back into the schools. My hon. Friend also said that what was needed was to look into the whole content of education in the schools. He may be glad to know that the Central Advisory Council which has recently been 1372 set up, consisting of very distinguished people from all walks of life, is making its first inquiry into the general nature of the curriculum provided in our schools. That ought to result in a very interesting report for my hon. Friend. I am sorry that he does not feel satisfied about Regulation 23. The truth is that we tried to get agreement at a conference between, all the interests concerned. But they could not come to an agreement. If they had, there might have been a different Regulation, but the desire of my right hon. Friend opposite and of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour was that we should keep the position as it was, or as near as possible as it used to be, and I think that, under the new Regulation, this is so. In addition, in special circumstances, clergy men may, if they get permission, be able to teach. I fully realise that this does not satisfy my hon. Friend, but—
§ Mr. Ede
I hope the hon. Lady will make it dear that this Regulation only applies to full-time teachers, and one must protect the schools and the public purse from having in the schools people who have a cure of souls, which occupies a very great part of their time out of school, and which may, in fact, so associate them with particular limited interests in the district as to militate against their success as schoolmasters. Anybody who is taken on to the staff of a school under this Regulation must be a schoolmaster first, and must be prepared not to undertake anything outside the school that will militate against his work as a schoolmaster.
§ Mr. Lipson
May I say that I made it perfectly clear that I was not proposing that a minister of religion, who held a cure of souls should be allowed to teach, but that a man should not be debarred, because he was a minister of religion.
§ Mr. Harvey
Will the Parliamentary Secretary ask the Minister if he will reconsider it, in the light of what the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has said?
§ Mrs. Keir
I do not think I am in a position to ask for reconsideration of this. I think that, actually, the Regulation has been laid—if that is the technical term. Now I come to the speech of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay). It was, as his speeches always are, very informative and interesting. The hon. Member was very worried about the position of teachers. So are we all. It is just possible that 1,000 girls may have been told that there are no places for them immediately. They have all been asked to wait a little, and it is in order to be able to take these girls that we have asked the local authorities to open the new improvised colleges as soon as they can, because we do not want these girls to be in the position of not being able to take the course in teaching which they want.
I am very glad indeed that the hon. Member mentioned C.E.M.A., because he helped so much in its original formation. I have been privileged to see its work from the inside as a member of the council for the past five years, and I say that, in an almost wholly destructive period, it has proved one of the real constructive developments. To those who love the arts, music, painting and drama, C.E.M.A. brought light in the black-out. I should like hon. Members to read the last annual report, in which it is stated:The arts are a necessary part of everyday life, to be maintained in all weathers,and I should like to add to that: "for every section of the community." I must not anticipate the statement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will probably be making to-morrow about the future of C.E.M.A., but I feel certain that it will bring satisfaction, happiness and beauty into the lives of a great many people.
We have listened to a very interesting speech from the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd). I really need more time at the Ministry before I can give any fully considered answers to many of the problems and questions which he put about secondary education, but I agree with the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey), who followed him, and who said that his enthusiasm seemed to have carried him, on some points, to great pessimism. It is a pessi- 1374 mism which hon. Members as a whole do not share, and which certainly neither I nor the Minister share. A few points which the hon. Member for the English Universities raised included a question whether I could not say something more about adult education. The Minister made some very important points on this question, and I can only say that there is no subject to which we both attach more importance and that we are both alive to the very excellent suggestion which the hon. Member made to-day. There is no doubt that there is great scope for informal provisions and improvised arrangements. I do not believe that money comes into it. At any rate for this year—with the demobilisation scheme not yet started—there is enough. I can assure the hon. Member that, in the adult educational field, steps are being taken to remove restrictions in the development of the work undertaken by the voluntary associations.
I think I have dealt with most of the points that have been raised in the Debate. Hon. Members can be assured that those with which I have not been able to deal fully, will be discussed and considered very carefully by the Minister and myself. We intend to help in every way possible to make this Act a reality for the future citizens of the country, who will require to be fully equipped with knowledge, wisdom and leadership if they are to shoulder the immense responsibilities and opportunities that lie ahead. I would end by saying that, while my right hon. Friend and I are privileged to remain at the Ministry, I am certain that the most important thing for us is to remember that, among all the complicated network of facts, figures and formulas, our main duty is to serve the best interests of the children. In the end that can only be done if we say to ourselves, in the words of Dr. Thomas Jones "There are no children in general, only children in particular." It is in that spirit we intend to act.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That a further sum, not exceeding £62,952,140 be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sums necessary to defray the charges for the following Departments connected with Education which will come in
course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1946, namely:
|Class IV, Vote 1, Ministry of Education||55,507,780|
|Class IV, Vote 13, Public Education, Scotland||7,444,360|
§ THE CHAIRMAN then proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House this day, to put severally the Questions, "That the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the several Classes of the Civil Estimates, including Supplementary Estimates and the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the Estimates for the Revenue Departments, the Navy, Army and Air Services be granted for the Services defined in those Classes and Estimates":